On Our Way: A Patagonia Ski Adventure

On Our Way: A Patagonia Ski Adventure

 On our way, a journey that began a year before we set foot in South America. An idea to a seed, that transformed to a tangible dream the four of us believed in. This was our third international expedition as a team.  The drive of 1,362 miles through Argentina and Chile from Santiago to Punta Arenas, if only driven from point A to B.  The reality is it took us a months time with many turns from the original route equating to miles uncounted.

An organization named Wicked Camper Vans, out of Santiago, supplied us with the Mystery Machine, we planned to drop it off at our destination of Punta Arenas upon our arrival at the southern tip of South America.  

We warmed up our legs around Santiago, skiing La Parva peak from ski resort, Valle Navado.  Next, south to Antuco, Lonquimay, Llaima, Villarica and then over to Argentina to the Refugio Frey and the Fitz Roy Range of Argentina.


The snow depth encountered in northern Chile was less than ideal. Due to La Nina weather patterns in the northern and southern hemispheres, mountain ranges proximal to the equator, such as northern Chile, were left fairly dry and well below average. We chased the snow pattern south where locals of the area claimed snow accumulated above average. 

The volcano tour was underway, as they appeared in shape to us through the windshield of the Mystery Machine.

Yerba Mate is the cultural norm to cultures of South America.  Always pass to the left and only say Gracias if you are finished, otherwise do not expect to get it passed your way again.   This was our go to, once we found the extent of the coffee was Nescafe and Folgers grade.  The only fair-trade, whole bean coffee we could find was out of Pucon, Chile and classic, made by the hands of a gringo.  We  left our comforts of gringolandia at home and enjoyed mate while learning the ritual and meeting the locals speaking the best Spanish we could.

Most gas stations included free hot water, a.k.a "aqua caliente", for mate enjoying pleasures.  This drink is what we shared together on the road, in huts and tents deep in the mountains.

RMU Corepack 35L looking tight and sleek holding everything I needed for a long day (sometimes 2) of Ski Mountaineering.

The usual sight after the days' objective.  Setting up and camping somewhere below the volcano.  Camping was surprisingly easy with a keen sense of flying below the radar.  A ladder to our tent slept four, cozy and comfortable.

Volcan Lliama at sunset.

Peering into Volcan Villaricas' caldera psyched to shred corn conditions on the RMU Apostle 98 back down to the Arucaria trees (monkey trees).  

Below is the Villarica descent with Volcan Lliama sitting in the background.

Monitoring the Volcanoes activity is crucial to traveling Patagonia while approaching the summit cones of the volcanoes for safety and ski quality. 

Two to three weeks into our trip, growing tired and realizing a month long trip living in a small vehicle with four men is actually a long time.  More to come and the stoke remains high to continue south into Argentina.

We reached the comforts of Bariloche, Argentina on our way to the Refugio Frey.  A much needed break from the tent on top of the Mystery Machine.  We rode the lift service of Cerro Catedral and skied our way to the terrain of the Refugio Frey.  The ridge in the background photo below is where we dropped in.  We stayed for three nights, where we were fed breakfast and dinner by the hut keepers of the Refugio.  A simple breakfast consisted of breads, jams and a country favorite, Manjar (a Carmel like spread), our go to throughout the trip.

Ski Touring from the Refugio.  Descending from a storm dropping feet of fresh snow and camping in the parking lot of Catedral Norte before continuing further south.

Continuing Further.

We continued on through Argentina towards El Chalten.  Here, a Jaguar, found still warm beside the highway in Argentina, near El Chalten.  How we found out she was warm, Pete reached in and touched while I freaked him out, yelling as he touched, thinking it had awoke, his face flushed white.  Pete was startled to say the least.

Warning of the strong Patagonia winds from the plains to the East, named Buelche.  We crossed the plains to the southern Fitz Roy Range.

We made it to Lagos de Los Tres, peacefully below Fitz Roy, a few miles out of the climbing town of El Chalten, ARG.  We camped for three nights.

Photo: Jack Klim

Descending La Punta Velluda in powder conditions with Fitz Roy looming in the Background.

Become a member of the American Alpine Club, and apply for grants such as the Live Your Dream grant to assist in your next adventure.

A brotherhood continued.  Left to Right: Pete Stone, Dan Klim, Chris Martin, Jack Klim


Fin Del Mundo:  The End of the Road.  Where to continue further would require a boat to Antarctica, maybe our next idea.

Since this trip, RMU Ambassador Chris Martin, has returned to Chile to ski guide with Chile Powder Adventures, alongside owner Donny Roth.  If you're interested in a guided adventure similar to this one, where adventure is the goal, living from a van while staying in simple accommodations, contact Chris for a detailed trip layout.  You can find Chris in the small ski town of Crested Butte, CO ski guiding with Irwin Guides & Eleven Experience.  

Join Chris Martin for a trip in Colorado or South America - Info Below

  • Irwin Guides of Crested Butte, CO is offering a hut trip with Chris Martin to the Friends Hut March 4-8,2020.  This is an AIARE Rec 2 course, sign up with a friend or more! Email him for more info, cmartin@irwinguides.com or visit irwinguides.com
  • He is offering a trip similar to the one you just read about to fit your groups needs.  September of 2020, Join Chris in South America!
Contact Chris Martin at cmartin@irwinguides.com & @mountainbyrd

Photo Credit & Trip success go out to the brothers who made this happen, Dan Klim, Pete Stone & Jack Klim.


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