Outer adventures

Patagonian Dreams

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
El Chaltén
My bag…
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

Jiehkkevarri 1833 m – Traversing the island via the highest mountain in Lyngen and skiing a wonderful couloir – a venture that could become tomorrow’s classic

Yesterday the Sahlén brothers and myself went for another try of Jiehkkevarri, the highest mountain in Lyngen.
Exhausted from the last weeks big days and not extremely motivated for another early start and climb of Holmbuktstind we took of early morning. Weather being perfect with not a cloud on the sky we easily cruised to the top of Jiehkkevarri in 4,5 hours.
The east couloir on Jiehkkevarri
From there we skied down southeast to get have a look at our objectives: the South face or the east couloir of the mountain. We took an hour to examining the south face (also known as the Arctic Brenva Face) from up close, but we didn’t feel like the risk equaled the rewards so we walked back up again and aimed for the east couloir instead, a beautiful line that doesn’t seem to have had been skied in its entirety before.
It turned out to be a beautiful preserved gem and offered us the best skiing we had for the whole trip! It’s an about 800 vertical meter couloir with a big mountain ambiance totally hidden away from the normally busy (for Lyngen standards) summit. We found the couloir with thirty centimeters of cold powder snow and where totally amazed on how good the skiing was!
This adventure should become a future classic for the new generation of mountain skiers. You get to summit the highest mountain on in Lyngen, traverse the whole “island” and ski a fairly easy but grand couloir in big mountain ambiance with seracs looming high above your head (not too bad though, its only for the lower part), then its only about an hour of walking and pushing to get back to the shores on the east side (where you hopefully have parked a car in advance).
If the couloir doesn’t have a name already, I suggest Linus’ couloir for the passionate skier Linus Johansson who have already skied part of the line and who pointed it out for us! I know people used to climb up this as a climbing route a long time ago, but I can’t really see how this could be considered climbing by modern standards… But whatever name this line will have in the future its still an itinerary that deserve to be a classic in Lyngen.
With this one bagged we start to feel like we are done with the big days in Lyngen for this time. Now its time for some rest, some good powder turns and soon we are of to Cham!
A tired crew getting ready in the morning
The Sahlén brothers
Bjarne with the fjord in the backdrop (Photo: Morgan Sahlén)
Our goal, the summit of Jiehkkevarri in the middle
Myself on the flat summit (Photo: Morgan Sahlén)
Looking down the south face
Bjarne looking in to the east couloir (Photo: Morgan Sahlén)
Morgan and Bjarne walking back up from the entrance of the south face
Morgan belaying me so I’m able to safely check the snowpack
Looking in to the east couloir
On of the brothers in action
Myself, super happy with the skiing! (Photo: Morgan Sahlén)
About one third down the couloir
Morgan skiing
And again
Happy Morgan!
Bjarne charging
Bjarne taking of
Myself (Photo: Morgan Sahlén)
getting closer to the bergschrunds (Photo: Morgan Sahlén)
Bjarne can be seen as the small dot in the center of the picture
Its a big face
Morgan coming down on the glacier
And at the end, walking back… Sliding, pushing and walking it took a little bit more than an hour to get back to the car from the couloir. Its 9 km and we took it easy… (Photo: Morgan Sahlén)

Failure on Jiehkkevarri – Or, how we climbed and skied the normal route on Holmbuktstind in a snowstorm

On Monday we went to try Jiehkkevarri, the highest mountain in Lyngen, together with Patrik Jonsson (CEO on Magic Mountain Lodge) and Fredrik Aspö.
Our intention was to traverse the whole island via the highest mountain on in Lyngen and then try to spice it up on the way down. We wanted to check out the south face and we also had a great plan B in mind.

We started out early in the morning in good and clear weather, but the clouds where on their way in. The forecast up here is really unreliable so one just have to wake up and hope for the best in the mornings. We where hoping that the clouds would disappear while we where walking so we started up the normal route via Holmbuktstind.

To make a short story even shorter; the weather did not improve – it got much worse and when we where on the big glacier between Holmbuktstind and Jiehkkevarri we could not se much else than each other. We knew that if we would manage to find the summit (that is hard to find in good weather, because its so flat) we would still not be able to do any kind of interesting skiing. So we retraced our tracks and skied down the same way we had come. We got some good turns and got back to the lodge in good time for Mintu hot chocolate.

It was just another good day in the mountains with around 1700-1800 vertical meters of skinning. I felt a bit disappointed though, as this one would have been a great ending to our episodes and we did not have many days left. 

