Encuentro Pieles is a women´s splitboard and ski touring gathering in the Andes. Since 2015, every year, we meet on a different spot, we join forces and we climb up a mountain together. We set up a camp under a full moon for two nights and spend our time hiking, skiing, snowboarding, jumping and sharing experiences. Bringing women together is the first goal, to be able to create an Andean rider community, where the politics of care, equality, positive dependence, plurality and a respectful behavior on the mountains are essential.
Last September we managed to gather 16 women from the Andes in an almost surreal place in Patagonia called Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve. These where a bunch of part-time Skiers and Snowboarders, ready to go together on a 3 days mission to the Mocho – Choshuenco Volcano. You could feel from the beginning on that everybody was extremely open and glad to meet the group.The vibe was great and there were people coming from all different places, happily arriving from a long trip with a big camping backpack and all the gear needed for spending two nights on the snow. We had a pretty bad weather forecast for the next days, as it is usual in Patagonia, but we found some promising windows, crossed fingers and went up the next day.
This year our guide was Rosario Toro, a professional mountain and rock climber from Santiago. She took care of the route and safety during the trip and gave us some refreshing speech about avalanche rescue. All the participants of Encuentro Pieles must have a basic avalanche rescue course to apply, nevertheless we always come back to this knowledge during the camp to try to find a common place between what each one of us had learned from courses and experiences. The upcoming years Pieles is planning to start giving avalanche courses for women’s groups in Chile and Argentina. At this women’s gathering, we want to talk not only about safety and mountaineering, but also about group dynamics, equality, companionship and empathy; also about how to perform a respectful trip to the mountains, caring for the natural environment, its resources and beings by learning from each other.
We started early that day with a gigantic breakfast buffet in the magical hotel Nothofagus, one that looks like a tree. We took it easy, we packed our gear in two pickups and we went up with a safari bus until the end of the road (1.300 m). It took us about 2 hours till we found a nice place to set up a camp protected from the wind. The weather was changing from a grey sky to a real storm. We had to hurry up and build the big dome and the tents as fast as possible to keep ourselves dry. It started snowing strong, so we gather together at the dome to eat and drink mate tea. We were slowly getting to know each other, but mainly solving the problem of the waist and the poop among all the rest of the world’s problems.
Lucky is the word to describe what happened next; we woke up in the morning with 20 cm of fresh snow and lots of clouds around us, we start touring up with hope until we finally passed the clouds and got to see what was above us. We hike up the last face of the Mocho (2.422 m) with some more difficulties. The wind was blowing strong and some of our skins were not holding well, but with a little help from our friends and some duck tape, we all made it to the top. We were altogether above the clouds; the storm stayed in the valley and the rock of the Choshuenco Volcano was appearing and disappearing from our eyes. We decided not to stay too long, as the weather was changing so fast, so we enjoyed our ride down to the camp. The spot was perfect, we had some natural jumps right there and after 10 minutes hike a cornice to practice some drops. The full moon came up slowly in the evening bringing some red light to the landscape. The next day we decided to do a small tour to ride a couloir again. We set down camp and ride back down to the Hotel, where a Spa and a party were waiting for us.
This event started out of a random encounter of two friends, Marcela and Roberta, from Chile and Argentina, when splitboarding and chatting on the way up to Nevados de Chillán Volcano, they decided that it would be great to go touring only with girls once. Today it is much bigger than that because year by year we shape it together, every woman that comes to the gatherings have something to share, bringing a little bit of her soul into the community. Next year we are planning to go to the Lonquimay Volcano (Corralco Resort) and one more time Mall Sport is supporting us to go further south with all these badass mountain women.
Photo: Rodrigo Matus / Laura Martínez Donet @life.in.white
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