CROSSING THE NORTHERN PATAGONIAN ICECAP
Is this the ‘Holy Grail’ for adventurous explorers? We like to think so! Few places have a more dramatic nature. No trip has such a huge variety of challenges.
A bit harder than Greenland so you need to be well prepared; you will experience Chilean summer, a great drive through the Andes, a lake crossing, a night in a farm, riding horses up the valley, a big carry up onto the glacier, crossing with sleds, fighting a wild icefall descending, and then down through the rainforest to the fjords!
Can you let this one pass?
Food and equipment
Joining a trip to the cold world, being outdoors for many days in a row, sleeping in a tent, skiing for about 8 hours on an average a day, still being able to keep up the pace, spirit, motivation, strength and also being able to enjoy it, obviously requires some attention to equipment.
Once you sign up for one of our trips, we will send you the complete and detailed equipmentlist that explains thoroughly what you need for the specific trip, why and how to use the equipment.
One of the main reasons we have had great success on our many trips, is because we supply the essential equipment that is not easy (nor practical) for you to get yourself. These items are essential in getting you through the day in a good way and ensure that you have a safe and trustworthy experience.
The equipment you need to get yourself might look like a lot, but this is usually items people will already have or could borrow from friends. You might have to buy some of it, but we will help you choosing the right equipment and all this will be discussed in detail with each and one of you. Then you should have a good set of usable equipment that you will be able to enjoy for many future trips as well.
The weight of the sled will depend on which trip you are going on as fuel and food adds up for each day with about 1,3 kilos. Some trips also require special equipment like climbing gear, polar bear protection, waterproof bags, etc. Sometimes we have to carry our stuff in backpacks to reach the glacier or good skiing ground, but we do not load to more than max 30 kilos, it is better to go two times.
On an average we can say that a sled weigh as follows:
- North Pole Last Degree 40 kg
- North Pole Full Length (with/without supplies) 75 kg /110 kilos
- South Pole Last Degree 40 kg
- Patagonia, Northern Icecap, 50 kg
- Greenland Spring 52 kg
- Greenland Fall 55 kg
- Svalbard – Nordaustlandet 40 kg
- Svalbard – Spisbergen crossing 40 kg
- Hardangervidda 25 Kg
- Finnmarksvidda 25 kg
- South Georgia 35 kg
To best prepare for pulling the sled and carrying in backpacks, refer to the training and preparations info. This topic will also be covered more into detail once you have signed up. If you are curious and want some more info either way, let us know.
We provide nutritious expedition food for each participant for all the days skiing. It will be enough calories for the trip, but if you feel like having some extra snacks, please feel free to bring it.
There will always be personal choices. We provide several types of freeze-dried dinners, and lunch with a mix of what you like best. Our selection of food to choose from is based on long experience where energy, taste and also preparation are key factors. We have limited time for breaks during the day, about 12-15 minutes at normally every 1,5 hours intervals.
Our normal day-to-day diet:
Børge’s homemade enriched oatmeal/porridge mix.
Choice of: Fruit soup or energy drink for hot water. Compressed biscuits rations and/or Flapjack (oatmeal cakes).
And/or potatochips, nuts and dried fruit.100-150 g chocolate per day. About 100 g piece of dried meat.
Choise of freeze dried dinners. Our partner for dinner is Real Turmat www.real.no. Instant soup, hot chocolate, coffee or tea as you wish.
All the food will be packed by you in daily rations and stored in bags provided by us prior to departure. There is always a day or so with packing and organizing before we start the trip. You will carry your own food and be responsible for it during the expedition.
Food- allergies or intolerances:
If you have any food- intolerances or allergies, we will together with you (and possibly with your doctor) advice the different ingredients you need to ensure the best nutrition but which is adapted to the diet you follow. You should test this beforehand to avoid any unpleasant surprises on the way.
If you need to be on a special diet, we recommend that you yourself prepare most of your food at home before we leave, so that you are sure to get what you need. It will in most cases be a possibility to ship the food to the destination beforehand together with the rest of the equipment.
Please let us know if you have special needs or concerns regarding food or nutrition, we will do our best to help.
Day by day
We arrive by international flight in Santiago, Chile, continuing by domestic airline to Coihaique.
In Coihaique we stay at the Patagonia Hostel, which is owned and operated by Sandra and Thomas from Germany. We use the time here to pack and prepare our supplies and equipment.
A five-hour drive by minibus takes us to the banks of Rio Baker, where we pitch camp for the night. Rio Baker is a magnificent emerald-green river with impressive flow that offers excellent salmon and trout fishing. In the morning we cross Lago Bertrand by boat.
