Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Skiing Austria

Location: Wald, Austria

Rundown: Spent a week in a chalet in the Austrian Alps skiing, Christmasing, and being generally merry.

Drove seven hours south in a caravan of cars towards Munich, and then into the Alps. In a great snow we found our little chalet in the mountains!

Several dozen strings of Christmas lights courtesy of Dave and Chelsea lit the place up pretty nice.

Opened presents Christmas morning, forgoing the skiing for the day.

Started a Christmas tradition of several dozen German beers for breakfast. Felix was our resident expert on the matter.

Made tons of food and ate like crazy.

Drove through the quintessential ski town with wooden beam architecture and heavy snow piled on the steep roofs.

Got a pretty good snow dump the day before Christmas, so the mountain was well covered for our first ski day.

Nice long runs down and gondolas going up kept us toasty all day. Super fun skiing!

Compared to Chile, there is so much infrastructure on the slopes in the Alps. I loved the crisscrossing lifts on the hills.

One of our days on the slopes was in a heavy snow. Most people went home, but we got to plunder the fresh powder on and off piste. Sweet!

And a good time was had by all!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Germany

Location: Oberursel, Germany

Rundown: Pre-Christmas celebration!

Flew into Germany after school was dismissed for Chilean summer break. Spent our first days walking around Oberursel amongst the old buildings

Although it was overcast the first day, the next morning woke up to brand new snow!

Hiked up into the Taunus, hills outside of town to Fuchstanz, or Fox Dance, where there are a couple of little places for a beer and flamekuken in the woods! Fun hiking in the heavy falling snow!

Back at Chelsea's we made a big pot of soup and ate good bread and, of course, drank good hearty German beer.

Spent the next day at Liza's making Peirogi for our Polish Christmas dinner the next day! It's a little bit art and a little bit science.

Had Christmas dinner the next day with our homemade Pierogi and Polish mushroom soup! So good!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lovin' Summer Lovin'.

Location: Santiago and Pichilemu

Rundown: General frivolities as Chile warms to summer.

Spent a couple of days in Pichilemu, the surf mecca of Chile (and much of South America I hear). The rocky coast throws pretty good waves.

Brought our game faces to a fantastic "Dynamic Duos" Halloween party... just to find another Maverick and Goose! Shut the front door. Goose #2 and I spent the evening complaining about how we never get to fly.

Gorgeous sunsets this time of year.

Brought Miranda out to a Carlos Baute concert in Santiago for her birthday! Lots of teeny-boppers, but super fun.

Bring on the summer!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cerro Plomo Trek

Location: Cerro Plomo, Cordillera de los Andes

Rundown: Took advantage of a few days off to make an attempt at the 18,000 foot Cerro Plomo, just outside of Santiago.

After hiking in the mountains around Santiago for some time, under constant watch of Cerro Plomo, a glacier-capped, 18,000 foot beast in the Andes, my buddy Ben and I decided it was time to get our tails in gear and at least attempt a summit.

The drill seemed pretty straightforward. Drive to Valle Nevado, the local ski hill, hike some ten miles to the base of Plomo via a set of camps, then make a summit bid.

The trek started out like any other... we hiked up the now dirt trails that used to be ski runs. Along the way a stray dog that was following us fell into a ice-covered lake and Ben and I had to pull out the climbing gear to lasso and haul him out! It was good practice to get my 'huaso' on, and we made an instant friend. The bugger followed us for days.

Luckily caught a ride in the back of a high-clearance maintenance truck. The dog was the first in the back... right next to the open drum of fuel. Ah.... I love regulationlessness.

The truck dropped us off at Tres Puntas, the top of the ski hills at 12,000 feet. Only 6,000 more to go! We set off, following our new best friend.

Beginning to realize what 'still early in the season' means. Lots of snow, which means slow traveling. We ended up the first night short of our first intended camp.

Made a fabulous ramen dinner as the sun lit up Plomo and the temperature plummeted. Went to bed a little headachy and nauseous from the altitude.

The last red rays of light on the glaciers. Although the sun sets early due to the high surrounding peaks, light stays in the sky for much longer.

Woke in the morning feeling in better tune with the altitude. Not a bad view to stumble out to as well.

The valley became increasingly snowy as we progressed, including some steep snowfield traverses. Bent a pole on a self-arrest. Probably should have had the axe out.

Stopped behind a boulder for lunch. It's so sunny that you can be pretty hot while hiking with a big pack. When the wind kicks up the temp drops quickly. The differences are impressive!

More steep snowfields. The going gets slower. The hikers get more fatigued.

Didn't make it to FederaciĆ³n, but made our second camp just around the bend. I traded off my altitude sickness to my climbing partner, who crashed out, hoping to rest up for a early morning summit bid.

Melting snow for water, a seemingly endless task. It's a amazing how fast you burn through water!

Didn't quite make it to the summit. Had some gear problems, snow problems, and altitude problems that all added up to the decision to turn around. Probably a good one at that.

Plomo isn't going anywhere in a hurry. Will possibly have a second attempt in February when there isn't so much snow.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Iguazu Falls

Location: Iguazu Falls, border of Brazil and Argentina

Rundown: On the border of Brazil and Argentina the wide, lazy Rio Iguazu falls spectacularly off a basalt plateau. Worth a long bus ride to see!

From Buenos Aires took an overnight bus up to Puerto Iguazu, some nineteen hours north on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. The duration at first seemed daunting, but reflecting on how much I run around every day, it ended up being a treat to just sit in one spot for a long time.

Splurged just a bit for a fancy bus where the seats lay all the way flat, they serve dinner on the bus, you get your own movies, and they don't stop until you get there! I think I'm getting soft.

After driving nineteen hours north, the first steps out of the bus were into a semi-tropical climate. The air was pleasantly humid and the vegetation lush. We found our B&B, Casa Yaguarete, stuck in a grove of various tropical fruit trees. Roughing it yet again.

Since we arrived in the morning, we dropped off our gear and hoofed it to the Parque Nacional Iguazu a few minutes out of town by bus.

The park has beautiful walkways through the jungle. Sometimes you have to share with others like this cute little coati, a racoon-like jungle dweller.

Metal catwalks hug the side of the valley leading towards the falls. You can hear the falls through the selva long before you can see it. Occasionally breaks in the earth were gapped by bridges spanning spitting tributary falls.

The cataracts cascade for several kilometers along the massive plateau drop reaching into the distance as a series of side curtain waterfalls.

Just walking out near the base of the side curtains was enough to drench your clothes.

Followed the side falls for several hours before heading up to see the falls from above. The spray from all of the falls throws up huge plumes of water droplets which create hundreds of rainbows, obscure the other side of the valley, and occasionally pour a fine rain on unsuspecting onlookers.

Hiking on the catwalks through the heavy jungle was a fun way to see the extreme terrain. Very accessible area and no bushwhacking required...for once.

The sheer dimension of the drop and the amount of water continually falling was impressive. I would make a hydrologist weak in the knees.

At the top of the falls catwalks hovered over the slow, placid water of the wide rivers unaware of their immanent drop.

The Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat) is the massive horseshoe of falls where biggest torrent is thundering. These two aerials aren't mine, but they show the scale.

At the top of the Garganta the river looks like a lake and upon approach a massive foaming hole appears to open in the center of the lake with the water furiously and perpetually draining into it.

The sheer chaos was humbling.

An incredible sight to experience.

That's all for now. Climbing Cerro Plomo a local mountain peak, around 18,000 feet, at the end of October with a buddy. Don't miss it.