This past December, our friend, Anno Davis and her crew of intrepid women set out to reach the summit of Volcán Lautaro, the highest peak in the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap. Because its summit requires a difficult and often dangerous expedition through isolated peaks and fierce weather, it has less than a dozen ascents on record. But if successful, Anno’s team would became the first all-female team to reach its precipitous summit.
In this three-part series, Anno chronicles their journey—from chance meeting to blustery ascent—and everything along the way.
By Anno Davis
Meet “Mujeres al viento”, a dreamt-up name roughly translating to “women into the wind”. This group currently consists of five young women whose common thread is a strong desire for outdoor adventure: Adelina Odriozola (Ade), Flavia Mazzina (Fla), Marina Etchart (Meri), María Roldán (Maru) and Andrea Davis (me), all Argentine (from lovely Bariloche, to be precise) except myself. Our paths had crossed in different points in space and time, but all five of us had barely met until we were called together by Maru and Ade in April 2011.
The email invitation was sent from Maru and Ade to six women explaining their careful selection of us. The recipients all shared a passion for getting into the mountains on skis and a series of positive attributes. Their idea: to plan the first of many female outings and challenge ourselves in a male-dominated realm. They suggested, as an ambitious first foray, that we explore the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap on skis—our favorite mode of transport for such snowy places—and that we choose a peak in the area to add some verticality to the otherwise-flat itinerary. Three of us enthusiastically accepted the proposal, beginning a journey of unknown dimensions and implications.
Our first of many meetings over the course of the following five months, would be virtual, with Maru, Ade and I gathered around the computer on Ade’s kitchen table in Mendoza (central Argentina), Fla connected from Jujuy (far north, where she was working), and Meri from Bariloche (south). Amidst our shared excitement of beginning this adventure, we also felt an urgency to put our ideas into words. The Club Andino Bariloche was celebrating its 80th birthday by accepting expedition grant proposals with a deadline of just one month away. It was time to get serious about our goals, choose a peak to ski and begin planning our itinerary, logistics, budget and other aspects that make up a solid expedition. It was complex planning in which none of us had much experience.
Together we chose the ambitious goal of skiing Volcán Lautaro, an active volcano and the highest peak in the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap reaching approximately 11,800 feet (3,600 meters). It is situated in Chilean territory and accessed from the well-known mountaineer’s destination town of El Chaltén in the Santa Cruz province of Argentina. Due to its isolation and severe weather conditions, it has less than a dozen ascents, and we would be the first all-female team to set out with this goal. The Club Andino Bariloche agreed to fund half of our budget, an opportunity too good to be true.
There was no turning back.
Preparation for the expedition took the better part of five months. We sought out support from everyone we knew and were surprised by the positive responses we received. We were able to cover almost half of our budget with donations and discounts on food and gear (thank you, Nau!), as well as equipment loans. We were even lent a truck to travel from Bariloche to Chaltén, greatly reducing our travel expenses.
We hired a trainer who helped us arrive at the start of the expedition in similar physical conditions. Friends and guides familiar with the area gave us advice. And amidst all the planning, organizing and our regular studies and jobs, we managed to get together on two occasions to go on ski outings in Bariloche and Mendoza to test gear and brush up on different technical, safety-related and organizational skills.
In late October, the five of us finally convened in Bariloche for an intense week of last-minute preparation. The moment had finally arrived. We loaded the truck, hugged friends and family goodbye, and hit the road. I was filled with exhilaration; we had an incredible adventure ahead of us, no matter what the outcome would be.
Stay tuned for next week: In part 2 of our four part series on “Women Into the Wind,” Anno and her crew attempt to summit Volcan Lautaro despite the fierce weather conditions.