Tag Archives: ice_cap

Danny’s Ice Cap Exploration

Danny’s Ice Cap Exploration

As the world’s third largest mass of ice, trekking and living on the Patagonian ice cap is a truly unique experience and a challenge. Danny contacted Swoop in May of last year looking for an experience that took him to the ice field for several days.

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Danny’s trip to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field started with his group leaving El Chalten, entering the ice fields through Paso Marconi and leaving via the Paso del Viento. He travelled there in November, and below are a selection of his incredible photos and some feedback about the adventure he undertook.

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What were the challenges you faced?
My challenge was one of language and communication – I wish the group would have been more mixed with fluent English speakers. Communication with the guides was fine, they were highly experienced and professional, but small talk in the group did not really work well for me, as the group mainly talked in Spanish.

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What were your highlights?
The first day on the ice field, as we had perfect weather conditions. At the end, I think the most important success factor for this expedition is the weather, this Patagonian beast… But we were very lucky, and had some very sunny days.

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What was it like living out on the ice field?
It is a unique and very special experience due to the vastness and remoteness of the ice field. It feels like visiting another planet. A yet unspoiled wilderness which is challenging but also very much rewarding.

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How does this adventure compare to other skiing and trekking trips you have undertaken?
It is quite different. Most trekking and skiing trips are not in such remote areas, and do not require such specific experience. Additionally, this is not one of those popular destinations like Torres del Paine with thousands of visitors and an established infrastructure, but truly a hidden gem which is rarely visited.

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How did it feel after completing your trip?
That this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think the only place on earth comparable to this is Antarctica. But even in Antarctica, there would not be the such incredible views on Cerro Torre and the Circo de los Altares.

IMG_1595IMG_1591Would you recommend Swoop to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia?
Yes, absolutely.

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To venture out onto the incredible ice fields yourself, get in touch with Swoop.

Ariana’s Full Circuit & Ice Cap Expedition

Ariana is still travelling on a round the world trip, but contacted us in March to let us know how she got on during her stint in Patagonia, during which she Trekked the Full Circuit in Torres del Paine, and embarked on an Ice Cap Expedition. Here’s what she had to tell us…

I had such a great experience that it is hard to find the right words to explain it 🙂

How was your Full Circuit in Torres del Paine?

I had an amazing experience on my Full Circuit in Torres del Paine. The guides were great, very well organised and helpful, always looking after us and making the whole experience delightful. I cannot think of anything that I would change about this trip.

How was your Ice Cap Expedition?

I had a great experience on the Ice Cap Expedition, and the guide was very professional. One thing I would mentions is that I was a little unsure on my route to El Calafate, and I may have appreciated more detailed information on this. Once there however, the operators took care of everything, and did all they could to help me with any equipment I needed to rent.

How did Swoop do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

The way in which Swoop handled my trip was a real treat for me. You helped me a lot, and so far it has been one of the best moments of my whole round the world trip.

Do you have any tips for other travellers planning a visit?

The only thing that I would have appreciated, which may helpful to other people visiting Patagonia with limited time on their hands, is some information on the time it takes to travel between places, and how best to go about it. I was a little confused on where to fly from/ to in order to reach certain destinations, and allowed extra time for this unnecessarily, as in reality it was simpler and faster than I expected.

Thanks a lot again for your help and to make my trip to Patagonia a great experience.

Stacey’s Guided Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine

Stacey returned in early January from a Full Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trek, and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

‘We seriously couldn’t be happier with the whole thing and how it worked out so thanks so much.’

How was your trip?

It was fantastic! Thanks so much!

How were the OPERATORS we put you in touch with in Torres del Paine? 

Thanks for getting us in touch with them- they were perfect. Gonzalo and Johanna were really great to communicate with and made it all very easy.

… and how were their GUIDES on your Full Circuit trek?

Our guide Maurizio was the best. It ended up being just Simon and I and him, which for 7 days could have been weird but wasn’t at all.

He knew everyone on the trail, we felt like some friends who he was showing a good time.  He was knowledgeable, professional and safe but also relaxed and fun when it counted.

