Well, LIVE-ish or as live as I can make it! Currently I'm live, but who knows how long that will last for..... So, it's happening again; it's time to escape the heat and head down south to Chile for second winter. Yay second winter! Time for our annual blog to Chile and the documenting of our exploits in Nevados de Chillan.
This will be my third time down there and I'm stoked to be back and this time I have three groups coming down, the first being the Pugski crew with @SBrown and her family PLUS @UGASkiDawg. It's an all star crew and I'm excited to show them around my slice of southern hemispherial paradise (I haven't told them they have to wear blindfolds for most of the trip..... I'm sure they'll be right though).
I will definitely be writing for this first group but will probably just give you the highlights for the session after. It was a wild ride getting from Denver to Houston with the thunderstorms surrounding the city. I got to feel weightlessness for the first time, that was fun! I'd like to not have to experience that again..... a couple of beers in the lounge should ease the tension for the next flight.
I will report back in once I get to Concepcion where I have a rest night on the 9th before meeting the crew on the 10th. Until then!
International (Europe/Japan/NZ/Au) Chile 2018 Trip Report - LIVE from the Andes
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Aug 8th – Travel Day
I set out from Denver on the 8th August, it was a relief to finally get out of the heat although I was sad as always to leave Julie my wife (and the cat and it actually wasn’t that hot which was somewhat ironic). I was flying with United again and was flying from Denver to Houston and then onto Santiago, with a quick hop to Concepcion where I was due to stay the night on the 9th to catch up on some rest before meeting the first group on the 10th.
The flight to Houston was pretty uneventful until we were about to land and then we hit some massive thunderstorms. The plane was bucked around pretty good and we ended up having to take a few laps before we had a window in which we could land.
We spent an extra hour in the air, so I had just under 5 hours to kill in Houston. I went to the United lounge and then had dinner at Rosie’s Diner. Rosie’s Diner is actually somewhat affordable (not fancy) for airport food and decent enough. I had a nice meal there and then headed to the next flight.
We were also late getting on this plane (still being cleaned), but with the tail wind, we should be arriving right on schedule. I was sitting in Premium Economy and thought I’d scored as I had a free seat next to me in the front row. The configuration of the seats is a little strange on the 767, 2-3-2, but unfortunately, I had an immoveable armrest and it was really uncomfortable. Despite popping a couple of sleeping tablets, I only managed a few hours sleep. Oh well, I had a catch-up night scheduled in Concepcion to make up for any lost sleep, so I knew I’d be alright.
I had met Susan and her family at the gate and then hung out with them in the line to immigration in Santiago. It was a huge queue, it must have taken us close to an hour to get through it all and I’m glad I had 3 hours before my next flight (I would allow 2 hours minimum to get to any domestic connections in Santiago, it’s not fast going). There are several international flights that arrive at the same time in the morning and that’s what causes the chaos.
It took a while but I finally made it through immigration and headed to baggage claim to grab my bags. They were already stacked up next to the belt so they were easy to find. I changed my money at the exchange next to the belt (620 CLP to $1USD) and then headed through customs and their baggage scanners.
Then it was upstairs via the elevators to check in for the next flight to Concepcion (well just drop the bags off as I was already ticketed for the flight to CCP). That was pretty easy, I had almost and hour to spare and then the flight is only an hour (straight up and then straight down). Then I had a quick cab to the Ibis Concepcion, about 10 minutes down the road (about $10, a little expensive but all good, just wanted to get there).
I had a nice dinner at the Ibis (breaded shrimp starter and a steak/cheese sandwich with a couple of local beers) and then had to work on making alternate transfer arrangements for David whose flight from Dallas was late and he was missing his flight to Concepcion. All good hopefully, he now has own private transfer with my driver Ramiro and he will meet us up in Las Trancas around 7pm. Time for some sleep…..
The sun coming up over the Andes. Great way to start the trip.....
More Andes..... sorry it's a bit blurry....
The view from the gate in Santiago as I wait for the plane to Concepcion. Again, this photo does not do the view justice. Santiago has some really bad air quality......
Onto Las Trancas today!
