Nico Terol in Patagonia – The adventure of a lifetime

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As we reported earlier, Nico Terol set out at the beginning of December to wander over the ice fields in Patagonia and after returning a few weeks ago Nico sat down and wrote a diary entry about this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I have finally landed back in Madrid after the most fascinating trip of my life. Jet lag is doing its thing, but I feel the need to draw out all the mysteries of an experience that I will remember forever. Everything started in Madrid just about fifteen days ago…

I flew in from Alicante and at the Airport of Barajas I was joined by Jesús (Calleja), Emilio (camera man of the programme Desafío Extremo) and Quique (brother of Jesús), my guardian angels day after day in the ice. I already knew Jesús before and with Quique I had a quick chat at the Portuguese Grand Prix. They introduced me to Emilio before we got on the plane. What geniuses those three are, they always knew where to put me, even though I believe that regarding to the details of the expedition we were already behind schedule.

I knew that we were going headfirst into the war, but deep inside me I know that I am a tough type and I wasn’t scared. I prepared to fight and so we did it. We first flew to Buenos Aires and then to Calafate. In the final flight (Buenos Aires-Calafate) some heavy turbulences confirmed to me something that Jesús, Emilio and Quique repeatedly said to me while we flew over the ocean: that in this corner of the world the wind is unbearable. In Calafate we met up with Julian, one of the best guides of Patagonia, he even helped out as a expert for the film “Alive” (1993). A very friendly Argentinian. The first night we spent in Calafate in a very cosy hotel, surrounded by many mountains.

From there we went by car to Chaltén, a picturesque and colourful town sat in a natural park between glaciers. We arrived at dinner time and they invited us to an exquisite meal of lamb in a village bar. The best lamb I tried in Argentina. The following day we completed all the preparations for the expedition and also had some time to get to know the Chalteños. They are very hospitable and giving people, they invited us for tea in many of their houses. That same day we found out that in the South Patagonian Ice Field, where we planned to go, three mountain climbers (two Argentinian guides and a Mexican) were caught out by the wind which blew away their material and left them to the mercy of the cold. Later we got to know that the Mexican had died [of hypothermia] and both Argentinians had to be evacuated with a helicopter. At that point Jesús asked me “Do you know what you got yourself into?”. I have to admit that I felt a little intimidated, but I also thought that if they could do it, I could too.

That was my last night before the beginning of the long walk and I did not sleep very well. I was anxious, I felt the typical nervousness ahead of doing something great, like Saturday night before a race. The first day we walked for eight hours, we were a total of nine people walking over the glaciers. During the first days we chatted while we walked and little by little we got to know each other. But as the days passed, the wind got so deafening that you could only communicate with shouting. So we walked in silence, we used the stops to exchange our impressions, record some footage and enjoy the sublime views. Except the three days before the ascent to the Cerro Gorra Blanca where we had to stay in a Chilean camp to hide from a wind and snow storm, the rest, the activities were always quite similar.

We always got up at seven, had a little breakfast with instant milk, coffee and fish sandwiches where I had the chance to finally use use this knife I had bought a while ago, and gathered all the camping equipment. A bit after eight we started walking again, equipped with our hiking poles to walk on the snow and a backpack of about 25kg each. At noon we would stop to have a quick bite and then continue to walk until five or six in the afternoon. Then we’d unfold the camping equipment again and prepare our bivouac. I guess you can imagine how life at -10°C feels, with a felt temperature of almost ten degrees less. The first day I washed myself in a frozen lake, ignoring the advice from Jesús, and it was the first and the last time I did that. It was like a million needles stuck to my face and the horrible feeling lasted for almost ten minutes. The tents had a capacity for two people each and I shared mine with Jesús. We slept with thermal pajamas and the rest of our hightech clothes we also put into the sleeping bag, so that they dried up from our body heat. Between the tents we hung up a tarp which then served us as a common area where we sat together after dinner and discussed the best moments of the day. To dring we melted bits of snow with a camping stove and added mineral salts to fortify the water. Sometimes we also broke the ice with ice picks to fill up the bottles with frozen water.

Aside from the Circo de los Altares, the Cerro Torre, the Lago Toro and other things that I have seen in the South Patagonian Ice Field, the Cerro Gorra Blanca is magnificent. According to Jesús only five percent of the people who try are able to reach the top. Not because of its height, because it is not too high (a little more than 3000m) but because of the hard conditions they have to face. And we made it to the top, it was amazing. As I was the youngest of the caravan everyone called me Niño, unless they had to tell me something important, then they called me by my name. I remember the moment when we put on the crampons and started to climb up the ice wall of the Gorra Blanca, all tied to each other, Jesús said to me: “Nico, the main reason why you wouldn’t want to fall is that we’ll all plummet like stones for more than a kilometer and definitely get killed in the process”. There I realized the seriousness of the situation. And how brazen, seeing me adapt to everything well, practically without any instruction, giving me two recommendations and then just let me walk. But in fact everyone watched over my every step, especially Quique who was always by my side.

When we reached the top of the Cerro Gorra Blanca I felt amazing, like Superman, it was incredible. And now I have already returned to reality. It was an experience without limits, I’ve found a brilliant physical level and it was a great training for me. The only small negative was that l came back too thin and you’re pure nerve and often stiffened by the cold.
But as an experience and for me personally, I simply don’t have any words. Thanks to everyone who made this dream possible.

Source: Aspar Team

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