Chili volcanos – Villarrica Traverse day 0

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

Santiago > Pucón

The goal was The Traverse, one of Chile’s best hikes. In fact I now rate it second best after Paine in the far south.

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81km
demanding

A classic longer trek along the rugged volcanic spine of Parque National Villarrica.

I took a night bus semi-cama. That’s almost a bed, but not quite. About 9 hours. I’ll take FULL cama next time. :-)

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Arrived Pucón early morning. Groggy and disoriented.

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My hostel – ¡École! – restaurant was not even open as yet for coffee. But I dropped my bags.

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I recommend this excellent low cost accommodation. Folks from the Banff Mountain Film festival were there at the same time.

Pucón is one of the great mountain tourist traps of the world. Picture Banff, Canada with volcanos rather than Rocky Mountains.

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If you hate tourists, you might hate Pucón. Young people come mostly for the party.

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Personally I loved Pucón. The infrastructure for foreign tourists is superb. And as a jumping off point for wilderness, it’s ideal.

We shopped for groceries. Packed for the trail.

Osorno volcano hiking, Chile

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

What’s the best hike on or around Osorno? (11 eruptions recorded between 1575 and 1869)

Osorno from Puerto Varas

Osorno from Puerto Varas

I wanted to ask Charles Darwin who had glimpsed the peak in January 1835.

We headed first out to the Petrohue camping area in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. A short bus ride out of Puerto Varas.

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At the end-of-the-bus-line marina, you need pay a couple of dollars for a boat to get you across the river.

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This woman runs one of the dirty, crowded unofficial Petrohue camping areas. The toilets are awful. :-(

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Cats, chickens and dogs run (and crap) everywhere.

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This kayaker stayed two nights here as the wind was too high on the lake to continue.

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We’d met Molly from London on the bus. She and I immediately scrambled up the steep slope above camp.

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The river mouth empties into lake Todos Las Santos.

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Here’s why Petrohue camping is so popular. The view of Osorno.

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I crashed early.

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Next morning we packed up as quickly as possible so we could to go do something on the volcano.

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Unfortunately the big mountain was cloudy.

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At Conef across the river I was convinced to do a relatively easy hike called Desolation, part way up the mountain.

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The rest of the group – 6 others – wanted instead to climb as high as possible from the ski resort. So we started walking the road.

After about 6km we managed to hitch a ride (all 7 of us) to the junction. Then we caught another ride to the top of the ski hill.

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First stop was the restaurant for coffee.

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From here we had the option of riding an expensive cable car. Or ascending on foot.

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We walked.

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These guys were walking their bikes up. Riding down.

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A zip line is in operation. But we didn’t see many people using it.

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Up into the clouds.

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It was clearer below.

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Most visitors hike only to this crater.

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We were having fun.

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What are these women doing? :-)

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Pedro and Molly were keenest to climb as high as possible, despite cloud.

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The ski lift stopped for some reason. A guy climbed up to fix it.

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The snow line. This is where I stopped.

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The vista was great from there.

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Some kept climbing.

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An 18yr-old swiss hiker was lost and died here. I left a Summit Stone at his memorial.

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There were several other memorials.

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The rest of us started to descend, assuming the peak would not get any clearer. We were wrong.

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Back down to the restaurant, we celebrated. Then checked the parking lot for a ride down the mountain.

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It turned out to be a great day. :-)

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In minutes we caught a ride for 7 people down to the crossroad.

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After walking 2km we (eventually) determined that the bus was no longer running that late in the day. So, instead, hitched a ride for 9 people with the patriarch of our campground.

Back across the river, we ate and celebrated until dark. 10pm. :-)

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From Petrohue camping you can see Volcán Puntiagudo (“Sharp-pointed volcano”). There’s no end to intriguing hiking possibilities in Chile.

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day 5 – Laguna Ánimas to Molina

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

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I had a long way to go today. But it was mostly downhill.

