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Summer in B.C. Means Winter in Chile, Time to Ski

August 28th, 2013

It was supposed to be an epic tour, but it turned into more of a epic base camp tour, just like the Tour de France that was happening at the same time. Our goal was to ski as many kilometers and climb as many vertical feet as we could in three weeks. The vertical was a little more difficult as our home was around 8,000 feet and the mountains go up to 17,000 in the High Andes, requiring a lot more distance to gain any altitude.

We were given an amazing opportunity to ski in Chile. The original plan was to bus to Argentina, but sometimes is just ain’t meant to be. Our flight was late and we missed our bus-taxi connection. So with little knowledge of the language or currency, we got trapped into taking a taxi to nowhere, and had to return to a hostel in Santiago with nothing gained.

Luckily we had a local contact at Valle Nevado/El Colorado/La Parva and made good use of it, staying in a little snowy undisclosed hideaway for the remainder of our trip. It might have been a rough few weeks for the locals staying at the hut, because touring a minimum of four hours for 20 straight days wasn’t exactly good for foot odor!

Jumping back to the first day on the hill, we scored a classic side country lap of Santa Teresa. It was great to connect with the G3 engineers and be shown some local stashes, namely a 45-minute tour for a 2,000′ run. Then we could hitchhike back for another lap or ski tour back to the hut, over and over. Hitching back up to Valle Nevado was a safe bet, but be warned, you don’t how fast the driver will go! Hold on.

Unlike at the strict resorts in North America, we were pleasantly surprised that we could tour on the rope line up to the tops of the lifts in La Parva, El Colorado and Valle Nevado and not get hassled. Just stay out of the way.

The skiers we met were classic, but dare I forget my favorite tours with the local wild dogs. Pedro followed us up Tres Peuntes and summitted a 12,000′ peak, even breaking trail for us in the new snow. Zudnik toured with us from Valle Nevado to La Parva and scared every single skier along the way.

Once we got in the groove and acclimatized, we were able to step up and ski some of the higher peaks, Cerro Parva and Pintor. They yielded endless ski lines on all aspects, including some mandatory ice sheet ski lines for good measure. That, and with the low snow levels and spring like weather, rock sharks were lurking all over the place, and they bite. Helmets highly recommended.

The highlight of the trip was a much-needed dump of light, dry snow that we milked for five days with bluebird sunny skies.

Stats
250 km of ski travel
55,000 feet ascended on skis
80,000 feet descended on skis

I would like to thank some sponsors and people who made the trip possible: G3 Genune Guide Gear, Eddie Bauer/First Ascent, Osprey packs, Ryder’s Eyewear, Intuition liners, Innate bottles, Suunto watches and Dissent Lab compression socks. Another big thanks to the G3 crew, Ben Dill, Martine, and the drivers in Chile for the rides up to Valle Nevado.

Story by Andy Traslin

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Travel Tuesday: Video – A Story for Tomorrow

May 1st, 2012

The story of one couple’s ultimate journey—five weeks exploring the wild and rugged landscape of Chile and Patagonia. We caught this little gem on the big screen at 5Point Film Festival last weekend. It’s sure to stoke your inner wanderlust this Tuesday morning.

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Stop Dams in Patagonia: The River Speaks… and So Can You

December 12th, 2011

Chris Kassar taking the time to say a prayer at the proposed dam site of the Baker River. Patagonia, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

by Chris Kassar via The Cleanest Line

Every time I kneel down next to a river – even if just for a moment – I swear I can hear it speak to me. I know this probably sounds crazy, but I also know I’m not the only one who hears wise murmurs rising from the ripples of wild waters. For many of us, the rhythm of a river can mesmerize our soul, capture our spirit and force us to really stop and listen.

The Baker River, nestled deep in the mountains of Chilean Patagonia, is no different. I spent weeks walking its banks, riding its waves, and crunching through the epic ice fields that feed it. I even floated over the exact spot where its journey as a river ended and it emptied into the sea – a feat in and of itself given that so many rivers, including my very own Colorado, no longer even make it all the way to the ocean. But, this trip from source to sea was much more than just a fun adventure. We – team Rios Libres – immersed ourselves in the landscape so we could arm ourselves with the knowledge needed to join the fight to protect Patagonia’s wildlands and the people who depend on them.

