In December, Erin Bastian, Lee Franklin and Mike Burnett embarked upon a thirty-three day self-supported expedition through the wilds of Patagonia. Here is the video of their journey.
Moments on the map …
Pío XI Glacier
A bluebird day at the end of our first week, just as we reached the Pío XI Glacier. We could see it in all its glory and watched porpoise hunting around our camp whilst we cooked on an open fire. The first time Lee had ever seen a glacier and a good one too.
King crab day
After just over three weeks eating only freeze dried food, we were passed by a local fishing boat, which came over to greet us through the wind and chop. They were friendly and generous, giving us each a king crab for dinner that evening. Lee then quickly paddled to the next available landing spot to delicately unload these giangantic crabs from between his legs, where the fishermen had loaded them (to his shock). We cooked up a feast – the best tasting food I have ever eaten.
After an enjoyable morning in the sunshine the weather took a swift change for the worst. Suddenly we were holding on to our paddles for dear life. With nowhere to land, we were totally committed, our only option to paddle for ten long kilometres down and around the corner to the shelter of the first inlet we could find. It was a hairy afternoon, but we released we could survive a force 10 wind, just.
For five days we paddled up Estro Peel, hoping to make it through the narrow gap into the very top basin. We knew that this would be the closest we could get to the Patagonian Ice Field, to see glaciers flowing down steep mountain sides right into the sea. Navigating the channel was pretty exciting as lumps of glacier were funneled down with the currents. We had to dodge icebergs as big as houses whilst paddling upsteam into the top basin. Luckily our nimble kayaks were manoeuvrable enough to weave in and out of the crazy ice traffic.
Erin’s top ten – gear for paddling in Patagonia
1 Palm Lofoten dry suit
This was like a second skin, worn from eight in the morning to eight at night. I can’t even think what life would have been like without it. Knowing each member of the team was wearing a dry suit meant that if the conditions got tough, we would have some time to sort things out before the cold became a danger. Climbing into your suit in the morning gave us the boost we needed to go and cook up breakfast even in the hardest of weather.
2 Inmarsat Isatphone
A piece of kit I was reluctant to buy for the trip, having never needed one before, but the Chilean Armanda strictly require all vessels to have some form of satellite communication. Rescue may take days but at least it would be possible with a sat phone to ask for help. After a lot of research I came to the conclusion that you couldn’t buy a sat phone for less than £500 new. Hiring was a little cheaper but seemed like a waste of money to me. So I did what anyone on a strict budget would do, I started to watch Ebay!
In hindsight, the sat phone was our most valuable resource. We had daily weather forecast (a important lesson I learnt from my last trip). We received morale boosting texts from home, whilst keeping loved ones updated (my mum was a huge fan of this). Also the chilean navy required a daily location which the sat phone could easily provide in the form of a GPS lat and long grid reference (reassuring as we knew the folks that could rescue us if the worst happened were tracking us the whole time).
Inmarsat have good global coverage (bar the poles), and their biggest selling point was their ‘pay as you go’ price plan. Even in the steepest of fjords we never failed to get a signal. This is a piece of kit that I recommend to anyone who is heading to a remote area.
3 North Face Blue Kazoo sleeping bag
4 Palm pogies
In this environment with out pogies to protect your hands from the elements you would really suffer. I chose the Neo mitts, with their plush lining. They are easy to use as they’re always attached to the paddle, so you can easily take your hands in and out when needed. They also don’t effect your grip, unlike gloves.
5 Thermarest Neo Air
When camping on rough, uneven ground for thirty-three days this sleeping mat is the don. Lightweight, comfy and warm, I would recommend this bit of kit to anyone. It makes expedition camping more of a glamping experience.
6 Palm onesie
Wonderfully fleecy on the inside, the Core 4 fabric of the Trisuli suit has great wicking properties, and kept moisture away from my body. It is perfect to use with the drysuit relief zip (ladies – it is an amazing combo). Even after thirty-three days of use it barely even smelled (to my surprise, unlike the boys’ thermals).
7 Seti thermals
These waffle thermals are the warmest and most comfortable underlayer I’ve ever owned. The Seti top and bottoms were both great under my drysuit, and still perfect for wearing at night in my sleeping bag. When paddling 30 km a day for numerous days in a row I have struggled to find thermals where the seams don’t chafe under my arms. Palm has really thought about this and have as a consequence created thermals that sit well against the skin and cause no irritation even day after day.
8 British Airways mini pillow
Yep thats right, I did acquire a mini pillow from my flight out to Chile, and it was my cheekiest luxury for the whole trip. Packing space was very tight but, I am glad I snuck this cheeky little item into my boat. A tiny little pillow meant I had a comfy night’s sleep every night.
I boarded the plane to Chile in true style – to save weight I wore my wellies. I wear silly expensive sailing wellies as I prefer boots without a chunky heel, and my feet don’t have to sit twisted in the boat. Lee followed my welly tip, buying a £12.99 pair from his local hardware store for the trip and he’s now a convert. Any pair will do!
I wore my wellies every minute of the day that I wasn’t in my tent. The big advantage of wellies for expedition kayaking is that when (inevitably) your feet get soaked through, they can be emptied and dried in no time. You can be back to walking around your boggy campsite straight away in a pair of comfy warm dry wooly socks. Mike became very envious of this when his watershoes were soaking and his Crocs didn’t stand a chance on the saturated campsites.
10 Thermos mug
Warm drinks can make the difference between a good mood and a bad one when you’re cold, wet and tired. Insulated mugs meant that we only had to light the stove once an evening because you could keep a hot drink aside for later. This became a big deal when our fuel ran out and we had to cook on fires.