Monday, September 30, 2013

Volcán Llaima

This post is dedicated to the four of you who swore for years you'd join me on this trip and ditched. Well guess what, your loss, suckas.

Beautiful Llaima. Also, check out the monkey puzzle (Arucaria) trees.

Meet Llaima (pronounced jai-ma). One of Chile's largest and most active volcanoes: "frequently erupting" with the last big blow in 2008 and known for "spectacular lava fountains" in Chile. It's also the prettiest volcano I have ever seen, and I fell in love her the minute I laid eyes on her from my bus to Malalcahuello. So of course the first thing I did when I arrived at the beautiful Swiss lodge (with cheap dorm beds, yay) I had planned to make my base camp for the week was to weasel my way into a ride to Llaima the next morning.

Me + splitboard in a truck caravan of Argentinians on an epic Chilean Volcano ski tour. Excellent day.

View of Chile's Sierra Nevada volcano from Llaima, with more Arucaria trees.

Confession: I didn't make it *all the way* to the top. But I did make it within a few 100 meters. Since my dad talked me out of bringing my crampons and ice axe on this trip and I wasn't able to rent or borrow any, I was not equipped to summit. If I had attempted to go any higher than I did it is unlikely that I'd have lived to tell the story. The guys with ice gear barely survived the experience. So I hope y'all will let me count it.

Growing up in the Ring of Fire I've seen my fair share of volcanoes. Llaima is the prettiest one I've ever seen. Llaima is Chilean for sexy bitch. Fact.

And she was both.

Llaima, sorry I didn't stick around for dinner, but you were smokin' love.

Like, literally smoking. Note the horizon at left and the steam coming off the top. This baby blew in 2008. Google Llaima. Lava everywhere. This is all pumice.

Climbed as high as I could with the splitboard. Definitely noticed when I had left the skirt and hit the cone, the climbing went from normal good hard effort to placing every step carefully: step, load the skins, shift weight, step, load, shift, step, load, shift, feeling my heart jump into my throat every time I felt a slip.
At the point where the guys who had given me a ride to the mountain roped up and put on crampons, I didn't think I could safely climb any more so I scootched my way to a pumice talus field, ditched the board, and started to hike.

Hiking is a generous term. I was attempting to walk up a pile of crushed pumice at a 45° angle, boots slipping at every second step. Still, I kept parallel with the guys until the talus mixed with melty ice and it became clear that the mountain wanted nothing more than to crumble down to the valley, sweeping me with it. I stopped, ate a cookie, took in the views, and made my best attempt at a careful descent, popping ibuprofen on the way to reassure my screaming old lady knees. Only casualty: a few new holes in my hands (and gloves) from the sharp pumice.

And then the snowboarding. Snow was icy, then crusty, then wet, but it was great.

Hell yes I did

Little to say, much to show. Enjoy! :)  (also more photos here)

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