National Geographic : 1994 Apr
African climbing guide who fell to his death last December on a similar expedition. Our group also included fellow Coloradan Peter Garber, who has roughed it for months at a time in the region, and photographer Gor don Wiltsie, a veteran of expedi tions to both Poles. We left in early August aboard Trinidad,a sturdy 50-foot wooden boat, sailing out of the Chilean fishing port of Puerto Natales, nearest village to the Sarmiento. We timed our visit for the southern winter because, despite the drawbacks of short days and the cold, local reports suggested that we could find openings of calm weather. Trinidadpitched and bucked on the gray seas. We were trav eling in the latitudes known to mariners as the Furious Fifties, where winds charge in like freight trains from Antarctic waters. Ten woozy hours later I saw the cliffs of the Sarmiento between blasts of spray break ing over the bow. The pilot had told me about Jaco, the spirit in local folklore that guards the Fjord of the Mountains, which we now entered. Clinging to the rail, I poured a stream of Chil ean pisco -brandy-into the sea, calling out to Jaco for safe passage. We would need all the luck we could get.