Chile - Patagonia - Jorge Montt Glacier - 2008/02/08 - 15.6 miles



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A half day 7 mile paddle up a lush valley finds a lunch spot out of the rain on the return. Heading to our camp within sight of Jorge Montt glacier we see our first blue icebergs.




Day 9 (Friday)




Morning comes with clouds and intermittent light rain. We have breakfast under the tarp Kate has skillfully erected using a log and the spare paddles. The spitting rain continues as we pack away the tents and load the kayaks. The tide has come in and the trek to the water is not as far this morning but its is still a ways to carry all the gear. We launch and paddle leisurely into a canal with the only low sided terrain we have seen the whole trip. The banks are low with lush green grass growing on them. The thick clouds descend into the little valley and it starts to rain hard. We paddle 4 miles down the canal looking for birds as this is supposed to be the most likely place to find them. There are only a few about, ducks and swans paddling about in the rain.
As the rain drops fall into the water, they bounce back up frequently leaving a silvery sphere perched temporarily on the waters surface. I have seen this before in other fresh water places, but never with such large spheres in such a profusion. The surface of the water looks as if someone has spilled a giant tub of mercury onto it.




We turn around at the head of a large bay and paddle back against the current. On the east bank we find a cabin which provides us a lunch spot out of the rain in the smoke house. We start a small fire and stand in the dirt floored cabin as the rain continues. No one is here except for a cat who looks very worried about our presence.



Back on the water, we paddle past our camp site and turn east and then south into the fiord that has Jorge Montt glacier at the head. On the now submerged moraine of the glacier, several large bergs are grounded, slowly melting away. Many were composed of highly compressed old blue ice from the sides and bottom of the glacier. One particularly large blue berg, about double the length and breadth of a football field was just beyond the smaller grounded bergs. This one had two resting positions and every couple of hours it would shift from head up and tail down to tail up and head down, like a giant dunking bird. There were two different waterlines corresponding to the two positions the berg assumed. You can see one of them, the exposed waterline, in the picture. The other of course is just in the water on the left side of the berg. I had seen the berg swift the previous evening. The slow but impressive shift was accompanied by groaning and grinding and a large splash and wave emanating from the end of the berg. We gave it a healthy margin as we paddled past.



We came across a berg with a big arch. We got as close as was safe, no closer than the berg was high. It was tempting to take a quick paddle through but that was not a safe thing to do. More bergs lay ahead, but not as big as the monsters further out in the channel. We paddled into the fiord, looking for the campsite that NOLS had told Kate about. Finally we found a place on the steep sided terrain with a few small places flat enough for a tent. We camped well up the side of the fiord as we wanted to be safe above any seiche that might occur is some massive chunk of the glacier fell off while we were camping there. Even with the glacier five miles away, the shore did receive several sets of waves that washed up the beach and would have floated a kayak away had we left them down there. But with the boats tens of meters above the water too, we felt we were safe from the clutches of our noisy neighbor Jorge to the south.

Jorge in the distance


It was difficult to find a good tent site because so very little of the ground that was nearly level was dry. There were numerous streams and cascades coming down off the steep sides of the fiord. The ground was composed of pea sized gravel and larger rocks occasionally covered with moss, lichen and typical tundra type plants. All were low growing and recent colonizers of the rock that less than ten years ago was under the ice of the now fast retreating Jorge Montt glacier.



It continued to rain on us off and on for the rest of the day. Just before dinner a few bits of sun poked through the clouds over our previous campsite, but here all was grey and drizzle. After dinner we all made a retreat into our tents where the rain started to come down in earnest. I slept great in the dry tent. Julio however had a tough night on the sloped ground.
On to the glacier......

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

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




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