When we received some long awaited snow after a very warm winter in Bariloche, Argentina, on the 4th and 5th of October, followed by calm weather and stable temperatures, one thing was clear: the following days were going to offer absolutely perfect conditions for a last ski touring trip of the season. It was a toss up between a hut-to-hut traverse in the backcountry of Cerro Catedral (Frey, Jacob, Lopez) and the Volcano Osorno in Chile which had received some fresh snow. In the end we decided to head to a new area and chose the volcano. A few calls later we had organized a group of friends to join us and the following day we were on our way to Osorno via Villa La Angostura, arriving at night to stay at the base of the volcano in a comfortable refuge. We set the alarm for 6:30am to ensure we get an early start and beat the heat of the following day. You can’t beat waking up early to experience the sun rise and the way everything around you changes with the growing light.
At 8:00am we start our climb of 1,500 vertical metres – a comfortable ascent, but we’re unsure of the conditions close to the summit, typically boiler plate ice, and not all of our team is equipped with crampons and ice axes. As we skin up and the two ski lifts of the Osorno ski area fall behind us, I am overwhelmed by the breathtaking scenery unfolding on either side. Behind us to the west we can see the deep blue colours of Llanquihue Lake, and beyond that the great vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Our constant companion to our right is Volcano Calbuco, a white giant contrasting sharply with the surrounding lush, dark green forest.
200m under the summit we decide to strap our skis to our packs and continue climbing with crampons. There is a layer of fresh powder covering the ice and the climb is easy until we reach a section of steep ice that has been whipped into strange shapes by the relentless Patagonian winds. To the left we find the easiest way up with a short climb leading to the plateau-shaped summit. The weather is picture perfect with so little wind, that a plastic bag on the summit wouldn’t have flown away. Once we reach the top we’re rewarded with an incredible 360 degrees view of the surrounding lakes and mountains, including the extinct volcano Monte Tronador of 3,491m to the east, the highest in the area. I’m feeling energized and overwhelmed with the surrounding beauty, and very lucky to have experienced such special moments with my friends.
Although I could have stayed enjoying those views for an hour longer, we have to start making our way back. We decide to down climb one by one to avoid hitting each other with chunks of ice. I carefully retrace my steps down the steep ice, focusing my full attention on placing my feet correctly and not getting my crampons caught in my ski pants. I feel myself relax once I click back into my low-tech bindings, ready for the long run down. Half way down the volcano, the fresh powder gave way to perfect spring snow, and we sped down a huge flank right behind each other, hollering and hooting as we went. We rush towards the ski lifts, the tourists, and the car park, and I find it incredible that only minutes ago, we were alone in a wild, pristine environment without any trace of man. I am left with incredibly vivid images and emotions from Osorno Volcano, of which I’m still feeding off today.
On to VOLCANO LOVE Part 2.