- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Bridget Belliveau
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katrina Bloemsma
- Megan Budge
- Lance Colley
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Pepper Dee
- James Easley
- Chris Ebeling
- Mark Falender
- Leah Fisher
- Lindsay Fixmer
- Eric Frank
- Steve Gately
- JM Gorum
- Casey Grom
- Billy Haas
- Dave Hahn
- Walter Hailes
- Mike Haugen
- Andy Hildebrand
- Joe Horiskey
- Nick Hunt
- Tyler Jones
- JJ Justman
- Andrew Kiefer
- Mike King
- Adam Knoff
- Caleb Ladue
- Ben Liken
- Josh Maggard
- Paul Maier
- Linden Mallory
- Lindsay Mann
- Jeff Martin
- Jess Matthews
- Bryan Mazaika
- Hannah McGowan
- Stoney Molina
- Chase Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Sid Pattison
- Tyler Reid
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Hannah Smith
- Mike Soucy
- Garrett Stevens
- Sarah Strattan
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Christina von Mertens
- Blake Votilla
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Robby Young
Posts for Chile
We launched for the north side of Volcan Llaima with overnight gear, optimism, and our fuel tanks filled to the brim with carne. Our send off from Malalcahuello was the asado of all asados: Chilean grass fed beef, homemade sausages, and lamb slow cooked over a wood fired grill masterfully by Sergio (our Chilean outfitter and owner of the lodge in Malalcahuello).
The wind was steady and the views nonexistent as we toured up an expansive lava field that just five years ago was flowing red. Above the monkey puzzle trees the wind was whipping, and feeling energetic we opted for the storm camping experience. We carved tent platforms into the leeward side of a small rock outcrop and proceeded to build Alaska style wind walls around our camp.
The next morning was frigid. The sun came out and as we packed up our gear for the summit ascent, we had the feeling that everything was lining up. Almost. The nice springlike snow surface we’d skinned up the day before was now a skating rink. Our ski crampons, even under full body weight, were not biting into the ice. This was not the type of frozen snow that softens throughout the day.
About 600 vertical feet above camp it became apparent that the snow wasn’t getting any better. Getting on the face above us - which Katy and I had learned the year before is deceptively enormous and quite steep at the top, was out of the question. Just climbing the 3,700’ would require pitching out full rope lengths and building 40+ anchors.
We ripped our skins and skied east coast style “packed powder” (very loud turns) 1,000’ down to a small sub peak to the east. Views across the way of Sierra Nevada rising above the beautiful Lago Conguillio (a huge lake) began to the open up. We cramponed to the summit of our mini peak, skied down, and as we contoured back to camp, the decision not to go higher on Llaima was further reinforced. The winds ramped up, and visibility dropped to ping-pong ball status. We packed up camp and skied down out of the clouds.
El Niño has had some influence on every one of our ski outings on this trip, whether providing powder turns in September, a deep snowpack and fantastic coverage… or a moist wind that turns a big beautiful face into a sheet of ice. We’ve had a blast every day of this trip, whether standing on summits, or touring in stormy weather.
Overused statement of the trip, uttered multiple times at the end of every ski day: “Well that was an adventure.”
This is a truly amazing place to have skis on your feet.
We didn’t take Sergio seriously when he said “I have a snowcat”. We were discussing the approach to Sierra Nevada, which would typically involve four-wheel drive pickups to get to where the snow starts. As our Chilean outfitter and local guru, Sergio has been with us the whole trip, and here in Malalcahuello we are staying at his ideally positioned lodge, the SuizAndina.
It turns out Sergio has two mini snowcat-like vehicles he recently acquired, and he was psyched to give one of them a try in getting us to Sierra Nevada. If all went well, it seemed possible that we’d found a loophole in the “No Shortcuts to the Top” argument. The mini snowcat would deliver us to treeline, we could spend more time touring in the alpine, and maybe get a few bonus turns at the end of the day.
Apparently the universe is on Ed Viesturs’ side. Before we even hit the snow, the mini snowcat had lost one of its tracks. These are the moments where us skiers start to panic internally. Will we make it to the snow? Will we ski today?
With one track down and Sergio at the helm, the mini snowcat still performed amazingly well in getting us up the gnarly road. When we hit the snow, it was time to earn our turns.
We ascended through mysterious Araucaria forest (monkey puzzle trees) and out on to a long alpine ridge. Cornice on one side, rocks on the other. The terrain became particularly interesting on the upper mountain, with a series of intersecting ridges, alpine bowls, and mushroomy ice features. The weather was perfect, the views endless, and we were able to ski from the highest point beneath the summit (the last 50’ was steep rime ice).
Sierra Nevada is one of those descents that just goes on forever. Photos tell the story better than words.
Chilean ski adventure to the max.
