Atacama Crossing Blogs 2023

Richard Behringer



Atacama Crossing (2023) blog posts from Richard Behringer

14 September 2023 08:14 am (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

I’m leaving for Chile in less than one week! I don’t know about you, but I have training fatigue. Fortunately, it is taper time. I hope everyone is feeling confident that your training has prepared you well for the Atacama Crossing. The wild card for me is altitude. Houston is at sea level. There is no opportunity for training at altitude here. Hopefully, arriving a few days early will help with acclimatization. On the plus side, the Houston summer was especially hot this year. I should be ready for the heat of the desert. The cold mornings at the start of each stage will be a wonderful change of pace.

Because this is my second attempt at the Atacama Crossing, I have a little PTSD about the locations where I struggled last time. Once I get through those locations, I am sure my confidence will soar, but I don’t want to get too confident. Respect the course. Listening to the daily course briefings is very helpful to get your mind ready for each day.

San Pedro is a wonderful little town with plenty of restaurants and gift shops that you can easily explore on foot just around the corner from the host hotel. Café Adobe, Aura Andino, Jardin Meraki, and Las Delicias de Carmen are very nice restaurants. La Franchuteria is a wonderful bakery for coffee/pastries where you can sit outside. There is also a nice little coffee shop next to the host hotel. There are very interesting astronomy tours in the evenings. I also did a tour to the lagoons of very salty and dense water where you can float. The water is crystal clear and very cold!

It is extremely dry and sunny in Atacama. Use lip balm continuously and sunscreen. Once you arrive remember to hydrate.

Looking forward to meeting everyone for this great experience.

Comments: Total (1) comments

Bill Davis

Posted On: 17 Sep 2023 02:30 am

Hi Richard! It looks like we are going to be tentmates. I look forward to meeting you. I'm a RTP rookie trying to navigate my way through the nutrition and gear process. When I read what the weight of your pack will be I was astounded and extremely impressed. I have been in full blown panic mode the last few days trying to reduce my pack weight. I have no idea how you have done it, but I would love to find out. I've taken out my sleeping pad, all electronics, dropped my calories from 21,000 to 15,000 and I'm still about 24 pounds. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I have also made one of the mistakes you mentioned that came back to haunt you before and that is not training with your pack. I thought it was no big deal until I tried to run with it tonight. Yikes, was I ever wrong. Anyway, congratulations on finishing Gobi and I'll see you soon. Bill Davis

30 August 2023 07:27 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

At the Race Check-in, we will receive a pamphlet called Course Notes that has important information about each stage. On the back inside cover I write my daily Morning and Finish routines. It is a convenient check list so that I don’t forget anything.



Bathroom (hand sanitizer)


Brush teeth

Wet wipe cleanup (bring them dried, saves on weight, then add a little water just before use)


Repack backpack

Fill water bottles/place course snacks in backpack pouch

Bathroom (hand sanitizer)


Return to Camp

Drop backpack at tent

Shoes and socks off

Wet wipe cleanup

Change to camp shirt

Bathroom (hand sanitizer)


Recovery drink

Continue to hydrate

Foot care at medical tent (wash, check for blisters), btw the Gobi March medical tent had nail clippers.


Brush teeth

Wet wipe cleanup

Bathroom (hand sanitizer)


Hygiene is very important as you travel to Atacama and during the race. I saw competitors who could not start or had to withdraw because they caught something (Covid and not Covid) traveling to Chile. As you travel, wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, social distance, and maybe wear a mask on the flights.

Yesterday I was doing some run interval training that went well but later that night I could bareful walk because of heel pain. I thought I had ruined my race with an injury. Fortunately, it is much better today but it reminded me that in these final weeks to do my best to stay injury free.

Stay healthy everyone!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Chris Stark

Posted On: 31 Aug 2023 04:29 pm

There's something about wearing contact lenses that makes hand cleanliness a must...but the point about hygiene is well made! See you shortly. Chris

15 August 2023 06:33 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

A very important thing I learned in preparing for the Gobi March this year (that I didn’t do for Atacama 2022) was to train with my pack (with various amounts of weight) and try out different shoes, socks, clothing, hydration, and nutrition. These rehearsals helped me realize I wasn’t hydrating sufficiently or getting enough carbs/calories per hour. I also worked out which snacks I could stomach on course (Fritos and Candied Pecans) and where to place them in my pack for easy access. I figured out which shoes worked for me and zeroed in on my rate of hydration and nutrition. Back-to-back (Saturday and Sunday) time on feet run/walks (6 hours each) with a weighted pack were great practices for Gobi and now hopefully for Atacama.