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Aug 9th – Arrival in Las Trancas
Ramiro’s wife, Matilda came to meet me at the Ibis at 10:45am and then took me to the airport to meet Susan and her family who we arriving in Concepcion around that time. I had had some texts from Susan that morning saying that they’d had some problems with security after check-in. Apparently, the baggage scanners had seen a metal tin with paste in it (Hestra glove wax!) and they flagged it and Ron and Margaret had to be pulled out of line for the flight and go and tell them what it was. They only just made it back in time for the flight, but unfortunately the bag did not make it aboard.
When they arrived, we had to go and put in a report about the missing ski bag and give them the accommodation details so it could be delivered. Matilda was a great help in this situation and some of the LATAM agents spoke English, so we got it resolved. The bag would come in on a later flight and be delivered up to Las Trancas. No worries.
David wasn’t expected until 5:12pm after his late flight out of Dallas (he had unfortunately missed his flight to CCP and there were no available seats until the 4:04pm flight) so Ramiro would meet with him and take him up to the mountain.
Next we drove to Chillan (1.5 hours) and stopped quickly in the town square to exchange some money (better here at 644 CLP to the $USD) and then we stopped for lunch at Motoneta’s, the restaurant I had been to with Ramiro last season. Most of us opted for steak and we had a few welcome beers and wines. All very nice!
Then we were back on the road for the final hour to get to Las Trancas. Francisco was waiting for us and our other guide Eric was already there too. We unpacked and relaxed a little, then we headed out around the village to check out a few of the bars/restaurants Eric had said that a few of our regular haunts from last year had changed, so I was keen to see what the changes were.
The local dive bar Ocho Loco was gone; there was a new bar in place but it was very quiet with not much going on. The sushi/seafood restaurant was also gone (very sad!) and that was replaced by a French place selling hamburgers (very good) and other Western fare. Oliva’s (my favorite from last year) was still there and they had a new sister restaurant/bar next door where we all shared some food.
David arrived at 7pm and he met us at Oliva’s for a Pisco Sour (local favorite drink). We were back by around 10pm (early by Chilean standards) and I was straight off to bed to be ready for our first day skiing…..
On the road again......
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Aug 11th – First ski day
We were up for breakfast at 8am and then our transport was waiting to take us up to the mountain. It was pretty overcast and windy, so I was expecting there to be lifts on hold. Most importantly it was our chance to get out, get on our skis again and get warmed up. I also wanted to give the group a feel for the mountain and the snow.
Unfortunately this season, Nevados de Chillan has had a lot of snow, but the freezing level has been high at times. From what I could see, there is plenty of snow up high, but there is not much down low. The freezing level has been around the bottom of the Otto chair, so the trees down low are unskiable right now and the Tata lift has not been running. They definitely need more snow down low.
Up high there is plenty of snow. They only had the two lower t-bars open initially, but later on they opened the Wenche triple and then the Cornisia quad. It makes a big difference when they have the chairlifts running and you can take a break from skiing uphill as well. The wind was definitely ripping up high so I can understand why the Otto chair was down.
Since David hadn’t arrived till late the previous night, we didn’t have time to run our avi safety training, so we just went skiing instead (that will be the focus on Sunday). We started on the groomers and they were still pretty firm. We skied from 9am till 11:15am and then went to the Hotel Alto Nevados for a break, but that turned into lunch. The food there is really good and the couches are warm and comfortable, so it was a little bit of struggle to find the motivation to go back outside, but the group rallied and we went out for more.
By now they had opened both the Wenche and Cornisia chairs so we could lap in relative luxury. We tried a couple of runs in the off-piste area next to the Otto (easy traverse from the top of the t-bar to get there) and where the wind had blown snow, it was a little softer, but still pretty chunky underneath. We are hoping for a storm starting tomorrow night through Monday (bluebird on Tuesday) and then another storm starting on Friday. If that happens, then happy days!
We skied till about 3pm then called it a day (well, time for some apres ski back at the Hotel Alto Nevados). We had a couple of cerveza’s and then headed back down to Las Trancas. We were having one of our “home cooked” meals at the Cabanas los Hualles and we enjoyed a salad, then shrimp risotto finished off with lemon meringue pie. Good times!
