May 22, 2017

Glacier Benito Journal: Arriving on Ice – Tuesday 11th April

Posted by larryohanlon

See the other posts from this expedition here

By Martin Sessions

Then started six magical days . . . .

The Start of a Beautiful Day

Waking early to a full moon, Jammie took Mark, Marcos and me to Coyhaique aerodrome. We met Rodrigo, the pilot of AS350B2 helicopter registration number CC-ABT. After loading the aircraft with the remaining kit followed by a safety briefing, we took off at 0930. We flew directly to Laguna San Rafael in fine weather over the main range, past Vulcan Hudson and other glaciated high peaks, over deep glaciated valleys and within meters of the high ridges. It was breathtaking and absolutely spectacular. We had a great view of Mount San Valentin (4000 m absl approximately).

Left: Loading the Helicopter at Coyhaique. Right: Mont San Valentin.

We arrived at Laguna San Rafael at 1030 where bags were reorganised and the helicopter refueled.

Left: Kit and Helicopter at Laguna San Rafael. Right: Safety Briefing at Laguna San Rafael

The first stick consisted of Olaf and Martin together with walk out packs and some supplies for the Glacier Benito camp. First stop was Punta Blanca where Olaf took a barrel of food and hid it in the bushes. Second stop, with rotor turning, was the Valle Piedra Blanca (leading to Punta Claus) where the five pack rafts, paddles and second food barrel was left.

Left: The Ice Front in Laguna Benito. Right: Off Loading Walk Out Kit in Valle Piedra Blanca.

We then flew on up the glacier, past ‘Not an Island’ and along Dump Ridge looking for a landing spot. No site existed. We flew on to the ‘Finger’ (El Dedo) where we tried to land on freshly exposed rock (too steep) followed by freshly exposed scree (too steep)! We went to the Co Caldenius ridge but there was no viable landing site there. We returned to the Finger and settled down on a fresh, flat area of the ice. With the rotor still turning, the remaining stores were removed from the helicopter, before it flew directly over the northern ridge and back to Laguna San Rafael. Just over an hour later, Mark, Marcos and Johnny arrived with the remainder of the kit including the X8 drone box.

Left: Flying up Glacier Benito. Right: The Second Stick Arrives.

NOTE: Co Caldenius was known as Co Alpha during the 1972/73 Expedition but was named by Hugo Pallin as Co Caldenius in the 1921/22 Expedition (private communication Camilo Rada/Martin Sessions).

We moved all the kit to freshly exposed rock on the Finger in two loads. A suitable campsite was selected (with a slight slope!). Nearby was a pond for fresh water and another one for washing our cooking and eating utensils. We even had a rock shelf to cook on standing up. Tents were pitched, a brew made, base GPS station established and so on. Camp was about 670 m absl.

Base Camp at the Finger

This Area was under Ice in 2013

Marcos and Martin then went up the Finger to find the Level I lower cairn which we did fairly quickly at about 830 m absl.

The First Cairn – Level I Finger Lower

So what had changed between 1973 and 2017 . . .

View up Glacier from Cairn in March 1973.

View up Glacier from Cairn in April 2017.

Our first day was simply beautiful with no clouds, stunning views and no wind. We were extremely lucky to have such conditions to settle in at our new camp for six days.

Lengthening Shadows on our first day.

 — Next: Preparing for Drone Flights —

This post was originally published here

Martin Sessions was born in Kenya in 1948 but educated in England, finishing up with a degree in Engineering at Cambridge University (Pembroke College). For 28 years, he served in the Royal Navy as an Engineer Officer before migrating to Australia where he is an engineering consultant in Canberra. His first expedition was to Koldukvislarjokull in the North West corner of Vatnajokull, Iceland in 1970. Then followed expeditions to Chilean Patagonia (1972/73) and Liverpool Land, Greenland (1977). Finally he made expeditions to Glacier Benito in 2007, 2011 and 2017 to capitalize on work undertaken there in 1972/73.