Bengt: "The Northern Patagonian Icecap is unlike any other skiing destination. [...] Perhaps a Fairytale would be the right description?"
courtesy Bengt Egil Rotmo
"Following the valley on horses up to the Nef Glacier."
courtesy Bengt Egil Rotmo
"Across the Ice Cap, the hours of work means more than the distance in km."
courtesy Bengt Egil Rotmo
"Fresh moraine ground and loose stones in unsettled ground are the biggest challenge terrain wise. Especially when adding a heavy backpack on top of that."
courtesy Bengt Egil Rotmo
"Sunshine and no wind are the surprising things up there..."
courtesy Bengt Egil Rotmo
"On the Northern Ice Cap you pretty much know that you will get really bad weather at some point."
courtesy Bengt Egil Rotmo
"To me the people mean more to the expedition than where it is; the people that I`m traveling with, and the people we meet on the trail.." In the image, Bengt Rotmo during the 2012 Northern Patagonia Ice Cap crossing.
courtesy Bengt Egil Rotmo
Northern Patagonia Ice Cap: ExWeb Interview with Bengt Egil Rotmo

Posted: Dec 07, 2012 08:55 am EST
(Correne Coetzer) The ice on the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap is going back fast, says Bengt Rotmo to ExplorersWeb, "Much faster than anywhere else I´ve been on adventures before. That makes the edge between ice and “land” very different from year to year."

Last month, right after a Greenland crossing, Bengt crossed this Ice Cap the third time; guiding three people, Mike O'Shea, Clare O'Leary and Elin. He says, to him the people mean more to an expedition than where it is; the people that he is traveling with, and the people he meets on the trail.

Bengt also tells about this Ice Cap route and the conditions, their gear, and why he sees this journey as more than an Expedition or an Adventure.

ExplorersWeb: Bengt could you give a short description of the route you followed across the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap and the travel to get there please?

Bengt: The journey starts with the bus from Balmaseda, the scenery is great. From here it goes in to Caretera Austral. This road we follow all the way to the start of Rio Baker. Here you are on the east side of the Northern Icecap. Following the valley on horses up to the Nef Glacier. Then we continued over the Ice Cap and down to Laguna San Rafael which is on the West side.

Distance: Not long, somewhere between 100 and 150km I guess. Anyways, the hours of work means more than the distance in km.
Days: 19

ExplorersWeb: This is your third crossing, was it the same as the previous two times or is a place that will surprise you every time?

Bengt: I guess you need to have more than three crossings to be able to answer this question, right. But so far I would say that the Ice Cap will give anyone demanding weather. Lots of wind and rain; more than any other ski destination I guess.

You could get weather considerate bad anywhere you go, but on the Northern Ice Cap you pretty much know that you will get really bad weather at some point. So you could say it's pretty predictable :-)

The other thing that's predictable is that there's always things that doesn`t go as planned, but when that happens it's always to something better.

Sunshine and no wind are the surprising things up there...

ExplorersWeb: Tell us about the terrain and the challenge please.

Bengt: I would describe the terrain as “new country”, the ice is going back fast. Much faster than anywhere else I´ve been on adventures before. That makes the edge between ice and “land” very different from year to year.

Fresh moraine ground and loose stones in unsettled ground are the biggest challenge terrain wise. Especially when adding a heavy backpack on top of that.

ExplorersWeb: How much did your gear weigh?

Bengt: 55-65kg.

ExplorersWeb: You had to provide for horse riding, boat riding, skiing, climbing, crevasse crossings... What were the five useful items you took with?

Bengt: Every Items is useful, and there's no chance that you could do this trip safely without most of what we brought.

If you look at it the opposite way: I brought a book I never did read. We had three GPS`s in the team and could drop one of them I guess. We could probably drop one of the team's multitools and one of the spare stoves too.

ExplorersWeb: If you would do this expedition again, what would you do different?

Bengt: Add a couple of days to the trip, go for lighter equipment in a couple of places.

ExplorersWeb: Anything else?

Bengt: The Northern Patagonian Icecap is unlike any other skiing destination. The people, the remoteness and the variety of the area, the demanding environment and the beautiful surroundings makes it to something more than an Expedition or an Adventure. Perhaps a Fairytale would be the right description?

Place of residence: Norway
Work: Engineering and Guiding
Family: Wife and three kids
Hobbies: Dog mushing
Favorite music on expeditions: Coldplay and Country Music
Favorite Food on expeditions: Chocolate
Latest read book: Think it was Borge Ousland's last book about the Arctic sail circumnavigation.

Best adventure yet: Every adventure is the best when it's in the doing phase. To me the people mean more to the expedition than where it is; the people that I`m traveling with, and the people we meet on the trail. All of my journeys have been with great people and on places where I´ve meet other great people.

If you twist the question to where I`ve learned the most, I would say, crossing Alaska on skies and skiing the North West Passage.

Dream destination: Patagonia is still a dream destination for me, there's so much to do there: lovely people and so many hidden wonderful places.

3 top accomplishments in your life:
- Reaching the finish line in Femunden 400 dog race with healthy dogs at a 54th place (or something like that) I´m sure it made me feel better than anyone who wins the Iditarod :-)
- The “race” across Baffin Island in springtime with a heavy winter load, when we did the North West Passage, felt pretty good.
- Coming in to the South Pole from Hercules Inlet as a part of an unsupported team that was stronger than it was when it started was great!

There are two Patagonian Ice Caps. The Southern Ice Cap spreads from Jorge Glacier (N) to Balmaceda glacier (S); it is 350 km long. The Northern Ice Cap is located between 46° and 47° South, being 120 km long and 30 km wide.

The surface of the Northern Patagonian Ice Cap is at about 1200/1500m of altitude. However, the area includes the highest peak in Patagonia: Mt. San Valentin, almost 4000m.

The first traverse of the Northern Patagonic Ice Cap was achieved by British explorer Eric Shipton, accompanied by Spaniard Miguel Gómez and Chileans Eduardo García and Cedomir Marangunic in the (austral) summer of 63-64 – their 37-day-long traverse was not complete though, since they exited the ice by the flank of Cerro Arenales. The first complete traverse from San Rafael to Steffen Glacier (N-S) was done by a French team led by Ilario Previtali. The team also climbed Mt. San Valentin on the way, completing the feat in only 26 days in March 1993.

In the winter of 2006 Pablo Besser (leader), Nicolás Von Graevenitz and Francisco Urzua) completed the traverse of the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap. Pablo claims this has been the first complete crossing of the Northern Ice Cap achieved in winter - a double success for Besser, since he was also on the team that first crossed the (larger) Southern Ice Cap back in 98/99.

Related/Previous:

Video: 2012 Northern Patagonia Ice Cap crossing

Expedition watch: Northern Patagonia Ice Cap crossing

Daily Dispatched: Bengt Rotmo, guiding for Ousland AS on Northern Patagonia Ice Cap




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