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Located just 17 kilometers away from Pucón, the Villarrica volcano is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes. Standing at 2,847 meters above sea level, it’s one of the most popular attractions in the region. Every summer, lots of visitors attempt the climb to the top in guided hikes; making it one of the most climbed stratovolcanoes in the world. However, the weather can sometimes be unpredictable, specially at the end of the season and some groups have to turn around.
When I visited the small city of Pucón, I realised this was the perfect opportunity to cross off item 26 on my Bucket List. Since there are a few operators in town that offer guides trips to the Villarrica volcano, it was easy to make the arrangements. The day before the excursion, our guides gave us a briefing about our schedule and fitted us with mountaineering boots, waterproof pants and jackets. They also gave us a backpack with ice picks, gloves and crampons.
It’s still dark outside, when it’s time to wake up and get ready for the day’s adventure. Our group is small enough to fit all in a van and off we go! Soon, I realise that except for one American guy in his fifties, I’m the oldest person in the group. There’s three guides with us today and they also look young.
The drive to the base of the volcano is short; by the time we arrive the sun is starting to come up already. From here, there’s the option to take the ski-lift and save about an hour of walking uphill on loose sand for a few extra Chilean pesos. Even though some of my friends had recommended that I should take it, I decided not to.
After another hour or so of hiking up, we finally reached the glacier. It was time to put on the crampons. The last time I’d worn crampons to climb up a slope was on a climbing mission up Wedgemount in British Columbia, Canada; and we had to turn back because I could not manage them, so I was a bit nervous. However, the way up turn out to be quite mellow and there was only one tricky section almost at the end of the climb.
Our guides kept us going at a good pace, I couldn’t help noticing that we were taking fewer breaks that other groups as we determinedly advanced to the summit. When we finally made it, I was elated! We had been lucky with the weather during the whole day with bright sunshine and clear blue skies. Knowing that the worse part of the trip was over was also a relief.
The view from the top of the Villarrica volcano was well worth the effort. The only disappointment, if any, was that we didn’t see any lava inside the crater. There was only a very light column of smoke coming out. After having lunch while enjoying the spectacular vistas; it was then time to suit up in our waterproof gear. This is where the real fun started!
After a short walk on the glacier covered top of Villarrica volcano, we made it to the point where we would be sliding down as far as the ice would take us. This was really cool! You could actually reach some good speed (if you didn’t get stuck behind some turtle-girl, like it happened to me once. Booh!)
Once the glacier part was behind us, it was time for the hike down to the base, which was also fun. On that side, the slope is covered with a thick layer of loose sand; which made it really easy to just run all the way down to the parking lot at the base of the volcano. The loose sand provided good cushioning for my legs, and for me this was the best descent ever!
Climbing the Villarrica volcano was an unforgettable experience and one of my top adventures of my trip around South America. If you’re visiting Pucón, you should definitely give it a try! If you’d like to see more photos from my time there, check out my gallery.
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Have you ever climbed an active volcano? How did you like the experience? Tell me all about it in the comments bellow!