Student attempts trek of iconic Patagonia routes in a wheelchair

UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally

Alvaro Silberstein, MBA ’17, is en route to Patagonia to navigate three iconic routes in Torres del Paine National Park in a wheelchair. For the expedition, called Wheel the World, Silberstein raised $8,000 to purchase a trekking wheelchair — the same model that has been used by some to reach Mt. Everest’s basecamp — which he will donate to the park.

“We want to raise awareness, and increase visibility of people with disabilities—people who are active, who have challenges, and live life to the fullest,” says Silberstein, a native of Santiago, Chile, in a recent article by the Berkeley Haas School of Business.

To prepare for the excursion, Silberstein has been training for nearly a year with the No Limits program at Berkeley, working with physical therapist and No Limits co-founder Rachel Kahn on strengthening and conditioning. For a glimpse of Silberstein’s training route, see the above video produced by UC Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs.

The Dec. 18 to 24 expedition will follow three classic trekking routes at the southern tip of the Andes in Chile: to the Mirador Base de las Torres, to Refugio Los Cuernos and to Grey Glacier Lake. For the expedition, Silberstein has assembled a 12-member team, which includes mountaineers, disabilities experts, a physical therapist, a fellow MBA student, a filmmaker and photographers. Silberstein’s crew will use the trekking wheelchair’s handles and ropes to help carry him up and down the steepest inclines.

After the trip, Silberstein and his team will create a blog with a guide for others who wish to navigate the same routes in Torres del Paine. Follow along with Silberstein on Facebook and on Instagram.

*An earlier version of this story said Silberstein’s trek was the first-known on this route in Torres del Paine in a wheelchair. We have since learned that a similar trek was made in 2014.