60km as the crow flies six hours as the car drives
What a mission! Looking on Google earth Llaima Volcano is 60 kms away from Pucon. Looking at the map we decided to head there and try and ski this 3125m/10250ft volcano. We dicided on the most direct route along the Routa del lagos, it seemed somewhat direct and was until we started following the road up to a mountain pass. Soon enough we were in 4 wheel drive and following one persons tracks up and up the road, teh snow got deeper and deeper till we were driving through 60cms of snow. It reached a point where we had to hope that whoever we were following had made it because there was no turning back. Almost to the pass and we got stuck. Some shoveling and we were able to continue forward.
Eventually whoever we were following got stuck a few times and turned around. So we did the same. We retraced our route and made it to pavement and then drove the long way to the mountain. Almost 6 hours and we were in the parking lot; we left at 6.10 am and it was 12.. But this place was special, more snow here than I have seen yet, super small resort but lots of snow, ten foot tall road banks. But what was even more interesting where these trees…
A forest of Araucaria trees, or what we know as monkey trees. Super cool and you could ski through some of them. Along on this trip was a local chilean Alex Koeller, who has climbed Manaslu, and many of the highest mountains in Chile,Argentina, and Bolivia. Since we were so late he talked us into a free lift up the chair, which saved us 1000 ft and had us touring by 12.30.
Its tough to gain perspective on this but what is in the photo is 4000 feet of mountain. So its huge alpine mountain. Again the winds were picking up and we had little time, so pucnhed trail through powder snow and we worked our way up. Not much socializing, just action. Soon enough Dave and I were ahead and almost gaining the summit ridge, by now the winds had increased. At one point I attempted to get around the ridge and maybe onto the protected side, but the wind was soo strong I thought I might get blown off. Struggling higher we worked our way to the summit and had a brief moment there. Then we forced our way back down, at one point the wind got under Dave’s skis and picked him up and tossed him down. By far the strongest winds on this trip yet. We came over the crest and I could not see Alex, so much wind and snow blowing that I wondered where he had gone. I was hoping that he had turned around since it was so burly and luckily he had. We found him lower on the slope walking down with crampons on. Small bits of frostbite and a look of “let’s get the $%^& out of here. Which we did, skiing the bowl, which was winddrifted, windslabbed and finally deep powder. The wind had wrecked most of it during our ascent but we still had some good turns. Back to the car by 6 pm and then 3 hour drive home. 9 hours of driving, 5.5 hours of ski touring, a tough day at the office but a new awesome volcano.