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Day 79 – Mervyn’s Guide to Surviving The Snowpocalypse (Ice Trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier)

December 28, 2010

Location: Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina

Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ice trekking is exactly what it sounds like: just like trekking but frozen. It’s like being told that for the next four hours you’re going to be tortured and your hosts are going to be looping Party in the U.S.A. while they do it.

Why do it, then? Simple. When you’re in El Calafate, going to Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glacieres National Park is the thing to do. Of course, you don’t have to walk all over it like I did, but me, I’ve never been good at half measures.

Perito Moreno Glacier happens to be part of an ice field that is the third largest freshwater reserve in the world. In fact, it’s part of the same ice field that feeds Glacier Grey. In other words, I’ve traveled 10 hours from Porto Natales to here so I can go to a place I’ve technically been before, except this time, even colder.

After hours of hiking over what must be the world’s largest ice cube I realized that our guides had fitted us with harnesses not because we would be rappelling down ice walls (my hope) but so that our bodies would be easier to recover if we fell into an ice gorge.

This happy realization was accompanied by this thought: there’s a global warming alarmist out there that wants us to believe that we’re all destined for the ice world of The Day After Tomorrow. In honor of that moron and his scriptwriter friend, I present this happy guide to surviving the forthcoming ice age apocalypse.

1. At Least It Will Be Pretty. . .

There’s no way around it. Perito Moreno is gorgeous. If you thought ice was clear, you’re wrong. It’s blue. Deep, crystal blue. The kind that makes you want to lick it because it’s got to be artificially flavored. A cold, empty blue you thought you’d only see in the eyes of the most Aryan of skinheads. The glacier is massive, stark, and–if you’re lucky like we were–on a clear day the field seems to stretch for forever. It’s stunning.

So when the ice caps melt and refreeze on your front yard, at least you know the view will be good.

2. . . .Until You Go Blind.

My old speech teacher used to love to say, “Ain’t no free lunch,” and it’s no different at Perito Moreno. The price for seeing this beauty is that eventually she’ll gouge your eyes out. Well, not literally. She’ll let you keep your eyes and just sear the backs of them like Argentine steaks. That’s because where the ice isn’t crystal blue it is a reflective white. The kind of white that–just like the aforementioned blue-eyed Nazi–would love to do some permanent damage to most anyone that isn’t itself.

Accordingly, if the apocalypse doesn’t catch you by surprise, be sure you pack your polarized sunglasses.

3. Bring Some Cardboard

Sitting down for lunch on an ice slope, slightly sheltered from the relentless wind, I realized something—ice is cold. Moreover if you manage to get it warm it melts which is fine except for when there’s so much of it that it doesn’t stay frozen for long and eventually it’s thawed and frozen your butt so many times that you know what a freezer burned chicken feels like (hint: annoyed).

This problem can be solved by bringing some cardboard. And don’t be a fool and go burning it for a temporary thaw. Put that thing under your ass and spare yourself the Tyson’s chicken experience. Just like our ice trekking guides did. The same guides who didn’t bring enough cardboard for us. Thanks guys.

4. Dress Like A Polar Bear

You ever see a polar bear walk around with any exposed skin? Nope. Nothing but his nose and his eyes are showing. After a day acting out some of the more unpleasant parts of Cat’s Cradle, I’m convinced this is because polar bears fear sunburn as much as the cold or the nonstop wind (though there’s that, too). Just remember, you’ll basically be living the rest of your apocalyptic life on the surface of a giant mirror. Start hoarding sunscreen now. Be prepared to smear it on the insides of your nostrils.

5. Eat The Fat Guy First

I love fat guys. (In fact, I’m a fat man trapped in a skinny man’s body.) They are not, however, the kinds of folks you want to be with while traversing the post-apocalypse ice mountains in search of the biggest, warmest hole in the ozone. No. He–like the winded fellow for whom our ice trekking crew had to repeatedly wait for–will slow you down.

For that matter, so will smokers, asthmatics, and people with phobias of shaved ice. Weed them out like you’re Natural Selection’s gardener. A modest proposal: eat them first while they still got some meat on them. You’ll thank me for it later.

6. Scotch Scotchy Scotch Scotch.

In case of the end of the world, bring lots of scotch. Or pisco. Or rubbing alcohol. Anything that’ll burn on the way down and helps you forget that there aren’t enough snowplows in the world to clear your driveway.

Come to think of it, you should just move down here and beat the rush. Find a spot on the Perito Moreno and laugh the end of the world away. While the rest of your friends try to figure out how to call 911 with frostbitten thumbs, you’ll have already toughened up on the slopes of this giant ice field. That, some sunglasses, 30 years worth of scotch stashed around the glacier, and a Sears supply of refrigerator boxes should do the trick.

Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

GALLERY: Click through to see bonus pictures of. . .ummmm. . .ice.

Mervyn is a traveler who brings too much, eats too much, and writes way too much. To learn more, read some of his excessive writing here or flip through the archives.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Doris permalink
    February 23, 2011 10:15 pm

    This might help you like Party in the USA a teeny tiny bit:

    • March 6, 2011 6:46 pm

      It almost makes Miley bearable. It also almost makes Biggie uncool. It makes me confused. What does it say that I watched it twice?

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