From Aug. 6 to 11, a single storm system had dumped seven feet (2.3 meters) of snow, and then the skies cleared to blue. Then between July 10 and 14, the first El Niño storm arrived and pounded the Andes with six feet (2 meters). Around Aug. 1, an even bigger blob of moisture, equivalent to more than four feet of rainwater, showed up on the regional radars. It was off the coast of Chile, still a week away.
We stood at the entrance to the Super C three days later, the first people to complete the hike to the top since the storm. The run — a basement-stairs-steep chute that descends more than 4,000 feet (from 12,729 feet to 8,398 feet above sea level) through a 30-foot-wide hallway of rock — was packaged in a nearly nine-foot-thick, untracked blanket of white.
Four narrow couloirs descend into the Lake Run, and there’s the crown jewel, the Super C. From where we stood on the vertigo-inducing gendarme, or pinnacle, that divides the ascent and descent routes, the hotel and the road’s switchbacks were visible thousands of feet below. Behind us, with a flag of wind-driven snow kicking off its 22,837-foot summit, was Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.