04 Feb Trekking on the Exploradores Glacier
During this trek, you will have the opportunity to walk over an ancient glacier, that year after year reduces its square meters until it finally disappears.
It is an incredible and unique experience, during which you will realize that the glacier is very similar to the mountains, in which you can find rivers, lagoons, elevations, caves, waterfalls, etc. but, in this case, everything is made of water, mainly solid.
Being there you notice that the glacier is “alive” in the sense that it moves and creaks under your feet as you walk on its fragile and ever-changing surface.
One of the main reasons why tourists visit the Explorers Glacier (Glaciar Exploradores) and one of its mains attractions is the possibility to find ice caves within the glacier.
These caves are transitory, meaning that if there is one today, it may not be there tomorrow anymore. So you would be a very lucky person to be able to be inside of one. The good news is that there is a high probability of doing so.
Among the job of the trekking guides it is to search for these caves and take you safely to them, so you can get the most out of your experience.
There is a viewpoint from which you can see the glacier and which you can visit on your own, but I do not recommend it since, due to its progressive reduction, the glacier is very far from this point so you will not be able to appreciate it so much.
So, the other option is to book a tour to do the trekking in the Explorers Glacier, with a company online or directly in Puerto Río Tranquilo with one of the ones located on the shores of Lake General Carrera and that usually also offer tours to the Capillas de Mármol and Navigation to the Laguna San Rafaél and that will include the necessary equipment, the park entrance fee and probably a little snack.
No matter what company you choose, the price will be the same, 80.000 chilean pesos per person (to the date of this post). Sometimes you can receive a discount if you hire more than one tour with the same company.
The other thing you should consider when planning to the Explorers Glacier is the weather in the specific place you are going so that it is appropriate or the most convenient. Depending on this, the tour can even be suspended for bad weather.
Since it is part of a national park, the San Rafaél Lagoon National Park, there are things that are forbidden and are not allowed inside the park such as: setting fire, bringing pets, leaving garbage, among others. For more information on what cannot be done, consult this link.
About the Exploradores Glacier Trek from Puerto Río Tranquilo
The tour takes all day. It departs from Puerto Río Tranquilo early in the morning (in my case we left at 8 a.m.) and you should drive for approximately an hour and a half to reach the entrance to CONAF. From here they are about 6 hours to return to this point.
Of these 6 hours are about 25 minutes one way through the forest, then 50-60 minutes of walking on the moraine sector (rocks of various sizes, with sand and mud) and 3 hours of walking over the glacier with a few short stops.
In total, it is approximately from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon (about 10 hours in total). Don’t forget to bring trekking shoes, water, sun glasses, windbreaker and sunscreen.
It is best to wear layered clothing, since, by being in constant movement, the tendency is to be hot during the journey. It can get a bit chilly at long stops or if it’s very windy. You should also consider that it can rain during the walk.
People say that before the glacier was closer to the entrance, but with its retreat, the path to reach it becomes longer. The crampons and the rest of the safety materials that the tourist company provides to you are used once you arrive at the sector where the clean ice begins. There they give you all the directions.
The most complicated part is the section of rocks, since some of them are loose and sometimes you have to walk through them with wind and you have to avoid stepping on the parts with exposed ice, since they can be very slippery.
Due to the above and since the glacier changes every day, it is considered a trek of medium-high difficulty. The moraine section is long on the way back, but it is well worth the walk in order to be able to contemplate the clean ice and the glacier tongue from a closer distance.
In general, the tours include: safety equipment, gaiters, crampons, snack, specialized guide and transportation. Some of them include a brief stop at a Waterfall called La Nutria, so you can see it and take pictures. If you like waterfalls, this is something you should consider when selecting a tour.
In my case, I had the opportunity to live the experience twice and to understand that it is best to go with good weather to be able to take better advantage of the day. Take as many photos as possible to remember a place that will not be the same the following year.
The glacier changes daily, so the caves you find today may no longer be there in the following days and new ones will appear elsewhere.
I consider this to be a wonderful experience. The first time I walked on a glacier, it was on my visit to the Glacier “El Juncal”, which is closer to Santiago de Chile, but where the caves that are formed are a little different in shape.
One of my favorite things about the vehicular route was the stop at La Nutria Waterfall, which I found extremely photogenic and which, fortunately, I was able to photograph, even if I had little time to do so since it is a short stop.
The day I went there it had direct sunlight and, thanks to this, you could see the rainbow that forms with the combination of the bounced drops of water and the sun. A true natural wonder!
La Nutria Waterfall
However, I wondered why this waterfall was not a mandatory stop at the site or considered a tourist destination. When asking why this was not an obligatory stop for travelers, they told me that in the sector it was considered one more waterfall, due to the magnitude and beauty of many others in the Patagonia.
Even so, I was left with the doubt, because as a photographer I found it ideal for the photographic style that I was looking to achieve and that I had seen in the work of other travel photographers.
It took me a few tries to convey my vision of the waterfall in this travel photograph, but I was finally able to achieve a satisfying result. I hope you liked the result.
Have a happy trip through Chilean Patagonia and the Carretera Austral! See you soon, travelers.
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