Monday came from one of the hardest trips he remembers in his half century of life. Juan Diego Amador On this occasion, he did not conquer a great peak, but he was able to overcome serious difficulties to complete the route that sir ernest shaketon made in 1914 on the inhospitable islands of South Georgiawhich can only be reached after 10 days of sailing from Las Malvinas.
“I have climbed the highest peak on every continent, including Everest. But without a doubt, carrying out the Shackleton Route in South Georgia in the conditions that we have done it has been one of the most demanding activities that an adventurer can undertake”, comments the mountaineer and geographer from La Laguna.
“The difference is fundamentally in this trip with others -he continues- is in the exhibition, because although all the previous activities are technically much more complicated, I did not assume so much commitment. For example, in 2017 I crowned a virgin mountain in the Himalayas that we call Pico Islas Canarias (6,025 meters). I climbed a new route of high difficulty and that activity was nominated for the Piolet de Oro, as one of the best of the year at an international level. In that case it was an activity with a high degree and risk, but with less exposure than the Shackleton Route, because in the Himalayas you know that there is someone at the base camp, and that if something happens to you you can be helped or even rescued in a few hours or days. But in South Georgia we were alone and the nearest hospital was ten days away by boat. That is why it has been a sporting objective with a great commitment assumed in advance, and without a doubt with the greatest exposure of what I have done so far. That is why very few climbers have dared to repeat this historic route and for us it represents a new feat”.
A trip that left him with a bittersweet taste, due to the bad weather conditions, which according to him made it impossible for him to record more and see the rich fauna of those islands. “My intention was to do more activity on the Island, but the weather was horrible and luckily I was able to do the Shackleton Route. The weather was really bad for the two weeks we were in South Georgia. In fact, with such bad conditions, it would have been logical not to have left the ship. However, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and relied on my experience to try it. I knew that a chained series of storms was coming from the Antarctic convergence, but I never thought that it would be of such magnitude. To my surprise, my barometer registered a drop to 970 mb. in the middle of the journey, just on the 19th. When I arrived in Tenerife and checked the data for those days, I understood the importance of the situation; just those days the historical low pressure record was broken in the Antarctic area. The truth is that we suffered hurricane winds with speeds of over 100 km/h and that handled us like rag dolls. I came to fear for our physical integrity.”
The route on foot was as hard as navigation, an almost new situation for those who live in the mountains and not in the marine environment. “Indeed, an important part of this adventure was to recreate sailing to the island in a boat, traveling 1,300 kilometers under sail. The outward leg was quite good, as the wind was downwind and although the sea was moving, the trip was quite bearable. But the return was much worse, it coincided that the current and the wind came right from the bow and also the storms reached us from Antarctica. Honestly, it had been a long time since I felt as scared as on the sixth day of sailing. We were in the middle of the South Atlantic, with temperatures around 2ºC, with hurricane winds and we were left adrift because a rudder cable broke. The worst thing is that we were still four days away from reaching Las Malvinas and there were no boats nearby to help us. During those hours the wind was so intense that some waves passed over the ship. The gusts even exceeded 60 knots and we could barely stand up. Luckily the captain has a lot of experience and in a few hours we managed to fix the fault to continue gaining miles at sea, but they were very delicate moments and a lot of tension”, he comments with emotion still on his face with signs of fatigue.
Juan Diego Amador combines his passion for mountaineering with his role as a Geography teacher. And he, knowing half the world – this same year he had covered the longest glacier in Europe, in Norway – he is very aware of the climate change in which we are immersed. South Georgia is not exempt from this phenomenon either. “Unfortunately if. Perhaps it is less obvious than in other latitudes because it is one of the wildest, coldest and most remote regions on the planet. But I was able to verify that in some of the bays, where thirty years ago the glaciers fell directly into the sea, now they are more than five hundred meters removed from the coast. A fact that seemed curious to me is that the penguins, adapted to live on the ice, now have to leave the beach and walk a distance to find ice to step on. They suffer more from climate change than we do”.
And we can’t finish our chat with Juan Diego without asking him about his next adventure: “The truth is that we always joke that it’s the penultimate one -he comments- and we’ve been that way for many years. The truth is that I am still excited, dreaming of new destinations and new adventures like this one. But right now I have to rest, be with family and friends and get back to work. Along these lines, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to the Government and Parliament of the Canary Islands, the Cajacanarias Foundation and Sports of the City Council of La Laguna for their invaluable help”.