Nieve del Sur in the magazine “Die Alpen”

We are proud to announce the publishing of our article in the august edition of the Swiss Alpine Club magazine “Die Alpen”!!! It’s all about the story of the last five weeks down in El Chaltén and Cerro Castillo and on their peaks….

Download the whole article (text, pics, practical info, routs) in german as a pdf or visit the SAC homepage and look for the drop-down-menu “magazine” (german, french, italian versions).


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The Alpes: Back to normal…

As Sudre and I continued our South-America adventure and headed up North, not using the two primitive boards fixed to our feet, we travelled through northern Chile, Boliviaand Peru. But now back to routine again: Skiing!

Whatever goes on beyond this journey will be captured on the new blog:

Skiing has led me to many other distant mountains in Morocco, Tajikistan and Chamonix as well as many beautiful places closer by!

Nick came to Switzerland last week and we had to take the opportunity and go out for some touring. The forecast was bad but it turned out as perfect sunny weather in the Glarner Alps – as we experienced it many times in Patagonia. A huge snowpack, mountains covered with snowy dust, some fernet and mate in the hut and good vibes during the whole time let us remember our shared time together. Overall a good revival of old times….


And by the way: Now we have an extensive Info section on the blog!!!!

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El Chaltén – La ultima vuelta en nieve y hielo: Gorra Blanca, 2907m

Looking at a map of the greater area West of El Chaltén reveals one thing: A big white pattern stretching out for hundreds of kilometres: El Campo Hielo Sur o Hielo Continental. It is the third largest Continental icefield after the Antarctica and Greenland. We never thought of going there but after we had completed several „alpine-like“ missions and our self-esteem rose in terms of fitness and sleeping in bivys we felt ready to dare the mission to Gorra Blanca, a peak that emerges from the Hielo Continental at its lateral boundary. With 2907m it overlooks all of the neighbouring peaks and therefore is very prominent. The fact sheet of this mission can be summarized like this:

– a timeframe of two days (usually four…) due to wind and weather forecast and drop-off date of the car in Buenos Aires
– a total vertical gain of 2600m
– carrying our heavy backpacks with skis, boots and mountaineering, cooking and sleeping gear for many hours
– one night at a bivy
– ascent from bivy and descent in one day

The only real challenge seemed to be the approach. When we started at 09:00 it was slightly raining and there was no prospect for any improvement. After 4.5 hours of bootpacking along glacial lakes and through immense fields of rocks we arrived at the tongue of Glaciar Marconi where we changed boots and started to hike up over the bare ice. Our motivation was quite low when the rain started to intensify and patterns of wet snow covering crevasses had to be crossed. And there were quite a lot of them… We decided to rope on and finally skin-up. Due to the evident danger of falling ice avalanches we were forced to make our way through the narrow corridor fast and eventually made it to the glacier-plateau of Paso Marconi. At around 1420m we set our bivy right besides the glacier. Our hope for good weather on the next day rose as we could make out the sun glimmering through the fog.

The night was a little windy and when we woke up for the first time, clear sky and the bright moon could be admired out of our warm sleeping bags. The next morning we were fired up to get on our skis. No wonder, the dawn was incredibly beautiful! The bad weather of the days before had one big advantage: fresh and fluffy powder! Braking trail through this vast white wonderland was a great pleasure and after 4.5 hours we stood on the huge „summit-mushroom“ made of „coliflores“. With no exaggeration, this was a LIFETIME-VIEW! The skiing directly down the West-Face was a white dream and the flat stretch back to our bivy was a journey through Ice Age. Overwhelming… The way down beneath the hanging and threatening séracs was spectacular and we skied as far as we could. The stoke enabled us to almost run back to the car in 3 1/4 hours from the glacier tongue. Pure craziness! This was our very last adventure in Patagonia and we have to admit, one of the best ever!


