Andes

  • Snowboarding Volcanoes in Chile – The Movie

    This is a Go Pro edit of us in Chile; hiking, splitboarding and snowboarding 9 Volcanoes across the country. We had every condition possible; sunshine and periods of endless rain, we had deep powder and scary windswept ice, winds that rocked the van and snapped trees and calm perfect days. Somevolcanoes had 40+ degree, super steep, 2000m of uninterrupted conical slopes, some were cruisey, but all had spectacular scenery.

    The Volcanoes were as follows; Volcano Antuco, Volcano Chillan, Volcano, Lonquimay, Volcan Casablanca, Volano Villarica, Volcano Quetrupillan, Volano Calbuaco, Volano Lanin and Volcano Llaima. If anyone wants more info check out my blog posts or let me know. It seems there is a lack of info on skiing volcanoes in Chile so I am happy to answer any questions.

     

     

  • The stunning Rio los Cipreses and Altos del Lircay National Parks

    Rio los Cipreses and Altos del Lircay are two of my favourite parks we visited. Both are located in middle Chile and both a bit off the radar, so much so that they were effectively closed when we arrived. Luckily having the Wicked Campervan meant we could drive miles up the backroads and visit them both.

    Rio los Cipreses is named unsurprisingly after the mountain Cypress trees that grow there. We arrived at about 7pm pulling up to the locked park gates. The area was surrounded by high fences and secure gates. We had driven in the dark along a wild feeling dirt road darting from small village to hamlet. We crossed large rivers and avoided many stray dogs. All in all the area felt rather uninviting. We decided the only option was to pull in close to the park gate and wait for morning. After we started cooking dinner, at the back of the camper van a chap wanders over from a nearby house, mainly to check us out, also he was surrounded by numerous cats, odd. The scary part was when he told us the area was dodgy “many people with guns, not safe,” erm we have no choice but to park the camper here, he agreed to keep an eye on us. It was going to be long night! Then as if by magic the giant park gates opened, we half expected dinosaurs to escape, but no a middle aged lady in a Honda Civic emerged, we started the van and drove in through the open gates, we had breached the park, another 6km along narrow steep dirt roads and we found the main and only open camp spot.

    We awoke to the beautiful birdsong, warm sunshine and prospect of cold showers. We hiked the length of the park admiring cacti, beautiful vistas of snow capped peaks, deep narrow water carved gorges, huge cliff top waterfalls spilling into the air and the enormity of a concrete hydro electric canal . We saw no Cypress trees though!

    The campsite came complete with a stray dog. We named him Smokey the campsite dog due to his bear like appearance, he was very lonely and very fluffly. He took a liking to us, sleeping by the van and chasing after us when we left. We felt bad leaving him there, have a look at the pictures to see him looking sad!

    Altos del Lircay was a similar situation, the park gates were locked but this time it was 11am, a park warden approached us to inform us the road was closed due to snow. The campsite was inaccessible but this being super friendly CONAF they allowed us to camp up by the visitor centre, with water and toilets left open. The snow depth was about 2m on the giant basalt plateau we wanted to hike. A quick change to ski touring and the next day we climbed up to the deep snow with mind blowing views of the wild never ending snowy Andes. Our only companions on the trip were criss crossing cougar prints in the snow. We reached Lago de Altos and then rode down a sweet couloir back to the snowlin. Boards on back we started the long hike back out to the gate. As fortune had it a CONAF 4×4 was pulling up we hitched a ride in the back as it slid along the rough snowy track. Sketchy but it saved a good 6km hike out!

    This park is totally off the radar for ski touring but it shouldn’t be. It has endless possibilities, just look at some of the pictures, remember that this is a bad snow year too!

