This is the mostly true story of how I ended up in one of the greatest untapped steep skiing destinations on the planet this spring without making a single turn. A real “ski vacation” if you will.
My skis have been working hard for me all winter, isn’t it only fair that they get a nice relaxing vacation at the end of the season?! I think so. We had discussed many places we could go and not ski. I suggested a nice beach getaway, but my skis don’t like how the sun dries out their bases. When my Voile Vectors suggested the Cordillera Blanca of Peru I was surprised.
“Won’t you be tempted to lay an edge into something if we see a cool snow covered line?” I asked.
“We’ll be fine,” my skis replied. “We’d like to go somewhere with the possibilities of headaches due to high altitude, diarrhea due to foreign parasites, and where the weather can be so poor we’ve got a good chance of just sitting inside tents while it rains outside!” they said. My skis have a very warped idea of a relaxing getaway. So, I apologize to those of you who come here for trip reports with skiing, this was not that kind of trip.
For the past many many spring seasons, skiing has been something I do in the Northern hemisphere. Then Matt Primomo suggested we head south and try to catch the Cordillera Blanca while it still had a thick coat of white paint. After some research my interest grew and I complied.
Matt and I arrived late into Lima and taxied to the hostel. Our ski bags had been yanked in Atlanta for some reason (thanks Delta), so we enjoyed a day at the beach without my skis, or his split-board.
My ski bag arrived the next day, but Matt’s board did not. We decided to jump on the bus for Huarez anyway, so we could start acclimating. Delta swore up and down that they would send the bag the next day. The eight hour bus ride ascends nearly 10,000 feet from steep sandy desert beaches up a windy green valley. We topped out at sunset.
I guess the word had spread that we were coming and most of the town came out to celebrate our arrival!
We were shocked and honored at the reception. Feasting, drinking, and dancing; the universal way to celebrate!
Okay, so there must have been a miscommunication, after a few hours we found out the week long party of the year, the festival of Senor De La Soledad, was the reason for the all the raucous, not our arrival. That made more sense.
Dozens of different bands played very similar hypnotic flute tunes as their feather covered dance troops whirled around late into the night.
A lone Shacshas dancer taking a well deserved breather.
Somebody might want to check the I.D. on this kid selling wine?
In the tradition of cultural exchange I learned many new dance moves from them and they were blessed with some of my progressive styles that I’m guessing we will see incorporated into next years routine.
More dancing in the church along with the traditional creepy religious Jesus stuff.
They prayed hard for us that we might receive good weather, safe travels, and many first descents. Maybe not word for word, but that’s what it sounded like to my mono-lingual ears.
A friend had recommended staying at Casa de Zarela……..
…….and we loved it! Zarela is a sweetheart and has all the beta on climbing, transportation, etc. Great coffee and a mean breakfast for only a few bucks.
We explored town and purchased food and fuel for heading off into the mountains. Matt is fluent in Spanish. I am fluent in pointing, motioning, gesturing and grunting. I let Matt take care of most of the transactions.
The diverse array of fresh produce and food that comes right out of the hills made me envious. Lucky people to have access to great local nutrition.
Our main desire was to attempt the iconic Artesonraju first off. We checked in with the local info center and they didn’t have much to say. We would be the first climbers or skiers of the season to head into that area. The weather had been nice and everyone kept saying the rainy season had just ended.
That night Matt’s bag arrived!! Unfortunately so did a stomach bug.
We were prepared to leave for the mountains the next day, but Matt’s stomach had other plans. He battled the Boo all day while I went out and explored the city. The celebration continued!
Am I drawn to the heights in order to escape the depths? Is my external journey a mirror of the extreme internal ascents and descents? Is there a balance? Why can’t I find it? Maybe this is my balance? No better place to sit and contemplate life than those places dedicated to death.
It had been a long time since I had enjoyed getting lost in a new land and wondered about without task, or time.
Matt wasn’t 100%, but he felt good enough to pack it up and head in. Part 2- Artesonraju coming soon (in relative summertime terms).