Don’t Cry for me Argentina but I had to leave you for Chile….

Hiking the Volcano

Bariloche or Las Lenas, Argentina? That was the question for the destination of the Fall 12 Oakley Field Testing team. Searching for the best snow conditions quickly turned into avoiding volcanic ash when the Puyehue volcano in Southern Chile decided to erupt. The final location of the testing trip was decided to take place at the Valley of Nevados, Chile. Nevados had the best snow conditions and was not affected by the volcanic ash. This was going to be a long journey for all, especially for me coming all the way from Alaska.

The selected field-testing team was coming from all different states: Alaska, Utah, California, and Colorado. The plan was for everyone to meet up in Houston, TX and as a group travel to Santiago, Chile. More volcanic activity closed airports in Buenos Aires and held up half the group to overnight in Houston, TX. Limited seats on flights and flight cancellations had the group questioning if this trip was even going to happen. “It’s like jamming a round peg into a square hole” –Josh Hoyer, Oakley’s Regional Channel Manager was stating when all odds were against us. We all knew that this trip was crucial for the product development of Oakley’s Fall 12 technical outerwear, so we continued to force this trip to happen. After numerous flights, bus rides, trains, and café con leche the group finally made it to Nevados De Chillan.

Nevados De Chillan did not greet us with epic pow we were all in search of. Before we arrived the mountain had received some heavy weather that rained at the top of the volcano Chillan Nuevo. The forecast called for warm sunny days so at least we could get our hike on to search out patches of good snow. With the company of Oakley’s pro skier Seth Morrison , who takes product testing very seriously, just check out his signature line. The testing group was stoked to have a great tour guide.

The first day the testing team geared up and charged the Chillan Nuevo volcano, which centrally rests between Nevado and Chillan at 3186 meters. As we continued to hike the conditions got worst. Hard pack snow turned into ice. On my way up I couldn’t help but think…if it is this hard to get up this thing, how about riding down it… , but for some reason a few of us continued to summit the volcano. I was thankful that I was wearing Oakley’s upcoming 2-layer Gore-Tex women’s jacket and pant. Yes ladies, Oakley is coming out with a backcountry kit for the touring babes out there! I was able to wear just a base layer with this shell jacket and pant. The jacket has large pit zips to help keep air flowing and the material is so breathable it enabled me to stay protected from the wind the entire hike. The large comfortable collar with the soft liner helped protect my face from the elements. I was really stoked on the women’s 2-layer gore pants. These pants had exterior thigh vents and inner leg vents for quickly ditching heat while hiking.

Each day the testing team was in search for edge-able off-piste snow. All of this touring provided great testing feedback for each outerwear kit. Although the snow was not what we had hoped, we all still had a great time testing the gear. At least we had the 13 km trail, Tres Marias, filled with fun little jibs at the end of each day. All in all it was well worth the 102 total hours of travel time to be able to shred South America in July with such a solid crew.