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Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race 2011

text by: Elvir Sulić

The desire to go to Patagonia occurred in my youth, when we spent the days climbing up and dreaming of big rocks, trips and expeditions. Ancient dream of climbing the legendary granite giants such as Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre has always been present in my mind, yet it remained only a dream. But the desire to go to Patagonia came true. However, in a slightly different, rather, an entirely different way.

This time, as it usually happens, we carried with us loads of suitcases & backpacks overloaded with various equipment. We were carrying everything you need for a real expedition, but this time we didn't climb. We went cyclyng, kayaking & trekking …for days.

 

The goal of our trip to Chile was to participate at the adventure race, "Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race." There are many similar races around the world, but none carries the epithet "the last wild race." WPER is not a great race, at least when it comes to budget and number of teams. WPER not even the toughest adventure race in the world. WPER is a great adventure, an expeditionary journey that can not be forgotten.

Race director Stjepan Pavicic has created a great concept that was held from birth WPER, which is that participants in the race are faced with the wildest and most demanding nature of southern Patagonia, at the same time paying attention to its protection. For this reason they limited the number of teams (15) who have the right to participate to this race. Bravo Stjepane :D!

This year's race, by saying of  the participants of its previous editions, was the toughest so far. Perhaps because of the very long trek shares. Maybe due to the selection of terrain. Or because of something else? Honestly, I do not know. We simply accepted the challenges that Stjepan set us, switched  off from reality and fully indulge Patagonia, and Patagonia is truly another world. Wild and indescribable. All I have always dreamed of.

For the first time since the race started in 2004 a Croatian team competed: Daria Bostjančić, Dario Rocco, Steven Vunić and I (Elvis Sulić), gathered in the team »Ad natura Karibu«.

We  were preparing for this race for nearly a year. Preparations requiered not only to physical training, but included the procurement of required equipment, food for the race, sponsorship seeking, and all of it takes a lot of time. I believe that our 4th place place in the race is a result of this long preparations. Lots of things were prepared in advance, which is essential in such long races.

The planned distance of this year's race was 617 kilometers, and its organizers had predicted completion 8-10 days. Because of safety reasons, due to very bad weather,  the race was shortened 114 kilometers (cca.3-4 days of trek). Lots of rain that fell in those days & raised the water levels. We had to cross many rivers and that increased the possibilities for hypothermia. Also snow covered the peaks and the speed of the race fell, the time limits were not met by many teams. On the trekking section there are no roads and the progress is rather difficult and slow, and savings are possible only from air. The decision on shortening the race was justified.

I can say this race fitted me.  Dario and I were the navigators and we were able to find the checkpoints quite simply. At each control we gained  at least one position, so that tactic of movement and rest did not change throuour the whole race. We moved during the day, and at night when our speed dropped below 1 km / hour, booted the tent and rested.

The hardest moments were the glacier river crossings, we were alredy feeling the cold and than we had to swim to the other side, this situations accrued many times and it was exhausting.

We hope that next year the weather will be a little more merciful, and allow us to enjoy all those beautiful natural landscapes.

Final impressions of the race: Patagonia is impossible to describe in words. So I will simply say: Indescribable!

Briefly:

Race length: 617 km / shortened to 503 kilometers
Disciplines: trekking, rowing / kayaking, mountain biking, orientation
Lengths of the disciplines (hours worked): 156 km trek, kayak 107 km, 240 km mountain biking
Number of checkpoints: 13
The average weight of a backpack: 10-12kg
Number of teams: 14 / 6 teams completed / 8 teams dropped  
Competitors countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Chile, Denmark, France, Croatia, Japan, Canada, N. Zealand, USA, UK
The total duration of the race (first team): 132.36:00 h / 5 days, 12:36:00 pm
The total duration of the race (our team): 157.29:00 h / / 6 days, 13:49:00 pm
The winning team: adidas TERREX / Prunesco (UK)
Ad natura Karibu (Croatia) - 4th position

 

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