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Borge Ousland, Thorleif Nokleby and Bengt Rotmo on their way to the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap

Posted: Oct 28, 2009 02:54 pm EDT

Norwegian polar explorer Borge Ousland who previously attempted the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap with Thomas Ulrich is on his way to the Northern Ice Cap.

Borge told ExWeb he will be joined by two friends, Thorleif Nokleby and Bengt Rotmo [who lead a 2007-08 South Pole expedition].

Depart 2 November

The plan is to cross the northern Patagonian icecap said Borge on his website. “We travel to Punta Arenas in Chile 2nd of November, and from there continue on to Puerto Montt to finalize equipment etc.”


From Puerto Montt they will take a boat to Laguna San Rafael, where the actual trip begins, he explained. From the bottom of the San Rafael glacier they will ascent 1000 metres up to the plateau.

From there they will ski across the ice cap and down to Fjord Steffen. “Well down at the coast again we will be brought by boat to the small village of Tortel. Tortel got road connection a few years ago, and the plan is to drive to Balmaceda, where there is a flight connection to Santiago.

The trip will take approximately one month in total said Borge.

”This trip is primarily a test ride to checkout route, logistics and conditions. It will be possible to book this trip for next season, in November 2010.”

Franz Joseph Land

Two days ago Borge has posted some photographs of his and Thomas Ulrich’s 2007 Franz Joseph Land expedition on the Internet. Earlier the year they published a book and CD about this expedition.

There are two Patagonian Ice Caps. The Southern Ice Cap spreads from Jorge Glacier (N) to Balmaceda glacier (S); it is 350 km long. The Northern Ice Cap is located between 46° and 47° South, being 120 km long and 30 km wide.

The surface of the Northern Patagonian Ice Cap is at about 1200/1500m of altitude. However, the area includes the highest peak in Patagonia: Mt. San Valentin, almost 4000m.

The Southern Patagonia Ice Cap, or Hielo Patagonio Sur, is 400 km by 80 km. The cap is long and narrow. It has been crossed several times east/west and west/east, as this direction is shorter and the main difficulties of the glacier can be avoided. But only once before has the cap been crossed in its full length.

There are two main obstacles on the route: The first obstacle consists of a wall that must be climbed to reach the Glacier. The second - and worst - obstacle is a big rift with a huge ice fall right in the middle of the glacier.

In 1998/99 Chileans Pablo Besser, Rodrigo Fica, Jose Montt, and Mauricio Rojasa achieved the first and only complete crossing of the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap. However, their trip can’t be considered unsupported, since they used a pre-placed cache.

The first traverse of the Northern Patagonic Ice Cap was achieved by British explorer Eric Shipton, accompanied by Spaniard Miguel Gómez and Chileans Eduardo García and Cedomir Marangunic in the (austral) summer of 63-64 – their 37-day-long traverse was not complete though, since they exited the ice by the flank of Cerro Arenales. The first complete traverse from San Rafael to Steffen Glacier (N-S) was done by a French team led by Ilario Previtali. The team also climbed Mt. San Valentin on the way, completing the feat in only 26 days in March 1993.

In the winter of 2006 Pablo Besser (leader), Nicolás Von Graevenitz and Francisco Urzua) completed the traverse of the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap. Pablo claims this has been the first complete crossing of the Northern Ice Cap achieved in winter - a double success for Besser, since he was also on the team that first crossed the (larger) Southern Ice Cap back in 98/99.

#Polar #Trek #feature

Thomas Ulrich looking at the Southern Patagonia Ice cap view (click to enlarge)
Thomas Ulrich and Borge Ousland pulling one sled together uphill on the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap (click to enlarge)
Thomas photographed by Borge Ousland on the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap. All images © Borge Ousland from his Flickr site (click to enlarge)