Yes, you heard that correctly! After months of closure, monitoring and restrictions, the local authorities have given the go ahead for Villarrica volcano to re-open for activities. However, it is early days… there are still some protocols to be signed and the disclaimer that has always been used is being redrafted to highlight participant acceptance of risk and therefore responsibility. Of course this is nothing new. If you decide to paraglide or skydive, bungee jump or hurtle down white water rapids, or even head off backcountry skiing in unchartered territory on an escorted group tour, you will be aware of the necessity and the format of this type of document. Villarrica is active, always has been and most likely always will be (during our life time). That is in part what makes it such a fantastically attractive peak to explore!
It is important to know that the restriction of 3 km radius around the crater is still in place as only tourists who sign up with an authorized agency will be allowed to participate in the formal ascent. “Authorized agencies” means those that are registered with Sernatur (the national tourist agency), and of course they also must have complied with all other relevant prerequisites such as equipment inspection, certified guides, relevant experience etc.
It has been a tense few months since the images of lava being thrown high into the air flashed around the world in an instant on March 3, 2015 for the Villarrica Volcano eruption.
Needless to say the adventure agencies in Pucón that offer the Villarrica volcano ascent are super happy that the authorities have deemed the volcano safe enough to allow ascents before the summer season starts. Suzi and Claudio (UIAGM Guide) from the agency Summit Chile have this to say about the news:
We are really excited that folks will once again be able to experience this amazing excursion just 9 months after the last eruption. Only registered agencies will be allowed to do ascents due to the new regulations which will restrict the amount of people per agency (maximum group sizes of 12). We are looking forward to taking up our first group on November 12th and welcome everyone to help us spread this good news.
So, what do you need to know and what can you expect from a hike up the volcano? An early start to your day that is for sure. You will be up at the crack of dawn and will be kitted up and ready to go before you have normally reached to hit the snooze button!
You must wear full equipment which will be provided by the agency: windproof jacket, windproof pants, helmet, ice pick, crampons and backpack. Crampons are carried only in case of icy conditions and your guide will indicate if and when it is necessary to stop and put them on. As for the ice pick, don’t worry, you will not be expected to hang from crevasses or hop from ice wall to ice wall, they are mainly used for balance as you ascend and are to be kept on the lower side of you and the mountain at all times. They also prove indispensable as a brake when sliding down the toboggan runs in the snow as you descend!
From the ski lifts and upwards on Villarrica the views are simply stunning. On a clear day you can see 5 volcanoes including the equally conical peak of Osorno volcano about 190km south as the crow flies. You can even see into Argentina! The views over Lake Villarrica surrounded by lush green mountainous valleys are jaw dropping. Whether hiking or skiing you will want to keep you camera accessible and factor in time for photo breaks. This does work out really rather well as it provides the perfect reason to stop and catch your breath, all under the guise of snapping that picture postcard shot!
So, despite Pucón missing out on a whole ski season this year as posted a few months back here, the active volcano is making a comeback right on cue for the Chilean summer. For those of you who like to plan in advance and are considering a summer ski break for 2016 down in Chile count Pucón in as an option and don’t forget to take a look at PowderQuest’s trip options here.