Most people come to Pucón to climb the active volcanoe Villarrica. Of course I have to do it as well! So when finally the weather was up for it, half of the hostel is up at 6am. With the climb come a lot of regulations now, due to some accidents in the past. An agency can only take 12 clients, accompanied by 4 guides and a certain amount of equipment. We are 24 people in two groups and get all our gear at 6.30am. Backpack, boots, crampons, ice axe, pants, jacket,… Then it’s a 40 minutes drive in the dark to the start of the trail. There again we have some choice, take the chairlift for an additional 10.000 pesos or hike for an hour. For me no question, I am walking. Just one other girl is also hiking in our group and so we set off with one of the guides. It’s not even an hour and rather easy to walk, plus we have a stunning sunrise to watch and take pictures of. After all the rain and clouds of the last days, it’s almost unreal to see such an amazing day unfold. The sunrise and volcanoe Llaima are beautiful.
Soon we catch up on those who took the chairlift and continue together. There are so many groups on their way up, but strangely I don’t care. It’s nice to hike in a group, chat and take plenty of breaks. We all know each other now after spending the last few days together in the same hostel.
The weather is very good but in between there are really strong and cold winds, especially at the place where we have to put our crampons on. Then we hike mainly in the snow for quite a while, often waiting for other groups, later there’s also some ice. At the most dangerous part there is often ice coming down and everyone is siffling and shouting. Nevertheless, a girl is hit on her leg and has to be carried down.
The view is just incredible, the other volcanoe, Pucon, the snow, lakes,… Then we are almost there, putting now our backpacks together and going up the final stretch only with our cameras and, most importantly, our gas masks. The volcanoe is still active and erupted the last time in March 2015. After the rain the last days, a lot of steam is coming out.
The last stretch now goes through the steam to the crater lookout. The mask is horrible, I feel like I can’t breath, but it’s also necessary as I really don’t want to breath the sulfuric air. My eyes are burning but at 2800m we are just amazed to be at the top and we are more lucky than others. During the few minutes we are allowed to stay at the top, the steam lifts a few times and we even witness a small eruption, glowing and exploding lava. It feels unreal with all the smoke around.
We can now also see the Lanin volcanoe on the other side, at least when the steam let’s us get a glimpse. It’s such a cool experience to be on an active volcanoe and feel it being alive. We are not allowed to stay a long time so quite soon we have to walk back down to our backpacks. And now, the fun part begins – at least if you’re not a control freak like me 😉 We put on special “diapers”, some waterproof harness-like gear and get our plastic slides and start sliding down the snow. It’s a mix of walking a bit and then sliding again and after the third time I finally could let go and enjoy the ride! The ice axe is used for stopping and it’s so much fun! Once we are done with the snow, it’s pretty hot and we remove layers before hiking further down. It’s easy now, walking or running mainly through scree downhill to the parking lot.
We are 4 girls and a guide making it there pretty fast, quite some time before the others arrive. What a great hike. It’s the perfect volcanoe: an interesting but not too challenging hike up, lava at the crater and then an easy and fun way to get back down. We started hiking around 8am and are back at the parking around 3pm.
Back at the hostel we are offered a beer and chat outside in the sun before I take a shower, rest and walk into town for a well deserved ice cream. Then it’s time to watch the beautiful sunset over the lake and volcanoe before enjoying the evening with everyone, salad and wine for dinner before sleeping rather early, tired and happy.