Northern Patagonian Icefield Crossing

One of our most advanced and exciting expeditions! The aim is to cross the Northern Patagonian Icecap in 3 weeks, self-supported. We traverse the ice cap on skis and snowshoes from East to West. The expedition involves man-hauling pulks across glaciated, crevassed terrain and climbing several peaks in one of the most remote places on earth.

25 days
height 1500M
grade grade grade grade grade grade
price SALE 6500

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Gateway               Puerto Guadal

Daily distance       20-25km

Sled Weight          80-60kg

Temperature        20 to – 10°C

Distance                      400km

Nights on ice               20

Ski/ hiking days           21

Challenge                     5

Expedition Details

We are run this expedition in November 2021 and are accepting applications for this year’s expedition team. The maximum amount of participants is three plus one guide.

This expedition crosses the Northern Patagonian Icecap in 3 weeks, self-supported. We traverse the ice cap on skis and snowshoes from east to west. The expedition involves man-hauling pulks across glaciated, crevassed terrain and climbing several peaks in one of the most remote places on earth.

We will leave civilisation behind and transport our equipment on foot and sled to the snowline of the Leones glacier. From here, we plan to climb up to the ice cap proper – a tableau of vast white expanses, sleeping nunataks, and dozens of snow-capped Patagonian peaks.

Weather permitting, we will seek to ascend several of these snow-capped peaks located near to our proposed route. We will be traversing the ice cap on snowshoes and exiting the ice cap via the steep and heavily crevassed San Rafael glacier on the western edge of the ice cap. We expect to make landfall on the northwest side of the glacier, arriving at Laguna San Rafael for our boat pickup.

One of the main appeals of this expedition is its pioneering character. There is a lot of problem solving, complex navigation and lateral thinking involved. It is the opposite of typing ‘Climb Mt Blanc’ into Google.

The expedition uses multiple modes of travel, which adds enormously to its complexity and makes it a true multi-stage expedition. A boat crossing is followed by a portage, another boat crossing, a cache-phase and finally the icecap. A whole week will be needed to get up onto the ice cap, walking through moraine fields, woodland and tundra. The main effort will be moving our kit to new camps and new caches to eventually get all 300kg of equipment onto the plateau where we can start dragging it in pulks. We are taking a lot of contingency food for bad weather. Once on the crevasse field we will then travel across to the western side where the ground gets the trickiest. The actual pulk phase is only short but means navigating complex crevasse fields, lowering off cliff faces and crossing glacial lakes.

This expedition truly is one of a kind. You will still be relatively close to civilization (different to Greenland for example) but the ground creates a massive distance between you and the rest of the world. It is a different type of crossing compared to Greenland in terms of covering distance: rather than covering big distances to get to where you want, Patagonia has only one day on the whole trip which allows to cover more ground. While Greenland is an endurance game, Patagonia is one of problem solving. Managing yourself in difficult environment, doing complex rope work, dynamically risk assessing avalanches, equipment worries and hypothermia. There’s a broad need package too – there are so many different things you need your equipment to do – pulling pulks, abseiling, mountaineering – you need perfect jack of all trades equipment.

This is one of our most advanced and exciting expeditions!




Training and Preparation

Many wonder how to prepare best for this type of expedition. This varies a lot for each individual. We provide advice and support before the start of the expedition to make sure that all team members are as best prepared as possible and we have a functioning team.


Hauling a pulk in low temperatures for long days means you burn over 6,000kcal every day. The food we take is there to keep up your calorie count, but also your morale. We supply freeze-dried Mountain House ration packs as well as lunch packs. For breakfast and dinner there will be a variety of meals to choose from. Prior to the expedition you will be asked to sign up to our Portal and select your preferred options.

Please let us know in advance if you have special needs or concerns regarding food or nutrition, we will do our best to help.


Guide-Client ratio is maximum 1:3, which allows for close personal support for each expedition team member. Our teams carry a Personal Locator Beacon which sends out a signal via satellite to identify the approximate position of the party. We are also equipped with satellite phones, first aid kits and group rescue equipment. All leaders undergo courses in expedition and advanced first aid. All of our expeditions teams have access to Remote Medical Support, which provides instant access to UK-based medical advice and to prescription-only medicine.

Fitness Training

We provide personal training plans and advice for each participant as part of a 1-day Training Consultation, included in the trip package. For this expedition, signing up to the Training Consultation is mandatory, as it is a committing Grade 5 expedition. We’d like to make sure that the teams we take are reliable, skilled and as best prepared as possible.

