Patagonia – Part 3

We have been waiting for a window in the weather for the whole week, essentially since I got here (!) and, looking out of the window now it looks like our patience is being rewarded.  The break in the weather is finally here! According to the forecast we should have three or perhaps even four days (not bad for this part of the world this time of year) of clear sky and sunshine which means Jorge can finally take us to his favorite corner of his backyard, Frey hut. Frey is a mountain hut situated at 1,700 mt in a remote valley, providing ideal and easy access to the best backcountry terrain of the area and among the best in the whole country. We are a strong team of 5: Jorge, Richard, myself and two other Norwegian guys, Ole on skis and Ivan on Telemark. It’s always good to have a tele skier in the group, I love watching tele turns. The plan is to drive to the ski resort to catch a lift up the mountain which will take us at the beginning of our tour

In the car park sorting out equipment and food

Once we get off the lift we put skins on and start skinning away from the lifts. It doesn’t matter how long for I have been using my board in touring mode; every time it feels like the first time – it gives the most incredible liberating feeling. The smile on my face becomes bigger and bigger as I move away from lifts and people. Today is Saturday, so the slopes seem to be particularly crowded with locals and tourists, one reason more to leave everyone behind

Richard, waiting his turn to traverse a slope which will lead us to the rocks on the ridge just in front of us. From there we are going to ski down and then hike again toward the peak you see far in the distance. Frey hut is in the valley next to that mountain

We now have to negotiate a tight and exposed rock passage in order to access the slope we are going to ski

Ivan and Ole seem to be ready to drop in

This is going to be our line. It looks very aesthetic with the rocks so close on one side

 

I am going next, just the time to strap into my bindings

Although visibility wasn’t great, snow was very good. Once we get to the bottom of the valley, we switch to touring mode and start hiking again through a nice little forest

Welcome to Frey hut, our home for the next few days. How lucky are we?!

Often people ask me why I call “home” a place where I am going to sleep only for few nights, most likely on a sleeping pad in my sleeping bag at a temperature close to 0° (if I am lucky!) and without a shower/bathroom. To me home isn’t a physical place but a sensation, something that I carry with me the whole time and that I don’t have to look for when I get to a new place. Although I am sure that a part from close friends and family who know me well, a very good number of people reading this blog will find it difficult to believe, as long as I am close to the natural world, in a mountain hut or in a tent, on a beach by the sea in my warm sleeping bag, or even in my car.. I usually feel at home

I believe that generally a physical home is a reflection of what most people strive for during their life: being permanent, putting roots somewhere, in an effort to find somewhere, and ideally someone too would be nice, to belong to. I have always considered my concept of home closer to the true reality of things, we are just passing through

In my opinion, our general disenchantment of the contact with the natural world through so many modern and not so modern comforts may appear, if noticed at all, as one of the many regrettable side effects of modern contemporary life. Robert MacFarlane puts it nicely in one of my favorite books ever, Mountains of The Mind: “we are as a species finding increasingly hard to imagine that we are part of something which is larger than our own capacity. We have come to accept a heresy of aloofness, a humanist belief in human difference, and we suppress wherever possible the checks and balances on us – the reminders that the world is greater than us or that we are contained within it. On almost every front, we have begun a turning away from a felt relationship with the natural world”

I am very grateful to my father who, taking me camping and spending with me time in the outdoors since I was a small child, has been able to pass on to me his love, appreciation and respect for the natural world. It’s something that year after year continues to enhance and enrich my life in many different ways and I am sure it will continue to do so for many years to come. His latest passion is growing plants, flowers and all sorts of fruits and vegetables in his garden. He is probably there right now, pottering around the garden picking up strawberries, courgettes and tomatoes

The sky is still covered by a blanket of clouds, making difficult for the sun to break through. I guess we just have to resign to the idea that, at least for today, visibility is not going to improve. However, it’s still early and we are not tired so we decide to go straight into the first tour. Looking ahead of us, as we skin on the flat, I am literally blown away by some of the most amazing terrain I have ever set my eyes on; a way to describe it would probably be Greenland meets the Alps

I cannot believe we are the only people in this backcountry heaven. It makes it even more special. This is one of the aspects I love about the huge open spaces in countries like North and South America. If this was anywhere in Europe, by now we would already be in a queue of 20 or more people to go up! We are only less than 2 hours away from the ski resort after all. This is the couloir we are going to hike and ski this afternoon. It’s pretty wide and for what I can see from here super long