The next leg of our journey is across Lago Plomo, to the ranch at the bottom of the valley. From here we have one or two days of horse riding up the valley to Nef Glacier. Gauchos (Chilean cowboys) will accompany us on horseback and we’ll camp with them en route. The weather is mostly fine and dry on this side of the ice cap. Campfires will keep us warm at night and tasty traditional Chilean food is on the menu.
We find the “keyhole” – the entrance to the Nef Glacier – entering the glacier as high as possible to avoid the crevasses further down. We start on the east side of the ice cap; Nef Glacier is our gateway to the plateau of the Northern Ice Field.
The plateau we cross lies at an altitude of 1500–1600 metres, and is surrounded by majestic mountains and glaciers. We pass through the shadow of Monte San Valentin, at 4058 metres the highest mountain in Patagonia.
We exit the ice cap at San Rafael Glacier, where we need to carefully navigate impressive fields of deep crevasses. Fortunately, we made this journey before and know the exact location of safe routes through the crevassed areas. There will however be difficult crossing where we need to lower sleds by rope and rappel down ice cliffs. As a safety measure, due to crevasses and poor visibility, we will be roped for much of this leg of our expedition. The weather can be very bad in this area of Patagonia, with snow, rain, sleet and strong winds. There will, however, also be clear moments where we can savor the natural beauty of this magnificent wild region.
San Rafael Glacier stretch out towards the sea, ending in a lagoon on the west coast of Chile. Due to its unique scenery, this area has been declared a national park. The glacier is steep and heavily crevassed; we will make landfall on the northwest side of the glacier. On our 2009 expedition we found a good track down in, and will follow that route.
Technically the route down is not difficult, although in some places we need to rappel down cliffs. In this area we will walk with about 20 kg heavy backpacks, and we must make parts of the journey twice in order to bring everything down.
One of the unusual attractions we encounter is the “ancient forest”, an area where the trunks of large old trees lie strewn on the ground. At the bottom of the valley we pass through rain forest, a seemingly impenetrable wall of green, but there is a path and we have walked this way before. The scenic landscape down to San Rafael is really special, even for spoiled and jaded travelers.
Finally we arrive at Laguna San Rafael. Here we can use a hut built by the National Park Rangers. There is no road to San Rafael, and we must be picked up by boat. Usually we charter a rib. From the lagoon it is a four–five hour boat ride to Puerto Chacabuco.
Thomas will pick us up in Puerto Chacabuco and drive us back to Coihaique. In Coihaique, celebrations at a good Chilean restaurant are in order.
We depart Coihaique – unless of course you’ve been tempted to extend your stay with a private program. There are excellent opportunities for trout and salmon fishing in the area, you can hire horses, or enjoy shorter or longer excursions on foot. We can advice you on what to do in the area.
Our group departs from Santiago. (Since there are only afternoon flights from Coihaique to Santiago, we need an overnight stay first.)
‘This is one of the most beautiful trips I have been on. I did my first expedition to Patagonia in 2003, when Thomas Ulrich and I crossed the Southern Patagonia icecap, (You can read about this trip in National Geographic Magazine, August 2004), and I have since been spellbound by the dramatic and strong nature of this little visited corner of earth.
In 2009 Bengt Rotmo and I also crossed the Northern icecap, which is an equally stunning experience. Mountains, ice and lush green forest. Mix that with horse riding, a sea journey and warm welcoming people; then you have included all the elements of Patagonia in one trip.‘
Patagonia has been one of the true ‘Holy Grails’ of travellers and explorers since Magellan gave the area it’s name. Funnily enough it came about due to the locals he met there called ‘patagón’ as they stood out as giants (they were probably some 180cm – but the Spanish at the time averaged 155cm…).
For us, eying the Patagonian Ice Sheet, the name makes a lot of sense. This is the largest mass of ice outside the Polar regions, and it is both spectacular and a daunting challenge. Our focus is on the Northern Ice Field with it’s 4.200 km2, an elevation of 1.100 – 1.700 metres and with as many as 28 icefalls!
Training and preparing
Many wonder how to prepare physically for a polar expedition. This will vary from trip to trip and also for each individual. We will therefore provide individual training programs and advice for each participant if needed.
In general we expect people to carry a 20 kg backpack for 8 hours for several days on a row. That’s a physical exercise that is easy to measure, but actual training can and will consist of various methods.
Training and physical preparation for these trips typically consist of at least 3 training sessions a week for at least one hour each. Gradually this should be increased to 4 sessions a week, three months before departure, including one or two longer sessions lasting for more than two hours.
A combination of cycling, jogging, workout in the gym, walking with backpack or pulling rubber tyres is what we recommend. Its not where you do it that matters, but that you do it. Remember that a cycling session in the gym or a hard work out on the walking machine can be equally as efficient as a session outdoors.
