The Exploradores (Explorers) glacier is located in the Laguna San Rafael National Park, in the Aysen region of the country.
Officials from the National Forestry Corporation – a state-owned non-profit organisation that manages the country’s forest areas – cited safety concerns when closing the area, pointing to rapid melting and potentially destabilising effects.
Visitors, especially avid ice-climbers, are having to adapt to changing destinations around the world due to the effects of warmer temperatures on some of the best-known routes. Last July, almost a dozen people died after an enormous chunk of meting glacier sparked an avalanche in northern Italy. The same summer a number of agencies cancelled ascents of Mont Blanc for the first time due to melting ice.
“There are evident risks and uncertainty regarding the behavior of the glacier. Conditions are not safe for ecotourism activities,” according to an email from park officials, reports AP.
The closure comes after a large chunk of ice fell off the main glacier on 6 October. A two-week study was ordered, which reportedly found that the glacier was at an “inflection point”.
The glacier has thinned by half a metre per year since 2020. According to AP, either there could be “a catastrophic amount of ice” that falls of the main body of ice or the disintegration of the front part of the glacier due to “hundreds of small lagoons”.
The national park remains open, with visitors able to see the glacier from afar on boat trips. The Forestry Corporation website says that “the areas of the San Rafael Lake and Exploradores glacier are closed”. Several other parks in other regions are or have been under “pre-emptive closure”.
In a comment to AP, local guide Bianca Miranda, who has worked on the glacier for over a decade, said: “For us the closing is not only an economic blow but also an emotional one.
“We have been working in this place for more than 10 years and it has become our second home.
“We work in adventure tourism, where there is always an associated risk. If we’re going to close here, let’s stop climbing Everest, let’s stop climbing, stop skydiving.”
The Independent has contacted Chile’s…