@UGASkiDawg on the Cornicia Wenche chair, heading up for our first run. Psyched to be skiing in August!
Pearce Brown getting on down!
Margaret Brown also getting on down.....
@UGASkiDawg warming up on the groomers.....
@UGASkiDawg assessing his options if the volcano erupts...
@UGASkiDawg hard at work testing some Renoun shred sticks.....
Mission successful! First day safely in the bag.
Aug 12th – 2nd Ski Day
We had breakfast at 8am and at 8:45am I went through the indoor portion of our avalanche safety training and our powperpoint presentation of avalanche theory. Our lift came for us at 10am and when we got to the mountain we could feel that the winds had died down and see that the Otto chair was now running. I wanted to show the team more of the mountain and get a run or two in before we got into the on-snow portion of our avi training.
We took the Otto chair up and when we reached the top, we could see that the volcano was venting. We took our skis off an walked up a little higher for an unobstructed view and the obligatory active volcano shots. Then we did a run to the looker’s right of the chair, following a couple of gullies where the snow had blown in and it looked smooth. The skiing was quite nice in those parts.
Then we hit the lower section of the Freeride Zone and you could feel a real difference in the snow. Here the snow had softened previously and had frozen up pretty hard. It was still hard and made for challenging skiing. That wasn’t too much fun.
We went back up the Otto chair and this time, the Mirador chair was spinning. We did a run down a secret face that had some nice wind-blown snow in it and then headed to the Restaurante Buena Vista. It was around 12:30pm so we decided to have an early lunch. I wanted the group to be somewhat fresh for our on-snow avi training.
After a nice lunch we headed up the Mirador chair. With the extension of the exclusion zone around the top of the volcano, you now have to get off at a new mid-station ramp that they have built. David had a little issue with his backpack straps getting stuck in the chairlift seat and they had to stop the lift and one of the lefties had to climb up onto the chair and release the caught strap (he was an old fella but surprisingly agile and climbed up the back up the chair quicker than a lizard up a drain pipe).
David was fined a beer (which he happily accepted) and then we headed to the very edge of the Tres Marias freeride area and found some flatter terrain to work on our initial beacon skills. For some people in the group this was the first time working on beacon skills, so it was fun to put them through the start f the progression.
I always start people with single burial, single rescuer drills. I show give them a walk through where I show them the rescue and talk them through it as I do it, then I do one at ¾ speed. This first part of the progression is done with skis off and carrying the shovel/probe already deployed (skis on and carrying full kit, comes later). The volcano was till venting in the background as the crew went to work.
Unfortunately the crew only had time for one go each (with plenty of coaching and feedback from the guides) and then ski patrol started to do their sweep around 4:15pm. It was time to head down and we would have to finish up later. We had a beer at Tio Willy’s (David and I met some rather drunk policemen from Chillan, a lieutenant and his boss the captain), they were very friendly and passionate about Chile, but they didn’t speak much English so the conversation kind of dwindled after a while.
When we got home we decided to go for a walk to new restaurant up the road to Shangri-La. This was a new but very small place, not much bigger than a couple of shipping containers, with friendly and enthusiastic host and very tasty and inexpensive food. Beers were only 900 CLP ($1.50 USD) so that made a nice change. We ate a lot of food and I think the owner was pretty stoked to have the business. Then we headed back to the Cabanas los Hualles to end a nice day.
The Volcan Neuva venting some steam for us.....
Left to right: Eric (my second guide), David, Ron, Susan, Pearce and Margaret. On our way to the backcountry.
The Brown clan, some shy, some not so shy.
Aug 13th – 3rd Ski Day
During the night it was raining and sometime early in the morning, it had turned to snow. I awoke to see a blanket of fresh white snow in Las Trancas. This was a nice surprise as I thought it might only rain down in town, so this would surely mean good snow up high.
We were still expecting it to be windy up high too, so I wasn’t optimistic on how many lifts would open. The road had not been plowed either and our driver Juan had chains on when he picked us up at 930am. It was hard going up the stepper parts as we had little traction and Juan worked hard to keep the van going in a straight line.
