Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thar She Blows! Volcano Season in South America

There have been highs and lows in the past 3 weeks of being back in my basecamp town of Bariloche in Northern Patagonia, but it feels great to be back visiting with old friends and planning another big season in the Southlands.

With close to no time to decompress after arriving, which I barely did because of a bunch of BS with Argentine Immigration, I began an 11 day Alpine Training for the Outward Bound Patagonia Program. We drove over to Chile to spend some time working on snow skills and glacier travel before making a successful summit climb of Volcan Villarica. Heading to the west was a good idea, because the ash and sand is still a major deal in Bariloche after the Volcan Peyehue eruption in June, and it is still causing lots of air quality issues.

Villarica is pretty active. We have to call in for a go ahead every time we climb it. The lava glows as you approach in the early morning!

Anyway, we sent Villarica, packed up our camp and resupplied in a small town near the border called Currarehue, and made our way to the flanks of Volcan Lanin, a much bigger hunk of a mountain, rising almost 10,000 vertical feet off the pampa on the Argentine side. We climbed it from a camp at the base of the northern (Chilean) aspect, leaving early from our tents at 3 am. The winds steadily increased as we gained the large bench which normally serves as a high camp, and which was in the middle of a mega lenticular cloud, and we hunkered down for some evaluation time. We kept on going, moving in rope teams to manage big fall potential, and wending through halfpipes of rime ice reminicent of the mushrooms you experience atop many Patagonian spires, eventually reaching the summit at 3,770 meters after 11 hours on the move.

Lanin. Pretty massive hill...

Our teams headed back down and we drifted into camp at around 8pm, fairly wasted after a 15,500 ft. quad and calf busting elevation day. The training was a success, giving a lot of awesome instructors some more tools to use in the mountains, and in typical fashion, we had a great (wild) post trip at the Roxy nightclub in Bari.

The only major bummer during the trip was taking a hard fall being knocked over by severe winds while traveling over rock, and fracturing a rib. So now I hang out in Bariloche, staying out of the dust, waiting for it to heal so I can get to the next task at hand, heading back to the big spires in the south and visiting some of the less traveled corners of the parks.

Want a great way to spend your upcoming holday vacation? Come trek the W or full Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most iconic hikes in the world!

ps...not my photos. our pics to come later...