Many visitors to Pucón arrive thinking they are not interested in climbing the Villarrica volcano. They then install themselves in their hotel, take a look around town, and observe the smoldering conical peak visible from every corner. Questions begin to appear from nowhere. What must it feel like to stand on the rim of the crater? Can you really see lava in there? How hard can it actually be? Do I think I could make it up there? These thoughts are just the beginning.
Villarrica volcano definitely awakens an internal, almost primordial spirit, to challenge yourself more than you have perhaps ever done before. There is something so raw about volcanoes. Knowing they are linked to the very molten core of the Earth generates a subconscious connection with nature. Villarrica in particular, perhaps because of its proximity to town, definitely leaves you feeling like you want to know more.
How do you normally feel when you walk uphill? Let’s start there. If your immediate response is “tired”, maybe the full day ascent is not for you. If you have any fear or issues with heights, then again, maybe look at a full day walk in the local national park if you want to get out there into nature. However, if you are up for a challenge and don’t mind wearing walking boots and carrying a backpack stuffed with gear, lunch, snacks and water, then read on.
The short answer on the question of Do you think I will be able to make it to the crater? is that there is no easy short answer. Will you actually make it up there is dependent on life experiences to date, level of fitness, mental stamina, and general feeling of health and wellbeing on the day of the ascent. Here are our tips to maximise your chances.
Pace is crucial. It will be set by your guide, not you. Trust in this person who has safely ascended and descended that same volcano hundreds of times in their career. If it feels slow, simply enjoy the views, take loads of photos and maintain your energy reserves for the final push after the false summit. Many people fail mentally on reaching this point of the ascent. The false summit really does look like you are at the top. You can't see any more land to ascend beyond; your legs are tired and your stomach is demanding food. However, you arrive and then the remainder of the hike is revealed in all its steep glory, and that, combined with fatigue can beat some people into opting for an early descent. Your guide will remind you to eat something that is energy packed, take a rest, enjoy the view and refuel on mental and physical energy supplies for that last push.
Snacks are super important. As is the condition of your head on the morning of the ascent. Minimise your alcohol intake the night before, eat carbs, drink plenty of water and get an early night. You are paying good money to achieve something amazing, once in a lifetime amazing. Don’t jeopardize your chances of making it up there because you didn’t consider how important it is to be on top form from the moment you awake. Make time for a good hearty breakfast and stock up on energy bars, (sugar stuffed fruit, Gatorade or equivalent, nuts and raisins), and, even if it seems like a huge amount to carry, make sure you have at least 2 litres of water with you.
Interestingly, years of experience have taught local guides that nationality can hugely influence the expectation of what such a day involves. Please note that these comments are based on observation and conversations with guides and are not meant to be offensive. Brazilians for example have had little contact with snow, the feeling of cold caused by it, and the skill set needed for walking on it. Central Europeans are much more accustomed to these conditions and can often set off too fast and exhaust themselves too early. It is wise to think over your own contact (or lack of) with similar conditions and take these into account when considering your own ascent of Villarrica volcano.
Also, do you have the right clothing? You need comfortable layers, no jeans. Even if you have good walking boots the tour operator recommends you wear theirs as they must fit crampons in case of icy conditions near the crater. You will carry a day pack stuffed with a wind jacket, over trousers, gloves, gaiters and a helmet that are all provided for you. In addition, you will carry an ice axe to help with balance. You cannot ascend without this gear.
So, if this doesn’t sound too scary and you want to give it a go, actually arriving to the crater
is largely all up to you. The experience will definitely leave you breathless, (not just because of the stunning views from the top!); and you will spend the rest of your time in Pucón staring up at the crater wondering how your body made it to the top. Definitely unmissable and without doubt unforgettable. Lake Lodge can recommend local tour operators with whom to book the Villarrica volcano ascent so get in touch today here. The Lodge´s perfect mattresses and soft warm duvets will nurture your body back to life after the exertion of the ascent, and that roof top beer overlooking Lake Villarrica will be the best you have ever tasted!
We hope to welcome you to Lake Lodge in Pucón soon!
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