We made it up to the upper parking lot and there were only a handful of other cars in the lot. Gotta love that on a powder day! The Wenche chair was open so we skied down to that and road it up. We could see a little bit of new avalanche activity as we rode the lift. The new layer of snow would undoubtedly need more time to bond so we’d have to be careful on our line choice.
The Nono t-bar wasn’t spinning yet so we decided to take a run down into the lower part of the freeride zone. The snow was about 20cm’s deep and it was skiing really nice. This was enough snow to hide the rocks, but not adequately cover them, so you had to be careful. It was important therefore that we skied lines that we had skied before and knew the coverage was better.
By the time we cycled back around, the t-bar was running so we headed up. There were a few people ahead of us and we saw a few people traversing out towards the Freeride Zone which was our original plan. We traversed a couple of bowls out and then found a line with only a few tracks in it. We went one at a time and enjoyed some nice fresh snow. This was a nice change to the hard snow we had been skiing for the last couple of days and everyone was much happier.
We went back for another run and Eric guided us to a hidden bowl further to the left of our original line. This had fewer tracks in it again and even better coverage, so we spread out and dropped in one at a time. We could see recent avalanche activity (small slide on a sleep convex roll-over that had given way, soft slab avalanche from the new storm slab, about 15ft wide and ran for about 40ft, nothing serious but an obvious sign of instability and lack of bonding of the new layer).
A few Chilean riders turned up as half of the group had dropped in so we let a few of them go. Eric and I did a quick recce of another line at the bottom in the trees and it was tight and definitely challenging, probably not the right choice for our group. Then it was time for lunch around 12:30pm at Hotel Alto Nevados.
After lunch we went back up the chair and t-bar and traversed into the Freeride Zone. This time we skied the very first bowl and I found a section that had no tracks in it. I was cautious about the coverage so set a track on the far left side of the face and then the crew spooned my tracks. There were a couple of blind roll-overs that we had to be careful of but the skiing was really nice. We all enjoyed the run and skied into the gully, watching out for exposed rocks.
Then we hit the beginner area next to Tio Willy’s and found a quiet area to do some more beacon training. This was a great session as we had 2 hours to work on skills and the guys got a lot more practice. We did another single burial, single rescuer then went into two rescuer, single burial and everyone was doing really well. But the end of that, there was just a little fine-tuning to do but the progression was huge. They were really getting a hang of it and following all the steps of the AIARE checklist. I finished by showing them how to do a single rescuer, double burial (we’ll work on that this week) and then we were done as it was 4pm.
We headed back to Las Trancas and got changed ready to head out for drinks and an early dinner. Steaks were on the menu and we had a great meal at Oliva’s restaurant, just up from our accommodation.
This was a nice surprise, waking up to fresh snow down in Las Trancas. It had been raining during the night but turned to snow during the morning. If it's snowing in Las Trancas, then it normally means good snow up on the mountain.
Eric doing his happy dance. It worked!
About 8 inches of fresh awaited us up on the mountain, with more up higher.....
Looking good on the deck of the Hotel Alto Nevados.
We earned our steaks that night. Oliva's restaurant.
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Aug 14th – 4th ski day
Excitement and expectations were high. The forecast was calling for blue skies and light winds, so in theory, that should mean everything should be open. The new snow had really helped the coverage a lot, so this should be a special day. We wanted to get up there early so we called for an 8:45am pickup. The road was pretty slick as they had not yet plowed the road, but Hugo had the chains on and it was easy going for us.
There weren’t many people in the car park yet and the Otto wasn’t spinning yet. We jumped in line (6th in line) and by 9:28am, we were on and heading up. The sun hadn’t quite crested over the mountain yet but the snow up high was pure and untracked. It looked soft, like talcum powder as the first people ahead of us dropped in.
We skier’s left to the main face and enjoyed some nice turns, with only 1 set of tracks ahead of our group. Then we crossed out of the resort and into the sidecountry, over to the Supertubes area, the steep face leading into the Pirigallo Valley. This is definitely avalanche terrain (the snow was really firm underneath the new 8 or so inches of snow and I wasn’t getting any penetration with the handle of my ski pole), so Eric did a ski cut across the top and then we dropped in one at a time. Another group (Australians, some without avi gear) wanted to drop in on top of our group and I asked them to wait and told them it was a bad idea to drop in here if they are not all prepared for the backcountry, so eventually they went back towards the resort…… good idea!).
