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Glacier Travel: The Five to See Before They Melt
Warming temperatures around the world are causing ancient glaciers to melt fast. See these five before they’re gone for good!
Majestic and awe-inspiring, glaciers are (literally) the coolest natural attractions on the planet. But many of them are disappearing before our eyes, due to warming temperatures around the world. Some glaciers have already melted completely, and others will be gone within the next 10 to 20 years. If you’d like to see a few glaciers before they vanish, check out these five from four different continents.
Climate scientists forecast that if current weather trends continue, all of the glaciers in Glacier National Park in Columbia Falls, Montana, could be gone by 2020. That would be a devastating loss for the popular national park, but the good news is that there’s still time to see them. If you plan to make the journey, consider staying at the park’s Many Glacier Campground, a central location that (as its name suggests) provides convenient hiking access to multiple glaciers—including Grinnell, which has lost more than two-thirds of its mass since 1850.
South Cascade Glacier
Many of the glaciers in the state of Washington’s Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest have been retreating rapidly. One obvious example is the South Cascade Glacier, which glaciologists have been studying closely since 1958. Since that year, the glacier has lost half its volume! In addition to seeing the glacier, grab your backpack and visit the forest, go skiing, hiking, fishing, and rafting.
The best example of a melting glacier might be the ice on the summit of Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, in the country of Tanzania. More than 80% of the ice has melted over the past century, exposing portions of dry ground at the summit for the first time in thousands of years. A recent study estimates that Kilimanjaro’s glacial ice will disappear completely within ten years, so start planning your visit now!
Jorge Montt Glacier
In 2011, by using photographs, researchers determined that the Jorge Montt Glacier in the Patagonia region of Chile retreated more than half a mile in just 12 months, making it one of the fastest-shrinking glaciers in that area of the world. Visiting Jorge Montt requires a lot of effort—usually a multi-day kayaking expedition, so make sure to pack everything tightly. But the reward is spectacular views in a remote location that few tourists ever reach.
A more easily accessible glacier is Morteratsch in the Bernina Range of the Bünder Alps in Switzerland, because you can trek right up to the ice. The glacier is one of the largest in the Eastern Alps, so it’s not in immediate danger of disappearing, but signs on the hiking trails indicate where the glacier used to be in previous years, which gives you a clear picture of just how quickly Morteratsch is melting.
Have you been to any glaciers? Tell us about it!
Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at http://quirkytravelguy.com.