Charlie’s la Potage

Three of my sons and I used our old Stinson Voyager Station Wagon, 1948 vintage airplane, to get us to the beginning of our hike off the Nebesna Glacier. We carefully picked our landing spot on the glacier, one we had thoroughly investigated, and landed without incident. Upon landing, we turned the plane into the prevailing wind and tied the old bird down with strong ropes, using mountaineer’s 18-inch ice augers for tie-downs. Then, satisfying ourselves that the plane was safe, we began our week-long trek to circle Mt. Gordon.

We were traveling light, with just enough food for our allotted time. Our packs, including all camping gear and food, weighed less than 28 pounds each. Our diet consisted of trail mix and chis seed. We did not intend to have a fire. However, we made an airdrop of military C rations off a snowfield at the mountain base as a safety precaution.

We had a delightful trip, never spending a night in the same place twice. Each day we would pack up and go where our instincts directed and then pitch camp where night found us. Weather was typical—periods of blue sky and sun mixed with wind, rain, and even snow.

When we reached our airdrop food cache, we were ready for a menu change. Even C rations sounded good, so good we decided to mix them all in the only pan we had. In went wieners and beans, beef stew, spaghetti, and several other items peculiar to C rations. The concoction, under the circumstances, was edible, if not tasty, and it was hot. To this day, when a conversation turns to hiking, one of us will ask, “Do you guys remember Mt. Gordon la potage?”

When we returned to our airplane, we received a surprise. During our absence, the glacier had melted more than 18 inches. Our ice auger tie-downs were lying on top of the glacier. We do not know how long it took for the glacier to melt enough to free our anchors, but if the wind had come up, it would have blown our transportation over the edge of the glacier, where it would have rolled up into a little red ball at the bottom of a crevasse. We have yet to discover a safe way to tie an airplane down on a glacier for an extended time.

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