I dropped in last and found a nice untouched line to my left. I was starting to feel a little bit more confident with the snow, with the stability and coverage, so I made some higher speed turns and let the skis run a little. Then we had the traverse out where we focused on crossing the terrain, showing the group how to just have one person crossing the exposure and moving safer as a group.
We re-entered the resort and then headed back up the Otto for another run. This time the plan was to take the short 2 minute hike straight ahead off the chair and then hit the big open bowl at the top. Surprisingly there was a patroller at the gate checking beacons (great to see but where was he on the first run?). The hike was really easy and then we had the whole bowl to play in. There was about 4 or 5 tracks lower to the right, so we went a little higher up to the left and enjoyed fresh tracks. I went first, over a fun steep lip and then the others came in one at a time. The snow was really good, light and soft and the 7 or 8 GS turns were awesome fun.
Then we team skied a nice lower angle ramp and headed back towards the resort boundary. We stayed out of bounds and skied the next bowl above Supertubes and we had fresh lines in there. There were only 2 sets of tracks to the left side and we enjoyed more great turns. Then we did the same traverse back out. It was 11:30am when we got back to the Hotel Alto Nevados so I suggested we stop for an early lunch so we had more time in the afternoon.
After lunch we went back up for more. I wanted to look at the Tres Marias area. The right side already had a few tracks in it, so I suggested we try the left side. I gave the disclaimer that this would be the first time in and we didn’t know what the exit would be like (how much snow was down there and how easy it would be to get out). We all had skins on so if we needed to, we could skin back out, but hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. The group was open to a potential “adventure ski” so we dropped in and gave it a go.
The top part was really nice, open, low angle with a few windlips to play on. We had about 4 decent pitches to play on. Finally we got to a crucial part where we were getting low, but it looked really bushy. This was the challenge this season with the lower snow, the bushes were not covered like they were last year. I decided that it would be safer for us to traverse back to the right, back towards the groomed run. There was a little bit of sidestepping, but after about 15 minutes, we came out on the groomer. It was a shame to have to cut the run short like that as it normally skis really nicely and you can go much lower, but it’s not that season yet unfortunately.
Then we headed down lower and headed through the run that goes down through some really nice old-growth trees, covered in Old Man’s Beard. The guys enjoyed the scenery. Then we all rode the Tata chair (first time riding that so they got to see the lower tree runs and the hotels in that area) back to the Tio Willey’s area.
Margaret, Susan and David were done for the day, Ron and Pearce wanted to do one more run, so Eric and I took them back up the Otto for another sidecountry lap. We did the short hike again, this time we went a little higher up to get fresher tracks. The volcano was venting steam in the background again! We had more nice big GS turns and then went over a small ridge and skied another fresh gully, further down into the Valley. The snow was definitely warming up but it was still nice and soft and predictable.
I stayed in the gully for quite a while, with the rest of the group traversing higher. I managed to easily to get back to the Supertubes ridgeline and make the traverse. It was another nice run and we made it safely back to the resort and into the Alto Nevados to meet the others.
All in all, this had been a great day and finally the crew were getting what I consider to be the proper Nevados de Chillan experience. The forecast is for 2 more days of sun with calm winds (it’s going to keep warming up for the next 2 days and will get quite hot), before the next storm hopefully comes in on Friday. If the crew is up for it, we will start touring up higher tomorrow. Should be a fun day.
Part of our run into the Pirigallo Valley. A little team-ski action in some lower angle terrain.
Surprise visit from Susanna from the Santa Berta Winery for some wine tasting before dinner.
Beef brisket lasagna..... me gusta mucho!
Aug 15th – 5th ski day
The forecast was again for sunny skies but warmer than the day before. We’d want to be getting a little higher then to find colder snow. I’d asked the group if they were up from some touring and a little avalanche education and they were game.
