Patagonia Northern Ice Cap Traverse Solar Valley to Leones Vally

Patagonia Northern Ice Cap Traverse Solar Valley to Leones Vally

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 46.90337°S / 73.33374°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 20, 2011
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring

The Instructors

Cecelia Mortenson, Washington
CeCe Mortenson

Dennis Haskell, New Zealand
Dennis Haskell

Ian Whorrall, Montana
Ian Whorrall

The Students

Sean Post, Massatussets
Brett Savage, Ireland
Gabe Kelley, Alaska
Kine Denstad, Norway
Jordan Lamarche, Canada
The Students

Some Details

Date: September 20 2011- October 26 2011

Deployment Logistics: Drove from base camp in Coyhaique to Puerto Bertran and stayed the night in a bed a breakfast. In the morning we hopped on a boat and we got dropped off on the other side of the lake.

Exit Logistics: Boat picked us up Philips Camp and dropped us off at the other end of Lago Leones. From there Horses carried half of our gear to the 4 x 4 trail. From there we got in a vehicle that took us to the main road where Favain was waiting with a van. Fabian drove us back to base camp.

Comms: Primary: SAT phone with an extra battery. Secondary: Spot

Trip Logistics / Rations / Re-supply and Caches
Hiked to Puesto camp with 4 day ration.
Took a week ration to Nef Glacier
CC and Ian got 3 days extra ration for Nef
Humped 3 weeks of rations for the rest of the trip

Day by Day Overview

1Boat across lake to Ramons camp. Moved camp to Johns Camp with 4 days of food.
Here Starts our Trip
Here we go.

2Moved camp to Palomar Camp
3Stayed at Palomar due to crappy weather. Did some classes. Checked out the river.
Cool river just below Palomar Camp.

4Stayed at Palomar due to crappy weather. Did some classes
5Moved camp to Puesto Camp. Meet up with horses and gear. Gabe’s stuff didn’t make it.
6Moved to Nef Camp with a week of food
7Went out onto Bare ice of Nef glacier to learn hard ice skills
8More hard ice skills on Nef
9Crappy weather, stayed at Nef camp and did classes
10More hard Ice work at Nef
11Went up to the West of camp to learn snow skills, started to late, the snow was worthless
12Went back up to West for snow school (self arrest, snow pickets)
13Moved camp back to Puesto
14Carried half of out gear to Ledge camp, just below keyhole and returned to Puesto Camp
15Rest day at Puesto, no classes
16Moved camp and rest of gear to Keyhole. Left cashe at ledge camp
17Self Arrest practice at Keyhole Camp, then retrieved cashe at Ledge Camp
18Moved camp onto icefield to Largo Camp.
19White out, stayed at camp, mellow storm, Bretts B-day.
20Storm day
21Storm day
22Moved camp to Turret Camp, beautiful weather. Had lunch with group going other way.
23Storm prep at Turret.
San Valentine
View of San Valentine from Turret Camp. A storms is brewing.

24Storm day
Ice storm
Freezing rain can do some cool stuff

25Storm day
26Moved camp to Cristal Camp during white out
White Out
On our way to Cristal Camp

27Moved camp to 1799
28Storm day

29Storm day
Tent in Storm
Tent in the storm

30Storm day
31Storm day
Storm Activitys
Playing cards while waiting out the storm

32Storm day
33Storm day
34Moved to 1312
1799 Break
Taking a break from the decent from 1799 to 1312

35Moved to Philips Camp
36Boat across Lago Leones, hiked to car.
Leones Boar
Philips Boat Service.


3 x 60 m ropes
Small rock rack
8 long ice screws
8 pickets
3 ice tools
Ice axes
5 sleds
Skis and skins
1 set of snow shoes

The Route

Leg 1: Ramone’s house to Puesto.
We were dropped off on the South side of the Rio Solar. We started traveling West along the beach finding a trail head that took us up a few hundred feet along bushy terrain, crossing creeks and then descending into and amphitheater to Johns camp (Close in elevation to Rio Solar). From Johns camp we hiked along the river beach and through a gaucho trail with some cruxy ladder and exposed ledge walks, a long push through marshy area, then a final rocky crux. At this point we were looking up two valleys and we make a slight short steep uphill push on our way up the left (southern) valley. After the uphill bit its only about 10 more minutes to Palomar camp . From Palomar we continue following a gaucho trail parrelling the Rio Solar. When leaving Palomar exit the gate the way you came in and follow the trail that goes around the gate opposite side of the Rio Solar. Go down to a boggy area which has a low log bridge across it, moving into small bush area, veering off onto a smaller gaucho trail that leads to the Soler river where we crossed and moved on to Puesto camp.

