Big Castle, Little Castle, Our Castle: CERRO CASTILLO

Getting the groceries was our first challenge. Food to sustain heavy activity for six days, have some variety, luxury and in addition still not too much to carry. The pick was fast: Oatmeal for breakfast, bread with cut meat/sausage for lunch, soup for the afterburner, ready-made pasta&rice with different flavours for supper and chocolate accompanies well all of these meals and nourishes also in between.

But still, after having arrived at the end of the dirt road that leads to the valley we had to hike up, we found ourselves with very heavy backpacks full of gear and food. For the first 1.5 hours we even had to add the skis and boots to that load. The American Team that already was up there used horse powers but we are stronger than horses… (A&A) After another 2.5 hours skinning while dusk was slowly rolling and it started to snow with wind, we arrived in the promised lands. Thanks to a Argentinian/US group that recently went up there for a shooting, we found a wind-protected, perfectly designed place to set up our tent in the woods. The ready-made rice never tasted soooo good than after the exhausting drag. One question remained while the snowfall began to intensify and the wind shook the trees with more and more violence: How will the weather be the next day?

Zip off and… Bluebird and a piece of pristine Patagonia with steep rocky spires and many lines in between appeared all of a sudden. The sun called definitely for skiing! Did we mention yet that the weather had been bad for ten days before our arrival? As usual when we enter an unknown area, the first day always is supposed to be mellow to get a comprehensive image of conditions and terrain. Fresh snow and a strong wind created a combination we had to pay attention to. At least we spotted some nice lines, got an idea of the snowpack and finally had even some very good turns! Not to forget, that just the feeling of being out here was satisfying enough and made the efforts worth everything. With increasing air pressure and a clear night, illuminated by the moon, our hope rose to ski a signature line at Cerro Castillo the next day…

The night wasn’t calm with raging winds but barometric pressure increased even more. A good portion of porridge provided the necessary power to tackle the major couloir on Cerro Castillo with full throttle! The gusts hit us with full force as well and we could hardly stand upright sometimes. Countless switchbacks brought us up to the bottleneck of this signature line. A hard 300m bootpack finally led us to the end of the narrow and steep couloir, where the view widened to the plains 2200m below and the deep blue Lago Buenos Aires at the horizon. And then it was all about the down! Technical skiing on variable snow squeezed between rocky spires challenged us, before a perfect, filled-in chute completely satisfied our needs. The rest is history and can be summarized with many Yeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhhs and a sustained smile. Ready-made “Knorr” Pasta rewarded our empty stomaches this night for a change. That was the line, we had dreamt about for probably 6 months, when Manu came up with the idea of getting to Cerro Castillo during winter. From then on, everything was like a bonus…

And this bonus came with day 3! The morning routine didn’t take too long because we wanted to take advantage of the sun and the blue skies. Unfortunately the peak we wanted to ski this day was permanently under a disguise and we didn’t want to lose ourselves between séracs and avalanche-prone slopes. Instead we skinned-up to a pass and skied some huge slopes with GS-turns. Plenty of time allowed us to ascend another line, we spotted at the first day. A hanging glacier and threatening spires above us provided the perfect high alpine Chamonix-like background. Against our expectations braking trail became very annoying while we tried to gain verticals in the steep, exposed slopes. A windloaded chute was another negative criteria and finally marked our point of return. Considering the fact that there will be no rescue team at all in case of emergency, our avalanche awareness is more stressed than we are used to in Switzerland. Nevertheless the few turns there were mind-blowing. Back at the base-camp we allowed ourselves a sun-bath before our barometers indicated a decreasing pressure…

Rain and fierce gusts interrupted our sleep this night. A brief look outside the tent in the early morning hours confirmed our concerns, no skiing today! A day of reading books, snoozing, memorizing the days before and eating the remaining food was a welcome experience but didn’t really convince us about sitting out the storm. Anyway our food ran out and we got ready to leave this awesome place after the 5th night. May Cerro Castillo always remember us of the great days, we spent in our small castle!

How to top these days? Heading for El Chaltén, Argentina!!!

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