We left Las Trancas at 9:15am and was up the top of the Otto chair sometime after 10am. Some of the group had not skinned before so I went through a detailed briefing on how to put skins on, get into touring mode with skis and boots and then pointers on actual skinning itself. Then off we went. The volcano had a nice little vent (probably the biggest vent yet and a bit of a roaring noise too) as we climbed higher.
I found a couple of steeper but short slopes and I demonstrated some open turns, then VAV turns and finally some kick turns. The guys got to practice a few and there was some good improvement. We had a couple of short downhill sections that the guys could practice going downhill (important as we had a long downhill coming up later) and they made easy going of the gentle uphill.
Then after about 25 minutes we hit our downhill. You had some options; you could traverse across a little and have the bindings locked back into ski mode, but most of the group went for it and straight-lined downhill. It was fun to see and I think they enjoyed the excitement of it all.
Then it was another uphill before we made out objective. We stopped to take some group photos and then scouted our line, a big bowl that ran quite a ways, down into the Pirigallo Valley. I had also wanted to dig a pit with the group so they could look at the snowpack and conduct some stability tests.
We found a spot right on the edge of our bowl and headed down a little so we could stay off the steeper part. We marked a 2m wide pit and started digging. The snow was about 145cm’s deep but apart from the top 15cm’s, it was pretty solid all the way down. For a relatively shallow pit, it took quite a lot of effort to dig all the way down to the ground.
About half-way through the digging, two skiers appeared above us (more Australians). There was a decent amount of snow to the side of us and it was steep, I wasn’t keen on them dropping in on top of us so I yelled to them to let them know we were there and pointed for them to go around us. They went to look to the other side but quickly returned and sure enough, they dropped in over the roll-over right on top of us and skied the face together. This was exactly what I was hoping to avoid and pretty unnecessary as they could have easily gone around and below us. Frustrating……
Anyhoow, we managed to dig all the way to the ground (probably the hardest snow I’ve ever had to remove) and then we did looked for different layers with our metal crystal cards and did a couple of hand-hardness tests on the side (observation) walls. The recent storm snow towards the surface was obviously still quite soft (fist tending to 4 fingers) and then it was a whole series of ice-crusts and hard consolidated layers (pencil to knife hardness) with one layer down towards the bottom testing at 1 finger.
We had room for a Shovel Shear Test, 2 x Column Tests and one Extended Column Tests, but after two Column Tests with no result, we abandoned plans for the ECT (we wouldn’t have been able to isolate the block with our knotted paracord and we getting late in the day, it was past 2pm) and decided to get out of there and finally go for a ski.
There was still plenty of room left in our gully and Eric dropped in first. There was a blind rollover so he stopped on the edge of it and spotted the group. I dropped in next and took the furthest right line past Eric and over the roll-over. The snow was still nice and soft and predictable and I enjoyed some fast GS turns in the settled powder. I had 30 nice turns before I had to stop on the top of another roll-over. It was great line. Then the rest of the guys dropped in, one at a time, with enough room for everyone to ski a fresh line.
From there we had a traverse back to the resort, but I decided to go lower and ski in the untouched gully. It was really starting to warm up and in a couple of spots my skis slowed down suddenly and I nearly went over the handlebars. I managed to regain my balance and spotted the guys further down from the safety of a ridge. We crossed back into the resort and went straight to lunch (it was 3pm) at Hotel Alto Nevados. We had lunch and a few well-earned drinks out on the deck and watch a snowboarder get stuck in a very steep gully with rocks in it (a waterfall pretty much), take his board off and then downclimb before losing it on the final rock drop and smashing his butt on the rocks. Ouch! We saw him later and he said he was fine, thankfully so as he could have seriously messed himself up.
By 4:45pm it was time to return to our lodge and enjoy another freshly prepared meal by Chef Manny from Venezuela. Good times!
The Volcan Nuevo had a little toot as we took off for our zone. We could hear a little bit of a roar going this time as well, just to add to the effect!
Skins off and away we go.
One of the more technical parts of the tour is this downhill face. The guys had been able to practice on some smaller downhill features first so nearly everyone got down pretty easily, just gotta remember to take down those climbing aids to avoid face-planting at the bottom....
Our line from the top. Our destination, that big red-roofed building at the bottom (Hotel Alto Nevados).
