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August 15, 2010
What it's like in Patagonia

Your eyes flash open in the middle of the night as explosions rip the darkness. All you can see is the lightless inside of your small tent, no reference but for the sound of multi-thousand ton concussions echoing off the peaks. This is what it is like at the high, Chilean end of Patagonia, camped in the horns and crags of the southern Andes. Although your camp is safely positioned, you cannot help your heart from racing as you listen to a falling serac, thousands of tons of glacial ice and rock breaking free and plunging into the valley below.   

The earthquake-riddled tail of South America is an active region, mountains piled against the oncoming Nazca and Antarctic Plates. The third largest concentration of ice in the world buries whole ranges and pours down into glaciers that dump seracs over the side. Massive turquoise rivers flush from under the ice, carving the southern reaches of Chile into a geographic labyrinth. No wonder you wake with a start. Nothing here is built on a human scale. You are out of place.

When the violence dies away, listen to the serac's fading roar. Count the valleys it echoes through. The magnitude of this landscape will become clear. No matter who you are or your level of experience in the backcountry, this landscape will swallow your life.


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