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First Tracks of the Season on Cerro Torrecillas
Posted on November 25, 2009

September 7
I’m playing catch-up: a must-attend wedding in Cape Cod has set me 48 hours behind my brother and the rest of the crew. I prepare for the overnight flight from Atlanta to Santiago, Chile, and check my e-mail one last time to find a message marked, ‘Urgent- hurry up … it’s dumping.’

After spending the night on the plane, I transfer to LAN Chile to catch a quick 30-minute flight from Santiago to Mendoza–effectively crossing the width of the longest mountain range in the world. The Andes mountain range is over 4,300 miles long and 430 miles at its widest point.

The plane shakes violently as we begin our descent towards the fertile plains of Argentina, a region known for fine Malbec wine. I pass through customs with ease and discover my ski bag is lost in transit. I decide to test my Spanish-speaking skills, explaining to the senorita behind the desk that there is bottomless powder in Las Leñas and I must go now. I arrive in Las Leñas five hours later, relieved that Zach has an extra pair of skis and the upper half of the mountain remains untracked powder. Apparently the upper lifts are still closed, but I get the sense that my timing is perfect.

September 9
Morning comes early as I struggle to open my eyes and focus on the radiant pink light glowing on the peaks above. There are no signs of wind up high and not a cloud in the sky. Attention shifts towards the tasks at hand-organizing skis, skins, radios, cameras as well as packing all the necessary food and water required for a long day in the mountains. Everyone knows the Marte (top) lift will open and there seems to be a sense of urgency in the air-the feeling that you are in the right place at the right time and you better take full advantage. We decide to ride the lift to the top and begin hiking straight away toward the most prominent and recognizable peak in the region, Cerro Torrecillas (12,355 ft).

The air is noticeably thin as I try and ignore the burning taste of bile in the back of my throat- a welcoming reminder of just how grand these mountains stand. The Andes represent a vast playground amidst a harsh and rugged environment. We scamper across a windswept ridge demarked by shards of jagged rock, as we crest the summit and peer over the edge. The conditions are perfect: powder spines framed by a backdrop of monolithic rock spires. Overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation, Zach and I struggle to choose a route. After changing our minds several times, it dawns on us that it really doesn’t matter because we both know this is going to be a day to be remembered.

Author: - Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

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