Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Below are some paired up photos of each of us in our element- or out of it. You decide:
Medig going for that Nat Geo cover, also showing a "mixed climb" that formed on his face
Ogle looking particularly gnarly and cool (really he was just digging a hole so he could squat to pee).
Wagner, pulling the "full Rupert"
They say size doesn't matter... but after five weeks of sharing a small tent with two large men (Dean and Kari are both over 6', what were you thinking?) you come to appreciate that a sense of scale can be misleading.
Basically there's no room in the tent. And the manly code dictates that you NEVER touch the guy beside you, under any circumstance. If you happen to brush against someone's leg you must give the obligatory gruff apology, as if you were cracking your knuckles or scratching your balls and you accidentally touched your ski partner. Faux pas!
Anyway, we're talking about the mountains here. It was outside the tent where the real sense of scale became distorted. Check out these shots of this one peak- doesn't even have a name- that rises about 1800m above the Marinelli Glacier. The first shot is the zoom in on the upper part and the second shot shows the whole meal deal. The third image shows the "Great White Chute" to the right of the frame, which is to the right of the aforementioned peak. The Chute doesn't seem like much but it took an entire day to descend. And the whole time we managed to do it without touching eachother!
Now we can take a look at the lower Marinelli Glacier, nice and flat on the map. First shot is the Marinelli as seen from Dean's perspective near the top of the Great White Chute. Not flat. And it continues for ten kilometers. Second shot is us on the Marinelli Glacier a day later in a classic "get me the hell out of here" situation on Dean's birthday. He led the entire day and was quoted as saying "I don't know, this is kinda fun."
Incidentally, a cool feature of this glacier is how it pushes up against the nunatak (basically a mountain unto itself) at the middle top left of the second photo (the other part of the glacier flows off to the top right). The seracs push up about 400m vertical against the mountain-therefore we had to climb up to get down the glacier. Okay I'm not a glaciologist, just a skier.
Friday, November 28, 2008
We made it back in one piece a couple of days ago and have been keeping firm ground beneath our feet and escaping the elements in Hotel Hain (until last night when part of the roof blew off). Thanks for your interest. We’ll try to post some photos and video as soon as possible- here is one clip that might get your attention. Anyway, in hopes of recovering some of the costs from the six hour zodiac ride out, we’ll probably hold off on posting our “best of” on the blog and save them to sell to Advil, Canadian Tire, and other lucrative outlets. Also, we’d rather be checking out different parts of Chile and Argentina in the couple of remaining weeks we have, rather than sitting at the computer.
Last night we did a slide show for about twenty local folks, many of whom were involved in helping us out, all of whom feel like old friends. If you ever need a connection down in Punta Arenas, we have it… We tried to convey the reality to them that we are just three guys who like the mountains- not some crazy “Everest is next” crew. I think they finally got that impression when they saw Kari’s tent photo exposé.
So yes, we spent a lot of time in the tent on this trip. The newspapers in Punta Arenas, which incidentally is in the rainshadow of the Darwin Range, said that there hadn’t been a period of bad weather like this since 1982, and people couldn’t walk to work because the rain was hitting them sideways for three weeks. Seems reasonably plausible to me, considering that during the first 25 days of our trip we tallied the total hours of sun to be eight, mostly behind some growing lenticular clouds. We then received two days of good weather, arriving in an untimely fashion however because we had to descend a 4000’ north-facing (sun-exposed) serac-laden chute the first day. We cleared that but then had to decide whether or not to continue with the ten or so days of food remaining (at a stretch). The good decision was to pull out, because the blog probably would have never been updated, ever. As it was, it took us a week just to get to a pick-up spot. It’s likely that we’d have needed a week at least of pure blue days just to get around the crux, if it was at all possible given the steep nature of the terrain. “Mellow” spots we looked at on the map mostly turned out to be fairly steep. That would be an understatement actually. So the apparently steep parts would probably have been a no-go, and we could have been pinned by weather in an area without escape. The whole range is mind-blowing and surely it will continue to get attention from climbers and skiers. Hopefully more Chileans. Anybody interested in 7000’ granite walls?