All photos below are taken by Morgan Sahlén:
Bjarne walking in the snow storm

We finally found our way back to where we could see something

Myself skiing some powder

And asking Bjarne where to go

Patrik Jonsson taking a break

Myself skiing

Bjarne charging

Both Bjarne and me visited other realms after skiing

Some classic ski mountaineering – Couloir Angelique on Les Courtes

Yesterday Jp Auclair, Julien Regnier, Bjarne Sahlén and myself went up to the Argentiere basin to do some skiing up high. We knew that the snow was not to good after the hard winds during the week, but we still wanted to take the chance to make something semi-big together.
It had been mostly northeastern winds lately so we figured that skiing something facing southwest would be our best bet conditions wise. The Angelique on Les Courtes seemed to be the perfect choice – and off we went.
The approach and the climbing up went smooth even though all of us could feel the hard work. I was really happy to be out again as this was my first real ski mountaineering adventure of the season.
At the top we did one rappel to get in to the couloir on the other side and then the fun was supposed to start. But the conditions where actually not that great with a mix of chalky snow that would break loose and breakable crust mixed up with a few turns of powder.
JP was joking that he felt the same thing on the way down as on the way up – “are we at the end soon?”.  However, the end of the couloir came sooner than later and we all agreed that it was a character building run, to say the least. Anyhow, it’s a beautiful couloir in a beautiful setting and the boys got themselves a tour on a big part of the Mt Blanc range – from the depth of the Argentiere basin, up Les Courtes NNE face, down on the other side to the Talefre basin continuing down to Mer de Glace and then the James Bond trail all the way down to town.
Thumbs up for a good crew on a nice adventure meeting all the challenges with a big smile. Today its rest day with some computer work and interviews for our Chamonix episodes and tomorrow we will go up again for the last day of skiing together, for this time.
JP, Julien and Bjarne waiting for the top bin on Grand Montets
 The toughest cameraman I know, and a great guy… Check out his video blog at: endlessflow.posterous.com
Julien Regnier
Skinning in to the Argentiere basin
Julien, myself and Bjarne
The NNE face of Les Courtes… It was the eleventh time i climb this slope…
JP, Julien and Bjarne climbing in V formation
Julien near the top
JP high up the face
JP rapping down in to the Angelique
JP in the couloir
Julien getting ready
Bjarne Sahlén
Jp putting in the first turns
Julien further down the couloir
Dent du Géant, Mt Blanc and the Chamonix Aiguilles
Mt Blanc and its hat
JP and Julien resting after the couloir, Bjarne can be seen below the shrund
The team on our way down to town racing the last light
Chamonix in the evening light before our ski down the James Bond trail in the dark followed by burgers at MBC…

The Bolivia episode on Oakley.com

The Bolivia episode is now up on Oakley.com… Check it out here!

The Bolivia adventure on Powdermag.com

Check out Bolivia adventure with some sandstorm-a-neering as the boys like to call it – on Powdermag.com!

