Glacier Trekking on the Carretera Austral
The only road that provides access to Chilean Patagonia, the Carretera Austral is a breathtaking journey through the mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, volcanoes, glaciers, and fjords of southern Chile. It is a largely underexplored and relatively unknown region of the country, due in great part to its limited accessibility. This is a shame, because it is also absolutely stunning.
Three hours and 32 miles west of Puerto Rio Tranquilo lies Glaciar Exploradores, located at the foot of Patagonia’s highest mountain, San Valentín (13,314 feet). Trekking this glacier requires traversing a dense evergreen forest until reaching a lookout point, from which the expanse of Exploradores is visible. From here, you descend onto the dirty ice of the moraine, and eventually don crampons to cross the brilliant blue and white field of glacial ice. The Exploradores glacier is filled with cracks, arches, lakes, deep blue mills, and caves, and is a great place for doing just what its name implies: exploring.
Together with my traveling companions and fellow adventurers, we trekked the ice until we found a cave suitable for exploring. We slid inside its winding center, zigzagging back and forth along the tunnel until it became so narrow we could progress no further. Finding myself surrounded by ice, pushed up against the frozen walls, being inside a glacier, was a truly incredible experience and one that inspired both awe and respect for nature.
After emerging from our exploration of the glacier cave, we stopped to take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch. As I was traveling with a group of Argentines, this lunch even included the boiling of glacial water to brew mate, which just goes to show how committed Argentines are to their traditional and iconic infusion.
Having rested and refueled, we dedicated some time to climbing the vertical walls of our great dining hall, with crampons and ice pick in hand. Finally, contented, we returned for the trek back to the warmth of our cabaña and its wood-burning stove.
Chile’s Carretera Austral offers a wealth of beauty and destinations well-worth exploring. It is a remote region relatively isolated from the rest of Chile—accessible by a combination of flights, gravel roads, and ferries—but for the traveler looking to get a bit off the map and experience pristine, raw nature, the Carretera Austral is a route ready and beckoning to be adventured.
If you are interested in trekking through glacial valleys along the Carretera Austral and experiencing a way-off-the-beaten-path adventure, contact us about our Aysen Glacier Trail: Patagonia Trek.