So we went to the elephant seal colony where (yes Ryan) we bonded with the seals- in fact I hope you all approve of Bertha here. I’m not sure whether it’ll be customs or immigration I’ll have to deal with, probably both…
There’s a lot more to tell- coming to a potluck near you. By the way thanks to Ryan, Jasmin, Emily and others for helping to keep track of us and especially to Ryan Gill for updating the blog here.
Stay tuned because I’m sure we’ll have some new postings in the next couple of weeks now that we actually have some information to convey, for example the 1800 “select” images and video from my broken camera, Kari’s artsy and telling shots and Dean’s video.
Thanks to all,
Steve and the boys
Monday, November 24, 2008
I just got off the phone with Steve this morning. They're currently sitting on the beach waiting for a boat from Punta Arenas to come and pick them up. They managed to flag a cruise ship down, as Dave mentioned (thanks for that Dave), but didn't get picked up by them... I wonder why: "uh, yeah, sorry our ship is full... of clean people"
Anyway, they did leave them food and a bunch of booze, so obviously they celebrated. Steve said he woke up yesterday at about 3pm on the beach (side note: they're camping at an elephant seal rookery. I'm not sure what booze +lonely ski tourers+elephant seals adds up to, but I'm pretty sure it isn't good).
They managed to escape the glacier, having to navigate some gnarly sections (rappels, serac's etc etc). Then they had a 3 day hike along the coast line, which sounded pretty steep and heinous, to get to where they're waiting for the boat!
So they should be in Punta Arenas tonight!
That's it for me then.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Just got a note from Emily, the boys are off the glacier and on a boat to somewhere. Sounds like they're headed to Ushuaia to arrange transport to Punta Arenas. Good to hear they safely made it down to the water and managed to hitch a ride home. I'm keen to hear how that all went.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Upper Pia Glacier:
"We haven't been moving like cheetah's through this mountain range... the more I think about it the more that doesn't make any sense. So far we've come 25km as the crow flies with another 65km to go, we're not breaking any land speed records.
We're at Camp 9...b, I say 9b because we moved a whole 3m since our last camp after being buried too deeply to excavate ourselves efficiently (2 hours to dig out, 1 hour to blow back in).
We've had 8 hours of sun over the past 25 days, none of this has been direct - no blue skies to cheer us on. It's rained or snowed every day, almost constantly. The wind picks you up and moves you; as Dean says "It's like the finger of God flicking you off his shoulder". Our longest travel day so far has been 10km, the longest stormbound time has been 6 days, although we're at day five and counting... This week we managed to travel 5km, last week 3km. During the last crevasse fall benzene spilled over everything I have including my clothes and food.
But there are good things to report too. Our packs and sleds are much lighter now (we only have a dozen or so days of food left), we've become experts at Yahtzee after playing so much, and we've absolved ourselves of all expectations of making it to Yendegaia. If we get some clear days at all we'll at least be able to make some headway, who knows how far, if at least to the nearest boat. Despite all of this we won't give up until the last crumb is eaten, which is probably somewhere in Kari's beard (are they considering cannibalizing Kari?).
You wonder what Darwin would think of this scenario, especially of three skiers praying for a miracle, even just a small one."
Sounds like they're looking for an escape route now. If anyone talks to them before Jasmin or I do, pass on that there was some information offered with regards to a previously used route down to the ocean. Either me or Jasmin has the details on this.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
He said they pretty much need a miracle right now for things to not go off the rails. The travelling has been steeper and more heavily crevassed than expected, and the weather has been either too windy, too warm or snowing too hard to travel. On a few occasions they've had a break in the weather, decided to go for it, broken camp (which takes two hours) and then started out, only to get hammered by weather again. Given the terrain they're in, they have some pretty tight weather parameters in which they can travel safely.
