The wild and windswept Patagonian Icefields

“Then all hell breaks out. What feels like hurricane force winds hit us face on. Any tracks left by the others vanish in seconds. We manage only a few steps at a time before we dig ice axes into the snow and brace ourselves for the next gust which tries to rip us off the planet. We have to keep going. We are beyond the point of no return and safety lies ahead of us not behind us. Daylight is running out, our energy is running out and we need to make camp.

We build snow walls to protect our tents from the ferocious winds. Too exhausted to think about food, its all we can do to drink. Snow is being picked up and dumped on our tents. I wake and find that we have been buried. I manage to crawl out of a tiny hole at one end and dig the tent out.”

2006

I first ventured here in 2006. A wild, untamed land at the edge of the world. To stand on the great icecap, the largest glacier in the world outside the polar regions, is one of the most humbling and isolated feelings one can ever have. I have a love, hate relationship with the place but will always yearn to return.

Patagonia Icefield Expedition Diary - report from our 2006 expedition

2010

Caught well above the seracs when the weather turned, we fought against high winds and cutting spindrift in a bid to reach the icecap before nightfall. The shelter provided by the Garcia Soto refugio was too far away in worsening conditions. We headed for the open icecap. Half an hour after crossing the Paso Marconi we prepared our snow walls and erected tents just as the light vanished. During the night, tents had to be repeatedly cleared of snow to prevent burying or collapse.

Surviving Patagonia 2010 - a report from my partner Kiersten Rowland The Climax is the Coming Back from a Dangerous Place - a summary of the Spanish Highs Patagonian Icecap Expedition 2010

2011

This year our expedition was blessed by windless and sunny conditions, unusual on the Patagonian Icecap. A far cry from the year before. We managed to complete the full itinerary and had some of the most amazing mountain and wilderness views any of us had ever seen.

2014

The original plan to visit the “nunateks” of Witte and Viedma had to be cancelled due to warm and dangerous snow conditions. Instead we reverted to the normal traverse down the icecap from the Paso Marconi to Paso del Viento. This was completed in generally good weather and light winds (for Patagonia!) with the loss of only 2 days to the weather.

Expedition Report 2014 

Written by:
Richard Hartley

Richard is an avid blogger and the founder of Spanish Highs Sierra Nevada. He is author of the Cicerone Guidebook Walking and Trekking in the Sierra Nevada