South American winter extended: touring the Villarrica Volcano

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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:

Villarrica Volcano
Villarrica Volcano

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:

Monkey puzzle tree trail
Monkey puzzle tree trail

The last trees, beyond which our destination peak (which we called Pichillancahue) appears:
Above treeline at last!

Lord Vulcan provides a dramatic backdrop for a backcountry tour, which would soon open up views of 11 volcanoes:

East face of Villarrica
East face Villarrica

Don´t go too close to those rocks, they are surrounded by ice patches:
Nice terrain except for the ice...

Mocho Choshuenco volcanoes with Puyehue/Caulle looming in the distance:
Mocho Choshuenco and Puyehue in the distance

Caburga Lake with Llaima, Tolhuaca, and Lonquimay volcanoes:
Caburga Lake

Quetrupillan and Lanin Volcanoes to the east:
Quetrupillan and Lanin volcanoes

The ski down was on unpredictable snow, from powder to ice to springy slush, but was lots of fun:

Of course the cherry on the cake was a good soaking in the local hot springs:

Vulcans proves god loves us
Vulcans proves god loves us

It is snowing again now, and the crew is hoping for more exploring to be had the next few days!

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