We arrived in Santiago, Chile on April 11th. Our base of operations was at The Aubrey Hotel in the Bellavista neighborhood right at the base of San Cristóbal Hill (Parque Metropolitano de Santiago).
We woke early the next day to a spirited staff preparing a beautiful buffet breakfast. A bus picked us up from the hotel and we joined a multinational crew for a city tour. We started by driving by the Santa Lucia Hill, a small city park in the center of Santiago. We then learned about the history of the city by viewing the grand architecture of the Ministry of Finance, Agriculture, Education and Foreign Affaris. We visited the Plaza de la Constitucion and walked past La Mondea Palace to visit the Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda. The subterranean Centro is located below the Plaza de la Ciudadania (Citizen’s Plaza). The Centro has a permanent exhibition of big quality regional artesanía, or arts and crafts, textiles, clothing, and jewelry, from around Chile.
We then rode over to the Plaza de Armas and toured the Cathedral of Santiago and saw the Museum Historico Nacional. Our next stop was the Mussio Design Artesania de Chile where we saw local artisans crafting jewels with lapislazuli, obsidian, jasper, oniz, and malaquite. The bus then took us to the top of Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción (a huge hilltop city park with an amazing view of the city). Through the city smog we saw the snow covered Andes Mountian to the east of the city. We then made our way back to Bellavista. I took a run 4 mile run in the Parque Forestal along the Mapocho River. The park was full of tree lined paths and many young couples enjoying quality time with each other. We then took a walk though Parque Forestal and on to Santa Lucia Hill to enjoy the city views.
On April 13, our third day in Chile we left Santiago to drive west through the costal range to visit the ocean sides cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. We enjoyed sightseeings in the Cordillera and the Pacifico on our way to the main harbor of Chile, Valparaiso. After a view from the hill and a harbor walk we made our way to the garden city of Viña del Mar. Famous for beaches, a clock made with different flowers and a Moai from Easter Island. Back in Sandiago we walked though Bellavista to have dinner at Como Agua Para Chocolate where we enjoyed a most amazing stuffed chili and a meat sampler that was the epitome of South America’s love of protein.
We flew from Santiago to Lima, Peru on April 14th. We dropped off our bags at our hotel and spent the rest of the morning exploring the Miraflores district, our new neighborhood base of operation. It was very warm but we saw many people enjoying what looked like a sponsored run through the city. Our hotel was within a few block of the Parque John F Kennedy, Miaflores Chruch and Parque Central de Miraflores. In the afternoon we tour of the historic city center, the Paseo de la República, Plaza San Martin, Plaza Mayor, the Government Palace, the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace, City Hall and the Santo Domingo Church. We then spent some time touring Church of San Francisco with with the bones of 12,000 monks in the catacombs. Super creepy!!
The next morning we hopped a bus south to check out Pachacamac Citadel, Shrine of God the Creator of the universe for the Andean people. The citadel comprises temples, pyramids and palaces, where the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of Pachacamac, the Acllahuasi or Palace of the Virgins of the Sun, among others. Along the way we visited the traditional and bohemian district of Barranco, where stands the famous Bridge of Sighs, continuing for El Salto del Fraile, and finished in the Marshes of Villa. In the evening we walked down to the Larco Mar, from where we saw a spectacular panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed watching the sunset while para glider rode the cliffs updrafts.
, a photo by MediumTall on Flickr.
As you can see from the past few posts I put together a few plans to snowboard the first few weeks of sabbatical but these where just warm ups to the big adventure my lovely wife and I had in mind. Ever since I can remember I’ve heard about the amazing mountains in South America. I’ve seen amazing photos of The Andes with it’s mountains that rise over 22,000ft into the stratosphere and I’ve been especial intrigued by the Patagonia region with its epic glaciers! So our 25 day tour of South America started with us flying 20 hours to El Calafate, a small town on the coast of Lake Argentina in the heart of Patagonia.