What are your thoughts on the value of taking a GUIDED Full Circuit over trekking the Full Circuit INDEPENDENTLY?

For the first few days we wondered whether we really needed a guide. But then the weather came in and the pass closed. Everyone had to turn back except us and the other group that were out with our operator (who were a day behind due to weather).

We absolutely wouldn’t have been able to do the hike without a guide. We met a few other couples without a guide who had to turn back and we felt very lucky.

How did SWOOP do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

We were really happy to use Swoop because its so hard on the internet to organise things in a foreign country – the websites are variable and you never know what you’re actually getting.

We were quite last minute with our organisation and didn’t know that much about the area so it was great to have someone to give us advice and assistance. Your quick and informative replies were really appreciated.

We’re so glad also that we took your advice about doing the Full Circuit instead of the W Trek. We wouldn’t have been challenged enough on the W and would have missed so much amazing hiking on the north side of the park (mostly the Southern Patagonian Ice Field which was our favourite part!). 

Do you have any TIPS for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?

Tips for others doing the Full Circuit would be to definitely use a guide,

We would also recommend doing the Full Circuit and not the W Trek if you want to really see the park and want more of a challenge.

Take cash because you can buy beer and wine along the way, which is pretty nice after a long day hiking. And you can upgrade to a refugio last minute if all your stuff is soaked and you need a good sleep. 

Guest Blog Post: We talk to Patrick Usborne, Architect, Skiier & Ice Cap Adventurer

Guest Blog Post: We talk to Patrick Usborne, Architect, Skiier & Ice Cap Adventurer

I was fortunate enough to meet Paddy, an architect, skiier and mountaineer, when we were on the same expedition onto the IceCap earlier this year. Paddy is exactly the kind of guy you want in your expedition team: incredible endurance and endless good cheer. He’s been kind enough to share some of his thoughts and photos of Patagonia.

Paddy, tell us a bit about yourself.

That’s a big first question! I guess I have two main passions in life; architecture and being in the mountains.  I’m just finishing my architectural training after a long and exhausting eight years at the drawing board.  Combining both architecture and mountaineering is proving a challenge, but hopefully I’m achieving a good mix.

I always find it difficult explaining to friends how I feel about both, but there are a lot of similarities between them.  We’re becoming much more aware of the effects we have on the environment, and even though we constantly hear doomsday reports in the news and television programmes, that can so easily numb us, it is right to be concerned.

We, as architects especially, have such an enormous responsibility to design and build not only to protect the environment, but also to work with it.  I live in London and am currently sitting in front of my laptop looking through my window at a ‘Freshly Clicked’ Tesco van delivering bags of food to a neighbour that was, I imagine, ordered at the confines of their laptop.  We are already so detached.

So, this is why being in the mountains for me, and having an adventure within them is so important to give a sense of attachment to the enormous scale of our environment around us. It might sound a cliché, but it is only here, that I really begin to feel myself.

Where else have you visited before visiting Patagonia?

I’ve been really fortunate as both my parents met in the mountains. They both were mountaineers at my age now, but our main passion has always been through skiing. Skiing has really defined us as a family and we have visited so many incredible parts of the world through it.  It has been a passion that has given so much to us, but has also taken so much away from us.

Tragically my father was killed in an avalanche whilst skiing ten years ago.  The first few years we’re very difficult, but instead of turning my back to the mountains as many of my friends thought sensible, my sense of adventure in the mountains grew much stronger.

Soon after the accident I visited Nepal to climb a mountain called Mera Peak, which remains one of my most memorable adventures. It was ‘only’ a trekking peak, but I realised then, the adventure wasn’t just to reach the top, but was instead the experience either side.

On the decent, our local Nepali guide invited us all into the house of an old friend of his. The owner was a farmer who worked her small plot of land to feed herself and her family. The blackened timber house had room for her small herd of cows on the lower floor and living upstairs.  I will never forget her enormous smile as she greeted our guide and us into her home. Without pause, she began to plunge repetitively a long thin tube, to prepare for us her best buttermilk.  She wanted no money, but instead you could see how immensely proud she was.

