Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Baños Morales - Photos. yes, Pip, Glaciers

The pretty little mountain village of Baños Morales. Most of the town had shut for the season, so we relocated to Los Chicos Malos. After season, Carlo and Jeanette run this Cabañas and meal stop for the benefit of the calcium carbonate mine across the river. The mine runs 24hours a day with two shifts of fifty men. The mine shuts for five months in winter, when it gets covered by up to nine metres of snow. It is, after all, at the base of some extremely steep and tall peaks. The village got more than three metres of snow last winter. A friendly explosives engineer called Emilio was petitioned by Jeanette to give us a lift back to STGO. We talked quite a lot about mining and life in general on the way back. He was quite happy to practise his English. He good-heartedly complained about being married for four months, and explained how he still raced trailbikes. He has a good friend from Australia who stayed with him last year. The Aussie, whose name I forget, is a trailbiking commando who lives in Sydney.

The main street of Baños Morales. It has a crystal clear stream burbling beside it that meets the main river outside the town.

Mind you, the main street also has a small stream running down it...

The glacier from the horse ride. The lake is brown due to suspended sediment ground out by the glacier. The slopes for the entire ride were as desolate as in this photo - quite in contrast to the abundant vegetation on the slopes on the way to the second glacier.

Dramatic evidence of tectonic deformation: vertical stratigraphy. Many of the refugios in town have a small collection of fossils on display for interest sakes. I also saw four isolated houses on the road in that were advertising fossils for sale. They were mostly amonites or amnomites, but also some bivalves. Anomites?
The white at the bottom of the slope is most of the calcium calcite mine.

Talking to the guide in the office, twenty years ago all this ground was covered by the glacier. You can see the valley floor is a jumble of dropped rock from the melt, with furrows cut by vast volumes of water and, presumably, morains. I took this photo of what I thought was a water carved stone bridge on the way to the glacier. You can make it out by the shadow.

After seeing the glacier I went back to the "stone bridge" and found it was an ice bridge - the last remnant of the glacier´s former glory. This isolated piece would have been about one kilometre from the foot of the glacier. The span is five metres wide.

The second glacier. You can make out the tall ice plug sitting above the sloping icefield. At the bottom right you can make out the two ice tunnels. I went up the left one (you can only just make it out in this shot). You can see why I was surprised to find that all that rock was sitting on ice.

The ice tunnel under the glacier. The whole inside was scalloped as in the photo of the isolated bridge. The floor is dropped stone. You can make out the small stream. Where I´m standing the tunnel is about five foot six, but I have no idea how long the tunnel is navigable. The Morales of the story (!): bring a torch when you visit glaciers.