Volcan Villarica

by CameronM Wed, April 05 2006 22:22

Standing an impressive 2800 metres above sea level, the most active volcano in South America, named Volcan Villarica is an impressive sight from just about anywhere in Pucon.

Today we joined a 'crowd' of other thrill seekers and climbed to the summit. Thankfully the tour bus drops you off at about 1500 metres and the chairlift, used for the ski season, takes you a further 300, so you total climb for the day is only about 1000 metres.

Having said that, even at the end of summer, the top half of the climb is through ice and snow (actually part of it is a glazier), so that adds a fair amount a 'challenge to the trip.

With our two English speaking guides, but minus Yerko and Corine, who were having a 'couple' day, we headed up the first roicky section of the mountain.

After about half an hour we broke into two groups and I went on with Luke, Rachel and two fellow adventurers, while the rest of our team trailed along behind.

After an hour we reached the snow line and donned our grampons (those metal spikes that fit on you shoes) and headed up. It was slow progress, as the path zig-zags across the face, but as walking with grampons is a little strange, I was glad not to be going flat out.

Another hour or so later we stopped and removed the grampons as the last 45 minutes is rocky. Eventually we reached the summit, but sadly as the vulcano smokes out toxic gases, we could only stay for about five minutes.

The trip down was a little scary, as I think our guide must have had urgent business to take care of. We almost ran through the ice and snow, with hardly a break to catch our breath. I was freaking out, because we were carrying an ice pick and I was worried about falling onto it and impalling myself.

About one third of the way down, the slope eased and we started to 'slide' down. To do this we wore a pair of 'nappy' like pants over our snow gear. It didn't work very well, as the slope was very bumpy, but a little while later we reached an area where frequent sliders have carved out a route down the mountain. It was great fun, and a lot easier than walking.

All of our group made it up to the summit, which was great and on the ride back to town we were able to bask in the glory of a hard days effort.

In the evening we headed to thermal baths of Los Pozones, located about 45 minutes from Pucon and soaked our sore muscles.

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