Volcan Villarica

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Jan 01, 2010

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Where I stayed
Arauco 855

Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Sunday, December 27, 2009

IŽll make most of this entry since climbing Volcan Villarrica was my idea. I wanted to take Mary Ellen and Sidney to the top of a live volcano, one I had climbed twenty some years ago while on a paddling trip to Chile. I must say things have changed quite alot in the past twenty years throughout the country and climbing the volcano is right up there with the big changes. My first ascent was a much simpler affair. Six of us in shorts, t'shirts and sneakers hired a taxi to the bottom and just sort of trotted up. Nowadays the entire mountain is in a national park and the only way to the top is to use one of a multitude of guide services that exists in Pucon. So that is what we did. The night before, we ran around town trying  to find an outfitter that still had room for three gringos. They only take the trips when the weather is perfectly clear and since it had been rainy for days, there was a backlog of folks hoping to get to the top. The forcast for the next day was a good one and then it was to set in to raining again. In other words, it was like trying to find room on a raft trip on the Nantahala on the busiest day of the year. Fortunately for us, we snared the last three spots with what appeared to be a reputable company. It was.

Our volcano day started out as a beautiful clear day. While walking from our hospedeje to the meeting point, we could see the entirity of the volcano, with little whisps of smoke coming out of the top. We should have taken a picture of it then! Getting the equipment and riding the bus to the starting point was the typical guide service routine. We had three Chileno guides who we really liked. One had spent the summer (our summer) working as a raft guide on the North Fork of the Payette in Idaho. So of course he got the ok. Once at the start point, our group assembled and began the hike up. Picture 30 or 40 groups of 15 people in matching jackets and pants of red, orange, blue, etc., etc. We were the mismatched team as that many in our group had their own clothes, a good sign.

The hike to the top was as challenging as anything we have ever done together. Before the day was over we had used every bit of the issued equipment which included oversized mittens, wind pants, crampons and ice axes for self arrests. On the way up the views were astounding. We could see several other volcanoes and all the way into Argentina. A weather system was moving in and it brought with it clouds, cold temperatures, and very intense winds. For a while we were above the clouds with mountains sticking up like islands.  As the conditions worsened, Sidney and Mary Ellen decided to turn back just short of the top (right before the steepest ice field) and I continued with what was left of the group to the summit. There we found the mouth of the volcano billowing steam and hurricane like winds. Needless to say, we did not stick around very long.

Returning to the bottom was a hoot. After about an hour or so of descending by foot through the ice field, we straped on nylon girdles and a little plastic seat, sat down and slid through the wet snow-ice for a another hour or so to the bottom. Back in Pucon, we found out not that many groups made the summit that day and that after several accidents, the CONAF (park service) closed the mountain. We were lucky to have found a good outfitter and a good group. Oh, and we never saw the volcano again. Clouds and then rains moved in and it completely disappeared from view.
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Helen & Milton on

We are fascinated with your accounts - very descriptive! Sorry about the winds Mary Ellen. What stories you'll have to tell your own children, Sidney! Certainly a Christmas to remember. Safe travels home.

anne perrin on

HollyMolly! What a vacation you guys have carved out! Volcanic Holy Smokes!
Keep the adventures coming this way!

Bunny on

Awesome Adventures! Wow

dannyhiker on

What a great description.
Sounds like you're taking in all the right adventures.

Anne Sparks-Baumgartner on

Ditto to most of the other comments - what a fantastic trip. Makes me long for travel. So glad that you are making the most of this precious time as a family together. Loved your Christmas card this year. Hope to see you in person in 2010 and to hear more details of this adventure. Take Care - Love Annie and Jerry! Happy New Year too!

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