CHILE 2007:

SEPTEMBER 28th--

We arrived in Santiago on the 25th at 730 and took a taxi to La Casa Roja in Bario Brasil. We spent the day resting, buying train tickets, and getting a cell phone. At 730 on the 26th we boarded the 5 hour train south to Chillan where we transfered to Termas de Chillan and our condo at the base of the Volcano de Chillan. At 10,300 feet it rises well above the local deciduous forest with a beautiful sister Volcano, the Nevados de Chillan. We arrived by 3 pm and it was foggy limiting our view to the cliffs and forest immediately around the end of the road. We checked in and saw our first beautiful native bird, the southern version of the Pilated woodpecker. With a full red head it was particularly resplendent. The mineral hotsprings soothed our travel weary bones and muscles that evening and Jen and the girls talked to a local Chileno from Vina who talked up the skiing and said fog and clouds were unusual this time of year. With a solid meter base in the woods around the village, I was pretty excited to see the mountains in the morning.

We were not disappointed as the alpine summits rose abruptly from the village to the east. The dawn broke clear as the local had forecast and I headed up the hill at 930 on a thursday on a mountain that felt virtualy deserted. Riding two lifts and then two t-bars I made it to about 8000 feet by 1015. The summit a scant 2000 vertical and about a mile away beckoned and I donned skins and headed for the top. The mountain had received snow about a week ago and it was blown, drifted and settled into fairly consistent spring conditions, not total hardpack and certainly not powder. It took about and hour and a half to reach the summit via a non technical route up the north west face. There were three lanes ascending to the summit cone and the north one vented steam at its false summit and had melted a bit away. The last hundred yards were hiking only and I enjoyed nice views into Argentina and a sea of peaks 180 degrees from north east through south where there were a couple other large volcanos on the near horizon. Close to the north the south facing bowl of the Nevados de Chillan beckoned with its fantastic curving ridge and perfect looking bowl. By 3 pm it was in the shade. Getting used to the sun's float through the sky from north east to northwest is a bit difficult but after looking at the compass periodically I began feeling the Southern Hemisphere and its solar difference.

The descent from the summit was wide open down a 35 degree slope decreasing to a 20 degree broad snowfield apron extending from true west. Eventually I hit a steeper rollover and at the bottom of this I was back on the piste. I spent a couple more hours exploring the runs accessible via lifts and then headed in for lunch. Jen and the girls opted out for the next day and I continued exploring the runs in the afternoon again with the mountain virtually to myself. The final run took me down and around the backside of the ridge north behind the village and back to the very bottom through a beautiful forest on perfect late afternoon corn snow. I had two fine views of a very white hawk with black wing tips and and a black and white banded tail.

Today we manged to get ahold of X-country ski gear, too large skis and poles for the kids, waxless pattern but no wax and a bit of a delay with the language barrier. The weather was warmer the snow mushy and therefore not the best conditions for kick and glide. Cree was great and Kestrel hung in there but barely for a circuit around the track at the bottom. After lunch at the hotel, Jenny and Cree headed up the mountain for the afternoon. They loved the speedy poma lift and made it to the top of the area and had great conditions and an enjoyable afternoon. Kestrel and I did homeschool as she is still thinking about downhill skiing rather than doing it. All in we have had a good couple of days here at Termas de Chillan.

October 2- We have enjoyed great weather for the entire week here in Termas and the skiing has been good spring corn. We have all skied together and downhilled too except Kestrel, whose token move at downhilling was to put her goggles on one day. Cree and I skied on the last day of September and Jen and Cree and Jen and I skied today. We found some good corn snow on the lower mountains north face steeps and enjoyed being out together while the girls worked on their homeschool homework. I summited the Volcano de Chillan again yesterday and got to the summit of the Nevados de Chillan two days ago. The day on Nevados was a longer trip into the alpine, crossing four heads of drainages and vast alpine snowfields. The winds on the summit were fierce limiting my time and photography there. I had an excellent descent of the southeast facing bowl on Nevados and thoroughly enjoyed the descent from the summit via this spectacular mountain feature, definitely the high point of touring in this area. Protected by a cornice for most of its entrance I was able to slip into the bowl from just off the top via a 60 degree entry into the head of the bowl at 45 and then down to a placid 30degree runout. This bowl descended to the east into an entirely different drainage than where I had come from limiting the descent to about 1000-1500 vertical. This morning in the Andes backcountry was another good opportunity to see the mountains alone and to enjoy meditating up the skin trail thinking in Spanish. Speaking of Spanish, it is a barrier to communication for all of us but I am trying to learn more and the girls are working with the Rosetta Stone though focus has been more on the traditional school work. RRR. Its been fun and challenging figuring out how to teach young Kestrel. Math has been the most fun and has challenged both of our patience and attention spans.

Tomorrow we leave for Concepcion and a flight to Valdivia where we spend the night and then pick up a rental truck in the morning and head to Antillanca on the slope of Volcan Casablanca for my birthday. Another hot springs stop before heading to the Island of Chiloe and the coast near Ancud.