They're approaching a decision point in the next little while as to whether they'll be able to continue with their current food supplies, or bail. On the phone he said they're not that far from the ocean but that it would probably take a week for them to get down to it, even if it was possible, due to the broken nature of the glaciers.
He was also telling me about the crevasse fall. He fell in about 50' but was caught by the rope near the bottom of the crevasse. Kari was pulled down and dragged on his face before he managed to self arrest and stop Steve's fall. Then it was 3 hours* of ascending the rope to get out. Luckily he didn't get hit by his 100lb sled on the way down. True to form all he really wanted to say was "I got some awesome photos from inside the crevasse".
It sounds like they're getting a worn down by all the frustrating weather, but are still motivated to give it a go. Hopefully they get at least a few days of good weather which might give them time to get around Mt Darwin and onto the easier section of the trip. Even with that scenario he thought they would be running on fumes by the end of it.
Fingers crossed they get some good weather. Don't be surprised if you get a random phone call from Tierra Del Fuego.
*I wonder if it took 3 hours to ascend the rope because they were all taking pictures and footage of each other. I can just imagine it: "okay, Steve just go back down and climb that section one more time, that's it, now look to your left...."
Monday, November 10, 2008
They're currently at the head of the Garibaldi Glacier and are about to sneak back up onto the neve beneath some unnamed peak to the east. They've been encountering lots of bad weather, as illustrated by their report of "6 hours of sun in the past 17 days" (sunscreen = golden anvil).
On November 8 they managed 2km in a whiteout, then Steve (and sled) fell 50 feet into a crevasse and spilled white gas all over his clothes. According to the message "he sounded upset that his clothes smelled of white gas". You know, if I'd just fallen 50' into a crevasse I wouldn't be too worried what I smelled like. And I'm sure there would be a far more overpowering smell than white gas.
As of today, November 10, they're still at the same camp with the weather clearing a little.
Some bleak sounding numbers:
1/4 of the traverse completed
1/2 the food consumed.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
A lot of the Darwin Range looks relatively placid on Google Earth, which I’m sure it isn’t, but that’s not the point. The point is that there’s one section that doesn’t look flat and for sure isn’t. Es “muy encantilado.” With any luck, we’re approaching it now.
By all accounts (both of them: Google Earth low res and the image below), it looks like this “impass” is just to the north of Monte Darwin, with a transverse ridge leading down to Fiordo Parry. Incidentally, we’re afraid to travel on the south side of the ridge because it’s too gnarly, although there is more boat traffic in the Beagle Channel in case of retreat). The lower we go to navigate around the crux ridge(s), the more broken the glaciers will be- for sure we won’t be able to cross at the toe of the glacier without a raft. Higher up the mountains will probably be obscured. Most likely, we’ll be searching around the middle part of the ridge, looking for a good place to descend. Due to the “make or break” condition of this part of the traverse, we thought it prudent to bring two 60m ropes for the possibility of an extended rappel. I know, it seems silly that an extra 30 metres out of a total 120,000 will make a huge difference, but that rope is one more advantage we wanted to add to our pile. I’m not sure how much this extra 60m half-rope weighs, but I’m certain it’s more than a nice sharp telephoto lens, or a pizza, which we’d rather bring (but neither of which I’d want to use to get down a 58-metre cliff).
Check out the zone here in two of the air photos Kari acquired in Santiago. We have only this area and the start zone because the whole meal deal would have cost $3,000 and wouldn’t have been prepared in time. Our crux is more to the northwest, but the interesting part is that wild glacier cutting off a fjord down in the southeast part. We’ll be traveling north of this section but it’s my hope to at least get a glimpse. You don’t see to many “oceanic lakes” (?) such as this in the world these days.
Wild! On Google you can really see the difference in colours and how the glacier cuts off the fjord.
If we make it past the crux zone it’s all relatively smooth sailing from there, with long, sweeping glaciers to cruise on, directly to Bahia Yendegaia.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Lets' hope for a break in the weather before one of them turns into a 'Golden Anvil'.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Jasmin got a call from Steve, they're hunkered down at the moment waiting out a storm. They've made some progress and apparently are kicking some serious ass at Yahtzee. From the tone of their correspondence it sounds like they're getting a little giddy in the tent...
