The ascent of Vulcán Villarrica, Chile

May, 2011

Finally, after about a week of waiting for the weather to clear, today is the day we enjoy the ascent of Vulcán Villarrica – one of Chile’s most active volcanoes.

Vulcán Villarrica, Chile, trekking, climbing, volcanoVillarrica is one of a small number of volcanoes “worldwide known to have an active (but in this case intermittent) lava lake within its crater.” This volcano has been erupting since 1552, with the earliest recorded eruption in 1558.

And a good enough reason for experienced and non-experienced climbers worldwide, to climb the volcano.

Organising the climb

For the volcano climb, we have two preferred tour companies in mind: Politur (CH$48,000) and Aguaventura (CH$40,000) – opted for Aguaventura.

The main reason is that Politur doesn’t seem to have enough people for the day we want to climb. As a result, we seem to be getting the run-around from this company. Regardless, I have to say that Carolina from Politur is very informative, friendly, and provides a lot of detailed information.

Hope we made the right decision as there is a lot of talk about dodgy companies.

If you’re not sure on a company, go to the Tourist Office (corner O’Higgins & Pelguin) and read the official comments and experiences left by tourists that completed the climb, with differing companies.

What’s provided for the climb

Aguaventura provides a backpack containing: boots, mountain wear consisting of a jacket, pants, mittens, walking sticks (absolutely crucial), a slide, crampons, a helmet, and a gas mask.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Base of Vulcán Villarrica

The day before the climb, you must go to Aguaventura to try on boots, clothes, helmet, and check your equipment.

Extras you need to take

On the morning of the climb, you need to take lunch, fruit, water, chocolate and snacks, sun glasses, and sunscreen.

All of these extra items go into your pack. My pack weighs around 10 kilograms and you don’t want to go over this weight.

On the day of the incredible but strenuous ascent…

Leaving around 07:00 hrs the drive takes around half an hour until you reach the Parque Nacional Villarrica. Driving a little further we cannot go any further, even with snow chains attached to the 4×4 as the snow is just too deep from last night’s fall. So, we start to ascend on foot.

Snow-covered vistas resemble a magical Christmas postcard – simply stunning!

Luckily, Aguaventura is the first company up the volcano and the guides take time to cut out the new path in the snow, so the mountain is untouched or unmarked by any prints – climbers follow the guides closely up the steep ascent.

As winter arrived early this year with lots of fresh snow around, the climb is quite arduous.

The bible: Lonely Planet advises this trek as only a medium climb in the scale of easy, medium, hard. Although, I truly believe that the author must of completed this climb in the summer or was super fit. I didn’t find this a medium climb but instead, found this hard…maybe because I’m short and the snow is deep!

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Short break

A couple of short breaks for water and some chocolate whilst climbing up through knee-deep then steadily increasing to waist-deep snow, provides temporary relief on this strenuous climb.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Other groups overtake us

Our group of fourteen becomes even smaller as a couple of climbers opt to go no further after the first stop at 1,200 metres.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Still climbing

The climb is slow through snow and breathing the volcanos thin air.

Thick fog shrouds the volcano the higher we climb and at times, the visibility is reduced to only around 15 metres.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Snowboarders hiking up

Quite surreal catching glimpses of the lakes and parts of the opposing Caldera del Sollipulli volcano deep beneath us – absolutely breathtaking.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Cloud-line vista looking down on Villarrica lake

Stopping at 1,800 metres for a quick rest, we rest again at 2,300 metres for lunch and a chat about whether to push further or not. While we rest and have lunch guides discuss our options, which also depends on the time you arrive at this point.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Snowboarders, close up…

If it’s early in the day, then the guides have time to take slower climbers up to the summit. Although if it’s later, then they’re not too interested in taking slow climbers to the top. This is mainly due to failing light when descending the volcano.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Still climbing…

From our group, only eight climb the last 500 metres to the crater. This group includes faster experienced climbers and also younger climbers.

Some in our group – like me – are just too slow at ascending. Some can go no further – physically, mentally, or both. One young climber collapses in a heap and just cries, as she’s climbed this far but advised not to go any further as she’s too slow and the descent is still to come.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Rest stop – the only hut like this one

The guides want you up and turned back from the crater by 14:30 hrs, as in the winter the sun starts to set at around 17:00 Hrs.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Rest before the ascent

So understandably, it’s not wise to descend in the dark regardless of whether this is by sliding or climbing down the volcano.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Much higher – you can just see below at left-side

Typically, you use your plastic slide to slide all the way down the volcano, which would be excellent and exhilarating fun.