We are contactable at any time to give individual advice on training and preparation. Our usual support includes talking through any questions on the phone, and we will be in regular contact with you in the build-up to the expedition to supply you with information, updates and reassurance where needed.

If you are looking for the fullest level of support and an in-depth training programme, read more about our Train for Extremes Polar Training programme. We are currently the only expedition company that offers full physical training support for our expeditions.

Training Weekend

An essential part of preparation for the expedition is our UK-based Training Course, which is part of the expedition package.  It provides a short, sharp shakedown of the highly specific expedition systems we use on the Icecap. Organised to run a few months before the main expedition, this is an opportunity to bring it all together; equipment, fitness and technique.  At this stage, you should be aiming to get confirmation that you’re well on track; there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises or big holes found in your prior preparation. It’s also a great opportunity to get to know your team mates and guides.

The training course is included in the trip price, with the exception of travel to the course location, accommodation and personal equipment.

More information on the training course and dates will be given when you’re signed onto the trip.


Equipment is one of the areas we get the most questions on. Being well kitted out for a trip into extreme conditions is essential. Once you are signed up to a trip we will send you a kit list which explains thoroughly what you need. Why and how you use the equipment will be discussed on the training course. Our pre-expedition training course is designed to help you get familiar with the essential kit.

For our trips we supply most of the specialist equipment that is not easy for you to get yourself, either as part of the trip package or for rental. For your personal equipment we are able to offer advice on choosing the best kit, most of which we can order in for you at good discount prices.

All of our trips have a strong focus on training and supporting participants to become self-sufficient in the polar regions. Before and during the expedition we will teach the skills which you will need for an independent expedition or to be a good team member in our and other expedition teams.

Campcraft, Equipment and Clothing 

The only true way to experience the polar regions is by being self-sufficient. Being comfortable and safe out there means paying great attention to detail, practice and techniques and adhering to a workable routine. The essential thing with polar camping is to keep things dry inside the tent. You will learn how to pitch the tent in strong winds or on icy surfaces, how to arrange the inside of the tent, how to secure the pulks outside and how to use snow shovels and a snow saw for cutting snow blocks to dig in the tent.

There’s an art to picking the right sleeping bag, right boots and proper clothing. The issues are knowing how cold it is likely to be, weight and volume issues, synthetic versus down considerations, and of course the budget available.

Our aim is for you to acquire more technical knowledge yourself and start to know what feels right and works for you. Head and face, hands and feet all need special attention as they are particularly vulnerable to frostbite and the chosen systems have to work faultlessly even under the harshest conditions.

Hazardous Conditions 

Experiencing different conditions, knowing what to expect and learning how to cope best is one of the most important things you will learn. Our rule of thumb is to be prepared for the worst and pleasantly surprised with the favourable.

There may be days of whiteout when cloud reduces contrast and definition and sky and horizon are merged into one. Any sense of scale and distance are lost, causing complete disorientation. It will be necessary to take compass bearings and know our rate of travel. Crosswinds, temperature and conditions underfoot can influence our direction and speed.

Strong wind and wind chill is common – we will learn to deal with this, looking at protective clothing and camp set-up.

The extreme cold comes with its own challenges and we will practice and revise routines and systems for this. Every task undertaken in the extreme cold will be far more difficult to complete than in warmer temperatures. GPS or batteries may not work, food and drink freezes, taking out a map with gloved hands becomes a struggle.

Food and Cooking 

You will learn how to keep your body fuelled for the strenuous physical exercise and about the routines of cooking in minus temperatures. (By the end of the expedition you will know the perfect fill-line for adding hot water to your dry ration!)

Sledge travel

Sledges are the essential thing about being self-sufficient. Sledge hauling is a self-contained and very efficient way of travel. Personal loads of up to three times the weight of those ‘backpackable’ can be hauled in relative comfort. Even complete beginners can soon learn how to haul on skis. You will learn about hauling and safety techniques as well as efficient packing.

Snowcraft and Snow conditions

We will cover snow and ice techniques, methods for roping up and other safety procedures needed for a polar environment. We will spend time re-practicing techniques and re-familiarising ourselves with all the equipment, trying out crampons and digging simple snow holes.

