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International (Europe/Japan/Southern Hemisphere) 2023 Chile Trip Report from Nevados de Chillan

Mattadvproject

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Hola amigos!

Time for the summertime trip report from Chile. This time, I have decided to write the report after the trips have finished as I was just too busy to write a daily blog each day during my time. I'm still in Chile as I got stuck in Santiago after missing my flight back to Houston/Denver last night/today, but I'm only here for 2 nights. Tomorrow night I will be heading home finally. I had a couple of sessions with a big group of 30 people for a week and then a smaller group of just 5, straight after, for 11 days. It's always fun to be back in South America and escaping the heat of the US summertime and especially for me, the dreaded summertime allergies. This season presented itself with a few challenges (as it normally does), but I'll go through all of that in due course...... Anyway, here's a day by day account of what happened this summer......
 
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Mattadvproject

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August 6th/7th/8th - Travel Days

I left Granby, CO on the 6th and took the 2-hour drive down to Denver International Airport. The weather was fine so there were no problems. I met up with one of my team (Tele) Mike Russell and we took the flight to Houston. Again, we had no problems there and then had a 9.5 hour flight to Santiago, arriving at 6am local time. Unfortunately it was still dark outside so I didn't get the view of the Andes on sunrise.

Getting through immigration and customs was fine and then both my bags arrived, so we had no problems. We took an Uber XL into the city for 1 night staying at the Pullman Vitacura Hotel. This was my first time staying in Santiago as every other time I've visited Chile, I've always flown straight down to Concepcion and started from there. The Pullman is in a safe neighborhood so you can freely walk around. I paid for an early check in and then had a little rest.

One of our Chilean guides, Manuel Olivares was also meeting us in Santiago and staying at the Pullman. We met Manuel in the afternoon and then went for a walk around the neighborhood, looking for a nice restaurant that we could organize a last night dinner for the group on the 13th August. We found a nice seafood/steakhouse about 20 minutes away and had some appertizers and a beer. My good friend and owner of the accommodation we stay at in Las Trancas, Francisco Penafiel, was also in Santiago and Manuel's brother lives in the city, so we all met up in a steakhouse and had a nice dinner together.

I was pretty tired so didn't want to stay out long, plus we had 28 people arriving at the airport the next day so there was a lot to do. We left around 930pm and had a short walk to the hotel.

On the 8th, around 8am, Mike, Manuel and myself headed back to the airport to meet the big group. Most were arriving around 6am or 7am from the US and we had a big coach booked to take everyone to Nevados de Chillan around 10am. We had a little staging area at a cafe infront of the international arrivals area and started greeting people as they arrived. Only 2 people didn't make it. I had sent instructions that they would need to take a quick flight to Concepcion and then we would organize a transfer for them there. We did have several delayed bags though that we waited for so we had to wait a little longer until that was sorted out.

We left around 11:30am, 1.5 hours later than expected but all the bags were accounted for and all the passengers (apart from 2) all present and accounted for. Then it was a 6.5 hour drive down to Nevados de Chillan with a stop for lunch just north of Chillan. I hadn't driven this part of the Route 5 before, so it was nice to experience that, but it was a pretty uneventful drive with a few nice views of the mountains along the way. Lunch went for almost 2 hours so we were really getting behind schedule.

We arrived at the hotel in the dark around 8pm and the guests went straight to dinner as we took care of the bags and got the check-in process started. Check-in went smoothly and everyone was settled in by 9:30pm. The next day was going to be a big day as we had to split the guests into groups based on ability as each group would have a local instructor or guide.....


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Mike enjoying the Pullman Vitacura

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Manuel and Mike, walking around the Vitacura neighborhood, looking for a restaurant.

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The place we found

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Enjoying some seafood appetizers...

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Steak for dinner, with a lo Pobre (fries, caramelized onion, fried egg).

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The Pullman had an amazing mural on the outside. I didn't get the best angle of it unfortunately.....

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Arrivals area in Terminal 2

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Mike (left) and Manuel

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Myself!


- Matt
 
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9th August - Cultural Day

The whole reason we were running this trip was because it was the main guests birthday and that was on the 9th, so we weren't skiing that day. Instead, we were having a cultural day for her birthday and were celebrating it down in Chillan with a visit to the Santa Berta Winery and then a restaurant in the city. Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit the markets as we had to be back in Las Trancas around 630pm to visit the best ski shop in the area to hire some touring skis and for people to purchase some ski gear.

I won't go into too much detail as this was pretty similar to the visits we do every year, but we started with a tour around the winery with a visit to the large fermenting tanks then a walk around the grounds. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom which was nice and then there were oranges and lemons in fruit on the trees. Then we had a lovely tasting in the main tasting room with an awesome cheese platter. Then the guys were able to purchase wines in the salesroom and we definitely set some sales records in there.

Next we moved on to a restaurant in Chillan where we had a nice 3-course meal with salmon or osso buco as the mains plus plenty of wine. It was a nice meal and one of our late arrivals was able to meet us there after her flight to Concepcion came in. Then we had to drive back to Las Trancas and we were in the ski shop for more than an hour but everyone that needed to be outfitted with rentals or had to purchase ski gear, were taken care of. We got back to the hotel and anyone that wanted to, could have some more dinner. I had an early night knowing that we would be onsnow the next day and the groups would need some help getting organized.

Here's the pics.....


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Fearless guard dogs in training! Currently, it will take a while before they are ready. Currently you will only be licked to death.....

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Orange trees in full bloom!

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The grounds are quite pretty, would be lovely to be here in the summer

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The winery has a working chapel.

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Inside the tasting room

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Tasting time!

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A lot of wine was sold that day

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Skiing reports coming next!

- Matt
 
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10th/11th August - First Days on Snow

On the way back from our cultural day in Chillan on the 9th, it had started to snow as a decent cold front started moving in from the West. On the morning of the 10th I awoke to find a decent amount of new snow outside, I think around 40cm's. The snow was pretty wet though which was actually a good thing as we wanted wetter, heavier snow to come in at the start of the snow to stick to and better cover up all those sharp volcanic rocks, but skiing in the off-piste would be tough in the wet snow and lack of visibility.

It was going to be a busy day as we had several groups to form first up. The guests had already assigned themselves to different groups based on ability levels and we had 2 beginners (1 skier and 1 snowboarder who could both link turns on beginner terrain), 7 intermediates in 2 groups, 12 advanced people in 2 groups and then 4 people in an advanced backcountry equipped group, led by me. We had 6 instructors/guides to lead these groups so once all the people were outside, the groups were roughly formed and then I could take off with my guys and get to work.

We started with a little skiing but there was limited terrain open, I think we could only get as high as the top of the Wenche chair so after a couple of warmup laps, we got to work on our beacon training. I found an area down low out of the weather and we went through a host of drills with our beacons and a progression for single rescuer, single victim trainings. I didn't take any photos due to the poor lighting and lack of open terrain knowing that the sun was going to come out the next day. The guys did great and they were ready for proper skiing, the next day.

On the 11th, we awoke to find even more snow but much better weather. This was going to be a great day! To my surprise, everything was open. The heavy snow had settled and temps had dropped, so snow quality was a lot better. We headed up the Otto chair so the guys could get a good view of the mountain and the terrain in the Freeride Zone (my favorite place!) and then stop for some obligatory photos at the top of the chair with the amazing views of the Volcan Nevados de Chillan behind.

We saw that the Mirador chair was open so we headed over there for several laps of untouched powder at the side of the runs. That was a great way to start the day. We did a few runs before heading back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch I decided to take the guys up into the Tres Marias area for a long off-piste run. Navigation was a little challenging as with the lower snow levels (compared to previous years), the ridges had more exposed rock on them and you couldn't easily cross from one ridge to another and some faces were skiing a lot steeper this year.

We were on a really nice ridge, enjoying plenty of untouched powder when we rounded a corner, came to a very steep face which we had to ski as there were rocks on one side blocking us and then a cornice on the other. Thankfully with a little bit of tactical sideslipping, we were able to get safely down the steep part and back onto mellower terrain. That was a nice lesson for the guys, showing how they could safely navigate through/around critical terrain. We also found a steep face that we could practice rolling over to build confidence, crucial for getting into the steeper lines that I was thinking of for future runs.

That got us back to the bottom of the mountain and the guys had seen a good chunk of the terrain and spirits were high for more the next day!

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Someone is getting psyched for the day!

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Getting ready to ride the Otto chair, 19 minutes to the top but a beautiful ride and one that showcases some of Nevados de Chillan's best inbounds terrain.

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Gotta take the obligatory group shot in front of the Volcan Nevados de Chillan on a sunny day!

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Enjoying a little off-piste near the top of the Mirador chair.

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There's a lot of nice little warm-up, powder pitches at the top of the Mirador chair and we did several laps in this zone.

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Heading out into the sidecountry terrain in the Tres Marias area, an 14km long off-piste run!

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Sideslipping down a technical steep pitch, with ice behind (and an impassable rock face behind that) and then a cornice in front. Tough line but the guys navigated it safely and we had fun skiing below.

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A better shot that show the area we had to sideslip through.

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Practicing rolling off a little cornice area. The guests could choose the angle of attach, that is, how steeply they wanted to point the skis off the lip and how fast they wanted to take the runout. I wanted to prepare them for other, steeper terrain and technical features. This area had a nice open runout so it was a safe area to practice and build skills/confidence.

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At the end of the run, coming out of the Tres Marias area, down lower in the trees.

We'd be ramping up the terrain the next day as the weather was forecast to be looking good also. Time to go for it!


- Matt
 

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10th/11th August - First Days on Snow

On the way back from our cultural day in Chillan on the 9th, it had started to snow as a decent cold front started moving in from the West. On the morning of the 10th I awoke to find a decent amount of new snow outside, I think around 40cm's. The snow was pretty wet though which was actually a good thing as we wanted wetter, heavier snow to come in at the start of the snow to stick to and better cover up all those sharp volcanic rocks, but skiing in the off-piste would be tough in the wet snow and lack of visibility.

It was going to be a busy day as we had several groups to form first up. The guests had already assigned themselves to different groups based on ability levels and we had 2 beginners (1 skier and 1 snowboarder who could both link turns on beginner terrain), 7 intermediates in 2 groups, 12 advanced people in 2 groups and then 4 people in an advanced backcountry equipped group, led by me. We had 6 instructors/guides to lead these groups so once all the people were outside, the groups were roughly formed and then I could take off with my guys and get to work.

We started with a little skiing but there was limited terrain open, I think we could only get as high as the top of the Wenche chair so after a couple of warmup laps, we got to work on our beacon training. I found an area down low out of the weather and we went through a host of drills with our beacons and a progression for single rescuer, single victim trainings. I didn't take any photos due to the poor lighting and lack of open terrain knowing that the sun was going to come out the next day. The guys did great and they were ready for proper skiing, the next day.

On the 11th, we awoke to find even more snow but much better weather. This was going to be a great day! To my surprise, everything was open. The heavy snow had settled and temps had dropped, so snow quality was a lot better. We headed up the Otto chair so the guys could get a good view of the mountain and the terrain in the Freeride Zone (my favorite place!) and then stop for some obligatory photos at the top of the chair with the amazing views of the Volcan Nevados de Chillan behind.

We saw that the Mirador chair was open so we headed over there for several laps of untouched powder at the side of the runs. That was a great way to start the day. We did a few runs before heading back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch I decided to take the guys up into the Tres Marias area for a long off-piste run. Navigation was a little challenging as with the lower snow levels (compared to previous years), the ridges had more exposed rock on them and you couldn't easily cross from one ridge to another and some faces were skiing a lot steeper this year.

We were on a really nice ridge, enjoying plenty of untouched powder when we rounded a corner, came to a very steep face which we had to ski as there were rocks on one side blocking us and then a cornice on the other. Thankfully with a little bit of tactical sideslipping, we were able to get safely down the steep part and back onto mellower terrain. That was a nice lesson for the guys, showing how they could safely navigate through/around critical terrain. We also found a steep face that we could practice rolling over to build confidence, crucial for getting into the steeper lines that I was thinking of for future runs.

That got us back to the bottom of the mountain and the guys had seen a good chunk of the terrain and spirits were high for more the next day!

View attachment 210310
Someone is getting psyched for the day!

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Getting ready to ride the Otto chair, 19 minutes to the top but a beautiful ride and one that showcases some of Nevados de Chillan's best inbounds terrain.

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Gotta take the obligatory group shot in front of the Volcan Nevados de Chillan on a sunny day!

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Enjoying a little off-piste near the top of the Mirador chair.

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There's a lot of nice little warm-up, powder pitches at the top of the Mirador chair and we did several laps in this zone.

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Heading out into the sidecountry terrain in the Tres Marias area, an 14km long off-piste run!

View attachment 210320
Sideslipping down a technical steep pitch, with ice behind (and an impassable rock face behind that) and then a cornice in front. Tough line but the guys navigated it safely and we had fun skiing below.

View attachment 210321
A better shot that show the area we had to sideslip through.

