"The guy from 'Into the Wild' would die on his first day in Patagonia" say the locals. This area of the Andes, between Chile and Argentina, is the epitome of wild as I found out during my splitboard trip last summer – with temperatures dropping as low as -30, howling winds and heavy snowfalls. However, when the wind died and the clouds disappeared revealing sparkling, fresh powder Patagonia unfolded its untouched beauty and wilderness. It was exactly these moments that made the long trip to the Southern hemisphere so worthwhile.
(Left pic) The locals call this line 'Zebra', due to the many white couloirs and black rock spines. From our refuge El-Frey it took us two hours to hike with splitboards, cross a ridge and climb to reach the drop-ins of the couloirs. The rough weather in Patagonia didn't make it easy; twice we had to turn back at the drop-in and climb back down after strong wind and fog replaced the morning sunshine. But the day this picture was shot everything worked out perfectly and we ripped the narrow Zebra couloirs. The fickle conditions made the riding here a very special experience.
(Right pic) In Bariloche we discovered a Swiss colony, founded in the 19th century by immigrants from Switzerland. In the picture above my head, you can see the emblem of my home canton, Wallis. I didn't try the cheese fondue or other Swiss dishes as I fear these guys have been away from home too long, but there’s nothing more delicious in Argentina than 'Asados' (a special kind of BBQ) of fresh local meat.
On this day we enjoyed fresh powder and spray after spray in front of a stunning backdrop, until strong winds pushed in the clouds in the afternoon; we surrendered and went fly-fishing on the lake in the background. This was Patagonia at it’s best! If I learnt one thing here, it was that when it comes to weather conditions you have to be flexible.
Short hike just before enjoying the aforementioned turns.
Our filmer Grego Campi, in his self-made snow cave, which protected him from the howling winds while he waited for us to get to the start of our line.
(Left pic) Home Sweet Home: our refuge El–Frey (2500 meters above sea level) that provided us with countless faces and lines, set on fire by the evening sun, as in this picture.
(Right pic) The crew (Thomas Orol, Yago Najda, filmer and photographer Grego Campi, Martin Seiler) checking a line from the El-Frey refuge. In the background on the left-hand side you can see the Cerro Catedral.
A very narrow couloir: due to the warm temperatures and the risk of wet snow avalanches I had to start early, riding the line in the first morning light and getting back just in time for breakfast – an incredible run!
Fact Box: Patagonia
Season: July until October (with the best conditions from mid-August until mid-September)
Resorts: Caviahue (1650-2958 meters), Cerro Chapelco (1250-1600 meters), Cerro Bayo (1050-1752 meters), Cerro Catedral (1030-2000 meters), Perito Moreno (1467-2220 meters), La Hoya (1350-2050 meters)
How to get there: There are daily flights from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, 20 kilometers from Cerro Catedral. From here you can reach all other resorts easily with a rental car or bus.
Currency: Argentine peso (€1 = around 11 ARS)
Prices: Food and transport are pretty cheap; a night in a hostel costs around €10, a ski ticket around €36.
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