Global warming, as the name says, is a ”global” issue. This means that we don’t have to go too far to find a glacier that is currently melting and slowly disappearing – no matter where we live, there will be a mountain range close to us that is suffering from this catastrophe. There are regions though, in which this process is happening faster and is much more visible to the human eye than elsewhere.
The Andes are a clear example of this. The Bolivian glacier of Chacaltaya has completely disappeared: it used to be the highest ski area in the world and has now dried up extremely quickly. In Peru we have a similar case: the Pastoruri glacier in the Cordillera Blanca, Ancash region.
Pastoruri is a popular tourist attraction: just like Chacaltaya, there are daily tours leaving from the city of Huaraz and thousands of people visit the glacier every year. This is the only glacier in the Cordillera Blanca that can be seen up-close without having to hike for tens of kilometers: there is a distance of just about 2 km from where the bus leaves you and the glacier itself.
Due to its easy accessibility, in the past tourists used to be able to climb on top of this ice block and do all kinds of winter activities, such as snowboarding, or simply go on a pleasant hike on the ice. Temperatures are not extreme and it’s a relatively not dangerous place to go. Nowadays though, for the mentioned issues, tour operators had to stop offering this type of tours and you are no longer able to reach the glacier. You can still see it from a very close distance, but you won’t be able to touch it.
If you take a close look at the bottom right corner of Pastoruri, you will see several drops of water falling from the glacier, creating a rain-like effect, a clear evidence of the speed of its melting process. It is definitely a sad view, but not much can be done about it. Blaming tourism for this is probably too much as well, but it certainly didn’t help. Many tourists come back from Pastoruri a bit disappointed: they thought it was bigger and more impressive. Well, for sure it was bigger in the past! It is calculated that the Pastoruri glacier has lost 22% of its size and 15.5% of its ice mass in the last 30 years – and this is a one way non-stop process.
We believe taking a tour to Pastoruri should not be seen as an exciting activity, nor a regular day out. It is now so much more about awakening travellers’ consciousness about the global warming issue. To quote Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar acceptance speech: let’s not take this planet for granted.