More than 60 years after the first ascent of the Monte Darwin, some Austrian friends would like to explore one of the last uncharted regions in the world. Three Carinthian guys, grown up only a few kilometres away from each other try to follow Eric Shipton’s footsteps and discover the peninsula of Monte Buckland, claim first ascents and set steps on a land where nobody has ever been. Even in times of Google Maps there are still areas which has conserved their mysterious aura of unknown territory and stood against the exploratory spirit of thousands of people. Similar (but not comparable) like at the age of Eric Shipton, the ambitious hobby-athletes, driven by their dreams and their sportive goals, would like to achieve their objects and the “Project Fireland 2013”.
Around the 10th of December they will gather in Punta Arenas/Chile, one of the southern most cities in the world, and will travel by boat to the starting point of the Monte Buckland-Peninsula where they will be left alone with all of their equipment and their supplies – alone for a whole month.
Two mountain ranges can be seen as the main targets of their project: in the south east the Cordon Sella rises to the sky, a sharp-edged arrangement of summits, a dream to everyone who is into climbing and mountaineering, but difficult to access and equipped with bad climbing conditions, such as terrible weather and loose stones.
In the west there is the main part of the expedition, a mountain range with the highest point of the peninsula, the Monte Hurt. Even in these days, we cannot state the exact altitude of the mountain which ranges from 800m to 1300m (depending on the map), the most accurate declaration was 1176m. What does this mean for the expedition? It may not be a high altitude climb and the expedition team will not get in troubles with any high altitude sickness, but therefore they will be challenged with moisture coming from the fjords, incredible unstable weather conditions (which varies from 20 degrees and hot sun to -10 degree and snow within a couple of hours) and rain forest at the very bottom of the peninsula. This will not be like an everyday climb in the Alps or anywhere else in the civilization. The team will face the lack of routes (do not forget – nobody has ever been there!), wet and unstable conditions from day one on and last but not least loneliness since the next human population will be more than a hundred kilometres away. Moreover, the weather is so extreme that none of the big mammals are living there and the only chance to get fresh food will be through fishing in the sea which can be quite frustrating when you do not know the local circumstances.
In the beginning of January 2014, they will be picked up by a boat and return to Punta Arenas, hopefully with experienced first ascents, but definitely with a lot of stories.
By fair means
According to the dictionary, it is to go “without any additional resources”, saying that there will not be any utilities already there. We will take our equipment with us and bring it back to the civilization, no need for letting anything at the peninsula. We carry our own luggage and cook our own food; nobody will help us in surviving and climbing. The only technical aid will be the boat which is simply necessary in this region because it would be too dangerous to go over hundred kilometres in a kayak.
How can we achieve this? We will build a base camp near the beginning of the peninsula Monte Buckland and will carry only the bare necessities for living in the mountain ranges. Days of austerity will alternate with “honey” days in the base camp (only seven days a week dry food!!). But everything is subject to change – the weather will dictate the daily plan!
Eric Shipton – this name is firmly bound to the most southern part of Patagonia and especially with Fireland. Who was this Eric Shipton? In our regions mostly unknown, but for the insider an early hero – he was renowned for his expeditions and adventures, was seen as one of the best mountaineers of his time and travelled around the whole globe. In 1931, he reached the highest point, a human has ever been to this very time, at the Mount Everest with 7816m. One can hardly imagine what it means to be there with only the poor equipment of the 30´s. He discovered the famous Khumbu-Icefall which is seen as part of the standard route to the top of the highest mountain on earth nowadays. Only the circumstance, that he was considered as too old, was the reason why he has not been one of the first humans on the Mount Everest. His substitute John Hunt was the leader of the successful expedition to the top with Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Even in Africa he climbed a lot of untouched mountains and has seen parts of the continent which were infamous to others.
We came across the name Shipton for the first time when we searched for an adventure in South America: in thrilling stories he described his travels to Fireland, a rough and furious piece of land in the very south of South America, only a couple of miles away from the notorious Cape Horn. On board of his vessel he cruised through the stunning, but at the same time dangerous fjords of the region which are barely inhabited. He claimed the first ascent of Monte Darwin, the highest mountain of the region and crossed the South Patagonia Iceshield in his entire length. He was truly one of the leading adventurers in these times and definitely one of the most important persons when it comes to the exploitation of Fireland. With his precise writing skills in total eight books, he described the landscape and the conditions in a very accurate way. Born in 1907 in India, Eric, a British citizen, travelled around the world (i.a. Galapagos Islands, Alaska, Chile, New Zealand, Nepal, Kenya) and died in 1977. He was one of the last great adventurers, a gentleman and a legend even in his days.