The call of the Andes

Adam Fabrikant shares his adventures in the Andes. An annual pilgrimage which opens his season in mountains unlike any other.

In 2012, I flew down the Santiago for my first ski trip into the Central Andes. It was my first time exploring a mountain range looking for new routes to ski, the feeling was exhilarating. I have continued to make the migration to the central andes for the last few years and autumn of 2018 was no different. Last years 6 week trip could be broken into three stages: Family, Guiding and Exploring.

The first two weeks of my trip were with fiancé Erin. It was her first time traveling South to ski and she was psyched. We traveled south to Pucon (Chili, Editor’s Note) in search of smooth corn skiing on volcanoes. Overall we got rained on a lot, skied a few days and made the most of our time. It could be said that patience is not my strong suit so it was a mental test!

My first time walking through the trees in the Andes, what a treat to share it with Erin.
Ma première approche en forêt dans les Andes, quel cadeau de partager ça avec Erin.
Adam Fabrikant 

Our first full send was on the popular climb of volcan Villarrica, we passed hundreds of climbers and skied down before anyone else, roughly 5k of perfect corn/ powder combo quenched our thirst for mountain adventures for a quick minute. The weather of northern Patagonia is hard to deal and it was nice to get a big ski in. Over the coming days the we skied the remote Quetrupillán, my first time traveling through trees with skis in the Andes and got stormed off of the mighty Lanín in the early morning darkness. It was fun traveling and sharing my adventure for Andes skiing with someone whom I care deeply about.

By the end of September it was time for Erin to fly back to the states and for me to go to work. I had a week of ski guiding lined up with three skiers that lived in the region. We headed to the Central Andes with a splitter weather forecast. The program I was guiding was a ski mountaineering course focused on steep skiing, glacier travel, winter camping and all of the things I like most in the mountains. Over the coming days we built three camps before skiing Cerro Morado (4,674m) on a perfect Andes day. Morado is a gem of a ski mountain that combines technical climbing, altitude and steep skiing, perfect for the program. After our successful ski we made some more fun turns in the spectacular couloirs on the backyard hill, Cerro Arenas (4,366m) before heading back to Santiago.

About to drop into the Steeps on Morado, the team was psyched, ski guiding at its best!
Prêts à plonger sur les pentes du Morado. L’équipe était surexcité. Le meilleur du guide à ski !

Another shower and another round of food shopping and off to the mountains again. This time I had my good buddies Billy Haas, Aaron Diamond and local Diego Saez in tow. Swapping females for males is never the best! Our plan was to head back into the Arenas valley and try some projects that had been on my mind since 2016. A big pulse of 100cm or so dropped in the mountains while we were prepping for the trip. Beggars cannot always be choosers, the new snow was nice but I feared it may be too much to get on the big lines. We spent our first day in the mountains passing time in a Refugio, after 24 hours of waiting we pushed our camp only to be thwarted by wind. The Andes are a beautiful range and as it may be known one of the windiest places I have ever been. We were making progress which is all that matters… The following morning we pushed our camp up again to the base of our main objective and Billy and I were able to make some powder turns in the afternoon, a quick 10cm of snow had us concerned, but we were here and figured we better at least try.

The meter plus of new snow had us mindful of the hazard on climbing our route, we knew there was a cliff band in the middle of the face and climbing the route would give us the best chance of skiing it clean, but more hazardous. Ultimately we opted to climb around the backside which was a mellow yet beautiful skin. The views of surrounding 5000 and 6000m peaks was breath taking. I could see peaks I had skied and peaks that I dreamt of skiing in the years to come.
We were on top of Cerro PuntaYamakawa, at right around 5000m the air was crisp and the emotions were high. Our up track brought us between Yamakawa and Cerro Cortaderas (5220m) I had skied on the Eastern flanks of Cerro Cordaderas in 2012, it was my first significant new route and it showed me what was possible, we named it Danky 21 after the local ice cream.

The South Face of Yamakawa in all its glory the afternoon before our climb.
La veille de notre ascension, la face sud du Yamakawa dans toute sa splendeur.
Diego Saez

In 2017 our friend Caleb Ladue fell in a crevasse and died while skiing on Cordadores with Diego, it was devastating. He was young and had a full life of adventures, love and inspiring tales yet to come. We walked by the crevasse that took his life on the way up and now we were risking ours for what? It is hard to make rationalizations into why we ski new routes, ski steeps and expose ourselves. In the end of the day it is what makes us who we are, it fills a void and I think Caleb would be proud of our descent. We clicked in and skied, lots of lefts and rights, the 50-60cm of new snow made things tricky, but doable. We side stepped over rocks and navigated our way trough cornices, anything to keep skiing and not just deploy the rope to get down. We made our way back down to our camp and packed up.

The last two weeks of my time in the Andes was spent trying a route on an unskied 6000m peak. We spent five days shouldering 70 liter packs up to 5000m just to get the base. The 2000m SE face looked intimidating but skiable, fear was pulsing through us all. After a few weather days we realized we did not have the food to wait out the storm, the Andes winds were speaking to us and we were wise to listen. We crossed back over the boarder again, not entirely legal, and made our way back to Santiago, it was time to go home.

Volcanoes, ski guiding, summits, new routes, wind, rain, fear and steep skiing. New friends, old friends and friends that are long gone. The Andes will continue to inspire me, I will be back again for the autumn of 2019, I will try lasts years project again and attempt new ones. What a way to start a ski season or simply just continue lasts years season it all blurs together in the land of blue, white and rock.

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