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Trip Report LMB chillin' in Chile

Discussion in 'Less Travelled' started by LMB, Sep 1, 2016.

  1. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    So the Internet is better here (Lodge Andino) and we have a down day due to weather, so let's get a start on this Trip Report.

    Travel:
    PB and I flew Perth-Sydney, then Sydney-Santiago direct on Qantas. Great flight, great service. Due to late takeoff they loaded extra fuel to ensure on time arrival. While the old plane had a brand new business fit out, the old first class was left as it was and sold as business also. It was strange to see the juxtaposition of old and new in one aircraft! Why not do it all?

    Andes Heliboarding:
    We found these guys online, we researched and reached out to a few companies and what we read and the response we got led us to book with this company. Quite frankly we could not have made a better choice and we have had that confirmed over and over.

    We were met at the airport by Matthieu, a skilled guide in his own right who is currently further down the hierarchy in this company and responsible for much of the logistics. Airport pick ups, luggage transfer etc.

    Our first night we stayed at the Noi Vitacura in Santiago. A wonderful hotel with very friendly and attentive staff. The beds were huge, the water pressure in the shower was to die for, a huge deep bath and day spa facilities which included an actual spa bath. Included breakfasts were great.

    We went for a long walk taking in the local area, then met company owners Beb and Annais and one of the guides, Francis. Over a few drinks we discussed plans for the next day, which had been open and it was organised that Matthieu would collect us ready to ride at 7.45am and take us to Valle Nevado.

    Valle Nevado:
    What a drive!!!
    42 hairpin bends to get there. It reminded me of some of the hairiest roads to the NZ resorts but magnified. The really interesting thing though was the limitation on driving direction. You can go up in the morning, and down after 3pm, with limited traffic permitted in the other direction and usually under police escort. This is because the road is so narrow and winding.
    A fun resort, plenty of ski area, pretty decent lift infrastructure and really cool restaurant/bar that we ate at.

    The winding road to Valle Nevado

    Valle Nevado:

    Matthieu, PB and myself

    We had a ripper of a day, although there had been no fresh snow for a while and the weather came in while we were there.

    We returned to the Noi Vitacura in time to shower and dress for our meet:greet:briefing.

    We meet the other 2 clients - two American skiers from opposite sides of thier country travelling solo, our guide for the first 3 days, Brice, and Annais was there again, providing skis for the Americans. The safety briefing was comprehensive with a PowerPoint presentation. And we were so fortunate to have a guide like Brice - such experience.


    Unfortunately the weather was not playing ball so we were put on standby for the morning. We had to be ready to roll at 8.30am with the possibility that we could not fly at all.
     
    Kimski, Claude Cat, piolet and 7 others like this.
  2. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    So Heli day 1 dawns. Still on standby. It is decided that it is impossible to take off from the helipad on the Titanium Tower in Santiago due to visibility, so the decision is made to take us to the airfield instead. Kit up and be ready to roll immediately as there is a break in the clouds.

    There we meet our pilot for the week, Ivan. All heli pilots in Chile are trained in the military, there is no private options for them. Ivan's experience and skill is of the highest level. He was the pilot for the Chilean president for years, he served in Bagdad, and he's been a pilot for the Dakar rally, as well as working with Andes Heliboarding for years. He is also quite a character and has offered my the odd fire extinguisher for the leg burn at pick up after a particularly long run.

    We got 8 runs in that day, which is a great days worth, despite getting a late start. Lots of fresh powder. It was fantastic.
    PB loving life.


    Brice and the gear:


    I battled to adjust to the extra weight of the ABS Packs over a regular pack and stacked it quite a bit on day 1. It just made that little bit of difference that turned a wobble into a fall. I had one epic wipeout that was so bad it set off the airbags!! :eek:
    Ohhh I can tell ya, I was not a happy camper.... The slide of shame to hand the pack to Brice so he could reset it and replace the canister. The boys thought it was hilarious though, so I gradually came around to concede it will probably by funny in about 2 years time. My caring husband took a photo even though I told him not to and my gorgeous friends quickly chimed in with jokes - "you look like a pink Angel", "airbags for the back, fun bags for the front", "crash test Mummy" - you know - all the things your besties will say to comfort you in your moment of shame!! LOL

    So here goes... You may as well all have a giggle too!


    I did a bit of damage, was hurting, but toughed it out for the rest of the day, and got a massage that night at our accomodation at Puma Lodge.

    Puma Lodge:
    This mountain retreat was A1 luxury! Loads of wood, huge expansive rooms. Far away from civilisation. Our bags had been delivered from the Noi Vitacura by road (about 3hrs I think) while we played in the mountains. What service!!

