Sierra Velluda. Tick
On my first sunny day way back in June, I was climbing up Volcan Nuevo and looking south. I could see off in the distance a volcano and beside it a striking mountain, jagged and higher than everything around it. Immediately upon getting home that night I logged on to Google Earth and took a look at this area, the Volcano Antuco was a classic volcano but the mountain beside it was unlike anything around. Looking at the photos that people had posted I could see a couloir that seemed to go right off the summit. So I placed a thumbtack on my page “cool peak”, and I vowed that I would go and explore that area.
So after our recon day around Velluda, Jesse and Donny took a well deserved day off. I went up and climbed Antuco 9800ft and had some great spring skiing, skiing first the East side and then the west side of the volcano. Super fun creamy spring skiing, and huge planar runs. This mountain is 5200 feet above this cabin, its so great to have so much alpine to climb.
Then yesterday, Donny and I decided on a different approach up Sierra Velluda 3585m/11760ft. Since there was no way that I would climb up the line we saw the other day, we needed to find a safer way to get up. While driving around we noticed that there was a west facing couloir that went almost to the summit, and if we could get to the summit than we could ski down the line from the other day. An adventurous loop to say the least!
A thousand feet of in your face boot packing, well the in your face part was the small ice balls bouncing down the chute. It was barely warm enough but super small pellets were raining down the chute, so while moving it was imperative to be looking up at all times in case anything larger were to bounce its way down. Moving quickly through this lower part of the chute it was a relief to get out of the shower and up onto the ridge.
When we got up onto the ridge it was quite windy and I worried that the wind could blow us off the ridge and down either side. Especially as our skis were on our backpacks and acting as sails. But we were able to climb a little on the lee side and avoid most of the wind and soon enough we were on the summit. Awesome.
We had left our skis a little lower to ensure that we did not force ourselves to ski from the summit, unless we deemed it safe and a realistic choice. Assessing the snow and the pitch we decided we had to ski off this summit. So we climbed back down and retrieved our skis. It seems like such a silly thing to want to ski off the summit, but it is so much more pure when you are standing on the top and looking past your ski tips the whole way down. Especially since this was most likely a first descent we wanted to ensure that we did it from the top. Eeking our way down the top pitch we finally worried our way in. A couple of hard ski cuts and then we were off, leap frogging down the best line I have skied in SA. Steep, exposed and perfectly stable. The snow was creamy, spring powder stuck onto 45 degree face, sloughing but only slightly. It was perfect.
So amazing to ski a line like this. I have not skied anything this steep, in a long time and the adrenaline was flowing. Flowing fast before we dropped in and then it was pure enjoyment. Donny and I worked our way down and around the cliffs till we were out and carving through creamy corn again. In total we skied 5500 feet down to the valley bottom. Sitting in the sun we were both on cloud nine and loving Donny’s last day in Chile. What a way to finish his trip!
Its always funny how partnerships evolve, but for Donny this was our goal. We had never met till 3 days before but had been exchanging emails for months. And always in his email was the Sierra Velluda plug. He had wanted to ski this for years and never had anyone committed enough to see if there was in fact an amazing line off of it. So it we only natural that we met up and attempted it, it was a much “cooler peak” than I had thought three months ago and will be the line I remember the most from my trip down here.