I am pretty much a newbie when it comes to backcountry skiing. OK, I've done avy courses and have skied with guides and have done fairly well, except the time I placed a ski down at the edge of a crater while transitioning out of skins, without having set my pin bindings into ski mode, oh and except the time when I didn't have a hearty breakfast, oh and the time when I didn't wear appropriate sunglasses with side-shields, oh and that was on one day, oh so lucky I was the only client, oh so sorry for my guide. Anyway, this September, I will venture out on my first, guided, multi-day, hut-to-hut tour. Cerro Cathedral, Argentina, to Frey Hut to Jakob Hut, back to Cerro Cathedral. One of my primary goals is to gain experience with route finding, taking into account terrain, time, capability, and avy hazards. In advance of that, it would be great to have the opportunity to discuss the terrain and possible routes with others. So, here I am.
Below is a topo map that shows the area. The ski area, Cerro Cathedral's ski area is named Centro de Ski and is in the northeast quadrant of the map. Frey Hut (Ref Frey for Refugio Frey) is south of that, marked in red. Jakob Hut is to the west, also marked in red. What are your thoughts about:
1. The leg from the ski area to Frey Hut
2. Skiing opportunities around Frey Hut
3. The traverse from Frey Hut to Jakob Hut
4. Skiing opportunities around Jakob Hut
5. The return to the ski area. (the guide says if weather or conditions are bad, we hike from Jakob Hut in hiking shoes on a 16 km hike through a forest)
I'm going to start with 1 and 2. First, I read that prevailing winds are southwest. Don't know what they are when it storms there. But, my thoughts are based on a southwest wind, resulting in wind-blown on the northeast aspect and wind-affected on the southwest. And, btw, I am relatively new to topo maps and don't know how to convert what I see to angle of slope, to degrees.
1. Ski area to Frey Hut: The way I read it, the easiest way, and the one with the most options along the route is traversing around the northeast aspect of Catedral Norte, to what looks like a "bridge" named Po de los Paraliticos, and just ski along that ridge, then pick a point (lots of points to pick from) at which to ski down to the valley. But, that looks pretty steep down to the valley, at least when comparing to the topo lines of the ski area, which I don't think is very steep. Then, where Ref Frey is printed, traverse back and forth up to the hut. Alternatively, from the northwest side of Pta. Princesa, ski down the ridge, then traverse around the northeast side of Roca Inclinada, then ski down to Lag Schmoll, basically follow the dotted line, which I assume is a hiking trail, and onwards along that trail to Frey Hut. I don't like the idea of skiing straight down from the gap between Pta. Princess and Catedral Norte, because once in, the options are very limited.
2. Skiing around Frey Hut: That trail (dotted line) up to Torre Principal looks do-able. And, it looks like there would be a nice view from up there. The ski down, along the ridge (spine?), back towards Frey Hut looks gentle enough, like the ski area; or ski down north of the hiking trail. Northeast aspect, gets morning sun, warms up and snow softens? More snow because it is leeward? Easier lap would be up to Pico Barr, up the ridge line and back. But, maybe that ridge will be scoured by wind. Another one might be a hike up from Torre Cohete Lunar up to Co. Catedral Sur, then ski down that ridge, or for steeper terrain, skiing northerly to the end of that hiking trail, then generally follow that trail down. I'm thinking that aspect might be nice because it is leeward and snow might get blown onto that aspect.
As I said, I am new to this. So, any suggestions or comments are appreciated. Anyone that wants to take the Socratic approach is welcome as well.
I have discovered, what no doubt others have long ago, an app that helps me a lot. As I mentioned above, I am a relative newbie when it comes to Topo's, and don not easily visualize slope angle, nor distance as a matter of fact. This weekend, playing with Caltopo, I discovered something called slope shading. Unfortunately, with Caltopo, slope shading only works for the U.S. (maybe Canada?), and a small bit over the southern border. A search led me to FATMAP, an app that apparently went online in 2017 per another thread. Here's a quick summation of what I've been able to do so far.
To get quickly to Frey Hut upon opening the app, I set Frey Hut as a waypoint. Selecting that waypoint takes me on a virtual flight to my destination.
Once there, I can easily view the slopes that can be seen from Frey Hut.
Notice I added a distance grid. Super easy to add it. Right away, I see prospects, the slope across the lake. The gentle saddle to the left. The facing-slope to the left of saddle. Now, I can zoom in and, instead of a distance layer, view slope angles and angle-based avalanche hazard.
With slope shading
With slope-based avalanche hazard
same thing of another slope, viewed from better angle
I'm not going to second guess the guide. But, I do plan on being better able to learn from him.
Snow Brains just published a detailed post about this route including trailhead start etc. I skied at Catedral last year and this trip to Frey would have been incredible. I had an amazing trip and a hut trip on top of it would have been spectacular and probably exhausting.karlo likes this.