Expedition Trip Report Patagonian Icecap November 2014

A trip report, photos and video links together with some personal thoughts, recommendations and musings after this years expedition to the Patagonian Icecap in November 2014 (by Richard Hartley of Spanish Highs)

Summary

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.

Google Earth Fly Through of the Route

Taken from our GPS track. Thanks to team member Ian Tupman for the video

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Access to the Icefield

Day 1 – To Piedra del Fraile

The normal drizzle greeted us on day 1 as we had an afternoon walk to the Piedra del Fraile. With 25kg packs containing all our gear for a 10 night outing this makes a convenient 3 hour initiation to the joys of Patagonia! At the end you have the benefit of camping in the trees and a refuge selling beer, wine, pasta, pizza etc.

Day 2 – to La Playita

We headed up the Rio Electrico valley in reasonably good weather. Fitzroy was not showing its spectacular NW face but there was clearing skies and light winds. Warm temperatures meant a lot of snow melt was coming down the Rio Pollone, which we found quite difficult to cross. Quite a few of us had wet feet by the time we reached the far bank and continued our journey to La Playita, sheltered and protected from the winds behind a huge rockface.

Day 3 – Gear carry/recce. Return to La Playita

The weather report we received via our Yellowbrick Tracker (See Weather and Communications below) warned of high winds on Paso Marconi but easing the following day. We decided to make a short gear carry to the base of the Marconi Glacier. This not only made the following days start easier but also allowed us to recce the way onto the lower glacier. During the afternoon we had amazing views of Mt Fitzroy as the clouds cleared.

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On the Icecap Itself

Day 4 – to Icefield Camp 1 via Paso Marconi

This was the “crunch” day. Nearly 1000m ascent up a tortuous glacier with the elements all working against you the higher you got. In addition we could hear avalanches and serac collapses occurring throughout the day. The lower Marconi went easily. We crossed the medial moraine and proceeded to to the crux section, a steep corner passing below overhanging seracs. I have never seen this so intimidating! Stepping delicately over thin snow bridges we made our way carefully round the corner section to reach the relative safety of the upper glacier.

Then it’s the same old hard plod up gradually easier gradient but interminable snow slopes to the Paso Marconi. The wind acts as a huge funnel here but gradually the peaks on the far side of the icecap reveal themselves. And then …. you’re there.  The Southern Patagonian Icecap stretches before you in all it’s glory. 300km long and 50km wide. The view takes your breath away!

We dropped onto the icecap itself moved a little to the south to move away from the “tunneling” effect of the wind, and started to build snow walls and erect tents.

It was apparent to me now, that we had to change our nunatek route and revert to the normal traverse. Large crevasses existed on the western side of the icecap and I just wasn’t prepared to play russian roulette given the state of the snow.

Day 5 – To Circo de las Altares

We had intended a rest day at Icecap Camp 1, but an improving weather forecast suggested a move to the amazing Circo de las Altares would pay dividends. This 5-6 hour walk is mainly flat, but it is not easy, especially in deep snow. Snowshoes helped but we lost the advantage of having the pulks with us. The weather was grey and overcast but immediate visibility was pretty good.

We navigated by GPS and compass to the cirque, which is situated at the entrance to a shallow valley surrounded by jagged peaks. The peaks themselves are a who’s who of some of the hardest and most spectacular peaks in the world including Cerro’s Torre, Standhardt, Egger and Mt Fitzroy.

We were lucky to find pre built snow wall recently vacated by another party so quickly moved in! The weather remained grey and dull with the peaks staying behind a wall of cloud. Our weather forecast suggest light winds for 3 days before changing to 100km+.

Day 6 – Rest day at Circo de las Altares

What better way to spend a rest day, than sat among these great peaks? At 6 am an excited shout from someone visiting the nearby toilet got us all out of our pits. Yes, we could see the sun popping through the cloud to the east. The sky showed patches of blue and the cloud was slowly clearing. This continued throughout the morning as we were treated to glimpses and then subsequently to full views of this spectacular and unique landscape. A treasured day that will live long in the memory!

Day 7 – Glacier Viedma and Laguna Ferrari

We headed due south from Circo las Altares with the amazing rime ice walls of the Cordon Adela group to our left. A white prominence on the horizon (huge crevasses) marked the slope change signifying the start of the upper Viedma glacier. After 3 hours we arrived at a complicated section of ice and moraine which took us off the glacier and onto the moraines near Laguna de los Esquis. A tiring ascent followed to our bivouac site at Laguna de Ferrari.

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The Return Journey

Day 8 – to Laguna Toro

A steep but quick ascent to Paso de Viento, the key to the exit from the icecap. Behind us lay the black and white landscape of the icecap but in front of us lay the Tunel valley, an area of glaciers, streams, lakes and with tantalising glimpses of green forests in the distance.

We had greater than usual difficulties in getting across the loose moraines and onto the Tunel Glacier snout. A dangerous and unstable place! Coming off that glacier a section of track had been obliterated by an avalanche and navigation was very tricky. Eventually we arrived on the welcoming sands by Laguna Toro. It was too late to cross the rushing waters of the Rio Tunel in afternoon spate, so we camped here

Day 9 – the return to El Chaltén

Up early to catch the Rio Tunel at it’s lowest. The predicted high winds had arrived. We waded across in tightly knit groups of 4, most of us carrying our boots. After circulation returned to our feet we made a brisk 6 hour march through the woods and forests back to the welcoming comforts of El Chaltén. Along the way our senses exploded with all the colour of the Patagonian forest. Wild flowers, birds, full of life! The beer never tasted so good though!

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Weather and Communications

There are two major requirements for a visit to the Patagonian IcecapP1020051

  1. Getting the correct weather Information
  2. The ability to judge how to act on that information

Fortunately this expedition had the assistance of professional weather forecaster Steph Ball. She would send a detailed weather report to our Yellowbrick Tracker every evening. With her we developed a short code system that allowed us to see both morning and afternoon conditions for the next few days together with a further 2 day longer term forecast. Steph knew (via our website tracker map) where we were so could send detailed analysis for a specific area. This is invaluable information.

Armed with this we could make balanced judgments about whether to move or stay put. The crunch day is always the day climbing up onto Paso Marconi. Based on the weather we waited for lesser wind speeds before doing this. The longer term forecast for high winds also influenced our decision to cross over the Paso del Viento when we did. When the high winds came we were at valley level and somewhat protected by trees and forests.

Life in a Tent

PB220302The first few days of an expedition always seem strange. You mess about erecting tents, the cooking is awkward, and the tent is usually a chaotic mess of dis organisation. But gradually this changes and things get slicker and slicker. By mid expedition everybody is comfortable and at home with the environment.

In fact, life becomes very simple. You sleep, eat, drink, move, travel, find shelter, eat, drink and sleep. In between we take photographs of our incredibly stunning situations. I slept the sleep of gods with many many hours of dream like quality sleep. Mind totally clear and focused.

And of course you do enjoy the return to “civilisation”. The “Quilmes” beer, the malbec wine, the bed, a proper toilet, the home comforts. But I find myself very quickly wishing that I was back up in that magical place of perfect peace where the only criteria was survival.

Teamwork

There is no room for individuals if you plan to visit the Icecap. Every day has it’s own difficulties. The terrain is tough and the weather can be extreme. When the going gets tough then you need team players and cool heads. And everybody can have an “off day”, when the rest of the team need to assist. Fortunately we had a great team with us.

Thanks to Chiz and Reu Dakin, Clive Fenn, Mick Mcgregor, Peter Syme, Ian Tupman and of course my partner, Kiersten Rowland.

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The town of El Chaltén

It was our fourth visit here. Once again we enjoyed the hospitality of our friends Jorge and Claudia at Hosteria Confin Patagonico, especially the traditional Argentine lamb barbecue!

Thanks also to Patricia and Nicolas of Hosteria Kau Si Aike for the good conversation and friendship.

We ate great meat at the Como la Vaca restaurant and after the expedition finished drank far too much beer at Patagonicus and the Cerveceria. I can recommend these places.

The people here are some of the friendliest on the planet (as are their dogs!). We shall return!

Video

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On Thursday we begin our 2014 Patagonian Icecap Adventure

Thursday we leave for Argentina and one of the last true wilderness areas on earth, the Patagonian Icecap. Who knows what adventures it will bring? What surprises it has in store for us?

It’s been a long time coming, our last trip was in 2011 (and what a glorious expedition that was!). This year we attempt the “Ruta de las Nunataks”, a rarely done route. We could only find one reference to it on the internet. This route visits Nunatak Witte and Nunatak Viedma traversing down the western side of the great “Campo de Hielo Continental Sur” Icefield. From that icefield (the largest outside of the polar regions) hundreds of glaciers feed the pampas of Argentina and westwards to the fiords of Chile, including the famous Perito Moreno, Viedma and Upsala glaciers. It is quite simply, unique!

The Southern Patagonian Icecap is some 300 km long and 50 km wide stretching between Argentina and Chile. If we are in luck with the weather we shall attempt “Cerro Moreno” a remote, shy and retiring peak in the center of the ice. The ascent via it’s east ridge will require good calm weather (rare in Patagonia), lots of stamina and steady heads. There are 8 of us going, including expedition leader. Richard Hartley and Kiersten Rowland from Spanish Highs.

Patagonia needs patience and you can be tent bound for days. For sure, there will be uncomfortable and difficult moments to come. But therein lies the attraction. The rewards are massive! Views of the western faces of some of the most dramatic peaks in the world, Cerro Torre, Torre Egger and Mt Fitz Roy to name but a few. An incredible sense of isolation will be felt and help is a long, long way away. The team will have to be fully self supportive.

Yes, it’s a big challenge. Will we succeed? Who knows? We are in the lap of the weather gods. But that is what makes it so worthwhile and such a life changing experience!

Spanish Highs, “Inspiring the Adventure” in you!

Each day the team will be reporting and tweeting from the Icecap. Follow the Expedition Progress via map and reports.

Follow Expedition Progress

We would like to acknowledge the support of the following for this expedition

Steph Ball – Weather information

Clive Fenn – Construction of sledges/pulks

Ian Tupman – General support and printing of maps

Yellowbrick Trackers – Sat Comms

Alison Edwards – Expedition Gilets and T-shirts

Supply of munchies and unbelievably tasty expedition food from

  • Sharon and Richard Iocono
  • Pam of Fluoroheaven 

Anne and Doug Rowland – Constant supply of expedition materials from the UK

Sue Halfyard and Andrew Phillips – Dog sitting!

The Spanish Highs team remaining in the Sierra Nevada and ensuring “Business as Normal” …..

  • Felipe Nieto
  • Jens Foell
  • Emma Hartley
  • Pepe Badaje
  • Jesus Contreras
  • Javier Aguirrebengoa

If we have left anybody out, oops sorry. Unintentional due to lack of sleep!

Mt FitzRoy from the SE

Mt FitzRoy from the SE

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The Kamchatka Expedition Part 6 – Last few days in Russia


Part 6 and final report from Kiersten Rowland’s on our April 2013 expedition to Kamchatka with Berghaus to ski volcanoes

Autumn is arriving here in Spain and another expedition is fast approaching so I thought it’s about time I finished this Kamchatka blog before the Patagonia expedition arrives.

Back to the centre of migration.

Back to the centre of migration.

