The Unforgettable Fire

Trip Start Jun 15, 2004
Trip End Jun 15, 2005

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Friday, April 1, 2005

Friday April 1st 2005
Destination Pucon, about three hours away, but you see the mighty volcano from some distance away, snowcapped, in the clear blue sky in the distance.

Even more impressive once you get to the town, you can see it smoldering away.

Pucon is a very tourist orientated town, so dozens of restaurants and travel agencies, so other thamn having a drink and mulling over options, do not a lot else

Saturday April 2nd 2005
Felt a little ripped off when the price for climbing the volcano climbed in less than 12 hours, but couldnt really be bothered to chase around town for the sake of a few pounds, and booked the trip for tomorrow.

Today, hired a mountain bike, and set off into the countryside, along gravel roads following a river in the main, some steep climbs, but some steep descents that seemed to be longer, so I was happy.

Get to view the other volcanoes in the region, and cycle through some small villages, across rickety suspension bridges, and then reached the main road, the route back - less interesting, but I was tired by then anyway - and by the end I had cycled about 35km, in the warm warm sun - Pucon is very hot in the day, not a cloud in the sky, and harsh sunshine.

Cycled down to Pucon has a lake, with volcanic sand, which was again hot, but less energetic than earlier.

Sunday April 3rd 2005
Got up for 7am, to be at the travel agent for 7.15am - I was the first one there, 5 minutes early, but there was a rush straight away - Boots (I had wanted to wear my own, but they persuaded me otherwise), waterproof trousers, crampons (metal attachments to your boots that stick in snow / ice), gloves, helmet, and then bundled in a van, with an American and Austrian, then speeding up the gravel road to the mountain.

We were the first there - the ski lift wasnt even on, but eventually caught it to take us to 1800m, where we start walking/climbing. Some hard walking over volcanic rock and dust, for a few hours, until we reach the snowline.

The snowline looks small from Pucon - when you get there its huge, and not soft snow - hard packed, which is where the crampons come in - once you get used to them, its so easy walking on ice and snow! Nevertheless, becomes hardwork, zig zagging up the mountain, but eventually, as the smell of sulphur builds, we reach the top, which is 2847m

You look down at the crater, which at our point of arrival decides to do a mini eruption, chucking laver into the air, only for it to land alongside, and drip back into the crater - erupts likes this every so often, but never when your camera is ready.

It has taken us 4-5 hours to climb, 15-20 minutes gazing at the glowing red crater, then time to go again, initially sliding down the snow, but its very steep and there is a risk that if you start sliding, you wont stop, so put on the crampons again - easy to walk down.

Reach the volcanic ash, and adopt a new technique to go down - no more zig zagging - just straight down, heel down hard, and large steps, and you sink in the deep ash/dirt, and effectively slide down. Amazing speed descending the mountain - would have hated to have fallen - there are rocks around, it would hurt, but loved this high speed descent.

Added bonus - no altitude sickness....though I did come down same day, which does help!
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