I plan to bring walking poles to Atacama. I have mixed feelings about this. Last year in Atacama one of my nearly new RL poles broke within the first 10K of the race. The bottom segment fell off. Fortunately, at the next checkpoint there was duct tape to hold it together. I also didn’t know how to use the poles properly.

For the Gobi March, I did not use poles. They probably would have been useful on the ascents and descents. I practiced with poles last weekend. They were a hassle because I put my water bottles in the back side pockets of the OMM pack. So, I had to juggle the poles to get to my water bottle. I also need to figure out where to store the poles on my pack when I am not using them but still have easy access. Things to work out.

You really want things to go as smoothly as possible without surprises because when things don’t work as planned it causes stress that will work against you. If something unexpected does happen, take a few minutes to stop, calm down, take your time to solve the problem, and then continue forward.

Happy rehearsals!

Wow, only 5 weeks until I leave for Chile!

Comments: Total (2) comments

Richard Behringer

Posted On: 20 Aug 2023 09:28 pm

Hi Tanja, Thank you for the kind words. You should bring poles to Atacama and then decide if you want to use them. If you change your mind then at least you have the poles with you. You can always store them with luggage if you decide not to use them. For the Gobi March I brought 16, 238 calories that was 3345 grams. For Atacama, I'm taking a little less because I arrived at the finish of the Long March in Gobi just before 1 am and had no desire to eat my dinner. So for Atacama I am bringing 15,420 calories at 3190 grams. My calorie count includes my powdered electrolytes/carb. I'm happy to share my spreadsheets on equipment and food. Looking forward to meeting you in Atacama! Richard

Tanja Volm

Posted On: 20 Aug 2023 10:39 am

Hi Richard, I like the way you are writing and give insight into your thoughts. I already experienced 2 times that my poles broke, but that was on a glacier, what I don't expect to have in Chile. I won't bring poles anyway. I am wondering what you will bring for the calories, as 6.5 kg is so few weight. I had 7.5 kg at the MDS and I cannot imagine to have less than that? Have nice training weeks! Tanja

01 August 2023 10:53 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

This is my second attempt at the Atacama Crossing. My first attempt was last September. Things got tough just halfway through Stage 1 but I was able to stagger into Camp 2. Then the wheels came off at Checkpoint #3 during Stage 2 when I realized I couldn’t go on to make the time cutoff and had to withdraw. Here I am at CP3, disappointed, puzzled, and perhaps relieved.

In retrospect, my pack was much too heavy, and it didn’t provide easy access to nutrition or electrolytes. I also didn’t train with a weighted pack (big mistake). My nutrition and electrolytes were off, so I was probably bonking during the second half of each stage. I learned a lot from this setback and changed numerous things to attempt the Gobi March this June. Everything seemed to fall into place in Mongolia and it was a wonderful experience. Now I think I am ready to tackle Atacama again and truly enjoy the race.

If you are curious about what I changed between Atacama and the Gobi March and for helpful tips, then read my blog for the 2023 Gobi March. For Atacama II, I am still modifying my required equipment to reduce weight. I think I will have almost the same food that I brought to the Gobi March with minor changes. I had no desire to eat dinner at 1 am after completing the Long March. Currently, my pack with required equipment, food, and luxuries but not including what I will be wearing is hovering around 6.3 kg. My pack weight for Gobi was 7.3 kg. I know I can comfortably run/hike/walk with this pack weight range.

If you are attempting the Atacama Crossing for first time, be aware that it gets very cold at night. It was a dilemma in the middle of the night walking to the toilets with the urgency to pee, feeling the bitter cold, and seeing the spectacular stars. I remember one night I had a water bottle in the tent and by morning it was frozen solid. As you know, it is the Atacama Desert and it is very, very dry. Your nose will be sucked dry. Apply sunscreen to your lips constantly.

Currently in Houston it is very hot and humid.  This makes training very challenging but hopefully this will pay off during the later stages of the race when it gets hot. Training in the heat also makes me watch my nutrition, hydration, and electrolytes very carefully.

Less than 8 weeks to go. Train well!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 18 Aug 2023 04:51 am

So great that you're coming back to conquer the Atacama Desert, such great notes about what you learnt and wow 6.3kg for your backpack!!