They're closing in on Mt Darwin so hopefully the weather clears and they can send it! Oh and then continue the next 90km or so...
Here's a short video courtesy of Mark Tinholt from a trip a few years ago with Steve and Chad Sayers. They were in an area about 100miles north of where they currently are playing Yahtzee. I imagine this is pretty much exactly what they're up to right now.
Along with their coordinates they sent an amendment to the Trip Dictionary:
False positive: the discrepancy between the rising trend on the barometer on our watches and the reality of the weather outside
Golden Anvil: Dean's IPOD or any other device that doesn't work anymore but is too valuable to throw into a crevasse
The Show: As in "I'm going to the show". Any hypothetical objective such as finishing the traverse which a participant aims to accomplish. Mostly used in context of getting ones Yahtzee bonus of 35 points.
Lets roll: Referring to getting a game of Yahtzee going. Also used as a sarcastic statement to get a laugh when looking out the window of the tent at the worsening storm.
Camp 6: 437 813, 394 6880 (1420m)
Friday, October 31, 2008
Another dull google earth screen shot. Maybe I'll upload some trick or treating photos later on just to mix it up...
I assumed they'd be taking some time to get through what looks like a pretty heavily crevassed section, but I guess either there's good coverage, or things are just falling into place.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Judging from the low resolution image on google earth, they might get some easy travelling after the next few days. It looks relatively flat after this next section they're climbing through. At least it looks flat from here, in my armchair.
8km down, 20km to Mt Darwin.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Steve called in today. He said they had been experiencing a lot of rain and had moved approximately 4 km. They are now on a flat spot on the glacier. He and the crew think that to complete the traverse they will need a lot of good weather as the terrain is fairly complicated. Steve says there are giant spires everywhere and they are all covered in ice.
Before they got onto the glacier they ran into a french couple who have been boating around the world for a year. The couple had not seen anyone in a month and they happened across these three with their big packs. The boys got some french chocolate from them!
Map Number 19F
Camp 1: 422 815, 395 0868
Camp 2: 424 519, 394 9558
If you go to Google Earth you'll probably get a better look at where they are, especially in relation to where they're going.
Evidently the going has been slow and arduous; they've managed only 4km in four days. Looking at this image you can tell why: huge crevasses!!! Navigating that terrain, in the rain, with giant packs and sleds can't be so much fun.
Hopefully things clear up and they slay bluebird pow all the way to Bahia Yendegaia.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I'm not envious. Okay, maybe a little.
But let's think about where they may be right now, 8:46pm on a Thursday night. Probably lying in the tent, starting to smell a little, just finished a delicious meal of gruel with a generous topping of salt. Filling their sleeping bags and tent with the 'off gas' from TVP...
Hmmm, maybe I'll go upstairs, put some clean socks on, sit down for a phat steak and put some more wood on the fire. Then maybe I'll climb into a nice, warm, comfortable bed.
I'm not sure how envious I am of them after all...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
The Serrano Glacier (access point, then up and over the left side)
Marinelli Glacier area, showing the main cordillera in the distance
Peaks at the entrance of Fiordo D'Agostini
Some traverse friendly terrain. Why we don't want to go to the south side.
Garibaldi Glacier area, on the south side
Time to shred- Monte Darwin, probably
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Here is a quick glossary of terms that have evolved in preparation for the Darwin Range Traverse.
let´s do this - what "i have a dream.." is to Martin Luther King Jr, what "one giant leap for mankind" is to NASA, what "i´m lovin´it" is to MacDonalds, is what "let´s do this" is to the team of the Darwin Range Traverse.
bencina blanca - also known as gasolina blanca. A highly noxious substance and known carcinogen used in Patagonia for stripping paint from cars, eliminating gang style grafitti, and easily removing that irritating rust at the edge of the toilet bowl. And oh yeah...used in camping stoves to cook food too.
