We had a wonderful start to the season with Jeff, our resident physicist and Patagonian Afficionado, who on his 4th trip with us explored the upper reaches of the Rio Claro Valley. This watershed is the source of the Sol de Mayo Ranch water, what we drink, wash with, bath in, irrigate and give to our animals. It’s sanctity goes beyond the direct benefits we receive from it but into the realm of giving us the vision of what purity is, what purity looks like, sounds like and is and why it is so important to share properly while maintaining it’s holistic health. This trip was an exploration of our newest 30+ kilometers of trails we have built over the last couple years and the incredible amount of alpine territory it accesses. Our group was a perfect mix of a typical PAEX team, Local Gaucho Mountain Guides, US Gap year student, Finish Cartographer, Chilean Veteranarian Mountain Guide, Local Rancher, and our Master Physicist. With all this said what most strikes a cord with me is not just the beauty of the place or the postcard shots, not the individuals and their extraordinary history but rather how we all get along, share, inspire and delve into the depths of the impacts this kind of untouched nature has on us. Thanks Patagonia, Thanks Team, thanks for the opportunity to share it so gracefully and wholly enjoyable.
Notes from the Patagonian Frontier
Anyone who has ever been to Sol de Mayo will remember Cerro Puño, an arresting and imposing peak that looms above our home base. To round off the 2017 season, the PAEX team decided to make an attempt at the first ascent of this magnificent mountain. While we didn't reach the summit, we found an astonishing world of ice and rock at the top, and enjoyed spectacular views of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Cerro San Lorenzo, and, in the distance, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. See below for photos of the expedition.
The trail to Puño basecamp is now cleared and ready for visitors, and offers stunning views just one day from Sol de Mayo.
On a spectacular spring morning last week, a PAEX team - including a 67-year-old client - summited a sub-peak of the beautiful Cerro Aislado, and were granted a breathtaking view over the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. The ascent began the day prior with a climb through thick forest, behind Camp 4 of the AGT. We climbed steadily, pausing often to enjoy the views of the Colonia Glacier stretched out below us. Slowly, the deep lenga forest turned to knotted, dwarf trees, making for some difficult going. We camped that night at the forest's edge, hoping that a light afternoon rain would clear by dawn. It did, and we continued the climb the next day over a short talus slope and then onto hard morning snow. Perfect stillness greeted us at the summit, and we lingered taking in the view and comparing our maps with the landscape in front of us. As mid-day turned to mid-afternoon, we began our descent, pausing for a lunch of fruit and cheese on the talus slope, overlooking turquoise tarns and deep green forest, and then reaching camp in early evening, where all parties enjoyed a much needed siesta. Enjoy some photos from our trip, below:
A new season of expeditions is nearly here, which means it's time for the PAEX team to begin stocking the AGT's camps with durable foods, chopping firewood, clearing downed trees, and performing repairs on our rustic bathrooms. Enjoy some photos from our time preparing the trail, and come join us this season!
PAEX maintains several glacier monitoring systems that have been installed by the University of Colorado, the University of Nevada, and the University of Utah. These devices measure the rate of flow of the Colonia glacier and broadcast that data directly to satellites, allowing scientists around the world to observe patterns and change on the ice field. For the past few weeks, though, a few of the monitors have failed to transmit their signal. The problem could be as simple as a need for new batteries. Or it could be something more complicated. Given the harsh winter conditions on the ice, there are many possibilities of what could have gone wrong.
It takes about two days to reach the monitors. First, we cross Lago Colonia in PAEX’s motorized dinghy – about a one hour journey over frigid water. Then we hike up to Camp Five of the AGT – known as the Condor’s Nest for its stunning views over the surrounding valleys. We are traveling light and moving quickly, though wet and icy rock sometimes makes our path slick.
When we do arrive, we’re surprised to see that the problem is not just a simple battery failure. The whole transmitter has been devoured by a wave of ice – most of it is frozen below the ground. Every now and then this happens, and it’s not all that surprising given that the Colonia glacier advances at a rate of nearly a meter per day!
Chipping away slowly at the ice with our crampons, we manage to excavate the device and then reset it on a nearby bluff. The project isn't finished yet - we'll need to be in touch with colleagues in the United States to know if the data has resumed transmitting - but we know this is a big step towards getting the machine back on line.
With the transmitters back upright, and hopefully stable for many months to come, we head back to Sol de Mayo, where we're greeted by a welcoming committee of eager dogs.
Daily rhythms change in the Patagonian winter. Here at Sol de Mayo Ranch, at the top of the Colonia Valley, winter is a chance to catch up on projects that’d been put aside during a hectic summer on the ice. And also to cook, to read, to linger over sunsets, and to re-center ourselves for the coming season. Enjoy some photos from winter life at Sol de Mayo below: