A guide to climbing some volcanoes in Chile...
A tough ascent, steep in places.
|Cerro Sierra-nevada 2552m|
|Duration:||1 Day, 1000+m ascent|
|Access:||Private vehicle or start from Malalcahuello village and just walk a bit further|
|Equipment:||Ice axe and crampons in early season|
Located on the northern tip of the Conguillio National Park about 40km's east of Curacautin. Despite only being a mountain in the shadows of the impressive surrounding volcanoes, Sierra Nevada is a worthwhile contender in terms of it's stunning scenery and limited volcanic ash makes the trail easier going! Some guide books also say Sierra Nevada can also be climbed from Laguna Conguillio to the south but this route is more technical and requires the use of technical climbing gear as it includes a glacial traverse. This northern route is straight forward and non technical.
Access: From the village of Malalcahuello head south across the bridge over the river and take the small gravel road to the right hand side of the Malalcahuello thermal pools. The trekking trail technically starts from here but you can easily continue a few km's further up by vehicle along the dirt road. This road is technically on private property but at the time of writing there didn't seem to be any access issues. Keep going along this road as far as you can; (the land in the valley is being devided up for sale as building plots to access may change over time) When you arrive at a gate, just open it and continue driving up the valley. We parked about 100m before the small river crossing (not sure the car would have made it across!). The trail is marked by yellow paint on the rocks but be aware that yellow paint is also used for the the subdivsion of the land/building plots so can make it confusing!
Route: Walk to the end of the vehicle track, there will be yellow trail markers every 5 to 10 mins. The trail gets narrower and narrower turing into an old access track before turning to the right and slowly ascending the valley side along a narrow but obvious and well worn path. The trail meanders through the beautiful Araucaria forest before opening out into a clearing after about an hour (possible campsite - not sure about water) before re-entering the forest; exiting it a couple of times and ascending above the treeline onto the broad rounded ridge (about 2 hours after leaving the car). The yellow paint markers take you to a large rock with a painted arrow pointing and saying 'Sierra Nevada 2-3 hours' and another 'Malacahuello', with yellow painter markers taking you on an alternative route back to Malalcahuello along the broad ridge. A faint trail and small cairns mark the route as it continues up the ridge towards Sierra Nevada.
Continuing along the main ridge there is an indistinct trail on the northern side of the broad ridge, although it's just as easy to make you own trail. After about an hour the ridge starts to narrow and the trail become steeper. You shortly arrive at a small pass with a large headwall in front of you. From here you will see a snow covered pass in the distance to the right of the head wall, this is where you are heading. The trail first heads down to the small flat green area in front of you before ascending to the small pass between the headwall and the ridge in front of you. From here you can either drop down slightly to the stream - possible water stop or keep to the left to avoid loosing height and head up to valley to the base of the snowy pass. Once at the base of the snowy pass the trail heads up to the left, towards the left hand side of the red rocks, the first section of the trail is steep over very loose rock and no visable path, but as it nears the red rocks there is a small zig-zag trail that head up and into a small valley. The trail basically turns right in this small valley and alternates between the valley and the ridge on the right hand side, take which ever you prefer... The rocky trail continues gently ascending until it opens out with the final steeper ascent to the summit of Sierra Nevada at 2550m in front of you. On the top there is a small stone wall/windbreak and stunning 360° views over Lonquimay, Talhuaco and Llaima and also the impressive glacier on the western slopes of Sierra Nevada. You should arrive at the summit after about 4 hours of leaving the car. Descend vía the same route. It takes about 5 hours up and 4 hours down.
Map: Unfortunately this route is just off the edge of all the maps I have!
Accommodation: Suizandina: http://www.suizandina.com/en/ just outside Malalcahuello or there are numerous cabins and other accommodation options in Malalcahuello village. Malalcahuello has two small mini markets with limited supplies. Nearest ATM and Petrol can be found in Curacautin.
Volcano Sierra-nevada 2552m: Start of trek: