Saturday, 4 December 2010

Chilean Lake District - Volcano with Snow

Our latest climb.  Volcan Villarrica, one of Chile´s most active volcanoes.  View from the town of Puçon.

It´s on with the crampons.  The smoking summit is 2840 metres above sea level.  But we skipped a bit and took the ski lift up to 1300 m.  From where you get views like these to other volcanoes and lakes in the region.

From the top of the ski lift, it was 3 hours of trudge up steep slopes of snow and ice.

No dramas for someone with a helmet and a hat.

Our group, led by yellow-helmeted Reuben of Aguaventura (highly recommended), before the final 45 minutes to Volcan Villarrica´s crater rim.

Inside the crater.  Annoyingly, the level of the lava lake is too low right now for the molten rock to be seen.  Only two years ago, it was well within view from here and, on occasion, splattering onlookers. 

So benign was Villarrica on our crater visit that I couldn´t even smell the fumes that were belching out.  It was silent too.  The last eruption was in 1984.

The main hazard for the people living around the volcano when it does erupt are lahars - giant mudslides created when lava meets and melts the vast sheets of ice and snow on the volcano.  During an eruption in the 1950s, many were killed in a local village when a lahar struck in the middle of the night. 

Fantastic views through the clouds to one of the larger lakes in the Puçon area.

MJC and rest of group getting suited up for our rapid mode of descent. 

On your rear and a plastic tray, it takes no time to get back to the base of the mountain.  We frequently spiralled out of control on the way down but it was FANTASTIC.

"One of the best things I have done in my life", MJC under the clouds near Volcan Villarrica´s snowline.

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