    The Internet was pretty slow here, and only able to be used in the lounge area - that was probably a good thing because it forced a disconnect between us and our phones.

    If you'd asked me yesterday morning where would I stay if I came back to Chile the answer would've been Puma Lodge without hesitation. (This has only changed because the lodge we are in now has so much soul!)
     
    Kimski, Gimp, nfip and 15 others like this.
  3. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Initially I was 50/50 on bailing on the 2nd day of heli. I was pretty stiff and sore after my big fall, and my confidence was shot after falling more in one day than I had in years!
    But I chose to tough it out again. And tried to workout why I was riding like a pig!
    I'm glad I did. Everything came together and we all had an amazing day. We managed to cram in 12 runs! That's huge! We went so hard because we knew the weather was coming and we may have had to spend the next 2 days off the mountain.

    I was curious, given Brices prestigious ski history and the fact he was guiding a mixed group, why he chose to guide on a board. Interestingly he said it was gentler on his knees and back and that he didn't get to do it very often as a lot who come are skiers. I was thankful because I had complete confidence that the lines he chose were entirely board friendly (except for that one walk uphill to the heli on day 3, but that was more a landing suitability issue.

    The day was bluebird, not a breath of wind, great snow.



     
    #3 LMB, Sep 1, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2016
    Kimski, tot, Claude Cat and 18 others like this.
  4. Seth

    Seth Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    But, but he isn't wearing a helmet...

    Looks and sounds absolutely awesome.
     
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  5. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 3 threw up a big surprise.
    After breakfast (at which the outlook to fly was bleak) the guys called a meeting and gave us a few options.
    Stay where we were and hope the weather improves but it's not likely and potentially have to do the transfer between accomodations by road the next day. OR hustle now, pack fast, drop gear at reception to be collected by road and get in the heli and head for the new accomodation at Lodge Andino, and hope we can find a suitable run or two on the way before the weather catches us.

    Boom! Decision made! Let's hustle!
    It was once again an example of the professionalism and flexibility of the team to get the best experience for the clients.

    We managed to get 8 runs in!
    From Powder to Spring Corn.
    Dan, one of the Amercans who was only with us for the first 3 days was super stoked to get that for his last day.

    One of the biggest bonuses of this trip has been the information sharing. Brise and Ivan have constantly explained everything - why they can or can't land there, that they can't fly in poor vis, what happens with this snow, or the effect of sun on this aspect etc etc. We have learned so much! Probably even more than normal as both Americans were pilots, so the aviation conversation was off the hook.
     
  6. TropicalPow

    TropicalPow One of Us

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    Great stuff LMB
    I have to admit to laughing at the photo and comments from the other half
    Thanks for sharing lol
    Sounds like a great adventure
     
  7. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    This slide looked tiny from the heli, was HUGE when we got to it, and looks kinda small in this pic but some of those boulders were about half my size in reality.
    It was a reminder that we were in terrain with big consequences.



    My guy and I. Loving life. There is honestly nothing better than shredding together.


    Brise took this pic. All of us just after a drop off. If you look closely you can see the small Heli imprints in front of us. We dropped to the left.


    We finished up about 2pm, and headed for Lodge Andino. This place is something else!!! There is so much soul here.




    We met another group of skiers at this time. 3 men, all friends. Nacho from Uruguay, Michel originally from France now Switzerland and I've forgotten the other guys name (argh) a Swiss-German. They are extreme skiers and have been coming to Ski with this company for years. They have many fascinating stories to tell! And the respect that they speak of this operation with is immense.

    We lose Brice to them now, and we gain Francis as our guide.

    Today we could not ski. The weather was impossible. In fact it was some on the edge impressive flying that got us from the lodge for rafting (PB not me) and then to a historic winery (Vina Santa Rita) for a long lazy lunch and back again.

    But it looks like we are a go for a 9am heli departure in the morning - so it's off to bed with me :thumbs:
     
  8. Undies

    Undies Pizza! Ski Pass: Gold

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    This thread needs a hate button.

    Bravo, LMB, bravo.
     
  9. cold wombat

    cold wombat Twitter Contributer Social Media Mod Ski Pass: Gold

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    Dat one hell of a trip!
     
  10. benchives

    benchives Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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  11. Belly

    Belly A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Nice!!!!!!!!!!
     
  12. dawooduck

    dawooduck relaxed and comfortable Ski Pass: Gold

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  13. Ozgirl

    Ozgirl A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Yet no one listened to me... I tried to stop it...
     
