First Complete North to South Crossing of the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap CHILE.
"The Impossible Expedition".
In 98 days of the worst weather condition available worldwide, a 4 mens group from Chile, did the First full crossing of the 400 kilometers in the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap.
More the 30 earlier expedition failed in do the same, to complete a north to south man-hauled sledge trip. From October 98 to Jannuary 99 we faced this task, and did it.
In the middle of the ice cap, lies the infamous Reichert Fall, a 900 meters ice fall like kumbu in Everest but without porters or sherpas, and in 30 days we crossed this geographic problem, first going down 900 meters in a caos of seracs and then keep going to south climbing to a new summit, the East Bastion, 2300 meters, to face the worst, a 600 meters vertical face.
The Reichert Fall was never crossed, so remains a mistery, only a Spanish team crossed bypassed this area by helicopter and claimed to be a impossible task. In Jannuary 10th, we started the longest and dangerous rappel of our lives, in 18 hours we did it and also our 80 kilograms sledges.
From the other side of the Falla, we keep going, in the shadows of the starvation, since we completed 30 days at half food ration , loosing more the 10 kilos each. Al last we succed and reached the end of the Balmaceda Glacier, 98 days later, much weaker, a lot more exhausted, but indeed, very happy and gratefull of our luck, and our will to do that.
3 Years Hunting a Dream
Yes , 3 years looking for a dream. First in 1994 after complete a route in Fitz-Roy mountain, I get a invitation to joint the German expedition Sea, Ice & Mountains, under the leadership of the best Europe Explorer Arved Fuch, so in 1995 we completed only 250 km.of the North to South crossing and finished earlier in the Peel Fiord.
Late in 1996 I raised the money and support to attemt a new expedition, formend only by Chileans, so we went with Rodrigo Fica and Jorge Crossley, but we run the same bad luck and again we exit the Ice Cap in the Peel Fiord.
At last, after 2 years of training, a 6 month expedition in the Arctic , Spitsbergen and Greenland, we formed together with Rodrigo Fica, my partner in all, a new proyect, The Transpatagonian Expedition and builded a better and stronger team of four friends and we did it.
In 98 days od effort, Rodrigo Fica, Jose Pedro Montt, Mauricio Rojas and Pablo Besser as a Leader of the expedition, we crossed from the Jorge Montt Glacier in the North to the Balmaceda Glaciar in the South, in a Half-Unsupported way the last ice cap in the world to be crossed by his longer axis.
Always the first expedition or ascent set a precedent in history, we did in 98 days, we use radios and the best of actuall tecnology but we keep our rule to no contact, not external help, and only skis and sledge like transport.We planned to use a cache, or depot, leaved in the area of the Reichert Fall, set there for us in a earlier trip. For ours resources and performance, this compromise was important, sure next generations will do better.
The future sure will bring new expedition in this area, still almost untouched by man, mainly by his isolation, lack of information or reliable maps, this page will try to bring some light in this darkness, sure better climbers will do the cross in a faster or better way....
But they never will be the First.....
Oficial Report in the American Alpine Journal 2000
Hielo Patagonico Sur, First Complete North to South Traverse.
Mostly unknown territory, the Hielo Patagonico Sur, 400 kilometers long by 80 kilometers wide, is the third-biggest ice plateau in the world. Its weather also is the worst in the world and in the middle lies the infamous Reichert Fault.
Many have tried to cross it from north to south, but all met failure due to the complex logistic, the extreme conditions and the commitment of walking 400 lonely kilometers.
The most noteworthy attempts have been that of the Spanish team in 1992 and Arved Fuchs et al (German) in 1995. In 1996, Pablo Besser and I made an unsupported attempt with Jorge Crossley (Chile) but failed due to inexperience. After climbing down the Reichert Fault, we left the Ice after 54 expedition days.
On October 24, 1998, Pablo Besser (expedition leader), Mauricio Rojas, Jose Pedro Montt and I stood at the starting point of the Ice Cap, the Jorge Montt Glacier. Without mechanical help or human contact, we began an almost-unsupported expedition (we had one cache in me middle left there by us) walking day by day, carrying 100 kilos each, combating humidity, crevasses, storms, wind and a stark landscape.
Fifty days later we arrived at the Reichert Fault, the most important obstacle in the traverse. We down-climbed to the bottom of the Fault, took our loads in the cache and made the first (and obligatory) ascent of East Bastion, climbing it because it stood in our way. Near the summit, we spent nine terrible days in a snow cave waiting for good weather. Finally we were able to rappel 620 meters (150 overhanging)down the virgin south face.
We were the first humans to cross the Reichert Fault, which in itself took 30 days.
Low on food rations and really weak, we walked the last 160 kilometers across broken glaciers in 21 days to finish on January 30, 1999, at Seno Ultima Esperanza, the Pacific Ocean, after 98 days on the Ice Cap, finishing the First Complete Crossing of the Patagonian Ice Cap.
RODRIGO FICA PEREZ, Chile
Club Aleman Andino
American Alpine Journal, Volume 42, Issue 74. Number 2000.
Page 269, 270.
Pablo Besser e-mail: