Skintrack Sickness: Aaron Rice wades through the cold

Aaron Rice covers his face for added protection from the elements.

Aaron Rice covers his face for added protection from the elements. [Photo] Aaron Rice

I cough, slip and gradually slow down—my skis seem to be getting heavier, and the wind is getting stronger. We’ve been climbing for hours already and are only halfway to the top. Today’s objective is the Adrenalina Couloir on Cerro Yeaseros across from the Las Leñas ski area in Argentina. Adrenalina is a 6,500-foot descent and starts as a steep series of chokes that open into a moderate bowl before choking back down a few times until it meets the bottom of the valley. From there, you descend another 2,000 feet in a mellow streambed.

Back on the skintrack, I’m in pretty rough shape. I’ve been staying in a two-bedroom apartment in Las Leña that a couple brothers have outfitted to house 10 to 16 people, giving ski bums a fighting chance for descent lodging in an otherwise very pricy town. The downside is that a new sickness rips through the house every week or so, and I’ve had a sore throat and mild cold for the past month—the worst wave of this particular malady is peaking today.


Leigh Frye exits a choke on Cerro Yeaseros. [Photo] Aaron Rice

The sun is out, and I try to cover my face with a buff to keep from getting burned. But with the buff over my mouth, breathing while hocking a continuous stream of loogies is difficult.

Each of us is taking turns setting the icy skintrack, but in reality, the skintrack is no different from the first person to the last. It is icy all the way to the top, but the mental struggle is a bit lessened when you see the faint scratch marks of the crampons from the person in front of you. Luckily, my friends can see that I’m struggling, so they take charge and pull the group along, letting me zone out to music as I fall off the back.

A view of the Adrenalina Couloir from the top of

A view of the Adrenalina Couloir from the top of Cerro Yeaseros. [Photo] Aaron Rice

A few more hours go by, and we make it onto the final summit ridge. We toss our skis on our pack and scramble the last few hundred meters. Cerro Yaseros’s name means plaster, and it’s derived from the wet texture of gypsum, the predominant rock on the peak. We walk toward the summit, and I make a deep pole plant straight into the soft rock.

Eventually we make it to the top. We have not encountered anything excessively technical—even the skinning isn’t that bad—but I am wrecked from6,500 feet of climbing over almost 10 miles. The summit is small, and the views are stunning, with distant Chilean volcanoes poking over hundreds of smaller 4,000-meter peaks. The northern Andes seem to stretch endlessly into the distance in all directions. I’ve never been to the Himalaya, but I can’t even imagine a larger mountain range than the one I’m standing in the middle of.

The team navigates stream crossings on the approach. [Photo] Aaron Rice

The team navigates stream crossings on the approach. [Photo] Aaron Rice

It’s a calm day in the Andes, and the winds are only blowing around 30kph. We spend 10 or 15 minutes on the summit to transition and begin our hour-long descent. The first 1,000 feet is verging on steep, firm windboard—carton, as it’s called. The next 3,000 feet also has not softened up; it’s only 30 degrees, and the skiing really isn’t that amazing. The last 2,000 feet is nice, mellow corn. It’s a good thing we weren’t expecting a lot good snow, because we would have been disappointed.

On October TK, Aaron made it to Two Million feet. THis sets a world reccord, but it is not the end of this journey.

On October 23, Aaron hit a benchmark of 2 million feet skied this year. This sets a world record, but it is not the end of this journey. [Photo] Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

After achieving the record of skiing 2 million vertical feet in 10 months, Rice told Backcountry Magazine, “Reaching this milestone is an amazing feeling but only a milestone in the whole journey to find the limit of what possible for myself in a full calendar year.”

As Aaron Rice stacks up vertical all year long, he’ll be sharing his stories on under the tag and title 2Point5Mil. Find more about Rice at, through his Instagram feed, @airandrice, and on Snapchat at airandrice. You can also track his progress of monster touring days on Strava.