A Journey Into the Magical World of the Fiords

Written by the staff at NIGSA Events & Expeditions. NIGSA organizes the Patagonian International Marathon, Ultra Fiords & Ultra Trail Torres Del Paine and is an ATRA corporate member.  This article originally appeared in ATRA’s Trail Times newsletter and was published in December 2015.

After the resounding success of the inaugural Ultra Fiords race in 2015, this year’s edition is shaping up to provide the same staggering scenery and high level of challenge.

The Ultra Fiord event will be held in the Provincia de Última Esperanza (Province of Last Hope) — a region characterized by thousands of kilometers of fiords — in South-Western Patagonia, April 14-16, 2016, and include distances of 100 miles, 100km, 70km, 50km, and 30km.

The routes wind through the magical fiords of the Province of Last Hope, waterways carved thousands of years ago by the passage of glaciers. Competitors will cross rivers, mud, peat bogs, and glacier-filled mountains. Add the unpredictable weather to this challenging terrain and you have the makings for the adventure of a lifetime.

Ultra Fiord is an Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® qualifying race, and those who complete the 100 mile. 100K and 70K distances will receive the following qualifying points:

  • 100Miles – 6 points
  • 100K – 5 points
  • 70K – 4 points

Of the 24 countries represented in entries to date, a large number hail from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Uruguay, France, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Runners are also traveling from such diverse locales as Japan, Peru, Costa Rica, Australia, Portugal, Colombia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the U.K., Poland, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, and South Africa.

Race founder Stjepan Pavicic is gratified by the race’s swift international growth, and says, “At the moment 60% of the athletes signed up are from outside of Chile. I expect the number will be as high as 70% by the time we close registration. I’m thrilled to see such a multinational field.”

Pavicic is also happy with adjustments made for the event. The course will be very similar to the 2015 race, with several tweaks to create a “safer, more enjoyable race, with improved assistance at checkpoints and more stunning views along the way.”

The 100 miler, which previously measured at 108 miles, has been reduced to 101 miles. The April 14 start time has been moved from midnight to 10:00 p.m. These changes should put the runners in the high mountain zone of the course approximately two hours earlier, significantly improving visibility and safety. Smaller adjustments along the route have also been made, to create better photo opportunities. Finally, a new 50km distance has been added.

As the race grows and evolves, conservation and sustainable development remain at center stage. Chilean Patagonia is home to unique eco-systems and untouched wilderness. Ultra Fiord aims to raise awareness for the need to conserve this land by presenting a stunning race course at the heart of the region.  It also strives to positively impact Patagonia’s eco-tourism and encourage sustainable development within local communities.

Xavier Thevenard, two-time champion of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, won last year’s Ultra Fiord 70k with a time of 8 hours and 46 minutes. Thevenard described the race as, “super technical, wild, and full of mind-blowing landscapes.” “It is not possible to understand what a runner really goes through during a trail without having lived it,” he said. “Especially a trail such as Ultra Fiord in Patagonia.”

Registration for this year’s edition opened on August 17, and will remain open until January 31, 2016. Registration details can be found at: www.ultrafiord.com/registration/

Social media includes Facebook: www.facebook.com/UltraFiord, Instagram: @ultrafiord, with video at: