12 January 2015    

Aurelien Routens, Snow- and Splitboard Pro talks about his love to South America and gives us great hints for splitboard holidays over there.

It is end of june and my girlfriend Agathe and I decided to spend the summer in South America. It's not my first time between Chile and Argentina.
I already have been to all the skiing resorts here and I didn't really like them. They are pretty expensive, small and busy. For sure there is some good ride too, but we just didn't want to find the same thing as in Europe.

Alaska Line in Südamerika
Alaska Linie in South America


That's why two years ago I've decided to buy a car and a snowmobile, it is the only way to access great places in this remote area.
Here in South America it's not like in Europe. People doesn`t live in the mountains like we do. So there are places where doesn`t exist any bus connection, there are no villages, just nobody, barely a road.
So without a car, you are stuck at the  "tourist track", which is beautiful, but you don't see the rich local culture.
So we take the car and drive directly to Caviahue, in Patagonia Argentina. It is just a 3 hours trip from the volcano Lonquimay in Chile.
They call Caviahue "el unico pueblo nieve ", because it's the only village in South America which is located deeply in the mountains with snow all winter.

The resort is really small, more for beginners but with amazing possibilities if you have an eye for the mountainous beauty. The place is just beside the only active volcano of Argentina and the most active of South America

Vulkan Caviahue
Caviahue at night


It' s a good place for touring but everything is bit far, so the sled comes into play.  We mostly use it to access the valleys around that area and don`t hesitate to take a sledge ride for 30 km to reach the spot. We park our vehicle and continue skinning up or directly with the crampons under our feet. It's not a high mountain place but there is all type of terrain to ride, from easy to really steep runs.
If you are there, one of the highlights beside touring is the daily bath in the thermal hot water lake, located in the middle of nowhere. I love this place that's why I have built my own home down there.

Mit dem Skidoo gehts zum Caviahue
Skidoo approach


All in all we have been here 3 times 15 days in our period of four months. The weather conditions are not very stable. Splitboarding or Snowboarding is hard down here, really hard, lots of wind, days and days of snowfalls, sometimes one meter and a half in one night and wind again, rainy days, cloud covers, all you can imagine regarding bad weather. So be prepared for some down days as well.
You can easily spend one week inside, just waiting for the right weather window.  That's why you should come with enough time, than you can get those incredible sunny powder days with no wind and just perfect untouched pow as far as you can see.

Im Schnee
Weather but a cosy home


Between our stays in Caviahue, we explored Chile, we visited all the valleys from Santiago to Osorno, sometimes finding powder, sometimes not even capable to reach the snow. We have hiked up a lot and used the sled when possible.
We did splitboarding at 9 volcanos in Chile from north to south:  Chillan Viejo, Sierra Velluda, Callaqui, Tolhuaca, Lonquimay, Llaima, Lanin, Villarica, Puyehue.

Rodeo Front mit dem Dorf Caviahue im Hintergrund
Rodeo with a view


My favorites places in Chile are:
- "El Cajon De Maipo" close to Santiago, incredible high mountains and glaciers, with a volcano of 5700 meters hight;
- The Background of Termas de Chillian , lots of little lines, beautiful and steep but nearly unaccessible without the sled;
- The old volcano Sierra Velluda, here I had the chance to do the first descent of the east face. It is a gnarly line 300 hundred meters 50 degree above a big cliff, impossible to drop but there is this tiny couloir between a big serac and a rock to finish the line down to the glacier.
- The volcano Puyehue with a 2 km crater of 200 meters surrounded by lines and couloirs.

Gipfel von Puyehue
Summit Puyehue


Unfortunately at the end of our trip, I had a big  crash, my sluff just pushed me over the cliff ,i wanted to drop. I was lucky and just injured my ankle, still able to walk but with lots of pain.  That 's ok, sometimes it's part of the game too and it is end of october so the season is nearly over.
We needed more than 6 hours to get out. First, to exit the crater and reach the refuge, impossible for me to ride anymore, and then to get back to our car in the valley.
Here, in the Andes, there is no rescue team, it just doesn`t exist. It will take you at least 2 or 3 days to get help from someone, so be careful and take a strong lady with you.  Agathe had to bring all the stuff down, at least a 20 kg bag, good job.

Backcountry Caviahue
Backcountry Caviahue


I will not talk to you about all our "sneak in" adventures: In Las Lenas for example where everything is forbidden because it's private. We had to enter at midnight, taking out the sled to reach a refuge nearby. Actually we spent the night in the tent. The reason why we slept in the tent was a closed refuge, but it was the only possibility to reach the valley behind the resort. In Termas de Chillian for example, we had to pass at 7 o'clock, a few hours before they open the resort. But still there was a guy running after our sled, to catch us…
So What?  South America is just an amazing territory with deserts, forests, glaciers , volcanos and mind blowing runs but you will have to get up early and be very attempt to the weather conditions…
Have a good trip and don't forget to follow my web-series "Carpe Diem" to see all the shoots we did this winter .To read more about my splitboard adventures, check splitboarding.eu on a regular basis and my facebook page as well.

Big thanks to splitboarding.eu and to all my sponsors: MAMMUT, POGO, GRIVEL, CEBE, Tourism Office of  La GRAVE, SPARK R&D, DAKINE, PICTURE, Télépherique des glaciers de la MEIJE, DRAKE , NORTHWAVE,

Yours Sincerely

splitboarding.eu also gives a big thank you to Aurelien.