Today, as the snow is too thick and powdery from last night’s fall, a climb back down the volcano is the only option for our group.

The long slow descent is also difficult, especially after the exhausting ascent. My legs turn to jelly by the time I reach the base of the volcano and just want to sit.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Back down at the base

As we wait at the base of the volcano for the rest of our group’s climbers to join us, a beautiful sunset dances wonderful colours across the snow.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Villarrica sunset

The rest of the climbers finally arrive on dusk and although happy to complete the 500 metres to the crater, they’re very disappointed as they only spent ten minutes at the crater. Apart from a lot of pungent smoke at the top, they were forced to cut the stay short for the climb back down the volcano in the failing light.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Local’s snow games as the sun goes down

Returning to Pucón after an incredible day

On the return trip to Pucón, through sheer exhaustion our little adventurous group of climbers fall silent, although satisfied with the unforgettable day and brilliant scenery.

Arriving back at our hostel, a hot shower and wonderful hot chocolate is in order before settling down to a hot cooked and welcomed meal. It’s the simple pleasures in life that are the very best, especially after a tough day…

Leaving Pucón

Following the long wait in Pucón for the ascent and the incredible day climbing the volcano, decide it’s time for a little quietness with some rest and relaxation, away from the maddening tourists and daredevil activities.

Time to rest the weary bones.

The next stop on Chile’s map is further north to rural Chillán, to explore more of this gorgeous country. I hear Chillán is not a tourist destination at all, but we’ll see…

Visit my Nilla’s Photography Chile Gallery for more images. More posts on Chile at Image Earth Travel.

Vulcán Villarrica, chile, South America, trekking
Happy after descending – still in 6 layers of clothing (Photo credit: Neil Lintern)

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73 responses to “The ascent of Vulcán Villarrica, Chile”

  1. equinoxio21 Avatar

    You did your best. When we climbed MOnt-Blanc we exercised for a coupla months prior. Then did several days technical training in Chamonix. And even so, it was a very close call…
    Thumbs up Mountaineer.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes and as I don’t have anything to prove to anyone, I was happy with my effort.
      Your climb also sounds arduous. Have you written a post on the climb?

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Absolutely right. I have written a post. Well, One of my fellow mountaineers wrote one, and I edited it, adding comments of my own. Let me see whether you have not read it yet.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Excellent, look forward to reading the post.

      3. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Buon finale di settimana…

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Menomale! Grazie.

      5. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I was wondering what “menomale” could mean. Menos mal? heureusement? Hopefully?

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        More like thank goodness – it’s used a lot but I’m not sure if the spelling is correct.
        The Italian language is complex.

      7. equinoxio21 Avatar

        It is. Complex, but I find it entertaining. I can read most of an italian text senza problema.

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        That’s very impressive! I’m not great with reading but I can make the sentences out usually. 😉

      9. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Maybe because I did some Latin at school? I pick up “radicals”, the word roots and compare with French, Spanish, Portuguese. Often works. Otherwise I guess shamelessly. LOL

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Good point and as it’s the base, probably the reason you pick up the languages easily.
        Haven’t seen any new posts on your site, have you been busy enjoying life? 😉
        Oh, and I had to salvage this and your last comments from my Trash folder – WP is at it again…so random.

      11. equinoxio21 Avatar

        One of the possible reasons.
        I haven’t posted since I left for Europe. Been back a while but I’m kinda wondering whether I should do something new… Takes time.
        No worry. You’re also in my gmail junk mail… LOL. I have to be careful now.

      12. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I thought you may be taking a break…sometimes it’s easy to get burnt out writing and a break is good to refresh.
        Something new? Oooo…do tell… 😉
        I understand.

      13. equinoxio21 Avatar

        New? Yes and no. About a dozen years ago, I did a crazy thing. Pulled data from the World bank. All 200+ countries in the world, and ran regression analysis on dozens of variables. I concluded that two variables correlated highly with “wealth”, measured by GDP per capita, Constant $ at Purchasing Power parity. (I.e. a bowl of rice costs the same in the UK and Thailand. Smoothes things out)
        The two variables are corruption. (As measured by Amnesty’s transparency index) and higher education. % of people of an age class going to University. Not spending in education. Too much waste. Not % of GDP just how many people go to the University. Fascinating. And depressing at the same time. (Corruption is running loose everywhere.)
        So I would like to run my analysis again, and it’s very time-consuming. Plus add observations on Government issues. The – entire – world is going to Hell in a hand basket as ‘Mericans say, and nobody cares… So it’s a bit tough to start… Voilà…

      14. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Sounds complex.
        Corruption definitely keeps countries oppressed and it’s everywhere, yes, even in Australia. Here, it’s under the table more whereas in many countries that I’ve travelled to it’s in your face. Which is worse? An interesting exercise but it may depress you even further. I’d be interested to see the results…

      15. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Complex indeed. And yes. In “our” countries, corruption is much more disguised. In the form of non-monetary advantages: a flat that goes with the job, a car, a chauffeur. Guaranteed job somewhere if you lose the election… Disgusting really.

      16. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        What would you do with the information though?
        Yes indeed disgusting and becoming rampant. Everything revolves around the mighty dollar.

      17. equinoxio21 Avatar

        That was one of my doubts. Okay. I got the info, have run the analysis, even wrote a report. I still have it. But where do I send it?

      18. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Share it anonymously online somewhere?

      19. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Maybe. The channel is important. So much garbage running around on social media…

      20. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Absolutely and fake news, which people believe.

      21. equinoxio21 Avatar

        A strange phenomenon isn’t it? Even the best-educated people believe madness. (Which means education is not really working?)

      22. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        They do indeed. Did you know the earth is flat? 😂

      23. equinoxio21 Avatar

        So I’m told. Our goddaughter is a teacher. Science and biology. A significant number of her pupils are moslem immigrants. She told me this summer, that she loves the topic. (She is also ‘feared’ and very much respected by her pupils…)
        But in Persia women are killed everyday about the head veil.

      24. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Your goddaughter must be very assertive and have “the look” (dagger eyes) if pupils fear her…
        Around the world, women are killed every day for one reason or another and much of it seems to be because of control through religion. This really affects me and not sure if I could travel to those countries because I can’t stand to see the oppression of women (anyone really).

      25. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Don’t even get me started on Iran…
        Marie is quite fun. She is adored by her pupils, but she takes no bullshit. Apparently the new pupils (12-13) when they know they will have her as a teacher ask the seniors 15-16, how she’s like. The answer is “she’s cool, but don’t f… withe her… And she’s what early 30’s. Blue eyes that can bore holes eventually. 🤣

      26. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Women’s oppression really affects me though…must be so hard for Iranians knowing what it was like before the cultural revolution in ’79. And now, the Afghanistanians born in the last 20 years, have regressed to fundamentalist values that they don’t accept.
        Marie sounds great and good to see her pupils respect her as I think teachers have it much tougher these days. I know those looks!

      27. equinoxio21 Avatar

        It does affect me too. There can be no liberty when there still is a single slave… Iranian women are so brave… (Not to mention Afghanistan)

      28. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed they are and many will die before things change…it’s tragic.

      29. equinoxio21 Avatar

        And meanwhile Iran sells drones to bl..dy R*ssia to bomb Ukraine… Grrrr.

      30. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        The world has gone mad…as we keep saying. It feels as though politicians are in it for their own gain, power, and postulation. Disgusting that Johnson just received £135K for a 30-minute speech and a 45-min “fireside chat” while he helped cripple the UK!

      31. equinoxio21 Avatar

        The main driving force behind politicos’ urge for power? Public spending. No more. Public spending, paid with our taxes, is where they get their cut, and power.
        Then of course, there are morons who pay Blair and Johnson a few thousand “Guineas” to listen to their wisdom as to how to cripple a country and bring it to its knees. It takes about 18 months to do so. Then years to bring it back it back up…

      32. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Totally agree! I don’t get it at all – people are really stupid. Imagine paying all that money to listen to Johnson talk about how wonderful he’s been for the UK and of course, blaming Labour for the mess he inherited. Same politics, different countries.

      33. equinoxio21 Avatar

        It is becoming universal. I just read Truss resigned… LOL.
        Accountability is the only way I see to keep politicos under control…

      34. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Exactly and yes, just heard also…had no choice really
        The trouble is the pollies making the rules don’t follow them or make them so they can benefit from said rules.