During our excursion, the mighty Baker spoke volumes and gave us a glimpse into what the world used to be like – full of untamed lands, untouched rivers, intact forests and people who depended on the land and each other to survive. Spending a month at the edge of the world was like traveling back in time to an age when things were simpler and nature remained largely unaltered by the trappings of man.

Unfortunately, the experience we had may not be available for future generations unless we raise our voices and speak for the river. Huge walls of concrete threaten to choke the furious turquoise flow of Chile’s most voluminous river, the Baker and its rugged sister, the Pascua. If allowed, big business will ruin pristine old-growth forests, destroy the gaucho culture and silence the beautiful sound of these waters only to replace them with the disheartening din of ‘civilization’ – bulldozers, power lines, reservoirs and dams… all to provide power for the destructive mining industry in the north.

Timmy O'Neill dropping Class V on the Baker River. Photo: James Q Martin

But this doesn’t have to happen. Perhaps, if we could just sit and listen more carefully, we might hear the river speak and fully grasp the idea that it is more important to protect the river’s power than harness it. Chile has the opportunity to learn from mistakes made in the past; they can act as a model for the rest of the world by seeking alternatives that allow them to gain energy independence while still maintaining the character of Patagonia.

We’ve written about this in the past and our team made an award-winning film called Power in the Pristine that documented our source-to-sea adventure and highlighted the various threats to the region.

So why are we writing now? We’re writing because this fight is far from over and we need your help in giving this river and its people a voice once again. A lot has happened over the past year and it seems that the wild character of the entire region – which was once endangered – is now closer to extinction than ever before. The following video will catch you up on the issue. We hope it inspires you to read on and to act. The river speaks and so can you!

***

Synopsis of recent happenings: In May 2011, the government approved the dams. Tens of thousands of Chileans took to the streets in opposition and six weeks later, the Court temporarily halted all construction due to a pending appeal. This was especially significant since the Court was the only Chilean authority to challenge the project since its inception in 2008. However, in October, the Chilean appeals court ruled in favor of the dam project causing the volley to continue as opponents who want to protect this unique environment brought their challenge to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the project still requires a permit for more than 1,250 miles (2,000-km) of transmission line to carry the 2,750 megawatts generated from deep in southern Patagonia to the capital Santiago. Earlier this week (Dec. 5), HidroAysen – the company behind the dam project – released initial plans for the powerline and the environmental analysis will begin in March 2012.

Clearly, the fight to protect Chile’s pristine rivers and wildlands is not over; protests continue and polls show that over 74% of Chileans oppose the dams. This Saturday, December 10, thousands will return to the streets in Coyahique and other cities in Chile to show the government that they oppose this decision. If you cannot make the event in Chile, please show your solidarity by taking action through these groups:

  1. Rios Libres: Join the ‘virtual march’ to keep Patagonia Wild!
  2. NRDC: Tell Chile’s President to stop the HidroAysén project from destroying Patagonia (Learn more)
  3. International Rivers: Demand Democracy for Chile – NO to HidroAysén!

The river speaks and so can you!

For more info go to: www.rioslibres.com.

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180º South + Power in the Pristine Premier at Adventure Film Festival in Santiago, Chile

March 29th, 2011

I am always open for a language lesson, often needing to express myself to audiences the world over. And since I was addressing 500+ Chileans later that night, Mateo and his girlfriend Fran, painstakingly taught me the subtle differences between ‘cuatico’, ‘filete’, ‘hueon’ and ‘po’. All useful words, slang of course, and I listened attentively during an impromptu training.

I was in Santiago for a screening of two films, 180º South and Power in the Pristine, as well to emcee and play reggae music on stage for 3-nights. It was the 3-day Adventure Film Festival held in the urban gardens of the Cultural Center of Los Condes in Chile’s thriving capital, where almost one third of its 17-million inhabitants live.

Read more…

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Flamenco Guitar and Fly Fishing on Lago Yelcho

March 16th, 2011

Down a dirt road, kicking up a roiling tail of dust behind the boat trailer we drive beside the Futaleufu river, further and further into Chile’s wild interior.

