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Sierra Velluda: The Volcano that got away

To be fair that title is a bit misleading there are certainly volcanoes that have gone away, but this one we’ll just have to come back for.IMG_5911From the summit of our lovely yet windy dome of Antuco we got a good look at one of the prize lines of the area, Sierra Velluda’s NE east face. The photos we had seen earlier were of course after a recent snowfall on fat year. Spines and awesomeness enticed. For us it looked a bit thinner, icier and a tad rocky. No worries optimism prevailed and we scouted our route for the next day. Also from the summit of Antuco we could we see thin a strip of a road weaving through the old lava fields and lahars below. Sadly we could see a few a patches covered in snow. An onsite inspection was needed…and by that I mean 4×4’ing across the vast pumice fields drinking beers and trying not to get stuck. Bottom line is our road approach works. Benefits of this line include no up-down dicking around, a better view of the line for longer and straight shot descent once we turn around and start descending.

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The amazing thing about this little pumice road is that it’s actually a chilean highway and shows up on Google maps as such. It was as close to driving on the moon it gets…as far as I can imagine. I’m sure Richard Branson has other ideas. So after about an hour drive down this winding path and a few snow diversions we made it as close to the start of the climb as possible in the truck. Next up a deceivingly long walk across the desert of pumice until we reached the oasis of snow where we skin up and deposit the cervezas for later.
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Then the march continues on skis. Up, up and away. Ok so we underestimated the amount of time the approach would take. No worries we had an early start and after navigating our way across a creek, up and around a couple gullies we were finally making good progress. Once we gained a bit more elevation our objective came in to sight again. Unfortunately it didn’t look like the unflinching “game on” we were all hoping for. A bit more of a “maybe let’s get a bit closer and see”. The hum-ha’ing continued while we were trying to figure out whether the face and couloir was slushy, perfect corn, ice, rocks or what. As we gained the last bench, just a few hundred meters below the summit it became quite clear it wasn’t our time for this line.
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We climbed a bit higher to gain the col just east of the summit and only a couple hundred vertical meters shorter. The consolation prize was a sweet as 1500m corn descent down the valley. Big long high speed turns through undulating playful terrain. Views of Antuco and the massive lake bellow as party shredded the big volcanic face. We then coasted back towards the pumice desert and beer cooling in the river. Success!
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I would highly recommend putting this destination on the map for ski adventures. Not only for the obvious objectives of Sierra Velluda and Antuco but the plentiful other great lines in the area. I’ll be back.
Photos: Maxi Artoni

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