28th December 2003
Big Foot (http://www.bigfootpatagonia.com) is the only company authorised to lead hikes on Glacier Grey. The ice trek across the galcier cost us $49 each. They run two trips a day - at 9am and 2pm - each lasting five hours or thereabouts. We preferred to do the morning trip so that we had enough time to walk back to the campsite at Refugio Lago Pehoe.
After a quick breakfast and de-camp, we left our sacks in the Big Foot office and met up with the rest of the group. Our group, which started with just three of us when we were trying our crampons on the previous night, consisted of 10 people by the morning, plus three guides. We had to walk over some rocks to get to the zodiac and from there it was a 10 - 15 minute ride to the edge of the glacier.
Scrambling over the lateral moraine at the west end of the glacier, we were then instructed to put on our harnesses and crampons, ready for a quick lesson on how to walk uphill ("The Duck"), downhill ("Toilet Position") and on the flat ("Frankenstein")and how to use our ice axe. Then we each roped up with a partner and headed off onto the glacier.
After a reasonable trek across the glacier, we stopped at an ice cave and started getting our gear sorted for a small ice climb. Again we had some quick instruction on how to ascend the ice wall, and whilst waiting for our turn tucked into a welcomed hot cup of soup and cereal bar (supplied Big Foot).
Then it was back to the start to re-join the zodiac.
Arriving on the beach, we stocked up on water at the refuge and then started the walk back. Apart from the initial climb, we hoped the walk would be a little easier and quicker than the day before. If we got back to the Refugio Lago Pehoe on time, we would be able to catch the last catamaran back to the Weasel and camp once again at the Camping Pehoe, on the other side of the lake. Unfortunately though we were both really tired after the morning's activities and it was fairly hot on the trail. We must have just missed the catamaran by 20 minutes, but it didn't matter as we could just as easily camp at Lago Pehoe and catch the first catamaran the next morning.
The campsite the Glacier Grey side of the lake is quite large. Some parts are fairly sheltered whilst others are completely exposed to the elements, so you need to choose your site carefully. We soon came to realise that at each of the campsites in the park all the best sheltered sites already had permanent tents on. They belonged to the refuge and were hired out to those who could not get a bed in the refuge, when it was full, or those who didn't fancy lugging their own tent around. This is a good option if you want to camp but don't want to bring your own equipment. However, hiring the tents at the refuges looked fairly expensive (about £8 a night plus the camping fees).
We pitched up in an area where there were lots of low lying bushes and trees, giving us at least some protection from the wind. You pay at the little snack kiosk (3,500 Pesos each/$5) and are given a label to attach to your tent as proof of payment. There is a room with a few long tables where you can cook dinner, but it was pretty busy when we were ready to eat, and we had to make the best of it, crouched half in the tent for a bit of protection.