I am writing another mid-Atlantic blog, but this time on the 14-hour flight to Santiago, Chile to spend the next three weeks on the northern ice field of Patagonia.
Even for those who know almost nothing about expeditions and adventure, the name Patagonia sparks images of vast landscapes and a true wilderness. It is three years since I have been to South America. I can’t wait to be back.
Mt San Valentin is the highest point of Patagonia. And it is a very long climb indeed. And yet, it isn’t very high. San Valentin is only about 4000m/13,000ft high (official figures vary and we will try to remeasure), it is seldom tried and normally unsuccessful, due to the extreme weather. As it lies only 30mi/50km from the Pacific Ocean, San Valetin gets hammered by 100mph storms bringing sleet and snow. And as we will start near sea level, we will need 4x4s, zodiac boats and lots of hiking before we even get to the edge of the ice field. Whilst it is not particularly high, the total climb is more than from Everest base camp to the summit and comparable with a climb of Denali (Mt Mckinley in Alaska).
We are a team of four adventures, from four countries on three continents. The others are Harry Kikstra from Holland, Jaime Viñal from Guatemala and Pable Trigub Clover from Argentina. I first met Harry on the Americas expedition whilst in Guatemala. At the time he was also cycling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. However, I already knew about him as I had read his guidebook on Denali. Harry runs 7summits.com and has written and guided on some of the worlds highest peaks. He is also a brilliant photographer and runs the website ExposedPlanet.com. Jaime is also a seven summits veteran and was the first Central American to achieve this coveted feat. This expedition was initially Jamie’s idea, as he is currently trying to climb all of the famous ’50 finest’ list of mountains – defined by the mountains with the greatest prominence. Pable is a strong trail runner, skier, kayaker and tri-athlete. He has previously been a climbing partner of Harry’s.
It is uncertain whether I will be able to update blogs and social media at all during the next three weeks expedition, as we will be very remote. However, you can track our location as I am carrying a Trident Sensors/Ultimate Database GPS tracking unit. You can also keep track of the weather on the mountain whilst we are climbing at mountain-forecast.com. We certainly plan to film and photograph the journey to share afterwards.
Frankly, we do not know what the outcome of this expedition will be, as weather, temperature, personal health and crevasse danger could all influence the outcome. The main challenge is likely to be crossing the ice cap, and not the final summit climb. The immense ice field that covers this region of the Andes cordillera is approximately 22,000 km², the largest and most notable ice field after Antarctica and Greenland. With such uncertainty you might wonder whether it is worth trying at all! Whether we succeed the summit or not, this is an incredible part of the world to explore. And adventure is what inspires us all.
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