We left Santiago Airport on Sky Airlines; our destination was to be the Hotel Loberias Del Sur, Spanish for Sea Wolf, way down south of Chile in the Patagonian region. The flight was of two and quarter hours to the small Airport of Balmaceda, with one stop on the way at Puerto Montt, another Southern Chilean Airport, here we waited on the Plane for half an hour to offload passengers and take on more heading south. Now I have to mention this Sky Airplane, the seats were extremely tight, you virtually had to hold your arms into your sides, I gave up on trying getting the seat to recline, and the Plane was used purely for Domestic travel. Ana was smiling and assured me that Sky Airlines was one of the safest Airlines in Chile, with no record of fault. I relaxed with that information,but what disturbed me mainly about the Plane was the horrendous noise from the engines when firing up and closing down, it actually sounded like metal rubbing against metal, particularly when closing down, grinding sounds would continue for a minute before silence, my imagination gave way to a lack of Oil and Grease on the engines bearings, I had visions of being on a Fred Flintstone Flight. We touched at Balmaceda late in the afternoon where we were met by a bus to take us to our Hotel, Loberias Del Sur at Puerto Aysen, a small half hour stop on the way, was had at a the City of Coyhaique. We finally arrived and booked in at the Sea Wolf Hotel, an excellent facility this far south in Chile, Food, Accommodation and service was superb. I slept soundly, tomorrow was to a breathtaking adventure within an adventure, I was to hike to the summit of the Majestic Hanging Glacier.
I awoke next morning for an early breakfast, before boarding the bus for the 128 kilometres journey to Queulat National Park, Ana was going to spend the day visiting the Town of Puerto Aysen, I was to climb the Hanging Glacier. The initial part of the trip was on sealed roads and extremely Panoramic, with one small wee stop, we left the sealed road and from then on, it was a dirt road. A highway called the Austral Highway was being constructed at the time; it was to connect Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins further south of Chile. Though the trip involves gravel, winding curves and unpredictable weather, it’s no exaggeration to say that each kilometre offers picture perfect vistas. Once we began driving through the high mountains of the Patagonian Andes, we realized it was not without hazards, often we would have to stop and backup for other vehicles, or vice versa, passing was extremely delicate, full credit to the Patagonian drivers in that they could pass each other with inches to spare, this on gravel roads with high rock mountains on one side, and sheer drops on the other side falling to the valleys below. There were numerous halts as we gave way to construction crews, at one stage we were halted for half an hour as a rock slide was encountered and had to be cleared. We finally arrived at the base of the Hanging Glacier, after getting off the bus I saw far off in the distance, high up in the Mountains, the Glacier I was to climb, it appeared insurmountable, even the vegetation appeared impenetrable. We were advised that the rest of the way was now up to us, there were two paths, one an easy path which would take an hour, the other a strenuous path with beautiful scenery, would take an hour and a half. Relying on my Army training and stamina, I opted for the longer path. I had been doing Kinetic exercises and Physio for twelve months leading up to this expedition and felt confident. I do have a week left knee, and degeneration of the lower spine with Osteoporosis, but my old Army motto of Perseverance was foremost in my mind. I set off to conquer this wonder of Nature. I commenced my adventure. The introduction as to what lay ahead was a wooden walkway, that covered the raging waters that came from the Glacier, from then on it was to follow a bush track through the Sub Tropical Rainforest, this involved much climbing as well as a lot of descending, as the path wended its way to the summit, in places it was overgrown and the path wet, it felt like a Medieval World, and in some places took on the appearance of a Fairy land world, to imagine I was walking through a Rainforest that had emerged from the Ice age era was unbelievable, the sounds of unknown Birds amongst the steep ravines was beautiful. The Foliage so rich and green that closed in like a canopy added to the aura of stepping back in time. About thirty metres into the climb, I realized I was going to have trouble, my left knee wasn’t supporting my back, I changed tack and started climbing leading my right leg, using my right leg to support my back, and my left leg to balance, it worked. I needed many breaks till I recognized the need for an old Army training method, I had to synchronize my climbing with my breathing, I got my second wind and my system worked, they were both in rhythm. Well into the last leg of my hike, I knew I was getting to the summit, I could hear a mighty roar and also the sounds of the raging waters below in the Gorge. I climbed the last bend to the top, and came out onto a platform of rock that faced the Glacier, I was at eye level and it appeared before my eyes like a huge Panoramic picture, I was amazed, this wonder of Nature was alive, it was breathing, its continuous groaning was the sounds of Ice breaking and realigning, both sides of the Glacier had waterfalls, water from melting Ice cascading into the ravine below. I stood in awe for quite some time, it appeared like a painting, I felt that I could put my hand out and touch it, and it was a living, breathing creation of Nature. To digress a little and relate how this Glacier was formed. A Glacier has its beginnings between two mountain ridges, cold air rises up the sides of the ridges and forms snow, the snow falls down the Glacier, commonly known as an Arete, as it falls it solidifies into ice, pressure from more falling snow behind the Ice forces it over the lip of the Arete, virtually a continuous cycle. I watched this beautiful wonder for quite some time, it was absolutely an amazing sight, I turned my head for a brief moment to change camera lens and heard an massive explosion, I looked around in time to witness a massive slab of Ice fall over the lip of the Arete, to tumble onto the rocks below, and shatter before it found its way into the freezing waters below. The size of the Ice would have easily been the size of an average house. Mother Nature did not finish her show there; the Glacier became violent as she adjusted her position to accommodate the missing Ice, her groans magnified as she self adjusted, I stood in wonderment and awe. The time had come for me to retrace my steps down the Mountain; reluctantly I had one last look at this Majestic Masterpiece of Nature. Coming down the high Mountain, I once again took pains to protect my back from jarring, stepping down on my right foot and using my left for stability; a tendency to come down faster, was a recipe for an accident. I made it back to the base camp and enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon luncheon. We boarded the bus and made our way back down the Mountains, darkness was starting to close in, I commend the driver on his ability to manage the bus on the winding gravelly road in the dark, as I recall the road coming up in daylight. Back at the Hotel well after midnight, it was a pleasure to find hot meals already prepared in the dining room, I ate with gusto on the Patagonian Lamb washed down with a few glasses of the Traditional Chilean drink, Pisco Sour, maybe a few more than a couple. I slept soundly that night in preparation for the next day’s adventure to the Marble Caves, or as it is known in Chile, The Marble Cathedrals.