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Landsat image by Robert Stacey, WorldSat International Inc.


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Charting the Trek

We couldn't find conventional maps with enough detail to plan our 325-mile (523-kilometer) route, so we created something better. The Canadian Space Agency gave us Radarsat images revealing likely areas for crevasses, and we bought Landsat photos showing terrain. In Coihaique, Chile, I spread out a string of these photos to double-check GPS waypoints Thomas had plotted. We took the photos with us to find the best routes and campsites, shown as red triangles in a newly created satellite mosaic (above).

Delayed by winds, snow, and whiteouts, we took 16 days to travel just 8 miles (13 kilometers) through Falla Reichert Pass. After descending 3,000 feet (900 meters) of a jumbled icefall with giant overhanging blocks, we climbed 4,500 feet (1,400 meters) up an icy peak, then rappelled down a cliff on the other side. We knew we were taking chances in avalanche-prone gullies, yet our spirits were lifted by the sight of as many as 13 condors soaring high above us.

—Børge Ousland

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