Climbing Cerro Plomo Ice Falls

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Author: Pete
Location: Cerro Plomo, Santiago, Chile
[S 33° 14′ 13”,  W 70° 12′ 50′]

 

Back on Cerro Plomo.  As we retreated from the storm just five days prior, Sergio remarked that the ice falls just below camp Federación hadn’t been so well formed in many years and that we should go back the following weekend.  I thought it was a dehydrated, altitude-delirious bluff, but there we were the following weekend.

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Casey Overton in tow, we drove up early Saturday.  At Tres Puntas we loaded packs and waited for a new mulero to ferry our heavy ice climbing gear.  No show!  After an hour we set out with heavy hearts and heavier packs.  In three hours we were setting up camp below Federación.

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After lunch we slogged gear up to the base of the icefalls to help Queso acclimatize and make our climb day a bit easier.  Played with the gear a bit , climbed a touch on the low-grade stuff unroped.  Casey used Darlene’s axes and I used a nice pair of sponsored Petzls!  P1110909

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The ice as plasticy and forgiving.  Hero ice.  As we hiked back down through the steep scree we hoped it would be the same quality the next day.  Queso and I slept in the tent, which was plenty big enough for three, while Serg bivied outside.  Doesn’t like our smelly feet, I think.  Actually, I’m sure he was trying to soak up the mountains.  He’s off to Dubai next year.  Nido will miss him, and so will all his friends.

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We slept long, maybe too long, but it was glorious.  I hadn’t had a chance to catch up over the week.  So we slept, and I didn’t mind.  Loaded light packs and scrambled towards the icefall we were eyeing.  An hour to the base in sucky scree, then some time outfitting.

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First picks were sunk at ten-ish, at a respectable altitude of ~12,000 feet.  Sergio legged the lead.  The first part of the pitch was low angle, then turning more vertical.  I belayed as he swung picks and his fancy center-point crampons.  Show off.  He made it look easy, like most things he does, placing ice screws along the way.

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Showers of ice chunks of varying size and destructive capacity plummeted down at us.  At first it was fun, a bit like frogger, but eventually I lost the game and got cracked with a baseball size fragment from 100 feet up, right in the belay hand.  Owwie.  I dodged and weaved more apprehensively.  Serg climbed unhurriedly, and in the afternoon sun the rain of ice began to mix with rocks, cracked off gully face some 300 feet up by the expanding, sun-lit face.  By the time your eye would track them they’d be already going 200 mph, dark streaks embedding into white snow around us.  Glad to be wearing helmets.

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When Sergio had set a top anchor Casey and I were ready to climb.  Happy to warm up from standing in the snow!  We climbed simultaneously on either side of the twin ice ropes.  Queso a bit above me, raining ice shards down my neck.  We climbed slow.  You end up in an easy rhythm.  Kick, kick, swing.  Kick, kick, swing.  That, mixed with some heavy breathing from exertion at altitude.

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The rock rain increased and by the time we were all at the belay station a quick assessment made descending a good call.  We were too late, climbed too slow, and had too much fun in the process.  Tired and happy with our success, we set about making a V-thread, two ice-screw holes meeting in the ice with a loop of webbing that we rappel off of.  As the clouds cruised over our heads just outside the sheltered couloir we rapped down off the ice.  I was last, and therefore the only guy trusting only the ice.  I slapped it a kiss for good luck and descended the 150 feet.  So fun.

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Packed up and trudged back to camp, our gear stained white from the minerals in the ice.  Our bodies melted a good deal while kneeling on the climb.

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I’ll be very sad to leave the people and places that have come to mean so much to me.  This is likely my last hurrah with Sergio and Cerro Plomo.  Goodbye my good friends.

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An Introduction to Boat Brokers

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Author: Miranda
Location:  Santiago, Chile

His name is Scott, and I desperately want him to be my new friend.

He is our broker.  Our “buyer’s broker,” to be exact.

This is one of those ways in which the boat buying process is actually similar to that of buying a house.  Now for those of, you like, me who’ve never purchased a home, this analogy may not work so well, but most of us understand that the process involves an agent working in the best interests of the seller and a separate agent working in the best interests of the buyer.

In the boating world, this is called the listing broker and the buyer’s broker.  Some folks who have many years of experience around boats choose to go without using a buyer’s broker when looking to purchase a boat.  They know exactly how much the models they are considering should go for.  They know when they’re getting a deal and when they’re getting swindled.  They are patient and know how to hide their excitement when they are viewing the perfect boat.  They can deal with pushy listing brokers and know the buying/selling process well.