24th April :- Richard’s birthday today and we have to go back to Petropavlovsk to the Centre of Migration for him to get his finger prints taken which they forgot to do last time. Elena arrives and we all head off for a tourist day in Petropavlovsk. It’s a grey drizzly day. We get the local bus into Yelizovo, then swap buses to get to Petropavlovsk. First stop is the Centre of Migration where Richard not only gets his finger prints taken but also his palm print!!! Next we head to an Orthodox Church to have a look at. We take some fun photos outside. Then on to the tourist shops. Boys want Russian hats, me and Jules want Kamchatka t’shirts. I was shocked on entering one shop as it was full of stuffed wolves, bears, wolverines, moose, and fox, the furs of the wolves, bear, wolverine and fox also. Made me feel ill. I never understand hunting, especially in place like Kamchatka that has such wonderful wildlife and untouched land, surly you can make more money bringing tourists to see these animals alive rather than shoot them and get them grotesquely stuffed? If hunting is allowed to continue the way it does in Kamchatka then they can kiss their wildlife and the tourists goodbye. I believe due to hunting that Kamchatka has no big old (30/40 years old) brown bears left because they have all been killed!!

Messing around. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Messing around. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

We go for lunch in a cafe and meet up with Igor to discuss the plans for the rest of our stay. Once again the weather is not good but there maybe a small window at the weekend for a 2 day ascent of another volcano. We head home having brought nothing from the tourist shops. Warwick and Elena are cooking dinner, a roast, we are having a small party for Richard’s birthday. Igor came over and gave us a slide show, he had the chance to fly in a helicopter over Tolblachik during it’s eruption. Richard didn’t want a birthday card, so he got an Easter card instead that everyone signed, he also had a cake! So it was the usual drink lots, eat lots and have vodka shots. Andre played his bayan with incredible passion (it’s a type of chromatic button accordion developed in Russia). This was our last night as guests at Andre’s house, tomorrow we move to Marthas.

Celebrating Richard's birthday, sorry it's blurred!

Celebrating Richard’s birthday, sorry it’s blurred!

25th April :- Some sluggish heads this morning, but not mine. I listened to the locals who say never mix beer and vodka, so I didn’t! Everyone going to the ski centre, I’m staying home, going to help Martha move our stuff to her place. Went with Martha and took her two beautiful dogs for a walk, feels good to be out with dogs again. The others come back from skiing, Richard not well. Tonight we go out to eat at a restaurant, a treat from Martin. Restaurant does not take credit card, none of us have any cash, lots of nervous giggling and wondering how long we have before we get arrested and if we could do the washing up in return for payment. Emergency phone call eventually made to Martha to bring some cash and bail us out. Early to bed as it looks like a weather window for the 2 day trip will arrive. 5am breakfast!!

Nothing to do with this part of the blog, but if anyone knows the bird please let me know what it is.

Nothing to do with this part of the blog, but if anyone knows the bird please let me know what it is.

A Russian Pigeon!

A Russian Pigeon!

26th April :- Richard still not well so we are not going on the trip. I got up and had breakfast with everyone. After they had left I went for a drive with Martha somewhere to take the dogs for a wonderful walk. Would so love to see this area when it is not in the grips of winter. Very cloudy today. Richard has slept for 12 hours. I didn’t do a great deal other than read, sleep and use the internet. Richard felt better around 5pm. Martha was heading out so asked her to pick us up a bottle of Chilean wine. Wow that wine was good. Early night again.

Lenin statues seem to appear all over.

Lenin statues seem to appear all over.

One of the markets we went to.

One of the markets we went to.

27th April :- Had breakfast around 9am, another day of hanging around. Weather looks to be picking up. Jet washed the ski bags off. Took the dogs for a walk again with Martha and saw what I believe to be a Rough-legged Buzzard, the only bird of prey I’ve seen. Prepared dinner for when the others get back. Julia, Warwick and Martin arrive back, no summit, Julia unwell. On the first day they got to the shoulder around 2000m but turned back due to the late hour. The next day they didn’t get far due to Julia being unwell. Those guys were very tired so an early night again.

The target was this volcano that we could see from Martha's back garden

The target was this volcano that we could see from Martha’s back garden

28th April :- Well here it get’s interesting because for some reason I stopped writing my diary, so I’m having to rely on my memory and Julia’s memory, which between us is not great ha ha. So I’m sorry this will be a quick ending. Today we are going to have a bbq so Martha took us shopping to buy food and drink. It was great getting to see the different shops and markets. After shopping we packed up ready for our departure from Kamchatka to Moscow the following day and then we just messed around until time for bbq. We had a great evening eating and drinking lots.

The girls

The girls

Now this is how to do a bbq

Now this is how to do a bbq

Cakes, Vodka, Fish and Grapes

Cakes, Vodka, Fish and Grapes

Salmon

Salmon

Andre and Martha chatting while cooking

Andre and Martha chatting while cooking

29th April :- We leave Kamchatka. We said sad farewells to our wonderful hosts. Outside the airport a stray dog decided that the pulk was nice and comfy and that he would like to come home with us, unfortunately we had to get him to move and leave him behind. There was the usual chaos at the airport with trying to get a better deal on our excess luggage and I tried to book a vegetarian meal for all of my onward journeys. The long flight back to Moscow was pretty uneventful, watched movies and got a veggie meal! We were picked up at Moscow airport by the hotel we were staying in, although they seemed to have forgotten how much luggage they had so had to send for another vehicle. Again we ate and drank and said our farewells to each other because our flights are at different times of the day.

The stray dog who wanted to come home with us

The stray dog who wanted to come home with us

30th April :- Richard and I are transported to Moscow airport at some unearthly hour and soon run into trouble at checkin with excess luggage. The visa card would not work, even though the bank had been notified to expect action in Russia, we are told there is a bank downstairs, so we head to the bank but it is shut because it is very early in the morning. We wander around the airport thinking how the hell are we going to get out of Russia when we stumble upon a money exchange place that had just opened up. We changed some euros, ran back to the excess luggage place, while there I noticed a man with 2 guards being checked in to our flight! Anyway we then back to checkin with our receipt of excess luggage paid, checkin, go through security (full body scanner) and just about manage to catch our flight. Once on board we are told our plane is going to be taking a detour to Prague!!! What did our plane get hijacked?? or was this the work of the guy with the two guards. Anyway more time is added on to our 5 hour flight so we just settle down as there is nothing we can do about it.

What can I say about this trip? It has been very very tough at times, the weather was particularly unstable that year, Spring was late in arriving, the scenery is stunning, it is worth every hardship we have endured to be able to see and experience what we have. I absolutely love Kamchatka and it’s people, it is somewhere I have to go back and visit again. Thank you Julia for the invite on your expedition.

One of my favourite pictures from the expedition. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

One of my favourite pictures from the expedition. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

If you are wanting to visit Kamchatka then use the services of Martha at Explore Kamchatka.
If you want an excellent expedition photographer then give Martin a call.
If you want an experienced adventure split boarder on your team then contact Julia.
If you want a trip filmed, then contact Warwick.
And finally if you want any extras on your team then contact us at Spanish Highs Mountain Guides.

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The Kamchatka Expedition Part 5 – The escape and a very long bus ride

Part 5 of Kiersten Rowland’s report on our April 2013 expedition to Kamchatka with Berghaus to ski volcanoes

It’s now summer in Andalucia and the heat of August has made me decide it’s time to venture back to the freezer known as Kamchatka to cool myself down and try and get this story finished. Some of the photos in this post are again courtesy of Martin Hartley, who has now returned from his expedition in the Arctic.

22nd April :- -22C at 7.30am the day of escape. Everything is frozen solid. Trying to pack the gear away in these temperatures is very difficult. Everything you touch you end up being covered in ice. The tent is emptied and backpacks are packed by 8am, can’t hang around in these temperatures. Only had tea for breakfast didn’t fancy food just wanted to be on the move. It took a long time to dig the tent out from the frozen snow in the meantime my feet froze even though I’d got emergency hand warmers in my boots. Warwick gave me 2 sets more, feet came back to life after half an hour. Eventually we get the tent dug out and packed away. We have a quick team photo before me and Richard have to head off to our meeting point (emergency camp)to stop my feet from freezing again. Julia, Warwick and Martin do a little filming and more photographs.

Heading across the volcanic landscape

Heading across the volcanic landscape

On the plateau with Kamen behind me

On the plateau with Kamen behind me

I have a great time skinning across the plateau just me and Richard for as far as you could see, what an amazing feeling. The wind picks up but is behind us so is helping us for a change apart from the spindrift that is being blown. Kluchevskoi looks beautiful but she has high winds on her, you can see the snow being blown down her flanks. Igor and Elena pass us on the snow mobile with the gear and head off to the meeting point. Still no sign of Julia, Warwick and Martin yet. Out of the spin drift come 2 snowmobiles, Anatoli and Andre who were due to meet us at emergency camp but are heading to base camp to pick up the rest of the gear and Julia, Warwick and Martin. We exchange quick hellos and hugs and they carry on leaving me and Richard to continue on our way. Very close to the hill below emergency camp the snowmobiles arrive with everyone on board. We jump on for the short ride to the base of the hill and walk up the hill. The wind is now blowing strong. Emergency camp is being taken apart and packed up. Once again freezing while waiting around.

Richard nearing the meeting point

Richard nearing the meeting point

Richard walking up the hill to the meeting point. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Richard walking up the hill to the meeting point. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

After everyone has regrouped we are on our way down, everyone is back on their snowmobiles. Snowmobiles going well over the frozen snow moving easy. Fantastic scenery but because the weather is closing in behind us there is an urgency to get down lower to more shelter. Wow how things have changed in the time we have been away, Spring has reached lower altitudes. We stop on a frozen lake. Igor takes Julia up a slope, comes back and gets Martin, drops him off on the slope. Julia is going to snowbored down the slope and Martin will photograph her. They do this a number of times. Great watching and enjoying being lower down. Before long we are on the move again. Igor is like a man possessed with his driving. He launches his snowmobile Warwick was hanging on to the sledge for all it he was worth and Martin was thrown off! All a bit of fun.

Taking a quick break, still with face masks on, apart from hardy Martin

Taking a quick break, still with face masks on, apart from hardy Martin

Having a rest having got lower down

Having a rest having got lower down

Not sure what he discussion was about

Not sure what he discussion was about

Richard waiting for another snowmobile to catch up

Richard waiting for another snowmobile to catch up

The scenery is simply stunning, getting wonderful views, but nobody can take photos as everyone is hanging on for dear life. We eventually reach the dreaded forest again, but a trail has been cut so not too much branch slapping. The roads now have no snow on them. Me and Elena get off at the first road and walk back to the hotel. Anatoli takes the snowmobile to his 4×4 to bring back to the hotel. We lost the others in the forest, they went a different way to us. They ended up at the house of Andreas, unloaded everything then were driven back to the hotel. How nice was it to be back in some sort of civilisation, it was bliss. Warwick was first in the shower, then me, Julia, Richard, Martin, Igor and Elena. You have no idea how good warm water feels, we are all feeling great. While everyone was showering Warwick went and brought beers. It seems we enjoyed ourselves we went back to the shop two more times and brought a bottle of vodka and 30 beers all in all. Elena cooked dinner. A very happy tired and relaxed group. Igor went with Anatoli and his family to eat. Sleep came very easy tonight.

Enjoying the scenery while Martin took photos of Julia snowboarding

Enjoying the scenery while Martin took photos of Julia snowboarding

One of the snow mobiles stuck in the softening snow

One of the snow mobiles stuck in the softening snow

Animal print next to human hand print. Any ideas what it maybe?

Animal print next to human hand print. Any ideas what it maybe?

Our last look back at where we had come from

Our last look back at where we had come from

Home sweet home, our hotel in Klyuchi

Home sweet home, our hotel in Klyuchi

23rd April :- Awake early, it gets light around 6am, pack everything up. Breakfast at 8am. Igor and Elena are driving the pickup with the snow mobile and all the gear and we five are being let loose on our own and catching the bus from Klyuchi to Yelizovo, this is going to be such fun, nothing like traveling in a country where you don’t understand the language. The bus will leave at ten to ten and will take ten and a half hours-ish.

