South American winter extended: touring the Villarrica Volcano
The belated arrival of El Niño has extended the Chilean ski season into October, with Valle Nevado now closing on October 18 and Corralco going “until the snow runs out”, probably November 1.
While there is still a 30% deficit of rainfall for the Central Zone, cool and rainy spring weather has kept the existing base steady above 3,000m. In the southern region of Araucanía, the volcanoes continue to accumulate snow above tree line (around 1,500m), as successive storms roll through with occasional windows of clear weather.
The Villarrica volcano belching smoke through a fog cap:
We got one such window and went exploring the back side of Villarrica. While the beginnings of a serious easterly Puelche wind blew the belching plume down the western slope, the east side was clear and relatively calm.
Accessing the National Park from the southern access between Villarrica and Quetrupillan volcanoes, deep snow blocked our 4×4 at about 1,200m, so Victor and I happily donned our skis.
Monkey puzzle trees shading the road and protecting the snow:
Lord Vulcan provides a dramatic backdrop for a backcountry tour, which would soon open up views of 11 volcanoes:
Of course the cherry on the cake was a good soaking in the local hot springs:
It is snowing again now, and the crew is hoping for more exploring to be had the next few days!