A Three-Week Traverse of the Northern Patagonia Icecap

Climbers Isidora Llarena, Rebeca Caceres, and Nadine Lehner recently completed a 150km, three-week traverse of the Northern Patagonian Icecap. They punctuated their outing by putting up a new route on 3,437m Cerro Arenales. They did their climb on Nov. 4 and officially completed the traverse on Nov. 16.

Mountaineer Masha Gordon broke the news on Nov. 30 on the Facebook page for GRIT&ROCK, her non-profit aimed at increasing female presence in mountaineering. The three climbers are the recipients of a 2022 GRIT&ROCK First Ascent Expedition Award in the Exploration category. The grant helped offset the cost of their expedition.

 

“The 19 days we spent in and around the icefield left a huge mark on us as alpinists, and as humans,” the team wrote in their expedition report obtained by ExplorersWeb. “Our ascent of Arenales was the result of two years of researching, planning, training, and working hard to realize this dream.”

The traverse

Llarena, Caceres, and Lehner initially scouted the north face of Cerro Arenales during a 2021 expedition to Colonia Glacier. But climbing the mountain itself was only a small fraction of the 2022 expedition. Approaching Cerro Arenales for the climb involved a plethora of travel methods. Packrafting, sled hauling, and bushwhacking all factored in.

The climbers made their first summit attempt on Nov. 3 during a calm weather window. After navigating six moderate ice climbing pitches (AI 3), the team encountered “enormous open crevices bisecting the route.”

So the trio scouted a new route and made a second attempt on Nov. 4, dropping down 150m before climbing moderate snow and ice that eventually led to the top.

Rebeca Caceres on Cerro Arenales. Photo: Nadine Lehner

 

Cerro Arenales is the second-highest peak in the Northern Patagonian Icefield and the fifth-highest in the Patagonian Andes. No one has climbed the peak since Eric Shipton led an expedition up it in 1964.

“We had spectacular views to the Pacific Ocean, out to Argentina, and to the Southern Icefield,” the team wrote in their report.

But the adventure wasn’t over. The climbers weathered a storm by building a snow cave around their packrafts, and later spent five days hauling loads down to Rio Huemules. From there, they paddled their packrafts back to civilization.

Hauling supplies in a packraft

Hauling supplies in a packraft. Photo: Nadine Lehner

About GRIT&ROCK

Explorers Grand Slam and Seven Summits adventurer Masha Gordon founded GRIT&ROCK in 2016 to “encourage inner city teenage girls to challenge themselves, increase self-confidence, and help those in deprived areas develop a love for an active lifestyle.”

Gordon told ExplorersWeb that her foundation has funded over 30 expeditions in the last seven years. Applications for 2023 grants close on Feb. 28, 2023. Applicants can learn more here.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew's essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals. You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).