I have never been shy about the fact that guiding is absolutely my favorite aspect of my job. Last week I guided two young women for a week of skiing volcanoes in southern Chile. We skied from the summits of Volcanoes Mocho-Choshuenco and Casa Blanca. We made it to the upper elevations of Osorno, but weather turned us back. We got in a ton of skiing and had great snow.
Laura had never skied on a volcano before, much less one in Chile. I kept trying to explain how lucky she was – we were skiing powder, not corn. Unfortunately, we also had a lot of cloudy conditions, so she never had a really great run with stellar visibility. But at least it felt good underfoot.
For me, it was an incredible week. Even if the descents were under clouded skies, everything else presented itself in magical form. The mountains really came out to show off for the girls and I love to watch this interaction. They did great, showing patience when needed and the ability to go when the opportunity was there.
I have one more personal trip, and then one more week with clients. And then I start dreaming of next year. After a season like this, it will be a long winter in the north.
I have been guiding and skiing in the south of Chile for over five-years now. It is still my favorite time of year, and, in my opinion, the best experience I lead each year. While these trips are certainly worthy of their title as ski trips, there is so much more that goes into them. I am near the end of my first trip of the season, and it's been absolutely unbelievable. We have had great skiing, and have managed to summit two volcanoes so far.
But it's the other stuff that makes the experience uniquely "Chilean." We have had unreal sunrises and sunsets, amazing food, lodging that feels like home and visits to the rivers and valleys that make this place so special.
I am posting a photo a day on my personal Instagram account – @independentdescents. But honestly, pictures don't do it justice. You should probably come down here and see for yourself.
I have spent every August in Chile for the past ten-years. In that time, there has been a clear trend of declining snowfall totals – especially in the more northern areas. The southern regions still get plenty of foul-weather and snow, to the point of being tough to guide because of the frequency of down days. As I look to the next ten-years, the big question in my mind is: "Where will it still snow, but also present significant periods of good weather?" I have focused my attention on the mountains between the 35th and 36th parallels, as this is my best guess as to where the snow and the weather will be the most consistent. The mountains here are big enough for good skiing, but not dauntingly huge.
I have focused my attention on a place I am referring to as "Invernada." August had been fairly dry, and on my missions to cache gear at a high base camp I was able to tour most of each day in a t-shirt. I was nervous that this place my be too far north as well.
Last week, I guided my first client in the area. Four-days before the trip, it looked as if we would be high and dry as all storm systems were blowing south. The day we were scheduled to depart, I took one last look at the forecast. It had completely changed. Meters of snow were called for!
Sparing you the play by play of the trip, the short story is this: We got pounded! Our approach was brutal; we waited out the first storm for the first day; we got two-days of touring; and then the real monster hit. Our cook tent was ripped to shreds and we spent an entire night awake digging out the snow drifting into the hole where our tent was located.
Yes, it still snows in the Andes! The wind moves it around a lot, so it's tough to give accurate totals. In some places there was only 20-cm of new. In others it was closer to two-meters. When we got out, I found out that the more northern areas reported about 30-cm over the week. We got that between 4PM and 8PM on Wednesday evening.
I could not be more thrilled about this project. So far, my theories and ideas about the place have not been disproven, so my hopes grow with each day. Stay tuned to this blog, as well as the Invernada page on this website for up to date details on returning next year.