This iceberg shown above comes from the spectacular Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland. This is a water channel where icebergs flow off of the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier; one of the most active glaciers in the world. The Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier moves over 130 feet every day and is responsible for producing over 10% of all Greenland's ice calving events, where icebergs like this one break off the glacier and flow out to the ocean.
Rising up like a colossal stone wave, the Martial Mountains form a vast and spectacular backdrop to the small city of Ushuaia. Nestled within these mountains is Glacier Martial, and it was to there that we trekked on a cold day infused with crisp air and winter sunshine.
The frost from the night before had turned the trail into sheet ice, so after 45 minutes we hopped onto the cleared road. As we rounded a corner, we were stopped in our tracks by the beautiful sight of a grey fox, licking his lips in what I hoped was satisfaction rather than anticipation. Head cocked to one side, he gave us a long, curious look before melting into the trees.
Shortly after we stumbled on another creature, a labrador dog, who decided she was going to keep us company for the day. The three of us made our way upwards along the steep switchbacks. The higher we got, the deeper the snow, until at the 750m mark there was more snow on the ground than I had seen since I was a young boy. And I soon found myself grinning like a 10-year old Tim would have as the excitement of spending a day playing in the snow seeped into my bones.
The sky had been a clear pastel blue when we set off, but as the day wore on a bank of cloud began to spill in above the Beagle Channel. The sky was getting darker, the wind stronger and the light less and less.
As we crested a lip at the top of the steepest section, the wind increased, the snow began to fall thicker and heavier, and the view out over the sea lost to the blizzard. We headed back down as fast we dare.
When we were halfway down the snow stopped, the sun came back out and we slid, ran, jumped and smiled our way to the bottom, just in time to catch a magnificent sunset over the mountains. We flagged a taxi down and headed back to the hostel.
Like sunburn in the evening, the feeling of both body and mind after a day in the snow is wonderful, I think. Sitting in the warmth of the hostel, my cold limbs began to thaw and my skin tingled, glowing from the hours in the cold and the sudden heat. The reintroduction of colour to my eyes after the white of sky, mountain and earth seemed surreal. I felt alive. Exactly as I remember when I was a kid.
Have you ever been blown away by the wind?
Well the Patagonian climate makes the region one of the windiest places on earth. Winds reaching 100km/h aren’t a rare phenomenon and sometimes I struggled to maintain my feet on the ground. The prevailing winds are westerly, and the westward slope has a much heavier precipitation than the eastern in a rainshadow effect. Therefore the overall climate on the Argentinean side is cool and dry but this doesn’t mean you can’t get wet on your hikes. With such strong winds, the climate changes various times a day with impressive speed. It’s not uncommon to experience sunshine, rain and snow in less than half an hour.
In the background you see the Upsala Glacier, a large valley glacier on the eastern side of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The name comes from the old spelling with one p of Uppsala University, Sweden, which sponsored the first glaciological studies in the area. Its higher portion lies in a disputed territory between Chile and Argentina. While the glacier flows from north to south it has three lesser eastflowing tributary glacier: Bertacchi, Cono and Murallón. The Upsala Glacier is unfortunately well known for its rapid retreat, which many see as evidence for global warming. Its retreat has been ongoing since the glacier was first documented in 1810. The glacier showed almost continual recession up until today. As of 2018 Upsala Glacier has retreated to such degree that it no longer constrain its tributary Bertacchi Glacier, which you see in the centre of the picture.
Even though these facts make you sad, the view over these endless masses of ice took my breath, together with the extreme wind, and left me astonished.
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