BOOM - an explosive term, used mostly by team member Steve Ogle, to inflate the importance of an otherwise banal story or point. eg."I was walking down the sidewalk looking for an internet cafe and minding my own business and then, BOOM, my shoelace came undone."
polishing a turd - a term only used by team member Kari Medig during times of creative depression that refers to the seemingly insurmountable task of turning a visually unstimulating scene into a swan. Most commonly experienced when following team member Ogle on a wildlife shoot. eg. "I don't know, nothing here interests me, all I see everywhere are these penguins. Sometimes you just can't polish a turd."
make or break - a stern term, often accompanied by prolonged Clint Eastwood-esque eye contact, referring to a fundamental object or action in the planning of the expedition that is the fulcrum for the precarious balance between success and failure. eg. "See this here Gold Bond? This is MAKE OR BREAK."
penultimate - A term used, only by team member Steve Ogle, when a "big" word is needed, regardless of whether its definition or usage is correct. Often accompanied by 'vis a vis' or 'in lieu'. eg. This meal is the penultimate! Vis a vis, in lieu of the one we had last night that sucked.
Kimberley-style - when a person or thing uses fiction to make a point, as in "that guy is pure Kimberley style"; specifically, to mislead the observer by saying you are from one place when in fact you never, at any time, lived in that location (but actually lived in Cranbrook); also describes anyone sporting a full, scruffy beard and Peruvian toque.
it´s the full Ogle - refers a photograph, actually, any event that involves an act of nature or action sports scenario. Preferably, both occuring simultaneously. eg. Hey look at the ruby throated pilliated Magellan bluefooted woodpecker shredding that huge pow line, that´s the full Ogle.
it´s the full Medig - refers to Kari Medig´s style of photography, often thought to be embodying more meaning than in actuality, with an obvious disdain for corporate logos, making saleabiltiy a near impossibility. Subject matter is usually cultural in nature, often with a prominently obscured subject filling a majority of the negative space. Style shows a negligence of usual photographic ´rules´like focus and the much despised ´rule of thirds´. eg in a sentence: Look at that old guy walking down the street carrying his old skis in front of that rusty tractor, that´s the full Medig.
necessito - a predominantly gringo term derived from Castellano that is the lead to nearly every question. It is often mis-construed by native Chileans as being demanding and tactless, which it is. eg. yo necessito ayuda con todo, por que yo estoy inutil. translated: i need help with everything, because I am useless.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Dean in design phase. Note the chaos.
Dean checking out his new skis!
A pimped out ride
Steve's sled- veteran plastic of yonderyear Patagonian trips- more character, more history, much more friction.
Here are two images of sub-peaks in the area near where we’re starting our trip- at Seno d'Agostini. We think. A previous expedition of Chilenos went to this area in 2001, spending 30 days to climb three peaks along the "ridge" that separates a couple of forks in the fiord. This is our access zone- we have to blow through this area in a day or two to get to the real mountains. We have no maps that indicate elevation gains or losses at this scale- these just look like rolling hills (see aerial below).
These must have slipped between two contour lines...
You can check out a great website that some local climbers established here: http://www.cumbresaustrales.cl
We'll try to get up on one of the first icefields via the Serrano Glacier, pictured below. A lot of these images are found on Google Earth by clicking the little dots.
Here's an air photo Kari dug up of Seno D'Agostini. This was pretty much make-or-break to get this information. All that white is supposedly flat, but after a bit of research we anticipate a harsher reality.
Once we get up top it looks like we'll have to traverse terrain like this (actually we'll be on the other, north side of this), pictured in an old-school aerial...
...in a white-out
It's 2am and I can't sleep. Nobody could with this wind, battering the walls and roof, shaking everything and everyone into a paranoid state. Except perhaps Dean, who can remain calm through anything, but I'm afraid to turn over and check. It sounds (and feels) as if a locomotive is passing over my sleeping bag and I'm lying on the tracks trying to keep a low profile, knowing that sooner or later it will pass. We're in Southern Patagonia and this is the way it goes. It's normal, they say. But if this is any indication of what the next thirty-five nights will be like, we're in for one hell of a ride.