The bus is there but we are not allowed on it yet

The bus is there but we are not allowed on it yet

Guessing this is an ambulance

Guessing this is an ambulance

On the very purple bus for the next 10.5 hours

On the very purple bus for the next 10.5 hours

Well the bus eventually left at ten past eleven, it had to wait for another bus coming in from the coast that was late and had people on it that were booked on our bus. The novelty of being on the bus wore off after 2 hours. It stops often on the side of the road for toilet stops. Travel in this area is difficult, more so for woman who have to clamber over snow banks and into the forest. I was too scared to go wondering in the forest, I did not want to meet one of those big brown hungry bears that were waking up! Eventually the bus stops in a town and everyone gets off. Turns out this is our lunch stop for half an hour. We follow everyone into what looks like a working-mens club but in fact it is a cafe. The toilets were disgusting, even worse than Spanish toilets. The food was good apparently, Richard and I didn’t eat, we had enough goodies to keep us going. Warwick just pointed at random stuff on the menu, he had no idea what the food was until it turned up. At another stop many hours later we managed to point our way to buying crisps, coffee and soft drinks. Eventually we arrive at the place where we are to phone Martha to arrange a pick up. We arrive in Yelizovo at 10.30pm where Martha picks us up and god bless her she had ordered us pizza, yay, we stuffed ourselves, had a beer, then off to bed.

Only one more post to go now.

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The Kamchatka Expedition Part 4 – Deteriorating weather

Part 4 of Kiersten Rowland’s report on our April 2013 expedition to Kamchatka with Berghaus to ski volcanoes

Here we are onto part 4 of the expedition. Most of the photos are Martin’s, there were difficult times and photos were not on our minds, but obviously Martin was the expedition photographer, it was his job to capture life in camp. I’m sure you will agree he did a great job.

18th April :- Woke up to a frozen tent and no wind! Richard feeling better. After breakfast Martin did some Berghaus shots of Richard, I went along to take photos and learn from an expert. Crazy landscape everything has turned black and white from the ash. Makes Richards bright Berghaus gear look great though.

Igor and Elena went back to first camp by snowmobile to pick up some stashed food and fuel as it looks like we will be here longer than planned. Out on the plateau they said it was really windy and mini tornedos were all over the place. Looking up at the volcano you can see the snow being blown off. Richard went for a little ski to test his bindings. I took some pictures of him, then we restrengthened the snow walls (told you it becomes an obsession). One mistake we realised we had made was not leaving much room between the tent and the snow walls to allow for snow falling (I have a paranoia about being buried in the tent after a near miss in Patagonia once).

Richard heading off into the amazing scenery

Richard heading off into the amazing scenery

Richard in his bright Berghaus clothing looking great against the volcanic scenery

Richard in his bright Berghaus clothing looking great against the volcanic scenery

Richard with Martin taking photos of him reflected in his goggles

Richard with Martin taking photos of him reflected in his goggles

Warwick and Martin were out doing more Berghaus shots so I went to visit Julia in her luxury tent (well compared to ours it is much bigger), she platted my hair in an attempt to keep it under control. While we were chatting we heard a strange noise, it sounded like a bird, wow it was a bird, in fact two Ravens had come to visit us, the only wildlife we had seen in what feels like forever. After the initial excitement of seeing something else alive, I begin to wonder what they are doing here, are they messengers of doom?

During dinner a Russian turns up! He was part of the group of 12 who had attempted to summit today. Turns out they left the volconologists hut at 4am, got to 4000m but the wind was too strong. He asked if he could join our group but we do not have the food or fuel or tent space to have another person along. He had a warm drink then left to catch his companions. Weather forecast still showing bad weather. We had a game of 20 questions which was hilarious, we had to choose people that all nationalities would know. Richard chose Big Chief Sitting Bull!! Needless to say none of us got that one.

During the night the wind became very strong, I used ear plugs to try and dull the noise. One of the worst things about camping in places like this is having to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, having to put on extra clothes and boots, but at least my emergency toilet got used.

Richard and Kluchevskoi

Richard and Kluchevskoi

Happy Richard to be well enough to have a little ski

Happy Richard to be well enough to have a little ski

19th April :- Woke up to no wind but it was snowing and only -9C, another going no where day. The Ravens were sat on a rock in camp this morning, I am now convinced they are messengers of doom, you always see Ravens in horror movies, maybe I’ve watched too many horror movies or maybe I’m loosing the plot being out here in this harsh environment. But I’m full of admiration for them they don’t have a tent or sleeping bag to protect them and none of us have any photos of them!!

Only had a cup of tea for breakfast I’m just not hungry, it seems all I do at the moment is eat, drink, pee and sleep. It is starting to get tough mentally being confined to four walls of the tent with not much room, constant bad weather and everything being in black and white but at least it’s not raining and has enabled Richard to get better. Summit plan number 3 was made today, if this snow does not get blown away we can go back to plan number 1, the quickest and easiest route up and down Klyuchivskoi. We were planning to redo our snow walls on our tent so we could dig ourselves out if need be, we got cold while in the kitchen tent so ended up back in sleeping bags to warm up and never got round to doing the snow walls.

Now let me describe the kitchen for you. It is an area dug out of snow, deep enough so you can stand up. Benches to sit on are cut from the snow as are shelves for storing stuff and even a table has been made. The whole thing is covered with a flysheet from a tent. The news on the weather front is not good. It’s time to dig in and make ourselves safe as possible. Wishing we had re done the snow walls. So cold in this wind and by 9.30pm the tent was frozen.

Elena taking a rest from making blocks of snow to re-enforce the snow wall on the kitchen

Elena taking a rest from making blocks of snow to re-enforce the snow wall on the kitchen

In the kitchen tent having dinner

In the kitchen tent having dinner

20th April :- Didn’t sleep much, very strong wind and my getting buried by snow paranoia came into play. Once it was daylight, the world seemed a safer place. Sides of the tent are buried in snow. Porch only half buried but with such strong wind it blew most of it away. No visit from the Ravens today, can’t say I blame them. It’s quite difficult to stand up outside in the wind. Richard climbed over the snow wall and dug the sides of the tent out. I got dressed to help but Martin decided this weather was a good opportunity for me and Julia to do a struggling through bad weather Berghaus shoot!! So much for modeling clothes being glamorous. We have minus who knows what windchill, enough to make your hair freeze, getting blown over and covered in volcanic ash. The wind is so strong it is picking up volcanic rock and throwing it at us. Blimey it hurts when it hits you, I’ve been hit 3 times just doing the photos for Berghaus! Well we survived and Martin got the shots he was after. Me and Julia had a warm cup of tea with Elena afterwards.

Richard had to go to the toilet, said he thought he was going to die getting hit by rocks, not the way he wanted to go ha ha. Martin then took Warwick and Richard off to do photos of them. It’s quite amusing seeing someone come in from outside as they are covered in volcanic ash. After warming up I went and rebuilt the snow walls and toilet (it got blown down) for the rest of the day. Had lunch and made a few more alterations to the snow wall where the wind had knocked it down again (we are expecting extremely strong winds tonight).

We have a bit of a competition going on with snow wall building, team Russia (Igor, Elena and Martin), team England (Julia and Warwick) and team Spain (Richard and I). Team England and Spain believe team Russia will build the best snow walls, they are the experts! We, team Spain, expected to come off the worst as our walls looked like turtle shells, we never calved our snow blocks, just stuck the shovel in and pulled. The sun came out for a while, it was nice to see but it didn’t stay around long. You can hear the wind coming towards you, you turn your back brace yourself for the onslaught. I was watching Warwick repairing his snow wall and saw him get blown over ha ha. Igor has built a toilet snow cave, wow this is luxury, so quiet and warm in there. Time to rest and warm up before dinner in 3 hours! It has started to snow again and the wind is increasing. Had dinner but didn’t stay long.

Me while Martin is photographing. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Me while Martin is photographing. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Julia and me bracing ourselves against the wind, ice axes in the ground to stop us getting blown away. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Julia and me bracing ourselves against the wind, ice axes in the ground to stop us getting blown away. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Trying to repair the snow all. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Trying to repair the snow all. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Me digging up snow to re-enforce the snow wall during a break in the weather. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Me digging up snow to re-enforce the snow wall during a break in the weather. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

21st April :- Holy shit someone turned on the winds turbo button! What a night, the strength of the wind was incredible and it snowed all night. Hardly any sleep. The wind contained the volcanic rocks which weakened the snow wall and part of the snow wall ended up collapsing onto the tent, the snow is very deep in the porch. The rocks were blowing right through the tent, luckily for us we only got hit 3 times.

Very early in the morning we thought we could hear voices but were not sure, didn’t want to stick our heads out the tent and thought if help was needed then someone would come to the tent. Turns out Julia and Warwicks tent got destroyed in the early hours and they had to evacuate into the kitchen tent. The volcanic rocks had blown straight threw their snow wall, through the tent and out the other side. They had to wear helmets in their tent, packed up ready to evacuate when it became obvious too many holes were appearing in their tent and the tent would not hold it’s strength against the onslaught. They eventually left when Warwick was outside trying to mend the snow wall and the wind blew him through the snow wall and onto the tent!

Richard got up and dug the porch and side of the tent out, my emergency toilet had been destroyed! The wind is blowing everyone over, impossible to do much, trying our hardest to repair snow walls, everyone’s tents getting ripped by the flying volcanic rock and for safety helmets are being worn in and outside the tents. Everyone is covered in snow and ice.

Surveying the damage and repairing, notice how the blocks of snow have been calved by the wind and the rocks embedded in the snow. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Surveying the damage and repairing, notice how the blocks of snow have been calved by the wind and the rocks embedded in the snow. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Everyone busy in camp trying to repair the snow walls. The left overs of Julia and Warwicks tent. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Everyone busy in camp trying to repair the snow walls. The left overs of Julia and Warwicks tent. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Emergency meeting called. Discussions about the rest of our time here. There appears to be no break in the weather for the next 5 days and we only have 4 days left before having to make our journey out. It seems Kluchevskoi is not going to let us set a foot upon her. After lengthy discussions and various scenarios thrown around, the decision is made, we get the hell out of there tomorrow in the slight weather window that should arrive. With such a short time left here, only a spare summer tent left, which Julia and Warwick will use tonight, wet gear, frozen people, and the chance of getting stuck here by bad weather. It’s very disappointing for everyone but there was no other option really. When things start to go wrong it does not take much for things to escalate out of control in an environment like this. A very hard (but obvious) decision for Julia with the pressure of sponsors for a successful trip, team members lives on her hands and also her own ambition of wanting to board this volcano.

The nail in the coffin! The forecast for next 5 days

The nail in the coffin! The forecast for next 5 days

As far as we were all concerned the right call was made. After the meeting we all help to put up the summer tent, build snow walls around it. It’s still snowing but not blowing as hard but bitterly cold. We both had to come into our tent and warm up, my feet are incredibly cold again, they have become a bit of a problem and are really annoying me, but at least we are heading down tomorrow, weather gods permitting.

The rest of the day is spent in the tent warming up and drying out. The weather has turned sunny but cold with little wind. Please let it stay like this. The Ravens eventually came to visit once the weather had calmed down, you have to admire anything that can survive what just hit us. I fed them left over lunch. Team Spain came 1st in the snow wall building survival, team Russia was 2nd and team England was 3rd! -19C at dinner time. Ate food and went straight back to the tent to warm up feet again. Very calm and very cold night. Had a reasonable nights sleep.

