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Patagonia Ice Trek
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Patagonia Ice Trek @ National Geographic Magazine
By Børge OuslandPhotographs by Thomas Ulrich

Surviving violent storms and bridging treacherous crevasses, a pair of adventurers traverse one of the largest expanses of ice on Earth.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

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 kayaks, enough food and gear to keep us alive for 67 days, and a healthy anxiety about what lay ahead. Then the hard work began.

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine.

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In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
How do you keep up strength through mile after mile of white-water kayaking, crossing a bottomless snow pit in a blizzard, or dangling over cliffs of ice while hanging on to a 200-pound (90-kilogram) kayak sled? Answer: Eat a special mix of high-energy foods, designed by Børge Ousland after 15 years of similar long-distance trekking through the Arctic and Antarctic. The menu was the same every day for 54 days, and by the 24th day Børge was dreaming of pancakes with blueberry jam, sour cream (even though he doesn't eat it at home), and bacon. He also wished he had added a few more calories to the diet and ten more pieces of chocolate for the two explorers to share. Instead, a real treat was a small cup of coffee. Each vacuum-sealed plastic package of rations was prepared in Norway and ready to go from the start of the trip: 

Breakfast = 1,150 calories
Oatmeal, corn oil, powdered cream, and sugar
Add water, stir, and heat.

Lunch = 2,570 calories
More oatmeal, corn oil, dried fruit, nuts, and sugar
Afternoon snack = 300 calories
Chocolate and dried reindeer heart snacks
Dinner = 1,700 calories
Freeze-dried ox, lamb, pork, or reindeer mixed with mashed potatoes, spices, and butter
Heat and stir.
Børge believes that a diet of 50 to 55 percent fat is better fuel for the slow daily grind than more carbs or protein. Even after leaving the ice field and running into hikers who offered fresh fruit, cheese, and bread on the final kayaking leg to Puerto Natales, the trekkers stuck to their packaged foods and the same rations they ate from the first day.

—Jeanne E. Peters

Did You Know?

Related Links
Antarctic Ozone Hole
Take an animated look at the expanding and contracting ozone hole as it rotates around the South Pole.

Børge Ousland
Find out about Børge Ousland's latest adventure, skiing to the North Pole, and trace his experiences since his first icy trip in 1986 when he skied 500 miles (800 kilometers) across Greenland.
Thomas Ulrich 
Ulrich, a noted adventure photographer from Interlaken, Switzerland, and Ousland hit it off so well on the Patagonia trip that they have since traveled to the North Pole together. Read about that and Ulrich's trek up Mount Everest in 2003.
Exploring Patagonia's Ice Fields History
Learn more about the many attempts to conquer the forbidding terrain of the world's third largest ice sheet.
Ice Field Description
Read a detailed description of both the southern and northern ice fields in Patagonia. Maps and stunning photographs accompany the text.


NGS Resources
Worrall, Simon. "Patagonia: Land of the Living Wind." National Geographic (January 2004), 48-75.

Cahill, Tim. "The Accidental Explorer's Guide to Patagonia." National Geographic Adventure (May 2003), 64-74, 106-8.

Benning, Jim. "Wild Horizons: The World's 25 Greatest Adventures." National Geographic Adventure (February 2003), 50-63.

Benning, Jim. "In Country: Hail Patagonia." National Geographic Adventure (December 2002/January 2003), 38.

Ousland, Børge. "Across the Arctic: A Norwegian Goes Solo." National Geographic (March 2002), 36-47.

Crouch, Gregory. "Stone Cold Ascent." National Geographic (March 2000), 96-115.

Bangs, Richard. "Torres del Paine." National Geographic Traveler (October 1999), 136-8.

Ousland, Børge. "Hard Way to the North Pole." National Geographic (March 1991), 124-34.


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