View attachment 210322
Practicing rolling off a little cornice area. The guests could choose the angle of attach, that is, how steeply they wanted to point the skis off the lip and how fast they wanted to take the runout. I wanted to prepare them for other, steeper terrain and technical features. This area had a nice open runout so it was a safe area to practice and build skills/confidence.

View attachment 210323
At the end of the run, coming out of the Tres Marias area, down lower in the trees.

We'd be ramping up the terrain the next day as the weather was forecast to be looking good also. Time to go for it!


- Matt
Wow, looks really really good.
I wondered if you were getting some of the storm cycle from Powchasers.
 
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Mattadvproject

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Beautiful blue skies - I love skiing on days like that!

So you are saying you are a fair weather skier @Jenny ? Ha ha, me too, especially in Chile. These exposed volcanoes can get hit hard by the weather and I feel like the storms have been getting more intense over the years.....
 
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Wow, looks really really good.
I wondered if you were getting some of the storm cycle from Powchasers.

Yes, that was just a small storm, we had a massive storm during the next session and that was too much snow. The mountain get hit hard by the rain for a couple of days and then finally it turned to snow and it dumped but the mountain got shut down for a few days. Down in the valleys there was a lot of flooding, it was pretty bad.....
 

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So you are saying you are a fair weather skier @Jenny ? Ha ha, me too, especially in Chile. These exposed volcanoes can get hit hard by the weather and I feel like the storms have been getting more intense over the years.....
When I have enough free time (ie get to retire) then I may very well become a fair weather skier. Right now, it's that Michigan is usually grey and cloudy, so skiing in the sun is a special treat!
 
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12th August - Time to step it up!

The forecast was for another glorious day and with a slightly smaller group, it was time to ramp up the terrain and get into some steeper lines and more powder. I wanted to take the group into the sidecountry area outside of the ski resort boundary, so we took the Otto chair up for the 19-minute ride to the top. The snow was still fresh but had consolidated as the temps had been warming up a bit. We took a quick 3-minute bootpack from the top of the chair to a huge bowl above the Pirigallo Valley.

There was a big cornice to the left of the bowl but then an open but steep ramp to the right. There were a few tracks on it but it was still fresh enough. The work we had done on taking drops the day before, would be of use here. I dropped in first and made it to a large knoll below the run that would be our island of relative safety and meeting spot. The guys skied the line one at a time, making some nice turns. Then we had a long ski down through the valley before heading up to the right to start our exit out. We crossed one at time, from ridge to the next. It took time but we made it safely through the steeper areas.

Normally you cross the valley down lower and then traverse onto another ridge to the left side of the valley and the crossing was still in place, despite the lower than normal snow depth but up higher it was exposed to the direct sun and looking a little thin. When we made it up onto the other side, we could then more closely see the lack of snow and how complex the traverse out would be. There was an uphill sidestep through shallow snow and then you had to work over some tree roots and grab branches for support. It was a sporty little move, but thankfully everyone made it through safely. Then there were a couple more thin spots on the ridge before we hit the ruins of the stinky old sulfur bottling plant. The traverse back into the resort was very easy after that.

For our next adventure, we headed back up the Otto chair but this time, we put the skins on and went for a tour higher into the Pirigallo. This is a lovely introductory tour and on the way, went through some technique, with work on the basic skinning stride, then some work on step turns, VAV/AVA turns and then a couple of kick turns. You also get to practice some downhilling with the skins on as there is a long face further on in the tour, that requires a downhill skin and that can be a little tricky if you've not done it before.

The skin starts off really mellow and then you hit a ridge with an old cross on it. Then you hit the big downhill face (everyone skied that in full tour mode and did a great job) before a short climb to the start of the line. It takes about 40 minutes and the guys found it pretty easy and definitely worthwhile. Then we had a great ski down into the Pirigallo Valley, with 3 really good pitches before hitting the valley and the traverse back out. There was a lot of hooting and hollering and everyone was pretty stoked on the line. For the amount of turns versus the amount of skinning, the bang for the buck was really hi.

This time we would take a different exit and we did not cross the valley to the left, we stayed higher to the right and it was a much easier egress. I think we all appreciated not having to scramble over exposed tree roots and sidestep through dirt! That took us conveniently back to the hotel where we had a nice stop for a late lunch. We didn't have too much time left but the guys were keen to stay more inbounds and work a little bit on technique, so we ditched the packs and headed up to the Mirador chair.

