Ascent of Volcán Llaima on 2019-01-07

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, January 7, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Volcán Llaima
    Elevation:10253 ft / 3125 m

Ascent Trip Report

I climbed Llaima the day after Longquimay. There are local roads that connect the two parks, and there are a lot signs that the Chilean government is investing heavily in these roads. However, much of the route to the ski resort on Llaima was dirt and there was one steep section that was a challenge to get our crossover SUV up. Honestly, the road wasn’t that bad, but the 2WD rental car didn’t handle well in the loose dirt. So, it took me a few tries to coax it up the road. From the ski resort to the main highway, the road is well maintained though. It is worth noting that there is a guard station on that road, it is manned, and they charge an entrance fee.

We arrived in the evening, and by that time the clouds had moved in. The forecast for the following day was supposed to have 80 km/h winds on the summit of Lanín, so I was skeptical that it was a good idea to do any climbing. However, the weather forecast on my InReach said that wind would be low and it would be partly cloudy until a storm moved in by early afternoon. I decided to set my alarm and see how things looked in the morning.

Sure enough, the wind was light, but there were heavy clouds. The cloud cover was typical of the past few mornings, so I figured that I could punch through and have a nice sunny summit in light wind. It turns out that this wold not at all be the case.

The going is easy through the ski resort. I basically just followed an access road all the way to the top of the last lift. From there there was solid snow cover save for rock islands sticking out here and there. I opted to put on mountaineering boots and stay on the snow. Visibility was also garbage, and I was getting lightly misted on. Whatever, this would go away in a thousand feet or so. I had a few GPS tracks, which helped me keep my bearings, and I found the descent tracks of a team of two that I followed up. I was a little hesitant to ascend directly up a glacier, but there were no signs of crevasses and my tracks indicated that this was the route preferred by local climbers.

Sure enough, 1,200 feet below the summit I came out of the clouds and was treated to gorgeous views of Longquimay to the north. Alarmingly, it was also starting to become windy. With the summit in sight, I decided to press on hoping that that snow cover would allow me to avoid the notorious summit scree.

Between the substantial wind and air temp, it was cold enough that the rocks and snow were covered with rime making the climbing a little trickier. A lenticular cloud had also formed just above the summit. At this point, I should have turned around. It was too cold and uncomfortable for me to fiddle with crampons. My beard had completely iced over, and the balaclava I was wearing had frozen in a strange loose shape making it somewhat ineffective at shielding my cheeks. I did manage to get out some expedition gloves in an attempt to warm up my fingers. The summit was so close though, that I hoped I could just run up and tag it. I also had the advantage of having the wind to my back almost pushing me up the mountain. So, I did make it in about 20 minutes taking a direct line up a very icy snowfield.

The summit crater was spectacular, but I was in no position to enjoy any of this or take a single photo. I could barely stand in the intense wind. Immediately, I turned around and attempted to get off. I was unsuccessful in my first attempt to start walking down the mountain. The wind literally blew me back into the notch on the summit. Stunned, I had to take a running start and throw myself through this wall of wind. I descended rapidly down loose talus, but it wasn’t graceful. There were a few pockets where I could hide for a moment out of the wind and regroup. With a sigh a relief I reached the layer of clouds and the start of the non-frozen snow fields, which were very easy to descend.

Low visibility and a bad bootpath led me astray near the top of the ski lift and I was forced to do a traverse to get over to the access road. Even though it was before noon, it did rain on me, so the final mile down to the car wasn’t particularly pleasant. It was exciting to get back to the car and finally have a chance to warm up. I lucked out and was just gently frost nipped on the tips of some of my fingers. Having done that once now, I don’t think I’ll ever ascend into a lenticular cloud in the future.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6296 ft / 1918 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6296 ft / 1919 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9 mi / 14.5 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Ski Poles
    Weather:Drizzle, Cold, Extremely Windy, White-out
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6247 ft / 1904 m
    Distance:4.4 mi / 7.1 km
    Route:West Slope
    Start Trailhead:Las Araucarias Ski Resort  4006 ft / 1221 m
    Time:3 Hours 25 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6296 ft / 1919 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 6247 ft / 1904 m; Extra: 49 ft / 14m
    Gain on way out:49 ft / 14 m
    Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Route:West Slope
    End Trailhead:Las Araucarias Ski Resort  4006 ft / 1221 m
    Time:2 Hours 10 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

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

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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