August 29, 2015

Nevados de Chillan, Chile

South of the equator in late August, Volcan Chillan snows are still falling, and Andean winds are still blowing.

Refugio Garganta del Diablo, Devil's Throat Refuge
Ski touring in an Andean wind storm, coming upon Refugio Garganta del Diablo was an unexpected and welcome sight after getting blasted with icy pellets driven by staggering gusts. Touring around Nevados de Chillan for the first time was a lesson in complex volcan topography, quite enjoyable, but also unnerving.  To an Alaskan skier experienced with ridge-top cornices, happening upon cornices mid-mountain was a reminder to follow the sage Canadian advice: "if you can't see it, don't ski it." Along with unexpected mid-mountain cornices, I happened upon unexpected bowls full of powder! As you might guess with all this unexpected stuff, keeping one's bearings was difficult. Lost in the Andes, what could go wrong?
Refugio Garganta del Diablo

Refugio Garganta del Diablo Loft

Except for a rat, I was alone at the refugio listening to the windstorm bang the tin roof in an uneven, unrelenting cadence. I left the shelter feeling very thankful for having a break from the wind, and backtracked about an hour to find what was left of my uptrack. Established around 1937, Refugio Garganta del Diablo is maintained on Volcan Nevados de Chillan by Grupo de Refugio del Amigos.
Nevados de Chillan has substantial housing around the end of the road, Termas de Chillan and even more at Las Trancas, 15 minutes (in good weather) down the road. Probably all of the accommodations are slightly more comfortable than the Devil's Throat Refugio.
Gran Hotel Termas de Chillan
Hotel Alta
Delightful Austral Parrots (or Slender-Billed Parrots) flock around Nevados de Chillan eating seeds that blow from the trees.  Hundreds of these beautiful birds were chirping, flying about, and enchanting los esquiadores de Alaska.

Enjoying Fresh Austral Snow in August
Nevados de Chillan skiing was very good! We enjoyed fresh snow 4 of 5 days, but also a lot of wind. The wind prevented opening the upper most lifts 4 out of 5 days. Ski touring around and above the upper lifts during wind storms helped me appreciate the reason for closing the lifts, but leeward bowls amazingly retained great snow, much of which was wind deposited, and some of which was unstable.
Nevados de Chillan Sidecoutnry
We observed slide debris on approximately 35-degree slopes, but never saw or felt anything move.

Traversing back in bounds
Chillan was a fun trip - hope to return!