Back in June I had a call from my good friend Steve Ogle asking if i wanted to head back to Patagonia for another epic. We had a history of epics in the region and he knew I'd know just what kind of trip he was talking about. His ski adventure plan was to climb and ski three remote and for the most part uncharted volcanos in the Parque Nacional Isla Magdalena in Southern Chile. Like any quality mountain adventure, we figured there was probably a reason why these peaks had seen so little traffic, but there's only one real way to find out for yourself...
Sept 12th, 2014 - Myself, Steve Ogle, and Kari Medig found ourselves in Southern Chile, ready and willing. After regrouping in the small port town of Puerto Cisnes to get the boats ready, wait for the rain to stop (which it never did), and confirm last minute permission from the Navy, we finally paddled out of the harbour in choppy seas and heavy rain in search for these lost, mysterious cones hidden away in the fog and rain. Our high hopes were to find, climb and ski Volcan Mentolat, Maca, and Cay....
Mission 1 - Thrash
It's going to be hard summing this epic into a few sentences, but the pictures should do it justice. Embarking on a 30 km kayak trip along the most beautiful pristine coastline our hopes were to reach Rio Marta safely, then somehow find a passage (trail) that would lead us to the first 2 volcanos (Cay and Maca). Beaching the kayaks, we enjoyed the most epic soak in the natural hot springs we stumbled upon, only to then all catch colds while we should have been busy packing.
But the show didn't stop. We shoved 2 weeks worth of food and gear in our packs, strapped our skis on and started thrashing our way into the mist. Through bamboo forests, across flooded rivers, in the pouring rain, getting lost, being infested by leeches, we had all the ingredients of a quality epic. And that was the easy part. Then two days in to the trip we hit the Rio Marta in a full flood and realized there was no feasible way to get across the raging river. Shut down. We turned around, still tantalized by what it would have been like to stand alone on top of those wild volcanos and ski perfect tracks to the ocean... and back to the hot springs to heal the wounds.
Mission 2 - Mentolat
We regrouped and rested a couple days. The ocean was rough and the winds were up. Eventually we packed up and decided we needed to carry on and try for the third and final objective. Kayaking across the fjord we scored one small and brief glimpse of Volcan Mentalot through the clouds. "Eye of the tiger, boys" as Steve would say, but Kari and I could only think " Dude, its not going to happen." We would need months to hack our way 12km through this impenetrable labyrinth of bamboo, and then hack another path back to the kayaks because the path we had made would have disappeared instantly - that's how thick it was. There's a reason why these volcanos stay uncharted in Patagonia! We simply didn't have the time for it.
In a beautiful crystal clear evening we made the 7 hour paddle back to the harbour, filled ourselves with classic Chilean cuisine, dried our gear and absorbed the fact that the expedition was over. This is how it goes in Patagonia - you never know what you're going to get. And that's why we love it. Nine times out of ten its a classic, humbling epic... and this trip was just that.
Mission 3 - We Aren't Leaving Without Skiing
Steve and I weren't willing to leave the continent without some turns. So we headed to Cerro Castillo to ski our one and only run of the trip, take some photos and bird watch. Third time lucky, and much easier, our powdery turns on Castillo were our only ski turns of the trip, and the only snow you'll see in any of the photos or video.
Was the trip unsuccessful because we barely got to ski? Or was it just the adventure we'd bargained for and more?
The funny thing is, we'll probably try something similar again. Wouldn't you?