Clearing out the porch area. You can see how the wind has sculpted the snow blocks and see the volcanic rocks embedded in the snow. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Clearing out the porch area. You can see how the wind has sculpted the snow blocks and see the volcanic rocks embedded in the snow. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

This photo actually belongs in the next post but it shows the spare summer tent. Only had to build one snow wall as we used one of our snow walls and the sledge to protect it. Also you can see my emergency toilet has been completely filled with snow

This photo actually belongs in the next post but it shows the spare summer tent. Only had to build one snow wall as we used one of our snow walls and the sledge to protect it. Also you can see my emergency toilet has been completely filled with snow

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The Kamchatka Expedition Part 3 – Waiting for a weather window at base camp

Part 3 of Kiersten Rowland’s report on our April 2013 expedition to Kamchatka with Berghaus to ski volcanoes

A lot of what is written in these Kamchatka Expedition trip reports has been taken from the notes and diary I kept. It appears this blog will be in more than four parts, I have more photos and writing than I thought. Again there are a mixture of photos from Martin Hartley (do go see his work) and our own photos.

Emergency camp and the view after the worst of the weather had past

Emergency camp and the view after the worst of the weather had past

14th April :- Very bad night sleep due to the high winds, man tents are so noisy during high winds. This morning the temperature is -15C (all the temperatures are not including wind chill), everything is frozen. You move inside the tent and ice falls on to you from the roof, the wind knocks the ice off the tent and on to you, then everything starts to get wet. Breakfast at 9am, discussion about plan for today, we are going no where, conditions are too bad. It is dangerous to wander too far from the tents because you loose sight of them. Towards dinner time the weather begins to break, if the weather holds we shall make a move tomorrow.

Packing our tent away, ready for the off to base camp. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Packing our tent away, ready for the off to base camp. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

15th April :- Good night sleep the wind died down during the night. Have breakfast and leisurely pack up camp, we are on the move. Igor takes most of the kit by snowmobile the 5km to base camp. The rest of us put on our skis and skins and start our ski to camp. Once we reach the plateau the sun is out, it’s hot by Kamchatka terms and we get incredible views of Kluchevskoi and Kamen. As we get closer we can see the steam coming out the vent of Kluchevskoi and the closer we get we realise she is not the white mountain she looked, she is covered in ash and just gets bigger and bigger. Igor arrives back to take anyone who wants a lift, we all decide to continue but due to skinning over ash and volcanic rock Richard, Martin and myself hand our skis to Igor so we do not damage them and continue walking to aid acclimatisation. Elena goes with Igor to set up the kitchen tent and have lunch ready for our arrival. I have gained a blister from one side of my heal to the other. We all eventually arrive at camp to cheers from Igor and Elena. Before eating we set up our tents, never trust the weather. Richard has been loosing energy and has a cough. We have a quick lunch, Richard retreats to his sleeping bag to stay warm, I finish off making snowwalls around the tent. What an amazing situation for a camp surround by volancos, can’t stop taking photos. Martin is making the most of the good weather and taking plenty of catalogue shots for Berghaus. Dinner at 7pm of buckwheat stew. Decision is made that we will skin up the 800m to a volconolgists hut, our high camp tomorrow, for altitude training and get a look at the route up the volcano. Once again bad weather returns and we seek shelter in our tents, my feet are always cold, there is no room for errors in this place.

Walking down to the plateau from emergency camp. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Walking down to the plateau from emergency camp. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

On the plateau. Richard pulling the pulk

On the plateau. Richard pulling the pulk

Walking closer to Kluchevskoi. You can see the smoke and ash coming from the summit

Walking closer to Kluchevskoi. You can see the smoke and ash coming from the summit

Martin taking a photo with volcano Ushkovsky behind him

Martin taking a photo with volcano Ushkovsky behind him

Doesn't seem right walking towards an erupting volcano. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Doesn’t seem right walking towards an erupting volcano. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

The girls having a chat. So close to Kluchevskoi now she does not fit in the photo. Kamen has vanished into mean looking cloud.

The girls having a chat. So close to Kluchevskoi now she does not fit in the photo. Kamen has vanished into mean looking cloud.

Not too far to base camp now

Not too far to base camp now

Walking now and very close to base camp

Walking now and very close to base camp

A misty lunch

A misty lunch

Warwick, me and Richard having lunch

Warwick, me and Richard having lunch

Base camp established, enjoying the views

Base camp established, enjoying the views

16th April :- Slept okay. Richard is still ill and will not make the acclimitisation trip. Tent frozen again. Breakfast at 8am. It’s a beautiful morning for our acclimitisation trip, layers are being removed as we make our way through the volcanic scenery towards the glacier that runs between Kluchevskoi and Kamen. As soon as we reach the glacier the wind howls down it funneled by the two volcanos, the layers are quickly put back on. Igor, Julia and Warwick set a quick pace for the 3km to the high camp and soon leave me and Martin behind. Me, I’m just a plodder, Martin is carrying ridiculously heavy camera gear. Around a third of the way up my right foot freezes solid, panic sets in. I’ve had frozen fingers before but never a foot freeze like that without warning. It was like a wood. Decision time for me, continue up and risk doing permanent damage to my foot, maybe even loosing it (dramatic I know but it’s possible), or turn around and hope I find my way back to camp. Clouds are coming up the valley, decision is made I have to head back to camp. The 3 in front are too far away and it is far to windy to get their attention. I manage to attract Martin’s attention, who is over to one side taking photos, and signal I am heading down. I walk very very quickly back down the glacier, quite strange walking when you can’t feel one of your feet, once off the glacier it starts to get warm again, but I can not rest as the cloud is quickly moving up the valley to engulf me and I’m concerned the wind will blow all tracks away. I follow my footsteps back to camp and arrive a bit of an emotional wreck. I was disappointed I didn’t make it to high camp, scared I’d done permanent damage to my foot, scared from being split from the party. Richard and Elena give me big hugs and make me some jam tea, have you ever tried jam tea? Wow it is good and sweet. Took my boots off and started the process of warming my foot up which was not solid anymore but the skin is a waxy white yellow colour meaning I was well into the middle stage of frostbite. The big toe on my left foot was purple a sure sign that the left foot was heading for frostbite! Relax in my sleeping bag and recompose myself, eventually seeing the funny side of my panic. The clouds start to engulf camp and the others are spotted through the clouds on their way back.

Can you spot the 5 of us heading towards the glacier. Me, Igor, Julia, Warwick and Martin

Can you spot the 5 of us heading towards the glacier. Me, Igor, Julia, Warwick and Martin

Martin making his way towards the glacier

Martin making his way towards the glacier

Igor and Julia on their way up the glacier towards the volconologists hut (high camp)

Igor and Julia on their way up the glacier towards the volconologists hut (high camp)

The lava erupting Tolbachik with the cloud coming up the valley

The lava erupting Tolbachik with the cloud coming up the valley

Spot the 3 little people on the glacier and see how icy the slope of Kamen is.

Spot the 3 little people on the glacier and see how icy the slope of Kamen is.

Warming my feet up in my sleeping bag

Warming my feet up in my sleeping bag

Dinner is at 7pm. Elena somehow manages to cook amazing food with such limited utensils. For me it was soya, bean, rice and veg stew. After dinner we discuss (Warwick films) the plan for a summit attempt. Original plan was to make high camp at the volconologists hut, go to summit and ski/board down. This is the shortest route. BUT with half the mountain covered in ash this route is not possible for skiing. Discussions are then held about another line that Warwick had seen on the North West face. A lot of logistics to make this work and we need the weather gods to be on our side which they are not at the moment it’s due to be bad for the next 3 days! 9.15pm and the tent is not frozen yet!

Dinner for tonight. Elena does an amazing job of feeding us

Dinner for tonight. Elena does an amazing job of feeding us

In the kitchen tent having dinner. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

In the kitchen tent having dinner. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

17th April :- A rather warm night, -10C is considered warm these days! Going no where today, letting my foot recover, which it has done. Richard is still bad. I spent the day building a higher snow wall around the tent. Building snow walls has become a bit of an obsession. I also built an emergency toilet next to the tent, when the weather comes in real bad again I won’t have to fear getting lost while out on a toilet mission. Rather proud of my toilet. After lunch the weather is not to bad so Igor, Julia, Warwick and Martin head out to look at the North West face to see if it is doable. Funnily enough they bump into 12 Russians who are on their way to the volconologist hut to make a summit attempt tomorrow. Igor warns them bad weather is coming. The rest of the afternoon for me is spent helping Elena build a higher snow wall around the kitchen. The others arrive back with good news, the face is ski-able we just need a weather window. The snow around camp is turning black from the change of wind direction which is bringing the ash that the volcano is throwing out onto us! Had dinner, weather forecast is not good for the next 4 days, 100km winds and snow due. 9.15pm and again the tent is not frozen, strange as it feels very cold.

Kluchevskoi and Kamen looking spectacular. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Kluchevskoi and Kamen looking spectacular. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Berghaus catalogue shot. Warwick, Julia, Richard and me. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Berghaus catalogue shot. Warwick, Julia, Richard and me. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Snow walls are growing. Richard stood next to my emergency toilet with Kamen in the back ground

Snow walls are growing. Richard stood next to my emergency toilet with Kamen in the back ground

Kluchevskoi turning blacker and blacker and the snow around camp is starting to become contaminated by ashfall

Kluchevskoi turning blacker and blacker and the snow around camp is starting to become contaminated by ashfall

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The Kamchatka Expedition part 2 – Leaving Klyuchi and emergency camp

Part 2 of Kiersten Rowland’s report on our April 2013 expedition to Kamchatka with Berghaus to ski volcanoes

This report is mostly photos as I think they can tell the story better than myself. Once again some of the photos are courtesy of Martin Hartley who is at this moment on an expedition crossing the Arctic.

Time for a quick photo shoot. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Time for a quick photo shoot. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Packing up the snowmobiles

Packing up the snowmobiles

12th April :- Four snowmobiles arrived with sledges attached to them. Our transport into the mountains. It took a long time to pack the sledges but then we were off. Me and Julia got to ride on the back of the snowmobiles, the others got to ride like mushers (but not as much fun) and hang on to the back of sledges for 5 hours! Driving through the town was hilarious, people were on their way to work wearing camouflaged or dark dull coloured clothing, then there was us in our bright Berghaus clothing, people just stopped and stared as we rode past on our snowmobiles. Talk about feeling like a tourist! Shortly after leaving town we entered the forest, these are viscous forests, as you ride through their branches try to smack you in the face or knock you off, very pleased we wore our helmets. The snowmobile I was on toppled over on an embankment of snow, Elena managed to jump off the sledge but me and the driver were stuck laying on our backs in the snow with our feet holding the snowmobile off us until the others came to help (in the video trailer you can hear Igor say “oh shit” that was him seeing us fall over)! Anyway neither of us was hurt. The weather deteriorated with high winds and blizzards so we had to retreat and head back to the hotel after reaching 700m. On our way back we stopped at an old volcano crater which was still warm, did a photo shoot and had some lunch. Jet lag and lack of sleep was catching up with us all, we slept the rest of the day until 8pm. I phoned mum but credit ran out on the phone, costs a lot of money to call the UK from deepest Kamchatka.

My snowmobile team. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

My snowmobile team. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Trying to help balance the snowmobile. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Trying to help balance the snowmobile. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Julia getting video interviewed about why the trip was aborted. No idea what me and Elena are doing

Julia getting video interviewed about why the trip was aborted. No idea what me and Elena are doing

In to a whiteout. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

In to a whiteout. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

At an old volcano crater that is still warm. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

At an old volcano crater that is still warm. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Me and Anatoli. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Me and Anatoli. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Lunch stop after retreating

Lunch stop after retreating

A breakdown ooops

A breakdown ooops

Waiting for tree branches to be chopped down

Waiting for tree branches to be chopped down

Passing the time of day

Passing the time of day

13th April :- Breakfast at 7am. Weather still windy and snowing but cleared by 10am, we had the all clear to go at 11am. Loaded up the snowmobiles again and headed to basecamp. I think the snowmobiles were the scariest part of the trip for me especially through the forest, not so bad once out on the open mountains. We traveled for 5 hours and covered around 40km. We had beautiful weather for most of the trip, the stunning views kept coming and going through the clouds and we got sneaky looks at Kluchevskoi (our target volcano), Kamen, Ushkovsky and the erupting Tolbachik. The good weather didn’t last and we had to make an emergency camp 5km short of our destination, the wind and snow made visibility almost zero. I have never experienced cold like here, it gets right to your bones. It was all hands to helping get each tent up very quickly and most importantly the kitchen shelter so we could have some warm food! Wow this is a wild, beautiful and tough environment.

