My favorite day on the frontera!

Well, our 4th day was the "weather day" which means there were clouds and the forecast was for light snow. Once we started cruising the road, however, we found a blue hole over a valley that looked to have some promising mellower terrain (in case what new snow had fallen received some wind transport) and some aesthetic skiing. So, off we went! What we found was a super sweet day of cream cheese! The Andes has a way of turning 2cm of new snow into some of the best carveable and fun ski conditions out there and I love it!!! We had a nice wide open run, followed by a ski to the highway down a super beautiful face with a few nice entries. This was by far my favorite day and I was ecstatic at the bottom of our run . . . I had no idea this was what we'd find here, and was sooooo glad we'd decided to come!

Enjoy the view!!!

La Frontera, day 3

On our third day, we left from the Argentine side and skied this gem I had scoped the day before . . . it was super fun and nice chalky snow, transitioning to softer penitentes than those we'd found the day before!

Day 3 as seen from day 2

Dropping in off the old hangfire - looked like it released quite awhile ago . . .

Gotta love the nice long Andean lines!

The area, as seen from the first Argentine border control point . . . we skied from just to the left of the antenna

After another great day of skiing, and a reasonably early finish, we decided to formally clear customs and then head to Uspallata for some internet, seeing something different, and to escape the 70 10-year-olds staying at our hotel. You heard me right: 70 10-year-olds. Let's just say it was a bit crazy. Scott pointed out that nobody in America would think it's a good idea to give said 70 10-year-olds a bunch of coffee, but such is not the case in Argentina, where I'm reasonably sure they start kids on coffee in kindergarden :-) The best part was when we pulled in that night and they were having a huge dance party . . . seriously classic!

On another potentially interesting note: The Chilean and Argentine customs are actually separated by 18km, and the Argentine customs are on a side road. You don't actually have to drive through when you pass them - seriously odd. As a result, we were in the country for a night until we figured we'd better check in! We got a few questions, but mostly they were cool. Such a nice reprieve from crazy post-911 US security!
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Playing tourist on the Frontera

We did take some time out from skiing to take it all in and have a good time . . . since we weren't used to 10,o00' base elevations, we weren't exactly skiing 8 hour days everyday, especially since the point was to build fitness for Antarctica, not to get wasted . . . it was nice actually, especially cuz it was so sunny!!!

I'm not sure what to say here - in the parking lot to Aconcagua Provincial Park I met some guys on motorcycles who had ridden from BA. Wanting to get info on riding bikes in Argentina, I decided to be their friend, and then we had some laughs and funny picture taking :-)
Scott and I hiked to the Laguna inside the provincial park to see Aconcagua, and because it seemed silly not to since we were staying so close. It was fun, but lame to be back in the land of rules. Here they told us that we can't ski in the area because it's too dangerous, a common message from non-skiing but well-meaning Argentine officials. Such is life, and at least we had a whole highway to explore from :-)
A view of my line from the first day as seen from the highway . . . I topped out just to the looker's left of the high-point rock massif.
I think we should put snowmen on our road signs too . . .
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Day 2 skiing La Frontera

The next morning, we awoke to more sunshine, which would prove to be the norm for this section of the trip, much to my joy! We decided to head back to where we'd been the day before as we'd seen tons of potential for things that would keep us both happy!

Our new home in Puente del Inca

Scott and I decided to divide and conquer again for our first run, as I had my eye on a super sweet coolie and he preferred to stay out of coolie land. Again, he was super supportive and watched me climb and ski from a lovely perch in the sunshine :-) From my run, I got a great view of where we would head the next day, for yet another day of classic alpine terrain. The coolie held some super sweet midwinter chalky snow too, so I was stoked!!!!

For our second run, we headed up over a ridge and into another bowl to head toward a sunny couloir we had seen from the distance and round out the 3-run day :-)

Scott headed down run #2 . . . I love the rock formation of the Andes, especially cuz it provides such interesting ski terrain!!!

Once we finally got to our run, we realized the texture we had seen from a distance was actually the worst nieve penitentes, ever!!! It was refrozen for much of the line as well, which made it less-than-stellar skiing. I'll admit right now I went ahead and side stepped the upper sections, as I did not feel like beating myself up and risking injury for seriously shitty snow!

