On January 1, 2016, Aaron began chasing his goal to earn 2.5 million self-propelled vertical feet. He crushed his goal and continues to surpass that number as he travels the globe earning his turns. Big Agnes is a proud supporter of Aaron and his passion. We sent him off with warm, functional jackets to help him brave every weather condition under the sun. We were able to catch up with him while he was in the Southern Hemisphere this fall, earning more turns in Argentina. Here’s what he had to share with us:
“Some places are magical. Refugio (hut) Frey in the Patagonian Andes, outside of Bariloche, Argentina is one of those places.
There is a 3-5hr hike in. Generally the hike begins below the snow line in a temperate rain forest. Hiking through bamboo with skis on your pack, it’s hard to imagine any good skiing nearby. Within a couple hours there’s snow on the ground and skinning is the most efficient way to travel.
The bamboo disappears, replaced with an empty under-story and massive lengas (trees similar to the beech trees in North America).
Before long, from the bottom of the ancient, tree filled glacial valley, ridges can be glimpsed high above. There is a sense that maybe there’s some skiing in the alpine world above, but you’re still not quite convinced. After hours of slow moving, with a packed weighed down with 5 nights of food, the trees begin to thin and massive granite spires poke out in the distance. In the time it takes to absorb your surroundings you break through the tree line and are standing in a saddle overhanging the valley you’ve finally escaped!
And then there it is, The legendary Refugio Frey! Perched in the saddle for the past 50 + years. Built from hand-cut stones, sourced from the rock it sits on, built to withstand the nightly onslaught of the Patagonian wind. Behind Frey is the reason to travel halfway around the world. On one side of Laguna Toncet sits Frey, on the other are 1-2,000′ granite towers with couloirs, bowls, aprons, cliffs, cornices, and more couloirs! It only takes a few days of good weather to get your bearings at Frey, but if you ever get bored of skiing the lines visible from the dinner table, there are endless additional options in any direction.
So far this Southern Hemisphere winter, I have taken four trips totaling around 20 days at Frey and the other surrounding refugios. Basing out of huts has allowed me to access amazing skiing and not have to compromise on continuing to gain vertical feet. Often, “easy vert” and good skiing are at odds with each other. I try to pick areas where this is not the case. The Wasatch, for example, provides some of the best powder skiing in the world and some of the easiest access. Waking up at Frey, having a cup of tea and some oatmeal and walking across the lake to the stellar couloirs is a pretty hard set up to beat! Since arriving in Argentina at the beginning of July I have earned another 400,000 feet and am at 1.8million human-powered vertical since January 1st and about a month away from breaking the record!
Back at Frey in the evening everybody is stoked! Skiers from Europe, North America, locals from Argentina, and the Refugieros (caretakers) all sit around the dinner table eating and drinking home brew, comparing runs, laughing and playing music. When you picture an ideal post skiing hut experience you may not know it but you actually just picturing Refugio Frey on any given night!”