Atacama Crossing Blogs 2023

Richard Behringer



Atacama Crossing (2023) blog posts from Richard Behringer

09 October 2023 08:53 pm (GMT-06:00) Central Time(US & Canada)

It has been a little over one week since crossing the finish line in the town square of San Pedro de Atacama. I hope everyone has recovered well.

Gear Check

Gear check.

Camp 1Arrival at Camp 1.

As this was my 2nd attempt at the Atacama Crossing, withdrawing last year at CP3 of Stage 2, the first two Stages of this year’s race were very familiar but after that each day was a new story. My pack weighed in at 6.25 kg not including what I was wearing. I was stunned to hear that Russell’s pack was only 4.5 kg! Lower pack weights make a big difference in getting through the race.

Stage 1 was very nice with the shaded slot canyons and vast expanses. However, CP3 to camp got very hot.

The water crossings during Stage 2 were just as fun as last year. A little slip resulted in me getting dunked up to my waist but it was refreshing. I was a little apprehensive on Stage 2 between CP2 to CP3 because that is where I withdrew from the race last year. After getting myself together at CP2, I set off. This time the mine road seemed easier and shorter. The left turn after the tunnel with the steep ascent was not bad because I took small steps with my head down not worrying about how far I had to climb. This strategy also worked well for sand dunes. Then the long trek along the plateau was very nice especially in the company of my tent mate Ivan. By the time I got to the sand dune, I was ready for a fun descent. At CP3, I took a moment to remember last year as the place I withdrew from the race but I was ready to move forward. CP3 to camp was made easier by chatting with Chris.

Water CrossingsFollowing Lynne in the slot canyons.

Stage 3 is a blur except for the final scramble up a steep dune to the finish. I was wondering what evil person designed such a finish. A dip in the pool at the nearby farm was nice to wash some of my clothes and rinse my hair.

Stage 4 was very eventful. I was with Dora and Tetsu moving along well when we arrived at CP2. Dora and I got ourselves together and headed out onto the salt flats. Minutes later CP2 was closed, holding competitors there because it was going to be too hot, and if someone got in trouble access was limited. Oblivious to this, Dora and I kept moving forward. We didn’t realize what had happened until we saw Doctor Lisa with a horse with extra water just before CP3. We learned the competitors held at CP2 were being transported to camp. After CP3, we saw Sam at a bus stop looking very serious. She told us what had happened and offered to have us driven to camp with a time penalty, but Dora and I decided to do the final 4.2 miles to camp. I would not have completed Stage 4 if it hadn’t been for Dora.

DoraDora points the way during Stage 4.

Dr. Lisa

Dr. Lisa on the salt flats.

Stage 5 was checkpoint to checkpoint with varied terrain. The magnificent sand dune loomed far in the distance and was fun (and tough) to climb. Around this time, I teamed up with Doreen to do the final distance in the dark with a bright full moon and clear sky in the middle of the Atacama desert. Priceless. At one point after CP6, I asked Doreen, is that a large sand dune that we have to climb? Again, I questioned the course designer’s intentions. Ultimately, we made it to camp between midnight and 1 am.


The incredible dune we climbed between CP3 and CP4 on the Long March.

Long March FinishFinishing the Long March.

The Rest Day started with the arrival of Yui around 8 am (~24 hrs after the start), making the cut off with about 15 minutes to spare. It was a very emotional finish for the Long March. The rest of the day was to recuperate and let our ankles and feet swell so that they would feel tight in our shoes for the final run. Ha!


With Yui at Camp 1. We are determined to finish this time!

Stage 6 started in 3 waves. The bottom 31 competitors started at 7:30 am, the middle group at 8:30 am, and the top 9 at 9 am. In the first group, David, Dolores, Tetsu, Jun, and I were determined to run. At some point it was Dolores trotting ahead of everyone, followed by David, me, and Tetsu/Jun. I was sure the competitors from the other groups would catch us but to my surprise I crossed the finish line soon after Dolores and David. I was especially happy to have Sam place the medal on me.

A few more thoughts: My general nutrition, hydration/electrolyte plan was similar to the Gobi March but I soon realized that each race is a bit different. Mostly, I rely on Infinit and Skratch drinks, sipping every 10 mins. Fritos and candied pecans were snacks. Because of the altitude, heat, terrain, and fear of failing, I didn’t run much. So, I was on course longer than anticipated, taxing my nutrition and electrolytes. Fortunately, I had a bit extra.

This time I used RL gaiters. I had Velcro glued and sewn onto my shoes. They worked perfectly.Not a grain of sand got in. Another benefit of the gaiters was that my feet and socks were not filthy at the end of the Stage.

Thank you to all the volunteers, medical, photography, and local support staff. Everyone was so wonderful and supportive, always encouraging us. It was an honor to meet and race with all the competitors. Ivan and Ryoji were great tent mates. It was wonderful to race with friends from the Gobi March, including Fer, Dora, Kristof, Ivan, Doreen, and Rafiq.

Tent matesAt the finish with tent mates Ivan and Ryoji.

JankaJanka always brings the energy!

Congratulations to everyone who made it to the start line and began the race. It is a big achievement. Last year when I withdrew from the Atacama Crossing I was puzzled and disappointed but with wonderful advice from the generous competitors I met, I was able to regroup and come back to finish. This makes me appreciate this finish even more.

Comments: Total (3) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 10 Oct 2023 08:42 am

Great final blog / race report Richard. It was my absolute honour to present you with your medal!

Samuel Soh

Posted On: 10 Oct 2023 05:27 am

You’re a champ Richard! It was nice to meet you :)

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 10 Oct 2023 02:28 am

Congratulations, Richard. Never give up. You made everything look so easy.

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!!