National Geographic : 2004 Aug
You can't get away from the weather on the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, although the word "weather" doesn't do justice to the elemental forces that rule this expanse of glaciers in southern Chile and Argentina, the largest on Earth outside Antarctica and Greenland. The wind knocks you down. The snow buries you alive. The icy mists blot out visibility for days. It's a place that makes you feel small-but also very alive. No one had ever crossed the length of the Southern Ice Field without resupplying before. Most expeditions had been pinned down by bad weather. But photographer Thomas Ulrich and I had a plan: We would use satellite images and a handheld GPS to find the best routes around the deadly crevasses and over the snow-blasted peaks, routes we could follow in almost any weather. We'd combine Thomas's skills as a mountaineer and mine as a polar explorer to move as quickly and as safely as possible. And we'd make our start in late winter, when it's colder and darker, but when the snow bridges are stronger and the winds more predictable. We left the Chilean town of Tortel on August 24, 2003, with four SOCIETY GRANT kayaks, enough food and gear to keep us alive for 67 days, and a healthy This Expeditions Council project was supported by anxiety about what lay ahead. Then the hard work began. your Society membership.