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Wednesday, January 10 2001,  Start of Expedition
Friends of the Cordillera Sarmiento, I'm off again for the Cordillera Sarmiento. Various problems arose, in recent months,to cut this travel time in half, but still I will have a good six weeks. With me will be three excellent travel mates, Christian, Tobias and Michael, climbers, river runners, all outdoors men and tough guys. They can handle the rough weather of the zone if anybody can. Their greatest challenge will be handling me, a little grumpy and out of shape. I have to say that, although tardy, we are well prepared. Our equipment is sound, and our clothing, supplied by Lowe Alpine, is the best that can be found. We're taking our own inflatable Avon boat and 30 hp Tohatsu motor, so as to be totally self sufficient ; this gives us maximum freedom for traveling and exploring in the fjords, valleys and mountains of the range. I'll be out with these lads in various combinations, according to their time restraints, and if need be, I'll travel alone. I would welcome that, as one of my main goals this year is just to get to know--"become intimate with" [in Shipton's words]-- that incredible wilderness.

I will be mapping, learning what I can of the geology and glaciology, and just sorting out the intricate and complex geography of the 500 sq kilometer peninsula. A "management plan" for preserving the Sarmiento is evolving. Last year I found strong supportive interest in three areas. 1] those few--climbers and ecotourists, mostly--who have visited the range, 2]the scientific and environmentalist community, 3] Chilean people in general. What remains undecided is how to go about it. Doug Tompkins' bold mandate,"Buy it !" certainly has it's appeal. Or, I can apply for a 50 year concession from the government to "develop" the area for economic gain [probably ecotourism]. Or I can convince CONAF, the Chile's national forest service, to annex the Sarmiento to the adjacent Parque Nacional O'Higgins.
Whichever course I choose will require some basic homework.

1] We need basic description of the place to show the world why it is worth preserving. My story in National Geographic magazine was a start, but brief. I need more photos, clearer maps.

2] We need a basic catalog of flora and fauna, and an informed description of the Sarmiento as a bioregion. For this, I hope to take expert biologists into the range.

3] The project needs logistical and financial backing. I am going ahead with plans to create the non-profit corporation, Cordillera Sarmiento Institute [while searching for a less cumbersome moniker, such as "Williwaw Inc."]. I have to find the way for spending more of my time and energy at Sarmiento endeavors and less at my "day job', house building. Once I get that 501(c)(3) status, I can apply for grants, which will give me time to do the job right.

I intend to update news of these travels on my website at www.williwaw.org , so check it out, now and then.

Wednesday, January 17 2001, Puerto Natales, Chile.
After exasperating delays and expense getting our inflatable boat and motor here and through Customs, we got it assembled and are about ready to head out into theĻ"baguales", the real wilds of Patagonia. We launch from the fishing port of Puerto Natales. Once we leave port we will be totally self- contained and self reliant. We're only 80 miles from our destination, which in calm weather can be done in 12 hours of fast motoring. The weather is not calm however, and it could take us as long as a week, beating our way into the wind, to reach the Fjord of the Mountains and the Sarmiento range. It takes patience for mountain and ocean traveling here, and with such attractive, and unclimbed peaks out there waiting, patience is in short supply. News reached us that a British team just failed on the most desirable, "Angel Wings", an awe-inspiring Macchu Pichare looking ice covered peak. That has heated the blood of my young lions, depleting our patience even more. We discovered "Angel Wings" in 1992, so it will be a major priority in our explorations, and useful for mapping that unknown section of the range, for we have to simply FIND the mountain, and work out our approach through dense Magallanic forest, icefalls and mixed terrain. Every inch will be new terrain, ours the first footsteps. All for the moment. Will keep you posted. Jack Miller, aka Jaco Saturday, January 20 2001, Puerto Natales, Chile
 Today is the day for the test of our independent 
transport system, a well worn Avon inflatable boat -- you 
remember them from Jacques Cousteau programs--and a tried 
and true Tohatsu outboard. Our motor was broken in by a few 
dozen trips down a river with a commercial rafting company, 
the best we can do while waiting for supporters.  On this 
first launch it runs like a Swiss watch -- for two nautical 
miles. Luckily, Juan, a local fisherman, was out with his 
family for a 'paseo' in his 'chalupa' (open fishing boat). 
He tows us back to Natales, keeping an eye out for the 
Captain of the Port who considers hassling me sport.