Leg 2: Nef Glacier excursion
We backtracked along the gaucho trail from Puesto parrelleling the Rio Soler. When we got to a junction were a river coming from the South merges with the Rio Solar. We moved up valley following the river South towards the Nef glacier drainage. After some hard bush crashing and severel mellow back and forth river crossings we reached a trail moving up the Nef drainage and climbed a steep slabby valley trail, arriving on a flat sandy area where we set camp near the glacier. From camp we did many day trips. First day we moved down a lateral moraine onto the glacier and did a short travel session near the lake. The next day we approached the glacier from the east side, trying to find a trail on the talus slope finding a travel corridor on the dirty medial moraine. We had another day on the glacier following the medial moraine towards a depression on the glacier where we ice climbed and lowered into moulans. We spent the next two days attempting to do snowschool, traveling up the hill to our WNW, going up some 4th class terrain, bush crashing up to the ridge, and traversing the ridge past the pseudo summit onto a good slope for self arrest practice. We headed back down to camp, avoiding the fourth class terrain and following the ridge down to camp. After our time at the Nef we followed the trail back down the slabby drainage, crossed back over the Nef drainage, handrailing the Soler back to Puesto camp.

Leg 3: Puesto to 1799
At Puesto we got the remainder of our gear which was brought up on horses from Ramone and Marta. We had to do a double carry to get established in the alpine zone. The first day we started on a trail going through bushy terrain, opening up to a valley with rockfall hazards which we had to spread out and manage. After the rockfall we pushed up a steep scree slope, then up to the snowline and a final push to ledge camp, where we stored our cache. We followed the same path back to Puesto. On the second day we brought the remainder of our gear up the same route until ledge camp, then continued past ledge camp skinning up a snow slope to our keyhole camp. We backcarried the next day, skiing down to the ledge, and picking up our gear and skinning again back up the slope to our camp on behind the shelter of a couple big boulders and small rock/snow walls, just off of the ice cap.
We spent a day resting and learning self arrest while Cece and Denis scouted out the entrance onto the ice cap, finding a safe route and caching fuel. The next day we double carried our gear out to the cache point on the glacier, using crampons, then packed up our sleds and put on ski’s. We skinned up low angle snow covered glacier about 6 kilometers to Largo camp, finishing up with a push up a steeper slope. From Largo Camp we moved to Turret camp, traveling about 8 kilometers, starting with 2k of slight downhill skinning and then a long slow push up a slightly uphill glacier. From turret we moved to a makeshift crystal camp, moving in whiteout conditions for a long day, climbing a steeper section leading to a pass, but were turned around by winds and established camp downhill of the pass. From the Crystal Camp we moved a very long day to 1799. We started in whiteout condition, contouring up to the base of the pass, then climbed to the pass SE of crystal moving .5 kilometers and gaining100m. Then we dropped down an icy slope starting sidestepping in skis then switched to crampons to negotiate a small descent and short but steep climb up a snowslope. From here we contoured around crystal on skins and made it onto a crevassed ridge where we switched to boots, descending behind Denis’ team which probed out a route down the ridge. We then climbed a small hill to the 1799 camp.

Leg 4: 1799 to basecamp
We started by descending 1799 on the NW side using fixed lines through pretty easy but high consequence terrain one pitch. Traversed a slope using a pendulum belay and then were lowered 2 pitches down a snow slope. After that we continued descending using a combination of rappelling and being lowered another 2 pitches, negotiating past a bergschrund and finally stopping on level dead glacier. We roped up in teams and crossed the glacier, finishing with a push up to our camp at 1312 where we passed our intended camp because it was exposed and moved into the shelter of boulders. From 1312 we moved out of the alpine down to Phillips camps. We scouted out the normal descent down a gully but snow conditions forced us to backtrack and follow a ridge down, post holing and slogging through down towards tree line where we skinned down and started to bushcrash. After a while we found our trail and made it below snowline. A few pushes through steep terrain and we moved along a flat bench. Then we crossed a scree slope and made the last push along a trail to Phillips camp. From Phillips Camp we walked down to Lago Leones and waited for our pickup by Philippe in his boat. We were shuttled across the lake in two loads and were met by a gaucho and horse3s who shuttled most of our gear to the 4 wheel drive road where we were to be picked up. We hiked a gaucho trail across flat somewhat bushy area covering ground quickly, then up a ridge. We took the low trail and crossed a withered forest area which had been hit by rockfall and was strewn with boulders. After another kilometer or two of walking we made it to the 4 wheel drive road and to the farmhouse where we were shuttled in two van loads to our pickup at the main road.

