The Martial Glacier is on the top of the Cerro Martial in Ushuaia, the most austral city in the world. The white peaks mountains and the colorful and rustic architecture of the city composes a beautiful picture. I had the pleasure of visiting Ushuaia for the first time during the summer (high season), and I didn’t miss the chance of doing the hiking on the Cerro Martial to see all that natural wonder. Here are some helpful tips so you can make the most of your experience hiking to the Martial Glacier in Ushuaia:
About the Martial Glacier
The Martial Glacier is a cirque glacier, which is a remain of an old valley glacier that used to descend by gravity effect from the top of the mountain. Once the ice retreated – approximately 10.000 years ago -, the Martial Glacier was reduced to the three main circles glaciers that can be seen nowadays, according to a sign I saw at the track. Well, I visited one of them.
The name: Named after the explorer Luis Martial.
Importance: The glacier is the most important source of potable water in Ushuaia.
Altitude: 835 mt (above sea level).
Gap: 277 mt.
Distance from the city: 7 km.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to the base of the Cerro Martial is going by Remise (it’s like a cab, but the price is fixed), or a regular cab. There are cabs in the base of the mountain; you can catch one after the trekking to return to the city center.
About the hiking
activity can be divided into three phases: First, you have to get to the base of the mountain, it’s about 7 km from the city center, you can get a Remise/cab or go walking. Second, you walk from the base of the Cerro Martial (or take the cable car, in case it’s working) to the limit of the cable car area. It’s going to take about 30 minutes if you choose to walk – I did! The cable car wasn’t working anyway. And third, the real trekking to the top of the glacier, which takes around 1 hour.
Estimated duration: The whole experience will take at least 3 hours of walking (to go up and down), plus the time you want to stay up there enjoying the view. It’s a 30-minute walk until the cable car ends, and a 60-minute walk from there to the glacier (approximately). For us it took a little bit more because we didn’t rush, we stopped a lot to take pictures and sometimes to rest a little.
The level of difficulty: According to the official information, it’s difficult. In my opinion not so much. The first part (from the base until the top of the cable car) we were breathless, but after that, it got a little easier. The last meters to the top is steep, and you might feel breathless again.
Is it recommended for children? I guess so, but I didn’t see children in there. I saw a lot of older people facing the hiking though (50+).
Do I need a guide? Honestly, I don’t think so! We did all the hiking by ourselves; the trail is pretty obvious. It’s an amazing activity that you don’t have to spend money on.
How to dress & What to pack
- Although it is summer and the sun is shining (if you get lucky), warm clothes are recommended. The idea is to dress in layers so you can gradually remove the pieces during the trekking.
- Hiking boots are essential, the terrain is irregular, with rocks, and it can get slippery (especially close to the glacier).
- Warm jacket, because on the top of the glacier the wind can be strong.
- Comfortable pants or leggings.
- Bring water and a snack.
- Don’t forget your camera; the views are stunning.
Our experience hiking the Martial Glacier during the summer
We did the hiking to the top of the Martial Glacier on a sunny day of February, the day was beautiful, blue sky and warm (ish) weather. During the summer there’s no ice on the ground, only on the top of the glacier, the rest of the landscape is colorful.
Early in the morning, we asked the hotel receptionist to call two Remises (a type of taxi but with fixed fares, as I said before) to take us to the base of the Cerro Martial. Doing the hiking to see the glacier was the only activity that we planned to do by ourselves during the trip, all the others were booked tours.
I didn’t really know what to expect when we decided to do this activity; I only knew that at the base of the mountain there was a tea house (that I was planning to stop later (never happened!) and on the top was the Martial Glacier.
We got off the cars and started walking, following the cable car (which was not working). The open trail (that becomes a ski track during the winter) is not steep, but it’s tiring. The views are already beautiful at the beginning of the trail; I didn’t have to walk too much to start taking pictures.
The idea was to walk until the end of the cable car area – which took us 30 minutes -, where you already have a pretty good view of the city and the Beagle Channel. Then my father (looking to the top of the Andes) saw some people walking far away from us, little black points moving slowly on a trail. And there were other black points close to the glacier. The idea he had next was endorsed by everyone in our group.
“Let’s go to the top?” He Said.
“YES!” We agreed.
And then the real adventure began.
There was so much more ahead of us, a lot to explore. We had no idea for how long we’d have to walk, or what kind of difficulty we’d face. But why not to try? We could stop and come back at any time if we had to.
We met some people on our way up, all of them were well equipped with comfortable outfits, hiking boots, and sticks (a few of them with their dogs). Comparing to them, the only thing that could classify us as “prepared people” were our boots, I guess.
The views are breathtaking, from the beginning to the end. If you like landscape photography, prepare your camera, because the more you climb, the more beautiful it gets. The trail is very open, and the vegetation is low, with shades of greens and browns. All you see in front of you is the Andes and its white peaks.
Stream, little wooden bridges, different vegetations, mountains, glacier and blue sky, and on the top is only ice and rocks. The combination is mindblowing; nature is so pure and beautiful. The feeling of freedom when you make the trail and get to the top is revitalizing.
Up there you can see where the ice is melting and the stream starts. I didn’t want to walk too much on the ice because I had the feeling that it was hollow underneath (there was water running, so…). You can see until where people risked going, there are no footprints on the top of the mountain, only on the edge of the glacier.
The view up there is breathtaking; you can see the city and the Beagle Channel, all the cruises docked in the port, the Navarino Island (belongs to Chile), and much more. Take your time to enjoy the view, you are at the top of the Andes Mountains, and you got there by yourself.
I loved hiking the Andes by myself and touched a glacier for the first time. I was not expecting anything, and because of that, it was even better. The activity was so worth doing, refreshing for the body and soul.