Villarrica Volcano finally.
Villarica Volcanoe sits above the town of Pucon, and unlike the other volcanoes I have climbed down here this one is active. A fumarole smokes out of its top and sometimes lava can be seen in its crater and at night. It also has the classic shape of a volcano, sitting alone and far above everything around it.
Which is super aesthetic but makes it prone to winds, more prone than the mountains around Las Trancas! The first two days Dave and I battled our way up a couple of thousand feet, we were able to skin a thousand feet and then we had to crampon as high as we could. The second day the wind was so strong that we crouched and crawled up to an old lift shack that provided enough shelter to switch back to our skis and ski home.
Yesterday the winds were finally calm and we decided to go for round 3. It was such a contrast to the days before, calm and beautiful, and nice enough to stop and look around and enjoy where we were. We were able to skin 2500ft and then it was crampon time. The upper half was wind blasted and rain crusted, to such a degree that we had to crampon up 20 degree slopes. On the way up I looked around to eye up the best pitches for descent, it would be a case of linking up sastrugi patches, amongst the frozen chicken heads. Finally we crested the crater..
I was pretty excited to finally crest a true volcano and maybe see some lava. I have never seen any lava and it is on my bucket list, I hoped desperately to see it today. So I approached as close as I could. I had to be careful because Tracey had a dream the night before that I had fallen into the crater. So I moved cautiously and looked in..
Dave stayed back and took these pictures, since when the wind changed the smoke could engulf us and was not easy on the lungs or the eyes. I peered into the crater and…………. saw nothing but smoke… But what was so neat was that it was as if it was breathing, the smoke would blow up and then slow down, and then wooof it would blow out again. In/out, in/out Gaia breathing. Super cool.
Then it was time to ski down….. top 5 descents of my life. Top 5 worst descents off a mountain. Frozen chicken heads, huge wind sastrugis, hard ass skiing. It would vibrate you to the point where we had to stop. then vibrate again. It was lucky that it was 2pm so some of it had softened due to the sun.
We met a guided party part way down and I recognized that one of their clients was not going to make it so I suggested I take him down. Turns out he was from England, and lived in the tiny hamlet of Chagford, which is within miles of Tracey’s Mom’s house and he had in fact met them. Small world. The rest of his party continued up, we watched them and hours later as they disappeared into the clouds. The sun was gone and I cannot imagine how bad their descent was. It was terrible for us and we are skilled sufferers, and we had the advantage of sun and a better line. By 5.30 they were still in the clouds and we wondered about them…
While all this was going on Dave and I were doing laps on the lower slopes that had warmed up and provided some fun skiing. I pulled in a 12000 foot day which felt great. Much needed.