We arrived in the Chilean city of Pucón to discover the Araucania Region and attempt to climb the active volcano, Villarrica. Summiting Villarrica was strongly recommended to us by a local friend who did so on a ski tour during Chile’s austral winter.
For safety reasons, this climb requires hiring a guide. Rodrigo from Mawida Adventures, one of the many agencies offering guided tours in Pucón, was recommended by our friend.
We were still uncertain if we wanted to attempt the climb the next day so we visited the closest agency that offered tours to gather more information. The front desk informed us that the weather would be clear but windy, so there was a risk that we would not reach the summit.
Climb one of Chile’s most active volcanoes!
Discouraged, we continued our visit of Pucón until we came across Mawida Adventures, the agency recommended by our friend. After reviewing the weather forecast again, they too confirmed that the next day would be windy on the volcano making the climb more challenging.
Élise and I looked at each other, unsure if we were fit enough to climb Villarrica with this weather. As we discussed it further we were overheard by one of their guides who asked in a good-humoured way, “so, what do you want to do?” We mentioned our concerns, and after looking at the weather forecast himself, the guide actually made the decision for us, “well then, let’s go, we’re climbing Villarrica tomorrow!”. Élise and I looked at each other and reasoned, “he looks confident… Ok let’s do it”.
We were further convinced after learning that there would be fewer people on the volcano tomorrow due to the wind. It was at this time, we learned that this friendly and confident guide was Rodrigo, the very guide our friend recommended! What a coincidence! We agreed to meet Rodrigo the next morning at dawn to prepare for this adventure. Our plan was to be the first group to enter the Villarrica National Park (about 15 km from Pucón) and start the climb.
We left the agency excited for our upcoming adventure.
We recommend Mawida Adventure agency to ascent the Villarrica Volcano!
It was still dark when we left our hostel the next morning (Chili Kiwi Hostel which we highly recommend by the way), after filling our stomachs with a nice breakfast. As agreed, we met Rodrigo at Mawida Adventures to pick up the equipment provided by the agency. This included: mountaineering shoes, crampons, ice axes, ropes, pants and warm jackets. Now prepared, we were filled with anticipation for this extraordinary experience: The ascent of one of the most active volcanoes in Chile.
The adventure began as soon as we left the agency. We got into Rodrigo’s pick-up truck and met Luis, an apprentice guide, who would be climbing with us. We thought,”this couldn’t be better, we have not one but two guides!” As expected, we were the first vehicle to arrive at the National Park entrance where Rodrigo filled-out the necessary documentation. The road was uneven and very bumpy. After an epic road trip, we arrived at the starting point of the ascent. Rodrigo parked his pick-up under a shelter used for chairlifts. The base of the volcano is an operational ski resort during the winter season.
A good atmosphere from the start of the Villarrica Volcano ascent!
We began the ascent excited that we were the only ones there and could enjoy the scene completely unobstructed.
Rodrigo keeps us laughing with a steady stream of jokes, my favourite of which is when he includes a few words in French (my mother tongue). All four of us use a combination of French, English and Spanish to communicate, well two for my part because Spanish is not so easy for me! We reach the first break fairly quickly, which turns out to be the concrete remnant of a chairlift that was destroyed during the 1971 eruption. No chairlift has since been built at that altitude.
After this first stop, we get to the heart of the matter. A few meters on, we are forced to put on our crampons so that we can continue onward and upward in the snow. The further we go, the more our legs feel the shift in altitude.
A breathtaking view of the Araucania region!
Since there is no real path laid out, we create a direct route to make the journey as short as possible! As the exhaustion begins to show, Rodrigo suggests a second stop for a snack and to regain our strength. We stop on a magnificent ridge with a breathtaking view of the entire region. Looking up, we can see our smoky target at 2847 m / 9340 ft high.
Here we go again, this time the climb is much steeper and the wind so strong that Rodrigo takes out a rope to keep us up and together! Climbing in what was practically a straight line through the frozen snow, the summit rapidly approaches. As the climb becomes sharply elevated, we use the ice ax to hold onto the side of the volcano. We get closer to the smoke emitting from the volcano. Rodrigo and Luis recommend that we put on our masks at this point so that we do not breathe in the sulfur.
After 4 hours of walking, we made it to the top of Villarrica! With all of the smoke, we cannot see the 200m diameter crater. However, we are on the right side of the volcano because the smoke is blowing in the opposite direction allowing us to enjoy the panorama over the entire region. This included the surrounding volcanoes: Lanín, Llaima, Quetrupillán et Lonquimay.
Despite the strong wind, we took some time for a few photos and videos while we enjoyed the summit.
Villarrica Volcano rises above Pucón and Lake Villarrica.
While we would have loved to stay longer, it was time to begin the descent. Cutting through the snowy side of the volcano, the trip was quite fast. I kept thinking to myself it would have been incredible with a snowboard at my feet because this steep descent does a number on your thighs!
Back at the start, we return to Rodrigo’s pick-up with very sore legs. It felt good to sit in the car on the quiet trip back to Pucón.
After arriving at the agency, we changed out of our loaned equipment and the staff provided a hearty snack, even offering us a beer and the famous Pisco Sour (a typical cocktail of South American cuisine made with pisco and lemon juice). A beautiful and relaxing end to an extraordinary day rich with emotion.
If you, too, want to attempt the Villarrica climb with a fun, kind, confident and qualified team, we highly recommend Mawida Adventures!
6.8 km / 4.2 miles
Around 6 h
2847 meters / 9340 feet
Around 1400 meters / 4593 feet
See on Caltopo (detailed)
See on Google Maps (basic)
Website agency: https://mawidadventures.cl/
Weather forecast: https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Villarrica-volcano/forecasts/2847