There are some short but very steep pitches in that zone, so we worked a little on steep skiing and some mellow jump turns. We did a few laps and kept refining technique and there were some good improvements in technique and confidence and the repetition certainly helping but by now, it was getting late and it was time to head back to the hotel for a couple of well-earned après beverage. It had been a great day and some awesome memories had been made. Morale was high but sadly we only had 1 more day of skiing to go.....

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First run in the sidecountry

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Shane looking like she's enjoying the run

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Run 2, skins are on and we are off on a tour higher into the valley

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Practicing downhilling with the skins on. Getting ready for the long downhill later in the tour

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Heading up higher

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Stopping at the cross, Howard, Su and Shane. left to right.

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The big downhill with the skins on. Choose your angle of descent depending on how fast you want to go.

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Last part of the down and then we climb up again

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Heading up again, final push to the top of our line

20230812_113913.jpg A little steeper uphill and then it mellows again. Only 5 minutes more skinning and then the really fun part!


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The start of our downhill, with 3 nice pitches. My track is to the lookers left, testing the steeper part, skiing it with speed. If it was going to slide, it was there. The snow was well-bonded and there was no movement. Guests would ski one at a time, staying far right of my line.

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Next pitch, this is much longer. We did the same thing, I tested the steeper face to the looker's left and the guests would ski to the right.

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Consolidated powder but nice open, easy skiing.

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Re-grouping on the ridgeline to the right.

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Exiting the valley, this time staying high to the looker's left and avoiding the difficult exit on the other side.

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Heading up to the top of the Mirador chair after lunch, minus our backpacks, to work on technique.

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Working on technique.

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Hope turns on the steeps, getting prepped for skiing steeper lines.

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The ski school put on a torchlight parade.

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Watching the parade from the deck of our hotel.

- Matt
 
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A little video of the run we made after the ski tour.....




After the 40-minute tour, we had a nice long run down, with 3 quality pitches. This is one of my favorite lines at Nevados de Chillan as it's an easy skin and it doesn't get much traffic. The snow was settled, slightly wind-affected powder. My concern about skiing this line came from the steeper right side, where it accumulates potential wind-slab and is shaded. I skied the furthest right to test the slope and it held just fine.

I had the rest of the group ski one at a time, to the left of my tracks. It was a nice line and the guests enjoyed being in some big, aesthetic terrain. We took the high line out to the right on the way out and that was a much easier egress than the previous run. Great success!
 
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13th August - Last day skiing, time for a scenic picnic!

The guys had enjoyed their skin the day before and they wanted to do more. Unfortunately the temps had risen steadily during the previous day, so the chance of finding good powder, was diminishing. If there was going to be cold snow, it would be up higher, past the lifts. So I put forward the idea that we head up high between the Volcan Nevados de Chillan and Volcan Neuvo where there is a high plateau with amazing views of the higher Andes and Argentina. That would make a great place to eat lunch and then have a really long ski down and if we got lucky we could find some nice snow on the way down. I thought that would be a memorable way to finish the trip and they were up for it.

So we took the Otto lift up and then headed over to the Mirador chair. We took that up and then skied off straight ahead to an open area where we could transition into uphill mode. There was another group doing the same thing (a group led by Ian McIntosh). For this skin, I wanted to try a new way up. In previous years, you had to push much further to the left to avoid the exclusion zone surrounding the Volcan Nuevo but since volcanic activity was way down this year, the exclusion zone had been removed. That meant we could stay on the easier terrain closer to the volcano and not have to push left where the terrain gets more complex.

I was interested to see how much of a time saver that would be, especially as there was a well-used snowcat track that we could use. I felt it would be more direct and sure enough, apart from when we got close to our plateau, it was much easier going without the complexities of skinning through major volcanic terrain. We had a couple of spots where we had to do a little downhill and then go up a short, steep face, but all in all, it was pretty efficient. We shadowed the other group for a while but eventually they pushed further to the right and we lost sight of them.

There were quite a few snowmobilers off to our left, but they were pretty far away. They did test some steep faces and nothing was moving, so that was good intel. After 2 hours, we came over a small knoll and then the higher Andes came into view. What a sight it is! The wind was picking up behind us, so I found a rocky spot and built up a snow hole/windbreak so we could have somewhere more sheltered to enjoy lunch and our amazing view. It was a stunning view and an excellent lunch spot. We took our time and savored every minute of it.