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  14. DidSurfNowSki

    DidSurfNowSki One of them Ski Pass: Gold

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    Calling @benchives you know you need a new Avatar :D
     
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  15. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    so sweet
     
  16. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    I knew I'd never live this one down. LOL

    Stack it hard - scorpion - the tatas give a bit of extra contact between snow and trigger and boom - next thing you know you're on your back like a turtle. It's surprisingly awkward to get up...
     
    hatto, Whiteman and DidSurfNowSki like this.
  17. benchives

    benchives Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    :)
     
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  18. Apresski

    Apresski Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Loving your report LMB, keep having a great time:thumbs:
     
  19. DidSurfNowSki

    DidSurfNowSki One of them Ski Pass: Gold

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    :D
     
  20. sn0wbunny29

    sn0wbunny29 One of Us

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    Wow! I'm so green! Carry on having a wonderful time!
     
  21. DidSurfNowSki

    DidSurfNowSki One of them Ski Pass: Gold

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    Awesome pictures LMB, I'm so jealous.

    I hope PB has a sense of humor or I'm toast.
     
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  22. craighelo

    craighelo One of Us

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    Great report and making me think even more I need a heli day
     
  23. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Wow!!!! :D
     
  24. Olgreg

    Olgreg One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Loving this!
    Is that a sheep or a pig for dinner?
     
  25. Kletterer

    Kletterer Thredbo Doughnut Tragic Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Omnivorous Heli Skiing.
     
  26. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Nice one. :thumbs: I sense an addiction coming on... ;)
     
  27. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Cool. Similar to many landings in NZ. The beauty of AS350's. You don't make landings like that in Canada on the old B212's.
     
  28. Slalom

    Slalom A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Thanks for the report.
     
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  29. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    With the other group is another pilot, bit chattier, very funny, and they've been showing us some of the stuff they've done - crazy, badass and so skilled! And yep there's been a lot of negative talk about the Canadian B212s - from skiers and guides and pilots.
     
  30. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    To Heli?
    I suspect you're right.
     
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  31. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sheep
     
  32. luvthabumps

    luvthabumps A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Awesome stuff LMB. Serious lines there and love the "toe in" chopper landing in that pic. :eek::thumbs:
     
  33. climberman

    climberman CloudRide1000 Legend Ski Pass: Gold

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  34. Zimboo

    Zimboo A Local

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    Hows your Spanish going?
     
  35. Budgiesmuggler

    Budgiesmuggler A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Love it!

    And love the air bag photo :)
     
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  36. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Passable.
    All the guides are French so there's a mix of French, Spanish and English being spoken. I will definitely be brushing up on my Spanish coz I'll be back.
     
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  37. luvthabumps

    luvthabumps A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Love the swallow tail powder board that PB has as well.
     
  38. Undies

    Undies Pizza! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Download Michel Thomas' course and play it in the car, or on the plane over. Amazing how quick you can learn with that dude. Then: immerse. The brain is an amazing beast.
     
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  39. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    It's a Gentemstick Impossible.

    Perfect board for here. Both guides have recommended I get on a fish tail powder board also, save me having to work so much to stay afloat. I think PB is planning on a special gift, which is really quite funny because I'm about to pull the trigger on a resort board for him. LOL
     
  40. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Cheers.
    The problem I have is I'm learning Japanese at the moment and I keep pulling out the wrong language at the wrong time :rolleyes:
     
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  41. Undies

    Undies Pizza! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Konichola, amigosan!
     
  42. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Today we had our first day with Francis. Excitement was high after the bad weather had pushed through - freshies!!!!

    The other group were gone PRONTO, thier day two days ago (day 1 for them) had not been as fortunate as ours - 5 firm to icy runs as opposed to our 8 awesome ones. They wanted to make the most of it.

    Our first run was disappointing. A significant wind slab, possibly also rain effected which sat on top of a heap of powder. It made things a bit difficult, but you get what you get, so we had a good go at it.

    Second location, second run it was firm with a layer of light sago. It was unfamiliar to the others, but being Aussies we were all over it LOL

    Third location and we hit the jackpot. A nice little sheltered area with quite a few different lines. Smooth delicious powder! As Francis said when we got out of the heli and felt the snow "yes! Now let's carve this whole area up!" And we did. 6 runs there for 8 in total.

    I did not get many pics as we actually had a photographer with us. Xabier was the photographer for the Burton riders that filmed here recently, so hopefully there's some good pics from that but I haven't seen them yet.

    Here's one I took:

    My line to the right, PB coming toward me to the left. The sun was insane!

    Francis had a few challenges today, he broke his ski binding! Lots of on hill adjustments but thankfully the area was very safe and we were pretty much able to freeski with a few exceptions, and the speed at which he would fly down the hill after fixing the binding again meant no one waited long for anyone.

