A Slowly Dying Lake of Ice

Pastoruri Glacier…or, what’s left of it

**An older version of this post originally appeared in 2015 on the old legacy blog. We hope you enjoy this updated version!

Most trips to Huaraz include a side trip to Pastoruri Glacier, one of the few glaciers remaining in tropical South America. Except that nowadays, it’s more correct to say, what’s left of the glacier.

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On the bus in, playing ‘peak’-a-boo with nearby 20,000 foot peaks.

Pastoruri Glacier sits at 17,000 feet above sea level and can be reached by bus from Huaraz. This is not a short drive; at least two hours over gradually diminishing roads to the glacier. Some people apparently bike this distance, we saw at least a few people who were doing so. I don’t know who or what these people are; they must be stranded so near a yellow sun that it gives them super powers. I was not entirely sure the bus would make it.

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Puya Raimondi, or queen of the Andres. It can reach fifty feet in height only grows about 3000 meters altitude.

The Glacier is not what it once was. Sylvia visited here some years back, well before the ‘Gringo Friendly” walkway you see in the pictures was installed, and the walk was longer and rougher. She was saddened by what she saw; the glacier is now a fragment of what it was, diminished by the rise of global temperatures. Everywhere around the world they say the same thing; at Salkantay three years ago, our guides told us that the snow-capped peaks they remember in boyhood have receded. I won’t get too deeply into politics but if you are one of those global warming ‘skeptics’ – well, go ahead and take a look at the pictures.

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The ‘Gringo Friendly’ tourist walkway keeps the tourists moving at 17,000 feet.

Go anywhere around the world where there are glaciers and you will see the same. I saw blocks of ice the size of refrigerators marooned on the rocks, slowly melting away. In our lifetimes, it is likely there will be no more Pastoruri at all.

 

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Parts of Pastoruri glacier lie where the rapid melt has stranded them. 

The hike itself was easy but the elevation was a physical presence…just stepping off the bus I felt as if I would pass out. So we proceeded at a VERY slow pace and in time adjusted pretty nicely. The scenery was awesome, and as it was off-season (and late in the day) the place was almost empty. You could see spaces for thirty or more buses so in season this place must be a complete zoo.

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The long and winding — but Gringo Friendly! — Road. 

We must have been the last group of tourists to the place; on the way back all the women selling water and candies jumped on the bus with us, and along the way we met the guy renting horses, galloping down the road with his charges, headed back to the home pasture. And thus ended the first day of adventuring…leaving us to prepare for the main attraction…the four day Santa Cruz Trek.

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Next up: Nevado Huascaran

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