Our first day started early with a day long boat tour of Lake Argentina that gave us majestic view of Perito Moreno Glacier, Upsala Glacier, and Spegazzini Glacier. Along the way we saw huge ice bergs from massive chucks of glacier ice that have fallen into the water. At the face of the Spegazzini and Perito Moreno we watched huge chucks of ice calving into the lake.
The second day we mini treked the Perito Moreno Glacier. Another early day were we caught a shuttle to get on a bus that drove us to the doc where boarded a boat to cruise over to the edge of of the massive glacier. We joined a tour of about a dozen people where we received a good orientation for our walk on the glacier. They set us up with crampons for our boots for our morning hike. It was amazing to be ON the glacier; to hear it moving slowly down from the mountains and see the clear water pooling in the fractures and crevasses. At the end of the trek the guide offered us a glass of whiskey over ice from the glacier. It was one of those moment that will be with you for the rest of your life. Simply amazing!
Our third day we chilled out and took a later afternoon tour of Estancia 25 de Mayo. Manuel picked us up in his 4X4 and the three of us drove south on rough cut dirt roads into the mountains. We stopped along the way to learn about the regions flora and fauna. The landscape is totally different that what we know in the northern hemisphere. The plants that color the high desert landscape give it unique hues and textures. The Estancia (Ranch) has a few hundred cattle that a few gauchos manage but what lives on the land is so much more than just beef. During our tour we saw soaring Vultures & Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, flocks of Reah (kind of like an ostrich), herds of Guanaco (cross between a llama and a camel), a few hare and a gray fox. We were out in the wilderness and it was amazing to see all the wildlife living of such arid surroundings. After the tour Manuel took us to a Gaucho house and fixed us a simple dinner. We learned more about the history of the region and how his family came to own the Estancia. As we departed the house in the pitch black we looked up to see the milky way spanning the entirety of the night sky. All the stars were new to us with the southern cross near the zenith of our view. I was expecting the snow covered mountains to be the focus but a simple tour of a ranch made the experience so much richer.
We toured downtown El Calafate on our last day. We walked the main streets and enjoyed the many shops & cafes. The town is all about the adventure tours so if you love hiking gear this is the place. We also visited the Glaciarium and learned about the science of glacier and saw many exhibits about the region. The Glaciarium also included the Glaciobar; a cross between discotheque and meat locker where we enjoyed drinks served in carved glacier ice at -10°C. They gave us funny capes and gloves to keep us comfortable. All in all it was kind of kitschy. In the evening we enjoyed a special meal at Mi Rancho.
I had a wonderful time attending Syracuse University. The friendships I established there continue to be an important part of my life. We all continue to stay connected and work to get together. This past winter a few of us spent a fantastic weekend in the Green Mountains of Vermont catching up, getting to better know their children and SNOW BOARDING at Mt. Snow! I love it when a plan comes together. Here are a few great photos from the weekends antics!
CJ and I have been organizing a group of fun powder hounds and snow bunnies to get out and shred the pow pow for the past few years. This year was Banff in the Canadian Rockies to rock the trails at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. The hard core crew flew into Calgary on Wednesday and rode Thursday, Friday & Saturday. We had some other join us Friday night for some serious Après-ski and hot tub action in Canmore. Overall I preferred Lake Louise over Sunshine; the terrain was more verier and the runs a bit longer. They also offered some great out of bounds hikes to get up a bit higher and cut some fresh tracks. Thanks to the whole crew who joined in the fun and shared in the adventure. Check out all the great photos!
