Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Uppsala Glacier and Estancia Cristina

One very long day in January 2015, we did a day trip from El Califate to Estancia Cristina. We took a  fast catamaran from the port outside El Califate to down the lake to Estancia Cristina, a tourist estancia on National Park land that is close to Glaciar Uppsala, another huge glacier that feeds into Lago Argentina and that is retreating.  This is a standard day-trip from El Califate, and we'd chosen the trip option that included a 4x4 ride up to a short hike to a viewpoint of the glacier. 
The hike up to the glacier included a pass by marine fossils in rocks.  It was my first time just seeing fossilized remains hanging around.   This was pretty near the lookout where we saw one arm of Uppsula Glacier.  There was tons of barren rock, like a moonscape, without even the expected scrubby growth we'd passed by in the 4 x 4.    This is because all of this land, fossils and all, had been under the glacier for thousands of years.  In the last few decades, the glacier has retreated several kilometers.  There is a new glacial lake, which you can see behind Mike and Silas in the photo below, and there has been no time for erosion to create enough topsoil on the glacially scraped rock for anything to start growing.

The arm of Uppsula Glacier that is behind Mike and Silas is the side, not the main face of the glacier.  The main arm is on the other side of an island.   This Glacier comes at an angle off the icesheet, which is one of the reasons it is retreating so quickly.   On the hills on the side of the glacier, you can see bare rock, and then above that, trees, marking most recent line of the maximum height of the glacier.  We're talking a lot of melting ice.

The walk up to the viewpoint, taken from the viewpoint ridge looking back towards the estancia grounds.  This lake was not glacially fed, but was filled with snowmelt.  It is completely different in color from the glacially-fed lakes.  In the background, you can see that one row of hills over was not recently covered by glaciers and had vegetation.

On the way back to El Califate, we went up another arm of Lago Argentina to see the main face of Uppsula Glacier.  You can't actually get close enough to see much of the glacier because there is an ice wall, meaning that there are so many icebergs in the lake that it's dangerous to go closer to the glacier.  Many were blue ice, and in fantasitcal shapes.

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