Volcano Villarrica Climb

Trip Start Feb 17, 2010
Trip End Apr 15, 2010

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Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Happy birthday, Kara!   I did climb the volcano!   It was the hardest of all
the walks so far.  Up again at 6 for the volcano walk, we left at 7 am to drive to the park where the volcano is.  I personally did not see the lava.
Same story all over again but I was thrilled to get up there.  And I was overcome by the sulfur fumes.

It turned out to be a glorious day.  There was some
mist, some clouds over the lake next to Pucon as we drove out.
Luckily for us, the chair lift was running for the first time this year.  Some
of us opted for the lift and others...the hard core people...walked up about an
hour or 40 min.   After that we had a one to 2 hour walk on the volcanic
stone...fairly steep...zigzagging up the side.  I found that I couldnīt look
down for the most part because it did seem quite steep.  We went very slowly
after the guide Claudio.  We stopped for water breaks and energy snacks.  At one
point he gave me Gatorade to drink ... "for energy" he said. 

When we reached the
snow line, we donned our additional gear of windbreakers, gaiters,
sunglasses...in my case, Claudio lent me his extra goggles, and gloves.  We got
our ice axes out and were shown how to use them to walk up the snow as we took slow
steps pushing our toes into the snow for better grip.  We went over one section
that sloped down on both sides and Mitch admitted that he almost froze and was
afraid to look.  Our group had already split into a fast group and a slow group.
I followed Hilary and Mike followed me.  He gave me encouragement and put his
axe behind me at times so if I slipped, I wouldnīt go far...or so he said.  Gemma went ahead because she needed a more regular rhythm, but Andrew stayed and fought his phobia of heights.
Hilary gave us puzzles to work on to take our minds off the drudgery and fear
of heights.  The last section was steepest and I was getting quite tired and
hoping it would soon be over and then we were on a rocky part very near the top
where we rested before going to the lip of the crater to see the smoke.  I
didnīt see the hot lava but have some photos others took of it.   We sang "Happy birthday" for Kara and Hilary made a video of it.  The sulfur
fumes were very strong on one side, so I didnīt get all the way there...coughing
and eyes stinging and chest hurting.  It was a fantastic experience to make it
up there and see the active volcano.

Coming down was extra special because we got to slide most of the way.  The guides
gave us wrappers like diapers that we could sit on and slide down.  Plus we had little blue
plastic things that we could sit on to go faster.  All but once I opted not to
use the blue thing because I went too fast without it except for the sections
where my hips were wider than the trail.  It was like a luge run in some places
and other spots were broader and like slalom courses.  We used our ice axes to
drag in order to slow down.  I discovered that I could go faster if I bent my knees up and slower if I extended them.  I also discovered that I needed to turn the ice axe point away so that it didn't gouge my knees when I tried to slow down.  It was fantastic fun!  After the snow ended, we were
all a bit disappointed but there was scree, or loose gravel, that we could go down
pretty easily.   Somehow ... I think it was another route... it didnīt seem as steep and
scary as when we were going up.

When we returned to the hostel, we had to clean the truck....all the food and
cooking supply bins had to be washed and put back.  Some people emptied the inside of
the truck, washed windows and the floor.  In the process of helping, I found one of
my bags had disappeared and was extremely anxious...since I am attached to all
my belongings...but everyone assured me that it would be found and eventually it

I ate my leftover pizza for dinner and then at 8 pm we headed off for the
thermal springs. They were nice but we seemed not to appreciate them so much
because we were all pretty tired and couldnīt get back until pickup at 11 pm.  Since I
needed to get up at 5 for our 6 am departure to Santiago, I wanted to get to bed earlier,
but the hot springs were soothing after the efforts of the day.

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