First summit of the trip! We may or may not have had a slight mechanical advantage on the approach this morning (chairlift) to Volcan Lonquimay. We were teased with beautiful views of the mountain, although the wind was clearly howling up high. The visibility started to deteriorate as we climbed high above the ski area. We transitioned from skins to boot crampons where the broad terrain gives way to a semi-sharp ridge, and we climbed up and up into the clouds. The wind came in waves with periods of eerie calm in between. We climbed until we could climb no further, enjoyed some nice celebratory summit time, and clicked into our skis.
The upper mountain required careful turns in the limited visibility, but 3,000’ lower we were able to finally open it up and just ski. The lifts were still spinning after our huge descent, so we snuck in a few extra laps at the ski area before heading for the lodge for chocolate caliente and cervezas. Lonquimay!
RMI Guide Tyler Reid calls from the Lonquimay summit!
We got a casual start on our day knowing that the storm was raging on Villarica. That summiting was not going to be an option for today was glaringly obvious in the forecast, but the skiers mind is slightly different from the climbers mind: stormy conditions yield a bunch of new snow, and a bunch of new snow equals powder skiing. Powder skiing equals the polar opposite of defeat. So like yesterday, we set off into the storm, the only skiers on this mountain crazy enough to go touring (the ski areas on these Chilean volcanoes are above treeline, thus relying on good visibility and not too much wind to stay open).
Yesterday was Volcano Storm Skiing. Today was just plain storm skiing. We stuck below treeline for most of the day and found some great tree shots. With over a foot of new, dense, fast, springy pow, we put in a skin track, and one lap turned into two laps, then three laps, four laps, five laps… To be skiing in an early succession forest with a cauldron of lava bubbling 5,000’ above your head feels exotic.
At the end of the day we toured up into the storm to get a sense of how windy it really was in the alpine (and to line ourselves up for a nice glide back to the parking lot). It was windy. Really windy.
Volcan Villarica warm up day…
Our goal for today was to have skis on our feet, and driving through the lush lowlands in the rain, there was a sense of disbelief circulating through the van that we would soon see snow, let alone be skiing. Next thing we knew, with Sergio at the helm (our Chilean outfitter) we were fully utilizing the Mitsubishi’s 4-wheel drive capabilities to precision glide past stuck vehicles on the steep access road. High snowfall intensity from the sky, high psych intensity from our crew.
We spent the afternoon Volcano Storm Skiing. Not to be confused with below treeline storm skiing, where the forest provides terrain definition and the ability to see; Volcano Storm Skiing involves using rocks, closed chairlifts, other skiers, and/or their tracks for definition. When in doubt, have someone else go first. If your hat says ‘Guide’ on it, that means you are the sacrificial lamb.
Get blasted by the wind on the way up, seek refuge in a closed lift station high on the mountain, look up at your teammates and see huge smiles, transition to ski mode. Random outbursts of laughter. Volcano Storm Skiing is awesome. Especially the part about skiing in September.
Ski bag = reunited with Jonathan. Sergio was invaluable in solving the logistics of getting it to Pucon. He lent Jon his gear for today and we never missed a beat. Tomorrow looks even stormier…
So far so good in Chile. Everyone is here and in good spirits and we had a great welcome dinner in the center of Temuco.
Powder skiing in the forecast! We’ll keep you posted as things progress.
An accomplished skier and mountaineer, RMI Guide Tyler Reid knows a thing or two about exciting ski mountaineering trips and the Chile’s Volcanoes Ski Mountaineering Expedition stands out as one of his favorites. Tyler sat down to reflect on ten of the best things about skiing the Chilean Volcanoes:
10. The Timing. September is an amazing time to be skiing, and a healthy dose does wonders for your patience level while waiting for the Northern Hemisphere winter.
9. Pisco Sours. The perfect cap on any ski day.
8. Araucarias (Monkey Puzzle Trees). Combined with the volcanic lunar landscapes, these add to the prehistoric nature of the subalpine landscapes, and you get the sensation you might run into dinosaurs at any moment.
7. Young Volcanoes. Villarica’s summit crater is a boiling cauldron. Llaima last erupted in…2009!
6. 4 Volcanoes in 10 Days. Many expeditions are lucky to climb one mountain in 10 days.
5. The Proximity. The relative spacing of these four mountains could not be more perfect. Less car time, more skiing.
4. Light Backpacks. Most international expeditions involve hauling heavy loads. Not really the case on this trip. Three out of four of these peaks we ski with day packs.
3. The Corn. There’s something about Southern Hemisphere corn that’s extra buttery (corn snow that is).
2. The Country. Chile is a land of otherworldly landscapes, interesting culture, and incredibly friendly people.
1. Aesthetic Lines. The ski descents themselves are even more impressive than the summits.
Find out more about skiing Chile’s Volcanoes this September on RMI’s Chile’s Volcanoes Ski Mountaineering Expedition…