Eventually it came time to leave and then our big ski down. We had 15km's plus of downhill ahead of us. At the top, in the sunnier aspects, we found some nice corn and enjoyed some mellow turns. You need to be constantly pushing to the left so any opportunity to go downhill, you still need to keep pushing left otherwise you will end up skinning at the bottom. The are no major landmarks for quite some time until you hit this massive gully that naturally funnels left. As long as you hit that and keep going left you will make it just fine. With a group of all skiers, it's definitely easier. On skis there are always going to be some sidesteps and some pushing and on skis, it's relatively easy but on a snowboard, you will be working a lot harder. That was not a problem this day though.....

With the lack of snow compared to previous years, then you can't get over all of the ridgelines as freely as you normally would as they were quite rocky, but there were a few obvious spots where you could make it through. As we got lower, we found some nice steeper faces and they were quite shaded, so we actually had some nice powder in places. We enjoyed a few nice pitches like that. FInally I could see another prominent landmark, a big mesa-like area with cliffs. Again, we just had to keep pushing left.

After an hour or so, we finally saw the top of the Refugio Chair and that was our exit point out of the Tres Marias area and back into the resort. Then we had a nice long groomer back down to the bottom of the Tata area before we could take the chair back up to the Tio Willy area. Finally we could take the poma back to the hotel. It had been a big day but I think the group was pretty happy with the amazing views and then a decent ski down. They worked hard but I think great memories were made. We had a few après beers to celebrate the end of a great trip and then after dinner, it was time to wrap it up as I was leaving the group the next day; they would be on their way back to Santiago and I would be on my way to Concepcion to pick up my next group. Here's some images of a great day!


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Start of the up! Using the snowcat tracks for an easier line.

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Shane, enjoying the views. That's the Volcan Neuvo (new volcano) behind, last summer it was very active and we had a huge vent when we were enjoying the view. This year, I didn't see any activity. I kind of missed it....

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The other volcano, Volcan Nevados de Chillan, there's some big lines over there but there is a glacier with crevasses, so I don't head too far that way. I've skied the smaller, (parasitic) cone to the right of the picture before.

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A little downhill traverse with the skins on and in tour mode, adds to the challenge!

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And there it was, after 2 hours, we reached our vantage point of the higher Andes.

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Lunch spot with a view. One of the most amazing views I have had. I think the 2-hour skin is very worthwhile for a view like this!

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Enjoying our sheltered spot for lunch.

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Time to start heading out.

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We had to skin up a little before we could start heading down again.

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Your new social media profile shot, Su!

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Downhill time and a long way to go. There were many steeper pitches followed by mellow runouts where you needed to keep your speed up or you'd end up pushing.

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In some spots, you had to do a little sidestepping, there was no avoiding it.

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One of the last pitches, the snow in the shaded aspect was still pretty cold and skiing nicely. In the sun it was corn, so you had a little bit of everything, but thankfully, nothing was frozen up solid so it was a decent run down.

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You can really see the old, volcanic lava flows that form the terrain in this zone.

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We were treated to an amazing sunset for our last night. Here is the start.....

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Getting better.....

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And totally amazing. What a beautiful way to finish off the first group. Cheers team!


- Matt
 

socalgal

Making fresh tracks
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What an epic trip!
 
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Mattadvproject

Mattadvproject

Love that powder!
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14th/15th/16th August - Pickup new group, avi training and some bad weather!

On the 14th August, we left the hotel Alto Nevados at the ski area on the bus. The rest of the group were headed to Santiago to stay the night, but I was going to be dropped off in Las Trancas on the way, at the Cabanas los Hualles our (usual) accommodation for the second session. I dropped of my bags and then also Tele Mike, one of our guides for the first session who was going to stay on and ski for a few days with the second group to better learn the mountain, also left his bags with me so he could fly back from Santiago the next day without any luggage.

My driver Carlos was there and once I had gotten rid of my bags I could jump in the van with him. I was pretty tired so I slept for most of the drive (2.5 hours to Concepcion). We got there early so went to the Wyndham hotel to pick up our two Aussies (Lachlan and Andrew, new guests) who arrived the night before and then circled back around to the airport. By the time we got to the airport, I could see Bill, Rebecca and Kevin waiting for their bags. Bill and Rebecca I knew from my Killington days, back in the early 2000's when I used to teach there. They were both instructors there still and I hadn't seen them for almost 20 years. Kevin was a new guest from Phildelphia but we have mutual friends and have been friends on Facebook for many years but it was the first time meeting him in person.

