Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
Patagonia – The Second Half Of The Trip Plus The Patagonian Photo Album
After the ski of the Whillans Ramp and the Cerro Grande mission the weather went bad to half bad and we weren’t really invited to do out for any more big missions. We had done our main objective and we had been getting the feel for the Torre Valley as well as the Fitz Roy Massif and even though we had some smaller objectives left on our radar, we felt like we wanted to focus on smaller adventures close(er) to the roads as well as the kick ass bouldering around El Chaltén.
Swimming up an awesome couloir in the Cordon Del Bosque mountains together with Bjarne and team Austria
In between some bad weather cycles we got some dry days for bouldering with our local friends who were showing us some of the best blocks in the area followed by detailed beta for every move. We had a great time bouldering, and it’s great to keep at least a bit of physical shape when on a ski adventure playing the weather game.
Then we had the great luck of running in to Mathias, Chris and Marvin from Austria who were in El Chaltén on a combined Ski and Climbing trip and who happened to have a car. They invited us to join them, and together we explored the mountains north of town including a beautiful couloir in the Cordon del Bosque Mountains and normal ski touring on Cerro Vespignani and Loma del Diablo.
Now I’m back in Chamonix looking back on another beautiful adventure with Bjarne. I’m really impressed and intimidated in a positive way by the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre mountains, their size, their steepness, the long approaches and how wild they are. It’s not an easy place to go skiing steep descents, and there are not many high quality lines, but the ones that are there will keep future generations of steep skiers busy for some time. I’m also very impressed by our new local friends who invited us to their homes, pointed us in the right directions, gave us their time and knowledge, showed us around town and the boulder sites and in short were just awesome individuals living in an amazing place enjoying life (no one mentioned, no one forgotten – but you know who you are).
Part of the plan with the trip was to gather material for two new episodes that, if everything goes as planned, will be released in December. Till then, stay posted on what I do here on this blog or on my Twitter or Facebook.
Now it’s time for me to prepare for another winter of skiing, climbing, guide courses and writing around Chamonix and elsewhere.
Below is a selected photo album from our Patagonia trip.
Bjarne in Madrid
Without our ski bags. We got them after three days.
Poincenot and Fitz Roy in the sun rise on our first day
I quickly had to give up vegetarianism with only two restaurants open in town…
Bjarne on our first recognacance trip
The down side of ski expeditions
The tyrolian traverse gives access to the Torre Valley
Seeing mighty Cerro Torre
A poster in the climbing gym. Love it!
The El Chaltén boulder room
On our way to Laguna los Tres, and the Ramp mission
Seeing Poincenot and the ramp from up close
Bjarne skiing above camp on our first day
Sunrise on our way up to the ramp
Bjarne giving thumbs up before i start to climb. He just belayed me over the bergschrunds…
Skiing high up on the Whillans Ramp
The view from the ramp
Poincenot, the ramp and Fitz Roy from when we walked out the following day
A dream come true, to see a Condor
Happy boys in our Cave
Walking in to Cerro Grande
Bjarne in the early morning
The north couloir on Cerro Grande, a no go
Skiing high up on the east ridge of Cerro Grande
Bjarne skiing on our way down from the plateau
Bjarne Salén in action
Our cosy Hilleberg house
Myself at camp
Myself skiing a steepish couloir on Loma del Diablo
Bjarne, Simon and myself at Loma del Diablo
Some of the great people we met in town
Macho and Simon playing
Me at local radio… Getting interviewed in Spanish..
Das Auto del Team Austria
Bjarne, Chris, Mathias and Marvin at Lago del Desierto
A cold river crossing
Marvin in the couloir
Rapping to get down the gully at the end of the day
Ski touring on Vespignani
The filmer can also deliver!
One of our last boulder sessions before we went home….
Friday, September 28th, 2012
Patagonian Adventure Part 3 – Failure And Success On Cerro Grande
We have travelled to the other side of the world to do create an adventure.
I talked earlier about the analogy of a good adventure and a high jump competition where, if you aim high, there is a big risk you walk away with nothing. On this trip we have aimed high in our goals and we have failed in most of our objectives – except, luckily, the biggest one on the Whillans ramp over at Poincenot.
Skiing on the East Ridge of Cerro Grande, Cerro Torre Massif, Argentina
On our last little excursion Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we walked in once again to the Torre valley to try to ski the most beautiful line we have spotted there – the north face of Cerro Grande.
