Volcano Villarrica

It turns out that the 5am alarm was only for me, so I could wake up and get the water boiling while Becca caught a few more minutes of shut eye. At 5:30, I woke her up with a cup of coffee so I didn’t get yelled at, and we ate breakfast in the outdoor kitchen at the hostel. A bit after 6 one of the guides showed up to help us get geared up. They lent us absolutely everything. After getting everyone the correct sized boots, they handed out our backpacks for the day. Every bag came set up with a pair of over clothes, a sled, a helmet, gloves, a gasmask, gaiters, and a pair of crampons. We provided our own food, water, warm clothes and sunglasses.

At 7ish we were all sitting in the van ready to go, waiting for a guy named Josh, who was supposed to be coming on the hike with us. He had been awake getting gear organized with us and then vanished all of a sudden. Turns out he had told a guide that he wasn’t going to come and went back to bed. Unfortunately, that guide had left by the time we were getting ready to go, so we spend about 20 minutes waiting for him before deciding to just leave. The drive to the base of the volcano was short, and before we knew it, we were strapping on our bags to start hiking!

At the base of the volcano we got our helmets on and ice axe’s strapped to our back packs and started the short walk to the chairlift. It’s an optional cheaters way up the mountain, so naturally when everyone else in our group said they were going to take it, Becca and I jumped on it too! It did save us an hour or more at the beginning which I think was great because we ended up leaving so late and the wind was getting gnarly. The chairlift doesn’t have a swing down safety gate, so we were pretty exposed, but the view was awesome and we got to ride it during the sunrise which was absolutely beautiful. Turns out the chairlift doesn’t slow down either at the beginning so we all watched in shock as a pair of hikers from another group were essentially pushed off the loading platform and thrown forward about 10ft, hilarious and nerve wracking at the same time. It also doesn’t slow down when you get off, so as we reached the top, we watched as the people ahead of us got thrown off the chair by two guys who were standing at the top before it was our turn.

The hike was fairly standard until around 1800m, when we hit the glacier and it was time for our crampons and ice axes! After about 1.5 hours of “trudging” our way up the mountain, we hit a very windy area and the guides got us all to ditch our bags and get the gas masks out. I was so sure I heard someone say “1 hour left” that I was gearing up mentally for a pretty exciting slog. To my surprise, after about a 2 minute scramble, I was at the top starring into the blowhole of Pucon’s most active volcano (there are about 7 volcanos in Pucon, so that was pretty cool)! The smell was pretty aggressive, which helped explain why we had the gas masks on, and the wind incredibly strong. I actually had to take a knee to keep from getting blown away!

We got super lucky while we were up there, because during the time that we were looking into the crater, there was a massive volcano belch and some lava came shooting up in the tube. I got it on GoPro but my reaction is so silly that the footage won’t see the light of day. We only had about 15 minutes on top of the mountain, but after the beating we all got from the wind, I think we were all happy to get off.

The real bummer was that because of the wind and the cold temperatures, we weren’t able to slide down the mountain. Walking down the basically 90 degree slope is a lot sketchier than walking up, so we all took our time. The exposure while walking down was completely different as well. While walking up, you stare at the butt of the person in front of you, and rarely look down. While walking down, you can’t help but to witness the extremity of the drop that you’re about to go down and it was pretty spooky.

Once we hit the dirt again it was all a very fine sandy shale, so we could essentially “shale ski” our way down the rest of the trek, which was great for morale and our knees. The best part is that back at the hostel, the guides greet you with a cold beer which is always welcome in our books.

Ivan and Tash didn’t leave on their bus until 9pm, so we had one last dinner together and then helped them get all of their things that had been strewn around Alfonso. After spending essentially the whole trip so far with those two, Alfonso felt very empty. We also left the hostel that night (after ending up accidentally spending 4 nights instead of 1, because it’s so great) and found a nice free parking spot near the beach in Pucon. It was our first lonely sleep in a while!

One thought on “Volcano Villarrica

  1. Congratulations! I did it too! and luckily it was warm, sunny, no wind (but no volcano activity either) and we were able to slide down on our butts, which although scary, made the descent quick and much less painless than a climb that would have done me and my nerves in! I foundeven the shale ski extremely tiring on my knees. Interesting to hear your comments on the ski lift, too! Thought it was just me that found the whole getting on/off pretty intimidating!
    Wish I had asked you to get a Villaricca badge for me to sew on my pack…if you see one at some point, please and thank you. This will be my first and last volcano climb! Enjoy the rest of you time in Chile, give yourselves lots of time in ATacama and try to get to Rapa Nui…. Luella

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