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Las Lenas, Argentina, Sept. 2-3, 2015

Thu Sep 03, 2015 7:42 pm

Wednesday, Sept. 2
Wednesday was another day of 100% sun and just a slight overnight freeze. Moon over Eduardo’s not long after sunrise.
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There was more wind though, somehow in your face the entire rides of the Neptuno and Marte chairs even those lifts are perpendicular to each other. The wind on top kept the 2 Marte groomers firm, so the lift was walk-on all day. I also rode Marte 5 times and saw not one person skiing under the lift. This should be a recipe for much good skiing off-piste, but the reality is that the multiple warm days are taking a toll on the snow. There is very little winter snow left on the mountain, mainly in the most shaded steep couloirs. The spring snow is not consistent. The upper east facing bowls have been skied enough to churn the snow into an irregular surface but not enough to pack it down. Part of this may be that the base depth is only 3-4 feet, and I’ve skied enough late springs to know that snow deterioration comes faster on a modest than a deep snowpack.

My first time up Marte, patrol was not letting anyone off-piste so I took the Apolo/Jupiter groomer which was mostly hardpack. Second run was a Mercurio chute, which now has spring snow all the way up.
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Only at noon did patrol drop the rope to go off-piste south of Marte, since most of the snow would still be hard. But I wanted to ski Eduardo’s Variante, which faces NE into the sun after the first pitch. Top sideslip into Eduardo’s.
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The red spot is the same entry into main Eduardo’s as yesterday, though I didn’t identify it this high up the first time.

But this time I’m going the other way, skier’s left.
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Noon is a bit on the late side for this exposure, but it’s less churned from skier traffic than the Mercurio bowl.

About halfway down.
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The hot weather is breaking loose some large chunks that roll down the hill.
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Several of these came down in Mercurio when I was skiing there an hour earlier.

Eduardo’s Variante viewed from the bottom.
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My next run was out to Monte Argus/Sombrero at almost the exact time it had been smooth windbuff and corn Monday.
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It’s been skied more now, though not nearly as much as my prior two runs. It was mostly good spring snow, but far from Monday’s perfection.

Lower down I skied far skier’s left to avoid the dirty gully.
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The red line ends at the base of the Urano poma.

My last run was to the far skier’s left most south facing sector of Billboard. Getting there is through this short bowl.
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The red line is the route to Sombrero. The blue line is where I’m going.

View from the short melted out part.
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View back up.
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The encircled blue part is one of the last sections of dry winter snow remaining at Las Lenas.

Total 20,200 vertical.

Thursday, Sept. 3
It was sunny and warm all day. However, last night’s overnight freeze was the hardest of the week. Patrol kept off-piste south of Marte closed all day. As beaten up as the snow has become from the warm week, this is the scenario where some skiers tour above Marte for better conditions. Staley has been doing this off and on all week while I’ve been discovering several lines I had never skied before. But Eduardo’s Variante Wednesday was the last of those, so I too intend to tour my final day Friday. So I thought it would be good idea to reacquaint myself with the AT boots and skis I have not used since the Zermatt Schwarztor in February 2014.

Discretion called for a groomer warmup, so I took Marte and Iris up to Apolo, which also gives a good view of the touring terrain. Cerro Martin is a likely possibility, with the approach a skin track coming up looker’s right.
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Entre Rios is Las Lenas' answer to Highlands Bowl.
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This is where Staley toured today, but the approach is killer. You have to bootpack up the steep face, as there is no ridgeline approach as at Highlands.

Here’s the Apolo groomer, definitely an Alps-like ambience as the tiny skier on the run shows the scale.
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The bad news is that Apolo was still bulletproof at 11AM, and my feet were killing me in the AT boots by the time I was done with it.

Here’s a more mellow skin track headed up a north facing slope, eventually reaching the top of Necklace Bowl.
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This is another option for Friday.

For my second run about noon I skied through the same notch into Mercurio that I had done with Dave and Staley Tuesday.
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Today that timing was about right for the spring snow on the steep part. Maybe 2/3 of the total vertical was at least somewhat smooth too. However the chunky stuff lower down was more abuse for my feet in the AT boots. Once I reached the top of Vulcano the groomer was quite nice. The morning hard snow must have deterred the masses, so it was not as nearly chewed up by skier traffic as on other days this week. Nonetheless I needed to take a lunch break at the Minerva base and let my feet recover.