From mid mountain we started by riding Bochard to the top of the on pistes area. The clouds were low and moving in and out so visibility was spotty opening up at times and socked in at others. There were poles marking the way down but since we were way above the tree line the whole area was open for us to explore. We rode Herse lifts and then Bochard again. After lunch we made our way over to ski the glades (which were steep and icy) and rode the Retour Pendant and Plan Rojoun. It was a long day and we were a bit jet lagged but we decided to ride the Grands Montets tram to the top. Standing in line we met John from Tahoe and Patrick from London. Both gave us great information on the trails, terrain and options for heading down. After disembarking we trekked up to the top turret to see what we could given the cloud cover. We watched two guys a bit older than us jump the railing to walk a service trail to some very steep snow. It was mind blowing that there really were not any rules. Ski or ride what ever snow you could find. Going up we thought that if it looked too challenging we could just tram back down but after checking it out we decided to ride it down and cut across under the tram back down to Pylones area and down to the mid mountain lodge. From there we made our way down the Pierre a Ric to the lower mountain tram station and called it a day. Since Après-ski was invented in France we need to embrace where we were and grab a beer. We ran into Patrick and John at the bar and shared some stories. We told Patrick about our guide and he was in for joining in and sharing the cost.
Slept like a rock with the window to keep thing cool and woke up refreshed and ready to take on the day. This was my first trip to Europe where I really did not have jet lag. I attribute it to all the fresh air, staying hydrated and very physical activity of blasting down the mountain again and again. Breakfast at the hotel… On Monday I tried to make a soft boiled egg but at our high altitude it took a bit longer. So my try took a bit longer but the egg came out much better. We also enjoyed strong coffee, flaky croissants, juice, fresh fruit and toast and jam. Ben arrived at 8:30. It had been snowing from evening into the morning and there was a fresh coat of snow on the ground. Ben informed us that is was not a good day to do the Vallée Blanche from the top of the Aiguille du Midi and that he would give us two half days for the price of a full day.
Today would be our day to ride the Glacier d’Argentière. Ben set us up with harnesses and avalanche beacons and we rode to the top of Les Grand Montets. From the top we rode down Point de Vue for our first run. For our second run he took us over to the edge of the Glacier d’Argentière and then for our third run we traversed over and rode down on the top of the Glacier d’Argentière. This was my first true mountaineering off trail back county riding. We were cutting fresh track in tons of light high mountain powder. It was like surfing on my board. I just leaned back and took it all in. It is almost impossible to put into words the magnitude of the mountain. It was like nothing I had every rode. The scale was 100x even the biggest bowl I’ve ridden in UT, CO or BC.
After lunch we cruised down into Argentiere and dropped off our gear. It had been two days with no break for a shot at Vallée Blanche so we decided to head down to Chamonix to ride the tram up to the top of Aiguille du Midi just to make sure we hit it as part of the trip. From the top we had a intermittent views of the valley below and some of the peeks at what felt like standing on the top of the world. We were at 3,842m (12,605 feet). To give some perspective the top of Mt. Hood is 3,429 m (11,249 feet). It still holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world. And we were standing at the summit 1,356 feet higher than the top of Mt. Hood. We felt it. The air was very thin and the temperature very cold. We explored the top station taking in views of Swiss, French and Italian Alps. Alas we did not get a glimpse of Mont Blanc but we were totally pumped hoping for a break in the weather and the chance to ride from there into the Vallée Blanche. After another epic day we made our way down into the valley and back to the hotel for dinner and a relaxing evening of hope and anticipate for what tomorrow would bring with a break in the weather.
There was a bluff at the end of the arête where we could gear up and begin to ride the glacier. The snow was soft, dry and the route so wide that fresh powder was ensure for every turn. We were at the beginning of a single ski run that was ~15km and would have us descend ~5k vertical feet over the next three hours. We rode between crags of jagged rocks reaching into the heavens and exposed shelfs of deep blue ice thousands of years old stoping frequently to breath the air, feel the sun on our face and be simply amazed by the enormity of it all. Looking at the many photos I took I see the color, texture and delight on our faces but they do not do justice to the scale. I only took a few shots that give a an idea of the scale by showing skiers that looks like specks of dust on billowing pillows of velvet smooth white snow. We rode from glacier to glacier starting with Glacier Du Geant Valle Blance, then down to Salle a Manger, and ending on the Mer De Glace.