    We also had to finish each magnificent powder run with the equivalent of Merritts of hard pack/ice. Our Heli pilot tried to get closer but he kept slipping unless he kept the heli running, which would burn more flight time and fuel, so finishing over ice wasn't too bad.

    After our last run we had a snack and were joined by Mr Chilean Fox. He hung around for ages!

    Excuse the squinty photo. I was looking directly into that sun!!



    It was so warm we hung out in short sleeves and shorts back at the lodge, drinking champagne and nibbling on dips, cheese platter, nuts and olives that were waiting for us as the heli landed.

    Seriously, I could get used to this.
    Sadly only one heli day left. :eek:
     
  43. cookieman

    cookieman One of Us

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    wow,looks like one fantastic trip.
    thanks for sharing.
    another one for the bucket list.
     
  44. JoeKing

    JoeKing Old n' Thrusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Is that a cougar I see?
     
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  45. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    What?
    In the pink jacket?
    Yeah...quite right! :p
     
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  46. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Our last day :(
    Goodbyes were hard!

    Below:
    Xabier, the chef at Andino, PB, me, the manager of Andino, Ivan, the heli ground guy, and Will.



    Another cracking day in the mountains. We carved up the one area with multiple different lines, and when I say carved up...ahh.... pretty heavy sloughing in places....

    We had Xabier with us again so not many photos were taken. It'll take a week or two to get the pro shots but I'll share some when they come through. I'm sure they'll be better than my iPhone happy snaps!

    I don't mind this one though!
    Will (US skier), PB, Francis (Guide) and Xabier (Photographer), and the heli is the tiny black dot in the snow to the right of Xabiers head! I stopped a little higher to get the perspective shot. It's so hard to see the perspective in iPhone shots!


    We had 9 proper runs and a quick last one (that I sat out coz I was cooked!). The last one was a bonus round so Xabier could get a few pics of Francis while he was there, on what they all said was the day of the season - and the last day at that!! We were their last clients for the season. :thumbs:

    The 3rd last run we went high. Dropped off the photographer lower to reduce weight so we could get there. 4100m onto a ridge. I was last out of the heli, and as I got out the pilot looks me in the eye and says "you're crazy!!" LOL Well that instilled confidence!!

    We ended the ski day at a natural volcanic hot spring. Meh - not something I'd do again, but you've gotta do everything once right?

    Then back in the heli and dropped off on the helipad at the Titanium Tower in Santiago.

    I took this shot to demonstrate the snow quality and show the glacier in the background. Not bad blue sky either, huh? It was -8C.


    2 nights at the Westin ahead for us before heading home, so it's time to check out Santiago on the weekend. Some good food, and now that the heli days are over there will be no concern at limiting alcoholic intake to just one or two. Party time kids!! :cheers:
     
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  47. person s

    person s Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    brilliant report - thanks!
    did you get the airbag back in its pack or are they single-use?
     
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  48. hipo

    hipo One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Here & there
    I reackon LMB will be wearing them again while catchin up on party time:)
    good times LMB, enjoy it all and thanks for the reports and photos:thumbs:
     
  49. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Great question. And not something I knew much about either.

    They are multi/use. It's only the gas canister that is a single use, and even then might be able to be regassed...I don't know.

    So each of the 'wings' fold all parachute-like into the sides of the pack and the pocket is secured by Velcro. When it's triggered they inflate FAST, just like a car airbag and pop the Velcro.
    The canister is inside a zip section. Our guides carried a spare in case of such an event.

    The trigger is on the left hand strap.
    The white handle to pull the trigger is stored in a pocket at your hip/waist strap. To start the day you insert the white handle into the trigger until it holds. To lock the trigger you put the Velcro strap around it. Before dropping a line you loop the locking strap out of the way. If it slides you're meant to pull the trigger. Our 2nd guide experience one Avie and burial (while guiding, NOT in the Andes) and he didn't have time to pull his trigger...

    Our 2 different guides had 2 different ways of dealing with the packs. Guide 1 likes them off, locked and stored in the baskets for lifts and insisted on removing the trigger handle if you wanted to take the pack inside the heli. Guide 2 preferred them left on at all times and just locked off with the Velcro strap in the heli.

    In a separate pocket you have the standard shovel and probe combo. It's a bit heavier than a non ABS pack. And also has a strap that goes between your legs to stop the pack riding up and choking you in a slide.
     
    #49 LMB, Sep 3, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  50. Seafm

    Seafm Too far from the snow Ski Pass: Gold

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    I hope you left the "sandgroper" signature somewhere?