Sombrero was my third run. Getting in there gets sketchier every day.
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At least the traverse off to the left farther down seems to be holding up.

The steep chute was in decent shape but this time I cut hard left just below it to search for more undisturbed snow on the lower section. I was quite successful and the harder overnight freeze had delayed softening so my arrival just before 2PM was just right. Route in red, the steep chute is just out of the pic to the left.
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Here’s the last pitch to the traverse out to Urano, which is past where the red line ends in the pic above.
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It wasn’t like the adrenaline routes of prior days, but scoring untouched corn all the way down to 7,500 feet, bypassing the dirty gullies, was worth something. This particular route also rousted several rabbits from their lairs, but I wasn’t stopping for them this time.

My last run was from top of Billboard. Unlike the far left route with lower entry I took Wednesday, this part had partially melt/frozen. So I went more skier’s right for the softer spring snow until it turned chunky. By then I was low enough to traverse into the windbuff bowl I skied Wednesday. Pic below shows first and fourth run entries.
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In both cases I traversed out the bottom to the skier packed bowl in the foreground.

Total 17,600 vertical.

Re: Las Lenas, Argentina, Sept. 2-3, 2015

Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:33 am

September 2nd was another shorter day for me as I did the 40 minute easy skin to El Collar and had perfect corn around 11:30am.

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Panorama from the top of El Collar with Entre Rios on the left and the base of Las Lenas just to the right of center


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Partway down the perfect corn of Collar, looking at Marte and the incredibly steep South Wall


I did a few Marte laps in the early afternoon, but the snow was getting heavy and I had plans to return to Entre Rios the next day, so I conserved some energy and ended the day early.

Re: Las Lenas, Argentina, Sept. 2-3, 2015

Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:56 am

Thursday was my return to Entre Rios and it was phenomenal. The shaded aspects of the spines were still winter powder, and except for a few icy turns near the bottom, the snow was excellent the whole way down.

I'll respectfully disagree with Tony about Entre Rios being the Highlands Bowl of Las Lenas. Entre Rios requires a skin across some flats before a long bootpack--the whole trip took me 2-2.5 hours. The terrain on Entre Rios is also considerably more difficult than Highlands Bowl. I'd compare Cerro Martin most closely to Highlands Bowl: it's a 20-30 minute bootpack straight from the ski area and with more comparable terrain--a bit steeper than Highlands, but also shorter.

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The aptly named Valle Hermoso


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My housemate Simon airing big into Entre Rios


I skied a fairly adventurous line, straight down this spine.

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I skied the spine directly below my skis


It got really steep and technical.

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It's not so easy staying on a knife-edge spine, I need to find more of these lines to improve my comfort level on them


At one point rocks blocked my intended path and I got cliffed out over a 30 meter cliff. From my perspective, there looked like there was a possible line here. There wasn't. Thankfully I saw my friends at the bottom waving their arms to signal me to retreat.

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Cliffed out--it's a lot worse than it seems in this picture

Re: Las Lenas, Argentina, Sept. 2-3, 2015

Tue Sep 08, 2015 12:55 pm

The skiable vertical of Entre Rios appears to be similar to Highlands Bowl while Cerro Martin is shorter, even though the hike to Cerro Martin is probably similar to the Highlands Bowl hike. The lift (and cat ride) at Highlands get you well higher than the bottom of Highlands Bowl while at Torrecillas/Cerro Martin/Entre Rios you have to earn all of those turns above Marte. I'll admit to being lazy and choosing the easy skin track to Necklace Bowl where I'm only climbing 1/3 of the vertical I will eventually ski.

As for the skiing, I was never willing to put up the effort to find out for myself about Cerro Martin/Entre Rios. The steepest lines in Highlands Bowl are close to the pitch of Eduardo's or Human Error, but the latter 2 runs are twice the vertical of sustained steep. Also, Highlands Bowl is also mostly wide open while the Las Lenas runs are more confined, as Staley getting cliffed out on Entre Rios demonstrates.

Las Lenas does sort out the high end of the ski ability scale. I'm pleased that I was able to ski as much of that terrain as I did, particularly considering how crappy I was skiing upon arrival. But most of it was very deliberate. Very rarely was I rested enough and the snow forgiving enough to just let it rip, only on a handful of the Mercurio/Billboard/Sombrero runs when the windbuff or corn was just right.
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