Athlete Profile: Alex Taran - 3 Months In Chile

Alex Taran is one of Icelantic's most versatile and most active athletes on the team. When she's not competing and ski patrolling at Snowbird or skiing for the camera and mountaineeering in remote mountain zones, you will find her ski guiding in Chile, running the biggest avalanche education organization in Chile (SABP), and teaching avalanche classes both in the northern and southern hemisphere. Alex has been recognized on several occassion by the media for her successful accomplishment of founding the South American Beacon Project (SABC). Check her out at http://www.alexandrataran.com/ Here we hear Alex recap her three months in Chile over our summer, their winter... Pretty amazing chica, no off season and not a dull moment for this one.

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Words and photos by Alex Taran: How to Sum up 3 months of South American Ski Bumdum in 10 Photos and Several Pages: IMG_6670I stood in a summer dress, barefoot on a concrete garage floor, in Northern California. In front of me was a vomit of ski mountaineering gear. It was June 24th, Rockered Nomads, puffy coats, and snowboots seemed obsolete, but that was all was about to change. I knew this game, it wasn’t new. And the following day as I stepped out of the airport in Santiago, Chile a brisk breeze would whip against my face, as my world would be reborn. Winter had once again arrived. We teach avalanche education in 14 communities in ChileSunset in Rio Turbio Argentina and Argentina. I travel all over Chile and Argentina to teach these classes and when not teaching, I go ski. My first month in Chile/Argentina was fully devoted to my project, the South American Beacon Project (www.southamericanbeaconproject.com). After arriving in Santiago I hopped a plane over to Punta Arenas (The southern most major city in Chile). Ro picked me up at the airport and we made our way back to Puerto Natales. We were teaching classes in Rio Turbio, Argentina because the snow was minimal in Puerto Natales. Every morning we crossed the border between Chile and Argentina to teach the class. Then every day after class we put on our skins and began to walk uphill into the Patagonian sunset. There’s something about the Patagonian sun in the winter that just warms your soul. Patagonia is raw and violent in its true form, windy, the weather’s unpredictable, and it gets damn cold. The sunset along with the view of Torres Del Paine and its cloud capped towers pumps life right through your veins. We had a week in between classes with Cuerpo Socorro Andino from Natales and the crew from Rio Turbio, Argentina. So we did what any motivated ski bums who run an avalanche education project would do. We went to Chalten, Argentina. To make some connections with the rangers down there, meanwhile making some ski to snow connections, as we checked out the terrain. Ski mission in Chalten ArgentinaHome of Fitzroy, Chalten is without a doubt the most ascetically pleasing place I have ever ventured on a ski mission. This place is rugged but beautiful and in winter sees very little traffic. By traffic I mean your chances of even seeing another vehicle on the roads outside of town are slim at best. On our first day it was raining so we opted to head up to the snowline and then continue to check out Huemul glacier. Side note: In every national park in Chile and Argentina you will find a Huemul named geological feature. Huemuls are kind of like Patagonian Jackalope. They are rarely seen by humans. Okay, unlike Jackalopes, Huemuls do exists, though I’ve seen more Huemul-named geological features than actual Huemuls. (Sorry to burst your Jackalope belief bubble, Santa Clause isn’t real either). Unfortunately, the weather in this year in Chalten wasn’t the most conducive to ski missions. But, weather View from Huemel Glaciar down day Chalten, Argentinachanges, so do seasons; I’ll be back next year.   We returned and wrapped up classes in Rio Turbio, I headed back to Punta Arenas to fly back to Central Chile. After a rainy class in Osorno, I took an overnight bus to Santiago and was greeted by sunny weather in La Parva, Chile. La Parva will always be my home mountain in Chile. It was the first place I worked in the Southern hemisphere, and where my friends have become like family. At first the snow was thin in La Parva, but as the Andes tend to do, we got several dumps of light powder. As I tend Chiminea Chica, La Parva Chileto do, I grabbed a partner, Camilo, put my skis on my back, and headed uphill. A walk from the top of the lift accesses a beautiful view of the Central Cordillera an incredible a couloir called: La Chimenea. To ski Chimenea once in a lifetime is incredible; to ski it in fresh snow, that’s a gift. Fresh snow, blue skies, and a beautiful couloir,.. another awesome day in La Parva, Chile. I was looking forward to more great days to come with Eye of the Condor, but before the competition I had to head down South for Classes in Pucon, Corralco, and Nevados de Chillan. It was pouring rain in Pucon upon arrival, the mountain was closed. So like any good Chilean down day, this one