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Back past Laguna Ánimas, busier than when I had camped here.

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Two large water birds seem to spend their nights here.

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The easy way to descend snow fields.

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Though I’m afraid of riding horses, Chile is ideal country for cowboys.

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Back to the green. And some shade.

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Impressive Bolsón was packed. This great weather had inspired more folks from Santiago to takes some time off work.

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This day I did see two large hares, the only indigenous mammals I found.

Surprisingly I saw no sign of snakes or scorpions. Or rodents. My principle companions were tens of thousands of these guys.

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On the trail the only language I heard was Spanish. Foreign hikers do not seem to get here much. It’s another Chilean secret. :-)

Catching the Parque Inglés bus back to Molina, a tranquil town of about 40,000. I (eventually) found an inexpensive and interesting place to stay in the small town. With a BIG swimming pool.

Hostería Suichi (Suisse + Chile) run by Robert, a (now jaded) Swiss expat.

Robert gave me good information. And cooked up a beef soup typical of the region for me.

In the evening I ate ice cream and hung out in the plaza. As everyone does.

On the street late night I bumped into a Chilean couple on holiday who ended up staying at the Hostería. Next morning we had breakfast together in the popular restaurant. :-)

Meeting new people is one of the great highlights of travel.

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day 4 – return to Laguna Ánimas

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

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Sunburn was my biggest worry at this point. I had plenty of No-Ad Sport Sunscreen slathered on, but this sun is unrelenting. I was wearing socks on my hands as they were most burnt, so far.

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I made one last climb up to the “corner” of the valley to see if it looped back over a pass in the direction I wanted to go …

The cows thought I was crazy.

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I was crazy. Odds were slim that it would work. I turned back here.

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It was a relief, actually, to finally know where I was going.

River crossings are a big issue here. There are no bridges. Happily this was the most difficult I crossed. Not bad.

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Descending to the hot springs, the group had already vacated. I had the place to myself. :-)

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One last look back up my side valley.

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Mid-day I took the shade and studied Spanish for 90 minutes or so. Then resumed my high traverse of the massif.

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Today the two condors came to check me out.

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I was clinging to life yet. :-)

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People curse slogging through ash. Personally, I like it. Very soft on the feet. The best screeing surface possible.

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I was surprised to come across 4 Chilean hikers in the afternoon. They had put up the tents and got directions from me to the hot springs. Two had just been married. This was part of the honeymoon. Both were just about to move to Montreal for work. Small world.

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One of the guys asked me if I knew the way back to the Pass. Of course I did. I’d just come from that direction.

How could I get lost? :-)

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I got lost. :-(

Things truly do look completely different when walking the opposite direction.

My good camera had broken, the telescoping lens mechanism wrecked. :-( I wasn’t in much of a mood to take photos in any case. :-(

My audio book – Red Rising by Pierce Brown – kept me going.

I was first diverted for about 2 hours. Then about 30 minutes. (Several times I considered backtracking to the honeymoon party tents. I could have walked out with them next morning.)

But – finally – I found the way back to Ánimas. I set up my tent above the lake at this junction of alpine meadow and desert. My best campsite.

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day 3 – Laguna Ánimas to Hot Springs

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

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Another lovely dawn. I packed up before the sun hit my tent. Fearing sunburn.

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Pretty Laguna las Ánimas is a jewel in the midst of volcanic destruction.

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Atop the next plateau I was surprised to find yet another alpine meadow.

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If this region were not so volcanic, it would be very green.

Higher there was yet more water. But the scenery grew stark. Weird and wonderful.

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Looking back on my morning route.

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Above Ánimas there are no signs. No official trails. You are on your own. I’m sure people get lost and die here every year.

I hoped that was my highest pass up ahead.

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It was. :-) I left a Summit Stone.

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It would be an excellent idea to enjoy the massive and impressive Mt. Decapitated vista from here. And turn back.

