Southern Ice Field
The South Patagonian Ice field forms the larger part of the Patagonian Icecap. It stretches over 3 National Parks including Los Glaciares, Bernado O’Higgins and Torres del Paine. It covers 16,800 square kilometres and feeds numerous glaciers in the region including the world-famous Perito Moreno glacier.
Due to its size, there are still areas of the Southern Ice field that remain unexplored. To this day, the Southern Ice field remains a border issue between Chile and Argentina.
It is possible to visit the glacier via a number of different routes starting in El Chalten or Torres del Paine. You’ll typically head onto the ice field via the Marconi Pass or Paso del Viento.
Key landmarks include the Circo de los Altares (huge natural amphitheatre at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy), Volcan Lauturo, Gorra Blance to the north, and Cerro Moreno to the west.
As the Southern Ice field is more accessible than its smaller sister, you can join a taster trip of just 1 or 2 days trekking on the ice. You can also opt to join longer expeditions upwards of 8 days by ski touring, which allow you to summit several of the peaks mentioned above.
Northern Ice Field
The North Patagonia Ice field forms the smaller part of the Patagonian Icecap. It defines the huge Laguna San Rafael National Park in the Aysen region of Chile. It covers 4,200 square kilometres and feeds 28 exit glaciers including San Rafael and Neff.
This extensive ice sheet covered much of Patagonia just over a million years ago. Despite retreat, it survives due to its elevation of between 1,100m - 1,500m and a moist marine climate.
Expeditions crossing the entire glacier are few and far between but there are some accessible trekking routes focusing on the area around the Neff and Colonia glaciers due to their low elevation. They have experienced rapid thinning and retreat, and thus give a great opportunity to view climate change in real time.
The Northern Ice Field is a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve so if you decide to visit here you will be exposed to a wilderness that few people have ever seen.
Most people focus on two day hikes and the views of Laguna Torre and Los Tres but there's a chance, if you're really hardcore, to get out onto the icecap itself and see Fitz Roy from the back.
Harriet Pike Trekking, Mountaineering & Cycling Specialist
Trips to the Southern Ice Field
Trips to the Northern Ice Field
What Our Customers Think
It is a unique and very special experience due to the vastness and remoteness of the ice field. It feels like visiting another planet. A yet unspoiled wilderness which is challenging but also very much rewarding.
Danny November 2015
FAQs about Patagonian Ice Cap Expeditions
The ice cap is effectively a large mass of ice that has frozen in a bowl between the Andes mountains - where the mountains stick out of the ice bowl, crevasses form.
November and December are the best months to complete an ice cap expedition. In these months, snow bridges form over the crevasses making it easier to cross the ice cap.
Whilst it is less windy in March and April, throughout the Austral summer the snow melts and the bridges disappear exposing more and more crevasses, making it a much more challenging terrain to cross.
On a guided expedition, all technical equipment such as 4 season tents, ice axes, crampons, ropes and snowshoes will be provided. You need to bring your own technical layered clothing, trekking poles and a good pair of 4 season trekking boots.
The ice cap is not for everyone. You will need to be mentally resilient, an experienced trekker with camping experience and accustomed to carrying a loaded pack. Technically you don't need any mountaineering experience; however some time with ice axes and crampons would stand you in good stead. If you are looking for some type 2 fun - this one's for you.