involved meat and pisco. Victor and I proceeded to the market, bought a hunk of cow, put it on a stake over an open fire, and caught up while sampling piscolas. Sometimes on a rainy day in southern Chile you start Asados (barbeques) at 10 am. This Asado was partially celebratory, and partial mournful… mourning because as we sat in the rain we knew Volcan Villarica the following day would be 1176183_10151568797002724_24132071_ncovered in the bluest of blue ice, an ice rink (yes I know some of you reading this are from the east coast…it was blue even by your standards). High winds and slide for life conditions on the volcano prevented a summit. After a brief cloud clearing allowed a class with the patrol from Ski Pucon (Volcan Villarica), after which we headed north towards Corralco. Corralco is a resort built at the base of Volcan Lonquimay. Our class was scheduled for the evening, so during the day I once again put my skins on and started moving uphill. Unfortunately this time I didn’t have a partner but, I was familiar with this volcano, and as it was slide for life, a fall would put me at the bottom anyways. While the IMG_7113rain event had affected this area, the clouds were gone, and though the ice was visible from the base, I couldn’t be sure how thick it was until I started to climb. I soon found out. 3000 feet below the cumbre (summit) the skinning became treacherous. I put my crampons on my feet and skis on my pack and continued in the direction of the summit. I timed my summit for 2:30 hoping for the hottest part of the day to soften the ice. The view from the top is incredible - you can see Volcan Llaima, Lanin, Villarica, Sierra Nevada, and a significant length of the Argentinean side of the border. Though stunning, I had a hard time concentrating on the view as the descent still lay ahead and the ice was getting harder by the minute. I had hoped for some wind blown snow on an aspect I couldn’t see. But my hopes were in vain, and blue ice interspersed with windblown patches were in my near future. This was one of the most difficult descents I’ve ever had, purely because of the changes in snow. As I descended I tried to link windblown patches together, but for the most part the descent was hard and blue. Only once I had returned to the resort boundary below did it soften, and I skied creamy snow as my legs burned all the way to the base. After the classes we returned to the employee housing for a night of dinner, Chilean wine, and a bunch of Chilenos laughing with me as I attempted to learn local slang. The next morning, beacon training and then a journey to Temuco on the most raggedy old bus I have ever ridden on; I swear parts of it were held together by string and chewing gum. Back to Santiago and Eye of the Condor.( Check out the Video and vote for us for the Cold Smoke Awards http://www.coldsmokeco.com/awards/holder/icey-ladies/). Eye of the Condor is an incredible experience. I got to hang out with five of the strongest most incredibly Rapel to Ski, La Parva, Chilecompassionate women in the world. We worked exceedingly hard for a week and create something amazing. Each woman has a unique strength, and each unique strength came into play while making this video. During the shooting the perfect opportunity came up to ski a line I’d been eyeing a line for five years. This line was a tighter couloir near the Chimenea. The line often starts with a rappel. This being an opportunity to show my strength as a skier I looked to the team for a partner. The best touring partner is not the gnarlyiest skier or sickest climber, it is someone who has a similar tolerance for risk as you. I couldn’t of asked for a better partner in Annelise, She was super patient and as we set up the anchor for the rappel we could bounce ideas and concerns off of each other. But tolerance for risk aside she’s a pretty gnarly skier. There is nothing quite like the feeling of clicking on your skis after a rappel. The moment when they are on your feet, you take yourself off the rope, and take in a breath as you look around at the line you are about to ski. I believe that these types of moments are truly some of the most real moments I have ever had the privilege Skins and Volcan Villarica, Chile 1of experiencing. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and as the last Gringos returned to Gringolandia it was time to focus on the next chapter of the South American adventure: the guiding season with CASA Tours. Over the next 6 weeks I had the opportunity to ski La Parva, Valle Nevado, El Colorado, Nevados de Chillan, Portillo Arpa, Corralco, and return to skin on Volcan Villarica this time sans blue ice but with fresh powder. For the sake of work, of course. September 14th was the last day with CASA.A Hike and Sunset La Parva     On September 24th, exactly three months after I was standing barefoot preparing for the beginning of a southern hemispheres’ winter, I walked down a tarmac in San Francisco, California. The air was surprisingly cool against my skin. I could already feel it. Seasons were starting to change, winter would soon arrive.


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