      35. equinoxio21 Avatar

        And the people are apathetic. I don’t understand how the Brits are doing nothing? 6 years of Brexit lies? And they’re bringing Johnson back? Seriously?

      36. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        It’s not just in the UK though, here in Australia, we’ve become apathetic for the last 20-plus years and while we were ‘comfortably numb’ the political machine changed things in the background – not for the better.
        It’s incredulous! It’s the party that’s bringing him back not the people, but the apathy of the people is allowing this to happen – Lords and Serfs.

      37. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Lords and the new serfs… Very true.
        (I understand voting is mandatory Down Under?)

      38. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed it is and you can be fined for not voting but I haven’t heard of anyone being fined yet – thank goodness for democracy! 😉

      39. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Ah. You can. But it’s not enforced?

      40. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        No, not really enforced or not that I’ve heard and it’s a small find of AUD$20 or $50, I can’t remember.

      41. equinoxio21 Avatar

        At that rate it’s not enforced. Darn. I thought you guys had a solution… 😉

      42. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha,nah, just lip service and muscle flexing.

      43. equinoxio21 Avatar

        General election, NOW! 😉

      44. Image Earth Travel Avatar
      45. equinoxio21 Avatar


      46. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Wow, what a climb! Great write-up, read, and thanks for the share!

  2. Anna Powaska Avatar

    Looks like a great trip and loads of fun. Wish could see more while in Chile.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It was an amazing trip Anna – I would do it again. Loved travelling in Chile, so much to see and do. 🙂

  3. gillmorris Avatar

    what an adventure, the scenery there is just stunning and you got to climb a volcano 🙂 x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      An incredible adventure but then again, South America is an incredible adventure. I didn’t climb to the crater but not far off it and think I climbed enough that day. 😉 x

  4. inesephoto Avatar

    Amazing, especially the sky. Fantastic photographs.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Inese.

      Yes, the sky is such an amazing blue and against the blinding white snow, it is quite spectacular.

  5. globalhousesitterX2 Avatar

    I see you are still in Chile 🙂 How’s Italy going? I keep forgetting how long you are there for, I seem to recall a year?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha I’m still updating all of my Matador posts I wrote years’ ago, which I never got around to updating.
      Currently in Sicily then back to Calabria. In Italy until mid-October 2018, then not sure where next… 😉

      1. globalhousesitterX2 Avatar

        Okay sounds good, looking forward to more current posts about Italy 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Right, no pressure then! I have 8 in Draft at the moment. 😉

      3. globalhousesitterX2 Avatar

        Okay, get them out and about!! Absolutely no pressure whatsoever, just don’t take too long about it 🙂

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Notice that you have been writing loads – a machine. 🙂

      5. globalhousesitterX2 Avatar

        Had a bit of time during siesta time in a Turkish summer when it got over 40+ degs, writing instead of sleeping! 🙂

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        From your posts, it looks as if you really enjoyed Turkey. Cosenza had those temps last month but I still didn’t manage to catch up, only updated my older 16 posts, which I’ve republished.

        On that note, I’m told by WP that it’s better to reblog than republish as this could be seen as duplicate info by SEO. I think that as I first published those posts over 2 years’ ago, then I should be OK…let’s hope as SEO is an ever-changing science!

      7. globalhousesitterX2 Avatar

        Yes, we did really enjoy Turkey, so much more to see and we would love to go back at some stage. Though I do know what SEO is, at this stage of the game I don’t use it or spend time thinking about it!

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I’m yet to travel to Turkey.
        It takes a lot of time trying to keep abreast of all the changes that Google impose. I’d rather be writing. 😉

  6. Patty Avatar

    Love the picture ‘Villarrica sunset’. But if I every go to Chile, I think this woman of the sun won’t go to the parts with snow 😉

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, it was so very cold that I had 6 layers on and still felt the ice through my bones, the further up we climbed. Still, it was an incredible experience. 😉 x

      1. Patty Avatar

        Only 6? 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes, the last layer was a heavy duty snow jacket…had to still climb up the volcano so couldn’t be too constricted by clothing. 🙂

      3. Patty Avatar

        We have a saying in Dutch: Dappere Dodo! (brave dodo, something like: you go girl! )
        Seriously, respect you managed to do it!

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha it’s called sheer stubbornness on my part, must be my Calabrese heritage!
        I only wish we had more time that day so I could do the last 500 metres to the summit, as I know I could have completed the climb. 😉

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