For the volcano climb, we had two preferred tour companies in mind Politur (CH$48,000) and Aquaventura (CH$40,000); opted for Aquaventura as think Politur didn’t have enough people so they were giving us the run around. However, Carolina (Politur) was very informative and provided a lot of detailed information.
If you’re not sure, go to the Tourist Office (cnr O’Higgins & Pelguin) and read the official comments (experiences) by tourists climbing the volcano with different companies.
Aquaventura provides a backpack containing, boots, mountain wear (jacket, pants, mittens), walking sticks (crucial), slide, crampons, helmet, and gas mask.
The day before the climb, you need to try on boots, clothes, helmet, etc. On the morning of the climb, you need to take lunch, fruit, water, chocolate, sun glasses, and sunscreen, which all goes into your pack (think it weighed around 10kgs). We left round 7am for the half-hour drive to Parque Nacional Villarrica until we could go no further even with snow chains on the 4WD as the snow was too deep. The snow-covered park resembled a Christmas postcard!
Aquaventura is the first company up the volcano so the guides cut out the new path in the snow for us to follow up the steep ascent. As winter arrived early and lots of snow around, the trek was arduous. The bible (Lonely Planet) advises this trek as a medium climb but think the author finished this climb in summer!
A couple of breaks for water and chocolate whilst climbing up through knee and waist-deep snow provided temporary relief to the strenuous climb.
Our group of 14 became even smaller when a couple of people opted to go no further after the first stop at 1,200mts. Stopped at 1,800mts and again at 2,300mts for lunch where only 8 trekked the last 500mts to the crater. Some of us were too slow or couldn’t go any further. The guides want you up and turned back from the crater by 14:30 as in winter the sun starts to set round 17:00ish. Apparently, the people that trekked to the crater only had 10 minutes there until they started the trek down. Usually, it’s a slide down the volcano but as the snow was too powdery, a trek back down was the only option.
As we climbed higher, much fog shrouded the volcano and at times, the visibility was only about 15mts; quite surreal when catching glimpses of the lakes deep below or parts of the opposing volcano (Caldera del Sollipulli) – breathtaking vistas!