BD athlete Dave Turner reports on huge kite skiing and climbing trip to Patagonia
Black Diamond athlete Dave Turner has just returned from a wild kite skiing and climbing trip to Patagonia and sent us the following report and impressive images. Looks like Dave made the best of the consistently marginal climbing weather and had a pretty cool adventure out on the ice cap!
“Man, you are going to fly. You are crazy,” said the polish guy who just got back from a long ski trip from out on the ice cap. He said he could barely control his 1.5 square meter kite, and here I was bringing my 4 meter and the big, powerful 8 meter kite. He continued to warn me about the wind out there. I was on my way to go and see for myself.
The beginning of November saw Alex and I arriving in El Chalten, right at the foot of the Fitz Roy range. After gathering some more supplies and info, we started out for the ice cap to ski and explore out there for a few weeks. We would be traveling by means of kite skiing, would be pulling our sleds behind us, and would ski as much as the weather would let us. We arrived in early November to take advantage of better snow conditions, and the peak winds of January/February have not arrived yet. We set out for Paso Marconi, our point of entry for the ice cap, which is just north of the Fitz.
Once out on the ice, we could then pull our sleds when there was little to no wind. But this was pretty strenuous, as all the gear to ski, climb, and live out there for four weeks was all pretty heavy!
But of course, the wind. It always came. Sometimes gentile at first, sometimes quick and harsh. But it always came. Which meant that kiting was almost always an option.
It also meant that we didn’t have to pull the sleds anymore!
Good weather usually doesn’t come often here, and definitely doesn’t last long. All the time we were having to sit tight for a few days until we could get out and ski. Many times we wondered if the tent would explode in the wind, but it held just fine.
It was such a treat to use the kites out there. The wind was almost always there to pull you along wherever you might want to go, and would take you up slopes faster than a ski lift could! I would pick a few slopes anywhere 5 to 20 kilometers away, kite there, ski the slope up and down with the same kite many times, and then kite back to camp- faster than I could believe. I would take out my GPS at times, to see how far and how fast I was going at times, and one afternoon I made 80+ kp/h with the GPS on. That evening I went much faster once the snow softened a bit, but was without the GPS that time! Injuries and horrible wipeouts started happening!
At one point, while pulling all the gear in the sleds at once, in high winds, I got slammed hard. The sled ran me over, the kite hit the ground and relaunched directly down wind. I was shot through the air for a hundred feet, coming down hard but escaping serious injury again. I had many of these sky whippers with the kites, leaving the ground all the time.
The views were amazing these weeks. The Cordon Marconi is where we had our second camp.
And Cerro Torre, of course.
Snow kiting below the Cirque of the Altars.
Kiting below Cerro Mariano Moreno-
Bascamp below Cerro Torre
Kiting below Cerro Torre with the powerful 8m kite.
Alex and I spent 21 days out on the ice, before making it back to El Chalten. We arrived back in the final days of a decent weather window, one of the only ones this whole season for climbing. I made a quick solo trip up Guillamet’s Fonrouge route in early December, but then the weather gods slammed the door shut. And kept it shut. The weather didn’t really shape up again until mid February, but I was able to get out some more to take advantage of the fresh snow that these storms were depositing. I took a one-day “lap” on what is normally a seven-day ice circuit trek, taking 15 hours. I ran most of the trails, and used a kite for the ice cap portion, making the fastest time to date.
Another few low-pressure systems moved in, making climbing almost impossible, so it was back to skiing. Alex and I went out to the ice cap once again, this time for eight days up at the Gorra Blanca hut. We spent the next week skiing the surrounding areas, and I made a few long distance day trips during times of moderate, stable wind.
The whole trip was completed on my Havoc 185’s, which are my favorite do-everything ski from BD. Big props to BD for all the help, as always!
— Dave Turner