Big Ice: Lautaro #1 – Donkeying Loads

“Lautaro 2019” is an expedition that took place in Southern Patagonia, as part of our Big Ice Expeditions project, aiming to cross some of the largest & most technical ice fields in the world. This expedition’s objective was to traverse part of the Southern Patagonian Icefield and climb its highest mountain – the Lautaro Volcano (3625m, rising approx. 2000m above the glacial plateau). Despite being a technically easy summit, it boasts quite the wild weather and is notorious for being very temperamental. So far, it has been climbed by only a handful of expeditions. We hoped to be the next ones to do it.

Our expedition was conducted in support of the Chili Peppers cause. Chili Peppers helps children at risk of being taken from their parents. If you have the time, please checkout the fb & instagram pages, and the www.chilipepperscause.eu website.

Thanks!

This article is the first in a series that will take you with us on our Patagonian journey.

Part 1 – Donkeying loads

Fifty three kilos…surely not a single gram less, but possibly a few more.

It takes a specific form of elephant ballet combined with lots of swearing and some experience with power lifting in order to get such a huge load on your back without looking like a helpless beetle turned over on his back and wiggling it’s legs around.
Of course you need to warm up for a training session like this. So you lift up your girlfriend’s light 48-kilo backpack and help her put it on. Because…you know, she can climb rock slabs with that thing but lifting it off the ground – most certainly not. It’s too hard, she says!  

Once you start walking however especially, if you have experience carrying such loans, you will want only two things. To switch yourself off from reality and walk with a consistent monotonous speed without stopping all the way till the next break. You also want to have no pain in your back.  Considering your hips though you’ve long since lost hope of having those pain free.

But! As an old friend of mine used to say – “Guys, we are doing this to ourselves voluntarily”.

And this is where the worst of surprises come in.

BANG!  

The tops of your skis got stuck on some bloody branch. You got lucky though. The branches aren’t old and dry and don’t break, so you don’t get rained on by 5 kilos of wood. Your lady however is no acquaintance to luck. She’s walking right on your heels, doesn’t react in time and smacks her nose bang in the middle of your backpack. Unfortunately she hits the pulks and not the crampons, conveniently strapped right beside them. Dammit! I just can’t get rid of that woman! Never mind, there will be many more chances to come…

You go in reverse to free the skis from the branches, feeling like a big truck in a narrow street. You’re only missing the parking beeps…next you bow down, squat a little bit and using some of that gracious ballet technique, hunched below the 53 kilos, you’re finally free!
Whew. Now we just have to walk along that lush green fores….BANG!

– NOT AGAIN, YOU MOTHE#&$&##$^#@^@%@&$&$*#*!!

So much for monotonous walking…welcome to the grind!

The next hour or so passes in a string of lush-green landscapes and modern ballet with the lenga trees. At some point you actually become an elegant  master of preventive bowing. Your desire to carry a chainsaw has almost evaporated.

You barely notice it (yeah, right…) but almost 5 hours had passed. You’re now walking through a vast and very old glacial valley. Climbing over another rock step, you are rewarded with the view of a lake with electric blue waters on one side and on the other – the clouds are performing a dance of light and shadow on the impressive walls of the Fitzroy massif. You want to drink from all that beauty until you’re full, but a microscopic little nuisance is jumping up and down on your tight nerves. The veins on your neck and forehead are only seconds away from bursting and you back hurts like hell. Sh*t…this thing’s heavy alright…Some time between the 2364-th and the 37484-th shoulder straps and hip belt adjustment, you slap yourself on the head. Dickhead! You’ve forgotten to re-adjust the back length after that winter trip back home! Ha! Now that’ll take care of things!

Coming up with the solution makes you feel like the smartest gear nerd around. So you put your arm behind your back – damn, it’s tight here with all that weight, plus you’re as flexible as a piece of wood – you flip up the adjustment buckle’s cover and push the buckle up so it lengthens the back a bit. An instant relief and God bless those pack designers at Fjallraven!

Now you can marvel at Mother Nature for a few more pain-free minutes. You even become optimistic about the remaining 8km and 8 hours of light.

Donning a wide and hopeful smile, you look back to where your lady is. She’s slowly stumbling across a field of boulders, barely keeping her 48-kilo pack in balance.
Hmm…wouldn’t she finally trip over…?

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