“The Patagonia race has always been that large shiny red apple in the fruit bowl that I was told not to eat. It is just too daunting to attempt. But it has always been the real challenge to me: to mess around in those freezing conditions that have never been much a part of my life. And to be exposed to an area on this planet with very different laws.” Hanno Smit muses on the reasons why the Merrell Adventure Addicts’ upcoming expedition race could be the pinnacle of his adventurous exploits.
There is no such thing as an ‘ordinary’ expedition adventure race. Each one aims to take teams on a long journey through the lesser known remote lands of a country. Each one demands complete surrender to the environment while pushing hard against physical and mental limits.
But the Patagonian Expedition Race – ‘The Last Wild Race’- has plagued the team’s minds since first marvelling over the spectacular photographs and reports that emerged after each of the previous ten events staged in various parts of this pristine and unpredictable region of Chile. Images of icy fjords, translucent glaciers and splendid, desolate isolation have floated across their vision while sweating through jungles, crossing deserts and wading through swamplands.
When the organisers announced they would be putting on another event in 2016 after a two year hiatus, captain Graham Bird quickly put it to his team and they unanimously agreed. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to wake up in our dreams and we are fortunate enough to have Merrell supporting us so we can afford to make this our reality.”
The team of four leave from the sweltering heat of South Africa on Wednesday 10 February to land near the very bottom of the South American continent where they will soon don their new thermal underwear and turn together to face this 700km contest, traversing unassisted through the pristine region by means of trekking, climbing and related rope work, kayaking, mountain biking, and backcountry navigation. They could cover hundreds of kilometres without seeing another soul.
“It’s the challenge of pushing through what you think is impossible.” Said Graham gravely and Grant Ross agreed. “The nerves for the extreme conditions are kicking in. There seem to be far more threatening hazards on this race than any other that could end the race very quickly, and that is quite scary. But, no risk, no reward.”
“I’m going to Patagonia!! It’s got to be one of the ultimate destinations for any adventure lover. All stories of the place ooze with magic and mystery. I can’t wait to see and experience it myself.” Exclaimed Robyn Kime Owen who got to travel to Swaziland, Brazil and Australia with the team last year. “I want to touch an iceberg. I want to see, in real-life, some of the postcard-famous peaks. I get to put on a drysuit for the first time and wield crampons and an ice-axe – which just makes anyone seem way more of a real adventurer!”