Feature Image: Javier Procaccini
In Patagonia, wind is the reigning force: it drives the weather, pushing clouds, storms and fog in and out faster than hikers, climbers and the rest can adapt. Getting caught in the crosshairs of an unexpected storm is a commonality in the southernmost tip of South America; yet, Patagonia also offers a rugged, truly untamed and unexplored wilderness, ideal for the modern day adventurer.
In The Empire Of Winds, we have the chance to follow Arc’teryx athletes Joi Hoffmann and Thibaud Duchosal as they embark on a journey to the end of the world in company of local gaucho skier Lucas Swieykowski. Facing the animosity of Mother Nature, this group aims to ski amongst some of the most stunning mountains on the planet while battling some of the most formidable circumstances imaginable.
A passion project captured in such stunning detail doesn’t come around too often, so we caught up with one of the stars of the movie, Thibaud Duschosal, to gain a bit more insight as to why the crew chose Patagonia as their destination. Go ahead, read the interview, enjoy the trailer and stay tuned for more on the release.
What was the original idea for this project? What drew you and your team to Patagonia?
Argentina is subdivided into 23 provinces, but only five of them belong and cover the region called Patagonia: Neuquén, Rio Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego. This territory is so big and so wild that many places are still unexplored, never skied. The main idea for The Empire Of Winds movie was to ski in four of these five provinces, covering a very long distance and a very large part of Patagonia. The adventure begins with Neuquen, the northern province of Patagonia, and ends in Santa Cruz, in a legendary small village: El Chalten. For the last 12 years, I have been traveling a lot to Argentina, discovering more and more. After all those years, one thing I’ve learned is: in Patagonia, the plan never goes as expected.
What was one of the scariest moments you encountered on the trip?
The weather had been bad for three days, but it was snowing which meant we’ll get some fresh powder. After watching the forecast, we decided we had a five-hour weather window, the only and last one during the next the week. Our flight back to Europe was getting close, [so] there was no other choice: we were all in on Cerro Creston!
The following day began at 1 a.m. With 40 minutes of driving after having left El Chalten, we parked the truck and started hiking. It was difficult [in the dark] to recognize the way; it was snowing and ground was snow covered! After four hours walking through the woods, we reached snow level. We were a bit late but still on time to fulfill our plan. With 40cm (~one foot) of fresh snow, it took more time ski touring up the glacier [because] it was deep. We spent three and a half hours, instead of the planned two, before reaching the crest. The snow was pretty deep on the crest and we still had 700 meters (~2,000 feet) of bootpacking to do. After 30 minutes, Joi and Lucas suggest to turn back but I insisted taking the lead and bringing some more motivation. I had snow above my hips, sometimes to my chest, it was super deep. The snow was great and the sun was close; we couldn’t see it but we felt it as luminosity improve over the clouds.
After three hours hiking on the ridge, we were midway [to the summit] when the ground started shaking below our path—the whole mountain collapsed! A massive avalanche covered the glacier and there was the massive sound of disaster! Johannes and Lucas’s face were livid as they were opening the path. [At that point,] it was definitely time to turn down. Disappointed but staying humble, the mission ended here with a bitter taste. But life is more important than a summit. We’ll be back.
What was the lasting impression of this trip, in particular?
Mountains, Steppa Patagonica, Pampa, desert… [the] landscapes change a lot but one thing is redundant: Silence! That is the overwhelming impression I have whenever I think about this place. Even for someone like me who spends his life in the mountains, it is striking to hear a complete absence of sound–no machinery, no people, no animals. The silence takes you out of time and you lose your sense of your own significance.
The Empire Of Winds Photo Gallery