Everyone had their bags so once we were loaded up, we could start the journey up to the mountain. We used to stop in Chillan for late lunch but since we got robbed there last year, now we just drive straight through. We did stop at the supermarket in Chillan to pick up snacks and supplies and then we could hit the road for the 2.5 hour drive back to Las Trancas. The drive was uneventful, with most people catching some sleep on the way. We checked in on arrival and I helped people get to their rooms in the lodge. Then we had a relaxed dinner in the cafeteria at the accommodation and chatted with chef Manny about what meals we would like for the 4 nights that we were going to be packaging some privately prepared 3-course dinners.

15th August

We were up early for breakfast at 8am. Normally breakfast is at 9am but as we are skiing and trying to get up to the mountain by then, they put on an early breakfast just for us which is very nice. Breakfast is decent, with freshly-braked bread, scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, tea, cereal, yogurt, jams and other items. We normally do a morning briefing where we talk about the general plan for the day, weather conditions, avalanche concerns/red flags, but the plan was pretty easy as our focus was on avi training.

I think we left around 9am with Carlos our driver and he took us the 15 minutes up to the mountain. We had to buy our lift cards (purchase a recharge card first and then load a day ticket onto the pass each day) and then we went for a quick ski. We could get as high as the top of the Wenche chair, so we did a couple of laps and then got stuck into our avi safety training/beacon skills. The area I had used with the previous group had been all churned up by some cats and the snow was too thin, but just down the trail off to the side, was some untouched snow about 40cm's deep. That would do.

I went through the theory of how the beacons worked and how to perform a single burial, single rescuer scenario and then it was time for practice. Each person got detailed feedback which all the group could learn from and we saw some good progression. Everyone had 2 rounds each and got to learn a lot. We just touched on multiple burials and I showed the guys how to use the flag feature on the beacons in a quick run through and then we had to leave the area. They had shut the lift down (surprised patrol didn't tell us when they skied past) but we could put the skins on and do a little skinning practice which worked out just fine. We were back at the upper car park by about 5pm and Carlos was there to meet us.

We had a lovely dinner at the Chill'in Restaurant, about a 10-minute walk up the road. I had the lamb and it was lovely. I think Chill'in might be the best local restaurant in Las Trancas, they have definitely done a great job improving the quality of their food and menu in the last couple of years.

16th August

There had been some pretty severe weather during the night and the high winds had been accompanied by heavy rain. Now that doesn't mean that it will be raining up on the mountain, but looking at the forecast, the freezing level was pretty high and it wasn't looking great. Manuel our local guide was already up on the mountain when we got there and he was out taking a run. He came down to meet us and he was completely soaked after only 1 run. The guys weren't too inspired by this and with the lack of lifts open (as far as Wenche), they decided to save their money on a lift ticket and look at skiing the next day when the forecast was supposed to be better. So, we got straight back into the van and headed back to the accommodation.

We had a little spare time before we re-grouped, so I unpacked all of my clothes and sorted out my room. Then I went back downstairs in the lodge and setup my computer to watch some of the saved YouTube video's I have regarding avi safety and avalanche rescue. We watched several of those before heading up the road for lunch. We went to a new development and I had a nice (but way too big) sandwich. I couldn't eat all of it so Manuel took other half of it as we had a big dinner planned at the accommodation and that wasn't too far away.

After lunch we went around some of the local shops and then headed back to the accommodation. At 630pm we had our dinner and it was great. 3 courses including appetizer, breads, main (beef brisket) and then dessert, plus 2 drinks. I wasn't hungry but got through most of it and I think the group was very happy with the food. The next day's forecast was looking better so we should actually be able to ski. I had an early night and got everything ready for the next day.


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Absolute carnage! Some of the young police officer cadets came down the slope and they were falling all over the place. I had to take a photo! They are beginner skiers that spend some time at the ski area learning, but their instruction is (shall we say) very light and when they leave the easiest slope to go further down the mountain, it's normally pretty spectacular. No one got hurt and they seemed to be having a good time.....


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Our little avi training area....


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Andrew, getting ready to do his pinpoint search, about to bracket.


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Lunch on the 16th, a way too big sandwich!


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Beef brisket, our main course, prepared by chef Manny!