The walk in took us nine long hours with heavy packs. Then we pitched our tents on the glacier, ate some, slept some, ate some more and then left for the mountain at 4:30 AM.
Refrozen breakable crust awaited us in the dark on the steep slopes on the side of the highly crevassed glacier. It was impossible to walk with the skins, it was way too slippery, and instead we had to boot pack 1000 meters in the boot deep crust.
At nine something we made it up to the plateau under the north face of Cerro Grande. We got welcomed by a really beautiful face in great conditions, but after my mind game at the Whillans ramp a couple of days earlier I got a bit intimidated by the seemingly really steep face. I used to think that anything with snow is easily skiable, but after our last adventure I wasn’t that sure anymore.
When coming closer though, I could see that this face was like any other – just a steep and easily skiable ski run – and all my fears for steepness disappeared.
Another thing worried me though, and that was the warmth. It was really warm this early, and almost no wind. Warmth in the mountains when you are there to ski, is usually not a good sign, at least not when you have snow covered rock faces and ice mushrooms above you.
Bjarne followed me up the face to the bergschrund, but during our half hour climb, ice and rocks started to fall down the mountain with higher and higher intensity.
I wanted to ski this line so badly, but we had no other choice than to turn around.
In the mountains you have to have a great up-craving to get anywhere, but you also have to turn around when your gut feeling or your intellect tells you it’s a no-go.
The friction that the craving to fulfill an idea and real mountain sense creates – it´s one of the most painful feelings I know of in the mountains. When you are there it hurts, but when you come home you’re proud you didn’t “fail upwards”.
Usually it goes well even though you know you should have turned around, but inside of you, you know you were playing the game of fluke.
I have learnt that you have to nourish both sides of the coin: both the “up-craving” and the will to run away, because it’s the balanced dance these two are dancing that creates the power for accomplishment and the will to persevere.
At the bottom of the mountain we sat down and had lunch. We had walked a long way to get here and we were not able to live this beautiful experience that was waiting for us.
After this quick stop we walked around to the east side and Bjarne, once again followed me over the bergschrund and then skied over to a spot on the plateau for filming. I climbed the East Ridge as high as I found snow, about 50 vertical meters under the summit, and then skied down this line. I found some really technical passages, but nothing that raised the pulse, and in the end I had a great ski down one of the most beautiful mountains in the massif.
The next day was even warmer and we walked back to town. In the end we got 16 hours of walking there and back for about 2200 vertical meters of skiing (Bjarne about 1500m).
I’m really impressed by the mountains here. They are definitely the wildest low mountains I have ever encountered. It doesn’t feel like it’s made for steep skiing as it’s so rough and wild, but there are definitely lines here for the coming generations to enjoy!
The last two days we have just rested in town and been exploring the bouldering potential. Tomorrow is another ski day, but this time close to the road.
The lack of photos here lately is only due to extremely slow Internet. We got plenty of photos, but if would take days to upload. 🙂
Sunday, September 23rd, 2012
Patagonian Realizations – Skiing the Whillans Ramp on Poincenot
Skiing the Whillans ramp on Poincenot, Cerro Fitzroy massif, Argentina. Photo: Bjarne Sahlén
Last Wednesday Bjarne Salén and myself walked in towards the Fitzroy massif from El Chaltén. After about 5 hours we arrived at Laguna Los Tres and pitched our tent. From there we skinned up about 600 meters to get some good skiing and check the conditions. We found great snow conditions and skied down to our tent in the sunset.
The next day we woke up early and started skinning in the dark and about five hours later we arrived at the Whillans ramp on Poincenot. The weather was ok, but far from perfect with really hard winds, and clouds coming and going.
I changed to crampons and ice axes and started up the ramp in powder varied with breakable crust. It was steep from beginning to end and always slanting out towards the huge cliffs below. It was so steep and unstable ground that I didn’t feel like I could stop and relax so when I found a belay one forth up I clipped my self in and backed it up with another nut. In my mind I imagined a rappel there just as a back up on the way down.
Then I continued traversing to the left. At one point I was climbing on slabs with only 20 cm of snow on top. This was the scariest moment. But I came trough and the upper section eased of a tinny bit from extremely steep (for skiing) to just really steep. I continued up to the top of the field and then built a platform with my ice axe to put my skis on.
