Ascent of Volcán Calbuco on 2019-01-01

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Volcán Calbuco
    Elevation:6611 ft / 2015 m

Ascent Trip Report

Although it is fairly low elevation, this is a fantastic volcano that is worth working for. I was a little concerned about how route conditions may have changed since the eruption on 2015, but it turned out that there is little difference. Rob Woodall’s directions were helpful, but the Chilean government has invested significantly in road infrastructure in the area since their trip. The road is paved almost all the way to where the fish hatchery was, and any vehicle should easily make it to the “trailhead”.

We arrived the night before at the end of the road where there are numerous places to park just off to the side. I understand that prior to the eruption, you could drive across the river to a parking lot, but both of those things are now gone. There were several signs indicating that the area is closed for public safety, so we were a little concerned that access might be an issue. Regardless, we got up at dawn, easily crossed the river at an obvious spot, and walked across the cleaning that was once the hatchery. At the far end, the park begins and has a well maintained trail through the jungle up to a guard station. The building was closed, and there was a sign across the trail stating that it was closed as well. We continued to the end of the maintained trail at which point this became a solo ascent due to concerns about legality and weather.

The climbers trail to the refugio is decently maintained and hard to lose. It has rained heavily the night before, so everything was soaking wet. Soon, so was I. Basically, it’s just a swath cut through dense rainforest with water draining down or pooling on the trail. There are numerous places to collect water down low. At the refugio there may be water nearby, but I didn’t see any obvious source from the trail. I had read that the refugio was flattened in the eruption, but it has since been rebuilt. There was even a group of three Chileans camping inside of it as I passed.

From the refugio, the climbing begins. The trail is steep and loose in sections. Again, it is well marked making the going straightforward. Higher up the trail disappears in alternating screen and talus fields. There is some particularly bad scree lightly covering solid dirt just below the cliff band. It would definitely be easy to scrape oneself up there, if you’re not careful about footing.

The cliff band was the one obstacle that I was hesitant about, since I was solo and had no protection. Anything I climbed up, I had to be willing to down climb. Based on some other trip reports, I initially traversed to climbers left and found a wall with several reasonable lines. The climbing was low class 5 in a chimney, but two-thirds of the way up I reached the crux that was probably going to be a 5.7 move. I decided that it would probably be better to look for a line that would be easier to down climb especially since some of the rock was encrusted in ice. I also debated taking the couloir further to climbers left that allegedly bypasses the cliff band. But, I would have to loose elevation to access it and wasn’t sure what conditions would be like. So, I would leave that as a last resort. Fortunately, to climbers right of the overhang and just right of where the natural line up to the cliff band ends is an easy 4th or low 5th class route up to the ridge via an arete. The climbing was pretty easy and it’s more a series of boulder problems than a single pitch making a fall a little more forgiving.

Once above the cliff band, the route was more scree that made for insecure footing. It’s not far to the summit block though, and there was some snow to help me out. The summit block is not hard to climb, though I did think it was probably more dangerous than the line I took up the cliff band. The views from the summit are gorgeous, and I had no wind which made for a delightful lunch. I could also see most of the couloir. Early enough in the season, it is probably a good alternative. But, it is a funnel for rockfall and I could see a handful of moats opening up.

The descent was probably more tedious than the ascent due to lousy scree. A few hundred feel below the cliff band I found a large snowfield and was easily able to crampon down that making the going much easier. After leaving the refugio, the going was uneventful and less wet due to some sunshine. At the bottom, the guard station was open, and there were a number of Chileans out for a stroll. I didn’t spend any time there though lest I get hassled for not registering. I would guess that there is a permitting process for climbing the mountain and mandatory registration. This seems to be a general rule for the significant mountains in Chile though enforcement is spotty.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8563 ft / 2609 m
    Extra Gain:1634 ft / 498 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12.4 mi / 20 km
    Route:South Ridge
    Trailhead:1316 ft / 401 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Crampons, Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 5 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 9 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
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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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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