Martial Glacier: A Great Hike for Beginners
After a 31-hour bus ride, a ferry, and a passport stamp from Chile, my brother and I finally arrive at Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.
We finally get a cab to take us to Cruz del Sur Hostel just after 8 pm. At the door entrance, we see a long roster of guests who obeyed the “no shoes allowed policy” with a bookshelf of boots all lined up in military style. We’re immediately asked by the receptionist to take off our shoes as well, which I didn’t mind because it kept the hostel clean from dirty mountain trekkers like me.
As we’re waiting in line for a few other backpackers to be checked in, I hear the chatter a few meters ahead where we see a small group of travelers drinking beer and socializing, all representing their country as if it were the Model U.N. It wasn’t long before we checked in and paid our $210 ARS ($21) each per night, we hear list of more rules before getting situated in our 6 room dorm and falling asleep so that we could prepare for a light warm up hike in the morning.
We did a little research about outdoor activities in the area and read about Glaciar Martial (Martial Glacier). It didn’t cost any money to hike the mountain and it was only a 2-3 hour hike to get to the glacier. We used the opportunity to sleep in a little, find the visitor center to get our passport stamped with the Ushuaia logo (in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have wasted a portion of my passport but it seemed novelty at the time). We make one final stop at a tour company’s office to book a full-day excursion the following day to Glaciar del Albino (Albino Glacier) before they helped us get a taxi cab to the base of the mountain.
The drive from Ushuaia city to town is only a few kilometers, but I’d recommend taking a cab instead walking it – unless you’re on a super budget – which I did see a solo female backpacker doing. It’s a paved and windy road so the walk is doable if the weather is nice.
Once you reach the base of the mountain and where the trail begins, there’s a cute little ski lodge, Refugio de Montana, where you can either dine or take away. We hadn’t eaten any food all morning and ended up doing both having a light breakfast and then a sandwich for the hike.
The trail itself has a fairly easy ascent, but there were parts of the trail where you found yourself hiking on spongy-like and sometimes muddy terrains.
There are several great viewpoints where you can see a panoramic view of the Beagle Channel and islands. With an average of 146 days of precipitation a year including 206 cloudy days, I’d say we lucked out with the March weather. A rainstorm just passed a couple of days prior leaving us with nothing but beautiful crisp skies.
If you’re looking to take it to next level and are an experienced rock climber, you could free climb above the glacier like my brother did.
It’ll be an interesting ride back down, but you’ll somehow make it down if you aren’t afraid of a few scratches. It’s not something I would try first initially, but for daredevils and those who like to explore the mountains in an extreme way I’d say go for it!