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When a client asked EXP to take his family plus a friend’s family to Patagonia over festive season, we knew we had to create not only a once-in-a-lifetime journey, but also a once-in-a-lifetime holiday memory for both families.

The goal was relatively simple: to go to places that have seldom been seen and never been touched by humans. While that might sound impossible these days, the landscape and remoteness of Patagonia, at the southern end of South America, make it very feasible. Fishing rivers that have never been fished, climbing glaciers that have never had a footprint, and naming a canyon with no name were all on the journey that EXP dreamed up.

The Journey

The Journey

Lead guide Andrew Roberts recalls scouting a new climbing route before the families arrived, commenting, “Two AW119 Koala helicopters buzzed past me, and I got goosebumps. I knew that these two aircraft had to be a big part of the upcoming itinerary, so I hustled to the airport to connect with the pilots and begin planning our routes for the week.”

The Team

The Team

Another big piece of the puzzle, besides logistically getting from point to point, was finding appropriate accommodations in such a remote region. Wherever the two families of four stayed needed to have the feeling of a private home, but also allow great access to Torres del Paine and Bernardo O’Higgins National Parks. Kau Rio Serrano fit perfectly; a small property nestled on the Rio Serrano, just one kilometer south of the entrance to Torres del Paine and a quick flight into Bernardo O’Higgins. The fact that it was a newer property built from local materials, allowing the house to blend into the landscape, gave the authentically Patagonian feel that was important to this trip as well. Each of the six rooms featured a wall of windows looking straight out to the Paine massif, the famous blue towers of Torres del Paine, and the numerous glaciers, peaks, rivers, and lakes of this incredibly carved landscape.

KAU Rio Serrano

KAU Rio Serrano

When the families arrived in Puerto Natales, Chile they were greeted by their EXP Guides and escorted to the Koalas (helicopters) to begin their adventure. Eyes lit up and jaws dropped as they flew over Torres del Paine and followed the gentle bends of Rio Serrano to their Patagonian home away from home. The helicopters landed in the front yard of Kau Rio Serrano and remained staged there to serve as the families’ main means of transport to explore this region over the next seven days. A brief expedition on foot welcomed them to the property, followed by an amazing dinner crafted by an on-site private chef who would prepare all their meals throughout their stay.

View from first flight

View from first flight

The first full day in Patagonia began with a helicopter flight to a private estancia inside Torres del Paine National Park at which special permission to land had been obtained. Gauchos with saddled horses greeted the families, and together they rode up the Ascencio Valley, giving the Americans a taste of a day in the life of a true Patagonian gaucho. At a small refugio they stopped for lunch and the left the horses hitched up as they hiked up into the hills, closer to the three iconic granite peaks rising out of a scree field that make this park famous.

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A new day brought a new adventure, this time learning to fly fish on a section of river cut so dramatically by large glaciers that it was not accessible by vehicle, boat, or on foot – the helicopters of course were a different story! Fly fishing on a river that had never before met a fisherman was exciting for the families – and for the fish. After two big days of adventure, Kau Rio Serrano was the perfect home base to return to for relaxation and massages in one of the rooms EXP converted into a private spa.

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The following day was truly epic, as the families not only landed on, but also named, a pristine glacier that had never before been touched. The previous evening, EXP Guides had given the kids a flag with a custom logo, created just for this trip, plus a bag of fabric and markers. Their task? Come up with a name for a glacier and put their personal touches on the map. With the flag and glacier gear in tow, the families stepped out onto the ice, following a safe route navigated by their guides. The families split into two rope teams and were outfitted with harnesses, ropes, and ice axes before learning about the general principles of glacier travel. They stepped off the nunatak and the adventure got underway, exploring crevasses, tarns, moraines, and even seeing glacial worms. The team dug a small hole in the ice, raised the flag, and the families claimed the glacier their own! To cap it off, a quick top rope was set up so the families could rappel down into a crevasse and climb back out. As their helicopters took off and they looked down at the glacier below, they knew this was an experience that would live with them forever.

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The next day was New Year’s Eve, and of course the EXP Guides had a very special surprise planned. The helicopters departed Kau Rio Serrano after breakfast, following a glacial river through a valley before landing on a beach at the base of a waterfall. The weather changed from sunny to snowy to rainy, but the ambience remained magical. At the beach, one of the guides told the families that he always wanted to explore above the waterfall but had never been able to do so and had never heard of anyone visiting that area. He then explained that the plan was for all of them together to be the first explorers venturing into the canyon above the plummeting waterfall, and they hopped back in the helicopters for a quick flight. After the families stepped foot on this enchanted land, EXP revealed we had already sent a petition into Santiago, Chile to declare naming rights for this canyon. The EXP Guides pulled out a map where they’d already written the families’ last name as the identifier for the canyon. Exploring untouched land and lending it their name was quite an extraordinary way to spend the last day of the year.

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Caption 9

New Year’s Day started leisurely with a delicious brunch prepared by the chef and then a causal mountain bike ride through the surrounding forest. The families reflected on all they’d done over the last few days and took in their beautiful surroundings one last time. To celebrate the final evening in Patagonia, they invited the families of everyone who had made this incredible trip possible to come to Kau Rio Serrano for a traditional dinner of asado and roasted lamb. The night was special for everyone involved, and when the time came to part ways, they bid each other farewell, all feeling thankful to have shared time together over this festive season.

Meet the EXPert team that brought this journey to life!

Sunny Trann
EXPerience Manager

Andrew Roberts
Lead Guide

Shon Foster
Head Chef