It`s easy enough to write down ´climb a volcano´on a list when you`re sat on your cosy warm sofa. But it was as I was putting on all the gear needed to climb Volcan Villarrica that I realised it might not be a walk in the park. First came the thick water-proof trousers and jacket, followed by heavy boots, gloves and a hard hat. We were also give ice-picks and although I may have looked the part I realised I had no idea what I was doing.
It had rained for three days solid in Pucon, Chile, as we waited to climb the volcano and it seemed that as soon as the rain stopped and we headed for the mountains, so did everyone else. The meeting point was packed with people and there was a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air as we made our final preparations.
|The preparations begin (just don’t tell anyone we have no idea what we’re doing!)|
Our first task was getting up to the starting point of the climb on a chair-lift, something which always terrifies me as I feel sure that I`m going to be the person who falls off in a Bridget Jones-esque style. However, having managed to safely navigate that task, it was on to the next one – attaching crampons to our shoes to enable us to walk on the ice and listening to our safety talk. The only problem was out instructor only spoke Spanish, which the other three members of my group did not. So it was left to me to translate his commands into English. I wasn`t too sure how I felt about the group`s safety being based on my interpretations which went something along the lines of “er…keep your ice-pick above you at all times or if you slip you´ll fall down the mountain” and “um, I think he`s saying ´if you fall, keep your legs up or the crampons could break them´.” Eventually, after a lot of gesturing, pointing and nodding, we were ready to go.
We set off in single file, walking up the side of the snow-covered volcano in a zig-zag pattern, with our ice-picks always to the inside. The walk started off well and we made it to the first rest point without too much difficulty. But it was clear when we arrived there that the weather was not going to be on our side. The wind had picked up considerably and small pieces of ice, like hailstones, showered down on us from above. Our instructor Gabriel (somehow his name was reassuring) said we would wait for a while to see if the weather changed. Meanwhile as we hunkered down behind the rocks we could see other groups attempting the assent. Their bodies were bent double against the wind and every so often someone would lose their footing and start sliding down the mountain, only stopping when they managed to get a grip with their ice-pick or were grabbed by their guide.
|Sitting out the storm…|
Even though it was disappointing not to have reached the summit, it was a brilliant experience and don`t they always say leave something to come back for? So technically, I realise that I didn`t make it to the top. But after being battered by hailstones, forced to dodge boulders and nearly being blown of the side of a mountain, I`m taking my number 7!
|I’m taking my number 7!|