A Walk On Thick Ice In Patagonia Most glaciers in Patagonia are retreating, or melting faster than they rebuild. One of the few that remains stable is Perito Moreno in Argentina. Scientists aren't the only ones thrilled by it. It's also popular with tourists who can hike through its white peaks and blue valleys.
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A Walk On Thick Ice In Patagonia

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A Walk On Thick Ice In Patagonia

A Walk On Thick Ice In Patagonia

A Walk On Thick Ice In Patagonia

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/104180452/104222012" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The south face of the Perito Moreno Glacier as seen across the Rico channel of Lake Argentino. Charla Bear/NPR hide caption

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The south face of the Perito Moreno Glacier as seen across the Rico channel of Lake Argentino.

Charla Bear/NPR

Locals say the Perito Moreno Glacier is easy to get to. From Buenos Aires, it's just a three-hour flight, a creaky bus ride, a boat trip across part of Argentina's largest lake and a short hike through the forest.

The giant mass of ice, with its white peaks and blue valleys, is surrounded by jagged mountains and slate-colored water.

Ceferino Marino works as a guide for Hielo y Aventura, a company that conducts tours on the glacier. Before groups get to hike on the glacier, they have to learn a thing or two about it. Marino gives a short lecture in front of a wooden sign at the edge of the lake. He explains that the glacier is more than 18 miles long and 3 miles wide and towers about 150 feet above the lake. But he knows no one came to hear statistics.

"Well, let's go to the glacier," he says. "The best is coming."

The last stop before climbing onto the glacier is a makeshift wooden stand with crampons dangling from it. Guides put the metal spikes on everyone's shoes so they can scale the ice.

"There are three techniques: to go up, to go down and traverse technique," Marino explains. "To go up, we use the V-technique, or Charlie Chaplin technique. To go down, lean back, bending your knees. Like skiing with powder, or riding a Harley-Davidson, no? This way, like a monkey."

The crampons sink through a shallow layer of slush. At steep inclines, the guides chip stairs out of the ice.

The scenery gets more amazing with every step. Peaks jut out like giant crystals. Sinkholes provide portholes to water rushing below.

Crystal-clear creeks flow across the surface.

"The water is drinking water," Marino says. "You can test the water; it's really pure."

Marino says hiking on the glacier doesn't harm it because the glacier melts 5 to 30 centimeters a day. But he points out that while the hikers' trails will disappear quickly, the glacier won't. Even though it melts a little every day, it also grows at about the same pace. While most glaciers in Patagonia are retreating, or melting faster than they rebuild, climate change seems to have spared Perito Moreno — at least for now.