Volcano Villarrica – Rucapillan

The main attraction in Pucon is the volcano. Villarrica for the lazy, Rucapillan for the most ambitious.. The latter being the local name for the former. The ascension is advertised as “easy” and accessible to all, but it also states that you may not use your own equipment and from the backpack to the crampons everything will be provided to you. Including shoes and pants. While there was a lot of fretting originally about the fit of the gear (and the fact that it does really look quite worn), none of us ended having problems with it.. Apart from the fact that the zipper of my jacket wouldn’t close, something I failed to check initially. It didn’t matter, the weather was good enough.

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We set off early enough and soon were at the foot of the mountain. There you have the option to either do the first hour of hiking on foot or take a chair lift.. First we wanted to take the chair lift, to arrive before the other groups. Then we realized the chair lift wasn’t open yet and opted to hike after all. To the credit of our tour guides, they were super flexible. Even though some people had already left on foot and others wanted to take the chair lift, they sent of a third tour guide to hike up with us.. That tour guide knew no pity, he was intent on catching up with the other group of hikers. We suffered quite a bit, but eventually made it up and also ended up catching up with the guys taking the chair lift.

We had gone with the local agency of the kiwi chili hostel and felt very well taken care of the entire time. The guides all spoke English, there were 4 guides for 12 people and at all times they were friendly and open to cater to our wishes (if they were safe).

While we started hiking in the dark, the sun soon started coming out, painting the clouds in all shades of pink. Soon after, we realized that the mountain was casting its shadow onto the clouds. It took as a while to understand what was happening.

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For a long time, it was a really nice hike. We did come to realize that it’s more than just a walk in the park when we reached the ice. Suddenly ice and rocks started falling down and the danger of being injured got quite real. We saw one person (from a different agency) get hit in the leg and unable to get back up after. Just 25min from the top. The guides, however, where well prepared and once she had accepted that she needed to turn around, they carried her down.

We continued on, at a much faster speed until we’d left the dangerous zone. The ice was showing the most amazing formations, the sun was out and the volcano fuming at the top. About 10 minutes from the top we were instructed to put on our gas mask, also part of the gear given to us at the bottom and of we went into the fumes. The volcano was going crazy with fumes, we couldn’t see each other, the mountain or the surroundings for most of the time at the top. Billowing of burning gas waved around us, making my eyes tear up and, when I pulled in the air too strongly, burning through my throat.. For some reason we weren’t supposed to stay up for more than 10 minutes. Luckily 10 minutes was just enough to see the lava appear and the view to clear up enough to have a look around. Mission successful.

Then came, what we’d already been told was the funnest part of the day: Sliding back down. We’d been carrying giant diapers, that were now wrapped around our behind, then we sat down and off we went. The ice pike serving as a break where necessary.. What had taken almost five hours to climb, was descended in a little over 90 minutes. Down at the car some savy business men stood with a cooler full of beer.. It’s never tasted better!

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