GLACIAL ICE IS THE LARGEST reservoir of fresh water on earth, and while many glaciers are shrinking at rates that have us reaching for our hip waders, there’s still plenty of ice around for those interested in seeing one of nature’s wonders up close.
To hike on the glaciers proper, you’ll most likely want to join a tour, follow marked routes carefully, and ensure you have adequate gear.
Even onlookers should wear shades with UV protection and bring along high-SPF sunblock (don’t forget the underside of your chin and nose!). Waterproof clothing is essential.
Here are some of the Southern Hemisphere’s most accessible glaciers.
Though Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile all have towering walls of ice, Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier is one of South America’s best, most visited, and easiest to get to.
Perito Moreno is located in Los Glaciares National Park, just 50 well-paved miles from Argentina’s southern outpost El Calafate.
Chill at the wooden viewpoints, take a quick boat ride around the lagoon, or head out onto the ice itself. Hielo y Aventura, out of Ushuaia, is one of many tour companies you can book with for an up to seven hour walk on the glacier, capped with a celebratory drink of whiskey.
To get in the mood, check out this Photo Essay: Trekking Ice in Los Glaciares National Park.
Two of the most accessible glaciers in the world — Franz Josef and Fox — are located near the rainy west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Each is located around three miles from their respective closest towns, which are also named for the glaciers.
You can take walking tours to the first icefall on Franz Josef, although some of its 2,700 daily visitors prefer a helicopter tour to gain more altitude with less effort. Some of the guided walks pass through ice tunnels.
Fox Glacier is less developed, receiving a maximum of 1,000 tourists daily in recent years.
Both glaciers flow from high atop the mountains and come within 1,000 feet of lush rainforests.
During growth periods they can advance up to 2.5 feet per day, which is a near land-speed record for glaciers.
Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda
Perhaps not the first continent you’d think of for ice hunting, Africa has three countries that are home to glaciers that, since they are found at high altitudes, are a little tougher to reach than those above.
Kenya’s Mt. Kenya, Mt. Kilamanjaro in Tanzania, and the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda are all home to glacial ice.
With global warming driving the rapid shrinking of these tropical glaciers, now is a good time to lace up the hiking boots and go for a long walk.
Organized treks making finding the ice a bit easier, but take note: you still need to be in great shape.
Not surprisingly, the “white continent” is home to a few hundred glaciers, but none are easily accessible.
Some cruise ships make landings and take passengers over snowy areas, though these are not glaciers; they’re simply compacted snow that’s turned to ice and moves slowly over land in areas where snowfall exceeds melt over long periods of time.
One option for getting a little closer to the glaciers is a trekking-oriented Antarctic cruise.
Adventure Smith Explorations offers a landing in Neko Harbor where in good weather you will have great views of the glaciers.
Have you discovered MatadorTV yet? It’s got the best travel video around, both from around the ‘net and originals. Here are a few snowy vids that make for good winter — or southern summer — viewing:
The Dark Side of Everest Part 1
Dope Free Ski Photo Shoot by Chase Jarvis
“The Sharp End”: Tribute to Rock Climbing Giants