Running an ice climbing venue has its perks: you get to climb a lot, play host to a great group of people, and be outside all winter. That said, ski season happens at the same time in North America and a lot of would- be powder days get missed making ice to climb. This has been going on for years and last season I started looking around for the best place to summer ski in South America.
The only place this happens is south of the Equator, as our summers are their winters. I hadn’t been to the Andes, so when a friend mentioned a ski trip to Chile, I was in. This time last year we were on a plane headed south with our ski bags packed seeking powder in the middle of August.
El Morado National Park is a two-and-a-half hour 2.5 hr drive through the city of Santiago up the Volcan River Valley, and what appeared to be clouds from a distance ended up being peaks over 15,000ft. The park itself is a small area surrounded by huge peaks in a massive cirque, the highest being Cerro Morado 15,335ft.
Several ski resorts are near Santiago, but snow doesn't fill the valleys like Chamonix. The best Best conditions are in high elevations where it is so dry that avalanche conditions are of minimal concern as the snow doesn’t have the moisture to create layers. The peaks there are endless and a helicopter provides is the best access. Since we planned to tour on this trip as well, I needed a boot that can charge the steep terrain and still be light enough to go uphill all day. The SCARPA Freedom SL120 was logical as this is what it’s built for.
There are no rules regarding backcountry skiing in Chile. No With no marked landing zones, no avalanche forecasts and no one else around, we’d simply look for the biggest and coolest lines and the pilot would drop us off on the summit or knife edge ridge above them.
The exposure was significant and after five 5 straight days of this, the legs and mind were spent, but from the tops of those peaks, we could see the vastness of the area and knew we were only brushing the edge/surface of what was out there. We toured several days around the park afterward and again, the Freedom 120 SL handled it all from 4-6,000 ft touring ascents to steep technical descents. This was the right boot for this rip right out of the box.
Endless winter was realized and it’s great to know that it’s an option if winter here in North America isn’t enough long enough for you.
Garrett Peabody is an undercover crusher that hails from Fenton, Michigan. He owns and operates Peabody Ice Climbing Club, a man made ice climbing structures on an old apple farm. Garrett is a pro at using his local resources to train and get dialed in for big mountain adventure. Ground Up proudly works with Garrett as a regional athlete.
Click here for more info on Peabody Ice Climbing