- Matt
 
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17th August - Ski Time!
It rained hard again in Las Trancas during the night, but it was forecast to snow, so we were definitely keen to head up and take a look. The forecast was for snow showers and intermittent sun, so there was reason for hope. How many lifts would be open, would be another thing (they don't seem to post lift openings until at least 9am and we are normally on the way up to the mountain by then). My feeling was that we would see a gradual opening of the lifts up high but probably not Otto or Mirador.

We got to the resort just after 9am and went and bought tickets. They were saying limited opening but we would give it a go and hope more lifts would open. Straight away they had Wenche open and not long after, the Nono t-bar opened so we could get reasonably high. That would give us access to at least half of the Freeride Zone under the Otto chair. There was a decent amount of fresh snow and it was about boot top deep.

We did a little warmup lap and then I decided to split the group. Andrew, Kevin and Mike were ready to go to the steeper areas so I took them and we traversed straight over to the Freeride Zone and the first bowl. The snow had a wind crust on top and with limited visibility, the first lap was really tough. I was thinking this would be a challenging day! However, the guys were still keen to keep exploring and if we could push further to the left, then we might be able to find more sheltered runs and hopefully less wind crust.

Sure enough, as we wrapped around to the left on the next run, we did start to get out of the wind and as luck would have it, the sun started to come out. We had some lovely skiing. It looked like there had been a lot of activity overnight as we could see evidence of a lot of old pin wheels and pin balls. Thankfully they weren't super solid and you could ski through them. Still, I took it easy on that next run and made sure I didn't hit anything going too fast.

We ended up having several really nice runs in that zone, pushing further left each time. I was starting to let the skis run a bit more as the confidence improved. After a few laps, it was time to move on to a new zone. The Elephant Rock zone near Corniscia only had a couple of tracks on it so we decided to take the Nono t-bar up high and this time head left into a big off-piste ridgeline. There's some cornices in there that we gave a wide birth to and then after a while, we came to our drop in point. There was a spicier entrance with a very steep entrance that that the guys were open to so we dropped in one at a time. I went first and set the line and there were about 15 nice big turns to be had. That was pretty fun and got the blood pumping.

After that we had lunch and when we came out, they had the Corniscia chair open and that gets you higher than Nono, so we jumped on that and took it up higher. Then the plan was to put the skins on and head even higher into the Freeride Zone. There was already a skin track in place so we took at and that took us about 4/5 of the way to the top of the Otto chair. The weather was turning again and the sun was gone and clouds were moving in. The wind was really ripping and by the time we got to our transition point, it was blowing a gale and made for unpleasant conditions. It didn't help that patrol were blasting in the Mirador area behind us and the booms were pretty eerie.

I was definitely concerned about the potential for new windslab potential as snow was definitely being transported at increasing rates, so I found a mellower line and we skied one at a time. We were fine and enjoyed some nice snow, but it was getting harder to see. We had a nice ski down through untouched snow and skied one of the bowls at the bottom that we had skied earlier. It was still skiing nicely.

All in all, the day had definitely exceeded my expectations after that tough first run; I'm thankful we were able to find better conditions and lines as the day progressed and it had turned out to be a fun run. The next day was forecasted to be even better, so expectations were higher for an even better powder day. Here's some photos of how the day went....

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Starting off the day..... limited visibility up high, but hopefully that would change.

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Lachy looking pretty excited for the day.

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Nono t-bar was running so we could get up higher. Corniscia chair (left) would open later.

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Our second run through the lower Freeride Zone and the snow had less of a crust and the sun was out.

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3rd run, pushing further left, now we were getting some really nice snow!

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Thankfully all those little balls of snow were somewhat soft and you could ski through them. Snow must have been moving around a lot at night when it was wet.

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Hitting a short but steep face as we neared our exit back into the resort.

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Andrew

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Moving over to the Elephant Rock area for a new line.

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The entrance to the face was hidden, but it was nice steep chute when then opened out onto the face. One at a time, skiing it fast to move through as quickly as possible.

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Another nice line in the Freeride Zone, hitting it up from higher.

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Another steep face and technical exit.

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Skinning up from the Corniscia chair, the weather was really starting to move in....

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I didn't get any photos of the last run as it was too hard to see and we needed to move quickly.....

Plenty more to come!

- Matt
 
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Mattadvproject

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Love that powder!
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One of these years...we will make "un-virtual". :roflmao:

You still flirting, Randy? I thought that boat sailed a while ago?! I think Warren Miller said it best..... “If you don't do it this year, you will be one year older when you do!
 

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