split boarding

  • Splitboarding the wilds of Upper Svaneti – Georgia Pt2

    The next part of our trip in Georgia involved leaving the resort far behind and travelling by splitboard to some remote villages in two opposite corners of Svaneti. read more

  • Powder Chasing on Aiguille du Midi lift in Chamonix – Vallee Blanche and Plan de l’Aiguille

     

    Last week I spent my long lunchtimes snowboarding the excellent Plan de l’Aiguille area in Chamonix. This is the mid station of the Aiguille du Midi lift and is a complex and therefore hugely underused off piste route. read more

  • Snowboarding Volcano Villarrica, Chile

    Well the weather finally cleared leaving 20cm of fresh snow on a perfect bluebird day to ski tour on split boards up Volcano Villarrica near Pucon, chile. It is without doubt the most popular volcano to climb, it is pretty straightforward, not easy but not as steep as many of the others. We felt pretty sorry for the few large guided groups who were trudging along walking the whole way in crampons. The slow pace up and more notably the long drag down in this fresh snow meant all but the very fittest and quickest walking groups had no chance of summiting. Do the guides tell them this in advance? A certain smugness was to be had as we skied up past them, but not as smug as the way down!

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    As seems normal now, we camped in a random spot, potentially illegally within the national park just off the access road. The night before a sudden cold snow shower left the lower elevations of the park blanketed in a white dusting, a stunning sunset then illuminateed the fresh snow, it was beautiful. Marion panicked that we would be snowed in by morning, but the van was fine driving up the final slopes to the volcano base. 

    In the carpark we were surprised by the number of people, up until now we had only shared a volcano with one other group. Here there were at least 50 people. Mostly walking, but a few skiers too. We made progress up under the stationary lifts, following an ice ridge up that required crampons. We then hit the main face which was filled with deep powder and a long skin up to the crater edge. The top got progressively more icey with huge ice boulders blocking the path. The picture below is just as it started getting interesting! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

    The wind had transformed the snow higher up, but with axes and crampons we climbed onto the crater rim. The view had gone, replaced by whispy cloud and the pluming white sulphuric gases belting into our faces, more than a few minutes resulted in light headedness and shortness of breath. As you would agree not ideal when on the crater of a active volcano. We traversed upwind of the toxic sulphur, narrowly avoiding a huge hole down into the snow ,disappearing to goodness knows how deep and probably ending in magma!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    It was then time to start down. The intial section from the crater was intimidating as it fell away steeply and was covered in ice. We progressed with ice axes in hand as per above picture, this was to help arrest us if we fell and started to slide a bit. It wasn’t long until we found the softer snow lower down, which let us open up and shred the consistent slopes for the full 1000m odd of powder descent.

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    Lower down the trees in the distance were still iced in snow  as we reached the natural half pipes of the old lava flows. We raced past the walking groups, who sadly all but one had failed to summit. The walk back home must have felt longer for them as skiers whistled past them having the run of their lives….sorry! All together a fairly unforgettable experience that I would highly recommend.

  • Ski touring Volcano Llaima, Chile

    Volcano Llaima is in the Conguillío National Park in the middle of Chile, this is one of the more active volcanoes we skied/boarded, it last erupted in 2010…….that was just a couple of years ago, and it erupted again 2 years before that. Had I known quite how active it was and that it was due an eruption I would have been a little more anxious, but I didn’t so I was in blissful ignorance. Probably the best state when snow boarding volcanoes.

    Looking back up the face of Volcano Llaima

    Llaima has the Las Araucarias Ski Center at its base, a slightly more interesting area than some. We camped on the access road in our Wicked Campervan overnight in dense forest of Coihue trees, witnessing a stunning sunset in the process. The next morning we wake early and head up to the base area. We pull along side a fancy 4×4 camper and two Germans outside. True to style the Germans have beaten us to the start. They are pretty unfriendly and have no chat for us. It almost seems there is a competitive edge as we both rush to get ready. They set off before us with a few random stray dogs in tow. 