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El Chaltén – Closing the Circuit at Cerro Electrico

Speaking in golfers language this would be called a “Hole-in-one”! Originally planed as two separated skitours we combined them and pushed the limits more far than we ever thought to be able to. An early start allowed us to bootpack the first 700 verticals following a steep, rocky gully in convenient temps. Skinning up the remaining 1000m to the summit of Cerro Electrico 2150m felt like recreational activity after the bootpack. As usual we arrived in no time at this exposed summit with perfect views including Fitz Roy and the Hielo Continental. The turns on the nicely sloped glacier underneath the summit were a warm-up for something we had been aiming for a long time: A steep, SE-facing couloir that leads straight down to the Glaciar Piedras Blancas some 700m below… With perfect powder in the upper part, a Bergschrund, some scenic Séracs and everything witnessed by mighty Fitz, this was truly a memorable ride! The Glaciar has an impressive sérac-zone, which allowed us to cross only on a narrow corridor with hardly visible lateral-crevasses. Ascending roped-on with much caution was absolutely necessary. When we arrived at Paso Guillaumet the total vertical count was on 2600m and we began to suffer from hunger and thirst but thanks to the bivy-equipment we carried with us we were able to melt some snow and refill our batteries. Almost fully recovered we gained some more verticals in order to ski the Glacier and traverse to Paso Superior. The descent turned out as very tricky as we had to navigate through some hardly visible séracs. Following the base of Fitz Roy and its accompanying Aiguilles felt like a dream-journey and when we arrived at Paso Superior, we decided to set up the bivy right there with a view that can be summarized as incredible! After some Pasta and Rice we crawled in our sleeping bags while watching the stars and sky.

Shortly before the sun was supposed to rise we woke up in order to enjoy the dawn of the day. So far the plan… During the night clouds rolled in and didn’t allow the sun to break through. Nevertheless Fitz got a glance of red for some seconds while the horizon glowed in intense colors. Fog crept slowly up and made us to leave our bivy. The descent to Rio Blanco wasn’t that enjoyable anymore but after we’ve arrived back at our car, we knew that we pushed the limits while we plunged ourselves in one of the most spectacular mountain ranges. That’s quite something!!!

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El Chaltén – Punta Velluda y Cerro Madsen

After some days with rain and hanging out around El Chaltén we were ready to score again. As we had already learnt here the word “approach” has a more demanding meaning. Walking in and out a valley can easily take a couple of hours.  So we decided to stay two nights in the basic but well maintained Refugio Rio Blanco. Trying to get the best of the time we had, we first skinned Punta Velluda, a Peak right in front of the very impressive and massive Cerro Fitz Roy Range. To describe this view is almost impossible… And as you could expect for sure the descent down to Laguna de los Tres was smooth and spectacular with powder snow. We felt still not challenged in terms of physical fitness and added 700m more verticals to the 1300m, we already had in our legs. Cerro Madsen was less spectacular but worth the effort, and not to forget, we broke the 2000m verticals benchmark… The obvious couloir in Dolomite style wasn’t skiable due to an avalanche that left an icy path down that gully. Instead we had close encounters with huge Condores that accompanied our little detour. Back at the Refugio and after a nourishing portion of ready-made rice we could claim another memorable day.

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El Chaltén – Loma del Diablo

We made use of another beautiful day and went to Loma del Diablo (Devil’s Back). Probably one of the most skied mountains in the area but still very rarely visited, so it was again our turn to brake trail.

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El Chaltén – Cerro Vespignani

The internet finally picked up some speed and at least one of us is more in the mood of adding some text to the blog… What can we say about Cerro Vespignani? Perhaps that it was the initial peak that made us coming down here? Or maybe the rumour that you could see the Hielo Continental (Southern Patagonian Icefield) from the summit? It must have been a combination of many things…
The start to this tour wasn’t that promising and we were doubting to get further up than the Laguna. Crapy, wet snow, the presence of many wet-slides and fog almost made us turning back but something kept us going. Well, we didn’t see the Hielo Continental so far but anything else turned out as mind-blowing. The rest is told in pictures… We love you Vespignani!

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