The southernmost settled town on earth begun in 1902 as a penal colony and is now, I must say, not much more welcoming… I kid, I kid! I mean that it’s damn cold and grey and snowy and that there is very little about this town that doesn’t have anything to do with quenching tourists’ thirst for adventure. And we are those tourists but still, would a little charm have killed them?!

Speaking of charm, we settled at Ukurj Apartementos, very warmly welcomed by Miguel, his wife and their newborn baby, into their newly built small hotel, well appointed with a view of the mountains which would have been perfect but for a deadly detail (more on that later.)

After sleeping for a night and a day, making time for napping, school and food shopping, we woke up today and decided to go a glacier, as one does. Glacier Martial, a five-minute drive from town, there for all who want to give it a try and usually an easy summer path, marked and delineated for us novices, but it had recently been covered by a snow fall which erased most of the signs and rocks lining the way. As it was a beautiful morning, and we pined for a glacier after the last melting one, we had to go see with our own eyes the majesty of frozen nature. So on we went.

We were dropped off by the ever-helpful Miguel and started our walk up, in turn really cold and really hot, depending on whether we were in the sun or a fluffy cloud came to cover it for a second. They seemed overkill but we were wearing our thermals under our clothes so we were ready. For anything. Well…


As we slowly made our way up the mountain, we could see Martial, named after French explorer Louis-Ferdinand Martial, captain of the 1882 “Mission Scientifique du Cap Horn,” staring us right in the face but indeed no sign of a practical path to reach the top. Using inarguable logic, I posited to my family that “any way would inevitably lead to the top” and without waiting for an answer, I started climbing, straight up, on mostly unstable ground, under the consequential frown of my children’s mother. It wouldn’t be easy but damnit I had to get up there, at or near the top of this glacier at the freaking end of the world! Right? Right.





Definitely NOT a recommended route to anyone, we sweated slowly but profusely as each step certainly took its toll on our buttery bodies but not our will to see what was on the other side of this summit. Passing “do not walk here” signs did not deter us, Gina’s admonition that she was ok with taking risks, just not stupid ones, did not deter us, the mounting snow storm we could see blowing at the peak, however, might…

Still, perhaps stupidly, we pressed on as Gina stayed put, waiting for us behind an enormous boulder, wisely protecting herself from the wind, while we went to tempt the devil. There wasn’t much further to walk before my own emergency signals went up, but we could taste it, that point where the rock turns to ice, the point where sure-footing on this edge was no longer a good bet, the point of return…





A few minutes later, we got there, planted our metaphorical flag in the ground, completely alone on this peak, proud to have… WHAT’S THAT?!… I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it might as well have been a Wampa because the force of the wind that swept us up was just strong and incredible. As you can see above as it inches towards Zoel, he dropped to the ground, as he has been taught nowhere and I grabbed Leeloo by the hoodie so that her 4-foot frame wouldn’t just fly away. We were good, just had to wait for a break in the wind for us to inch back down to mommy, who was right… But the strong gusts kept coming and that’s when we heard it, when Zoel started screaming “I DON’T WANT TO DIE!” Turning to him, I attempted to reassure him but he continued… “WHY???” resonating on the mountain as I tried to close the gap between us without endangering Leeloo who was holding me tight. Wanting to lighten the mood, since, and I want to be clear about this, the real danger was minimal even though it felt both clear and present, I asked Zoel what makes people who believe they’re on the verge of death ask “why” to no one in particular? I am still holding that bait…

Finally, the wind died down enough for us to very slowly walk back down over admittedly sharp-edged rocks and met back up with gina, who was right all along, did I mention that? Leeloo was happy as a bird taking her first flight and Zoel lied down in abject disgust for my behavior.


Nevertheless, we now had to get down and the storm was now in full effect. We knew we couldn’t go the way we came up, too steep. So we decided to, you know, just take the glacier down for a literal run… Holding hands, we jumped onto the snow, filling our non-snow shoes with ice along the way and ran for twenty minutes until we finally reached the cut-off path. It was not the smartest course of action but it sure was fun…


Back where we started at the base of the mountain, we slipped into the only building there, a Tea House of course, and had ourselves some soup and burgers, it was only lunch time after all! All to end with a well-deserved with M&M cookie…


We can’t believe we did all of this in about four hours, and I must say, it wasn’t the end of the world… EXCEPT IT WAS!!!

Ed. note: My apologies.

We were soaked and couldn’t wait to get home to strip and stand in front of a heater for the rest of the day so we called a cab, who granted our wish.

While at home, the news about what was happening in Paris dropped into my Twitter feed and so the rest of the day darkened our hearts quicker than the sky did… Later that night, filled with dread and preoccupation, while Gina and the kids were already in bed, I walked down the stairs holding a laptop and my external hard drives to plug them in for the night and I slipped from the top. Ten or so newly waxed steps later, I was on my back on the tile floor, in pain but ok, with my family rushing to help. They picked me up and I am fine. What is not fine is one of my hard drives, containing the entire photo library from our journey so far, dented from my fall preventing it from running. My entire photo library, gone… Amazingly, up to that point I had backed up all my videos, so I will still be able to edit the movies, but not yet my pictures. 

I will wait to hear what the good people at Drive Savers say after they look at it but I know recovery can run in the thousands of dollars, not something I’m looking forward to. We shall see. As Gina says, we have all those pictures in our head. And we do, even if those sorely lack saturation and grain in my opinion…

My conundrum with backing all the media I generate, which is A LOT, is space, both digital and physical. My music, photo and video altogether take about 5TBs of space so far, growing daily. That means I need 10 TBs of space to have a least one backup of each library, a need made impossible by the fact that 4TB portable drives are not recommended due to their higher than usual failure rate and five 2TB drives, in their thick protective cases, would be too bulky to backpack with the rest of the stuff that I don’t check-in when flying or busing. Sadly, Dropbox is not an option since the wifi around the parts we travel in is wildly unreliable and paint-drying slow. So I’m not sure what to do for the rest of the trip in order for this not to happen again. Any ideas?…

We leave Ushuaia tomorrow for greener Chilean pastures, see you there. 

Bonus content (NSFW?): Butt bruise…


1 Comment Leave a reply

  1. Gary
    Permalink to comment#

    Glad to hear you are alright. You survive a glacier but slip on the stairs. The irony… Sorry to hear about the hard drive — hopefully everything will be recovered! Be careful and see you soon!


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