  • Exploring Potosi, Sucre and Oruro, Bolivia

    A quick tour of Potosi, Sucre and Oruro three cities that sit proudly on the high Altiplano of Bolivia. Potosi fabled for its silver mines is actually the highest city in the world at 4090m. It has outstanding colonial architecture with a beautiful renovated central square. The square is lined by Potosi cathedral and the Spanish Colonial Mint. The dominating Cerro Rico was rich in silver from 1556 to 1783 about 45,000 tons were mined. The Spanish decimated indigenous labour and imported 1000s of slaves to endure the mines, it is fair to say the history of the city and mines is hard. The current mines are a bit of a tourist attraction where you can go and see what a hard life the miners have, most are drunk or on narcotics it seems. The life expectancy is less than 40. We declined to take a day trip to the mines and instead explored the fascinating streets and buildings. There is a bit of an ethical dilemma here as to whether the ‘extreme’ tourist mine tours help or hinder the progress towards safer conditions.
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    There were numerous interesting artisan shops, I purchased some nice warm hand woven Alpaca socks and a fashionable hipster Alpaca jumper. Marion picked up a nice scarf and some woven wall hangings all at very fair and pretty sustainable prices. If we didn’t have 2 months of ski touring ahead we would have bought more of the locally made artisanal textiles.
    Cakes in Potosi, Bolivia
    Next up was the stunning Colonial Acrhitecture of Sucre, a good spot to take time out and learn Spanish or exploring the surrounding villages. The downtown is well preserved with many interesting buildings. There is also a good sized covered market full of lots of random stuff. We bought a few nice woven items but it was significantly pricer than Potosi. It is also known as the Chocolate capital of Bolivia as the French translation hints at. TO be honest I wasn’t blown away by the chocolates, maybe I just didn’t buy the good stuff though! At 2810m it is not super high but a nice all round cool climate. It felt pretty warm during August i.e. mid winter when we were visiting.
    National Day celebrations in Potosi, Bolivia
    As the constitutional capital of Bolivia it hosts many interesting buildings such as Sucre cathedral, the national library, The house of freedom and the Archbishops house. All date from colonial times and most share the whitewashed exterior that I felt defines the city.

    We were fortunate to time our visit with Bolivia´s national day on 6th August. This meant huge celebrations, many marching bands, a few well dressed dignitaries, military parades and so many versions of the national anthem!

    Potosi was hosting a national marching band event, while Sucre was more of an event fitting of its constitutional capital status, with endless marches of endless groups of people. The entire city must have been involved. It went on for literally two days. We came back at 9am after a late night and they were still marching!
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    From Sucre we bussed up to Oruru an eight hour ride so we paid a couple dollars more for the cama deluxe bus. It also left at a convenient time. Sadly it had no working toilet, massively bald tyres and generally a scarily worn out. No toilet all night was interesting we had to ask the driver to stop then find spot by roadside, fine for me but Marion found it less tolerable! It was also bit disconcerting trying to sleep on a bus when it is dark outside but the road is twisting and turning up and down some seriously under engineered roads in the Andes all at some great altitude. It was probably best not to see all the roads but then again your imagination runs wild with what was behind the veil of darkness!

    Oruru was dull we arrived at 6.30am and decided to leave as soon as possible. We wanted to get direct to Sajama National park, this proved hard, no one would help. We were sent on two wild goose chases to random bus offices around town trying to find a bus. It seemed like one should exist but it was beyond us to find it. We bought a ticket to Arica in Chile then we just had to get off by the border so we could hitch or taxi into the park. The village of Sajama is 15km off the main road so walking at the 4400m altitude is not your best bet. In hindsight getting a local bus to Patacamaya a junction with the La Paz-Arica road would be the best option and getting a ride from there would be possible.

  • First day of splitboard touring in the Andes

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Last week we finally got the snow boards on and had a good day tour in the high Andes. We started at Los Penitentes and then head upto about 4000m. Starting at 2600m and with no aclimatisation it was hard work. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe snow was reminiscent of Scotland but the view of peaks upto the 7000m Aconcagua were not bad. The snow was actually better than it looked the cool temperatures preserving powder in parts and the grip was surprisingly good for what was quite a step skin track.

    Below is the resort base, not much snow for mid winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw no one past the ski resort boundary and ski patrol were super friendly pointing out couloirs we could do.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
    After riding we headed to the border with Chile there was just a small queue of traffic, maybe 35km long! Luckily our driver overtook them all which was nice but a bit sketchy in the tunnels…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Wine tours, hot springs and did I mention the wine? Mendoza, Argentina

    After an epicly long bus journey from BA to Mendoza. We relaxed in a funky hostel offering great free breakfasts and a free glass of wine or two each evening. The scenery was dry dusty cold mountains, but no visible snow, this was our first indication of a below average winter of snow. We had hoped to stay in the St Benard mountain refuge, a popular ski tour base, but there was no answer to phones of emails so we assumed it must have closed down for the season. We visited some hot springs in a stunning location, marveled at some of the hideously inappropriate Argentine swimwear. We explored a bit on local buses but other than touristy wine tours we found the local area a bit dull so we left.