What made you decide to visit Patagonia?

The third largest icecap in the world after Antarctica and Greenland; the Patagonian Ice Cap. Just looking at this vast expanse of ice on the map makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand tall.  The thought to be able to walk on this frozen river of ice and look across at its endless scale was something I couldn’t pass up. And apart from the odd mountain hut on the edge, the ice cap is a place that has seen no human intervention, just pure nature at its rawest.

I also heard the Argentine beef and red wine was rather good (the Argentines are well known for banning the export of their finest wines)!

Where abouts did you go in Patagonia and what did you do?

Most visitors to Patagonia will hear of Torres del Paine National Park and its famous ‘W’ trek; a beautiful spot to the South of the ice cap.  Not as many will have heard of the Fitzroy range to the East. Here, you have such peaks as Mount Fitzroy, Cerro Torre and all their sister peaks nested on the edge of the ice cap.

My time there was to squeeze in as much climbing as I could as well as the adventure of getting onto the ice cap itself. In the end I also found that waiting for that elusive Patagonian weather window was second to none!

What were your top three highlights in Patagonia?

There were so many, it’s hard to know where to begin! The memories of the adventures I had when leaving far exceeded my expectations before arriving. The mountains, people and culture together created such incredible highlights.

The first though must be the people I met.  After my partner pulled out, I found myself a solo traveller; a liberating experience that allowed me to meet so many people that I wouldn’t have done in a team of two.  My base was a small town called El Chalten; a trekking Mecca that draws people from around the world to a ramshackle town of corrugated roof buildings. The owners however were always so proud of their town and what it had to offer.

For the more demanding climbs I was part of a team with a brilliant American mountain guide called ‘Coop’ of Andes Mountain Guides, Charlie from the Telegraph and Luke of Swoop Travel. Together we had a real adventure of attempting to reach the ice cap, and climb a peak on its edge. The adventure was due to last nearly a week and was certainly another highlight.

The team spirit was high, but the weather was not on our side. We made it through cascading ceracs, that were constantly falling from above, to a windswept blanket of white. Even though we had to turn back, it became clear that retreat in the mountains is never a failure; instead, it becomes a chance to try again another day.

The third highlight was the most special. I had a week to explore the mountains on my own, and I chose a five day loop around the peak Mount Huemul.  In those five days I only met five people.  The remoteness and being alone amongst the mountains was inspiring.  On the third day the weather opened to blue skies and a gentle breeze. My tent was pitched on sand near a melt water lake on the edge of the ice cap and that morning I decided to venture alone onto the depths of the ice cap.

Now, this is of course a dangerous adventure! Indeed, even today a friend over lunch claimed I was reckless.  But the draw of being amongst the ice; the emptiness and vastness was too strong not to.  With crampons, an axe and ample chocolate I walked for hours to the centre of the ice cap, jumping over crevasses and avoiding patches of snow that obscured hidden dangers.

Eventually I found a lonely rock that must have fallen from a cliff many miles away that had since been carried by the ice to where I was. Sitting on the rock having lunch whilst admiring the snow clad peaks around and to know there were kilometres of ice below my rock will be a moment I will never forget.

After taking a few photos I turned back and followed my footsteps to the edge of the ice and my tent. I saw nobody the whole day.  The experience really captured the vastness of the world we live in and certainly puts into the context that ‘Freshly Clicked’ Tesco van!

What’s on your cards for your next adventure?

I’m currently finishing my architectural training, so will be busy preparing for the final exams over the next year. I would love to return to Patagonia one day, but there is so much more to see in the world. I hope my career in architecture will take me to explore many new places.  Indeed, my interest in how we can build a better way of living for our future that works with our environment and not against it will be an important part of what I do next.

More immediately however, Greenland and its ice cap has been on the mind. Not to be done solo, but as part of a team to traverse its length on skis whilst measuring the changing conditions of the ice and finding out how the local Inuit community are coping with their changing environment.

A big adventure, but through exploring, if I can play a small part in improving our relation to the environment and allow others to share the sense of inspiration the world has to offer as I have done in Patagonia and elsewhere, then all the better.