Northern Patagonian Ice Cap Traverse: Journal Excerpts

[Some sentences taken from my journal leaving out all the useless stuff. Click on the pictures for a larger version. An amazing journey to the say the least. Can’t wait to do it again next year!]


8.18

We were all going crazy sitting around and were sick of hearing other people’s tall tales of the Ice Cap. It’s time to see how we stack up.

We dropped gear/food off with the horse guy and loaded up into the boat for the shuttle across Lago’s Plomo and Bertrand.

3.5 hours of hiking later we made it to John’s Camp.

I’m very excited for what’s to come. It felt really good to be getting after it once again


8.19

. ~13km total, ~8hours, not a hard day

…I had a bad stomach ache all day…

Unfortunately the horses and gear didn’t come today

Hope the body holds up.


Where are those horses?!
Where are those horses?!

8.20

Chilled at camp today hoping the horses would show up. They didn’t.

We are running out of food (We only have breakfast for tomorrow…)

Tomorrow will be a hungry day regardless of if our food comes or not.


8.21

No fucking horses today. Out of food for the most part.

Things are very iffy at the moment.


8.22

The horses finally showed up today.

We packed up for an 9 day sprint style traverse of the Ice Cap.


8.23

We left camp at 7:30 and started the climb up to Keyhole Camp which was pretty straight forward.

Rain all day turning to snow as we got higher.

…we will now be on snow until we return 8(?) days from now.

We have to make 15km tomorrow….

High-ho silver.


Break time on the ice cap.
Break time on the ice cap.

8.24

Sooooo, today was quite burly….

We got onto the Ice Cap proper. The gentle incline was an absolute bitch and despite firing on all cylinders I could only muster 1.8 km/hour when breaking trail. Going uphill with sleds is torture. My glutes are now toned and my lower back will hurt for days.

The weather was amazing today fading between blue bird skies and white out and back again.

We got to camp at about 6:30 after 11 hours of moving just as the sun went down and the air got proper cold with a light NW wind.

…much to say but my brain is too scattered.


8.25

Dan and I will climb Cerro Escuela tomorrow w/ me leading. Should be awesome.

Time to do what life is about. Climb!

Me leading down the summit ridge of Escuela.
Me leading down the summit ridge of Escuela.

8.26

Escuela went well.

Leading was good fun but hard work…

The views of the entire ice cap and its peaks was amazing.


Cerro Turret. Can you spot the climbers on the summit?
Cerro Turret. Can you spot the climbers on the summit?

8.27

Dan led us up Turret today which was a nice climb.

Pitch one crosses the bergschrund, pitch two traverses up onto the ridge through cauliflower type rime, and pitch three gets you to the mushroom summit.

…we have decided to attempt Hyades tomorrow….

Trying to get stoked….. We’ve got a 16ish hour 26km ascent tomorrow.

Life is good.
Life is good.

8.28

We left around 4am after waking up at 2:30 and finding beautifully clear skies full of countless stars.

Dan led the entire approach in great style … navigating off the stars. Way cool.

We did the approach to the base in 3 hours 40 minutes arriving at 8ish with a beautiful orange sunrise and low clouds in valleys to the east.

I began leading up the glacier sticking to the valley between two ribs in a zone of compression.

Crevasses with overhanging waves on their near side abounded. Some could be circumnavigated, others required investigating before crossing.

Eventually we got to a crevasse that didn’t have a good accessible bridge.

After an hour of “faffing” around, backtracking. And trying to find a route around we ended up echeloning.

It was pretty good feeling to make it through that obstacle that could easily have turned us around.

We transitioned onto crampons and soon after began roping up for running pro. I took the pickets and the lead with a ½ hour until our drop dead time. I traversed around looking for a route up the last 20ish meters to the summit, placing no pro where the snow was soft and arrest-able. Eventually I had traversed around to the south side without finding a route. I had three pickets in the steep snow and had to yell back to turn around. We walked back to our snowshoes as the clock ticked past our drop dead time of 1:30pm.

Surprisingly, we weren’t too bummed to miss out on the summit. The amazing views and great weather eased our pain.

How could I be sad with this view?
How could I be sad with this view?

What do summits matter anyway? But really, if we climb for a physical, mental, and emotional challenge then not reaching the top adds to the difficulty.

We took our last break, drank our last water, and ate our last food before charging endless hours back to camp.

We climbed Hyades (well 99% of it).


8.29

Rest day.

Spent most of the day hungry trying not to eat precious remaining food.

We also decided to change plans… which means less food….

Tomorrow we have a big day … About 17km and the weather should be rough (its super windy now). We will wake at 4 and leave at 6am.


8.30

Some early morning suffering.
Some early morning suffering.

We left around six and the weather quickly turned for the worse. Moderate wind from the east with icy wet snow. The right sides of our bodies got coated in ice as we headed north.

It was the worst weather we had seen all course but we all managed easily. I actually enjoy the cold, proper Patagonian, weather. It makes it easy to keep charging when stopping means freezing.

Dinner tonight seemed to be extra big. MMMmmmmmm.


Great shot of the team pondering.
Great shot of the team pondering.

8.31

Shay and I “led” today….

We covered maybe 3km today in 11.5hours… Needless to say it was complicated.

…I rappelled down off the ridge to the south to test the snow pack, route, and avy conditions…. it was a “no go”.

Anyway that took a long time.

Shay rapped down the next one and found similar poor snow conditions, no go. Big waste of time.

We rappelled a full 70m off of a stuff sack filled with Dan’s shit!

Now we eat our LAST DINNER!


Finally off the snow heading toward Lago Leones and civilization. Me in the foreground.
Finally off the snow heading toward Lago Leones and civilization. Me in the foreground.

9.1

Today was essentially our last day. [we] began the long, complicated, wet,  and cold descent into the Leones Valley.

After spending most of the day falling into rock wells and rolling around in wet snow we made it to the tree line and into the forest.

It was hard to adjust to solid ground after 7 days on snow.

We’ve got a great view across the Lago Leones to the Leones Icefall and will be getting picked up by the boat around noon tomorrow.


Wet boat ride out. Leones Glacier in the background.
Wet boat ride out. Leones Glacier in the background.

9.2

Well we’re back at base.

It was a cold, wet, morning waiting for the boat.

It was a bitter sweet day for me. The end of this program marks the beginning of another journey and I’m anxious to see if I’m up to the task of becoming the person I want to be.



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