GPS Cooridnates for camps

Johns Camp----46° 59.646 min S./ 73° 03.261 min W./ 328m
Johns Camp
Johns Camp

Palomar-------46° 59.619 min S./ 73° 12.036 min W./ 301m
Palomar Camp
Palomar Camp

Puesto---------47° 00.044 min S./ 73° 15.960 min W./ 347m
Puesto Camp
Puesto Camp

Nef Camp------47° 01.874 min S./ 73° 14.129 min W./ 561m
Neff Camp
Neff Camp

Keyhole--------46° 58.675 min S./ 73° 18.890 min W./ 1087m

Largo Camp----46° 55.262 min S./ 73° 20.108 min W./ 1531m
Largo Camp
Largo Camp

Turrets Camp---46° 49.760 min S./ 73° 23.201 min W./ 1864m
Turret Camp
Turret Camp with Cerro San Valentin in view

Cristal Camp----46° 45.699 min S./ 73° 18.954 min W./ 2075m

1799----------46° 44.587 min S./ 73° 16.368 min W./ 1799m
1799 Camp
1799 Camp

1312----------46° 44.455 min S./ 73° 14.358 min W./ 1312m

Philipes Camp---46° 45.055 min S./ 73° 11.879 min W./ 375m



17/9 to 19/9:
Weather, both on a macro and micro scale.
RTP´s and pre-trip planning
Boot fitting and last minute equipment checks.
Rations planning and packing.
Nature nugget and case study prep.

Student coaching on route finding, pacing and group management.
«Lesson» about how to do the daily debrief and filling in the Student Guide Notebook.

Comprehensive river-crossing lesson with Dennis
River Crossing Class
River Crossing Class

On the fly coaching on how to manage rough terrain (coaching, spotting, pacing etc.)
NN on hanging valleys

Guide meeting (deciding to weather a storm at Palomar waiting for the horses)
Dennis taught us basic knots, bends and hitches and also how to efficiently teach this to novices/clients etc.
Cece taught us about the benefit vs. risks of taking clients through technical terrain while taking us on a hike down the beautiful section of carved out rock along the river close to Palomar.
Ian taught us about emergency storm procedures, the three different wx categories and how they are dealt with. We also had a chat/discussion about EB.
Case study (Spaniards at San Valentin)

Class with Dennis about expedition hygiene, how to stay clean and healthy and common problems to be aware of.
Cece went through the expedition leadership skills sheet with us and we all gave us self ratings on our current skill-level and picked a few skills to focus on during the course.
Cece taught a class about hypothermia and frostbite. How to prevent, how to recognize in self and others and how to deal with it.

Navigation, route finding and teamwork.

More route-finding skills taught on the fly.
NN on dwarfism in vegetation and glacial marks in the bare terrain.

Mountain Wx-class with Dennis.
Lesson by Nef
Weather Lesson by Neff

Ice skills: putting on crampons (and how to efficiently teach so), crampon technique, route finding, terrain/group management (acceptable risk levels green, orange and red terrain), spotting and step cutting.

Route finding and steep tellus-slope negotiation with Dennis.
Rappel-lesson (All BLACK)
Ascending a rope using a texas and waist prusik
Ascending a Rope
Taking a break from the decent from 1799 to 1312

Basic crevasse rescue using a 2:1 haul system
Student leads on bare-ice route finding.

Lesson on pulley systems with Cece, also reviewing some knot skills and learning about crevasse rescue. She also talked about anchor and material strenght.

Student lead onto glacier.
Ice anchor lesson with Ian (screws and v-tread). Practice and feedback of students placements, then students built top-rope anchors.
Ice climbing session with focus on technique.

Theory session about travel methods on snow covered glaciers and student case study.
Rope team lesson with all instructors. Topics covered was size of team vs terrain, when not to rope up (hazard triage), distance between people, rope team movement techniques, passing fixed pro., communication in a rope team in different conditions etc.
Brief lesson on how to probe out a campsite in glacial terrain.
Terrain classifications and mountain terminology + travel corridors.

Snow school: 4 different ways of self-arrest followed by a snow anchor session.

On the trail talk about coaching and spotting technique. + Route-finding skills.

Extensive «crime-scene» investigation in rockfall-zone and discussion about how to manage rockfall hazards (terrain, weather, group).
Situational awareness and avi-observations.
Personal care on long days

Self-arrest session with Ian. Repetition of previously learned techniques + a few new ones (without ice axe and crampons, with ski-poles)
Watched Cece and Dennis working together as a rope-team while scouting out entry route onto the glacier.
Basic ski-techniques on our way down to the cache.
Snowpit-session with Cece

On the move navigation and pacing skills.

Solar still session with Dennis
Navigation/map reading class with Dennis
Navigation Class
Navigation Class

Quintzee building and storm preparations.

How to keep your toes warm, tips and tricks with Cece
On the move whiteout navigation.
«Quick ´n dirty» (but still pretty strong) camp setup

Advanced crevasse rescue session with Dennis.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-3 of 3

JoelSkok - May 30, 2012 8:10 am - Voted 10/10

Incredible report

Wish I could give it more than a 10/10. So happy you had this chance, probably bonded pretty tightly with your teammates over the course of all those weeks. Exotic location to say the least

Sierra Ledge Rat

Sierra Ledge Rat - Oct 27, 2014 5:34 pm - Voted 10/10


Neff Camp looked like the coolest place on the planet. What a trip! 10+

HRS Nomad

HRS Nomad - Oct 31, 2014 7:12 pm - Voted 10/10


Awesome and truly incredible! Such an amazing experience for the students. But... What is the name of the school? I assume this is some sort of a mountaineering school of some kind...

Viewing: 1-3 of 3