Canaletas Delgados and Early Morning Purgatory–Cajon del Maipo


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 7, 2014      
Heading down Cerro Union, Cajon del Maipo.

Heading down Cerro Union, Cajon del Maipo.

During our recent trip to South America, the canaletas of Cerro Arenas provided us with some of the longest and best runs during our travels. Before we headed back home to the U.S., we wanted to spend our last week exploring Cajon del Maipo, especially with the forecast of more sun and calm wind. There are several smaller valleys that feed into the main valley of Cajon del Maipo, although most with slightly harder access.

After dropping Lou 2 in Santiago we headed back up to Lo Valdes despite the prediction of rain for the next day. We were stopped on the road by someone who appeared to be fixing potholes and he asked for a road maintenance fee of few hundred pesos (about 50 cents), regardless of the fact that he had actually done very little to fix the road. After chatting with him, he offered us a place to stay in town for 3,000 pesos each (about 6 USD). With the promise of cheap accommodation, and his guitar serenading us well into the night, we decided to take him up on his offer.

Jose Manuel, our road-fixing landlord. He played us beautiful songs he had written.

Jose Manuel, our road-fixing landlord. He played us beautiful songs he had written.

There are a few hot springs in Cajon del Maipo, and a rainy day seemed like a perfect opportunity to check them out. We gathered vague information on some nearby ones called Baños Colina. We heard that they were “interesting” hot springs of muddy water, and despite our lack of access to a shower for the next week, we were intrigued. Unsure how far we would have to walk because of the snow, we grabbed several bottles of vino tinto and hit the ol’ muddy road.

Heading up the road to the hot springs.

Heading up the road to the hot springs.

Hanging out in the muddy Banos Colina, with some delicious Chilean vino tinto.

Hanging out in the muddy Banos Colina, with some delicious Chilean vino tinto.

After an interesting night at Jose Manuel’s place we woke up to blue skies and fresh snow in the hills. We had to make a decision on where to ski, and being the weekend, we knew that the road to Punta Arenas would not be plowed. This would normally not be a major consideration when you rent a car with 4-wheel drive, but our car had non functional 4×4 and incredibly bald rear tires. This sent us down the valley towards San Gabriel and up the Valle de Rio Yeso towards another set of springs called Termas El Plomo. The long flat valley had incredible promise based on our map and as we drove up the road we were in awe of the peaks shooting up on either side. Unfortunately with the recent snow and bald tires we were stopped short on the road before it reached a reservoir half way up the long road. We debated what to do and decided to leave the stuck car and skin up the road with no real idea of what lay around the corner.

Several cars more equipped than ours passed us along the road as we skinned up. We turned the corner to a north facing section of the road that had almost completely melted out, so we did what ambitious (and stubborn) ski mountaineers do, and we started road marching. We walked for a little over a kilometer until we got an even better view of the whole valley. Outstretched before us was a combination of spectacular peaks and another 14 kilometers of dirt road before we would reach any skiing. Our rental car was stuck just a few hundred meters before dirt; we were in limbo between bailing on skiing or walking the road for the entire day. Fortunately limbo didn’t last long and we turned to an unsuspecting father and son who were out for a weekend adventure to the valley. We asked in broken Spanish if we could catch a ride down the road with all our ski gear. He was more than happy, but only had room for two, so Skyler and Korina stopped the next car and had success. We still had no idea what was down the road, but now we had rides and four more people along for an unknown adventure.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were committing ourselves to getting dropped at the end of the road and walking all the back to our car, a grade-A self sandbag. Fortunately our new friends were more than stoked to go along for the adventure and we all shared laughs at the hilarity of our predicament. Once at the end of the road we were still a long ways from the skiing, so we decided that our only option was to bail on skiing and catch a ride back while we could. Snowballs were thrown and photos were taken and we were all enjoying the company of others in a new place.

We decided to head back up to Punta Arenas that night hopeful for a clear road after a warm day. Our plan was to camp near a small shelter that some locals built and spend our last few days of skiing in Chile from there. We still had some long valley tours to explore and, of course, more canaletas to get into. Once we arrived at the shelter we met four local Chilean skiers and climbers who built the place. Once again we reveled in sharing food and getting to know new people in a beautiful place; we are all constantly inspired by the people we meet down here.

The next day we headed up a long valley towards a classic tour of Cerro Union. The valley itself goes for over 20 km up to a few 5000 meter peaks–an amazing place to explore. There are only a small handful of places in the world you can ski with such high peaks surrounding you. On our way out we spotted a very enticing couloir on a nearby peak that beckoned to be explored in the following days.