Taking a break and admiring the view having just made it up the hill

Taking a break and admiring the view having just made it up the hill

Race on

Race on

We got ourselves a convoy. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

We got ourselves a convoy. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Checking out the route

Checking out the route

A beautiful day for a snowmobile ride. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

A beautiful day for a snowmobile ride. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Cloud moving in. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Cloud moving in. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Getting closer to the cloud. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Getting closer to the cloud. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Full pelt up the hill. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Full pelt up the hill. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Errr Houston we have a problem. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Errr Houston we have a problem. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Julia, Warwick and Richard (yes Richard is there in the green) take shelter waiting for our snowmobile that struggled on the hills. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Julia, Warwick and Richard (yes Richard is there in the green) take shelter waiting for our snowmobile that struggled on the hills. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Here we come, walking!!

Here we come, walking!!

Picture of the three snowmobile drivers after dropping us off and heading back down to town. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

Picture of the three snowmobile drivers after dropping us off and heading back down to town. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

And so part 3 will be arriving soon.

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The Kamchatka Expedition Part 1 – Getting there

Part 1 of Kiersten Rowland’s report on our April 2013 expedition to Kamchatka with Berghaus to ski volcanoes

As most of you are aware a year ago we left to go on an expedition to Kamchatka to attempt to ski and snowboard the highest active volcano in Eurasia. At long last I am getting around to writing about it. It will be in four parts because if nothing else the pictures deserve the attention. I hope it won’t bore you too much, for me this will be a little reminder as the years go past of this incredible experience.

17th March :- Start trying to work our way through the complexities of Russian Visa applications. Realise Richard’s passport will run out 3 days early. Emergency trip back to UK on 19th to get a new passport. Finish off the Russian Visa applications, send them to Madrid with passports. The visas and passports turn up 4 days before we leave. 6th April drop the dogs off at kennels, hate leaving them. Berghaus clothing does not arrive so have to pack our own clothing just in case it does not turn up in Russia! Clothing turns up in Lanjaron the day after we left!

Some of the gadgets that came with us

Some of the gadgets that came with us

7th April : – Time to head to Russia. Gordon picks us up at 5am, drives us the five hours to Madrid airport for our flight to Moscow. The Aeroflot team here were great and didn’t charge us any extra for our ski bags and the flight was just over 4 hours. Get met at the Moscow airport by someone from the hotel we are staying at. Now for people who are not linguists but can speak a 2nd language we find when you hear a foreign language you slip back to the one you know. I can speak Spanish (of sorts) but if I am in France I will speak Spanish instead of French but when I return to Spain I will be speaking French, the poor brain struggles with more than one language. Quite amusing trying to speak to the Russian man in Spanish, needless to say none of us understood any of each other. Meet Martin Hartley (no relation to Richard) the expedition photographer who was the first of the group to arrive at the hotel. Take the time and go visit Martin’s website to see some of the stunning work he has done. I have kind permission to use some of his photos from our trip. We have dinner and nice bottle of Chilean wine at the hotel. Julia and Warwick arrive at some unearthly hour of the morning so we won’t be meeting them until the next day.

Looking at all our gear

Looking at all our gear

Packed and ready to go to the airport

Packed and ready to go to the airport

8th April :- We all meet for breakfast and afterwards sort through gear, there is a lot of gear. Julia and Warwick had to bring 2 sets of extra clothing because ours never turned up and the chances of it turning up in Russia before we left were near on nil and couldn’t be risked. The day before Julia and Warwick left for their flight they made a dash to the Berghaus warehouse to get us our kit. We have 8 luggage bags, 5 ski bags and 5 hand luggage, ooops this is going to be fun. We leave for airport at 3pm to fly to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Kamchatka. Now Russian airports are funny places, you enter the door to the airport and immediately you have to go through security, yep trouble. Imagine us with all our gear, one scanner and lots of other travelers. We started putting our gear through the scanner then realised some of us need to be on the other side to retrieve the luggage, complete chaos and much laughing but we eventually manage to get us all and our luggage into the airport. We go to check in and Aeroflot are not happy with us and all our luggage (they did state on their website that ski bags go free but none of us saw the date it ends), there is a language barrier and a lot of confusion, being sent here, there and here and there, a lot of money handed over along with passports etc. We nearly miss our flight. We have a good flight, personal tv screens on the seats, watched a few movies, drank and ate and crossed 9 time zones and landed just one hour away from yesterday!!

The team outside the airport in Moscow just before the fun starts. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

The team outside the airport in Moscow just before the fun starts. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley

9th April :- Arrive in Kamchatka at 10am met at the airport by Martha (logistics and everything else to do with Kamchatka, highly recommend her friendly services) and Igor (expedition guide) who take us to our lodgings for the night. Now I have to say this is an airport with a view, as soon as you are off the plane you are looking at volcanoes. We spend the afternoon relaxing, going through gear and discussing a plan of action. Martha asks for our passports and migration pieces of paper that we were given when we entered the country, we have to be registered with the police, ummm turns out we lost one (Richard’s) somewhere along the way in all the chaos at the airport in Moscow! Elena (expedition cook) turns up to meet us, talk about the food for the trip and cook our dinner. We eat and drink again, hohum it’s hard on these expedtions.

The view as you get off the plane in Kamchatka

The view as you get off the plane in Kamchatka

Collecting the luggage

Collecting the luggage

10th April :- Delay of a day in departing because of the lost migration paperwork. Richard and I have to travel back to the capital of Kamchatka, Petropavlovsk, by bus to sort it out. The others go skiing at the local ski centre and Elena spends the day with us helping translate and takes us to a really really posh tea place to have cheese cake and coffee. The waitress wore gloves!! Anyway paperwork all sorted by very friendly staff, nothing to worry about. We head out to a restaurant to join some guests that are staying at Marthas place for dinner.

The entrance to the Centre of Migrations

The entrance to the Centre of Migrations

Feeling rather under-dressed

Feeling rather under-dressed

11th April :- Today we head to Klyuchi. Up at 5am for breakfast, very difficult to eat at that time of the morning. Two 4×4 vehicles with trailers turn up at 5.30am, start packing the trailers with all our gear that is coming with us. At 6.30am we leave for our 13 hour 600km journey to Klyuchi, the military town and last place of any type of civilisation. In one 4×4 me, Richard, Elena and our driver, in the other Julia, Warwick, Martin and Igor. The roads are covered in snow and it starts snowing again, the tarmac runs out and pretty quickly you are on unsealed roads when you are not on snow! We see plenty of broken down vehicles that have been abandoned. We really want to sleep but don’t want to close our eyes and miss anything. We meet up en-route several times for photography and video sessions and then stop for lunch in a village on the way. I had mashed potatoe, beetroot salad, mixed veg salad, cabbage doughnut and fruit tea! You tend to eat lots of small dishes here, bit like Spain with Tapa. This is enormous tough country, as we start to near our destination we began to get a brief glimpse of Kluchivskoi and Tolblachik through the cloud. During the 13 hour drive 2 things I thought of, among many other things, must come back and visit this place again and how on earth did the people from the book “The Long Walk” endure this hostile territory when they escaped from a prison camp in Siberia during winter wearing rags! Seriously read the book. Arrived at our hotel, packed our kit that was to come into the mountains with us, Elena cooked dinner and then it was bed after a very long day.

Saying goodbye to our hosts Martha and Andreas and ready to leave for Klyuchi

Saying goodbye to our hosts Martha and Andreas and ready to leave for Klyuchi

Snowy road on the long road trip

Snowy road on the long road trip

The roads still being cleared of snow

The roads still being cleared of snow

Meeting up en-route

Meeting up en-route

Puppies

Puppies

The long rough never ending roads

The long rough never ending roads

Crossing the Kamchatka river

Crossing the Kamchatka river

A glimpse of our volcano and realising for the first time it is as steep as it appears

A glimpse of our volcano and realising for the first time it is as steep as it appears

Now if this hasn’t bored you be sure to keep checking as part 2 will be on soon.

1

Spanish Highs supporting solo Patagonia Icefield trek

[alert style=”info” close=”false”]Spanish Highs are happy to be supporting Frank Tschöpe on his solo journey on the Patagonian Icecap in December and January 2013/2014. We have given him advice from our previous trips and shall be supplying him with up to date area weather forecasts via Yellowbrick Trackers during his journey. We shall also act as emergency co-ordinator for alerting rescue services. Below is Franks final summary of his trek and planning which should prove useful to others venturing into this wild but magnificent country[/alert]

Hi friends,

Here is the final update of my planned solo hike in Patagonia!

If you ever plan a similar adventure, then you might find valuable information and helpful suggestions in the plan below. So I recommend you to keep this information and reactivate it sometime. Also feel free to share this info with friends!

You find the following:

a) Interesting links with pictures and other relevant information from former expeditions (Snow blindness, Weather, Tactics…)
b) Ideas for high-quality outdoor equipment (also GPS, Satellite and other technical stuff)
c) Ideas for camera equipment (maybe mirror less cameras are the future…)
d) Motivation for visiting Patagonia (also the half-circle around Cerro-Torre/Fitz-Roy is worth a visit!)

Kind regards
Frank

1. Essentials

a) Live Coverage:

There will be some live coverage on my Yellowbrick-homepage:

                                                     http://my.yb.tl/FrankTschoepe

There you should see my progress and also a short blog. My plan is to send at least 2-4 (irregular) position updates each day (waypoints) and one blog each evening (on Homepage and Facebook)!  Also, I may write each day to the predefined mail list, for example “Crevasse area! Please monitor!”. Let me know if you want to be able to receive those mails and, in addition be able to write mails to me! I have to prearrange this before my journey in defining a Mail-List on my Yellowbrick-Account!

(i) Method 1:  In case I approve your mail to my list of allowed contacts, then you will receive short mails (from a predefined list of 100 messages or even a spontaneous mail). In addition, you are enabled to contact me via the following address:

FrankTschoepe@my.yb.tl  

The maximum characters for each mail (sending and receiving) is 250, longer mails are truncated to 250 characters! IMPORTANT: In case you write a mail, please make sure to start with an empty mail (delete even signatures, disclaimers and also the mail you received) and then please try to keep it short! Also deactivate an auto-mail-reply, which usually has lots of characters!

(ii) Method 2: I will connect my iPad to the Yellowbrick-Messenger by Bluetooth. With this I will send messages to the blog and to Facebook! Beside this, I am able to send messages to ALL mail-addresses (even those that are not on the predefined contact list above). But I will not use this feature so often and only if you are a VIP, as it is risky for the following reason:

The maximum length of a mail is unlimited here, so there is the danger of receiving very long and expensive mails. In any case, please only send mails with a maximum of 250 characters (50 characters = 0,10EUR cost for me, which is a reasonable price)! IMPORTANT: In case you write a mail, please make sure to start with an empty mail (delete even signatures, disclaimers and also the mail you received) and then try to keep it short! Also deactivate an auto-mail-reply, which usually has lots of characters!

Important: Distress-Alert I have a red emergency button on my satellite messenger! In case you get an alert-message from the sender alerts@my.yb.tl then only acknowledge this mail if you really organize help for me (e.g. the rescue-team, see details below). The first person acknowledging the distress alert will send a confirmation only to me, but not to any rescue service! If possible I will try to reconfirm my alert!