Nice view of the upper Andes behind the ski area.
Pit time! We dug all the way down to the ground and then did a whole swathe of tests: finding the layers with a crystal card on the sidewalls (observation walls); hand hardness tests; column test (the snow was too hard to cut out a block for an extended column test). The snowpack was pretty solid in general, with most layers being pencil hardness and sandwiched between ice layers. The greatest concern was a lower layer, about 1 finger hardness, but it would take a lot of weight for the energy to reach down that low and cause a failure. If it went, it would go big, but I the likelihood of that happening would be very low. There was still reactivity with the new snow layer, but that would be a small soft slab limited in size to smaller terrain features. The new snow was showing signs of improved bonding as we were not seeing new releases.
The snow was really nice here and we had decent vertical. Definitely worth the effort of skinning up.
Margaret skiing down.
@UGASkiDawg found a snow snake on the way down. He stopped for closer inspection.....
Eric to the rescue.
Dropping in on the next pitch.
Back into the Pirigallo Valley.
Our line from near top to bottom. You can pretty much see our tracks all the way to the top.
Aug16th – 6th ski day
I wasn’t with the group this day, I had to stay back in Las Trancas to do some work, so Eric led the group and they had another day of touring. They took the Mirador chair up high and this time they went up towards the Volcan Nevados de Chillan. They skinned for about 2 hours and then had lunch up high. The snow had a bit of a wind-crust on it at the top but then as they got down lower, they managed to find a few faces of soft snow. Towards the bottom they stopped in at the Refugio Gargantua del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat refuge), a large hut or refuge at bottom of the Tres Marias area. Here’s some photos to show what they did (thank you to @SBrown for the use of her photos):
Aug 17th – Cultural day
It was storming up on the mountain, so we decided to take our cultural day down in Chillan and San Carlos. The van picked us up at 10:30am and we went straight to the Santa Berta winery, just outside Chillan. It was about an hour and a half to get there. Susanna was waiting for us at the winery and she gave us a great tour, showing us to the production facility (storage tanks and grape press) and then to the chapel.
Next we went to the tasting room and enjoyed a couple of different bottles of wine, plus an awesome cheese platter. I have to admit to eating a fair amount of cheese (cheese is my weakness…..) and it paired nicely with the wine we were given. Then we all went to the sales room and bought several bottles and knick-knacks. We had a lovely time at the winery as per usual.
Then it was onto San Carlos to head to the Violetta Restaurant. On the way we went to a butcher to meet the owner of Violetta’s, David Vivero and he gave us some samples of the cold cuts that he uses. They were very tasty. Then we headed to the restaurant where it was a blur of eating way too much food……
We started with some drinks (Pisco Sours, fresh Strawberry juice, beer) and then a round of ceviche came out. Next, we had some beef and cheese empanadas (best empanadas I’ve had) and then we finished the appetizers with some local sausage with seaweed and avocado dip.
Next it was onto the mains. We had some salad and then BBQ beef with potatoes. There was some fruit for desert. I was so full, but the food was amazing. Thank you again David! Then we finished the day with a trip to the local markets in Chillan where the crew could buy some Chilean and local souvenirs. It was about 1.5 hours to get back to Las Trancas and an early night.
Starting the tour in the production facility.
Storage tanks for the wine.
The old courtyard.
The tasting room, best room in the house!
Cheese platter, I definitely did some damage here.
Meeting David at his butchers. Time for some more food.
Cheese and beef empanadas, so good! Eric approves.
Getting everyone to look in a different direction at Casa Violetas.
The main church in Chillan.
A big fella needs a big spoon!
The feline equivalent of an all you can eat buffet. One happy kitty!
David buying some Merken, a Chilean spice that goes well on everything. Hopefully you managed to get it back through customs @UGASkiDawg!
Eric hat shopping.....
Okey dokey, I'm in Concepcion, waiting for the second group to arrive tomorrow. I have some decent internet here at the hotel so can finally upload a little bit of ski footage..... here's a couple of clips from the trip so far.......