Coop heading out toward Cerro Morado, a giant peak at the head of the valley. Depending on who you ask, Morado either means purple, or stoned.

Coop heading out toward Cerro Morado, a giant peak at the head of the valley. Depending on who you ask, Morado either means purple, or stoned.

More incredibly high peaks. That's Volcan San Jose peaking out on the left, a 20,000+ foot peak.

More incredibly high peaks. That’s Volcan San Jose peaking out on the left, a 20,000+ foot peak.

On our final day of skiing we decided to go out to the same narrow couloir and see if we could measure our ski lengths up to the width of the chute. We ascended 600 meters to the top of the ridge, and as usual the scale here is hard to grasp. The couloir was definitely narrow but very manageable, and the angle topped out around 50 degrees. The stoke was high when we were able to get in a final run in such a beautiful place. We skinned back to the shelter satisfied and ready to transition out if the mountains.

We spied this attractive narrow couloir on the previous day, and had to check it out.

We spied this attractive narrow couloir on the previous day, and had to check it out.

Booting up the narrowing couloir.

Booting up the narrowing couloir.

Skyler grew up skiing at Bridger Bowl, and it shows, especially in skinny little chutes.

Skyler grew up skiing at Bridger Bowl, and it shows, especially in skinny little chutes.

Further down in the slot.

Further down in the slot.

Our friends from the night before showed up with plans to head down to Lo Valdes. Without a car and more gear than you can imagine (ie: haul bags, extra large North Face duffels, and huge backpacks), we were baffled as to their plan to do a mix of skiing and long muddy dirt walks down to town, which would have taken 4+ hours. We had a car just a couple hundred meters away in the parking lot, so we happily offered to give them a ride down to town where they could hitchhike, the least we could do for letting us enjoy their hut in the mountains. Skyler and Korina took off with the Chileans, while Louie and I enjoyed a final sunset on Punta Arenas right outside the door.

The sunset over the valley we skied earlier in the day.

The sunset over the valley we skied earlier in the day.

Incredible stars above Skyler's tent.

Incredible stars above Skyler’s tent.

As we stood there we both agreed that we weren’t ready to leave just yet. With a little influence of vino tinto, we joked and threw around ideas of a dawn patrol to climb and ski the third major couloir on Punta Arenas. Once the idea was out there, both of us knew we had to give it a shot, despite the 3 am wake up time in order for us to leave and get the rental car back to Santiago in time.

A few hours later we found ourselves in canaleta purgatory, booting up another 600 meters of steep snow completely by headlamp. Few things are more peaceful, and meditative then the glow of light reflecting off the snow and repeating the same motion over and over again. We didn’t know when it would end and just planned on stopping when we hit the giant cliff at the top. We were quicker than we had anticipated, so we dug out a ledge and watched the night fade as we watched our final sunrise over the Andes mountains. Now we were ready to leave.

Into the dark purgatory of a nighttime bootpack.

Into the dark purgatory of a nighttime bootpack.

Starting down the final canaleta, with a sweet sunrise starting in the distance.

Starting down the final canaleta, with a sweet sunrise starting in the distance.

This is literally my last skiing photo I have from South America. Pretty rad!

This is literally my last skiing photo I have from South America. Pretty rad!

GPS:
Banos Morales -33.82354,-70.06233
Cerro Arenas summit -33.756133, -70.014100
Parking -33.79156, -70.022478



IF YOU'RE HAVING TROUBLE VIEWING SITE, TRY WHITELISTING IN YOUR ADBLOCKER, OTHERWISE PLEASE CONTACT US USING MENU ABOVE, OR FACEBOOK.

Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


Comments

2 Responses to “Canaletas Delgados and Early Morning Purgatory–Cajon del Maipo”

  1. Kameron Harris October 7th, 2014 6:24 pm

    Great writeup, guys! I love seeing winter shots of Cajon del Maipo. I lived in Chile in 2010 and got to climb a lot in the area, but wasn’t a backcountry skier yet.

    One correction: Volcán San José is less than 20k (5856 m ~ 19200 ft) but close.

  2. Mark Worley October 9th, 2014 9:00 pm

    The shot within the final canaleta is one of the best photos I have seen at WildSnow (in my opinion). Superb!

  Your Comments


  Recent Posts




Facebook Twitter Google Instagram Youtube

WildSnow Twitter Feed



 



  • Blogroll & Links


  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to WildSnow.com and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version