A competent person to contact in a distress-alert is Richard Hartley 
Please find out whether he already called the rescue team in El Chalten, before initiating a rescue yourself.

b) Planned Route:

This is more or less the route: http://www.altamontpatagonia.com/expe_icecap.html But before that, I will visit the viewpoints for Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy. These are two of my favorite places in the world! On my birthday (24.12.) I hope to see either Cerro Torre or Fitz Roy from one of the viewpoints!

And here are some impressions from the route:

http://forrestmccarthy.blogspot.ch/2013/12/cerro-fitzroy-circuit.html  (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PAGE)


The steeper section on the Marconi glacier to the right of the icefall is the critical section for me, as I will have 45kg on my back :-)

c) Weather forecast:

(i) Cerro Gorra Blanca, VERY IMPORTANT

http://www.yr.no/place/Chile/Magallanes_y_Ant%C3%A1rtica/Cerro_Gorra_Blanca/forecast.pdf

http://www.yr.no/place/Chile/Magallanes_y_Ant%C3%A1rtica/Cerro_Gorra_Blanca/

http://www.meteoblue.com/en_US/weather/forecast/week/-491904-731648_cl_42301

It is summer, but conditions could be like in Antarctica!

VERY ESSENTIAL: Richard will send me a weather forecast each day. It will look like this (250 characters is the maximum!):

TMAX7, TMIN-4, W40, G47,S0, SAT TMAX9, TMIN-7m W65, G85, S5 SUN: TMAX7, TMIN-5, W37, G55, S8 OK tomorrow, SAT light snow pm then later high winds, SUN a MON same. clearing TUE pm

Explanation of weather codes used:

T Temperature in deg C
W winds speed in km/hr
G max gusts expected in km/hr
S Precipitation as snow in mm

(ii) El Calafate

Please note that the weather on the Patagonian Icefield could be totally different from the weather in El Calafate!

http://www.weather-forecast.com/locations/El-Calafate/forecasts/latest

RECOMMENDED for a quick overview:

http://www.weather-forecast.com/maps/Argentina  (nice animation for whole Argentina)

d) Emergency (e.g. distress-alert): VERY IMPORTANT

Please contact the following persons:

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
Seccional Lago Viedma
(9301) El Chaltén
Provincia de Santa Cruz – República Argentina
54 (02962) 493-004

or

Gendarmería Nacional
Sección El Chaltén dependiente del Escuadrón 42 El Calafate
Teléfono: 54 (02962) 493140

If not reachable, then please ask Richard Hartley (richard@spanishhighs.co.uk), who speaks Spanish and knows other contact persons! He knows my route from his own expeditions!

Just to motivate you: I don`t count on this, but I install it as another safety net, as there are many bank holidays and lots of people might be busy over Christmas/New Year:  In case you are sure that I need some help then please alert the above named persons! In case it leads to a successful rescue, then you get a prize with value of 500EUR (you can choose between Chilean red wine or other specialities from Chile/Argentina). But only one prize and only if I survive without severe injuries!

And please let common sense rule and think forward-looking! For example: A suspect situation would be the following: At 10am local time I send the message “Attention! Crevasse area! Please watch closely!”, the weather is fine the whole day, but there won’t be any “follow-up”-message, that confirms passing the difficult area. Here the alarm bells should ring after 12-24 hours! :-)

e) Accident/Hospital insurance

Very important: In case of emergency, the following insurance company is responsible (via employer) and will pay for EVERYTHING (rescue, hospital etc.) For motivational reasons always tell the rescue team that they can charge the highest “Swiss”- rates! So time is not wasted and efforts will always be highly rewarded! The insurance company is very solvent and for them it is only a small case!

AXA Winterthur Insurance
Teufenerstr. 20
9001 St. Gallen

Tel.: 0041-(0)71/221 2121

For the AXA it is of course a nightmare being responsible for persons like me. But they can be happy that I am rather an exceptional case! So their business will survive :-)

Camera insurance: (not for every item, but overall 20.000 CHF will be refunded, if equipment for example gets lost in a crevasse, Sony camera is not insured, in case of robbery I´ll try everything to keep the Sony and of course to keep all memory cards!)

2. Interesting Links

a) Pictures from my last Patagonia trip 2005

A long time ago, I already hiked in the Patagonian mountains. I did the Torres del Paine Circuit pre-season in September, a half circle around Cerro Torre and a hike south of Ushaia. I met Antek from Poland (see below) on the Paine-Circuit!
Here are some impressions:

http://franktschoepe.magix.net/galery-1944743-6945928

(I only had a poor camera at that time! If you go there I also recommend Ushaia prison and Punta Arenas cemetery, and of course Chilean red wine)

(If you want to see really great pictures then go for “Best 40 winter and summer pics of Iceland”…)

b) Background material from Spanish Heights 

(HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PAGE)

http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/andes-expeditions.html

c) Beautiful pictures 

Google search: “Patagonia Pictures” and click on “Pictures” or “Bilder”. Here you already get a great selection!

d) Impressive, professional mountaineering pictures (also from the Patagonian icefield)

http://www.markwestmanimages.com/Climbing-Photography-Database/Patagonia-Climbing/Patagonia-Climbing

(HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PAGE)
 
3. Plan

a) Route

I plan to start in El Chalten hiking ant-clockwise around Cerro Torre via Marconi Glacier and Paso del Viento (wind pass, quite clear why this is the name). I plan 10-12 days for the whole circuit. I will travel quite heavy, which makes the tour very demanding! I start with 3-4 easy days and will stay at the viewpoints for Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy. These are fantastic places in good weather and I plan to spend their my birthday on 24.12. (To decide! If weather forecast is excellent, I might start as fast as possible with the Marconi Glacier and go to the viewpoints afterwards) You will find this out by studying my progress and the daily blog on my homepage!

b) Thoughts on Tactics

OK, it is a very difficult hike, even for me! Solo, with 45kg backpack, without sledge,  several crevasse areas expected, the likelihood of having very poor weather and also minor problems with my Achilles heels. On the other hand: my equipment is one of the best ever and I am a very experienced hiker!

I have the following thoughts: If I am lucky there will be footprints from other climbers or another group up to the Marconi pass! But I don’t count on this! The access to the ice field will be the most difficult section for me as of hidden crevasses!

In poor weather I will stay in my tent or even better in one of the shelters on the Patagonian ice field. With an advantageous weather forecast for 2-3 days I will try to go across the Patagonian ice field till Paso del Viento as fast as possible. With an even better weather forecast I will spend more time on the ice field.

Once I reach the ice field it will be rather unlikely that I will return via Marconi Glacier, as this seems to be the most difficult part. So there would be no way of return, if I reached the Patagonian ice field. I will have food for about 10 days and could easily survive for 20 days, in case of emergency!

4. Equipment

If you look for really high-qualitative outdoor equipment, then you can regard the following list as high-quality, buying recommendations! Usually I go for the best equipment that is available on the market! And most of the equipment below is even tested in very extreme situations!

a) Basic, essential equipment: 

Bergans Powerframe 130l backpack 5kg (quite heavy, but very impressive size)
http://www.nordiclifeuk.co.uk/products/accessories/145/554/accessories/P-bergans-powerframe-130-l-rucksack

Helsport 2-person Fjellheimen Double tent (Hmm, not stormproof, but quite solid, I have to build thick snowwalls as wind protection), 2.5kg

Dawn sleeping bag: Sea to Summit APIII (850g dawn) 1.7kg
http://www.seatosummit.com.au/products/alpine-series/1017-2/

Mattress Exped Synmat 0.5kg

b) Technical Equipment

Yellowbrick Satellite Messenger (in combination with Ipad Mini) 0.4kg

Suunto Ambit 2 Watch (with GPS, 21 waypoints of the planned route are already saved)
Power Monkey Extreme Solar Gadget 0.7kg (for loading the Suunto watch and iPad Mini, important to have the extreme version)

Ipad Mini 0.3kg

Flashlight 0.2kg

2 paper maps
Lots of adapters and batteries! Repair kits for backpack/snowshoes/tent!

c) Climbing/Hiking/Clothes

Carbon Shovel, lightest (0.25kg!) and unfortunately most expensive :-(   http://www.atkrace.it/eng/carbon-shovel.html

Iceaxe Corsa Nanotech 50cm 0.25kg (very light, NEW!!!)
Crampons Grivel Air Tech – New Classic + 2 long 190mm bars as reserve (NEW!!!) 1kg 

http://www.transa.ch/de/produkte/hartwaren-hochalpin/air-tech—new-classic_064091-007001#
Hiking poles 0.6kg

Warm winter gear, Dawn vest, several gloves and winter caps
Rain gear, Mammut Extreme Jacket, Rain trousers, Gaitors

Lundhags High Synchro boots (my favorite brand and favorite model from Lundhags)  2kg
http://www.lundhags.se/product-2/16326/syncro_high

Expedition dawn gloves Rab III Size L (180EUR!)

Sunglasses, Glacier googles, Winter googles (Alpine Challenge 2.0, only for mist, fog)
15m rope (3mm) (Why rope? In difficult situations I can put my backpack on the rope! Imagine I fall into a crevasse and I am not injured. How do I get rid of the backpack then? :-) )

Snowshoes MSR Denali 1.8kg (Final decision will be made right before the hike!)

d) Photography 

Frank: “in sum quite heavy :-(  But what shall I do?”

All camera equipment below is highly recommended! I am a very happy owner of those bodies and lenses!

Camera 1: Canon 5D MIII 1kg (excellent allround-camera)
Lenses: 21mm 2.8 Zeiss 0.8kg, 24-70mm 2.8 Canon 0.8kg,  50mm Canon 1.4 0.25kg (“luxury”, but it is lightweight), 70-200mm 2.8 Canon 1.5kg, 300mm 2.8 Canon (!!!) 2.8kg (most expensive item on journey: 6000EUR)
1.4 Teleconverter 0.2kg, 2.0 Teleconverter 0.3kg, 8 accus 0.65kg, 4x64GB CF-Card, GPS (also as backup to Suunto watch)

(To decide: 100mm Zeiss 0.7kg Tend to say NO, as too heavy!)

Camera 2: Sony A7R 0.5kg (fantastic, brand-new, lightweight full frame camera without mirror)

Lens: 35mm 2.8 Zeiss 0.25kg

Metabones-Adapter to use Canon lenses 0.3kg, 6 accus 0.4kg, 4x64GB SD-Card

Comment: The main problem with this camera is the low accu runtime. With each accu only 300 pictures are possible. Otherwise a fantastic camera, that I can highly recommend! You only need patience to get all lenses…

Gorillapod Focus with Joby Ball Head X 0.8kg (instead of tripod to save some weight)

e) Other equipment

Food for 10-12 days (1kg Müsli, 10 warm outdoor meals, Mousse au chocolat, chocolade bars!!!)
“in sum very heavy :-( ”   0.75kg per day –> 8-10kg? 
Cooking gear, 2 bottles of gas 0.9kg

First Aid Set (some painkillers, plaster, Hansaplast)

5. Views/Infos from other persons

a) Pablo Cottescu, Mountain Guide, Bariloche 

(Frank: “Some information, typical “wise” view I heard several times from the very risk-averse Swiss mountain guides! But for me those are “anti-heroes”, even if they could be right in one of thousand cases”)

http://www.altamontpatagonia.com/
Hi Frank,
sorry for the delay in answering. I have been a little busy lately.
According to your Name and your nationality y guess we can continue our mail exchange in German.