    The approach road to Volcano Llaima

    The resort has some more interesting terrain and a decent vertical drop, but was closed when we arrived, snow was thin. The weather was good though. We climbed next to the piste and saw the huge bulk of the volcano rise before us. At this point the stray dogs following the Germans ran back and the 4 of them proceeded to follow us all the way up to where we fitted crampons to climb!

    There are 2 routes, simply; left and right flanks, we went left as it looked less glaciated on the map. It was mixed ice and softer snow.Riding down Volcano Llaima, dogs in tow

    The upper slopes were pretty much blue ice on the verge of unrideable but we progressed with crampons and ice axes.

    The ride back down was OK the dogs chased us, as we went which was super fun, I nearly hit a couple of them. We initially thought they were after food but it appeared they just loved coming ski touring! The volcano was another perfect cone as the pictures show it was shrouded in a light mist as the day drew on so the summit views had diminished. The final section down to the van was weaving in and out of monkey puzzle trees. The video below that I made shows quite a bit of Llaima; 

     

  • Ski Touring Volcano Lonquimay, Chile

    At 2865m volcano Lonquimay in Chile is a decent height volcano to ski or snowboard. It is considered an easier climb in the summer, but it certainly felt a fairly good achievement on a split board in winter via the steeper route we took. It last erupted in 1990 starting on Christmas day 1988, I tried to block out this farily recent eruption and the associated fatalities that resulted, as we plodded up it’s steady steep slopes. The huge lava flows and associated craters from that Christmas in 1990 were visibly behind us slowly getting smaller as we climbed.

    The ascent ridge is exposed near the top and pretty steep so it is not all straightforward. However the approach is stunning, from Temuco you drive through National Park Malalcahuello  with >monkey puzzle tree forests on a jet black road of volcanic gravel. As the snow starts the trees are silhouetted against the imposing volcano rising up above the few ski lifts. The ski resort is called the Corralco-Lonquimay resort, it is pretty flat but the location is probably the most unique you will ever ski so who cares about it being 100% cruisey blues! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    We quickly skinned above the lifts and started on the volcano slopes. We passed an old lift base before finding the ascent ridge clearly visible to left in above picture. This is much wider and generally better than it looks however the wind had picked up and was making progress hard. The ski group ahead of use bottled it and skied back down, we progressed, but it involved crawling along. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally traversed around the cone and started from the other side, it was steeper but no wind. The snow was perfect for boot packing steps up the 35 degree slope. It was exhausting work but finally we crested the icy crater rim.  Collapsed in a heap we admired the view, volcanic cones dotted across the horizon and the plains down to the Pacific Ocean in the west.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Crater Navidad, and associated lave flows were clearly visible down the slope as per the picture below. The sheer scale of the lava flows and mounds of lava show the scale of the last eruption. Navidad being named after the christmas eruption on 25th December 1988. The landscape really is unique and spectacular. It may look close but it was a long way down, over 1000m of 30 to 35 degree slopes.

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    The views across to the other local volcanoes such as Llaima, Villarica and Lanin to the south. All future targets to ski tour!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    The ski down was steep but the snow had softened and made a fun ride, with the vastness of the descent it felt you would be down in no time but the steep slope just keeps on going. We cut over to the resort lower down and straight lined the entire resort to carry momentum to the car park. We sat and admired the sun go down after a great day on the volcano. It hadn’t erupted which was a bonus too!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Ski touring the Canadian Rocky Mountains

    This was spring 2012, we started in Yoho national park, then into Assiniboine Provincial park before heading into Banff and finally up to Jasper. The national parks in winter are stunning. The icefields parkway opens up hundreds of day tours easily accessible from the road. On the longer tours we made use of a number of cosy cabins such as Egypt lake in the picture below and the Hilda Youth hostel on the icefields parkway. In spring we thought we would be safe from bears but the first trip involved us following bear, cougar and wolf prints in the snow. With record breaking snowfall a lot of lower elevation routes were much more accessible these are some pictures below;