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Patagonia Ice Cap wrap-up: Spectacular views

Posted: Nov 16, 2009 02:16 pm EST

The Norwegians on the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap and the Germans on the Southern Ice Cap reported most spectacular views – mountains, forests and glaciers. The beautiful terrain though was not easy and progress slow.

Olaf Rieck and Georg Sichelschmidt (Germany)

The team finished their Ice Cap stage by completing the 16 km between Laguna Toro and El Chalten (Argentina). Olaf said along the way they gained 500 altitude metres in altitude and descended 700.

After the strong wind the weather was cool, “ideal for walking with heavy load, the wind was pretty calm. After six hours hauling the gear it was done,” they reported.

In the second stage of the trip George went home and Olaf stayed on to explore more of Fitz Roy in preparation for his climb next year.

“Unfortunately,” said Olaf, “ a small handicap appeared: I probably broke a rib when I fell during the Paso del Viento crossing. Not a big deal but it hurts – especially when lying. Therefore I take a rest for the rib, my foot and me.”

Borge Ousland, Thorleif Nokleby and Bengt Rotmo (Norway)

The guys reported they got a ferry from Puerto Montt, Chile, to near San Rafael where they took a rubber dingy to start the real trek.

From Laguna San Rafael Borge reported that he had one of the most stunning walks in his life. They camped in a cabin in a very lush jungle-like forest he said. “It is mild, beautiful and very exotic.”

”From here we have carried 30 kilo of gear all the way up till the glacier. To come straight out of this green and onto a dramatic, white and rolling glacier is an experience worth a whole trip.”

One kilometre days

The first day out of the rain forest they climbed some 800 metres and covered 12 kilometres in 11 hours. They had to harness up quite often.

The second day they managed just 1 kilometer in a total of 9 hours reported the team, “it is so lush and difficult to find a way forward”.

The next day they also managed only one kilometer and reported about the most stunning view. “The hole forest, the fjord and the rolling glacier under us. Spectacular!”

Crampons and ice scews

The last stretch before the snowline the team was using their crampons and ice axes while relaying their gear. Eventually they got to strap on their sled harnesses, sleds and skis and “it was a wonderful feeling” reported the Norwegians.

On 16 November they reported from a “beautiful flat plateau” that they have covered a distance of 4 km during the day “due to 2 small but wild icefalls.”

”Lots of crevasses and most hidden in loose snow meant we had to have max
security and even use ice screws.”

Borge Ousland, Thorleif Nokleby and Bengt Rotmo from Norway are on the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap to scout a possible trip earmarked those who would like to join Borge on an expedition in future. They started on 9 November.

On 15 October 2009 Germans Georg Sichelschmidt and Olaf Rieck started their planned 25-day kite-ski attempt on the Southern Patagonia Icecap at the Jorge Montt Glacier in Chile and leaving the Icecap over the Paso del Viento to the small settlement El Chalten in Argentina.

Their goal is to go to Mount Fitz Roy at the Argentina/Chile border. Fitz Roy is 3,375 metre (11,073 ft) high and requires technical skills.

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 Patagonia Ice 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 Patagonian Northern 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.


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Thorleif Nokleby making his way towards the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap (click to enlarge)
2009 expedition.
courtesy Borge Ousland
Pulling gear up steep cliffs… (click to enlarge)
And walking through the dense San Rafael Forest (click to enlarge)
Bengt Rotmo, Thorleif Nokleby and Borge Ousland in Puerto Montt. Above live images over CONTACT 4.0 courtesy of humanedgetech.com/expedition/ousland (click to enlarge)
Olaf: “[Summits with] bizarre shapes and colors and their extreme steepness.” From left Saint Exupery, Rafael Juarez, Poincenot, Fitz Roy (click to enlarge)
Olaf: “In the evening light the group at the Fitz Roy is a revelation. One mood is more dramatic than the other” (click to enlarge)
Olaf: “The descent from the Icefield down to El Chalten was extremely demanding but beautifully scenic. Image of Túnel glacier and mountains courtesy of the Germans' blog (click to enlarge)
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