Read more…

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Take Action to Protect Wild Patagonia and WIN a Raptor 6!

October 27th, 2010

Via Chris Kassar at Rios Libres:

Please take action to Keep Patagonia Wild!

Express your opposition to HidroAysen’s proposal to dam the Baker and Pascua – two pristine rivers deep in the heart of Patagonia, Chile by signing our petition HERE.

Help us get at least 1,000 signatures to let Presidente Pinera know that the international community wants Patagonia to remain pristine and without dams.

The rivers, wildlands and people of Patagonia need your voice!

How can you support Rios Libres and be entered to win an awesome Raptor 6? It’s easy.

 

 Sign the petition.

Share the petition on Facebook so all your friends can help, too.

Email your contact info to Chris.Kassar@gmail.com, and put “PETITION” in the subject line.

 

It’s that simple. Now cross your fingers, and learn more at RiosLibres.com and on Facebook.

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Chile Protects Pacific Gem: Only 2 Percent of Global Ocean Protected

October 13th, 2010

“More than two-thirds of our planet is ocean, yet we have protected five times more land. It’s time to give our oceans a break.”

via Ted Danson on Huffington Post:

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced the creation of a 150,000 square kilometer no-take marine reserve around Sala y Gómez Island in the Pacific Ocean. This decision protects an area of biodiverse marine habitat larger than Montana, and most of it has never been explored.

Sala y Gómez is an uninhabited island off Chile’s coast that Dr. Enric Sala, marine ecologist and National Geographic Ocean Fellow, called “one of the last undisturbed and relatively pristine places left in the ocean.”…

Chile has a vast coastline, yet before this decision, only .03 percent of its marine resources were protected. In one day, that percentage leapt to 4.41 percent. Less than 2 percent of the global ocean is protected, although the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity — including Chile — agreed to protect 10 percent of their exclusive economic zones by 2012. Meanwhile, 10 percent of the world’s land mass is already protected.

That math doesn’t add up — more than two-thirds of our planet is ocean, yet we have protected five times more land. It’s time to give our oceans a break.

Take Action to Protect Our Oceans.

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Thousands March in Chile Against Dams in Patagonia

June 11th, 2010

Rios_Libres_Enel_Action_alert_Apr_29-1-1024x683

Please take action to keep Patagonia wild!

Last Saturday, June 5, thousands of people in Chile marked the annual International Day for the Environment (el Día Internacional del Medioambiente) with a nationwide day of action and marched against dams in Patagonia.

This is the second time in less than a year that a nationwide action has been organized against the development of mega-hydroelectric projects in Patagonia.

Read more…

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Team Rios Libres just brought this to us – help the cause

April 30th, 2010

Please take action to keep Patagonia wild!

Express your opposition to HidroAysen’s proposal to dam the Baker and Pascua – two pristine rivers deep in the heart of Patagonia, Chile.

Make a difference by taking just a few minutes to write a letter to ENEL – the giant Italian electric utility company that owns a controlling interest in the European partner for HidroAysén.

This letter, written by a leader in the fight – Patagonia Sin Represas -  argues that these dams will not benefit the development of Chile and will, in fact, impede progress, harm nature and negatively impact the people who live in these areas. The letter asks the president of Enel to step back from the project and urges him to seek other energy options for chile, including those based in developing renewable resources.

Please join the fight to keep these rivers running freely!

Please take action to keep Patagonia wild

Questions? Email Chris at chris.kassar@gmail.com

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Rios Libres: The Places In Between

March 30th, 2010
Iceberg laden Lake leading up to the Colonia Glacier. The Colonia is part of the Rio Baker watershed.

Iceberg laden Lake leading up to the Colonia Glacier. The Colonia is part of the Rio Baker watershed.

by Craig Childs

At night, the face of the earth is webbed with light. Our cities have swallowed almost everything. When you see this image, where does your imagination fall, on the dazzling, viral spread of humanity or the last dark places in between?

Late one night, I slipped naked into a lake full of stars down along the serrated edges of southern Chile, where on satellite images of the earth at night, the tail of  South America blends into the black sea. Rivers and lakes do not emit light, nor do ice caps or chains of mountains. The sky rippled ahead of me as I swam through the cold water of Patagonia. I pushed my arms  into this darkness, felt it across every inch of my skin, took it into my mouth and drank.

