The Calluqueo Glacier is an enormous mass of thousand-year-old ice that descends down the slope of Mount San Lorenzo. I had the chance to go on an ice-walking tour of the glacier while volunteering in Patagonia, and I want to share my experience with you.
Where is Calluqueo Glacier
The Calluqueo Glacier is located near Cochrane, in the Aysén Region of Chile. It’s the main glacier of Mount San Lorenzo and the second highest in the region.
How To Get There
The closest town to the Calluqueo glacier is Cochrane. From Santiago, you can take a flight to Balmaceda Airport near Coyhaique. These flights are usually cheap. From the airport, you can take a bus or a taxi to Cochrane. The journey from Santiago to Cochrane by bus takes about 36 hours.
The most popular option to visit the Calluqueo glacier is to go on a guided tour. There are one or two agencies in the town that organise these tours. The tour cost $100 on average, depending on the number of people in the group. You can contact Patagonia Tresmil agency.
Is it possible to hike Calluqueo glacier without a guide?
The Calluqueo Glacier can be visited independently according to this article on Wikiexplora. There is a trekking path that leads to the edge of the glacier. Hikers will need to cross the knee-deep river along the way. This route is not recommended if the water level is high or if it has recently rained. Another option is to cross the Pedregoso river. This path is more difficult and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. Remember that walking on the glacier without proper equipment, such as crampons and an ice pick, can be dangerous due to hidden crevasses under the ice crust.
Alternatively, in 2018 it was possible to visit the glacier while volunteering through Workaway. Located at the base of Mount San Lorenzo, this farm offered a chance to hike to the glacier in exchange for assistance with animal care. Volunteers also received a place to stay, three meals a day made from farm products and the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Patagonian culture.
Best Time To Visit Patagonia
December to February tend to be the warmest and driest months, making them the most popular time to visit. The shoulder seasons of spring (September to November) and fall (March to May) can offer fewer crowds, but you may also experience more inclement weather.
The Calluqueo glacier is located in a remote part of Patagonia. Trails leading to it may be hard to access during the winter due to snow.
My Experience Ice-Walking On Calluqueo Glacier
While volunteering in Cochrane at a travel agency, I had a chance to accompany tourists to the Calluqueo glacier. For this excursion, we had a local guide to lead us.
After a 45-minute car ride, we stopped at a lake. The water had a surreal green hue due to mineral deposits from the glacier. Calluqueo sparkled in the sun at the foot of Mount San Lorenzo. We took a boat across the lake to the base of the glacier.
After an hour-long hike along a rocky slope, we reached the glacier. We put on crampons to walk on the ice. It’s easy to walk on the glacier, as long as you spread your legs wide to avoid catching one crampon on another. You have to stomp your feet firmly to get the spikes on your crampons to grip the ice. We had ice peaks as well, but we only used them to climb glacier walls for fun.
The sun is intense at the top of the glacier. UV rays reflect off the snow-white surface, making it impossible to hike without sunglasses. Sunscreen with high UV protection didn’t save me from a burnt nose and hands.
The Calluqueo Glacier is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In recent years, it has retreated dramatically, leaving behind a rocky path filled with fossils of plants. New ones are constantly being exposed as the glaciers melt. It’s illegal to collect and export these fossils from the country.
The glacier is constantly changing, with new ice arches appearing and disappearing within a week. Guides make a new route several times in the season to account for the changes.
Is Calluqueo Glacier Worth Visiting?
I highly recommend adding an ice-walking tour on a glacier to your bucket list. There are several glaciers in the region that offer this unique opportunity, such as the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina and the Exploradores glacier in Rio Tranquilo in Chile.
Calluqueo glacier is definitely a good option for ice walking in Patagonia. The landscape here is stunning, and the walk itself is not too strenuous. The hike to the Calluqueo glacier is shorter than the one at the Exploradores glacier. It is also less adventurous, as there are fewer caves and tunnels to explore. However, it’s still a lot of fun.
That being said, if you have physical limitations, you may find ice walking to be challenging. The hike to the glacier is uphill. Once you reach the ice, you’ll be walking in crampons under the strong sun. If you are not interested in physically demanding activities, there are still plenty of things to do in Cochrane. Aysén Region is home to a diverse range of bird species, including condors. Many people come here for birdwatching. You also can try fly fishing in Baker river for a rainbow trout. There are many other options to explore and enjoy in this beautiful region.