Rated as one of the toughest human-endurance events of all time, the annual Patagonian Expedition Race in southern Chile brings competitors on a 10-day journey where a map and compass are the sole guides. Our in-house race squad, Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers, is on its fourth year competing in the Patagonian event, including a 5th place finish (2010), 2nd place (2011), and 3rd place last year.
This time around the squad is going for the spot at the top of the podium. They just need to make it through the ice fields, fjords, primordial forests, and jagged peaks that define this remote part of the world first.
The competition is stiff, with many of the top teams returning to Chile to again go through the wringer. But our squad is trained and honed for the challenge, and as usual they have a few tricks up their sleeves in the gear department.
We caught up with Team Captain Chelsey Magness for an update. She sent this missive from our regular home base at the Hostel Victoria in Punta Arenas, Chile, over the weekend as the squad made final packing decisions, scoured maps, and got ready for another “adventure of a lifetime” kind of race.
—Editor Stephen Regenold raced in the 2010 and 2011 Patagonian Expedition Race with GearJunkie/YogaSlackers
February 10, 2013. Punta Arenas, Chile. We made it to Punta Arenas with all of our bags and bikes, which is in itself an amazing feat. In past years we have had bikes and bags not show up, which makes the race even more interesting!
Punta Arenas and the Hostel Victoria feels very much like a home away from home. We keep in touch with George the owner and his family throughout the year, and they take us and all of our gear in with open, welcome arms.
The first days here this year found us doing gear checks, testing out our bikes and, of course, eating lots of white bread, empanadas, Lomit’s burgers and Golden Nuss, our favorite chocolate bar brand.
Today was the day we got the maps, and we went over them with Race Director Stepjan. We were thrilled to see that over 90% of this year’s course is brand new to us! The race will include a serious glacier crossing of the Southern Continental Ice Shelf, a pack-rafting section among icebergs, and monster wilderness treks.
After the overview, each team was allowed only two questions and then sent off to assemble their bags for final food and equipment drops. The race this year is 701 km total with approximately 60 km paddling, 350 km mtn. biking, and 300 km of trekking.
The excitement among the team was palpable as we tried to make far-reaching decisions. “Are we gonna need extra food in Bag #5? Should we stage shoes and dry socks in the kayak bag, and if so, will we just carry them with us on the bike leg?” “Can we do that 46 km in a single day?” etc.
Some of these choices are critical — get too much food too early and we have to carry it with us adding weight to packs; get food too late in the race and wind up hungry and weak. These questions were debated ad nauseum as we stuffed gear in oversized duffels.
Eventually the time came, and our bags were loaded onto a truck. So we prepare for one last night of sleep as we continue to wonder if we hit the right combination of packing for “what-ifs” and the fast-and-light mentality that will get us a top place.
We are taking pack rafts for two of the big treks, we are cutting way down on our food weight, and we have to take apart and put together our bikes 8 times. Super excited!
With all three of last year’s podium teams returning it will certainly be an exciting race. We start tomorrow at 12:00am in Puerto Natales. Wish us luck!
—Follow GearJunkie/YogaSlackers this week as they race live via a DeLorme-powered interactive map on YogaSlackers.com.