Monday, August 5, 2013

Living the great Argentinean life!

We hooked up with Babiche and Debra, his girlfriend, who just got to Bariloche. They were in South America here as well on their first summer pilgrimage.

With a nice warm day on the forecast, we picked them up to head to the resort, Cerro Catedral. It has been a miserable year so far in Bariloche. Beside on big dump in the beginning of July, it has been mostly dry on the hill.

With the warm weather of the past weeks, it didn’t look at it best.
The beginner’s run was probably the most miserable I’ve ever seen!
Apparently, the town of Bariloche used to get some snow during the winter but it has been about 4-5 years that the snow hasn’t made it way in town.

The resort is really in quite a stunning location. With the surrounding mountains around and the lake Nahuel Huapi, the view is one of the best I’ve seen from a ski resort.
The cover was certainly thin on the hill but where there was enough snow to make turns, the conditions were great!
It was quite a challenge not to hit rock; especially when we got closer to the lift at the lower elevation. We all got some new scratches but nothing too serious.
With not much new snow on the forecast, we made the plan to go up to the famous Refugio Frey to check it out.

It is quite a pain to get a single ride up from the resort. They are certainly not the most helpful resort around. You have to be accompanied by a certified mountain guide to be able to buy a single ride. We pretend that we were going cross-country skiing (with our huge backpack) and just went to the gondola, didn’t look at the liftie and jump on the lift.
There is 2 different route you can take to make it to the hut. With the thin cover, it was some kin of scrambling on the north faces. We eventually made it up to a col from where we were able to make turns down a nice open 500+meters vertical run.

Even if it was south facing and haven’t seen much sun to warm it up, we gave it a try.
Manu went first and on its very first turn we heard him sream loud and clear: ‘’C’est dégueulasse!!! (Its sucks big time!)’’
The run wasn’t any epic and the uneven snow conditions add up to the heavy backpack made it pretty hard to link turns.

But if linking the turns weren’t easy, it was nothing compared to was waiting.  With the thin snow coverage, the trees were really dense.
It was probably my worst skin up ever!
We were making our way up a quite steep slope through some fairly dense bush.
The choices were either making switchback on branches and trees or bootpacking on really weak snow that was collapsing under our weight.

We eventually reached the hut 5 hours later…
The hut is probably the best one in South America for backcountry skiing. It is so well equipped that you can kind of forget that you are in the backcountry. With electricity, radio, telephone, party music, cheap wine it certainly has its own vibe.

The hut has room for about 30 people but it must be really crowded since the common area if relatively small.

We were lucky since there wasn’t too many people there since the snow conditions sucked.

We spend the following day hiking around the hut and just spending the day out. The snow wasn’t really great, but it was still pretty cool to check out the terrain surrounding the hut.
We even spend part of the day shoveling a quarter pipe to shoot some jibbing action from Manu.
I really wish the conditions would have been better, but you have to enjoy what you have! With some great conditions, it should be quite epic!
We left the following morning to go back.
We weren’t looking forward to ski down through the steep thick bush slope. It wasn’t as bad as the way up, but all in all, I linked probably 3 turns the whole 400m…
The snow on the hike up to the col was a bit firm but the climb was quite fast anyway. Good things Babiche as brought crampons along since Amélie's teleboot weren't digging much deep into the snow.
Some enjoy the view their own way…
We had planned that trip well since some cold beer were waiting for us.
We kept the feasting mood and head to the El Boliche de Alberto for some great Argentinan cuisine. We were served the best and biggest steak I’ve had in a long time! We ate so much that in the end, we could barely finish the wine we ordered!
We spend the following day driving and chilling around Bariloche. We visited some (apparently) old Nazi bunker, a burned hotel, a quite posh hotel and a rocky beach!
There was some new snow on the forecast so we waited to see if that was really going to happen. ..
It snowed a bit overnight but not enough to get excited. With the usual wind and the poor visibility in the alpine, that wasn’t a day to even think about going up to the resort.
Instead, with Amelie, we left all our friends in Bariloche and hit the road to slowly start our drive north back to Chile.

The wind gusts were fierce and I was quite glad the road was clear since the van was shacking left to right!
We drove all day and finally made it to Las Lajas on the Argentinean side just to realize to pass was closed due to the poor weather conditions.
With the new snow, we turned around and head to Caviahue to check out the resort. The road condition this time was really poor!

We slept on the side of the road and made it to Caviahue just the following morning. The weather certainly didn’t cleared up too much overnight as the whole town seemed to be stuck and shut down due to snow.
We thought about going up to make some turns, but the wind was almost sweeping us off our feet!

Instead of clearing the road, they were using the grooming machine from the resort to groom the streets!!!
A groom street after some wind draft really looks like a cleared street and after a few minutes of driving around town, we eventually got stuck!

It took us about an hour to shovel ourselves out and we left town right after.

The pass was still closed and with more bad weather on the forecast, no one wanted to say when it was going to open. We met 2 different people who told us that our best chance to cross over to Chile was to make a 4-5 hours drive south and try the Hito Icalma pass.

We debates for a few minutes and quickly made our mind to drive there.

We had to put the chains 4 times to make it to the border and we got there just before it closes. The border patrol told us that they could let us go, but the border in Chile would certainly be close.
I figured it would be nice to have a last Argentinean steak before leaving and I made the call to stay overnight in Villa Pehuenia and make the short 8km drive the following morning since it looks like the storm was coming to an end!

Leaving to good life of Argentina for Chile in the morning!

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