It already feels like the elements are stacked up against us and we haven't even left the hotel yet! Kari and Dean are out checking on the white gas we bought yesterday, which seems to be more like pure benzene, I'm not sure. They were sounding pretty confused about it after setting up the stoves. It might also be lack of sleep- with the wind it was another restless night and today we face another full day of sorting gear, charging batteries, practicing crevasse rescue, and of course larding up on all-you-can-eat mutton at Punta Arenas' finest chinese food restaurant. Months of prep have now become minutes-- yes, the long-awaited boat departure to the start of our ski traverse happens on Tuesday morning, October 21st. This is the day we approach- and hopefully arrive at - the Cordillera Darwin, an abrupt mountain range marking the southern extremity of the Western Hemisphere. Leopard Seals, King Penguins, and all sorts of other critters frequent the surrounding waters, it's that close to Antarctica. The diversity of life up on the glaciers however will be much lower, consisting primarily of three ski tourers from Canada and a few condors waiting for an outcome. Few people have ever passed through this range and to our knowledge, none have made a lengthwise traverse of the mountains. I say "to our knowledge" because there is basically zero information on this area. Few maps exist- in fact none are better than low-res Google Earth that you're looking at here. For the last week we've tried for a fixed-wing overflight of the range but the weather has shut us down. And we slept in once or twice.
Check out the following maps. The first is an overview of South America, showing the general location of the expedition. The second is a closer inspection offering our start and end points and where we are presently located, in Punta Arenas. We hope to get picked up by a boat at the southeast end of the range after arriving at a Chilean Navy depot. The third map shows a detail of our proposed route from left to right. There are some gnarly sections as you can see, especially around Monte Darwin. Here, the distance between the highest peaks (around 2500m) and sea level is only 3km. If you go to the very south end of South America on Google Earth you can see the zone.
A sting in the tail
Yellow line divides the island of Tierra del Fuego into Chile and Argentina. Bring it!
The trail of blood from Kari's blisters
The right edge is cut-off in this one but the final point is just visible there. Our destination is Bahia Yendegaia, where lives one farmer (campesino) plus a few border guards posted in a cabin at the mouth of the bay. Depending on which side of the river we end up, we'll run into the campesino or the navy dudes.
The crew consists of myself, Kari Medig, and Dean Wagner- three friends cut from the same cloth. Three friends who will be touching the same cloth for the next month. As an afterthought to discussing how we'd set up this blog, I joked with Kari this morning that it could be a good legacy to leave, if for whatever reason we didn't make it back.
"Don't say that! I don't want my mom reading that," Kari responded. "It's true though," he adds, looking away...
Okay, have I built up enough drama? Good, because it seems to be the only means of drawing the attention of readers these days. With the help of Ryan Gill, our blogmaster extraordinaire (basically the only ski buddy we have back home with the expertise), these postings will be available for you to check out over the next month or so. Unfortunately this entry will pretty much be the only detailed account, since we had some technical difficulties with our original plan to email words and photos from en route to Outside Magazine with some high-tech gizmos. Now we're down to one sat phone and one battery so all you'll be getting is a UTM coordinate update every five days or so. Hopefully Ryan has a chance to update the blog so friends and family can keep track of us. Yeah, it's pretty simple and less dramatic but that's reality- believe it or not. If we make it more than five of the 120 kilometres, we'll be happy.
In the meantime you can check out our info package we sent to sponsors below. It's basically a too-much-information pdf that outlined the trip objective, motivations and information about ourselves. With this simple media kit (with Kari's sleek design) we were able to lure in the following companies who had faith in our endeavours, knowing fully that we might not see much more than the inside of our tent:
Gore-tex Shipton-Tilman expedition grant
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Genuine Guide Gear
Allen's Griz bars
Iridium satellite phones
Visa and Mastercard
See you at the end of the trip.
Steve, Kari, and Dean