Published on September 11th, 2015 | by gatsbyadmin0
South American Pow – Update
After arriving in Santiago on the 2nd of September, I rendezvoused with the hard-charging, smile-producing Norwegian Curtis Berklund and the absolute go-getter and straight-up badass Austin Johnson. Both native to the Roaring Fork Valley. On our first day we saw temperatures soaring to the mid 80’s in the city. 2 hours later and 2300 meters higher, temperatures were still reaching low 50s at Valle Nevado resort. Doubts surfaced in our minds about conditions during our 6-week expedition.
By the time we got skis on our feet the snow had softened up to a buttery smooth corn and the first day back on skis was in the books. With some much appreciated beta from local snowboard instructor Diego, we found an outrageously gorgeous place on the side of the resort to camp for the night.
Two days of spring skiing at the Valle Nevado with Berklund and Johnson and it was time to link up with Lucy Higgins, the beautiful and talented associate editor at Backcountry Magazine. Back in Santiago, we roamed the bustling streets, soaking in the contrast between this cultural hotspot and our previous “housing” arrangement in the backcountry of Valle Nevado.
With a forecast calling for over a foot of fresh pow, it was time to return to the mountains.
The next afternoon, we ended up in Farallones, a small town of 4-600 people at the base of La Parva, El Colorado, and Farallones resorts and hunkered down in the hostel Lodge Andes. The manager, Jorge Rozas, grew up in southern Chile and has been a sea kayak and trekking guide with NOLS and other organizations for over 10 years. Dude’s a genuine stud.
Once settled, we made it to the porch and our eyes drifted up to the face’s most prominent feature. Rozas was quick to educate us on La Chimenea–Chimney–Couloir. His description was light on statistics, but he knew enough about the chute to raise his eyebrows and laugh at the 4 gringos locos’s mission to ski it. As we watched setting sun the clouds engulfed La Chimenea.
The next morning and after a quick tour off La Parva resort, we made our way to Chimenea as the blizzard whipped at our covered faces. Persistent winds in the zone left certain aspects completely scoured, forcing us to lose the skis and hoof it across loose scree fields.
We found shelter from the stinging winds at the base of the couloir and Johnson continued to lead the crew with Berklund and Higgins in tow and myself holding up the rear. 50 meters up, our crampons became completely unnecessary as the blizzard conditions had deposited unreal amounts of powder in the aptly named “chimney.”
Just one slightly technical move at the top and our team of 4 successfully topped out 15 minutes before our designated turn-around time. The crew exchanged high fives and smiles aplenty, but celebration was limited; snow and wind bombarded us with increased strength without the protection from the cliff walls.
The massive overhanging cornice had to go before we could feel safe descending. One small boulder thrown by Johnson and it released, sending the entire thing barreling down the tight chute. With some of the avalanche danger mitigated, the gang hooted and squealed their way down the steep chimney in thigh-deep pow.
After the long vertigo-inducing journey home through the white out, we made it back to Lodge Andes and reported back to Rozas. He welcomed the gringos locos with hot cafecitos as we recapped the adventure.
Written & Photos by: Jacob O'Connor @jahcobo