Lou’s travels in Chile: Lonquimay to Baños Morales

Here’s a fun story by Lou Dawson on www.wildsnow.com

“During spring of 1981 I was in Chile with my friend and climbing partner Rich Jack. So going back there several weeks ago was a nostalgia hit along with a fun dose of adventure travel. Our 1981 trip lasted three months. After nearly four weeks of skiing at Portillo (and before that failing on a couple of big Andes alpine climbs in Peru), we bypassed the closer Santiago region and headed farther south for the town of Osorno, where we planned on skiing a few volcanoes. Due to weather and transportation issues we only got up Villarica Volcano (fun back then, and still popular.) Honestly, I never thought I’d be back. I like Chile, but my home mountains in Colorado and the European Alps seem to be the ranges that call me.

Chile is huge, 2,610 miles north/south. Extending for much of those miles something like 4,000 volcanoes and the Andes mountains result in one of the most prolific collection of peaks in the world; when combined with Peru and Argentina, way more mountains than the Alps, perhaps even exceeding the North American northern-west coast ranges. Much of the Andes range is roadless. Even though parts of Chile are more roaded than most people assume, very little access is as easy as you get in western Europe. Thus, as happens in the North America, the places with road access to the alpine do become popular. Those are the areas I focused on during this trip, though “popular” is a relative term. (If you go outside those zones you’re looking at overnight trips supported by pack animals or your own back.)

Our new Chilean friend Casey Earle picked me up at Las Trancas after the Marker Kingpin tech binding event. We’d had terrible weather: scouring winds in the highlands and torrential rain at lower elevations. As optimists, Casey and I stayed a few more nights in Las Trancas thinking we could get up on the Nevados Chillan volcanoes for some touring. We were totally shut down.

My luxury stay during the Marker press event at Rocanegra was impressive, but wasn’t the real Chile you get if you’re a middle to low budget adventure traveler. Moving to Chil-in at Las Trancas gave me a soft re-entry into the world of less costly lodging that’s one of the more interesting aspects of South American ski travel.

What makes it “interesting” is you simply don’t know what you’re going to get. For example, the showers at Chil-in were hot and powerful, in bathrooms down the hall. At Rocanegra you had a bathroom in your room, but the shower stayed cool unless you ran it forever. Chil-in served good solid food but it wasn’t fancy. Rocanegra served the cuisine of a luxury European hotel. The great equalizer is Chilean wine. I was quaffing complimentary wine at Rocanegra that tasted like a $50 bottle from Napa; later we were buying that same wine for $5.00 USD a bottle in quaint regional mercados. In either case, who cares how the showers perform?

Read more of Lou’s story at CHILE

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