El Arpa Snowcat, Chile, Sept. 8-9, 2007

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El Arpa Snowcat, Chile, Sept. 8-9, 2007

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Sep 08, 2007 8:26 pm

El Arpa snowcat skiing is located NE of Los Andes on a separate (and considerably more rustic (unpaved last 12 KM) road than the one to Portillo. Elevation range is 8,600 - 11,600, slightly higher than Portillo, but as it's not at the crest of the Andes El Arpa gets somewhat less snow.

The drainages used by Arpa face south, which would be desirable for preserving powder. Much of this snow was dry chalk, though only some of it was smooth. Powder is more likely to be degraded by wind than by sun or skier traffic. The 2,000 plus foot fall lines are much longer than those at Portillo and would be impressive indeed in fresh powder.

After the 3 dry weeks I did not expect any powder, but I was hoping for smooth corn as at Mt. Bailey in April 2000. Due to prior wind effect the surfaces were variable, and you had to plan your turns and stay on top of your skis.

There were 4 long runs, totalling 9,500 vertical. The 3rd run was the best, with smooth windbuff in upper elevation chutes and soft but fairly consistent snow lower down. The first 2 runs had a higher proportion of harder snow and the last had some fairly wet snow at lower elevation.

Patrick is supposed to join us tonight and for another day of cat skiing tomorrow. But he missed dinner 2 1/2 hours ago and has not contacted Casa St. Regis where we are staying. As there is no public transportation between Portillo and Los Andes, he may have problems getting here.
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re: El Arpa Snowcat, Chile, Sept. 8-9, 2007

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Sep 12, 2007 7:37 am

On Sept. 9 Patrick and another skier Kevin (recent Duke graduate grew up in Colorado, is teaching English in Santiago now) joined Adam, Richard, Johnny from Bozeman and me for snowcat skiing.

It was a bit cooler and quality of skiing slightly improved from Sept. 8. First and 3rd runs linked some chalky upper bowls and the second 2 bowls linked by a ski width choke point we sidestepped. Kevin lost an edge there and slid the lower bowl. For the final run we had a 15 minute hike to reach a new drainage. Johnny and Kevin hiked it faster and skied a quick corn lap, then caught up with Patrick and me. Adam took a pass on the hike as his Peru illness was lingering and flared up with the shorter hike from Laguna del Inca at Portillo Sept. 7.

From the hike we skied a narrow chute that was a sustained 40 degrees for at least 500 vertical. This called for conservatism with variable snow and occasional small rocks to avoid. This was definitely the most challenging terrain I have skied in 27 days of snowcat skiing.

So Arpa does deliver in terms of terrain, and the sustained fall lines and mostly south exposure would be excellent for powder. The caveat is snow conditions, as it gets less snow than Portillo and the wind can mess up the powder. There is not much sunny exposure up high for corn, and lower down the sunny exposures were too thin or burned off.

My friend Richard had little experience in variable snow, so owner Toni Sponars (73 year old Austrian, spends our winters as a private instuctor in Aspen) skied with him full time both days. Meanwhile guide Rob showed the rest of us some of the more technical skiable lines.
Last edited by Tony Crocker on Fri Oct 12, 2007 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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re: El Arpa Snowcat, Chile, Sept. 8-9, 2007

Postby ChrisC » Wed Sep 12, 2007 4:56 pm

Sounds like almost a must-do if you are skiing Chile

Curious to see how it all compares.

But it looks good.

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re: El Arpa Snowcat, Chile, Sept. 8-9, 2007

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Sep 23, 2007 3:18 pm

Pics from Arpa below.

The cat road had no snow below Quebrada Baja in ChrisC's map, so we took a pickup truck up to that point to start. For the last run you could ski Exhibition to 8,600 ft. and then walk 5 minutes across some scree (watch out for the thorny scrub brush and leave your gloves on!) to the base/parking area.

La Vega linked wide open upper intermediate chalky slopes. The upper bowls and short constricted chutes in the pictures are in the Las Monjas area. Most of our runs funneled into Ratonera. The last run the second day we climbed Alto del Arpa and skied a couloir through the diagonal rocks into the bottom of El Cirque.

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Snowcat unloading, Richard and Arpa owner Toni Sponars, with Aconcagua in background. We're at 11,400 feet, exactly half the altitude of Aconcagua.
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Guide Rob and Adam on Ratonera on the way to first run cat pickup.
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Rob watches Toni Sponars and Richard in distance below some upper mountain chalk.
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Rob and Adam cross some sastrugi on a ridge between 2 of Arpa's drainages.
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Adam starting down the last run of our first day.
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It's hot, so I skied the last 2 runs in a T-shirt. Middle of Exhibition was good here, but when it got sticky lower down I skied in the guide's semi-packed tracks.
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Las Monjas area: Upper chalky bowls left and center, cliff band with constricted openings right.
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Here's our group the second day: Guide Rob, Adam, Kevin, Patrick and Johnny.
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http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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re: El Arpa Snowcat, Chile, Sept. 8-9, 2007

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Sep 23, 2007 3:45 pm

More Arpa pics; thanks again to ChrisC for posting the map, so I can describe where the pictures are.

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Adam drops in first, heading for the narrow slot opening in the Las Monjas cliff band below.
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Johnny Kay just past the slot in the cliff band, traversing toward the smoothest chalk at looker's left.
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Smooth La Vega chalk.
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Johnny and Kevin hiking back up Alto del Arpa after their quick corn run.
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Kevin watches Rob ski from Alto del Arpa toward the top of our final run couloir.
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Rob in the 40 degree couloir.
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Looking back at the couloir (center) from below.
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Patrick heads down Concha Y Toro as the fog rises up to meet him, while Johnny and I take pictures.
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http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9775
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California


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