We retire to Juan's backyard where, in a nest of fishing 
nets and gear, we soon have it running like a clock. Until 
water squirts from the block. Utter dejection.  Carmen, 
Juan's carinoso wife, provides comfort in the form of a 
frozen merluza (hake) and we slink back to our hosteria, a 
small room I fondly refer to as the 'Rhino Pit'. I manage to 
reach Michael Geanious, our fourth partner, shortly before 
his departure for Chile. He graciously agrees to strip down 
his identical Tohatsu and bring us parts; in his carry on 
luggage if necessary.

We wait, again. It's the hardest part of expeditioneering. 
Especially infuriating when the obstacle is man-made. 
Waiting is often serendipitous,  however; in Santiago I hang 
out with Dr. Mary Kalin, head of the Biology Department at 
the University of Chile. She teaches me collecting, 
preserving, drying and cataloging of the plants of the 
Sarmiento.While there I learn of a preservation project 
larger than ours in Tierra Del Fuego;  one that sounds 
  like it will dovetail nicely with ours.
 More Later,

 Jack Miller, aka Jaco
Tuesday January 23 2001, Hurry up and Wait Michael arrives in a record 39 hours all the way from his home in Yampa, CO. No more of the false frugality of two week overland trips. He takes a little nap--15 hours, but I am able to start work on motor repairs with the parts he brought. With morning comes Ditte, inspiration in the form of an extraordinary Danish traveler--skydiver, scuba-diver--who blew in my ear and said she had a little extra time on her hands. Michael finishes doing handsprings and we convince him to complete the repairs on the motor. Excited, we draw up a grocery list, but the winds increase to screaming levels and the telephone wires are moaning like a B-grade Sgt. Preston movie. The wind continues, Ditte buys a ticket to Argentina, Michael and I drink beer. After several hours of group brew therapy I send a message to my editor explaining that "an exploorer's life is har . . ." Til next time. Jaco TOUGH BEGINNINGS Monday, January 29, 2001 Puerto Natales, Chile.
We depart civlization from Puerto Natales.The beginning of the voyage involves the hardest traveling, over long expanses of open inland seas. Here persistent SW winds off the Antarctic Ocean, combined with capricious squalls and williwaws, can whip up treacherous headwind seas almost instantly. It's a sobering prospect in any small boat but particulary so with our aging engine that has just undergone transplant surgery of its major vital organs. We relax a bit more with each mile of Golfo Montt that slides astern, and finally greet the entrance of Canal White, a relatively protected fjord, with relief. The motor purrs through alternating zones of sun and squall as we enter the true 'baguales' (wild places) with few place names. Although our destination is the unexpolored Corderilla Sarmiento, I cannot resist the tempation to fill in a few blanks on the map along the way. We motor up a side fjord to shallows that force us to beach the boat and continue on foot. We are enchanted by this pristine valley, its lush vegatation undisturbed by any sign of man. I look for tracks of the endangered 'huemel' or andean deer; in my thousands of days in these wilds I have never seen one. A roar misktaken for wind above the canyon develops into a waterfall as we pentrate further inland. A huge amount of water--we estimate it at two or three thousand cubic feet per second-- thunders straight down a a tube-like channel in a 1000 foot cliff. We are the first to view this spectacle, which would be an attraction ranking with Yosemite in the United States. We loaf on a mat of deep grasses and wildflowers as sun and rain cast dappled light on the scene. As a reference, I jot 'Cascada Escondida' (Hidden Falls) on the map. We cannot tear ourselves away from such a place. We camp. All for the moment. Will keep you posted. Jack Miller, aka Jaco
Tuesday, January 30, 2001
Puerto Natales, Chile.
Today we climb, reasoning that such a large volume of water must come from a sizable lake. Ascending 1100 feet we crest a knoll of galcier polished rock and look into cobalt waters. Reflected there is a glacier covered peak and the rock towers of Grupo La Paz. First sighted by mariners at sea, peaks soar 2500-3000 feet above us. An andean condor floats by as we lounge taking in the scene. Is he wondering if we might be more than food for thought? Jack Miller, aka Jaco Birds and Bees Wednesday, January 31, 2001 In the Baugles, Chile.
Squalls pin us down until noon, when a lull sets us free to continue down fjord. We enter a side valley by motoring up its stream, large and crystal clear, until stopped by rapids overhung with dense vegetation from this lush rainforest. The floor is a spongy bed of mosses and lichens and we sink down and bounce as we walk. The girth of the tree trunks is fattened by these plant colonies, and bumblebees as big as my thumb compete with hummingbirds for the bright red 'copihue' blossoms, Chile's national flower. Jack Miller, aka Jaco Toward Headwaters Febnuary 1 and 2, 2001 In the Baugles, Chile.
Exploring the valley of the stream I call 'Rio Claro' we are impressed with the abundance of cedar trees (Cipres Fitzroyii). Fishermen cut and sell the cedars as poles and fence posts but have overlooked this valley, so far. Climbing out of the riverbed, we quickly trade dense forest for open ground, technically called Magallnic sub-antarctic mooreland. Heaths, heathers, rushes and grasses are interrupted by ponds and swamps. We stroll up valley using outcrops of rock, scoured smooth by recent glaciation. Soon the river's meandering course through this open valley changes to a deep canyon incised in solid rock. We scramble uphill a few hundred feet before being stopped by high cliffs. We catch brief glimpses of cascades and falls stepping into the backbone of these mountains, Cordillera Riesco. Further exploration of the headwaters will have to be done with mountaineering technology or from the other side of this peninsula, Peninsula Roca. Jack Miller, aka Jaco Tohatsu? Bless you. Febnuary 3 and 4, 2001 In the Baugles, Chile.
Typical rain squalls interspersed with sun and the ever present wind, greet us. We leave the protection of Canal Santa Maria, the southern extension of Canal White. Waves build as we motor into more open seas at the southern tip of Penisula Roca. Rounding the Peninsula we attempt to enter the Fjord of the Mountains, but oncoming 'caballos blancos' (white caps) are too much for our little craft. We get a storm-shrouded glimpse of the crags and icefalls of Cordillera Sarmiento, and a blast of chilly glacial air, reminding us what lies up there. Then we turn about and flee. On a white sandy beach in Canal Santa Maria we lunch on fresh picked steamed mussels and limpets, while discussing our situation. There's a low pressure cell over the area and winds are not likely to calm for days. Our planned rendezvous with a fishing boat carrying fuel is in doubt. My strep throat needs stonger antibiotics than we have, and Michael is stiff and in pain from a back injury. Tobias has taken a job as a porter for a film crew, and Christian has gone home. We decide to return to Natales. We are suckered out by the current calm, and just beyond the point of no return sudden winds churn up a confusion of cross seas. It's our turn to ride those 'caballos blancos'. Luckily they are heading our way, but that inky black ocean is deep, deep. Our old inflateable, torqued severely by the waves, bends and buckles but never lets the rollers swamp us. The whole time our dubious old motor performs like a champ, even though the magneto has snapped off its mount and is rattling loose inside its casing. Stopped by a gravel bar, and impending darkness, we beach for the night. Ol' Tohatsu proudly powers us the last miles to town, and we tie up at the fishermen's dock. It has been a short, intense trip, and we have new findings. We will rest a few days, and start out again. Jack Miller, aka Jaco Saturday, March 3 2001, Mountains of Colorado

