Day after day it chucked it down. Bucketing. Rain of Biblical proportions pouring off the pavements and down the streets. Cloud to lake level a metre higher than the norm. There was weeping and much gnashing of teeth.
No-one had seen anything like it – the effect of El Niño on top of global warming resulting in perhaps the greatest redistribution of heat and moisture ever. The southern cone of South America is always wetter in El Niño years, but this was off the scale. Bariloche had only had 13 out of the previous 120 days without precipitation. And we were here to ski.
The trip started well on Challhuaco with pleasant skinning, great views and a superb second run through the lenga forest. We had to walk and skin in to and out from the Frey hut due to the lack of visibility but the one day of skiing we had there was top class. So far so good. It was after this on our road trip that the rain really started. And it didn’t stop.
This time there was nowhere to go to escape the weather, so everyone pushed disappointment to the side and did a brilliant job of making the best of it. We enjoyed fabulous steak and locally brewed beers; we saw waterfalls, magnificent forests of southern beech and crashing ocean waves. The three guitarists had plenty of practice time and kept us all amused with their antics. Children of their time, their improvisation would often begin with a country twang or bluesy rhythm before evolving into ‘80’s metal.
Tuesday 12 September and the forecast was less bad with even the possibility of some clear spells in the afternoon. Early breakfast, van loaded and off we drove up to the base of the ski lifts on Villarica, grateful for our snow chains. Skinning up through the forest was a pleasure but above was nothing but grey. We spoke with some locals then continued skinning up under a closed chairlift, some of the group wondering why we were doing this and some happy for the exercise. The cloud never lifted and the precipitation started so just above the top station we turned around.
Under the lift in zero visibility, whilst almost stationary, I fell over a small cornice feature, landed badly, and broke my leg. Spiral fracture of the fibula.
I avoid skiing in bad vis if I can as it’s a mug’s game – only a matter of time until someone gets injured. I was the mug who was out on my skis with a group because it was the least bad day in ten and look what happened.