The surface of the ice sheet consists more or less of well packed snow that the constant wind sculpts into sastrugis. Some precipitation should be expected causing blizzards, bad visibility and difficult skiing and hauling condition. One or two days after snowfall the conditions should be good again, the snow well packed and skiing easy. In the event that the sastrugis are difficult, too high to easily haul pulkas over them, it is very important that expedition members arrange their gear into the pulka in a way that prevents them from rolling over. The expedition leader will be more than happy to advise you on how best to pack things into a pulka. The snow conditions can make the use of skins necessary, when climbing up the ice sheet. For the crossing we recommend rifled (crown/fish scales) skis for all participants except experienced cross country skiers. If someone opts for skis that need wax or klister, we will provide this and advise on how to use it. In the warmer temperatures on the lower parts of the ice sheet on the west side, there may be some complications with ski-wax, whereas rifled skis are perfect. In May there is less chance of precipitation, but some snow and even blizzards can be expected.

Fitness Training 

Where our programme is different to others, is our emphasis on fitness training. Having a solid fitness plan and targeted exercises to work with is essential to prepare your body for the stresses of a polar expedition. If you are extremely serious about your personal development in polar environments and have big targets in mind we can support your training with our Polar Training programme.

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You will get to know your guides in person on the training course. Mark is the main guide on most expeditions, but he has teamed up with a handful of other guides who form part of the Exped team. All of our guides are capable and dedicated. They have the right attitude – both towards reaching the goal and towards their expedition teams. We strive for safety and mutual support in our teams, as well as having a bit of banter. All of us love adventure, but most of all we want to pass on our knowledge, share amazing experiences, and inspire others to be ambitious.


Mark is the director of Exped Adventure and the head guide on many of our expeditions. Mark is a highly experienced Expedition Leader and Mountaineering Instructor with over 20 years of mountaineering experience. Mark grew up in the English Lake District and has been climbing, running and walking in the mountains all over the world since he was a small child. He knows the Lake District, North Wales, Scotland and the Peak District like the back of his hand.

Mark has led a variety of expeditions to the far corners of the globe. He specialises in technical mountaineering and remote trekking expeditions. Mark grew up in the English Lake District and knows the area inside out.

Mark has put up new routes in the Lake District, Scotland, and Kenya. Climbing in all disciplines remains his passion.

Mark’s Expediton experience is broad and vast, including expeditions to Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Peru, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Norway, Svalbard, Russia, and more.

Marks high altitude climbing experience includes; Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon, Ama Dablam, Aconcagua, Kyajo Ri, Elbrus, Tharpa Chuli, Singu Chuli, Mont Blanc, The Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, and much more!

Mark lives in Windermere in the Lake District with his young family.

Mark is a certified ML, WML, IML and MIA.


Matt is an experienced outdoor instructor and has been in the industry for 12 years. He has worked with clients all over the UK, Peru, and Europe and has mountaineering experience in America, North Africa and Western and Eastern Europe. Matt’s personal interests include multi-day mountain marathons, ultra marathons and triathlons.

Matt is a certified ML, WML and MIA.


Rich has 30 years experience of climbing and mountaineering, with 15 of those years as a professional Mountaineer and Climbing instructor. He has climbed and led clients extensively over the breadth of the UK and in the Alps.

With climbing and mountaineering experience over Italy, Switzerland, France, Austria, Canada, Slovenia, Greece, random islands and North Africa.


Gary has been working as Group Captain and Training Expedition Leader in the Royal Air Force for 25 years before taking on his current freelance work as Outdoor Instructor. He has led numerous White Water Kayaking expeditions to the French Alps and New Zealand, as well as Sea Kayaking expeditions in Scotland. He has been on expeditions to the High Atlas Mountains and Nepal, including Gokyo Ri (5357m).



Tracey is a highly experienced International Mountain Leader and also holds the Mountain Instructor Certificate. She has Alpine experience on touring and cross country skis, including summits of Weismeis, Pigne d’Arolla, Grand Paradiso and Mt Leone. She has lead mountaineering expeditions to Mt Kenya, including ascent of Diamond Couloir, Kilimanjaro, Bolivian 6000m peaks and Mont Blanc. She has extensive personal snow and ice mountaineering experience in New Zealand, the Alps and Scotland.
Currently, she is working as a maths teacher at an International school of Aiglon College, Chesieres, Switzerland where she assists with the Outdoor Ed programme throughout the year.

Outdoor national qualifications British Assoc of Snowsport Instructors Alpine Level 2, Cross Country Ski Leader; Mountain Instructors Certificate (winter climbing instructor); International Mountain Leader.


