SOUTH AMERICA – Phase 1 – Skiing Cerro El Plomo (5,424 metres – 17,795 ft)

Suffice it to say, I was fired up (clearly the universe wanted me to go ski El Plomo), so Lacy rested up at the refugio in Farallones, and I drove down to Santiago, bought fuel and food, and went back up to pack . . . thankfully I had my tent, jetboil, sleeping bag, and big pack, so was able to go into mini-expeidition mode in a heartbeat . . . good thing I have a lot of experience with not planning anythingand going into go-mode at the last minute! Guess being a total loose cannon pays off sometimes πŸ™‚

We left Wednesday morning at the crack of noon (I will never understand why these things take so long!) and ran into Les at the first camp at about 11,500 ft. Actually, we almost missed him as I did not notice his tent behind the rocks and he did not initially see me waiting for Lacy to come around the corner, but we did manage to meet up and after some conversation, decided to just camp there instead of trying to go further. We had a lovely night, did some catch-up and moved up to 13,700 ft the next day.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love heavy packs with tons of gear over long distances on super hot days?!?!? Psyched! I was quite the tourist attraction to say the least!

Les on the extreme skinning portion of the climb to Camp 2

This camp was perched right at the base of the face we would ultimately climb, so Les and I went for an afternoon ski to about 15,700 ft, with the idea being to acclimatize for a summit push the next day. Well, what we found was an awesome refugio up there, and so decided make a weather call (winds were really high) and consider moving up to both make the summit day shorter and give Lacy a better chance of getting higher (this was his first time above 15,000 ft). Plus, an additional acclimatization day can never really hurt!

Arrival at Camp 2 . . . main glacier and the summit behind the refugio . . . “Our Planet”

Les skinning up the lower glacier . . . super cool ice!

My beautiful skis partway up . . . took ’em off to boot across the rocks and drop into a sweet line we could see from camp . . . nice to mix it up and save the main glacier for our summit descent!

The boys at our 2nd camp . . . Les lived in style in the refugio!

So, waking up to super high winds again, we spent the day making water and then moved to the refugio Friday afternoon. Although it is more my style to go lighter and have longer days, the views from that elevation were staggering, and it was pretty sweet to watch the sunset up there and then to listen to the wind rock the refugio all night long . . . with nuking winds at 6am when we woke up, we decided to give it an hour to see if they may abate, and thankfully they did!!!!

Lacy arriving at the refugio Angostini . . . super sonic stellar views!

Goodness gracious – I love the high alpine!!!!! Check out the beautiful lines in all directions . . . a happy moment indeed πŸ™‚

So, off we went. According to the guidebooks, this mountain is easy . . . and it is from the climbing standpoint (we were able to use the summer trail for much of it). But in my personal opinion, going to almost 18,000 ft is never easy . . . it is soooo taxing . . . I feel like an old person in a mall, walking very slowly and taking a lot of rests on almost flat ground πŸ™‚ We did have some blue ice to contend with up high (which had the potential to make the ski interesting) as well as continued high gusts of wind (that blew both of us over at least once!) to keep things interesting and remind us that a big mountain is a big mountain, even if it is easy. Les and I eventually made it to the summit and had some amazing views of the high Andes (wow!!!!) that defniitely makes the mind wander to future trips . . .! A few silly photos later, we walked a bit to get to snow and skied from as high on the summit plateau as possible! Just as we dropped in, Lacy had reached the top of the main face about 1000 ft below, so we were all able to ski together . . . perfect timing! The ski was pretty fun actually, with super stunning views around and plenty of places to avoid the blue ice . . . the nice thing about high winds is that they plaster the snow on to things! We had a quick stop at the refugio to get our gear, then skied down to the 2nd camp to get my tent, and then down to the third camp to get more gear we had left (not really coordinating a trip definitely yields un-needed weight!), and then started the 1500 ft climb back to Valle Nevado, happy for successfully having executed the trip with all the randomness of it all, and thankful for our safe ascent and descent! I was particularly happy as I was worried how I would do at that altitude over a fairly short acclimatization period, but it went well and with a little food and water I was back to my normal high-functioning, sane, logical, calm, collected self . . . er, back to however I am when not up high, which I guess is probably not most of those things!


Me at the top of the main face, ready to cross the icy “football field” . . . WINDY!!

Yeah for summits!!!!

What’s the fun of walking uphill all day if you can’t be a goofball!?!?

Let’s go skiing . . . all three together again – perfect timing! Lacy making it look easy πŸ™‚

Lacy again . . . long run! Conditions were ideal though – nicely spaced sastrugi with perfect windbuff to turn on!

We made it down (route in the background), packed up, skied out, and started the walk back . . . vis closed in, making us super glad to have taken advantage of our window . . . psyched!!!! Les making it look fun πŸ™‚

And the gear explosion! We were all pretty content for a great trip, and ready for some of the good life in Santiago!


Only bummer is that we came back to a flat tire, but more on that to come!!!!

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  1. Hey kellie – love your blog!! It is really cool. Im an american now in Santiago and looking for some bc ski adventures in the high alpine. Curious, when did you ski Cerro El Plomo? like which month? gracias..


  2. Kellie says:

    Kevin –

    I skied it in October . . . just after the ski area closed. Let me know if you want any other info – I highly recommend checking out the Refugio Valdez and the Cajon de Maipo as well – excellent ski touring back there – and the hot springs are badass! We heard you can get snowmachine rides back before the road opens up too – good access to volcanoes there as well . . .

    Ski on!

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