Antonia Galmez descends Parinacota with Pomerape and the Bolivian skyline in the background.


Northern Chile


My body lurches in the backseat of the rental truck as we weave around mounds of desert slough and dried lumps of grass. Reggaeton pounds over the radio and a dry cough escapes my lungs involuntarily. My eyelids feel heavy and swollen and I am nauseous from driving winding roads for hours, not acclimatized adequately to our current 15,800 feet of elevation. It’s only our second day in the high Andes of Northern Chile, after driving from the sea-level city of Arica. 

After waking up at dawn at Lago Chungara, we had already done an unplanned hike to 16,800 feet this afternoon. The scenic lake sits at 14,820 feet and calmly reflects a snow-covered peak which rises proudly to 20,930 feet from the arid flats of the Atacama Desert: Volcan Parinacota. Beside it sits a second peak, Volcan  Pomerope (20,610 feet). Together these two peaks are known as Los Payachatas, which in native Aymara culture means twins. We are here to summit and snowboard these two Lauca National Park volcanoes. I’m on this trip with the all-female splitboarding crew consisting of the Santiago native surfer and movie producer, Anto Galmez, Argentine multi-sport outdoorswoman Paula Carru, and fellow North American, boardercrosser-turned-freerider, Nelly Steinhoff.


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