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Becoming Spiderwoman on the Calluqueo Glacier 

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Jimmy patiently straps crampons onto each of us. There are only four of us but it takes an inordinate amount of time to ensure the fit is secure. It's a complicated business, reams of ribbon-like, leather straps to hold the metal toes and heels in place. Finally we're ready and I take my first ever, crampon-clad steps.

To begin with it feels odd, like I'm walking in someone else's shoes.

“When you're ascending, kick your toes into the ice and sort of step up,” says my companion Frankie. “When you're coming down, dig your heels into the ice.”

The slightly exaggerated stepping action quickly becomes automatic and I begin to find my confidence. Within 5 minutes I'm striding out across the ice, skirting thin ridges alongside deep crevasses of magnetic blue. Back in the UK, the merest hint of ice on the ground is almost guaranteed to ensure my buttocks get too 'up close and personal' with the pavement but here, there's no stopping me as I revel in my new-found identity of Spiderwoman.

We left the Hotel Último Paraiso in Cochrane this morning and drove out towards San Lorenzo, Chile's second highest mountain standing at 3706m, its peaks shrouded in mist and cloud. Reaching the Calluqueo river at the same time as a gaucho and his dog, we all got out to walk over the narrow, wooden suspension bridge while Jimmy chatted to the gaucho before driving the vehicle over the cement bridge alongside. Tarmac turned to dust and dust became rocks as it looked as if we were headed to the literal end of the road before Jimmy finally parked the car alongside a ridge and we all donned life jackets and hard hats before descending the cliff.

The addition of a life jacket to the existing layers of T shirt, fleece and thermal jacket, topped off with a hard hat that insisted on sitting at a coquettish angle across one eye, did nothing to enhance the flexibility of movement and vision required to descend a steep and stony path. So it was with some relief that we reached the bottom and climbed into the Zodiac for the gentle sail across the glacial lake beneath the hidden gaze of San Lorenzo. Safely moored at a small beach on the far side, life jackets stowed on board, we set off to cross the moraine towards the ice mass of Calluqueo spilling from the mountain ahead of us.

As we tread carefully across the dunes of loose rocks, Jimmy stopped and surveyed the landscape.

“This is so different,” he said. “The ice is much further back.”

It's his first guided trip of the season and he's clearly surprised at the rate of recession since he was last here. Some accounts have the glacial melt in parts of Chile as alarmingly high as 30m per year. By the time we reached the glacier itself we're all glad to be off the moraine and onto solid ice. It's little wonder the addition of crampons has given us all illusions of superhero status, compared to walking across a shifting mass of hard rocks atop uncertain ice, this is child's play.

And play is what Jimmy makes it, leading us across an icy wonderland of sharp ridges and deep fissures of shining cyan. Arriving at a vertical wall of ice, he unhooks two ice picks from his belt and proceeds to climb the wall with graceful ease. One by one, we each have a go at climbing the ice under his watchful eye and tutorship. Giddy with our success, we sit beside a small pond of melt water into which Jimmy places a carton of juice to cool. Amidst the ice, at the foot of our climbing wall, we feast on beef sandwiches, dried fruits, nuts and chocolate washed down with pineapple juice.

After lunch we travel further across the glacier until the ridges become too narrow for us to continue. We turn back and make our way towards the distant lake. As we reach the end of the naked ice, we remove our crampons and with them, our super powers, returning to the boat as mere mortals. Andy & Jack from Buzztrips.co.uk visited the Calluqueo glacier outside Cochrane with Jimmy Valdés of Lord Patagonia. The trip was arranged and organised by us as part of our Essential Carretera holiday.

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The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

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