Laguna Mondaca

Laguna Mondaca

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I dropped down to the other side crossing this field of snow and ash.

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Laguna Mondaca looked too great a descent for me. I’d really rather not drop down that far and have to climb back up.

A high traverse trail on the right looked much more tempting. Quickly I decided to stay as high as I could. Returning by the same route if that trail didn’t loop around back to Valle de Indio.

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I LOVE this kind of brutal & extreme landscape.

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Surprisingly, it’s quite easy to find water here.

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Wildflowers were still thriving in January.

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The unofficial trail was excellent. I stayed as high as I could.

Laguna Mondaca

Laguna Mondaca

Though I could see for miles in every direction, I’d seen no wild mammals at yet. Goats were grazing very high up, circled by two very interested condors.

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I tried to find some shade to take a siesta mid-day. This was one of the best.

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I set up the tent to keep flies and wasps away.

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This was a long but comparatively easy day, mostly gradually downhill. I decided to enter a side valley hoping it would loop back to where I started. (My GPS did not work and I had no map, so this was wild speculation.)

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Entering the valley I smelled sulphur. I’d stumbled on to one of the many natural hot springs in the area. But a horse group was already camped there. I decided to wait until next day to have my bath.

I set up high and out-of-sight since there were cattle and people in this valley.

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day 2 – El Bolsón to Laguna las Ánimas

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

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Good morning from the Andes.

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There’s a reason Bolsón is so popular. It’s a pretty alpine meadow, a green oasis on the edge of a volcanic wasteland.

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Most who make it this far stop and day hike from here.

But I was determined to seeif not climbMt Decapitated. I’d have to get past that spiky peak in the distance to do so.

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On the other hand, I took it easy today ascending steeply up to the next obvious campsite. Past that the next recommend camp is Laguna Mondaca, too far for me with full pack, I was thinking.

The trail is clearly signed up to Valle de Indio, another lush alpine meadow. It’s gets more volcanic after this point.

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Despite the heat and intense sun, snow crossings were frequent. Early season would require an ice axe.

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Footing is either bad up here. Or volcanic ash. I used the “instagator” system with my socks.

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In South America you can expect to see at least one religious pilgrimage site every day.

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The higher I climbed, the better I liked it.

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I arrived Ánimas before 3pm. With at least 5 hours of sunlight left, I was tempted to risk it and climb higher.

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Instead I cooled my heels. Listened to my Coffee Break Spanish lessons. Walked the perimeter of the tarn.

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Rick Chile

Not many carry tents up here from Bolsón, but there were a few groups with me at the lake.

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Just above my tent is the trail I’ll take in the morning.

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Good night.

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day 1 – Parque Inglés to El Bolsón campground

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles 

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High season on a mid-summer weekend, Valle las Catas campground was full.

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We were in no rush. Enjoyed the morning.

Sendero Los Cipreses (Cypresss Trail) is free entrance from Valle las Catas campground leading to the Siete Tazas (7 cups). Pedro, Victor and myself did the famous tourist attraction as a day hike.

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seven consecutive natural pools with their respective waterfalls along Claro River. These waterfalls range from 1 to 10.5 metres. There are also two high waterfalls called El Velo de Novia (The Bridal Veil) and La Leona (The Lioness), with single vertical drops of 40 and 20 metres respectively. …

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On return to the campground I enjoyed one last restaurant meal – 4 eggs.

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By far the most popular back country campground in the area is El Bolsón. I planned an afternoon start. Tried to get organized at the Ranger station.

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In fact it was 4pm before I reached the trailhead.

Christian and his family had been there before. I followed them from the Park office and we stayed together for much of the 12km. All uphill.

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Many groups ride horses up here. Or take pack animals.

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Very pretty.

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On the steepest section, I dropped my heavy load and went back to carry the 10yr-olds pack for about one km. However, when we finally got to Bolsón, she looked less tired that I did.

The sun going down, I set up my tent in a gorgeous spot. And went to sleep.

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