Bjarne had told me to talk to the camera and describe my feelings on the way up and down. I realized, that if you are able to talk to the camera, then it’s not that difficult. I only managed to take one photo and put on the Go Pro– then I set of.
It was a wonderful feeling mixed with plain fear. The skiing is always skiing, and not that complicated, but I was concerned about the traverse with the rocky slabs with far from perfect snow lower down.
When I got there I hit steps with my pole in front of me, held on with the ice axe on my left side and traversed slowly forward. It took time, but I never lost control. It was really steep. When I got down to the anchor I clipped myself in and by a reflex I started rappelling, but realizing this was much easier than what I had just skied I stopped after 15 meters and skied/side stepped the last part down, and then climbed back above the seracs and skied all the way down to Bjarne.
For me, there is not even a pre made trail to follow when it comes to reacting on what I just did. I don’t know if I should feel pride, joy or shame. What happened was simply something that occurred and something I had to do in my inner world of adventures.
Skiing on the upper snowfield on the Whillans ramp
I don’t see the point in repeating something dangerous when you have already reaped the rewards, and I can’t see any more rewards coming out from this trail, so therefore I feel it’s highly unlikely I would do something like this again.
It’s arguable if skiing on this level is skiing anymore and as I sidestepped about half the run I wouldn’t call it very stylish. On the other hand, in my reality, in these conditions I would be extremely impressed if someone would ski the whole thing with “style”, and although surely possible it would be a game with very low odds of success trying to do turns where I could barely get my skis to stick while sidestepping.
For me this whole business comes down to two things: where does extreme skiing stand as a sport within the skiing game and how are we supposed to judge anything that is done in the mountains?
I sometimes look with disgust at the subjectivity of my own sport. That is, of course, only when I lower my self to judge what others are doing in the mountains. For me the question howhas always been more important than the question what. In other words, it has always been more important how a line has been skied than which line that was skied. Doing stylish turns was always more worthy than sidestepping the line. Down in the valley it can sound like two different persons skied a line when one did it with big turns in a fast time and the other sidestepped the whole thing in a day.
But when we are arguing about these things we have kind of lost the thin red line of purpose in the first place. If we are thinking of these things, then there is a risk that we are playing this game for others and not for ourselves. Is it worth risking your life to make others think you are cool, a great skier, have courage, are a great alpinist or something else?
American freeskiing legend, Doug Coombs, used to state that: “The best skier is the one who have the most fun”!
I think he was on to something here, but I like to modify the statement to: “The best skiers are the ones following their own path”, or; “The best skiers are skiing with heart”.
For me, skiing and what we do in the mountains is beyond fun, it’s a way of living with all the up’s and down’s life includes. Sometimes I’m full of joy and sometimes I’m feeling down and sometimes I’m not feeling at all. Life is just what happens to be everyday, of course it’s the way I made it, and I’m a skier, so I go up there on the mountain and make my turns. It can be as simple as that. Skiing with heart, then, means that I’m truly up there on the peaks skiing because that’s what I happen to love to do, what comes out of the day comes out – let it be any possible feeling I could think of.
Skiing becomes the platform from which I live my life. Obviously one can change skiing to something else – like, surfing, yoga, climbing or what else?
Doing things with heart also means that you sometimes do things you can’t explain – Like skiing a really difficult line because you feel it will add something to your life.
I had been looking at skiing the ramp on Poincenot for years and at the same time I have, since I started skiing, been looking for a line that would demand the best out of me. You have to be very fortunate to find this right combination of variables coming together on one spot at one time and then happen to be ready to face the situation.
Skiiing the Whillans ramp on Poincenot
The mountain has to be formed in a perfect way making for difficult skiing, but easy enough to be possible to ski. The snow conditions have to be just right as well as the timing and the weather. If you happen to be on an expedition and you don’t live at this spot, then you have to be very lucky to just happen to be there when it all comes together.
You also have to be ready in your mind and be ready to face your inner demons and the consequences of your actions. This might be the hardest.
This whole thing was just something I had to go through to get past my folly of looking for limits. Blake said:
“Let the fool persist in his folly and he will become wise”.
I will by all means not pretend to be wise, but I have been living for skiing my whole life and I have always been looking for this border that I just come this far to find.
250 vertical meters of snow, ice and rock might seem insignificant, but like anything in life, if the timing is right it can also be magic because enchantments sees no limits.
For me this was magic and I got what I came for. I understand the different feelings people get from this but be aware: If you start looking down judging what others do, first look in to your own life and all your own little battles. We are all here to learn, and it might just not be so, that reality is built up exactly like you where thought in school.
For more info and updates follow myself and Bjarne Salén on the following:
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Skiing steep lines is sometimes in a way like a high jumping competition. If you aim high on things you know you can do, if outer and inner conditions match – then you might walk away with nothing if circumstances are not in your favor.
It’s sometimes a very frustrating game to play, but it’s still one of the games in life I enjoy most playing.
Taking the above mentioned in to account, this last week has been a frustrating week to say the least. First of all it took three days for our baggage to arrive, then I got a cold for two days before we finally were able to walk in to the mountains.
Mighty Cerro Torre
Myself and friend and film maker Bjarne Salén are now in El Chaltén, Argentina, a village situated next to the legendary mountains of Cerro Torre and Fitzroy. On our first try three days ago, we walked in to the Torre valley to check out two of our potential objectives. After seven hours of walking with extremely heavy packs we arrived at the glacier. We put up our tent and woke up to a beautiful day. But looking at the lines from below we realized the approaches to two of the lines we wanted to ski went straight through a massive active serac landscape. The other lines did not have as much snow on them as we would have hoped, and looked like the north face of Aiguille du Plan in Chamonix where the actual ski run is in a labyrinth of seracs. The small and easy lines seemed fine, but we felt like we rather walk back to be ready for the good stuff when we get the chance, than put our time in to things without real attraction.
El Chaltén, Santa Cruz, Argentina
It´s a dangerous game to play with the mind as it’s really scary to let the time pass when we have done nothing. But on the other hand it’s extremely important to be able to trust one’s self to not go and fail with success, meaning that I would do something I know has a risk that does not equal the possible rewards, and then seemingly do something good, when I matter-of-factly know I did something stupid. If you make that a habit, it will be hard to catch a good sleep in the long run, as you know you can’t trust yourself to take safe decisions.
The great thing with everything so far is that we have lots of positive energy flowing and both Bjarne and myself are extremely impressed by the landscape here. In a skier’s point of view nothing seem to have been done in this mountain chain that is one of the most famous for alpine climbing in the world. The catch, though, is that without beta it’s extremely easy to do time consuming mistakes like our first little adventure, and loose the opportunity to do some good ski lines. Time goes fast, and this particular area is not famous for long periods of good weather, on the contrary, looking at friends who have been here on climbing trips, it seems like you have to be satisfied if you get to do one or two good lines per month.
We have almost four more weeks, and we are starting to realize that if we get three good lines, we should be extremely happy. But it’s of course easy to sit here and talk about things we don’t yet have, so that’s why I will also add that I know many who have come here and returned with nothing. And that’s when trying to repeat climbing lines, not discovering new lines for skiing.
Sometimes I wonder why I got in to this game of skiing mountains in the first place. I mean, it’s so easy to give all you have, and then get no rewards in return. From experience I have learnt that I have about a 25% success rate when trying new lines. That’s a lot of turning around, and then if happiness is relative to ones expectations, and I by nature have high expectations – then this is a setup that will breed frustration. On the other hand my memory can recall the enormous joy that have come out of doing turns down snowy mountains when everything have “clicked” and I have managed to fulfill a small dream.
So here we are in the ghost town of El Chaltén, surrounded by warm and friendly locals in love with the mountains and with extremely difficult food conditions for vegetarians (I gave up). We have another three and a half weeks to explore this area, which means max a handful of small excursions up the mountains with heavy loads. And then maybe, hopefully, if we are lucky, we get to ski a king line. If it were easy it would be called snowboarding… 😉
Last year at this time I was in further north in South America at the beginning of a much bigger adventure, but still at the start of something. It’s funny how life is repeating it self year after year till we are willing to learn.
Bjarne Salén not yet realizing that we are in El Calafate, Argentina and our ski bags in Madrid, Spain
Poincenot and Fitzroy early our first morning in El Chaltén
I have been a vegetarian for ten years, but here I just have to eat “the best meat in the world”, because that’s all there is. 🙂
Bjarne walking out of town on our first mission
The wonderful landscape in the Torre Valley
Bjarne handling the Tyrolean traverse
We went to the glacier and turned around. I was to occupied with the situation to take many photos…
Cerro Torre and the Adelas