Frankie’s couloir, Las Leñas, Argentina

posted in: My skiruns | 0

Las Leñas in Argentina has possibly the best lift-accessed terrain in the world. Of course, that is, when the famous Marte chairlift is running. Otherwise the terrain is suddenly very limited, especially when you’re looking for steep offpiste lines. Another factor that plays an important role is the volatility in snowfalls in this part of the world. Recent years have been what is referred to as ‘low snow seasons’. Finally 2015 had a decent amount of snow, opening many possibilities…

I had been coming to Las Leñas several times since 2005. The first time Marte was fully covered by snow and the following visits were during low snow seasons. Or, at least during my visits, snow cover was somewhat limited. Luckily, there are so many options that I managed to ski some great runs like TorrecillasEntre Rios and Hourglass to name just a few. However, the steep couloirs on the South face of Cerro los Fosiles were never in great shape when I was there. Runs like Human Error, Exocet and Frankie had almost become imaginary to me…

Las Leñas and its surrounding mountains
Las Leñas and its surrounding mountains

In August and September 2015 I spent a couple of weeks in Las Leñas. In August I spent two weeks there and conditions were allright. At least they were sufficient to explore all the terrain this place has to offer. I finally skied the couloirs on the South Face like Human Error and Frankie. The snow was hardpacked making these runs quite dangerous. In September there was a big snowfall in Las Leñas, something that had never happened during my previous visits to South America. In the meantime I had traveled South to Bariloche and its surroundings, but I made my way back North to arrive just in time for the big powder day…

I simply had to ski Frankie this day (September 18). Since there are many rocks in the upper part that might just be covered by a little bit of snow, I prefered not to have first tracks in there as crazy as this may sound. So, I skied some other runs first and enjoyed the fresh snow that had fallen the days before and went back for a third lap on the Marte chairlift. That time I met my partner in crime to ski Frankie in great conditions. We quickly made our way to Eduardo’s and dropped in and traversed skier’s right towards the entrance of Frankie’s couloir.

the South face of Cerro los Fosiles seen from the bottom with Frankie's couloir marked in red
the South face of Cerro los Fosiles seen from the bottom with Frankie’s couloir marked in red

The first 100 meters are narrow and steep, an area where you don’t want to fall. Just below this section there is a safe zone (as far as that exists…) and we made our way down one by one and regrouped at this point. The hardest part was done since the couloir only gets wider and slightly less steep from here. The snow was great. Yes, there were already some tracks but the snow was soft and there were still enough patches of untracked powder. In about four stages we covered the entire couloir, each time traveling one at the time. The couloir must be around 6 or 7 hundres meters of vertical. At the bottom we traversed skier’s right to make our way back to the Marte chairlift for another lap in the paradise that is called Las Leñas!

Check out this video I made of skiing Frankie’s couloir in Las Leñas:

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