Truckee couple explores Patagonian ice cap
While an average couple might choose to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary with a special dinner or a night out in San Francisco, Truckee residents Mike and Emily Salmon chose a trek on the remote Patagonian ice cap that straddles the border of southern Argentina and Chile.
In 10 days of trekking with Wilderness Travel, a Berkeley-based adventure travel company, the Salmons covered nearly 90 miles, carrying 40-plus pound backpacks and traveling with nine other people.
Joining the Salmons were two guides from Wilderness Travel, one local guide from Patagonia, three porters and three other paying customers, all of whom were along to explore a region of Patagonia that few people have ever seen.
“It’s one of those epic areas that you always hear about and would like to see at some point in your life,” Mike said.
The Salmons have always been avid travelers – they have been all over the world and have backpacked throughout the Sierra; however, this was the first time either of them had experienced the kind of isolation found in such a remote location.
“The area that we saw was still untouched, and there are very few spots in the world that still are,” Emily said. “We found out why it’s untouched – the weather is epic down there and it’s pretty hard to get to.”
During the trekking portion of their trip, the group circumnavigated the some of the most famous peaks in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, including the Fitzroy Massif.
“The peaks of the whole area, they’re unlike anything,” Emily said. “I’ve seen the Andes a fair amount; we’ve both seen the Alps; we’ve seen the Himalayas; we’ve seen the Rockies, both north and south. And they (the Patagonian mountains) are just straight up and down. They’re nothing like anything you’ve ever seen in a regular mountain range.”
By all accounts, the weather in Patagonia is nearly as dramatic as the backdrop of craggy peaks reaching over 10,000 feet into the sky.
“We got stuck just before the ice cap on one of the glaciers that accesses the ice cap for two and a half days in a blizzard,” Emily said. “We couldn’t get out of the tent and didn’t want to get out of the tent.”
Though the weather presented a challenge, both Mike and Emily claimed that they were well advised on what to pack for the trip.
When the weather did clear up, the Salmons found themselves surrounded by an otherworldly landscape filled with glaciers, rocky debris fields and fossils.
“The standard joke on the ice cap was that we were going to come around another corner and find the Mars rover,” Emily said. “It really looked like either the moon or Mars. It was really unbelievable.”
The Salmons were thrilled to see the Patagonian landscape before it becomes just another stop on the adventure travel circuit.
“This whole area is probably going to be the next climbing capital of the world,” Emily said. “With Nepal and all those areas being somewhat unstable right now, they’re seeing a huge increase in tourism down there (in Patagonia). But ‘huge’ is relative – we only saw one other group of people the whole time we were there.”
Mike agreed that the region will likely see an increase in tourists, perhaps including some from the Tahoe area.
“People in Tahoe travel all the time and do a lot of fun stuff, and this would definitely be a region I’d recommend,” he said. “Just be prepared for the weather, even in the summer.”