Moritz and I are in the South of Chile by now. An amazing landscape full of mountains, glaciers, rivers and waterfalls surround us.
Cycling along the Carretera Austral, the only road here, is amazing. But my mountaineerer spirit was calling for more!
We arrived to Puerto Rio Tranquilo which is the gate to “El Campo del Hielo Norte” – “The Northern Land of Ice”. It is the third biggest ice mass of the world, including some of the most famous glaciares.
Here Moritz and I wanted to leave any kind of civilisation behind us and cross the pathless wilderness between Leones and the Valle Exploradores.
We planned and packed carefully. Camping equipment, clothes, crampons, food for 7 days at an absolute minimum of weight.
We hichhiked down to Leones where we camped another night close to the road.
On the next morning the adventure started. What we were priviliged to experiance is hard to describe in words. Same for the hardshifts and obstacles we had to deal with every single day.
I will still try… It turned out to be one of the huge adventures of life and I would like to share e story with you!
At the morning of the first day a blue sky was standing over the beautiful shaped mountains. We were exited and couldn’t wait to start. In the first bit a small graveled path led us along some houses. At a river we found a bamboo plant of which we cut the four strongest branches as sticks for our tour.
We entered a huge valley formed by the river Leones and followed tracks of horses and cows in the woods. Walking was easy in the beginning. Our first challenge was to cross the Rio Claro, which leads into the Rio Leones. We ran up and down the banks and discuss the strategy to cross the 30m wide river. I had never done anything like that before.We found a range where the river splitted and formed several tiny islands which we wanted to reach bit by bit. The water was cold and knee to almost hip deep. The bamboo sticks helped a lot to find grip and stability in the current. Suprisingly easy we came to the other side, freezing, but proud and more confident.
The further way led us through a labyrinth of spiny bushes flouded by muddy streams, walking was only possible in the knee deep water. So we followed the water arms, shoes hanging around our necks deeper and deeper into the bushland. After a long while we reached a tiny graveled island where we piched the tent. On the next morning all the water was gone so we made our way more easy. Following a horse track we climbed a pass which led to waterfalls and a forest of mossy, old trees and cristal clear streams. It reminded us on fary tales. Climbing higher we came to high vally full of deep blue lagunes surrounded by ice covered mountains in all directions.
The weather stayed amazing as well as our mood. But we realized that finding our way would take us longer then expected. We started to limit our food supply strictly so that it would last for more days then originally planed.
We were speakless for the beauty of the landscape around us. Following the graveled comb of the morene walls we reached further lagunes and passes. We crossed mossy slopes of mountains and labyrinths of rivers and cliffs. Our progress became slower, the way more tricky and dangerous. The hundreds of meters high walls of glaciares were shining bright blue all around us, mountain peaks black as the night and fresh green vegetation framed the picture. Condors flying in cycles over our heads as to observe the intruders into their remote mountain world.
We crossed rivers so cold that we were shivering and screaming in pain, steep forests so dense that they trapped us and we had to fight hard for every single step. We were hungry but happy.
We surrounded two mountains. We enjoyed the views at the San Valentin, with more then 4000m the highest peak of Patagonia and the Glaciar Exploratores which we had to cross for the final part of our tour.
On the 8th day we set our feet on the Glaciar San Valentin. With crampons on our feet and the bamboo sticks in our hands we could make quite some distance over the ice. Without noticing it we walked over more and more rocks which had fallen on the ice until the ground under our feet was a frocen hilland of gravel, difficult and slow walk. This was the area which connected the Glaciar San Valentin with the Glaciar Exploratores, our final part. For the night we found a flat boulder just big enough for the tent.
On day 9 in the mornimg we had an “endspurt-feeling”. We were talking about reaching civilisation, food, some rest. When we started walking we noticed that the gravel would continue for way longer then expected and would turn into a landscape of steep frozen stone pyramides. Navigation turned out to be difficult another time and we realized we would not make it back to the road on at day. When we reached the blanc ice of the Glaciar Exploratores it presented itself in wild shapes. Narrow connections between the gravecentes. Steep climbs and deep valleys. Nothing flat or easy at all. We tryed to enter at a few spots but it seemed impossible. We had crampons but no ice axes or ropes. At a point it seemed ridiculously dangerous and we left the glacier to make our way around and enter again after the slope where its shape might be less hostile.
“The way around” ment crossing steep gravel fields, fighting extremly tight vegetation until we got almost desperate. We lost more and more time and started to run seriously out of food. After another night we stood infront of a river we had to cross. Hip deep, strong current, ice cold and scary. Somehow we made it, freezing and worring what would come next. We wandered along animal trails in a mystical mossy forrests full of colibris, climbed boulders to reach plateous, camped on another gravel field. We had no dinner as we prefered to keep the last bit of food for the breakfast.
The only way forward was to cross the steep slope of a mountain covered with dense primery forest. We were close to civilisation. After another day fighting step by step we could see a red bridge, the road, cars and a house already. We were far above and seperated by dense forest and high cliffs. For the eventh night we found a tiny mossy area underneith some roots to sleep. We did not feel our empty bellies any more. We started to feel scared, talked a lot and supported each other with the difficult emotions until we fell asleep.
On the next morning we went on, hours of hours fighting the forest to find a way down. And we did!!
Almost vertically we climbed down the vegetation along slopes and beside waterfalls. We got deeper and deeper, the red bridge came closer and closer. With scratches all over, woods and stones in our clothes we reached the less steep base of the mountain. We went on, following a stream until we reached a trail. It was more then an animal trail!
It was made and used by humans!! Civilisation…
For the last 3 days in the forest I thought that would be the moment to sit down and cry, let all the emotions out. But it was different. A relieve, but almost indifferent as all the energy and adrenaline faded.
We changed the sweaty clothes which had been on our body for days, removed the self made gaters we wore to protect our legs and ate the last bit of chocolate we had kept. Then we followed the trail which led us directly to the symbol of our liberty – the red bridge.
It was like entering another world. We had been out in the wilderness for 12 days.
We asked for the house of agency which had lend us the crampons. When we reached there all the guides surrounded us and congratulated for completing the tour. Pasta was ready just in that moment and both of us ate a big plate. Then we put on all our clothes, took a beer and some cookies and went in the trunk of their pickup. The ride out of the valley back to the village took more then an hour. Feeling the wind in the hair, seeing the glaciars and waterfalls around us we were eating, drinking, laughing out loud. It was a great way to finish this experiance.
It was one of the great adventures of life. Moments of fear, danger, gratitude, extrem beauty, strong emotions, friendship and the deep part of the soul, which is hidden too often in the organized world, the civilisation.