Patagonia 2023


From 23 October 2023 to 07 November 2023

Five women who have suffered from cancer experience the Patagonian ice in this ninth adventure of the Pelayo Vida Challenge. This time they will reach the barren southern Patagonian ice field, the third largest frozen expanse in the world after Antarctica and Greenland, the setting of the Pelayo Vida Polar Challenge 2017, i.e. the largest of all the “non-polar” ones and located in the Patagonian Andes, on the border between Argentina and Chile. 350 km long and almost 16,800 square kilometres of pure ice and rock, where our five expedition members will have to overcome a tough march of ten days and 70 kilometres to reach the slope of the “nunatak” of Cerro de Gorra Blanca (2,920 m). Its name is based on the snow and ice forming on its summit, which looks like a gigantic “white cap”. In 1984, Italian mountaineers Gino Buscaini and Silvia Metzeltin made the first ascent to the summit. 39 years later, our five expedition members will attempt it again.


Patagonia is home to the largest ice fields in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica, whereas its 49 glaciers are among the fastest moving in the world. The Patagonian Ice Field, which is the largest ice mass in the Southern Hemisphere, is considerably more massive than expected, exceeding that of the Alps by 40 times. The five people chosen for this ninth edition will have to walk more than 70 kilometres along the continental ice sheet without any outside assistance and reach the slope of “nunatak”, a mountain peak surrounded by a large ice field, Cerro de Gorra Blanca, amidst strong icy winds.

For 11 days, the expedition members plan to reach the so-called “Piedra del Fraile” shelter, located 6 kilometres from the base. The next day they will reach the Marconi Glacier, with stunning views of the Fitz Roy mountain range and the Pollone needle on a tough march of almost 10 kilometres uphill. The next day the column will cross the Marconi Pass to reach the “Gorra Blanca” shelter. As they ascend, they will find themselves moving along the border line between Argentina and Chile. To the west, different groups of mountains start to appear in the vast mass of the southern ice field and large labyrinths of crevasses in the areas where the slope changes. The “Circo de los Altares” will be an important stopover along the expedition to change course to the north and arrive again before nightfall at the “Gorra Blanca” shelter.

That journey will be the most important day of the expedition, as it will be the day to head for the Gorra Blanca summit, the final day of the Pelayo Vida 2023 Challenge. From the shelter, they will ascend 1,300 metres to the summit, walking with snowshoes at the beginning and changing to crampons as the slope becomes steeper and the snow gives way to hard ice. Our five mountaineers will be able to unfurl the Challenge flag on the Patagonian summit.

The Pelayo Vida Patagonia Challenge against cancer, now in its ninth edition, aims to spread the word about the benefits of exercising during and after cancer treatment by climbing and crossing one of the third largest expanses of ice in the world.


We are in a privileged area, overlooking the Ice Field and gradually descending for several kilometres until we reach the northern Marconi hill. Then the journey continues over flat terrain with some deep crevasses along the way.

The aim is to camp in one of the most special places in Patagonia, the Circo de los Altares, 1,300 metres above sea level and right in front of the Torre and Fitz Roy mountain. The aim of this ninth edition of the Pelayo Vida Challenge is to climb the “Gorra Blanca” mountain (2,920 m), which was conquered only 39 years ago and is located close to the Marconi Pass, the border with Chile and gateway to the Continental Ice Field. This “nunatak” was conquered only a few decades ago due to its difficulty, especially because of the strong winds that blow from the Chilean side.

This lonely region of the world has attracted travellers, explorers and adventurers since the 16th century. The first European to spot this huge mass of ice was the Spaniard Juan Ladrillero, who, in command of the ship “San Luis”, sighted a large glacier on 4 December 1557. The discovery apparently occurred when the ship entered this latitude through one of the many fjords of western Patagonia, the present-day “Eyre Fjord”. On the same journey, Ladrillero ventured again through various channels, encountering the continental ice glaciers on three occasions, which he christened “Sierra Nevada”.

The ice fields were first studied in 1943, following aerial photographic investigations carried out by the United States Air Force (USAF) at the request of the Chilean government. Subsequent expeditions were organised, mainly led by explorers from different countries. In February 1952, the “Argentinean Continental Ice Expedition” succeeded in carrying out the first east-west crossing over the Marconi Pass to Exmouth Fjord. In 2003, the Norwegian Boerge Ousland and the Swiss Thomas Ulrich made a north-south crossing, without outside supplies and using sails to propel the sleds, overcoming the Richter Fault and leaving the ice in the Pingo Glacier sector.

The “Pelayo Vida Patagonia 2023 Challenge” will be the first expedition on the continental ice sheet carried out by a team made up solely and exclusively of female cancer survivors.

Rocío Monteoliva


Rocío Monteoliva is from Granada, has a degree in Translation and Interpreting (English and German) from the University of Granada and is a High and Medium Mountain sports technician. She is also a technician in Nivology and self-rescue (CAG2), official teacher in Nivology by the ACNA, guide of the Sierra Nevada National Park (CENEAM), official tourist guide, guide in extreme conditions (WGA), lifeguard and trainer of trainers in BLS and CPR, alpine ski teacher since 1999, head of the teaching staff of the EAAM-FAM (Andalusian School of High Mountaineering) since 2019 and has been responsible for the FAM Ski Mountaineering Committee for three seasons (2017 and 2019).
Furthermore, her achievements include that she was the first woman to descend the North Face of Mulhacén on mountain skis and her title as a High Performance Mountaineering athlete (for ski mountaineering and climbing).









8 TV 11 OCTUBRE 2023