Its been one hell of a summer preparing meticulously for my final guides exams. As with all things, not everything can go your way and there were some ups and downs in the lead up. First Michelle’s Father sadly passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. Being Chamonix based you are surrounded by death and loss, I would never go as far to say we are hardened to it but more that we are used to the strong emotional feelings of loss, sadness, stress. Its hard to comprehend the feeling of loss her Mum has after 50 plus years together.
After the dust started to settle I put my head back to the grindstone and was in the mountains training nearly every day practicing guiding techniques with peers. Then I caught a nasty D&V virus that had me feeling nauseous, weak and sleeping for hours after work. It seemed to go away after a week but after a Grand Paradiso and Mont Blanc week it made a return and I started to get nervous that I’d get my strength back in time. Another week went by before I felt better enough to try a 2 day alpine route. On the walk in I sharted, all was not good and that was a stinky couple of days.
With 10 days to go the viral fatigue disappeared and I started to eat properly again. Back on track. Then I took a call from my sister that started with ‘are you at home?’ and ended with the shocking news my Mum had died unexpectedly. The funeral couldn’t be delayed and I flew back to Scotland to be with my family on this sad occasion. With only a few days to go before the exam I needed to get back to Cham quickly, sort gear, prepare, acclimatise and gain some head space. On the way to the airport in Aberdeen I got a text from British Airways to announce they had cancelled my flight from London to Geneva. I couldn’t imagine anywhere more lonely than stuck in a airport hotel at heathrow on my own the night of my Mum’s funeral.
I made it back to Cham the next day and had to wait until the day before our exam briefing before there was weather to run up Tacul to acclimatise. I carried quite a bit of emotional stress into the exam but after a couple of days my motivation returned and it was a good weak with a great bunch of people. Somehow I made it though it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
In the second week of this five part series we visit some of the finest spots of Patagonia and Chile.
This trip was ten years in the coming for me. Getting the right person, at the right time in the right place proved difficult. I was working on a large engineering project in Brazil that summer and travelled from there to meet Michelle in Bariloche. From there we followed the snow along with many other fellow skiers who we crossed paths with several times in both Argentina and Chile.
The light, wind, ruggedness, red wine, steaks, monkey puzzles and friendly people made this trip one that will guarantee I go back. Everyone should ski a volcano at some point in their life and the fantastic Frey Refugio comes with its own reputation as a freeride destination.
Michelle in the vapours and walking between the cauliflowers on Llaima volcano
Dropping into another sweet run above the Frey hut amongst the granite spires of Patganonia with Bariloche’s lake Rio Negra in the distance
The volcano Llaima and the beautiful characteristic Monley Puzzle or Auracaria trees
Skiing on Llaima with moody afternoon light
Wall art in Bariloche
Dropping off the back of Cerro Catedral en route to the Frey
Ross enjoying a fast run into Frey
Wall art in Pucon
Quietly contented and very shy
Villarica and plumes of volcanic vapours
Summit selfie shot on Villarica
Michelle on Villarica with an abundance of riming near the crater rim
Good low angled skiing lower on Villarica with the deep contrast of the volcanic landscape
Michelle on Llaima volcano and the surrounding landscape
The Frey hut at sunset with its stunning backdrop
The Frey hut is nestled below the rock spires with access to a group of valleys providing different skiing options. Its also low enough to escape the worst Patagonian wind which destroys the snow for skiing.
Ross Hewitt on a line directly above the hut
Cosy nights at the Frey for enjoying the pizza and wine
Loads of variety between open slopes, faces and couloirs. We found the best snow at Frey
Matt Livingstone shredding
The road to the Argentinian – Chilean border and the 3700 m volcan Lanin
Lanin offers 2000 m of vert and has a 1000 m cosmique like couloir from the summit which we were aiming for
The military concrete hut at 2800 m provides shelter for the night en route up the mountain splitting the climb into 2 days.
We spent the night with fellow travellers Brodie Leven and Adam Clark who had a faulty gas cylinder and were happy to have our stove to use. Michelle and myself had travelled to South America without sleeping bags and the ones we borrowed in San Martin were bigger that our packs and pretty cold.
Dawn hit Lanin as we leave the hut
Michelle just below the summit
The stunning contrast between snowcapped peaks and the lakes
Michelle and myself on the summit above the volcanic and lake district landscape of Chile
Ross Hewitt skiing the north east couloir of Lanin