We decided to undertake a trek of the nearby Villarricia volcano and booked it through the hostel. The price they charged was 45,000 pesos and while we could have got it for 30,000 / 35,000 in the town we decided to go through the hostel as we thought the higher price would mean better service. Boy were we wrong!
There was no information given on the hike, there was a brochure in the hostel with a few photos given but we were told nothing of the conditions or how difficult the climb would be. I also asked specific questions about whether I would be able for it or not physically as I had just recovered from a bout of the flu. I was told that it would be no problem, it was not a difficult climb. There was no briefing as to anyone´s fitness or health.
We were told the ascent would take about 6 hours. From about 45 minutes into the climb, it was necessary to put on our crampons (earlier than we expected). Walking and then climbing on ice is very different to walking on snow, it is much more difficult and dangerous. The ice was very hard and it was getting increasingly difficult to climb. We continued, then about 2000 metres in to the climb, the volcano is 2800 metres in height, the wind really picked up. No felt in the group felt safe. A couple of seconds later my partner slipped and begain sliding down the mountain, it was terryifing, a couple of seconds after that a dutch girl in the party slipped and also began sliding down the mountain. All the while the rest of the group had to cling onto the ice with our pickaxes as the wind continued to blow stronger.
Thankfully my partner stopped about 200 metres from where he had fallen, however the other girl had continued to slide down the mountain, perhaps another 500 metres. Neither of them were serious injured, a few bruises and a sore ankle, the guide however twisted his knee and broke a couple of fingers, this happened as he dived on top of the dutch girl as she was falling in an effort to protect her.
All in all, it was a very frightening experience. Maybe we were unlucky, but this was winter time and i think it is more dangerous than any other time of the year. Everyone thought it was too dangerous especially when no one had prior experience. When it came to paying, the owners threatened to call the police if we did not pay full price. They got really aggressive. We all thought that a discount would be fair as people could have been seriously injured. In addition, we spent only a half day on the mountain. The owners didnt care, were unsympathetic and just wanted our money.
Firstly, do not do the trek during the winter months. Secondly, do not do it with this hostel. We have since found out from Hostel Casa Roja, Santiago, that a lot of accidents happen on that volcano.
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