Karakoram Glaciers Defy Trends, Actually Grow In Size

Scientists are once again demonstrating that we actually don’t really have a clue about how our planet works. A team of researchers from the University of Grenoble in France has released a new report that indicates that glaciers in the Karakoram mountain range are actually growing in size. This is, of course, counter to what is being observed elsewhere across the planet and defies the theories behind global warming.

The scientists who conducted the study used satellite imagery collected from 1999 through 2008 to compare the land surface elevation over that period of time. Their observations indicate that the mass of the glaciers in the Karakoram continues to grow, even as others in the nearby Himalaya Mountains and around the world are actually in retreat.

Critics of the study are quick to point out that this method of research hasn’t proven to be reliable just yet. There are a number of factors that can interfere with the imagery including cloud cover and the amount of snow on the ground. They say that the only way to be sure that the glaciers are growing is to visit them in person and take measurements by hand. That isn’t easy in a place like the Karakoram, which is amongst the most remote and unexplored regions on the planet.

Located along the borders of China, India and Pakistan, the Karakoram runs about 310 miles in length and features some of the tallest mountains on the planet, including the infamous K2, which is second only to Everest in height. The high concentration of peaks in a relatively small area has made the mountain range nearly impassable at points and has hindered exploration over the years. That rugged terrain would make it very challenging to get an accurate measure of the glaciers there, which is necessary in order to verify the findings in this study.

[Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut via WikiMedia Common]

Hiking On Patagonia’s Most Famous Glacier: Perito Moreno

While there are many excellent hiking destinations around the world, not many can hold a candle to the one of the planet’s most picturesque glaciers, Perito Moreno. Famous for its one-of-a-kind forest and mountain views, Perito Moreno is said to be one of the only glaciers in the world that is still growing – about two to six feet per day. And for those who heard about the rare glacial collapse last month at Perito Moreno, don’t worry, you can still trek it.

Recently, I wrote a post on hiking the trails in Los Glaciares Nacional Park. Looking at that gallery, it’s hard to believe this is the same place. However, the park encompasses a variety of landscapes and experiences, all of which are worth exploring during a visit to Patagonia.

There are many striking features about Perito Moreno that pop out during the trek. One is its massive size – 1,740 miles in distance. The glacier has a 3.1-mile front and rises almost 200 feet above sea level. While hiking on it, it seems like an entire town could build a civilization on the ice. Additionally, the milky-turquoise color of the water is majestic and – combined with the crisp cool of the ice and serene silence – instantly puts a feeling of calm over you when you look at it.The area is actually one of the world’s biggest drinking water supplies. Ninety percent of drinking water comes from glacial areas, with Antarctica and Greenland being the main suppliers followed by this particular region of Argentina. Furthermore, every so often you will hear a loud thunder-like sound. This is due to the moving of the glacier as chunks of ice fall into Lake Argentina.

To hike on Perito Moreno for yourself, you can choose a home base in El Calafate. Personally, I booked a Mini Trekking Tour with Hielo & Aventura. The cost was 540 Argentine Pesos (about $123), plus entry fee into Los Glaciares Nacional Park, which is 100 Pesos (about $23). The company will pick you up from your accommodation in the morning as well as drop you back off once the tour is over. A group hike is included and will lead you on a moderately intense trek on the ice for about an hour to an hour and a half. At the end of the tour, participants are given a shot of whiskey and mini dulce de leche alfajor on the ice – excellent for helping you to warm up.

There are a few things I recommend to bring with you on the trek, and to keep in mind during it:

  • Wear layers. On the day of my hike, the morning was rainy and cold, then warmed up, and then drizzled again. Remember, you’re near a glacier, and it is not uncommon for the weather to be wet and unpredictable. If I hadn’t worn long johns under my sweatpants and two pairs of socks, I know I would have been uncomfortable. It’s better to wear too much and be able to take layers off when you get warm.
  • Bring as many waterproof items as you can. For example, your shoes, jacket, pants and camera. Additionally, gloves are required for the hike, as the ice is sharp. While the park supplies them for you, they were soaking wet before we even put them on. Bring your own, and an extra pair in case it rains and they get wet.
  • Follow the guides. They know the safest paths as well as the best lookout points for photos. Likewise, there are many sinkholes that you do not want to fall into.
  • Take some time before trekking to get used to your crampons, which are the spikes they attach to the bottom of your shoes to walk on ice. They are heavy and will feel funny at first, but once on the ice you’ll be happy to be wearing them. Don’t be afraid to use force and stamp into the ice. Also, never walk sideways, and when walking uphill, pretend you’re a duck and turn your feet out a bit. When walking downhill, bend your knees, point your toes forward and lean back just a bit so you don’t fall forward.

The most important thing to remember when doing the trek is to have fun, and take a lot of pictures. Many people consider Perito Moreno to be the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” due to its unique beauty and picturesque location. Remember how lucky you are to be surrounded by such rare scenery, and no matter what else is going on in your life or with the weather, just enjoy it.

Iceland photo set

If you enjoy perusing well-shot destination-specific photography, you will enjoy this Iceland photo set without a doubt. Flickr user Vamitos, Carmen Marchena, excels in discovering and documenting magical landscapes and scenes within Iceland for this photo set, aptly named ‘Magicland’. Swooping clouds, blinding sun rays, dramatic peaks and valleys, surrealistic teal-blue glaciers, stunning silhouettes, and dizzying mist all make cameos in this set of photos. So take a moment and explore these carefully taken and well-appointed photos. There are 52 in all, and, in my opinion, not a single one leaves anything to be desired in the realm of sheer beauty. Granted, when working with such a phenomenal muse (Iceland), inspiration is likely not easily lost. Enjoy.

Impact of climate change on the Himalaya far less than estimated

A new climate change study, released this past Thursday, has surprised some experts and blown some major holes in the doom and gloom predictions that have been given out in recent years. In fact, the new study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature, found that there has been virtually no ice lost in the Himalaya over the past decade, which runs contrary to reports that many climatologists have given over that same time period.

In this new study, satellites were used for the first time to track the loss of ice in glaciers and the polar ice caps. Previously, teams of scientists would have to visit the glaciers themselves, and measure the changes manually. This was a time consuming and challenging process, and only allowed them to visit a few locations. The satellites gave researchers the opportunity to see the big picture more fully, and what they found was quite surprising.

Previous climate change studies estimated that the loss of ice in the Himalaya Mountains was quickly approaching 50 billion tons per year, but the satellites showed that the actual loss was closer to 4 billion tons annually, which one scientist in the study labeled as insignificant. That means that while the glaciers are indeed still melting, they are doing it at a far less alarming rate than we’ve been led to believe in the past. Researchers went on to say that the contribution to rising sea levels, from these melting glaciers and the ice caps, was less than half what had been predicted by other recent reports.

This research project began in 2003 and ran through 2010, giving the scientists involved an opportunity to observe changes over a substantial amount of time. Their findings fly in the face of predictions from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which once predicted that the Himalayan glaciers could be completely gone by 2035, a statement they were forced to retract later.

All of these different climate change reports just indicate to me that we really don’t know what the hell is going on with our planet.

Trek the Colombian Andes in El Cocuy National Park with Mountain Madness

Acclaimed Seattle-based adventure travel company and guide service Mountain Madness debuts its newest trip on February 4th: an excursion to Colombia’s El Cocuy National Park. Although Colombia is often characterized as being mostly tropical jungle or coastline, the Andean Cordillera Oriental crosses a significant portion of the country. The El Cocuy trip will allow trekkers to explore glaciers, alpine lakes, and remote colonial villages.

Mountain Madness owner and president Mark Gunlogson has years of experience as a mountaineering guide all over the world, and the company is renowned for its reputable and distinctive trekking trips and alpine climbing schools, particularly in South America and the Himalayas. For this inaugural El Cocuy adventure, Gunglogson will lead five other trekkers and climbers as they “explore this area’s potential for adventure travel. The team hopes to dispel the myth of danger with travel in Colombia and open up a new, cutting-edge trip.”

Activities will include mountaineering, trekking, rock climbing, and cultural exchange, a Mountain Madness hallmark. Check out the company’s blog for dispatches from El Cocuy. Buena suerte, team!

Video: How to self-arrest with an ice ax