Thursday, October 18, 2007

Photo Tales 2

Following up on yesterday’s entry with EmberPhoto, today we bring you more of Brian and Emily’s words and photos from the Rio Baker Valley. Powered by Patagonia’s first annual Dirtbag Grant and Karhu skis, they traveled to Chile and brought back an incredible collection of imagery that continues to raise awareness for the preservation of one of the planet’s wildest places.

(Photo by Brian Mohr/

"It was a huge run. Vicky and I had just skied from the spine of Patagonia's Cordon Chacabuco, and it felt like we might never get out. We drank from the stream at our feet. Condors circled overhead. Skiing here left us with a rare view of one of the planet's last great wild places – Chile's endangered Rio Baker Valley. Now it was time to soak it up, and hope that our skiing would inspire others to come here and to help protect this far off place, before it's too late."
—Emily Johnson

Keep Patagonia Wild
By Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson
All photos: Brian Mohr/

(Photo by Brian Mohr/

Soto, our Patagon guide, reached around his horse to cinch a loose line. With his face streaked in mud, he cracked a suspicious smile.

“There’s a good chance we’ll have to swim with the horses,” he said.

Overnight, winds strong enough to tear the canogas off the cabin roof combined with heavy rain to make a real mess of our snowcapped valley.

“The river’s too deep and too swift to cross here,” said Soto a few hours after leaving camp. “Let’s stick to this side.” With six horses, our Karhu skis and our expedition gear in tow, we spent the next hour pushing through a heavily vegetated swamp in thigh deep snowmelt.

We were alone in a wild glacial tributary of Chile’s Rio Baker Valley – the Valle Soler – and although we were determined to make it to the mouth of our valley by sunset, our optimism was fading. Skis were snagging on branches, our feet were numb, and if the wind and sleet weren’t in our faces, they steadily soaked us from behind.

“Welcome to the real Patagonia,” chimed Soto.

Well immersed in the next chapter of our own book of ski adventures, Soto’s words were reassuring. We had returned to the heart of Chilean Patagonia because we had tasted its wild nature before. And although we spent the day on the verge of hypothermia, we also knew there was a warm fire waiting for us downriver.

Chile’s Rio Baker Valley is home to a “Patagonia” that few people know. After bicycle touring into the region back in 2001, we realized that it was also an adventure skiing dreamland begging to be explored. Flanked on one side by the Northern Patagonia Ice Sheet and on the other by the Andes Mountains along the Argentine border, the untamed Rio Baker is one of the last great rivers on the planet that is still free flowing from its sources to the ocean. Glaciers, ancient forests and unnamed mountains are in abundance here, and everything from guanacos (wild llamas) to Patagon gauchos call it home.

Last October 2006, working in partnership with Backcountry Magazine, Patagonia Inc. and Patagonia Adventure Expeditions, we headed back here both to ski and to document a place and a culture that is now threatened by a short-sighted proposal to develop the Rio Baker for industrial-scale hydro power. While most Chileans who live in the region support alternatives to monster dams, their voices have gone unheard.

“If the dams get built, they will destroy the river, and destroy the wildness that makes Patagonia so special,” said Soto.

By mid-October, we were off. Under a springtime sun, we climbed with our fully-loaded packs high above the Rio Baker to set up camp at snowline in the region’s Valle Chacabuco – home to the “Great Tetons” of Patagonia. And for the next several weeks, while skiing in the mountains above the Baker, we carried the hope that our stories and images would help to build the case for the long-term protection of what is undoubtedly one of the planet’s greatest natural treasures – and one incredible skiing paradise.


Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson are regular contributors to the outdoor and mountain sports media, and can be reached through EmberPhoto. They have a passion for skiing adventures in far-off places and rely on Karhu skis wherever they go.

Share on Facebook

1 comment:

Mateo said...

I went to ski in Chile some years ago, it was great! I went with to learn spanish.
They have this really cool way of teaching spanish and you get a free pass to ski.