We aren’t one of these folks.  Yet.  Maybe someday we’ll be.  But, for now, while we have to hold down our day-jobs, are new to the process, and are still perfecting our poker faces, we’ll use a buyer’s broker.  To be honest, I don’t know why people would pass it up.  The price is definitely right.  Free.  Yup, the buyer’s broker will get paid out of the commission made from the sale of the boat, with no fee or payment from the purchaser.  It doesn’t change the final price of the boat, and if you’ve got a good broker, they’ll be saving you money in the end by helping you negotiate and make a smart decision.  How often, in this world, can you find free, expert advice when you’re up the creek on something totally new?  We feel so blessed to have a new friend in Scott, the boat broker.

So, we skyped with Scott today.  He works in the South Florida area, and he was a breath of fresh air to someone who’s dug though the depths of the Internet looking for what to expect in the boat buying process, and hasn’t landed anywhere fruitful.  He answered all our newbie questions without judgement, nor did he caution us that any piece of our plan was ill-prepared or ignorant of how things work.  He was a wealth of knowledge, and he seemed genuinely excited about working with us.  After we got of the phone, we both looked at each other and said, “What a nice guy!”

After chatting with Scott, we have much better idea how long the process will take and how we might set up the precious few months we have stateside this summer to ensure we leave at the time we’d like, come fall.  We set up a tentative plan for when we’d be spending time in South Florida to scour the market for a boat that will suite our price, our sailing itinerary, and the accommodations we’d like.

Trying to plan such an endeavor while living a continent away from the boat market we’d like to get our hands on can be quite frustrating, at times.  Therefore, it feels great to have someone on the ground, working for us in the mecca of ocean-going cruisers for sale!

Cerro Plomo Guiding

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Author:  Pete

Location:  Cerro Plomo, Chile

Knowing that Sergio, our resident mountain guide, will be leaving Nido this year, a few friends from school enlisted his help in guiding them to an attempt at a summit of Cerro Plomo, the 18,000 foot peak that looms over Santiago.  It was to be a full ‘expedition’ with mules and all, so he in turn enlisted me to help out since we’ve been up there several times together.

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Loaded everyone up in Sergio’s Mahindra, ‘The Black Pearl’, and curved our way up to Valle Nevado.  After registering ourselves with the Carabiñeros with our plans we drove up the barren ski pistes to Tres Puntas where we met our mulero and packed up our gear.

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Pretty novel to hike with light packs instead of 100L packs stuffed to the gills.  We made great time!

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Made camp in Piedra Numerada.  Such a beautiful night that we all decided to sleep out instead of putting up tents.

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One of my favorite Jeffrey Focault songs, Double Tree, speaks of the ‘circus of the stars a blaze of white.’  We were right there.  I fought to keep my eyelids open watching the swirl.

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Up in the morning cold until the sun came over the horizon and immediately saw us stripping to short sleeves from down parkas.  Packed up and moved up canyon.

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At camp Federación we set up camp, still in shorts.  Felt foolish tying the tent down with huge rocks on such a beautiful day.  Experience, and a weather report, said that the weather would be taking a turn for the worse.

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And it did!  Those puffy clouds down south kept creeping up the canyon until they were on top of us.

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The winds picked up an battered us all night.  In the ‘morning’, 3:30am when we were planning to make our attack, we woke to our compadres, Brad and Ivan with a broken tent, and snow in our vestibule.  We all piled into our tent to make breakfast and then took a run at the summit.

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Climbed through the dark and savage cold with our dog friends.  Where did they come from?  I’m still surprised they didn’t freeze and die in front of us.  In full mountain gear climbing hard I still felt my core temperature drop.  13,000 feet will do that to you.

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Bone-chilling cold and wind and still no sun.  Our party was growing slower and slower with the cold and altitude.  We arrived at Refugio Agostini at almost 15,000 feet (4,531 meters), and piled into the wooden shelter just big enough for five dudes and two ridiculously cold dogs.  We warmed our feet as best we could and some took hits off of an O2 tank for fun.

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Once the sun rose over the canyon walls we assessed the weather.  A small break in the clouds gave a great view of ugly, dense clouds heading our way.  We decided to do one more push before turning around.  The summit was all socked in still, so our bid was over.

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But up we trudged to 16,000 feet, an arbitrary destination just to say that we were there.  Sergio and I had already summited, so we didn’t mind in our abridged trip.

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Spindrift whiteouts flowing down from the summit battered us and slowed progress.  We eventually turned around after the 16,000 ft mark.

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On the way back to camp we passed through a section of glacial penetentes, knife-like blades of ice jutting out of the oozing glacier.  So we got to use our crampons and axes.  All were happy!

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Back at camp the weather closed in.  We hurriedly made lunch and packed up camp and then ran back towards Valle with our tails between our legs as the storm shut the valley in.

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