Scotty coming out of survival mode :-)

From there, we skied out to the road, following our noses down the valley and getting super lucky to find the non-cliffed out ribbon of snow that we did, making for a great day overall and lots of smiles over dinner :-)

Scott with our ski assault vehicle. I should mention, however, that the driver's side door did not open, so I got to do yoga moves over skis and into the seat everytime I got in! What fun :-)

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Leaving Santiago, headed to La Frontera

Following our La Parva day, Scott and I headed out of town in the opposite direction, passed Portillo, and suspended any disbelief we had over finding skiable terrain beyond there. We found ourselves at the Tunel Cristo Redentor which separates Chile from Argentina by passing through a nice big mountain! We were richly rewarded for making the trip by encountering some of the best ski terrain I've ever seen accessed from a road. Simply amazing.
I really love the road signs in Chile . . . the road was not actually this steep!

And up we went . . . you can see the road just over my shoulder.

We ended up hiking into a big cirque and I couldn't help but be drawn to the impressively alpine line at its head. It's rare to find lines this aesthetic and be standing at the base of them. Scott agreed to go investigate, but decided not to pursue the line part way up, but was super supportive of my going. He waited in the safe area of the bowl below as I continued to climb. Although it got fairly steep (moreso than I thought it would at the bottom), the snow quality stayed impressively consistent. We had dug a pit lower that showed a fabulously homogenous snowpack, and it didn't change much (except for some wintry surface snow) as I went up. I had a turn around time of 5pm and reached my goal just about then, rewarded with an amazing descent down to Scott - the line was probably about 2000 ft, but likely about 4500 ft from the road. Not bad since the tunnel was over 10,000 ft elevation!!!

Me skiing down the apron

Me, with the line just to the looker's right of my head, off the ridgeline. At this point, I was psyched and full of adrenaline . . . welcome to La Frontera (the border)!!

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From there, we headed across into Argentina in search of home, finally landing in Puente del Inca where we would spend the next 5 days exploring the area . . . welcome back to Argentina!!!

Skiing from Santiago . . .

Well, the forecast for volcano land was looking a little unsettled and since I found myself in South America to compensate for getting shut down by rain all spring, this was not my idea of our trip . . . so after our day on Villarica in the clouds, Scott and I were killing an hour before hot springing and decided, wtf, let's go north . . . we'll rent a car and check out some of the high passes outside Santiago with a backup plan of heading to Chillan where we knew we could find a few more volcanoes and a few more hot springs. Armed with a plan, we bought bus tickets (as did the rest of our group, all to different locations) and then did a speed run to the hot springs, returning to Pucon in time to have a bite and get on the bus. One Ambien later, we arrived in Santiago and headed to the aeropuerto to rent a car. I will never understand how, but this process always takes longer than one can imagine, but about 2 hours later, we were driving away in our new ski assault vehicle: the Chevy Corsa :-) We chose to head locally since we had to wait for our notorized approval to take the car to Argentina and didn't want to head that way and wish we had it. So, toward La Parva we went.

Navegating Santiago was no easy feat . . . I'm not sure we really even had a map, and I'm not sure it would have really helped anyway. What did help was asking random motorists and motorcyclists for directions . . . I seriously love being able to speak Spanish! We were finally on the road out of town and I was pretty worn out from the logistics and said to Scott, "I hate to admit it, but do you know what I'd do for a Starbuck's right now?!!?" . . . literally 5 minutes later, one appeared on the side of the road and I was in heaven!!! It was pretty darn funny, actually :-)

From there, we drove up the windiest road ever in search of the La Parva/El Colorado/Valle Nevado ski areas . . . about an hour and a half later, we came upon ski town condo-land and knew we were in the right spot. After driving around a bit, we decided to just start skinning, and did so until we found ourselves on the top of a ridge, looking back on some serious eye candy, and poised above a fun little coolie. So, down we went, and then headed back up for round two down some more spirited terrain into a narrower coolie. It was fun, and felt like the Andes I know from my time in Lenas - little shots everywhere, and many ways to skin a cat :-)

We drove to Valle Nevado after our ski, and found the sketchiest road without guardrails, ever! It was cool to see the place though, and apparent there would be some winter potential and seriously rad potential, but not much in the middle. So, with that info in mind, we headed back to Santiago, figuring we'd see if we got our Argentina paperwork and check weather again.

After driving the windy road, we ended up in the middle of the city, more or less completely lost. I had spent one day in town on my way south, and knew of only one area with hostel and internet cafe . . . if only I could find Bellavista. And then, much as the Starbucks had appeared earlier, the Bellavista exit appeared from nowhere (from inside a tunnel, no less!), and off we were to familiar territory. At this point, we got our rental guru, found out we'd get our paperwork delivered the next morning, found some food, and crashed hard!!!!

Skiing Chilean volcanoes

Well, I am attempting to get my South American adventure stories uploaded, and am trying something new with the slideshow instead of individual pictures . . . enjoy the view!!!!