Bariloche, Argentina Backcountry Report: “Overexposed in Alaskita”

Miles Clark | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Snow spray on the lower fingers today.
Snow spray on the lower fingers today.

Today was the first sunny day since Bariloche, Argentina’s 2-foot Monday storm.  The storm was cold storm and things remained cold until today.

I used the sunny weather to get out to my favorite backcountry zone in the area, Alaskita.

Alaskita, Bariloche, Argentina.  photo taken September 12th, 2014.
Alaskita, Bariloche, Argentina. photo taken September 12th, 2014.

I arrived on top of Alaskita at noon, exactly when things were heating up.  I could feel it in the air and a bit in the snow.  I could see the avalanche debris from a small avalache (likely caused by a small cornice collapse) near the bottom of the upper spines.  It looked fresh.

The spectacular Van Titter valley.
The spectacular Van Titter valley.

I felt that the upper spines of Alaskita would be sluffy, but safe.  I weighed the heat, my snow pit test results, the previous days’ stabilities, the fact that two guys had already skied the upper spines, and the small avalanche in my head and decided to drop in.

Just another gorgeous backcountry line in Bariloche, Argentina.
Just another gorgeous backcountry line in Bariloche, Argentina.

The spine was in perfect shape and was a blast to ski but sluffed like crazy creating a large, wet debris pile at the bottom.

From the bottom of the spine I could taste the heat.  The snow caked to my skis and boots readily.  While grabbing a drink I heard and saw snow and ice falling off the ridge above me.  It was the first heat since the storm and it was changing everything.

Perfect powder in spots today.
Perfect powder in the Van Titter valley today.

At this point I had two options:  climb back up the spine zone I’d just come down, the safer option, or ski down a large convex zone with the glaring red flag of rapidly rising temperature flapping in my face.  

Perfect snow on the upper spines of Alaskita today.
Perfect snow on the upper spines of Alaskita today.

I fell into the classic trap of being lazy and wanting to ski the line I came to ski.  Despite a very bad gut feeling, I again dropped in.   I stuck to the shaded side of the open face where the sun had beaten down less, but it was still a bad decision.  I must have looked over shoulder every turn.

Bariloche, Backcountry.
Bariloche, Backcountry today.

When I reached the fingers below the convex face I felt safe, but that bad gut feeling was raging.  I looked above me and appreciated the consequence I’d evaded.  I wasn’t proud of my decision.

The finger skied well and the landings were soft and supple.  I cut out left and got ready to transition.

The upper spines today.
The upper spines today with two tracks that were put in before I dropped.

Below the fingers the bad gut feeling continued to strengthen as I could smell the heat and hear and see small point releases coming down from rocks on the north wall above.  It was time to leave.

I transitioned quickly and was able to get onto a safe ridge quickly.

Lake Nahuel Huapi from the Alaskita ridge line.
Lake Nahuel Huapi from the Alaskita ridge line.

Once feeling secure with a safe path home calculated, I reflected on my decisions above.  I wasn’t proud of them.  I’d overexposed myself and gotten away with.  The classic blunder of wanting a line too much and ignoring the obvious.

BARILOCHE FORECAST:

The forecast is looking sunny and warm the next few days.  After today’s heat, the snow should settle, but each day that temperature spikes, there will be insability.

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 4.39.49 AM

PHOTO TOUR:

Bariloche, Backcountry.
Bariloche, Backcountry.
Tomorrow's objective
Tomorrow’s objective. On a south face.
Perfect snow everywhere today.
Perfect snow everywhere today.

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8 thoughts on “Bariloche, Argentina Backcountry Report: “Overexposed in Alaskita”

  1. Glad you made it safely, and glad you realized in retrospect how you didn’t exactly make the smartest decisions! NOT glad that you do this stuff all by yourself!!

  2. Miles, you seem to have found the ideal lifestyle. As I continue to maneuver myself in life, I need to take a page from your book. Fine work. apes

    1. Thanks AP. Well, get that planed tuned up and lets do something neat this April. I’ll be back looking to do another plane trip in April and I’d love to fly with you when I’m around if you have time. Miss ya buddy.

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