STORIES FROM THE FRNT
A picture is a thousand words, but there's always more to the story...
Chile & Argentina
We began our trip with a six-hour approach with 60-plus pound packs and arrived at Refugio Frey in the dark. A wall of spires stood as a faint shadowy backdrop to the hut. A teaser for what was to come. We’d spend the next few days picking lines between couloirs, following the sun, and stringing together laps between snack breaks.
After a few days at Frey, we took a quick excursion over the border for a Chilean volcano ski mission. The very active Villarica volcano emits plumes of potent smoke, requiring climbers to wear gas masks on the summit in order to comfortably see the active lava in the crater. The climb up was firm, but softened and glazed as the sun rose throughout the morning. After a bluebird picnic, we cruised down five thousand vertical feet, smearing rhythmic turns over smooth, buttery corn. The stoke was high as we reached the playful little ski area at the base of the mountain. [referring to jump pic]
One of my favorite lines was Très Marias, a chute that funnels into a tight shaded choke. The late winter sun turned snowpack to corn. It was pure corn farming.
When we arrived to the base of Cerro Martin, I felt my heart skip a beat as I stared at the face before me. It was huge. It was exposed. It was going to be a long walk to the top before a long, calculated ski to the bottom. It was a perfect, clear blue sky day in Argentina, and it was the last day of filming for the trip.
I was the only lady, the +1 on the boys club trip to South America; we had three weeks of wild weather, living together in a tiny apartment with twin sized beds for six of us. We lived off of asados (barbeques) and fernet for days. But in this moment, crashing the boy’s club meant something a little different. I was feeling as excited as I felt nervous as I reflected on the trip of a lifetime that was coming to an end on this face before me. There wasn’t an obvious mellow line down Cerro Martin. I was going to be skiing something gnarly with my brothers, Max and Gary and our buddy Harrison, but I wasn’t sure what our filmer Eric Sales had in mind.
“Max, I think it would be sweet if we sent you first down to the skier’s right. There’s the mini spine, a few hits and the wind lip at the bottom. I think the shot will look sick with the huge rock face behind you.”
Damn. My first line choice goes to my brother- but I knew he would shred it.
“Then I want you three to drop from the top, traverse behind the spires in the middle of the face, and boot up to the top. From there, Harrison, you’ll drop direct and pick your line through the spires, send the mandatory cliff if the snow feels okay, or you could go for the straight line through the couloirs.”
My heartbeat slowed a little. After I had tweaked my knee earlier in the trip, I was relieved to hear I wasn’t going to be sending the Fingers, which looked like a perfect football field goal made of rock spires jetting out on each side of a 40 ft cliff. Amazing line, but not for me today.
“Gary, I want you to ski to the right of Harrison’s line- it’s a little exposed, but you should be able to ski it smooth, and the shot will look great if you take one of the top spines and ski fast through the spires. Take your speed to the bottom and send that windlip.”
I looked beyond the crew and saw what was left to ski, and it was clear he saved the best for last. There was an evident line far skier’s right; a perfect ramp lined up above two mini-golf cliff zones. It sat narrowly between the spines and spires, up against a massive 200ft cliff that dropped off to the right, defining the edge of the mountain face with no fall zones like I had never seen before.
“Kelly. I have a line for you that I think you’re going to slay- El Fin del Mundo, The End of the World. Get up there and be safe guys, you’ll know it’s go time when the drone is hovering above you.”
The whole hike up I was shaking with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. From the bottom, Cerro Martin looked steep, but somehow it looked even steeper from the top. From the peak, I watched as my brothers skied gracefully through the exposure, disappearing after only a few turns before popping out a minute later at the bottom of the run, going huge off the windlip. I watched Harrison opt for the straight line over the mandatory air, disappear, and send a huge cork 720 at the bottom.
I was alone, and I was about to ski one of the biggest lines of my life. There wasn’t time for fear or second thoughts. I took a deep breath, looked down my line and felt a familiar burst of excitement. I was the only lady on the boy’s trip, but I never felt like it mattered. They gave me the choice line, and they knew I could ski it as well as anyone. These boys continuously lifted me up, pushed me to be my best, and now they cheered on with encouragement from 2000 ft below. This line, the End of the World, the dance between the limit of my mental and physical being and all that surrounds, was a line I will never forget.
The drone appeared, I clicked my poles together twice, and what happened next was the feeling unparalleled by any other. I flirted with the edge of the face, flew past the spires, and danced with the mountain to the beat of my heart. I wanted to capture that moment forever, the feeling of freedom and focus that comes with flying down a mountain. At the bottom, the boys all welcomed me back to reality with a high fives and huge hugs as we celebrated our epic morning together.
Cerro Martin was a solid reminder that it wasn’t really about crashing the boys club; we were all in it together, men and women, skiers and snowboarders, from the top to the bottom and everything in between. We’re all in it for the magic, but as we all know, the magic comes with major caveats that cannot be addressed alone. We need each other in the mountains. Our future and our safety depend on each other. So thank you, fellow riders, for showing your support in our passion, for holding each other up and showing me equality as a team member, for sharing our love for the mountain and for showing me your love as a friend. Thank you.
Cerro Martin, Argentina | September 15th 2017