Category Archives: skiing

Mallin Alto 04

Into the Backcountry : Mallin Alto, Argentina

Horse riding and skiing in the Patagonian backcountry you say?? …um ok, we’re in.

We set off on our trusty steeds across the ever changing landscapes of Nahuel Huapi National Park. Ambling along a picturesque river and up through snowy forest until we finally reached the rugged mountain range that would be our playground for the next few days.

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I was gobsmacked when we arrived at El Domo, our seriously luxurious backcountry accommodations. The fire was roaring, the mate was ready and Miguel, the chef, was whipping up some lunch. This was to be the “norm” over the next few days. If we weren’t out exploring the mountains, we were warming up by the fire, merrily stuffing our faces with Miguel’s delicious concoctions, washed down with a few bottles of Malbec.

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We knew that mother nature wasn’t going to be on our side. It has been a terrible year for snow and the forecast showed clouds, clouds, with a chance of clouds. At times the visibility was pretty much zilch, but in some ways it added to the adventure. Our guides Kao and Lucio knew the terrain inside and out, and took us exploring on the snow mobiles almost anywhere, and sometimes in a complete whiteout.

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The afternoons were a bit clearer, but also warmer. The snow quickly became wet and sticky. We still managed to get in a few pretty good runs though, and the experience is not something that I will soon forget. No ski lifts, no other people, just us and the mountains.

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The nights were much like the days. Good food, good wine and Mark and I straining to follow conversations in Spanish. We are at the point now, where we basically get the gist of what is being said, but by the time we think of something to say, the conversation has moved on.

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We woke up on the last morning to a light blanket of new snow covering the land. This is something that I will truly miss when we move back to Australia. The peaceful beauty of wandering amongst trees heavily laden with snow, has to be up there as one of my favourite things.

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Luckily, we had time for a few more runs …

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Soon the famous Patagonian wind had moved in and was roaring wildly all around us.  This was finally our queue to leave.

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Thanks again to Manu and everyone at Mallin Alto. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Posted from Puerto Natales, Chile

Villarrica 02

The Volcano Curse : Pucón, Chile

Pucón in Chile seemed to us like a clone of Banff in Canada. It’s very beautiful and very touristy. I think that winter is a more mellow time to visit, which suited us just fine.

We have been wanting to do some ski touring for a while and hoped to break our ‘volcano curse’ by tackling Volcán Villarrica. Every time we have visited a volcano on this trip, things haven’t gone as planned.

We arrived in Pucón to rain and clouds, found the only shop in town that offers ski touring on the volcano, and booked a trip for the next day. We woke up at the crack of dawn to totally clear skies. The volcano looked so beautiful and ominous smoking in the early morning light. Lucky for us, the conditions were almost perfect for attempting the summit.

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And so we climbed… and climbed… and climbed. It may have been slightly ambitious for my first ski touring attempt. Going straight up was fine, but turning on the steep slopes was a bit of a debacle for me. It requires almost doing the side splits, then bringing one long loosely attached ski over to meet the other. Very tricky for the flexibility challenged!

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I’m not sure how long it took to reach the summit, but they estimate about 4-5hrs. By the time we got there, the wind had really picked up, and we were being blasted by ice and snow. It was pretty amazing being at the top of an active volcano, looking down into it’s smoking crater, only once copping a face full of gas. From the top we could see the snow capped Volcán Lanín, which marks the border between Chile and Argentina.

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Finally, the moment I had been waiting for! There had been a dusting of snow overnight, so I was pretty keen to start the ski down. I clicked into my skis, hit the slope and then tried to make my first turn. Then things got weird… I could barely communicate with my skis. I felt and looked (confirmed by Mark), like I was back on the bunny slopes. I was falling on almost every turn. The touring bindings I was using allowed for a lot of movement, which is not what I’m used to at all. I felt completely unstable and out of control. Soon my confidence was shot. I even had to walk part of the way down.

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At least this guy got some fresh tracks…

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We celebrated at the end of the day with the guides and the rest of the crew, over some rooftop beers and this spectacular view. I’m sure my poor guide was breathing a few deep sighs of relief.

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At first I was just thankful to have made it down without any broken bones. But after a while that wore off, and I was just annoyed. The terrain wasn’t any more difficult than what i’m used to, and worst of all, the volcano curse lives on.

Soaking in the hot springs at Los Pozones was the perfect cure for my aching ego and tired muscles.

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The next day, we leisurely made our way towards the Argentine border. Saying our farewells to the smoking Volcán Villarrica, still visible from the quiet backroads.

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This pretty campsite in the woods was home for our last night in Chile… but we’ll be back, real soon! This country is absolutely blowing our minds.

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Posted from: Bariloche, Argentina.

Central Chile 24

On the Road Again : Central Chile

We had been sitting still in Santiago for far too long. And as soon as we left the city we were seeking out campsites in the woods and trails into the mountains. I was on a mission to camp in the forest and cook over an open fire.

It didn’t take long to get back to van life the way it should be. By sunset on the second day, after a day of chasing waterfalls, we were popping the top in the winter woods and enjoying the alpenglow on the snow capped peaks.

But my mission was not yet accomplished… there were no fires allowed in this area.

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We couldn’t have been happier the next morning, brewing coffee  and having breakfast in the van while we planned a hike into the Altos de Lircay National Reserve. Since it’s still winter here, the park was totally empty. Just us, the mountains, and a few local critters.

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For some reason, people around here aren’t that keen to go hiking through waist deep snow. But it was definitely worth it for the amazing views and the beautiful afternoon light filtering through the naked trees. After a long day on the trail, we made it back to the van around sundown and stayed in the deserted campground of the reserve. Enjoying the absolute silence, we had the best sleep ever.

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On our way up to Chillán, we found a sweet spot by the river, just out of view of the highway. In the morning there was a blanket of fresh snow all around us, and it was still coming down. We haven’t seen snow falling since our last winter in Canada so we were super excited. Like kids on Christmas day.

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Our timing couldn’t have been better. There’s a pretty damn good ski resort at Chillan, but they hadn’t had snow for quite a while. We were waiting at the rental shop for the doors to open, and hit the slopes as soon as we could.

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There were only a couple of chairlifts open, but they give access to a lot of amazing terrain. And on a powder day like this, you don’t need much more.

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The snow was so deep and heavy that we had to zoom back into town so Bec could get some bigger skis. Then she really started ripping. We couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces.  It’s times like these that we really wish all our friends were here with us. Carpark lunch breaks and after-ski beers just aren’t the same without them.

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And what better way to end a day than cooking over a camp fire. It took a few days, but finally… mission accomplished.

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All of this in just five days… it’s oh so good to be back on the road.

Posted from Bariloche, Argentina.