A guide to climbing some volcanoes in Chile...
A tough but rewarding ascent, very steep scree in places.
|Volcano Llaima 3125m|
|Duration:||1 Day, 1600+m ascent|
|Grade:||Hard due to the soft volcanic ash.|
|Costs:||CL$ 4500 Park Entrance|
|Equipment:||Ice axe and crampons possibly year round. Trekking poles|
Located in the Conguillio National Park about 35 km's south west of Curacautin via a well graded gravel road.
North Access- Laguna Captren: From Curacautin about 40kms south west along route 925, the first 10km are on a asphalted road, then it's a well graded gravel road to the CONAF cabin at Laguna Captren. Park in the small parking area by the CONAF cabin, right on the edge of the forest. This is the start of the trail. A CL$4500 fee is payable for entering the National Park. The CONAF cabin opens at about 8:30am. If you leave before it's open, write your group details on note and put it under the door with your setting out time & expected return time.
North route from Laguna Captren: Longer than the traditional east route and with about 1800m of ascent. From the small parking area 20 meter before the CONAF cabin. Start by following the vehicle trail south then continue following the yellow metal marker posts for about 20 minutes before reaching the sign that points you down to the right to cross the old river bed/ravine. The route down to is simple to find but there seemed to be a couple of different routes up the other side, use your own judgement. Once back up on the other side, continue following the markers along the faint trails as it rises over 1600m and above the line of the tree in the forests on both sides. The trail gets steeper and ascends in a zig-zag fashion. Once at about 2100m you need to decide which trail you will be taking, with the classic trail continuing up the NE slope over a snow field early in the season, zigzagging on the final section to the top. Later in the season this classic trail may be a harder/steeper option as the lack of snow will mean working against the energy zapping volcanic ash. In March 2015 when I did my accent there was very limited snow so I did a rising traverse from about 2100m to the northern slope of the volcano ascending behind the first rocky ridge, joining the trail coming from the Ski Las Araucania for the final section to the summit. The last 50 vertical meters to the summit are on a zig-zag path that is easy, but the 200 vertical meter before that are over very, very loose rock, 1 step up and ¾ of a step back, very time consuming and demoralising! It may be easier to head a little over to the left where there is a firmer rock but it could still be very slippery/loose and more exposed. When I was ascending, there was a guide with 2 clients over on this section with a rope to help them ascend! Descend via the same route...it's a 1800m (careful) scree run descent!
Note: Trails are very indistinct and just because you can see trails doesn't mean it's a good route; those descending are generally looking for the fasted/easiest most direct descent so create trails over the entire volcano! This volcano should only be attempted by fit, experienced trekkers with good route finding skills. If in doubt hire a guide. Take plenty of liquids as none can be found on the trails.
East access - Refugio Llaima. Also starting from Curacautin, about 45km's. Starting on the same road out of Curacautin (R-925) then turning right on the S-297 after about 24km', there is a large road sign pointing to the 'Refugio Llaima'. Just after this turing there is a great viewing platform and information boards about the volcano. Park at the Ski Las Araucanía/Refugio Llaima.
East route - Refugio Llaima/Ski Las Araucania: The shortest and most popular route is from the Ski Las Araucanía (Refugio Llaima). Trail starts from the car park and follows the line of the ski lifts the will continue east rising to some large snow fields (cramps and ice axe probably needed).
Map: ### 1:50,000
Accommodation: There are various campsites and cabanas on the approach road to the National Park but they may only be open in the high season. I stayed at Suizandina: http://www.suizandina.com/en/ an hour and 10 minute drive from the start of the trail.
Volcano Llaima 3125m: Start of trek: