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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

Climbing the Villarrica volcano - one of the three most active volcanoes in Latin America

One of the most famous volcanoes in Chile magically attracts us
We take breathtaking photos at night under the perfect starry sky
Despite the warning level “yellow” , we approach the crater within a few hundred meters
The forces of nature should not be underestimated - the active volcano takes its toll

We are back in Chile, on the way to the Villarrica volcano. We have now seen a few volcanoes in Chile and climbed some of them - although there was no active one yet. Time to change. The volcano last erupted in 2019, and a total of over 50 eruptions have been recorded in the last 500 years.

villarrica vulkan volcano chile wandern
From sunshine to drizzle and fog - typical border crossing from Argentina to Chile

We cross the border into Argentina in typical drizzle. In fact, we have often observed this phenomenon during our countless border crossings: in Argentina the sun is shining, in Chile it's raining. After all, the weather forecast promises two perfect days ahead. We park ourselves at the Villarrica volcano ski lift station - and we can't see anything but fog. We have no idea in which direction the volcano is even located. The next day around 10 a.m. it clears up. And in front of us lies the mighty 2,861 m high volcano with the perfectly conical crater. Wow! We enjoy the sunny day at 1,200 m and recharge our batteries for the next day. Our goal is to climb the volcano. However, the warning level is currently “yellow”, which means that the volcano is highly active and you are only allowed to approach the crater within 1 km. Anyway!

villarica vulkan volcano chile wandern
Warning - for German tourists especially in local language

At night you can actually see the red magma glowing. Not with the naked eye, but the camera's long exposure makes it possible. And all of this under a crazy 360° starry sky with the Milky Way. Such overnight places are priceless.

villarrica vulkan volcano chile wandern
Villarrica under the starry sky (and with Starlink :-))

The next morning we set off early. After all, there is at least 1,200 meters of altitude ahead of us - depending on how far we want or can approach the crater. Unfortunately, the ski lift is currently out of operation, otherwise we could have saved ourselves a few meters of altitude. However, when we take a closer look, we are quite happy about it. The construction doesn't look very trustworthy. We can hardly imagine it being ready for ski season in winter.

villarrica vulkan volcano chile wandern
The top station of the ski lift - not exactly trustworthy

The terrain is quite difficult to climb. Walking on volcanic sand is like walking on dunes. One step forward, two steps back, or something like that. Finally we reach a glacier field. And this time we had the foresight to bring our crampons.

villarrica vulkan volcano chile wandern
Glaciated crater - we're almost there

villarrica vulkan volcano chile wandern
What a view - the climb was worth it!

We meet a guide who warns us not to climb much further. Due to the volcanic activity there is a lot of rockfall. We can observe that too. We content ourselves with a climb to around 400 meters below the crater rim. Unfortunately, we can't see inside with the naked eye, but it's just close enough for a drone flight. There is a light wind at this altitude, but this shouldn't be a problem. It has already mastered stronger Patagonian winds. Suddenly - already at crater height - I hear Micha shouting in panic that he can no longer control the drone. Despite numerous warnings about excessive wind speeds, he risked everything for the perfect picture. And you probably already guessed… The radio connection disappears at some point. We can narrow down the last location of the drone thanks to the logbook: on the south side, about 200 m from the crater, in the middle of the glacier field. Micha is horrified, angry, upset. I am shocked. The volcano seems to be so dynamic close to the crater that the tiny drone had no chance. RIP Mavic Air 2. Ironically, it is not the first drone to be sacrificed for one of Micha's ambitious missions. The previous model was sunk in the Norwegian Geirangerfjord. In addition to the last lessons learned “Don’t fly a drone in the fjord” and “Don’t control a drone from a kayak” there is now another one…

villarrica vulkan volcano chile wandern
At least we were able to save the drone footage from the cache...

Frustrated, we both start our descent. After all, this is one of the most pleasant descents ever. The volcanic sand is very easy on the joints and the gradient of up to 40° allows us to reach the bottom within 1.5 hours. Thanks god that we already have done the shooting at night... within minutes we're in the fog again. Where it all began.

After the fourth volcano climb in Chile and numerous other treks in Patagonia, our hiking boots now are pretty worn out. Time for new activities. We drive towards the coast... the surfboard on our roof has to be used at some point. Yeah!

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