Hielo Azul is a two day hike with an overnight stay at a refugio. The first day I walked up to the refugio Hielo Azul and on the second day I continued on to Warton via the cajon de azul. In warton a bus stops thrice a week to pick you up and bring you back to civilization. Before leaving on this hike, the mountain office asked that I please register with them.. Especially since I was hiking by myself. They swore they would come and get me if I got lost. The German in me always feels obliged to perform these senselesss administrative tasks, so I duly registered. Since I had noone reminding me to deregister on my return I forgot to do so for two days. Nobody at the mountain office seemed particularly alarmed that I came back two days later than anticipated or didn’t come back when supposed to. I’m wondering how many days one needs to miss before they actually start looking for you.. If it’s more than a week, I’ll probably have starved anyways.
The map I’d been given told me that it would be a 6-7h hike up, however Argentinian hiking times are usually very generous. So I wasn’t too surprised when I arrived at the refugio at half past one instead of four. However the scenery is so amazing that it didn’t matter. The mountain office told me to follow the red sign on yellow.. and I was wondering what sign? A triangle? Circle? Who knows…
It turns out every sign has been hand painted including different symbols. It started out innocently enough, but quickly became more elaborate going from a simple spiral to a boat or a kid looking at the stars.
Since I’d arrived so early at the refugio, I asked around for hikes I could do around the area. The climb to the glacier was pushed of to the next morning, as it was supposedly nicer in the morning than the afternoon. I was told there’s a nice little waterfall where they contact the water for the refugio, I should just follow the path up.. The path up turned out to be just some vague foot prints where someone had walked to check where the pipes were leaking water. It got steeper and in some parts seriously scary.. and to add insult to injury, when I arrived at the top the waterfall was basically dried out. Nothing to be seen there.
Back down was basically one giant slide, with the occasional grab at a tree root for safety. I ended up seriously scratched up by the bushes. So I decided to go for a less dangerous option and take a dip into the freezing water of the laguna. While crystal clear and a lovely turquoise color, it was also the average “glacier water” temperature of some 5 degrees Celsius. So the bath ended up being very short.
My attempts to create awesome “mermaid jumping out of the water”-pictures also turned out to be major failures. But, even though you can’t tell from the pic, I had a lot of fun!
However, by that time it was almost evening and time for me to have dinner and have a chat with the other residents of the refugio. I spent a lovely evening with an Argentinian family, playing Dixit, learning about the best opportunities to eat ice cream and chocolate in the surroundings and exchanging picture tips before heading out shortly to take some night time pictures with and without the moon, before deciding that it was time for bed.
The next morning, I started early to see the glacier.. The glacier itself didn’t really do it for me. The lagoon was milky, the glacier covered in dust and I was up too early, since I arrived around 9am. I couldn’t stay too long because I still had a long hike ahead of me. So a definite “Do not repeat” from me.
The second day of the hike was a lot more picturesque, I crossed lakes and meadows with the fall starting to make an appearance in the trees. I also crossed some very creative, make-shift bridges on that day. My final goal that day was the cajon azul. A blue gorge, here again, it would’ve been good to see it in the morning, since the sun hits the water and makes the water truly shine. I arrived in the early afternoon and a lot of the cajon was already in the shadow again. However, where the sun did hit the water surface the colors were truly breath taking. Of course I had to jump in.. but those rivers are just sooo cold, after two little laps, I had to go back out and heat up in the sun.
On the way back I met another girl from the hostel heading to the Cajon Azul. She told me it was mostly flat from there on, just a big rise at the end.. So, naturally, I assumed every incline to be “that final slope”.. However I still head another 90 minutes ahead of me.. And when I finally made it up, I was seriously exhausted and so glad to have reached the end…
The only issue remaining was the bus. Said girl had also told me that the bus didn’t run in the morning and that she’d ended up taking a taxi to reach the bus stop.. So all we had to do was sit and wait and hope for the bus to show up.
Which it did.
About an hour late.