El Chaltén – La ultima vuelta en nieve y hielo: Gorra Blanca, 2907m

Looking at a map of the greater area West of El Chaltén reveals one thing: A big white pattern stretching out for hundreds of kilometres: El Campo Hielo Sur o Hielo Continental. It is the third largest Continental icefield after the Antarctica and Greenland. We never thought of going there but after we had completed several „alpine-like“ missions and our self-esteem rose in terms of fitness and sleeping in bivys we felt ready to dare the mission to Gorra Blanca, a peak that emerges from the Hielo Continental at its lateral boundary. With 2907m it overlooks all of the neighbouring peaks and therefore is very prominent. The fact sheet of this mission can be summarized like this:

– a timeframe of two days (usually four…) due to wind and weather forecast and drop-off date of the car in Buenos Aires
– a total vertical gain of 2600m
– carrying our heavy backpacks with skis, boots and mountaineering, cooking and sleeping gear for many hours
– one night at a bivy
– ascent from bivy and descent in one day

The only real challenge seemed to be the approach. When we started at 09:00 it was slightly raining and there was no prospect for any improvement. After 4.5 hours of bootpacking along glacial lakes and through immense fields of rocks we arrived at the tongue of Glaciar Marconi where we changed boots and started to hike up over the bare ice. Our motivation was quite low when the rain started to intensify and patterns of wet snow covering crevasses had to be crossed. And there were quite a lot of them… We decided to rope on and finally skin-up. Due to the evident danger of falling ice avalanches we were forced to make our way through the narrow corridor fast and eventually made it to the glacier-plateau of Paso Marconi. At around 1420m we set our bivy right besides the glacier. Our hope for good weather on the next day rose as we could make out the sun glimmering through the fog.

The night was a little windy and when we woke up for the first time, clear sky and the bright moon could be admired out of our warm sleeping bags. The next morning we were fired up to get on our skis. No wonder, the dawn was incredibly beautiful! The bad weather of the days before had one big advantage: fresh and fluffy powder! Braking trail through this vast white wonderland was a great pleasure and after 4.5 hours we stood on the huge „summit-mushroom“ made of „coliflores“. With no exaggeration, this was a LIFETIME-VIEW! The skiing directly down the West-Face was a white dream and the flat stretch back to our bivy was a journey through Ice Age. Overwhelming… The way down beneath the hanging and threatening séracs was spectacular and we skied as far as we could. The stoke enabled us to almost run back to the car in 3 1/4 hours from the glacier tongue. Pure craziness! This was our very last adventure in Patagonia and we have to admit, one of the best ever!


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