Chile - Patagonia - Jorge Montt Glacier - 2008/02/09 - 14.2 miles



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Jorge Montt slides downslope to greet us as we paddle closer to the face. The immensity of this ice dwarfs us in our little kayaks.







Today we make the pilgrimage to the foot of Jorge Montt glacier, the objective of this trip. The weather has closed in and it is grey skies and rain. In spite of the gloomy skies we are excited to get closer to the great sliding sheet of ice that we can hear cracking and growling even from nearly eight miles away.
Our tents are situated on about the only small patch of gravel that is not a flowing sheet of water. There is so little solid dry ground here that it is impossible to find a location to bury our waste under a rock big enough to cover it and not in the middle of a flowing rivulet of water. Water cascades down the sides of the valley in a thousand little streams swollen by the continuous rain during the night. With the dreary skies and spitting rain, breakfast goes a little slower than usual. We will be leaving the tents here, the only place we camped two nights in a row. Even so, the boats are still a pain to carry across the little stream down to the cold water. Chunks of bergy bits float by, colored from dark blue, to pale blue to soft snow white to clear, all sculpted by the action of the water and waves and the melting that will soon consume them entirely.




We paddle and paddle and seem to get no closer. Even the telephoto lens leaves the glacier small and far in the distance. The colors in the ice fascinate me so I don't really notice the time it is taking too reach the glacier front. I am falling behiind the others as I observe the wonderful shapes and unbelievable colors of the ice. Photography does not do the intensity and subtlety of these shades any justice. I can't decide if I wish for more light to bring out the colors or if strong light would wash out the contrasting shades of color that I see all around me.



We paddle and paddle and seem to get no closer. A patch of sun has opened iver the glacier itself. I wonder if the cold ice has created its own micro climate, the cooler air descending with the glacier and suppressing the precipitation caused by the uplift happening everywhere else. The little patch of sun remains over the glacier the entire day. Eventually we get closer. There is median stripe of debris carried along the top of the ice from where two valleys came together who knows how many miles upstream.



Big chunks of ice are coming off the front of the glacier every couple of minutes. I am never looking at the right place when they do. Kate and Julio catch a couple of them coming off. All I can do is watch the bobbing bits of ice that mark the place where it happened. By the time the sound reaches us the event has already happened so you must be looking at the right place at the right time to actually see the ice fall.



The closer we get the bigger the pieces of ice we find. Although not as big as the shifting one we saw at the old moraine at the head of the fiord, they still are mighty impressive. I certainly would not want to be close by when one of the bigger ones came careening off the face and into the midst of their smaller brothers. And yet as big as they are, they are only a small piece of the massive ice wall in front of us.



We stopped as the ice started to acculmulate around us. It seemed prudent not to get too close to the falling chunks of ice that sent waves that jostled huge pieces of ice together. The thought of beng between two big pieces of rock hard ice coming together on a wave help us keep our distance from this enticing sight. We could clearly see the stripe now, lit by an open patch of blue sky.



We turned around and headed over to shore where we could get out of the kayaks for a rest. The walls were steep but we were able to climb for a perspective on our tiny selves in this vast place.
We headed back to camp where we took a snooze under the constant drumming of rain on the tent fly. We are getting use to living in our drysuits. Thank god for a dry tent and nearly dry and completely waterproof gear. The temperatures are low so it is easy to tolerate the normally stuffy, sweaty low permeability head to toe covering.

The hillside here is covered with numerous type of ground hugging vegetation. Where the ground is soft Julio finds three or four species of mosses and lichens trying to thrive on top of their now deceased predecessors. Again soil is scant over the granite. Prior to the 1960's this hillside had been under ice for thousands of years. The glacier has recedded nearly 5.5 miles from its indicated position on our 1966 Chilean Navy charts. After a walk on the baeach covered with bowling ball size granite stones, it is back to the tents for another night of restless sleep.

Off in the distance, Jorge still groans shedding chinks of icy skin from his face. During the night I wake to hear a rush of waves coming onto the beach, no doubt the result of a particularly large calve. It feels good to be several tens of meters above the water.

Continue the trip .................

Back to the start of the trip...................

Bird watching:
Great Grebe
? Arctic loon
Black-necked swan





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