Sunday, 8 November 2009


I think Ushuaia could be resumed in 2 words by mountaineering nonbelievers : shitty weather. Of course there are some nice landscapes, and renting a car for a pair of days can give you a taste of the surrounding nature. For those who are not afraid by touristic attractions you can also enjoy yourself on a catamaran excursion or just shopping on the main road (another San Martin avenue).

I guess I was just about to leave the place with yet another bitter taste if I hadn't met this funny, crazy, impressive group of young french alpinists ! Their idea : going from north to south, following the Andes while doing as much summits as possible, going down either with skis or paragliding !
To do so, they started the trip in Colombia where they bought a 4x4. After 6 month of travel, the poor car looks like a retired Paris-Dakkar 4x4. I believe every piece of it has been either stolen or broken at some point !

As for the guys, they are exactly what I was hoping for : laid-back, not pretentious, fun and completely mountain addict ! Not surprisingly, the offer to jump on the bandwagon came naturally. I don't think i've been thinking too long about it :)
Once on the snow I could measure their amazing skills ! Of course they live almost in a ski resort in france, and most of them (if not all) live for and by the mountain. Still, seeing the technique in action remains astonishing ! I took as much advices as I could ... can't wait to work on it !

For the people interested in ski-alpinism, here is the post about the 2 days we spent together in the mountains :

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Patagonian tourism

The girls have cooked up a nice and neat patagonian travelling program ! There it is :
  • The famous W trek in the park "Torres del Paine"
  • Glacier Perito Moreno
  • Trekking around El Chalten
We fly from Puerto Montt to Punta Arena and get a bus to Puerto Natales. We end up in a nice hostel (lili patagonico) run by a cool chilean guy, named Ivan. The guy is a climber, he even has a small climbing wall in the entrance ! We rent all the gears (tent, matress, stove, ..) and start for a 5 days trek in the Torres del Paine park.
The first day is painful (5h of freezing and heavy rain / melted snow fall). Hopefully the camping site is nice and we can eat in a kind of hut. The following days, we can enjoy different impressive views of glaciers and immense smooth rocky faces, with a nice weather.

Back to Puerto Natales where we spend a day (and a bouldering session with Ivan for me) before taking a bus to El Calafate, in Argentina. In the bus we meet a group of 3 french guys who are travelling since 6 month. We decide to rent a car together to go the next day to the Perito Moreno, a huge glacier.
Wake up at 6am to avoid the parc entrance fee (french style). We find 15cm of fresh snow when we arrive. Quite cool for snow battle but not so good for the view. Anyway, we can watch a huge piece of ice falling into the water while getting completely wet with snow balls.

The next day another bus take us to the alpinism Mecca, El Chalten. This town is amazing. Not the town itself (I'm actually older than the town !) but the surrounding landscape. You can even see the Fitz Roy while walking in it.
Beside the fleas, the hostel is a nice heterogeneous place. Antonio the polish andinist, dreams of immense glaciers (just came back from a 3 weeks solo trip on the Hielo Continental, one of the biggest ice field in the world), and other similar kind of adventure. Fakundo, an argentinian who looks like an indian escaped from a western movie and travel while selling all kind of handcraft stuff. An italian french-spanish-english speaking globetrotter with his son, who are working as cook in the local trek industry. The whole thing run by 3 argentinian guys from buenos aires and a funny english bulldog (with a tendency to fuck legs).
We stay there 4 or 5 days, enough for 2 amazing treks and few big parillas. The latest trek, below the Fitz Roy ("lago de los tres") is a must do !

A nice program that notheless leaves a tiny taste of excessive organisation and lack of wild / adventurous experiences (I want to get out of the well marked track !).

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Mmm, after a week of inactivity the perspective of a huge snowy slope surrounded by astonishing landscape is quite appealing !
Starting at 8am with a beautiful sunrise we are all eager to walk up this big white cone. Celia & Damien have never done such things but seem in good shape.
I can start with skis from the begining and after half an hour, with the slope getting steeper, we try the crampons we've rented for Sophie, Celia & Damien, the day before. Funnily Damien's shoes (a huge french 45) don't fit in the crampons. I give him mine, but while tighting them the strap breaks ... it must have been a sign !
Anyway, somehow we can find a workaround.
Sophie who has exchanged her stomachache to a pulmonary infection stops at the top of the ski resort.
Except for a small diarrhea incident, everything goes well until the last 200m ...

The slope gets steeper so I leave my skis below some kind of icy bloc and put my crampons too. I teach Damien & Celia the basis and we arrive on the crater. This one is completely full of ice. Not impressive but at least toxic gaz free !
The clouds that were sitting far below the summit are now running up and within minutes we are in the fog. The obvious track we took becomes now a little more tricky. Everything is white and without neither a map nor a GPS we end up relying on our footprints. Unfortunately it's not that neat in this kind of snow ... Somehow, 1h later we are going down the same way we came from. And now the best is to come, find my skis I left on this immense, foggy, white slope ! Another hour goes. The fog remain the same and I still not have my skis. I've walked around in all directions but nothing looks familiar ! Desperate we go down and while going down things start getting more and more familiar until ... I end up on the skis.

pics over here

200m below we are in the sun once again, enjoying a cool descent. Unfortunately the fog comes back and Damien & Celia want to go on a different way. We agree to meet up 50m down. Obviously skiing down is much faster, so after a quick run I start waiting for them, soon realizing it's really stupid to split in the fog ! After 20 min I guess they have taken another path. We are not so far from the ski resort so they might have found a straighter slope ? I go down until the top of the ski resort were Sophie was waiting for us. It's over 5pm and of course she isn't there. I wait another 20 min and think that once in the ski resort it's a piece of cake to get to the parking. I also want to tell Sophie everything is fine.

I'm now with Sophie, it's 6:30 pm, and we start thinking that something wrong happened to Celia & Damien ... There are few guys in the ski resort but they can't really help. Still one of them lend me a GPS and I go back to the point where I last saw the two (roughtly 900m above us). I walk quickly and within an hour I can see their footprint, going down ... in the wrong valley ! They have crossed many footprints including my ski tracks and went down in something completely unfamiliar ! I guess we could call that flair. Seems that not everyone is well equipped :) Anyway, I go down thinking they could have hurt themselves. At some point their tracks go up toward the ski resort ... before going down again :( The large snowy valley soon becomes a narrow rocky canyon. I'm walking with the skis on my backpack, it's 8:30, getting seriously dark. They still don't answer when I shout and I eventually loose their tracks. It's now time for me to get back ! I skin up another 300m on steep slopes reaching one of the ski resort edge. At 9:30 pm I'm back to the car, where Sophie and Damien are waiting for me ! Luckily the 2 have found a way in the valley, leading to the road.

A long day (almost 3000m of altitude difference for me) full of lessons ! It's crazy how small mistakes could lead to a big issue. I'd say :

  • never split in the fog
  • if absolute necessary try as soon as possible to meet again (I should have skined up rather than going down)
  • in any case expect beginners to have flair / instinct => think for the worst !