The route taken by the GMHM team through Tierra del Fuego’s Cordillera Darwin. [Photo] GMHM
This fall a French military team spent a month navigating the Cordillera Darwin in Chilean Tierra del Fuego.
Lionel Albrieux, Sebastien Bohin, Didier Jourdain, Sebastien Ratel and Francois Savary, from the Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne (GMHM) and civilian Dimitri Munoz spent thirty days traversing the length of this remote range, traveling more than 250 kilometers in the process. Though not a technically difficult feat in a pure climbing sense, the Cordillera Darwin’s remoteness and horrendous weather provided more than an adequate challenge for the French.
Located in the “Furious Fifties” (the parallels between 50 S and 59 S) the range is subject to infamous weather patterns caused by cooled air sinking as it speeds from the Equator towards the South Pole, the narrowing of the Earth’s diameter and the vast expanse of the southern oceans.
In 2008, Keri Medig, Steve Ogle and Dean Wagner were forced to abandon their attempt at a traverse due to the conditions. Ogle wrote on the trip blog, “We’ve had eight hours of sun over the past twenty-five days, none of this has been direct – no blue skies to cheer us on. It’s rained or snowed every day, almost constantly. The wind picks you up and moves you; as Dean says, ‘It’s like the finger of God flicking you off his shoulder.’ Our longest travel day so far has been ten kilometers, the longest stormbound time has been six days, although we’re at day five and counting… This week we managed to travel five kilometers, last week three kilometers. During the last crevasse fall benzene spilled over everything I have, including my clothes and food.”
It was exactly this remoteness that drew the French to Tierra del Fuego. Lt. Didier writes that the area is “one of last
lands of the globe to have resisted the greed of
explorers.” Though the French had significantly better weather than Medig, Ogle and Wagner, it took them two weeks to cover the first twenty-seven kilometers. The video below gives a more intimate report of the trip.