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Ascent of Volcán El Mocho on 2014-01-04

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Adam Helman
Adrian Rayner
Date:Saturday, January 4, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Volcán El Mocho
    Location:Chile
    Elevation:2421 m / 7946 ft

Ascent Trip Report

We climb this peak the day after our Volcan Villarrica ascent. From the west it is a fairly straightforward snow climb but the trailhead access is difficult We were hoping to climb from the east side as this has potentially less elevation gain, so we drove to the Huilo Huilo private reserve (entrance at S39.85072 W71.95367) and spoke to a security guard, but he told us the mountain was closed because there is no snow, only ice, and we should go to some hotel in Puerto Foy if we wanted more details. The story didn't sound too plausible but it looked like they weren't welcoming climbers. Note that there is or was an entrance fee of 20USD per person to access this side of the mountain. Three weeks later Richard and Denise Mclellan were given more useful info (presumably during "office hours"): We camped at Huilo Huilo reserve (cheap at 5000 $c pppn) which is eastern access to Choshuenco. There's a visible track to glacier, you just have to pay for a guide and vehicle at the hotel but we did not enquire how much. Huilo Huilo resort is apparently owned by the founder of Patagonia clothing.

Instead we drove to the west side of the mountain via the village of Choshuenco. Beyond the village the paved road turns left (beside a lake with a beach) and continues as good gravel for 11km then turns L at S39.91434 W72.14867. The next 10km is mostly gravel with a steep loose section encountered straightaway which our 2wd van only just managed to negotiate (the Mclellans couldn't get their car up, and hiked from the bottom, camping one night), then many zigzags but a reasonable surface which our van managed ok. At S39.93771 W72.11984 (I think) note a good parking place - with a limited-clearance 2WD you might want to park here and hike the remaining 3 km. Soon after this the road bends L and turns from gravel to dirt and the last 3 km is rougher with some muddy sections and very few passing places. It needs reasonable clearance and a determined driver (great job Duane!) but 4 x4 is advisable. The road crosses a saddle and zigzags down towards the river, with fine views of the twin volcanoes, the impressive spire of Choshuenco and the slightly higher El Mocho which is our objective.

At the foot of the slope is a camp site with toilets and (not very clean) water supply. Just beyond is a bridge (S39.93727 W72.09632, 1005m) over the Rio Blanca leading to a lodge which is the base for Conaf. While we are setting up camp, a Conaf ranger arrives. There are no climbing restrictions; he doesn't seem to know much about the mountain but he wants CLP 3000 each for camping, which we happily pay. He says the weather will be ok, despite the lenticular clouds which are adorning Choshuenco at sundown.

There's some light drizzle overnight but the clouds look set to break up. We set out at 0750, crossing the bridge, passing the Conaf lodge then passing a closed (but not locked) barrier (S39.93731 W72.09498). We then walk a steep roughish dirt road, with very nice scenery, passing through small leaved beech woodland then Patagonian grassland, with fine rock peaks opposite. We are passed by a small 4x4 vehicle which parks at the end of the road (S39.94674 W72.06391, 1475m) by a barrier.

Just before the road ends a trail starts on the L at a small antenna (S39.94651 W72.06566). This skirts a nice ravine then follows a moraine ridge (apparently glacial). When the ridge ends we climb half-left up easy snow. At 1900m we are in thick cloud and although probably on snowfield for another mile we rope up in case of crevasses. We make a level traverse until S39.92965 W72.04581 where we reach a wide gully. We make an ascending traverse above it, keeping L of the fall line. Then the clouds part and we see the expected snow slope directly above us, leading via some broken ground to the summit. The Chilean pair follow us until this point, possibly for navigation or maybe they are treating us as crevasse fodder! In any event we encountered no crevasses, although there is a crevasse zone in the area below the Choshuenco col, well below the natural ascent line for Mocho.

The Chileans now take the lead. The snow steepens to about 35 degrees; the ascent finishes with mixed snow and loose rock at about the same angle, with an icy cornice just below the crater rim.

The crater is approx 500m across, very shallow and snow filled. To the L, higher ground emerges from the mist so I go and waypoint it (S39.92858 W72.02928, 2414m, rocks), and find the two Chileans here, although this north summit is lower, as a brief clearance confirms. We make the snowy tramp to the south summit (S39.93216 W72.02912, 2424m, cairn; outcrop 5m to south is approx same elevation; the summit location is as expected). Between moving cloud layers we have intermittent views of the north summit (clearly lower, by 10m according to Gps) and Choshuenco. To the east, the impressive Lanin floats on a sea of cloud.

We are at the summit in 6.5 hours from the trailhead, spend 20 minutes there and descend in 3h15. We exactly reverse our route across the steep mixed ground, then I glissade the steep snow which is now softer, following the tracks of the Chileans. Then we follow our own tracks back, unroped as we know it is snowfield all the way. We walk back down the 4x4 road in warm evening sunshine.

Duane has missed this peak out due to foot problems but soon has boiling water going for an early supper. Then we drive out to the main highway, conscious that rain overnight could leave us stranded. We head south towards Osorno our next peak, finding a place to camp en route - not as easy as we expected although we later recall there was camping near/east of Neltume. We essentially find a small disused quarry near Panguipulli on a side road to the lake, with lots of interesting bird life including ibis, Black-faced Ibis Theristicus melanopis.

Next day we head south planning to climb Volcan Osorno the following day. However, we are thwarted by the weather, and our next and last Lakes peak is Volcan Calbuco climbed three days later.

Note: Volcan El Mocho is sometimes confused with its slightly lower, more technical neighbour Volcan Choshuenco immediately to the north. 1:50,000 mapping shows them as 2422m and 2414m respectively. El Mocho's N summit is shown as 2413m, 9m lower than its S summit and 1m lower than Choshuenco.

Volcan El Mocho photo album
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1486 m / 4879 ft
    Elevation Loss:1486 m / 4879 ft
    Distance:20.4 km / 12.7 mi
    Grade/Class:F +
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope
    Weather:Pleasant, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1466 m / 4813 ft
    Extra Loss:49 m / 164 ft
    Distance:10.2 km / 6.3 mi
    Route:North face, from west
    Trailhead:Rio Blanco  1004 m / 3297 ft
    Time Up:6 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1437 m / 4715 ft
    Extra Gain:20 m / 66 ft
    Distance:10.2 km / 6.3 mi
    Route:North face, from west
    Trailhead:Rio Blanco  1004 m / 3297 ft
    Time Down:3 Hours 15 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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