Friday, October 28, 2011

Patagonia..... The Land of Fire and Water

View from the NOLS Campo

Life has been just cruising along this past few months and to be honest faster then I would like. After my time in the Bugaboos I ventured back to Vancouver Island, Washington State to work a mountaineering course for the National Outdoor Leaderships School(NOLS) and now I have just finished a mountain course in the Aysen Region of Patagonia with NOLS.
The Nido.... my home when not in a tent
The course was 32 days with 17 students 3 co-instructors and a Chilean instructor in training. Needless to say there were a lot of us!

We started in the town of Coyhaquie at the NOLS Campo and got on a bus and headed for Cerro Castillo National Reserve about 90km east.

We hiked into the park from the northeast to the Rio Turbio and then headed to the base of the Penon Glacier to introduce the students to some basic mountaineering skills.
El Condro.... FA in 2009 be Christine, co instructors and NOLS students

As Christine Steidle, the course leader and long time Chilean NOLS instructor, taught the students the glacier rig and travel Cait Parker, Riley Hopeman and I headed for a near by couliour for some instructor development. We climbied about 250m of steep snow, 50-70 degrees to a short step that we then placed a few pitons and roped up for the crux that was M4 and then 30m more of 50 degree snow to the top. We made it back to camp for about 1pm and helped Christine teach the remainder of the classes that afternoon. Thanks to Christine for the opportunity to go play!

The famous "Great White" Riley Hopeman
Our couliour
The next few days involved more skills to get the students ready for the glacier. Once ready we headed up the glacier to be in the snow for a few days. The weather rolled in as we settled into our camp, snow and wind had use tent bound for 3 days, on the 4th day we broke camp and headed back to cower in the lenga trees.
Students heading up Penon Glacier Valley
Riley enjoying the view on Penon Glacier
The crew heading up Penon Glacier
Looking down from the pass where we camped
Sunset from camp
Our home in the snow

After a few days and more travel we worked our way over a pass and down to Estero del Bosque campsite on the southeast side on Cerro Penon and Cerro Castillo.
Cerro Penon from the Southeast aspect

More skills and a transition in leadership from instructors to students presented a new dynamic and it turned out to be a very fun one. Our next move involved going over another pass to Los Portadoreas campsite on the west side of Castillo and a few kilometres south of the New Zealand Camp.
Cerro Penon from the west aspect
Cerro Castillo's East Face

We re-rationed at Los Portadoreas and then headed to the infamous New Zealand Camp. In the 70s a group of Kiwi's came to Patagonia and did a number of first ascents in this region hence the name New Zealand Camp. We set base camp here for about 5 days did skills got about 12 students up on summit, ice climbing and had a large number of them also do single team crevasse rescue.

Christine teaching a class on running protection... pretty nice classroom eh?

As the last few days of the course where coming we decided to break into 2 small groups and go 2 different ways, 8 students/2 instructors pre group, and go exploring. It turned out great both groups had tremendous experiences and where sharing stories non-stop when they came together.

Sam heading down on a fixed line toward Penon's south ridge
Grant high up on Penon
Grant and Daniel high on Penon
Christine high on Penon

When on a long wilderness trip there are commonly things that you think about that can change your plans like: medical/ non-medical evacuations, steep impassible terrain, weather that stops your progression....... I mean what else could you think about?? Well there is something and we where on red alert once informed that a near by Volcano had/was erupting. We finished our course a day early. Pretty exciting seeing the mushrooms clouds a 100 or so km away.

Facial hair protects you from the sun!
A large un-named peak's east face

All in all the course was fantastic and we are all back at the NOLS Patagonia Campo healthy and happy. The students will soon be headed out on the ocean to sea kayak, the Chilean instructor in-training, Felipe will be heading back to Puenta Arenas, Christine and Riley head out on a Patagonia Year Mountain Section, Cait also heads back into the mountains with more students and I have a few days off and will be right back in the field for more mountain goodness. Hope you enjoyed the reading and photos!

1 comment:

  1. wow - amazing Max (love the self-pic)'s great!

    Sounds like an incredible NOLS course! AGAIN! :)