Portillo is well known for having advanced terrain. The t-bars and the traverses thereafter give access to lots of steep skiing. Hidden chutes, couloirs, and cliffs riddle what may at first seem like a relatively small resort. Yet size is relative to ability, and those capable of discovery are rarely disappointed by what’s around. The Super-C, a legendary run in Portillo, epitomizes such opportunity. El Super-C begins where Roca Jack ends. As the name implies, it’s a badass curve that wraps above Roca, reaches the top of the ridge, and drops down into Estadio, which is also reachable from the Roca traverse. The whole thing takes between two and four hours, depending on the boot back and personal stamina. When I hiked the Super-C for the first time on Tuesday it took me a little over two hours. My secret, however, was by no means good fitness. At least fifteen people had made the trek earlier that morning, and the path was well established. See, the Super-C is a must do, and guests will jump at the opportunity when the strong and brave have broken the trail. From the hotel, where all of Roca is visible, you can often follow the line of skiers slowly taking on the climb.
Like I said, it was my turn on Tuesday. Despite it being a less-than-average day, the views were unbeatable. Upon breaking just forty minutes in, I naturally turned around: Aconcagua had sprouted over the opposing ridge. Dark and far away, it looked like Mount Doom towering over our quaint Portillo compound. But from there on out, the scenery didn’t change – everything just kept getting smaller. With about a third of the way to go, I took another (extended) break with group of gringos. I had gotten about an hour’s head start on my two friends, and didn’t start work until four, so there was no rush. Exhausted and sweaty, I threw off my helmet… only to see Ingrid Backstrom lounging next to me. We know each other from this season and last, but I’ll admit that I was still star-struck. Hiking the Super-C behind Ingrid and crew?! Then the sun came out.
After half an hour of soaking in the Andes, the gringos started packing it up. I waited behind to snap some photos and simply be there. I’ve down my share of hiking above the traverses, but there’s no route equal to the Super-C. The sheer accessibility of what I was able to witness, merely hours from the hotel, is incredible. When I finished the climb it was one o’clock and I was starving. There was no telling how far back, my friends were, so I chose not lounge for too long. Still it was absolutely necessary to look out across the adjacent valley. A short trot sans skis and I was staring into untamed cordillera. No hotels, no tracks. It was wild. Still my over sized North American stomach beckoned and I strapped on my skis. The first half of the descent sits in complete shadows, so the snow was great. A bit chewed (or possibly fluffed) up but soft. By the time the Super-C opened up into Estadio, I was dead. A grateful dead. I’d never worked that hard for a run in my life, and I wished I’d relaxed my body a bit longer at the top. But again, the pre-shift meal is a priority, especially after such a hike, so I skied quickly. Lunch at Tío Bob’s has never been better.
by: Alec Barfield