Start Date End Date Days Price Availability
26th Nov 202120th Dec 202125£6500


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What is included:

  • All in-country logistics
  • Highly experienced polar guide (maximum ratio: 1:3 skiers)
  • Expedition food
  • All joint equipment – tents, pulks, harnesses, burners, fuel, navigation, comms, repair, medical
  • Search And Rescue insurance
  • All permits
  • GPS, satellite phone, emergency beacon
  • Pre-expedition training course (More info provided after booking)

What is not included:

  • All flights
  • Personal equipment
  • Meals before and after the hiking/skiing phase
  • Bar bills and laundry
  • Excess baggage on all flights
  • Other expenses due to weather or safety reasons (delays)
  • Visa fees
  • Travel, medical and cancellation insurance
  • Optional trips and sightseeing tours
  • Tips

Booking – What happens next:

• The deposit reserves you a place on the trip. It is non-refundable according to our Booking Conditions. You will receive a confirmation of booking and further details about the trip.
• We will also supply you with more information on the training weekend and a complete equipment list.
• If you require a payment plan, get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can discuss the options.
• We will need you to fill in a Client Booking form for our records, regarding any health issues, your experience, insurance and next of kin details.
• The remaining balance will be due 8 weeks prior to departure (unless you arranged a payment plan). Any cancellations at this point are subject to our Booking Conditions.


Bespoke option:

We can organise this expedition on a ‘tailor-made’ private basis for groups of friends, families, clubs, charities or any other group. Please contact us to discuss the itinerary and your preferred dates. We will then send you a quote, with no obligation.



You will need a travel insurance policy that caters for the activities you will undertake on your trip with Exped Adventure. It is a requirement of our booking conditions that you have such a policy. For advice on best policies get in touch.

Our greatest focus in building our expedition teams is to find people with sufficient commitment to train and prepare. Generally, expect the lead time to build up the fitness and experience required to successfully complete the expedition to be between 1-2 years depending on your background.  Training should be continuous and progressive. A solid background in endurance sports like running or hiking long distance is a good starting point but additional structured training is essential.  As important as general endurance training is specific training: placing any training in the context of the multi-stage demands of the expedition – carrying heavy weights uphill on your back and hauling a pulk that weighs 80 kg at the outset means that you will have to balance ultra-endurance training with strength training and targeted exercises.

If you are looking for the fullest level of support and an in-depth training programme, read more about our Train for Extremes Polar Training programme. We are currently the only expedition company that offers full physical training support for expeditions.

The potentially extreme cold, high winds and changeable weather and the routines needed to cope with this can be tiring and require a lot of self-discipline. You will be at an advantage if you have previously trekked and wild-camped in cold and snowy environments. If you’re not used to working in such a cold climate, look into ways in which you can gain experience.  Whilst the training course will focus on the specific techniques used on the expedition, this experience is only a part of getting prepared.

An essential part of preparation for the expedition is our UK-based training course, which is part of the expedition package.  It provides a short, sharp shakedown of the specific expedition systems we use on the Icecap. Organised to run a few months before the main expedition, this is an opportunity to bring it all together; equipment, fitness and technique.  At this stage, you should be aiming to get confirmation that you’re well on track; there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises or big holes found in your prior preparation.

Participants should expect long and hard days throughout the journey. As such, the expedition is only suitable for people that are both physically and mentally prepared for a highly engaging experience. Be aware that the mental aspect is often more challenging on expeditions like this than the physical one. Therefore, it is of great importance that participants are ready to deal with unexpected and challenging circumstances, since they can be stressful.

Expedition members must be prepared to be confronted with cold weather, strong winds, fresh snow and even blizzards. Also expedition members should be ready for very challenging camping and camp life in bad weather conditions. In this environment, weather conditions can change rapidly and the temperatures vary from 0 to -20C. Preparation and correct equipment is vital, as well as learning how to operate and be self-sufficient in polar conditions.

The Patagonian Icecap crossing is a real multi-phase expedition and needs to be approached as such. The expedition follows a set routine and we will soon get into the rhythm of expedition life. Each day is divided into different kit-hauling or skiing periods. The bags and pulks are at their heaviest and the slopes the steepest when the team sets out from the Eastern side of the Icecap. We therefore plan on gradually ‘acclimatising’ to the workload of cache setting by gradually increasing the distances and hours; in the opening stages, this tends to be 6 hours and towards the end, up to 9 or even 10.

We take regular short breaks throughout the day, where the expedition members can grab a snack and a drink and at noon there is a longer stop for lunch. During the pulk phase, we keep all necessary gear for the day, such as the day’s food, and other essentials, extra hats, gloves etc. on top of the pulka where this is easily accessible. Individual snacks can be carried in your jacket pockets where they are easily accessible for snacking on the go and won’t freeze. Each evening camp is set up, snow is melted for plenty of tea/hot drinks and dinner is prepared by each tent team. After breakfast, camp is broken and the first walking period starts.


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