Best Climbing Film, Banff Mountain Film Festival 1996
A small group of friends from Cape Town set off on an expedition to climb the highest mountain on Chile’s Northern Patagonian Icecap – San Valentin. Climbing the mountain wasn’t going to be the hardest part – getting there was.
Despite numerous attempts, the mountain had only seen three or four previous summit parties. Logistical obstacles include a 900km boat journey to the foot of the San Rafael Glacier, followed by an arduous journey to the base of the mountain with a months supply of food.
The members of the party were Mark Braithwaite – co-ordinator and financial support; Brian Valentine – Expedition leader; Andy Hackland; Scarre Celliers; Charles Standing and Nic Good – cameraman. The party had more than enough collective experience as most of the members had been on many trips before.
On 1 November 1995, the party left a small port called Puerto Montt and sailed south down the west coast of Chile. Three days later, they arrived at the San Rafael Glacier and began ferrying 300kg of supplies and equipment to the snow plateau – this took 4 days of 'double-carrying' through some very difficult and diverse terrain.
Once they were on the first snow plateau, they progressed on skis with equipment and supplies in tow on sledges. The myriad of snow covered crevasses (deep cracks in the ice) forced them to remain roped together for safety.
Two weeks later they reached the base of the mountain – but the summit attempt was delayed for a few days due to bad weather. Whilst in the base camp, the neighbouring mountain avalanched, narrowly missing the climbers who were running for their lives – this gave the cameraman some pretty dramatic footage.
Would they make it to the summit before the supplies ran out?