I made it down to Pucón, a nice tourist place with beautiful wooden houses, lots of shops and restaurants. Despite the crowd here, I like it a lot. It has a nice black lake beach where you can find mainly local tourists, squeezed together under colorful umbrellas. Most foreign tourists come here to climb Volcán Villarrica, one of South Americas most active volcanoes. I had no clue about all that before I came there, I just knew that Pucón is meant to be a place where you can book lots of “adventurous” tours.
So, after a comfy ride on a night bus from Santiago I got there at 7am, checked out my place, the town, and what’s going on. I booked a rafting tour and decided to book a climbing tour up that volcano, since I didn’t know what else to do. By that time I had no clue it would be going to be THE best thing to to.
Rafting was cool, there were some nice drops and I almost fell out of the boat once. It was a lot of other boats full of people and some safety kayaks. My whole crew was fun and friendly, we all got really wet – all in all a very good trip (unlike in New Zealand reasonably priced). The evening I spent hanging out with my room mates.
The next day. It would be the best day of the trip so far. I am to climb an active volcano. The last day the weather would be good, so I’m lucky. The pick up was at six. They provided us with proper gear, crampons, gas mask (yes), ice pick, boots, clothes.
Volcán Villarrica is a strato volcano that last erupted in 2015. It is 2860 meters high and its prominence is 1575 meters. This is basically the amount we climbed on like 3 to 4 kilometers. It’s worldwide one of the few volcanoes known to have an active lava lake within its crater. When I booked that tour, I knew nothing about that. I just thought I will be climbing a hill.
The ascent took 5 hours. Most people take the ski lift up a little further which saves you an hour but in our case it was out of order due to a power cut. So we climbed up for 5 hours, steadily paced by the guides, quite slowly but luckily our group was one of the first ones. The climbing started on lose gravel, then we crossed the glacier until just before the summit we had to climb through lots of rocks and volcanic bombs. I never felt exhausted, I think due to the slow pace. The last bit was quite steep, but o.k. It has been 5 quite enjoyable hours of mountaineering.
Then I reached the summit. The crater. You could actually hear the lava roar. And then on top, I was able to look right into the crater and I could SEE the little lava lake. I could smell the gases (now I know why we had a gas mask and were only allowed to stay 10 minutes). It smelled really bad and poisonous. Just when I gave my camera to the guide so he could take a picture of me the mountain actually spat out lava. A “baby eruption” was going on and I was so surprised, not knowing if this is normal (it is) or what’s going on. But it was so cool. Such a special moment for me that I will never forget.
But that wasn’t it. We had to get down. Somehow. Somehow? You think we just walked back? No. Not so much. We brought a little kiddy plastic sledge ans slid down the glacier. In snow channels. And used the ice pick to control the speed. It was unbelievable. Sliding down a motherf*** glacier on almost 3000 meters with the most hardcore ridiculous stunning views… There are no words to describe that.
The whole thing cost me 125 EUR and it was worth every cent. The tour company (ANTÜ RIOS Y MONTAÑAS) was located at a small office not far from the main road. The guides are all local, they speak English and are very nice and professional. There were four of them for different paces. After the tour the owner invited us to una cerveza and chips on his roof top from where we could see the mountain we just had summit-ed. It felt like hiking up there with friends. Friends who know what’s going on.. Down to earth. Not trying to sell every single rock in Chile. Not over promoting. Just a perfect way to run a tourist company. Thumbs up!