To understand a place, you need to drink from its many waters.
For weeks in Patagonia, I have been drinking from holes in the ice, dipping my cupped hands into creeks, dousing my water bottle in rivers. Exploring the Río Baker from glacier to sea, I have hoped to grasp one of these last dark places on earth.  My quest brought me to the proposed Baker 2 dam site, currently a waterfall  where cloudy gray tongues of the river heave over an edge with steel-bending force, sheets of mist ripping into the air. This waterfall is where one of five local dams is being planned (two on the Baker and three  on the Río Pascua). Concrete would stand 340 feet over my head, switchbacks blasted into the canyon, cranes swinging with cycloptic heads above ropes and cables, machines of industry and progress piercing the air with back-up warnings as men in hardhats roll out blue scrolls, hold up radios, sit eating lunch over a siphoned, dry riverbed that once  carried the largest river in Chile.

Chris Kassar feels the power of the raw free flowing Rio Baker at the beautiful water fall - Hydro Asyens proposal to put a dam here would forever change Chile's longest and wildest river.

Chris Kassar feels the power of the raw free flowing Rio Baker at the beautiful water fall - Hydro Asyens proposal to put a dam here would forever change Chile's longest and wildest river.

I don’t know why I want this  river to run. I could not sit at a table with a microphone and explain it. I don’t know why the heart breaks when we have drawn and quartered yet another landscape, named it as ours, used it to fuel our every global ambition from paper clips to plastic cups. But god do I want this river to move, another dark thread binding the surface of this planet, another path uninterrupted.

It is not just the dam that will change this place. Dams will require an infrastructure of roads, highways and new supply ports. Many who live in this sparsely populated region fear what this could do to their lives as small towns become busy construction centers, and as future industries pour in through newly established routes.

After visiting the waterfall, I thrash upward through a thousand feet of thick vegetation and granite outcrops. Finally, I stand in the wind in a country of waterfalls, streams  plunging all around me. I see the lay of the land from up here, ragged summits rising from a gleaming white ice cap. Clouds snag on the highest blades of rock, or, rather, those high rocks make the clouds, their warm, hard bodies touching cold westerly winds, drawing moisture that has been circling the globe looking for a place to land. This is the earth rising up on its toes, reaching into the sky and raking thought it as it passes, bringing down rain and snow; ice for the glaciers, water for the rivers. This is not done for anyone. It simply happens. This is how rich the world is, miracle upon miracle for no one.

Standing on this high point, I see it is not about dams or transmission lines, or even about that river way down there. It is about what we want to do with our time here, how we want to leave this place. The day is coming when the rarest resource will not be oil or even water, but a place that does not smell of us. Maybe we won’t even notice the passing of an era as we crawl deeper into our shells of light, but we notice it now. We can say for sure that it was real, that there was once a place where you could feel in your bones a greater world, where you did not possess their air or water,  and a river did not stop for you.

Bernardo Vargas is cutting a lasso from cowhide - he is a true Gaucho who lives off the land in a traditional sense alongside the Rio Baker.

Bernardo Vargas is cutting a lasso from cowhide - he is a true Gaucho who lives off the land in a traditional sense alongside the Rio Baker.

I come here from a highly developed country with a long-standing infrastructure of interstates and power grids, every major river dammed. Asking Chile not to do the same smacks of environmental imperialism, but I do not wish for this country to be undeveloped, only to develop differently. Maybe building dams is the best that can be done down here, serving civilization at large by pumping hydroelectricity to mines and cities in the north, assembling independent energy for South America (although recent studies say that the dams will lead to an expensive over-supply that could be handled much more efficiently by using alternative sources). On the other hand, consider what would be lost.

When you look at the image of earth at night, do you find hope where the darkness of the Himalayas shoulders into the blaze of India, where Siberia, Sahara, and the interior deserts of Australia hold our advances at bay? Let your eye follow the southern curve of South America. Nothing is there, the gap not yet closed. Gauchos cut their lassos out of cowhide. Rivers race from beneath glaciers. Pumas wait in the shadows. At night, you can still pour yourself into a lake, sending a ripple through the stars.

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