Aconcagua 6962 m – The Savage Version

So here we are again. We are just back down after our last adventure on Argentina’s and south america’s biggest sand pile – Aconcagua. It was a great experience on a lonely mountain where we walked some gravel, skied some ice, ripped the tent in the high winds, froze our toes of and at last met some great people.
Aconcagua 6962 m – The highest mountain outside of Asia
The adventure started in Mendoza just after we got back from Mercedario. On the 15th of november in the morning we went to the tourist office and sorted the permits out. Later on in the afternoon we jumped on a bus to the sleepy town of Los Penitentes, close to the Chilean border. There we met up with Fernando Grajales, the owner of Fernando Grajales Expeditions. He talked us trough the procedures on the mountain before we, the next day, took of once again in to the mountains. 
We walked the fairly long approach to the Plaza Argentina base camp in two easy days only carrying light day packs. Arriving in BC we where the first people there for the season. Not even the workers or rangers had yet started the season and it was a great feeling putting up the the only tent in the otherwise so busy camp. 
On the third day of the journey we kept on gaining altitude and walked up to Camp 1 at 5000 m. It was really windy but we decided anyhow to continue the next day even higher and got within 50 m from high camp at 5900 m before we decided we had enough, left all our climbing and ski equipment, and walked back down. 
We used day five as a well earned rest-day eating falafels, Pringles and candy in the tent. I love the expedition rest days more than anything else, especially if we got lots of goodies to eat. 
The following day we had a difficult choice; go up or down. Well acclimatized as we where the altitude was not a problem it was more about which strategy to take. Its easy to become eager in the mountains and feel the urge to get it all done with, but waiting is usually the wise choice – as long as it’s not fueled by fear. 
So down we went. To stock up with loads of more food to be able to wait out what ever weather that could come in high camp. If we would not have gone done we would only have had two more days of food for high camp. Now, after an easy stroll day we had eleven days worth of food up high. 
I like Mark Twight’s saying: “Strategy is beyond technique, technique is beyond the tools”. That’s an easy reminder on what comes when, in the decision making and where the importance shall be put. No matter how good you are, its always the strategy that will save the day and keep you out of trouble. And of course, for all the whining skiers out there, it’s not the skis, its your technique that keeps you out of trouble. 
In Camp 1 we met some Germans and Austrians that lacked time. They went for the top the same day we descended to get more food. I think around three out of fifteen made it to the top. For us, with all the time in the world, that was unthinkable. With time, competence and strength Aconcagua’s easier routes are not something you can fail to ascend. 
After coming back to Camp 1 we continued the next day to high camp below the Polish Glacier. It was the seventh day of the adventure and the most beautiful day so far. It was a joy to walk up the gravel with the heavy packs with good tunes in the sun. 
But after the calm there is always some rock n roll coming in. On the eight day we tried for the summit, but we literary got blown down the mountain. We made it to around 6400 m before we just couldn’t get any higher. With my skis on the pack I got thrown back and forth on the trail and in the end I didn’t know if I where to laugh or cry. I could not walk with poles on the trail and we reasoned it would be really dangerous trying to ski something when the only thing we could do with control was to crawl. 
The following day was a well earned rest day in the wait for good summit-push weather. It was blowing harder than I ever have experienced that night. The doors of the tent blew open and I had to move as close to the middle of the tent as possible to not get hit by the tent moving in the wind. I just love these situations, they bring a spice to the everyday adventure life. 
On the tenth day it was calmer and the pressure was extremely high so we went for the summit early in the morning. But at around 6400 m again we had to turn around. There were just no way to keep warm. We walked as fast as we could and had all the clothes on, but could still not be close to warm. But we saw the sun had gained ground about hundred meters below us and walked down to huddle up behind a rock. By feet under Bjarne’s jacket and his under mine. 
After nearly two hours in the relatively warm sun we continued up, and from here on there were no stopping. Everything went perfect and easy. 
Bjarne realized his big goal of the trip and made it all the way to the top, breaking his last altitude record with almost a thousand meters. It was a great feeling to share the summit moment together for the first time. The weather was perfect with no wind and maybe twenty degrees in the sun. We took a nap and enjoyed the moment. 
For me this was also a great experience. One of my biggest goals with the south america adventure has been to see how I would work on relatively high altitudes. Aconcagua gave me the receipt that I can, when alright acclimatized, hang out on 7000 m without even the slightest trace of AMS. Thats exactly what I wanted for future projects and dreams. 
My big hope had been to ski the south face, one of the most amazing lines in the world. And on my recognizance trip on day three it looked like it where in very good conditions. But as it went on Denali, so did it here. A week of hard winds had ruined the snow and what had been totally white was now grayish and my gut feeling told me it would put me in to a situation I would regret – doing to much down climbing and exposing myself too long to objective dangers. 
I just leave the line saying that it looks like a great ski for future generations of rock n rollers to enjoy. 
Instead I dropped down on the ultra classic Polish Glacier in some sketchy conditions arguing its much more fun than walking down some gravel. Its probably one of the harder easy runs I have done in my life. After 300 vertical meters of easy ridge skiing the snow got thinner as it got steeper. But I managed to find a good way down to Piedra Bandera, did two raps with my 5 mm line and then traversed the face on foot and kept on skiing the direct line in good snow conditions. It all meant i skied around 900 m out of 1050 m. I was very pleased with that when I thought how bad the face had looked. 
After a good sleep-in Bjarne walked down to BC while I managed to ski most of the way in perfect corn. That was one of the most enjoyable ski moments of the trip!
At last down in BC the camp was nearly built up, but there where no other gringos. We hang out with fellow climbers Matoco, Cleo, Ariel and Pablo as well as the staff from the camp. It was a great time with a good dinner and a opening party for the upcoming season. 
We had a great time enjoying the presence of great people and good food. A day later we compressed the three day return in to one long day, slept another good night in Los Penitentes and then continued to Santiago, Chile. 
At this moment we are waiting to go north again to the high Chilean volcanos! The adventure continues…  

And yes, the shithead tournament is over. I took home the grand price of a pizza dinner with the score of 100 to 71! 
Check out Bjarne’s video blog at: endlessflow.posterous.com
For more info on Aconcagua: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aconcagua
As well as Fernando Grajales expeditions, the number one name in expeditions to Aconcagua: www.grajales.net
On the go from Mendoza to Los Penitentes
The sleepy ski resort of Los Penitentes
Fernando Grajales wonderful staff. If interested in going to Aconcagua, check their services out at www.grajales.net
Fernando and Bjarne trying to find Aconcagua through the clouds
Bjarne starting the long walk in
The first camp that we passed
Our mules
The first glimpse
Bjarne keeping warm at camp the first night
My skis, a mule and the mountain
Photo: Bjarne Sahlén
Peluche loves to eat candy and pasta at altitude
Camp 1 at 5000m
The Hand
The view from camp 2 at 5900m.
Photo: Bjarne Sahlén
Camp 2
The Polish traverse. We took the easy alternative as the glacier looked so shitty.
Bjarne with the south face in the backdrop
Bjarne and myself on the summit of Aconcagua. Photo: Bjarne Salén
Bjarne napping on the summit
Lets have some fun at last
Photo: Bjarne Sahlén
The life of a filmer, part 1
The life of a filmer, part 2
The life of a skier, part 1
The life of a skier, part 2. Photo: Bjarne Sahlén
Myself and the hyper friendly Grajales crew
Bjarne starting the walk out
Finally back in civilization! Photo: Bjarne Sahlén
The last glimpse
Portillo ski area from the bus…