The Mountain Club of South Africa will commemorate 125 years of its existence in 2016. The MCSA is one of the oldest mountaineering clubs in the world and this will be a demonstration of the Club’s, and by extension, South Africa’s standing in world mountaineering. To celebrate this, the MCSA is facilitating a national expedition which can appeal to a wide spectrum of MCSA members – trekkers, climbers and mountaineers. The expedition will be entirely self-supported; no guides or commercial operators will be employed.
Patagonia is a region at the very southern end of the South American continent straddling the Chile-Argentina border. The region is exposed to extreme weather with the gale force winds accelerating to over 150 kilometres per hour. It is one of the most remote and inhospitable places on the planet – but also one of the most beautiful! The O’Higgins area in Patagonia was selected as the most suitable venue. It offers a number of challenging peaks, almost unlimited trekking options and relatively easy access to the Patagonian Ice Cap and its snow peaks. The area is rarely visited and there is strong potential for new routes and even unclimbed peaks. As there is very little information on this area members will have to use their mountain skills to identify suitable objectives and to navigate in unknown terrain.
The Patagonia 125 Expedition will be relatively unusual in that the activities to be undertaken encompass many of the mountaineering disciplines and not just the technically hard ascents more common on expeditions of this nature. The area does indeed lend itself to alpine-type ascents of considerable difficulty but there will also be considerable opportunities for the less technically-minded.
The obvious targets for the technical climbers are repeat ascents of Cerros Steffen and Kruger. The scope for new routes on these peaks is considerable and it is anticipated that these peaks will keep the technical climbers busy for the duration of the expedition.
The aim is to expose MCSA members to the hardships and joys of expeditions to remote areas. Expedition members will be asked to take part in the planning and will so gain valuable experience. It is hoped that some will achieve a new route or even a first ascent of one of the peaks and everybody a personal first in some respect.
There will be more than one team. There will be a small core team of climbers attempting challenging routes on rock and ice. There will be a team exploring peaks and valleys in the wider area, possibly venturing onto the Southern Patagonian ice cap and climb some mountains there. There will be a few more groups trekking and exploring.
The Lago O’Higgins area has seen very little attention by climbers in the past and information is scarce. In 1991 a small group of South Africans visited the area and made the first ascent of Cerro Alesna. In a sense, this trip served as a reconnaissance for the major expedition now being planned.
Travelling to base camp will be an adventure in itself and involve flights, possible train rides, long and arduous bus rides down the Carretera Austral and a transfer by boat over the lake.
The period of mid-December to early February is the most suitable. Different teams will be arriving and leaving at different times during this time, however some might want to stay on for the entire period.
Costs are difficult to estimate due to the fluctuations of the Rand. At present the cost per person is estimated at R30 000 to R35 000. (Based on an exchange rate of R12/$).
The MCSA does not have the funds to support this expedition extensively. It is hoped therefore that various corporate entities will wish to avail themselves of the opportunity to contribute to this outstanding venture. Any sponsorship will be acknowledged on this website and MCSA news. In exchange for sponsorship, the corporate bodies will be able to utilise the story, images and videos of the expedition. Many members of the MCSA are talented photographers and it is anticipated that some stunning images and video footage will be brought back.