There are two main issues with specific training. One is the physical shape needed to endure the trip you have signed up for and secondly to make your muscles, tendons and ligaments, basically the whole body, prepared for the load on the way. Not to forget the third reason, that physical training in general is very positive, something you will benefit from after the expedition as well. So, its only one thing to do when the goal is set, start training!
Note: Be careful in the beginning, start at a level you feel comfortable with and increase gradually. If you start out too hard you might experience overtraining and injuries. Consult a doctor or physician if you experience injuries. Don’t forget to stretch out well after each session. Eating well and healthy will also help preparing your body for the upcoming adventure. The trips are not super hard, but you will enjoy it more when you have done your homework and taken training and preparation serious.
As part of the preparations, we organize a weekend of training in Verdal, Norway late in late January or early February. The aim is to go through the basic skills for winter survival in order to be as well prepared as possible. We go through all the equipment and routines. During this training weekend we also get to know each other a bit beforehand, as becoming a team is an important part of the whole concept. We also open for one-on-one talks with those who would like to get some personal advise.
Joining the training weekend is free of charge.
We will cover most of the basic equipment, some food, tents etc, except personal equipment like clothes ski boots etc. This is also a great time to go to the sport shop, since some of the equipment needed for trips like this can be hard to find outside Norway. We can assist you with this as well.
You need to cover your flight tickets coming here, food and lodging before and after the training outdoors (if any, as the nights mainly will be spent in tents outdoors).
The training is voluntarily but highly recommended. This will help you and us to evaluate your assumptions and to put focus on the key points for further exercise and practice
More info on the training trip will be distributed when signing up for one of our trips.
We also do a extended training trip: The Finnmarksvidda Crossing
Every February for 5 days and 4 nights around the time of full-moon.
Finnmarksvidda is in Northern parts of Norway, above the Arctic Circle. This trip is a great way to train and learn the ropes of basic winter survival. It is a 5 day mini expedition that is relevant, cold and stunning as we very often have the Northern lights at night. Timed with the full February moon we normally have enough natural light for skiing as well.
The Finnmark trip is one of our regular trips (refer to the complete overview for all trips) but if you already are booked on any of our other trips, you will receive a discount.
Rates, dates and booking
Start sometime around mid-October. Not confirmed yet.
2017 & 2018:
We are going back ! There might be some changes to the dates and price compared to 2015. The program will stay the same.
Contact us for more details or if you have any questions, or complete the booking if you know which year you can go.
The price: It has been 74.000,- NOK (Norwegian kroner) in 2015 minus previous deposit. Not confirmed for 2016 yet, but not too far from this.
The price includes: logistics, permits, S&R insurance, food and accommodation from the time you leave Coyhaique until our return to this town. Also included is general camp equipment such as tents, stoves etc but also ropes, sledges and supplies, sat phone and an emergency beacon.
Not included: personal clothing, personal climbing equipment (such as crampons, boots, karabiners, ice-screws, ice-axes etc) backpacks, sleeping bags, insulation pads, waterproof bags and medical insurance. Airfare to and from Coihaique and your stay in Coihaique and anywhere else in Chile before and after the crossing.
The Deposit: We will send you a Deposit Invoice of 10.000,- NOK at the time of booking. The system works as follows: Your Booking Form will give you a place in the queue. But it is not binding in any way. It only gets serious as you receive a Deposit Invoice. This is refundable according to our Travel Conditions. But this means you are in and the trip is on!
Booking - How to proceed
- If this is something for you, - send us the booking for your desired trip and your place is reserved. This will be kept for you until you have paid the deposit invoice. Then your place is guaranteed until the remaining amount is due.
- You will then receive our expedition-booklet that gives you more information about the trip, insurances, safety, personal training tips towards the trip, as well as info on the training in Oslo (for more info, refer to the training and preparations menu)
- We will also supply you with the complete equipmentlist and work with you to ensure that you know what is needed and included from both your- and our side.
- Personal information-form. By signing up on a trip, we need you to fill in a form for our records regarding health issues, your recent outdoor experiences- and background, passport- and insurance info as well as next-of-kin details.
- The invoice for the remaining amount will be sent to you about 3 months prior to departure (for some destinations the due-dates might be more than 90 days prior to departure. After full payment have been settled, you are guaranteed to get your place for your desired trip. You still have the right to cancel at this point, but depending on how close we are to the departure, some of our basic costs will have to be deducted from the deposit. (For more details on this refer to our terms & conditions)
|Duration:||Approx. 22 days|
|Price:||74.000 NOK on 2015. Not confirmed for 2016|
|Sheduled for:||2017, 2018|
|Participants:||5 + guide. Open for 2016|