Climbing Volcano Villarrica in the snow!! MAD!

Trip Start Dec 29, 2007
Trip End Dec 22, 2008

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Day 17 - Climbing in the snow to the top of bloomin big n 'active, Volcano Villarrica and tobogganing back down again on our bums!!
5.30 am saw us fresh and ready for our volcano climb ahead.... Well we'd like to think we felt that way but deep down we were shattered and wondering how the 'friggin eck' we would make it to the top! On leaving the hostel the sun was rising with Volcano Villarrica dominating the entire landscape reminding us all the time of what was ahead, it was just stunning......please god how are we going to climb this thing!!
After being duly kitted out with everything like some artic expedition, crampons, ice axes, full wind gear etc.... we were starting to wonder what lay ahead, then as we bumped along on the bus to the bottom of the volcano the thing.........just got bigger!! In our group were an ozzie guy and 3 very hungover Canadian girls who like us were wondering how they could make it through the hike with just 2 hours sleep and a carton of 'Vino Tinto' each! And we thought we were tired, but Ads and I decided the difference was, they had youth on their side ha ha and we didn't!
Thankfully everyone opted for the chairlift for the first part to save walking up the road and soon we were floating in the air to the base of the climb. The views were just fantastic, the Volcano completely covered in snow, smoking, ahead of us and the deep blue lagoon of vast Lake Villarrica behind us plus a few skiers dotting about amongst the peak, wow! I think if anyone had ever said did we fancy climbing to the top of a black ski run for the next 6-8 hours we would have told them where to go but here we were, still 1400m to go and blimey it looked a long way to the top!
'Vamos vamos vamos,' our guides for the day didn't really like the word 'rest or photo stops' so soon, ski climbing boots on we were on our way. The first part hiking in the snow was just awesome and the higher we got the more incredible the views got.... Far in the distance we could see another one of Chile's stunning Volcanos in amongst the snow laden peaks of the Andes amongst many other emerald laguna's, such a beautiful part of the world. After an hour huffing and puffing we reached the top of another dormant chairlift which on looking you would think we were half way to the top but on asking the guide if we were, he looked at me as though I was very stupid and from here we were very scared!
On with our crampons it was and soon we wee snaking up and up and up again through the icy snow. Blimey it was tough, no altitude to tend with yet but I am not sure if it was because we feel generally exhausted at the mo, but migh the going was tough...and still our guide didn't stop! The crazy singing of the Canadian girls had also disappeared as everyone clambered on ice axe firmly in the snow at every step so you didn't fall down again!
Finally we reached half way, the ridge that I had originally thought was the top, how wrong was I!! By now the wind was howling and in the icy air with deep snow to contend with beneath you, we really felt like we were on some artic expedition! At one point I thought we were going to be blown off the ridge, it could be a tad scary at times to say the least and bl**dy cold but we knew all this pain would be worth it when (and if) we reached the top! At one point it felt even harder than Dead Womens Pass and for the first time on this trip I thought I wouldn't make it...thank god I did!
Finally we were on the last ascent, the views were indescribable by now and the feeling as you looked around was like being on the top of this world! How do those guys climb Everest I do not know, just incredible or perhaps a better term, insane!! Ice waves and beautiful peak edges were all around us and still the top was just up, up and more up......
Nearing the top the smell from the sulphur of the volcano really hit us all, so acidic was the air you could feel it burning your eyes and throat slightly and at this point all of us had to keep stopping to cough lots and cover our faces, it was pretty grim. Other trek companies had dished out GAS MASKS like we were in the world war, and there we were nicely breathing it all in, next time perhaps the cheaper company is not the best bet!! Again by now I had slowed badly, the gas just made me feel queasy as anything but finally I saw the ridge edge with Ads just ahead and joined the rest of the group and Ads and made the top! WAHOO!!
Despite the gas the view was worth it, a 200 metre smoking crater in front of us and there we were at the top, 2800 m high! You would have thought we had all climbed Everest the way we cheered, it was definitely anther highlight and big achievement of our trip! All around us the vista continued with more volcanoes, lakes, mountains, ridges, smoking snow lucky did we feel to be here. Not being able to cope with the sulphur we all quickly took photos, soaked up the view, had a celebratory Chilean hand slap then started the climb back down again! By now we had been going up for nearly 7 hours continuous so we were looking forward to a swift way down.....tobogganing on our bums, yippee!!
The top part was too icy and steep unfortunately for us to attempt it and to hear our guide tell us of people who had slipped, taken off at speed then gone straight over the peaks edge made us take going down abit more seriously.... Passing many other trekkers stopping on route up feeling rough from the sulphur, we were quite glad to be going down again! Also some guys were walking up on their ski's, I just had to tell them how crazy they were! Alex the ozzie guy had madly carried his snow board all the way to the top and we all watched quite nervously for him as he got ready to snowboard down the mountain, watch that edge Alex! With only 2 times ever on a snow board and an icy black mountain ahead, he was brave to say the least!
Soon we were lower out of danger and on with the toboggan nappies it was! How cool was this, to hike this high then get to freedom slide back down, we were definitely loving this part! The speed you could get up to was quite frightening at times so we used our ice picks for safety, but even these nearly took my shoulder out when I tried to stop! It was great fun though, soaked and with the coldest bums ever we sledged down on our bums ridge after ridge later and soon were nearing the bottom again. The sky was incredibly blue, the sun was shining, we had really bad panda eyes snow burn, we were soaked and shattered but again another new and unique experience to add to the many on our list, what a day!!
Then glad to sit back on the chairlift, down the bottom it was for our ride back, all of us chuffed and amazed with our achievement, I don't think anyone could quite take in we had done it, a tough option for a hangover cure without doubt! Driving away and back into the town it was cool to look again at the volcano thinking we had got to the top of that, how, I am not sure but we did it. ToO tired to face cooking and eating tasteless pasta, we treated ourselves and shared a well deserved pizza and sneaky beer! Goodnight its good to be back on solid ground!

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