There are places in the world where words are not enough to describe what you see. Photographs also do a poor job in conveying the sheer awesomeness – in its most literal sense – of certain places. And this is one of them: Perito Moreno Glacier in southern Argentina.
Perito Moreno is one of just two advancing glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which spreads across more than 12,000 square kilometres on the lower tip of South America. That is, only two of the 48 or so glaciers that still exist there are growing: the rest are shrinking every year.
Here, the wild geography gives birth to spectacular geological formations like the Torres del Paine massif across the border in Chile, and breathtaking natural wonders like Perito Moreno.
The sheer front face of the glacier towers above Lago Argentino, reaching up to 74 metres at its highest point, dwarfing the small boats that get up close to afford their passengers a closer look.
As the vast sheet of ice slowly advances under the weight of 250 square kilometres of snow and ice, which bears down on the glacier from its source high up in the surrounding mountains, great chunks of ice the size of small cars or huge buildings crumble from the glacier and crash down into the water below with a tremendous roar.
Standing in front of the glacier, it feels a lot like bearing witness to some ancient battle of the titans: the surrounding hills reverberate with the sound of cannon fire as tonnes of ice crash down into the water, accompanied by what sounds like the sharp crack of small arms, as blocks of ice separate from the main body of the glacier.
Some years, the advancing edge of the glacial wall meets the land, creating a natural barrier separating the southern arm of the glacial lake from the main body of water. As the southern section is constantly fed by glacial melt and run off, the water level rises, causing an imbalance in the levels either side of the barrier. When the barrier breaks, it causes a minor tsunami on the other side, as millions of gallons of water rush through and restore equilibrium.
In the interests of geographic investigation, we donned a set of crampons and set out to explore the glacier from above.
Looking at the wall of ice from afar, it looks like a fairly smooth ride, but from up close, the surface is made up of billions of small, compacted pieces of razor sharp ice, which crunch underfoot as we trample across.
Walking on the surface is fairly easy thanks to the metal plates attached to our shows, each equipped with 12 steel teeth. It's some comfort as we edge past gaping holes and vast cracks in the ice that reveal its cobalt blue interior.
The hike ends with a surprise: a table covered with empty tumblers appears around a ridge of the glacier. One of the guides hacks away at a patch of fresh ice and pours handfuls into the tumblers, then tops them op with local whisky.
It might not be Glenlivet, but it’s the most memorable whisky on the rocks I’ve ever had.