After a few days of unfriendly windy weather reminiscent of Scottish winter, I was surprised by a forecast for 2 days of sun and no wind. In the morning I quickly threw some kit in a rucksac for a trip to the Frey hut. I was joined by a fellow traveller who was staying at the same hostel, Ruedi from the Eastern Alps of Switzerland.
From the laguna bowl on Cerro Catedral we downclimbed a short section of broken rock into a couloir that looked promising. A small step led down to a short neve slope before a ledge. Ruedi surprised me by jumping off, landing in the glissade position and arriving at the ledge pretty quickly. I tried downclimbing but the rock was too loose so I lowered my pack down then found a cave route that I was able to squeeze through down to the ledge. We didnt really know where we were going, the maps are not detailed enough to show the complexity of the spires on the ridge, so it was a proper adventure knowing we just had to make it work. Once into the South facing couloir we scored a great run where wind blown powder had accumulated all the way to the valley floor.
Skinning up to the hut was hot work in the Andian sunshine but easy compared to Reudi´s who had to wade without snowshoes. Arriving at the hut we were treated to the magnificent surroundings, an ideal playground for the freeride ski mountaineer with numerous possibilities to have fun – and all untracked. The mountains have tought me to never waste good weather and we headed off in the afternoon to ski a nice couloir line tucked into the shady right side of the cirque. The powder made it hard work putting in the track on the way up but on the way down the snow quality exceeded all my expectations for Patagonia and we rode big turns down the 45 degree couloir and the approach apron below.
The evening at the hut was a real social affair with skiers from Chamonix, UK, Holland, Argentina and the US. Sam Favret and his friends were on a tour of Argentina and making a podcast film and intoduced me to the game of Uno. Needless so say I got spanked. The hut guardians made everyone feel very welcome and its cosy atmosphere and good food was a welcome change to many austere Eurpoean huts that I have stayed in. Outside clear skies treated us with the best starscape I´ve ever seen.
The next day the French left early to get the light for filming and we left next heading for Torre Prinicipal knowing the weather window would close fast. The lower slopes were a real wallow fest with powder over a breakable ice crust and it took us a couple of hours to gain 200 m. After that we followed gorgeous rock ridge flipping from one side to the other around the gold granite gendarmes. Once in the upper bowl we were surprised to find the French guys who had traversed the ridge out of one bowl and into ours. The freeride crew turned on the style for the cameras, hitting drops and pulling big 360s of lips. Shame my camera died in the cold!
Champagne powder here enabled fast flowy riding in playful terrain full of gullies, ridges and natural kickers. With the track in and the sun still shining there was still time for one more lap and we took a steeper couloir that ran down to the valley floor!
Back at the hut we ravenously ate a late lunch and drank coffee while psyching up for the journey home on tired legs. Ruedi and myself parted company here as he wanted to take the summer path down and I preferred to skin back over the ridge to the ski resort. Stories of tree combat and swamps with sinking mud put me off going with Ruedi. A final 500 m vert took me up the ridge as the weather worsened and a short walk brought me out at top of the ski resort andand easy return to the valley.
Green with envy… Top notch stuff mate. Wish I could be there to enjoy it with you mate.
After a 10 year wait to get to South America I will be coming back. Didnt think I was going to make it till the very last minute with work sending me to the federal police at the airport in Rio for visa stuff and my skis stuck on the other side of the bridge over the bay. With no phone working I was a lucky man to get my skis delivered by taxi to the airport!