Also zu deinen Fragen: vom Gelände her gibt es eine Steilstufe (bis zu 30 Grad unterhalb ein paar Seracs) vor dem Paso Marconi wo man auch etwas auf Felsen laufen muss. Diese ist aber meistens nicht sehr schwer zu überwinden. Natürlich ist eigentlich das Wetter und die entsprechende Taktik das haupt Thema im Inlandeis. Auf jeden Fall ist es von Vorteil so leicht wie möglich zu laufen und ich kann mir nicht vorstellen wieso es ein so schweren Rucksack sein muss (45 Kg!).
Schneeschuhe garantieren auf keinen Fall ein sicheres gehen auf einem Verschneitem Gletscher und es gibt selbstverständlich verschneite Spalten. Man läuft lange über das Nährbecken vom Glaciar Viedma und da gibt es immer Spalten. Mehr oder weniger sichtbar. Es gibt zwar einen freiwiligen Retungsdienst aber meistens ist es für so einen Fall zu spät. Für ein Spalltensturz auf jeden Fall. Bis die Rettung an Ort gelangt vergeht meistens ein Tag. (comment Frank: “I will survive longer than 24h!!! So please don´t give up too early and keep on rescuing…”) Es gibt kein Hubschrauber in El Chaltén und dies wäre mit dem Wetter auch keine Garantie.
Ehrlich gesagt glaube ich kaum dass die Rettungswacht auf einen Rettungsruf von einem Spot Messenger losläuft weil jemand der Meinung ist er muss aleine im Inlandeis rumlaufen… In diesem Fall wäre ein Satelitentelefon besser aber auch keine Garantie.
Man findet sicherlich genügend andere Intresenten in Chaltén mit denen man so eine Tour gemeinsam unternehmen kann. Natürlich gibt es auch Agenturen, wie auch unsere und andere die diese Tour als geführte Tour anbieten. Sollte dass aber nicht dein Wunsch sein dann rate ich auf jeden Fall dich mit jemandem zusammen zu tun um diese Tour zu unternehmen.

Viele Grüsse aus Bariloche
Pablo Cottescu

b) Bernd Looft, Abenteurer, Hamburg

 (Frank: “helpful, Bernd is a Hardcore-Trekker, hiking with 45kg in very difficult terrain. He hiked an even more difficult route on the Patagonian Icefield solo in 1996 (notably without any Satellite messenger and without GPS!!!).

http://www.spectacular-treks.magix.net/alle-alben  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PAGE

Moin Frank,
Meine Tour habe ich Anfang Februar 1996 gemacht.
Beim Marconi Gletscher Aufstieg ging´s auf halber Höhe durch eine Spaltenzone, musste hier im Zickzack um die Spalten rumwandern. 3h30 für den Aufstieg zum Pass, hab dort oben beim Pass zwei Nächte im Sturm gecampt. Vom Marconi Pass bin ich mittig über den Gletscher und nicht am Rand entlang. Bin auf einer ziemlich direkten Route auf den Nunatak Viedma zugewandert. Den ersten halben Tag ab Marconi Pass war es flach und spaltenfrei durch Schnee. Später am Nachmittag war das Gelände mit dünnen Spalten durchzogen über die man noch leicht wandern konnte. Einige Kilometer weiter wurde das Gelände zerfurchter und schwieriger, eine gefährliche Spaltenzone mit tiefen und breiten Spalten über die man nicht mehr springen konnte. Musste große Umwege im Zickzack um die Spalten machen, kam langsam voran. Dann wurde es wieder einfacher auf zerfurchter Eisfläche über den Hauptgletscherstrom des Viedma Glaciers. Zwei bis drei Kilometer vor dem Nunatak Viedma wurde das Gelände derart zerklüftet mit spitzen steilen Eishügeln und tiefen breiten Spalten überall. Ein Weiterkommen schien hier nicht mehr möglich, hatte mich total festgelaufen, musste wieder umkehren und versuchen im großen Bogen darumlaufen. Dauerte ne ganze Weile bis ich da wieder rausgefunden habe.

Es muss natürlich auch bedacht werden daß sich Gletscher ständig ändern und daß die Spaltenverhältnisse heute anders sind als 1996.

Ja ich bin sicher, nicht überall aber ich bin schon durch einige üble Spaltenzonen gekommen. Das siehst du ja auch auf meinen Fotos.

http://www.spectacular-treks.magix.net/alle-alben/!/oa/3217439/ (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PAGE)

Ich war auch im Februar dort, bin übers Inlandeis. Wie nah ich am Cerro Torre war siehst du ja auf den Bildern. Aber wenn du über den Paso del Viento gehts, das ist ja eine andere Route wie meine.

Da musst du aber verdammt vorsichtig sein wegen den Spalten. Ich bin da ja auch mal rumgewandert (via Rio Electrico und Paso Marconi) dann aber nicht über den Paso del Viento sondern noch weitergewandert und über den Upsala Glaciar zum Lago Argentio runtergestiegen. War ne Hammertour:-)

c) Richard Hartley, Mountain Guide, Sierra Nevada, Spain

 (Frank: “extremely helpful information”, Richard supported me also with maps, GPS-coordinates and other advise, will send me the weather forecast 2 times a day!!! A million thanks for this!)

                           http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/    (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PAGE)

Hi Frank
Thanks for your enquiry. Yes, of course we are willing to help and give you as much information as you wish.
Some points to help you

  • Entry onto lower Marconi glacier from Laguna Marconi changes year to year. We have always found the entry to be ok and easy to avoid crevasses
  • Take care when going through the Serac fall when climbing up the steep section of the glacier. How dangerous this is will depend on how much old snow overlays the crevasses. If they are well open it will be ok. Keep to the track, which should be well defined by others.
  • After the steep section there are some small crevasses leading up to Paso Marconi, keep to the center of the pass and don’t be tempted to cut off the corner too close to the Cerro Marconi Norte.
  • Not much danger on the icecap itself. Flat and even. I never felt there was much danger here (apart from normal winds, bad weather etc!)
  • Heading south past Cirque de los Altares look out for a slight change of slope which signifies the start of the exit to Laguna de Esquis. Keep to the left here as there are some very big crevasses in the center of the icefield. Not an easy exit in mist!
  • I would take ski glasses and also goggles for bad weather
  • A shovel is essential!
  • I would personally take a lightweight ice axe for use in the difficult crevassed areas in case I fell in. Otherwise how else am I going to get out?
  • If you can practice putting up your tent solo in winds. Not an easy thing to do in high winds on your own. Your tent is your lifeline. You cannot lose it!
  • Satellite communications – in my opinion you need this. Essential. Not only to help in case of emergency but also to receive weather updates. If you are sat in a safe position at La Playita waiting for the weather to clear you cannot go up to Paso Marconi in high winds. it is too difficult! You need to be sure that you have a at least a couple of days good weather to get established on the icecap itself. We had a text message twice a day sending us the next 5 days weather. Very useful

Links from our own tours there

http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/patagonia-icefield-expedition.php    (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PAGES)

2011 video http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/reports/2011/12/video-from-our-patagonian-icecap-expedition-2011/

Snow wall construction http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/reports/2011/10/best-snow-wall-construction-eliminate-drifting-leeward-side/

Snowblindness http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/reports/2011/11/debilitating-effects-of-snowblindness-personal-experience/

2010 trip report http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/reports/2010/12/surviving-patagonia-2010/ and http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/reports/2010/12/the-climax-is-the-coming-back-from-a-dangerous-place/

2006 trip report http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/reports/2009/04/patagonia-icefield-expedition-diary/

If you want us to help send you updated weather reports during your trip we would be glad to assist. We have the weather for Paso Marconi and can let you know whats coming in.

I hope it goes ok and you have a great experience. I’m sure you will. We have been 3 times. Once we got our asses kicked and once we had amazing views and light winds on the icecap. You never know what you will get, which is one of the reasons we love it!

Regards
Richard

Hi Frank

We had a Spot Messenger in 2010. Didn’t work very well in Patagonia! It’s in a grey area of the map. Most of the time we had no signal. Last time we used a Yellowbrick Tracker. This uses the Iridium worldwide GPS system. Works fantastic (also in Kamchatka where we went in April).

See http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/reports/2011/12/report-on-yellowbrick-tracking-system-testing-on-southern-patagonian-icecap/

Also you will need a system to receive weather information!

Crevasses – most of the time it is obvious. There should be a trail across the ice and up the serac fall. Having said that I did fall into 2 or 3 small crevasses and got stuck in the top by my backpack. This was our own fault as we had left the standard route to make what we thought was an easier looking way. Moral of the story – stay to tracks where others have gone before.

Did I feel unsafe? No because we were roped up. Solo? Not sure. You will just have to take great care. If it was me I would maybe follow behind another party up through the serac fall area. The icecap i would be ok solo.

Our packs were 25kg each but we did have 2 persons sharing. Over 30kg very difficult. Especially as the route on and off of the glacier is not that easy either. Loose rocks and moraine
Yes the ascent to Marconi pass is the hardest part of the route. I have some maps I produced on A4 size which I laminated and used on the icecap. Do you want copies sending to you? Via Dropbox?
WE TOOK SNOWSHOES EACH TIME. ONE YEAR WE TOOK A SLEDGE BUT THIS WAS VERY AWKWARD. IT ACTED AS A WINDSAIL AND MADE GOING UPHILL DIFFICULT. WE LEFT IT ON THE ICECAP!
Richard

d) Antek, Poland

Mountain and kayaking guide (very helpful advice, I met him in September 2005 on the Torres del Paine circuit, I would even partner with him on the ice field, as he is even more experienced than me in climbing and hiking)

On Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBNm62_cgsI  (RECOMMENDED VIDEO)

Hi Frank!

well, it is quite technical route. the glacier marconi is changing all the time. There is a rocky part you have to climb. A bit complicated. Then there are many crevases in marconi pass and ice field. I would recomend you to go there with someone tied with rope. you should leave ice field in glacier viedma. paso del viento or paso huemul. I have been there around 10 times. I know this place very well. glacier marconi shrinked and there is a rocky part you have to climb. Later I will send you more info as i have a job to do now. Find partner and you reduce risk to minimum. I am not saying it is not possible. just it is risky. There are a lot of crevasses. Every year conditions are worst… 

I saw puma once! :-)

Yes i am living in patagonia since we met…I am guiding am people – kayaking, climbing and ice field travers. Thats why i know this place and conditions! Clockwise or Counterclockwise? From marconi to paso del viento. Classic route. Iceaxe and crampons? Iceaxe it is not necesery. crampons yes. If you go in december maybe you need snowshoes. get info about snow conditions on ice field in chalten in guardaparque when you arrive. Just take poles and pray…

Shovel and saw better to build protection, but in Altares you will find stones to build wall and in Marconi you can stay in shelter Soto.
Something with 800g of down is enough to sleep well and warm. You can use ski glasses if you fell more comfortable but it is not necessary. There where some accidents, mostly with stormy days and hypothermia. Crevases are dangerous for single person. Just you need to be very careful in paso Marconi area. There are a lot of crevasses. There is no rescue team in chalten. If something happened, usually climbers go to help. The best option if you give guardaparque address as a contact in emergency case. With weather there is lottery!!

You can have fantastic 10 days or fucking scary stormy days!

e) Volker, Germany

 (he hiked the tour in Nov 2013 and gave me valuable information and also most recent pictures of the most difficult section of the Marconi glacier)
Hallo Frank,
die Spaltensituation war bei mir noch gut (d h. alles fest mit Schnee verschlossen). Das kann aber Ende Dec schon anders sein. Du solltest daher vor Ort aktuelle Infos einholen.

