Pucon and Mount Villarrica

21 March - 1 April 2003.

Mount Villarrica is a 2,847 metres high active volcano and Pucon is the chilean equivalent to Queenstown, New Zealand.

On our first day we climbed the volcano.

All books on the climb advised us to take the chairlift for the first 400 metres. On this day it decided to break so we had to start from a 1400m elevation to the top.  This photos shows the angle of the early part of the walk.

This first 400 metres up was enough to finish off an American couple and an English girl leaving us 2, an Australian and a Chilean to continue to the summit.

The weather seemed to get dramatically worse as we got higher up.

Once on the snow line we had to use crampons and keep our ice axes out incase we slipped.

Reaching the summit was something of a relief. The smog on the summit is a combination of cloud and volcanic gas mixed together and driven by 50kph wind.

I was suitably chuffed when princess Hillier made it to the top as it was pretty tough going and I would give it an 8/10 on the tough-guy scale!

Since we climbed it the weather on the mountain has been fab so I am thinking about binning my UK passport in case that is causing the crappy weather to follow us around.

This is the queue for the snowslide down. The American guy in the yellow at the back of the queue doesn't know it yet but he is about keep Claire and I amused for days. After failing to listen to any instructions he plummets down the snowslide without using his ice axe and thus doesn't slow down. He hits the rocks at the bottom using them as a ramp to launch himself onto more rocks and thus more pain.

There is nothing quite as funny as watching a group of 10 strangers go from horror to uncontrollable laughter once we knew he wasn't seriously hurt.

The idea here is to slide and use your ice axe to slow down as you quickly reach quite a speed!

... Americans please unblock your ears now or place a cushion in your underpants!

This is what Volcano Villarrica usually looks like when no one with a British passport is present on the slope.

Nice, clear and not very windy. A perfect day to ride a mountain bike around the area.

Pucon also had a scoria beach where we saw a number of perfect sunsets, numerous stray dogs, and even did some sunbathing.

This is Pato the crazy Puconian with whom we stayed.

He taught us Spanish and made us laugh a lot with his fondness of English humour, his uncanny resemblance to Ben Elton, and his she'll-be-right-mate attitude.

This picture was taken the day after an all you can eat and drink session at the Grand Hotel Pucon from which we were all feeling a little jaded and seedy.

He also taught me how to play racket-ball and if I make it back to Pucon for Winter I will return the favour by beating him.

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