American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Chilean Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Hielo Patagonico Sur, North to South Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

Hielo Patagonico Sur, North to South Traverse. Mostly unknown territory, the Hielo Patagonico Sur, 400 kilometers long by 80 kilometers wide, is the third-biggest ice plateau in the world. Its weather is the worst in the world and in the middle lies the infamous Reichert Fault.

Many have tried to cross it from north to south, but all met with failure due to the complex logistics, the extreme conditions and the commitment of walking 400 lonely kilometers. The most noteworthy attempts have been that of the Spanish team in 1992 and Arved Fuchs et al (German) in 1995. In 1996, Pablo Besser and I made an unsupported attempt with Jorge Crossley (Chile) but failed due to inexperience. After climbing down the Reichert Fault, we left the Ice after 54 expedition days.

On October 24, 1998, Pablo Besser (expedition leader), Mauricio Rojas, José Pedro Montt and I stood at the starting point of the Ice Cap, the Jorge Montt Glacier. Without mechanical help or human contact, we began an almost-unsupported expedition (we had one cache in the middle) walking day by day, carrying 100 kilos each, combating humidity, crevasses, storms, wind and a stark landscape.

Fifty days later we arrived at the Reichert Fault, the most important obstacle in the traverse. We down-climbed to the bottom of the Fault, took our loads and made the first (and obligatory) ascent of East Bastion, climbing it because it stood in our way. Near the summit, we spent nine terrible days in a snow cave waiting for good weather. Finally we were able to rappel 620 meters (150 overhanging) down the virgin south face. We were the first humans to cross the Reichert Fault, which in itself took 30 days.

Low on rations and really weak, we walked the last 160 kilometers across broken glaciers in 21 days to finish on January 30, 1999, at Seno Ultima Esperanza, the Pacific Ocean, after 98 days on the Ice Cap.

Rodrigo Fica Pérez, Chile

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