Warum 45kg? Wie erfahren bist Du mit so einem Gewicht in Klasse 3 (Scrambling) Terrain? Nur fuer die Fitz Roy Runde reichen 20-25kg locker. Den Rest evtl. im Hostel deponieren? Steigeisen wuerde ich mitnehmen, da Ende Dec der Aufstieg vielleicht hartes Eis beinhaltet. Dann vor Ort fragen und Eisen ggf im Hostel lassen. Wir waren jedenfalls alle mit Steigeisen unterwegs und froh darueber. Hindernisse: Spaltenrisiko beim Aufstieg zur Gorra Blanca Huette/Marconi Pass sowie beim Verlassen des Eises. Ende Dec vielleicht auch auf dem Eis. Scrambling Klasse 3. Beim Aufstieg zum Marconi rechts halten, da links staendig Seracs herabfallen. Route nicht ganz leicht beim Verlassen des Eises/in den Moraenen zu finden. Extrem starker Wind (120km/h) kann steile Passagen (Marconi Pass, Huemul Pass, evt Wind Pass) zu gefaehrlich machen – dann muss man abwarten.
Schwierigkeit: mehr als normales Trekking, aber weniger als eine richtig harte Expedition.


Ich wuerde das nur solo machen, wenn Du die Erfahrung eines Mountainguides bzw die von Bernd hast oder einer Spur/Gruppe folgen kannst.
VG
Volker

Im Prinzip ist rechts halten richtig (wenn sich der Gletscher bzw. die Eisfallsituation nicht bis Ende Dec. ändert). Leider zeigt das Foto den Weg nicht so gut. Ja. Man steigt teilweise über den Fels und verlässt das Schnee-/Eisfeld.

Die Beschreibung von Forrest McCarthy in seinem Blog hast Du sicher gelesen. Hier siehst Du die Route etwas besser:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-r7O9i3I4uLI/Up9AO2VD3nI/AAAAAAAAD3g/tugHEbjDhNY/s1600/DSCN3111.jpg

(HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PAGE)

Schnee gab es auf dem Eis mehr als genug. Einmal auch 10-15cm Neuschnee nach Verlassen des Eises. Der taute aber relativ schnell wieder. Habe meine Tour ab dem 27.11 gemacht.

6. Frank´s Travel plan 2014 (last update 1.12.2013)

1.)   21.12.2014 bis 12.1 Patagonien (already booked flight, 1 night in hotel Cumbres Nevadas)

2.)   22.2.2014-16.3.2014 Costa Rica (already booked flight) (Ideas: Hike Cerro Chirripó (3820m), Hike “Coast to Coast”, National Park Rincon de La Vieja and another different area…)

For this easier tour in Costa Rica I have this active partner ad: Wanted: attractive female 25-35y, sportive with some Spanish knowledge) Interested? Then contact Frank and we find out, whether we fit together!

3.)  12.4-27.4 (Kingdom Mustang/Nepal  Multi-Day-Ultra-Run) http://mustangtrailrace.com/ (relatively easy)

4.)  29.5-1.6  Stockholm-Marathon (Goal: Sub 3h, as always) http://www.marathon.se/ (easy, but difficult to finish below 3h)

5.)  12.7-27.7 Norway/Hardangervidda 155km Ultra-Run: http://www.xreid.com/  (HIGHEST Difficulty)

Alternative 5b.)  11.7-20.7.2014 (Iceland, Laugavegur-Run and Hike afterwards)
http://marathon.is/ultramarathon (average difficulty, in case I am not fit enough for Norway)

6.) 01.09-21.09.2014 (Bolivia/Peru: Around Alpamayo (5947m), Inka-Trail, Uyuni Salt Lake)

7.) 08.11-23.11 Nepal Manaslu-Multi-Day-Ultra-Run http://manaslutrailrace.org/ (difficult run, as of high altitude)

Alternative 7b.)  18.10-31.10.2014 (La Reunion) Alternative to Nepal, if I am in great physical shape! Decision in July!
http://www.grandraid-reunion.com/?lang=en (HIGHEST Difficulty)

7. Appendix: Predefined messages for Yellowbrick Satellite Messenger

$xx:xx:xx Preset message file$


<0 Dont send messages, PLEASE! Few credits left!><><>
<1 Mistake! Please ignore my last message! Wrong content><><>
<2 Yes><><>
<3 No><><>
<4 OK><><>
<5 All fine!><><>
<6 Please confirm><><>
<7 No problem><><>
<8 Reached refuge or shelter><><>
<9 Reached summit/pass><><>
<10 Will set up camp here! ><><>
<11 Richard! Send Weather, please!><><>
<12 Plan to go tomorrow. Hope the weather is O.K.?><><>
<13 Please confirm, if rescue team is informed!><><>
<14 I am staying and waiting here!><><>
<15 Crevasse area! Please watch closely!><><>
<16 Passed Crevasse area! Puuh! :-)><><>
<17 Obstacle coming! Please monitor closely!><><>
<18 River crossing. Please watch!><><>
<19 River crossed! All fine!><><>
<20 I will camp here! Building snow wall!><><>
<21 I met a group of climbers/hikers! ><><>
<22 Back Problems! But I will continue><><>
<23 Feet Problems! But I will continue><><>
<24 Very difficult, steep climbing section! Please watch!><><>
<25 Made it over this difficult section! Should be easier now!><><>
<26 Send stories! Entertainment! Need motivation! 250 Characters!><><>
<27 Very good ice/snow conditions currently><><>
<28 Difficult ice/snow condition here. Not much progress><><>
<29 Back in civilization. All is fine!><><>
<30 Injured Feet! SOS.Emergency Alert.><><>
<31 Illness! SOS.Emergency Alert.><><>
<32 SOS.Emergency Alert.><><>
<33 Lost Backpack! SOS.Emergency Alert.><><>
<34 Fall into Crevasse! SOS.Emergency Alert.><><>
<35 SOS Helicopter needed!><><>
<36 Numb feet! Frostbite? SOS Emergency Alert.><><>
<37 Help needed immediately!SOS Emergency Alert!><><>
<37 Broken leg! SOS Emergency Alert!><><>
<39 Fall into Crevasse! Managed to get out! :-)><><>
<40 Fantastic, superb scenery! I am very impressed!><><>
<41 Very poor weather! Extreme Wind from the front!><><>
<42 Very poor weather! Fog! Whiteout><><>
<43 Very poor weather! Much Snow!><><>
<44 Excellent weather! Very sunny! Aweseome! Nice pictures><><>
<45 Food for 3 days left><><>
<46 Food for 5 days left ><><>
<47 No food left. But I am still OK><><>
<48 Feeling great :-)><><>
<49 Feeling still good :-)><><>
<50 Feeling very miserable and exhausted :-(><><>
<51 Very Hungry! Pizza Service? Beer? Red wine? I pay 100EUR! :-)><><>
<52 Thanks! Rescue team is informed!><><>
<53 Thanks! It has worked!><><>
<54 Million Thanks!><><>
<55 Greetings from the Patagonian Icefield!><><>
<56 Merry Christmas from a very remote place!!! :-)><><>
<57 Happy New Year! All the best to you! No fireworks here! ><><>
<58 Strong wind and snow in my face! ><><>
<59 I am struggling! Have some problems. ><><>
<60 I need some motivation!><><>
<61 I stay another night in shelter. Better weather needed.. ><><>
<62 I stay another night in tent. Better weather needed ><><>
<63 Fantastic day for photography! Superb views! I love this ><><>
<64 Beautiful clouds! Beautiful mountains><><>
<65 View to Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy! :-)><><>
<66 WOW! View to Cerro Torre! I love this mountain!><><>
<67 Cerro Torre erroT orreC CerroT orre Cerro Torre><><>
<68 I feel quite save in this area!><><>
<69 I don’t feel so safe in this area!><><>
<70 There could be hidden crevasses here!><><>
<71 Many thanks! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)><><>
<72 WOW :-) Cerro Torre free of clouds :-) WOW ><><>
<73 WOW :-) Fitz Roy free of clouds :-) WOW  ><><>
<74 Only 50 characters please! ><><>
<75 10cm snow here! ><><>
<76 20cm snow here!><><>
<77 30cm snow here!><><>
<78 50cm snow here! Quite exhausting ><><>
<79 I decided to return from here! ><><>
<80 Very nice scenery here! Had a photo stop! ><><>
<81 No people around! Very lonely here! ><><>
<82 I feel tired! Not much progress!><><>
<83 Heavy wind from the front! Tough day! ><><>
<84 I am freezing! Wind and Snow! ><><>
<85 It is very foggy. Problems to see contours ><><>
<86 I feel exhausted! Heavy backpack><><>
<87 Area does not look safe! Change direction! ><><>
<88 Shelter! I am having a break! ><><>
<89 Endless view! Icefield is impressive! Like Antarctica!><><>
<90 Feeling like in Antarctica!><><>
<91 Progress is extremely slow ><><>
<92 Progress is quite slow! ><><>
<93 Achilles heel is making problems!><><>
<94 Weather is better than expected. Quite nice!><><>
<95 Need protection! Very windy here!><><>
<96 Greetings from superb Patagonian Icefield ><><>
<97 Change plan! Will try different route from here! ><><>
<98 Please watch me carefully. Difficult section><><>
<99 All O.K. Passed the difficult section!><><>

0

Spanish Highs joins Berghaus team to make ski descents in Kamchatka

During April 2013, members of the Spanish Highs team joined a Berghaus sponsored expedition led Berghaus athlete, Julia Pickering, attempting to make the first ski and snowboard climb and descent of the highest active volcano in Kamchatka, Klyutchevskoy Sopka (4750m).

Richard Hartley skies into a surreal volcanic landscape

Richard Hartley skies into a surreal volcanic landscape

Richard Hartley and Kiersten Rowland of Spanish Highs, Sierra Nevada were invited to join this Berghaus sponsored trip because of their vast mountaineering and expedition experience gained from many years in the UK, Alps and on the Patagonian Icecap.

Team members met in Moscow on 7th April and headed east on the 9 hour flight to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy in Kamchatka. There we met up in the city of Yelizovo with Martha Madsen of Explore Kamchatka who were our in-country organisers

Note re our gear and equipment – we were fully kitted out with top notch Berghaus clothing. As you would expect this worked superbly and kept us well protected from the savage elements.

Many thanks to Berghaus and Julia Pickering for the opportunity to join the trip! Photographer Martin Hartley and Warwick Pickering made superb team mates and not forgetting the superb guiding of Igor Sesterov and the cooking/laughing skills of Elena Bulatova!

Short summary

  • A tiring 11 hour 4WD drive followed through the taiga northwards to the town of Klyuchi on the banks of the Kamchatka river
  • An attempt to reach base camp via snowmobile was aborted due to poor visibility and high winds
  • Advance base camp established in bad weather on the high col (2700m) between Klyutchevskoy Sopka and Ushkovsy
  • Ski across the plateau in good weather to establish base camp at 2750m below the col between Klyutchevskoy Sopka and Kamen
  • Acclimatisation trip to 3300m to the col between Klyutchevskoy Sopka and Kamen. Weather worsening during the day
  • 6 days bad weather. High winds at altitude. Very cold (-20+).  Tent bound. Days spent reinforcing snow walls and clothing product shoots
  • Ferocious winds of over 120km/hr containing volcanic rock destroy a tent and damage others
  • In a short break from the bad weather we make an escape via ski and snowmobile back to Klyuchi
Skiing up below Kamen

Skiing up below Kamen

We returned to Yelizovo where we had a day on the local ski pistes followed by a 2 day ascent of Avachinsky volcano (2741m). A return to Moscow was made on 29th April.

We were blighted by incredibly bad weather, high winds and very cold temperatures for the time of year.   Having said that the whole trip was a marvellous and unforgettable experience in the Kamchatka wilderness.

As Julia Pickering said on her Twitter account

Back in civilisation after 100 mph plus wind/snow/volcanic rock storm tore our camp apart. With more storms forecast ,we had no option but to take v small weather window and get out. V disappointed to have not achieved our objective but team safety was primary concern. We still had an epic adventure and she’ll still be there next year and will hopefully be a bit less angry.


 

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