Richard and Ole on the their way up

We are about one hour into the hike, not too far from the top, and the sun has finally found the strength to break through the clouds. The vivid cobalt blue of the sky, the red of the rocks and the pure white of the snow; this is the precise combination of colors and elements that makes me think about the coastal mountains on the Liverpool Peninsula in Greenland

I am now at the top. The views on the valley are superb. If it wasn’t for the Norwegian yellow giant in front of me! Only kidding Ole! This is going to be our line. It’s going to be amazing and super long; this run it’s probably going to be about 450mt long, one of the longest of my life

Back at the hut we chill out, or “chillax” as my good friend Simon would say. It’s now time to prepare some food, dry the clothes and regain some energy for tomorrow

The sky has finally cleared and the air cooled. The moon is a waxing crescent, almost full and bright enough to see by. Although it’s well below freezing and my breath fletches in the air, I could stay out here for hours and hours, watching the stars, pointed and precise, shedding their impassive light

After an excellent night sleep in my sleeping bag, for the first time since I am in Patagonia, I wake up with a cloudless sky, and it looks one the bluest sky I have ever seen. This is just before sunrise

Group photo just before we set off. From left to right: Ivan, Richard, Ole, myself. Jorge is behind my camera

After breakfast we are officially out for the first mission of the day. Just look at this amazing, unreal, untouched 180° mountain panorama – it will be difficult to choose where to start from! A super excited Jorge leads the team, followed closely by the Norwegian contingent, Ole and Ivan

This is the line we skied yesterday. In this beautiful light you can clearly see our tracks

We are going to ski these two couloirs as Jorge tells us that they usually hold the best snow among all the others in the area. Jorge has been skiing here for the past 15 years so I guess we trust him! Although their length looks very similar to the ones we skied yesterday, one in particular is definitely steeper and narrower, especially the last 50mt or so

Generally, when I approach big and steep faces like this one I always have a mix of different thoughts and feelings inside. I am intimidated, humbled and excited at the same time. Although avalanche risk is definitely the main hazard that needs to constantly be assessed and dealt with, there is more going on in my mind. Mountain faces like the ones around here have the power to make you feel very small and insignificant. The weather, changing so quickly, reminds you that you are only a guest in this wild environment and need to be sufficiently skilled and prepared to understand the mountains different moods and make sound decisions according to when they change

I confess that, differently from other people I know, I don’t get much enjoyment and excitement from simply being exposed. As much as I love skinning and earning my turns, I generally try to avoid hiking steep faces where you are exposed the whole time, from when you start at the bottom to when you get to the top. I much prefer skinning on ridges or though trees. So why am I doing this? To ride of course! When there is no other way to get to the top but go straight up on the slope you will also ski down from, provided snowpack conditions are good and stable, I will do it because I know that the reward will be amazing

Richard, Ivan and Ole on the way up

We are half the way up and as expected the slope becomes steeper. The good news though is that the snow conditions are excellent. Looking down

and looking up. This section is definitely around 40°

Once we get to the top the views are breathtaking. I am looking over the Argentinian border into Chile. The cloud you see is not a normal one. It’s an ash cloud coming out of the Puyehue volcano which has been erupting intermittently since June

More great views

 

 

After a quick bite we are getting ready to switch to ski mode and start the descent

Moments away from what I know it will be one of the best lines of my life. This is what my dreams are made of and I am about to see one of them becoming real

This is half way down. It was difficult to stop but I really wanted more shots about this amazing line

I am now at the bottom, with the biggest smile on my face. I don’t think we get to experience many of these very special moments in life and I feel extremely privileged for having had the opportunities to fulfill so many dreams so far; especially when you have worked very hard to get to this single moment where physically and mentally, everything comes together in unison. I live for these moments. From experience I can tell you that the reason why these moments are so special is because there is only so much work you can do to prepare yourself. The remaining elements needed to achieve them are given to you almost as a gift by the environment around you. That probably explains why every time that happens you feel you are in the right place at the right time

Even if you have no idea if and when you will achieve a “white moment” again, you will do everything you can with the hope you’ll experience another one day, as the former Olympic heavyweight weightlifter Yuri Vlasov puts it:

At the peak of a tremendous and victorious effort, while the blood is pounding in your head, all suddenly becomes quiet within you.  Everything seems clearer and whiter than ever before, as if great spotlights had been turned on.  At that moment you have the conviction that you contain all the power in the world, that you are capable of everything, that you have wings.  There is no more precious moment in life than this, the white moment, and you will work very hard for years just to taste it again. –  Yuri Vlasov

This entry was posted in Splitboard Trips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *