Story by Chris Coulter
Photos by Will Wissman
I’m here in Las Leñas, Argentina, with First Ascent guides to ride some of the most incredible and mind blowing lift-access terrain in the world. A place like this teaches you to work with Mother Nature. You need to be able to go with the flow and flow with the go.
It’s been fun getting some early-morning sessions. The crew meets in the lobby of our hotel at 5 a.m. for coffee and medialunas (tasty mini-croissants) before pre-dawn snow cat rides. The objective on these days is capturing the early light. On the walk from the hotel to the snow cat the stars are out along with local Argentines leaving the Point UFO, the most rocking disco in the valley. I could not help but laugh to myself watching the people leaving the club, looking a little haggard from the long night of dancing and Fernets, the local drink of choice. It’s a nocturnal culture here. Dinner is in the late evenings, people go out around midnight to start partying. The dancing starts at around 2 a.m. and continues into the early morning hours; we know this because our hotel is attached to the UFO. No alarm clock necessary, we wake up early, without a hangover, and are ready to go—for a party of our own.
It’s a race against the clouds from the moment the cat drops us off en route to Cerro Martin. Unable to see the stars, we strap skis to packs and start kicking steps into a mix of shale rocks and blown snow. Getting whipped by 50mph gusts on this 11,000-foot ridgeline is an experience in itself.
Powerful gusts stopped us in our tracks as we braced for balance. It’s incredible being in this type of environment; it’s all about being comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. These settings are where my First Ascent kit shines. At the top of the ridge the bursts of wind are violent. The precious minutes of alpenglow are limited with various cloud layers approaching. Photographer Will Wissman takes advantage of this short moment in time, before the storm forces us back to the valley floor.
Storm totals are adding up quickly. We are now riding waist-deep powder at the base, knowing full well that there is twice as much snow in the upper elevations. When a weather system of this magnitude hits high up in the Andes, in an alpine environment (no trees), not a lot of riding is going down. This burly weather is giving us extra time to partake in one of my favorite local traditions, the Asado (aka BBQ). However, this is no ordinary BBQ. The Argentines take great pride in preparing and grilling their meat, predominantly high-grade grass-fed beef. They take it to the next level. It’s a time-consuming process that requires hard woods to establishing a consistent bed of coals. The hot embers are meticulously separated to maintain the proper temperature to ensure the meat is cooked to perfection. Jose, our local guru and experto asidor, takes great pleasure in hosting. Life is good here in the Andes. The “A” factor is on our side.
Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.