The route at the end of the Vallee Blanche really favors the skiers as it has a long flat run out which was a little tricky on my snowboarder but with fresh wax and some initial speed I was able to keep moving. On the Mer De Glace Ben took us down into a power filled crevice that seemed about 20 feet deep that allowed for a few well spaced out blind turns that ended with a small climb back up on to the glacier.
We hiked up the 300 stairs to the Gondola. This was probably the most physically exhausted I’ve been the whole week. I had to stop more than a few times to catch my breath. At the top of the Gondola we “discovered” a bar at the train station and enjoyed a pint to celebrate our epic run and wait for the train to haul us down to the Chamonix valley floor.
After dinner and shopping we made our way to Cite Centre to see St. Pierre Cathedral and a few other historic buildings. It was very late at that point be we were still pumped from our amazing day and in a mood to celebrate. We found a little bar off the Place de Bourg-de-Four and shared a pint. The bar tender did not speak any english and we only knew enough French to order, pay and say thanks for the beer, but that did not stop us from sharing a few shots of Jägermeister including one with the bartender. We learned that Jäger-bomb is the same in all languages.
CJ and I seem to have gotten into a routine. It is kind of funny. We did not really know each other that well in college. Mostly hung out through friends of friends. But during the past three years we have shared a common passion for getting a great group together to conquer a few mountains and fine champagne powder to shred on our snowboards. It started out with a small group at Lake Tahoe, went big at Whistler last year and this year took us to the best skiing and boarding that Utah has to offer.
VERY early on a clam Saturday morning four bleary eyed power hounds and snow bunnies met at PDX for the quick flight to SLC. We were joining by one more and were off in our mega van for a half day at Park City. Later that day five others from more remote corners of the states arrived and the group was complete. The ten of us stayed at a great place between Park City and Canyons complete with big screen to get pumped on epic ski porn, a big garage for our gear and most important a hug hot tub to chill out in with a cold beer after a long day on the mountain.
Day two took all ten of us to Snowbird for a WONDERFUL blue bird day complete with fresh-ish powder. It had dumped a few days earlier and they had been slowly opening up part of the mountain post avalanche control. Day three was spend glad skiing and boarding among the shadowed trees of Canyons. Day for was Alta for the skiers with CJ and I heading back to board friendly Snowbird.
We all left Wednesday with a touch of sunburn and tons of great memories of sunny mountain days and relaxing evenings with distance friends. Thanks to all those who joining in the adventure. Check out all the great photos!
I feel like I’ve lived a very charmed life with every year better than the previous. I’ve got a great group of friends that love to do the same things that I love and support me as I go off on all kinds of crazy adventures and projects. I’ve got a great job that challenges me in new ways all the time and rewards me when I accomplish my goals. I’ve got a great family that provided me with a solid perspective on the world. And most of all I have an amazing wife who love me unconditionally!
For my birthday milestone this year my wife organized an EPIC party complete with dancing, games, great food (apple pie of course), local beer and dozens of our great friends who showed up dressed in black & white prepared to Party Down. The big hit of the party was the photo booth compete with props that brought out the sparkle of everyone who got in front of the lens (SEE ALL THE PHOTOS!). Every time I look at the pictures I recall the amazing party but most of all I smile at the silly expressions and high energy that everyone put into each shot. We also posted a few non-photo booth snap shots for you to enjoy.
Forty is not what I expected it to be. Not sure what I was expecting but I do know that I’m pretty much in the best shape I’ve ever been in and feel like I’m up for anything that life throws my way. I’ve always had a pretty good sense that time is the scarcest resource we all have and the secret to happiness is using that time to the best of your ability to ensure that each experience is worthwhile and you make sure that you bring along a few friends to share the adventure. Life is short and it definitely feels like time is passing faster and faster, but the stories I can tell keep getting better and better.
Thank you to all my friends for being a part of my life and enjoying the adventure together.