Aug 18th – Waterfall
Unfortunately the news from the mountain was not great and the snow that was due to fall came in mostly as rain. According to a friend on the mountain, it had rained to the mid-station of the Otto until at lest 3pm, so no one was feeling too inspired by the thought of the conditions. So the group decided to call it quits and do some more shopping locally before going for a walk to the waterfall.
We headed out around noon and walked the mile and a half to the start of the waterfall near the main road. I had not walked to this waterfall before (I had been to a hidden waterfall further up the road that you cannot see from the road, two years previous), but a lady in a small tourist information center gave us approximate directions.
We walked through a field in the direction of the waterfall. We came into a forest with some impressive old-growth trees and then we saw a collection of plastic piping leading to the fall. We couldn’t find a proper trail and followed the pipes up (there were a lot of them unfortunately, it kind of spoiled the scenery). I took a bit of a wrong turn and had to clamber through a jungle (should have bought the machete), with bamboo everywhere.
It was hard going and took a while to finally get a decent view. The rest of the group had stayed closer to the falls and found an open path that was much easier to navigate. I got some photos and then made it out of the jungle. Then we stopped in for a couple of beers at a nearby bar and then headed back to our lodge.
Chef Manny cooked us an amazing farewell meal, with a smorgasbord of different foods. We went to bed (me at least) fat and happy….. that was it for Las Trancas. Next it was time to head back to Concepcion and then for the group to head home. I had my next group coming in a few days and a big storm was due to hit.
Nice view of the Valle Hermoso as we walked to the waterfall.
Massive old-growth tree on the way to the waterfall.
Crazy sea of pipes leading to the waterfall.....
Next time I will choose a different path to get to this view.....
Smooth operators having a welcome beer after our hike/jungle trek.....
Desert - pic Susan Brown
One of several dishes we had for our main course - pic Susan Brown.
Hands off that blue cheese! Pic - Susan Brown
Pic - Susan Brown
Aug 19th – Return to Concepcion
It was the travel day back to Concepcion. Our lift around at noon and then we were off. The plan was to head down the coast to Lenga, for some seafood. It was really busy when we got there (Sunday afternoon) and there was some kind of event going on. There was a big crowd gathered on the road so we walked out to see what was going on.
There were several large groups of people dancing in a procession, dressed in ornate costumes with their own accompanying bands. It was really vibrant and great to watch. It turns out this was actually a protest (someone wants to start building on the protected land on the forested hill overlooking the bay) and this was a regular (peaceful) protest that has been going on for many years. What a great way to protest peacefully and get your message across. It was really uplifting (despite the reason for the protests). I hope they are successful in their campaign!
It was very busy in all of the seaside restaurants but our driver recommended we go to La Barca Caleta, one of the larger but better rated restaurants in the area. They specialize in fresh seafood and we all had something different. We had some shrimp empanadas and sopapillas to start, then I had the fish and chips a lo pobre (a lo pobre means a fired egg on top off onions and French fries) and there was salmon and then several fish stews. The food was good, very good value and very filling. I didn’t need dinner that night. Then we headed back to the Ibis to relax.
Aug 20th – Departure day for session 1
Eric headed up the coast for a surf and the rest of the group wasn’t scheduled to leave till later, so we met up for breakfast and then went for a walk through the mall. The mall is just on the opposite side of the main road and has quite a few good shops in it (some ski shops too), plus a LATAM office.
After the mall, we went to the Aquarium Restaurant (right next to the Ibis) where they serve amazing steak and sea food. It’s pretty high-end with prices to match, but they have amazing food. It was my first time going in there and a great place if you want to treat yourself. I had amazing lamb and the others had steaks and some Chilean sea bass (which might be the best fish I have ever had). It was a big feed and again I skipped out on dinner.
The group organized Uber XL’s (1,200 CLP) at 4pm for the 5 minute drive to the airport. Sadly that was it for the Pugski group and I had a couple of days off before my next group arrived on the 22nd. Until then!
Peaceful protest. Loves the costumes, dancing and music. Great way to do it!
Fish and chips a lo pobre (caramelized onion with fried egg)
Awesome seafood stew.
Sunday on the foreshore....
Apparently we were thirsty..... 1.2 liter bottles of beer.
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