The crew was no doubt excited to get on the snow and the plan was to have a few days skiing and acclimatizing, while we waited for better trends in the weather forecasts which would allow us to move up higher on the mountain. At this point, reports of -60 to -80F wind chill factors at the summit, kept most parties down at basecamp. Regularly, 40 to 50 mph gusts would rock through basecamp, making you wonder what it was like higher up.
Lucky for us, there was some pretty fun skiing and exploring around the forks of the Upper Horcones Valley and on the flanks of Aconcagua to keep us busy. And with a lingering snow pack, we were able to put our skis on only about 50 yards from camp and depending on what route we were skiing, even allowing for us to ski right up to camp…which was very cool!
Our first day of skiing around Plaza de Mulas, we climbed an obvious and steep couloir to the shoulder of La Cuerno, the most prominent peak in the zone…besides Aconcagua that is. Our first decent of the area was very worthy, with good snow…kind of like packed powder. Glen and I climbed back up our bootpack and sniffed around, searching for a route he had spied on the other side of the shoulder of La Cuerno. We never skied the line he scoped, but found another tight and steep line that held more challenging snow conditions and provided a bit of a down climb near its exit. Fun!
The next day was a planned rest day and the weather was marginal, so I didn’t feel too guilty about not really doing anything. We did go for a little walk over to the rumored hotel that was located near basecamp. It was unfortunately closed, for the season, due to permit issues…of else it would have been too easy to belly up to the bar to kill time.
Luckily, we stumbled upon a ranger’s hut camped right next to the hotel. These were the rescue guys, who were very friendly and invited us in to chat. Before we knew it, we had drank about six rounds of mate and had swapped stories on a variety of topics…including our plans to ski the Polish Glacier. The photos they had of the route weren’t very inspiring, but they did try to boost our spirits by offering a viewing of some Fisher ski video. We took that as our signal to be on our way and we zipped back to camp for tea, dinner and another amazing sunset.
The next day, our third at basecamp…and with continued high winds and cold temps forecasted for Aconcagua, we tried to familiarize ourselves with some of the terrain we might potentially be skiing from the upper camps. After a short skin and some scrambling over some loose moraines, we sniffed out a nice gully that offered a direct and clean exit from above. Due to the thin coverage, remember the wind rips up here, we hoped the line would continue to remain skiable if the weather decided to turn heat things up. Yeah right…like that was going to happen.