A Season Ended Too Soon

This year's field season was cut short by injuries-- Michael's strained back, and my hernia-- so we have to be content with small successes: the discovery of two valleys and a lake. They're all unnamed and not before described. 'Lago Azul' a lake bluer than cobalt, lies in an alpine pocket 1000 feet above the fjords, at the base of an ice-clad pyramid and a collection of immense rock spires. Its outlet, a sizeable river, forms 'Cascada Escondida' (Hidden Falls), where a huge volume of water thunders into a pristine valley of southern beech and cedars. Here is the perfect example of undisturbed biodivesity of Magallanic forest.

Similarly, our 'Rio Claro' (Clear River) tumbles from its source, the highlands of Peninsula Roca, through tiered chasms of solid rock. Finally it rests, meandering through a glacier-scoured valley of Subantarctic Moorland. As a stream of the clearest water imaginable, it meets the sea at Canal Santa Maria.

Now is the time to rest and restore, getting ready to return to further explore the intriguing valleys, glaciers, lakes and ice fields of the region. We spend the time out of the field learning the best ways to preserve the Cordillera Sarmiento, the Sarmiento Mountain range. It's a lengthy process complicated by feasibility studies, management plans, etc.

Aligned with preservation, and in response to queries by interested Chileans, we are looking into conducting courses in environmental education. It's a new thought for us, but one we're enthusiastic about.

We'll keep you posted with events as they unfold.

Jack Miller, aka Jaco