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KAPE 2 ATACAMA is next in the My KAPE series of environmentally and socially responsible climbing expeditions.

In March 2014, Kai Fitchen is to embark on his most challenging adventure yet. Traversing 20 000kms in a little over 5 months, he certainly has his work cut out. Add to this the fact that he is intent on travelling the entire route in a sustainable and carbon-neutral way and you can begin to understand the enormity of his task.

Fortunately, he will be joined by Michael Owen and his partner, Robyn Kime. Both engineers, the duo will help Fitchen with the research side of things – an aspect that wasn’t present in his first expedition, and one which Owen believes takes the KAPE 2 ATACAMA expedition to another level.

“Part of being a conscious traveller, in my mind, involves making a positive impact with your time wherever you go. One of the best ways to do that is to assist the researchers who are out there on the front lines of the battle to conserve and protect our planet's natural places.”

Kai will be crossing the Atlantic Ocean, a journey of 6100km (3800 miles) from Cape Town, South Africa to Fortaleza, Brazil by boat. Along the way, they will be doing research for the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology, which involves collecting samples of plastic in an effort to study the impact of marine plastic pollution on marine bird species. This means that while KAPE 2 ATACAMA appears to be an excuse to travel, it’s also about ensuring a better future.

Fitchen and his team have also partnered with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) to conduct research for two additional projects during the Atlantic crossing. The first project studies the impact of tiny plastic particles – less than 5mm in size – on the health of marine ecosystems. The second project involves the recording of cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and sea turtle sightings in the region of the ocean through which the team will be sailing.

If all goes well, the team will arrive in Fortaleza by mid-April. From there, Fitchen, Owen and Kime will travel south west by bus to southern Bolivia before taking the infamous ‘Death Train’ to Sana Cruz. The team will then hold their first school/community programme in La Paz, the third most populous city in Bolivia before crossing the border into Peru and heading to Cusco, home of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. A third and final ASC project will see them collecting very small samples of rock from the mountains of Bolivia and Peru in an effort to understand how microbes interact with the rock in the mountainous environment.

A trip up north to the capital of Peru, Lima follows, after which the team will make their way to the climbing mecca of Huaraz, which includes the Huascarán snow peak, considered to be the highest mountain in the tropics.

“We’ll only be travelling by basic public transport (nothing chartered) and sustainable means, such as trekking, cycling and hitching. It’s also known as ‘carbon neutral travel’ where you're not adding another motorised vehicle onto the road.”     

It is at this stage where Owen and Kime will leave the expedition, heading to North America while Fitchen heads south to Chile where he will face his most difficult climb of the expedition. Towering at 6893m above sea level, Ojos del Salado, on the outskirts of the Atacama Desert, is the highest active volcano in the world.

 After his summit attempt, Fitchen will start the journey home, travelling across Argentina to Buenos Aires on the coast where he’ll search for a boat to take him home.

“This journey is unscripted and unpredictable. Well, if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be an adventure.”



KAPE 2 ATACAMA 2014's expected route: