If the Ice Festival has not taken place in El Calafate for 5 years, there is a reason for it!
Climate change, which year after year threatens the glaciers in Patagonia as well as in the rest of the world, is getting more dramatic year. This year the winter was dry and not very cold, while in the summer there was not much wind…in short everything is abnormal and even the traditions of this place change, as explained by the Park Responsible Mr. Carlos Corvalán: a few years ago, for the feast of Hielo in July-August, they began to carry the snow in the city on trucks, than they decided to suspend it permanently…once, at the end of April, hotels and shops used to close but now more people stay in town to work and tourists continue to come.
Mountaineers are well aware of how difficult is climbing in this region, several weeks at the base of the wall is the minimum you have to wait before the wind stops and the sun takes the place of the snow and rain. This year, and it is not the first time, it was our turn to find adverse weather conditions for the whole month. On the Perito Moreno we gave up the exploration of glacial moulins: the abnormal temperature made them impracticable because too much melting water was flowing inside; on the Tyndall, in Chile, we were stopped by an unexpected wind and rain. In short, we were expecting weather conditions at least as acceptable as the year before, but during the three days useful for a speleological exploration we were largely disappointed, until the break of the poles of our camp tent, used both as a kitchen and a dormitory. So we had to return to camp 2 a day earlier and spend the following day exploring small cavities, 3 km far from the camp at the edge of the glacier!
The larger swallowholes have remained unexplored also this year and who knows how long for, while the front is retiring and the thickness of this Patagonian giant is thinning!
This can happen in geographical exploration, and there was no need to explain it to the rest of the participants, many of which are expert about expeditions and glaciers, so well aware of it! “C’est la vie” said our French adventure mates, who know well the weather adversities in glacial areas like Greenland, where I spent a full night with them holding a large tent on the glacier with a wind at 150 km/hour!
Now, while I am writing, Patagonia passes under the flight that is taking us to Buenos Aires and than back home, there is no doubt that we all want to return here, for the moulins or for other reasons. This landscape leaves always a mark, like the myriad of colours that accompany us every time we move toward the blue of the ice!
Now the contacts and friendships in both countries (Argentina and Chile) are consolidated, both the Parks (de los Glaciares and Torres del Pine) know us and know that we work respecting the environment and for a better understanding of their natural beauties! It’s just up to us deciding when and where to organize another exploration!... and of course we will choose a later period, with the hope it will be cold and let us enter the bluest ice of the world once again!
I wish to thank our Argentine member Esteban and our friend Silvia for the incredible help they gave us during both the expeditions, opening the doors of the city of El Calafate that met us with two radio stations and a conference at the town theater! Thanks also to our friend Rafael Avila, park guard at Torres del Pine, who accompanied us to the Tyndall for a few days, loading himself with much of the logistics material.
Universities and research institutes involved: University Bicocca of Milan - Italy, University of Milano, Sciences of the Earth A.Desio - Italy, Natural History Museum of Paris - France, University Diderot of Paris - France, University of Florence - Sciences of the Earth - Italy, University of Bologna - Italy.
Istitutional contact: Administracion de Parques Nacional – Argentine, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine – Chile.
Participants: Alessio Romeo, Francesco Lo Mastro, Martino Frova, Tommaso Santagata, Alain Couté, Catherine Perrette, Farouk Kadded, Hervè Gherardi, Lionel Blain, Serge Aviotte, Alfredo Brunetti, Andrea Franzetti, Andrea Pasqualini, Fulvio Iorio, Omar Belloni, Patrizio Rubcich, Roberto Ambrosini, Roberto Azzoni.
Sponsors: Ferrino, Dolomite, Amphibious, Tiberino, Leica France, Garmin, DeWalt.
Patronages: Union Internationale de Spéléologie, Italian Speleological Society, Italian National Mountains and Caves Rescue Corp.