Ascent of Volcán El Mocho on 2019-01-13

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, January 13, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Volcán El Mocho
    Elevation:7946 ft / 2421 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was the Lakes Region volcano that I was most hesitant about. I knew that it would be a long drive out to access it and that there would be a large glacier. But, otherwise I had relatively little information compared to the other volcanoes. It turned out that it’s located in a beautiful area and the climb itself was fairly easy.

We were exploring hot springs near Coñaripe (for anyone in the area definitely go to Termas Geometricas, which is well worth the price). Google maps wanted to take us on back roads to Choshuenco effectively cutting the corner. I was a little hesitant, but decided to go for it. Despite recent rains all of these roads were excellent, and we drove through quite a bit of ongoing road improvement. I imagine that much of our route will be paved within the next two years. Anyway, google had no problem navigating us most of the way from Choshuenco to the west side access road.

The area has changed noticeably since previous trip reports. CONAF is working on developing the area. I didn’t quite understand, but I think this is in conjunction with Huilo-Huilo reserve on the east side being turned over to the Chilean government. Anyway, the road is in great condition all the way to the Rio Blanco, where we camped. We also passed a closed guard station and large construction site just below the saddle. I would expect access to further change in the coming year. I did run into friendly CONAF ranger after my climb, who very clearly explained that no unguided climbing is permitted. We were also required to pay an entrance fee which is 6,000 CLP for foreigners, but he let us pay the Chilean fee of 3,000 CLP.

Anyway, from the Rio Blanca the now rough road climbs up steeply past a CONAF/mountain club refugio. I wasn’t willing to attempt it in our little crossover that had trouble on less committing roads, and instead I would walk to the end of the road the following morning. It turns out that this was a good call, because I got to watch multiple vehicles get banged up attempting to drive it the following day. One even got stuck and had to get snatched by a truck.

I woke up early in the morning to clear skies and set off up the road. The initial climb up from the Rio Blanca is indeed rough, but past that it is in great condition. As I was going through the beechwood forest a small truck came up behind me and offered a ride. How could I resist? It was a Chilean group from Santiago going to climb Choshuenco, and they were able to get all the way to the end of the road in their 2WD truck, where there is a good sized parking lot. But, it was bumpy and in doubt for a moment. Several miradors have been built up there, so I suspect that CONAF might start regularly maintaining this road in the next year or two.

I hopped out of the truck and was greeted by an intense wind. Begrudgingly, I covered any exposed skin and set out up the moraine toward the snowfields. The wind was continuous, but otherwise the going was easy. Once at the edge of the glacier the boot paths ended (it would appear that most visitors go to a little viewpoint on the edge of the glacier where there was a Chilean flag), but I could see the summit just ahead. Woodall et al. took a big traverse across the glacier, but I also had a GPS track from a South American team that took a more direct approach. Since I couldn’t see any signs of crevasses, I decided to follow the more direct path across the glacier to the rocky upper slopes of El Mocho. Comfortingly, I would discover later that no one, not even the guided groups, rope up for this glacier.

Once across the glacier I opted to stay on it’s edge and keep my crampons on rather than deal with loose rocks. I just kept an eye out for possible moats, and I had already spotted the bergshrund, which was just barely opening up quite a bit away from my line. Once above the bergshrund the route becomes a labyrinth of rock and snow; however, there was enough snow that I could comfortably chose my way through the rocks without destroying my aluminum crampons. I also was now protected from the winds by the summit cone.

Shortly, I popped out on the crater rim, which is not much higher than the snow filled crater. I had a perfectly clear day, and the highest point was obviously visible from the rim. After a few minutes of photos I dropped back down just below the rim and out of the wind to eat something and admire Choshuenco. The Chileans that had given me a ride were just now about halfway across the glacier to the El Mocho-Choshuenco saddle and were unroped despite being somewhat close to large crevasses.

The descent was quick, and I passed two guided groups crossing the glacier. Once back near the moraine I encountered a number of Chileans out for a short hike through the snow. There were probably half a dozen vehicles in the parking lot. Part of me was hoping to yogi a ride back down to Rio Blanca, but the timing didn’t work out. It was going to be faster to just walk, so I did.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5617 ft / 1712 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5617 ft / 1712 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9.1 mi / 14.6 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Very Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5092 ft / 1552 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4567 ft / 1392 m; Extra: 525 ft / 160m
    Loss on way in:525 ft / 160 m
    Distance:4.7 mi / 7.6 km
    Route:West Slope
    Start Trailhead:Rio Blanco  3379 ft / 1029 m
    Time:2 Hours 34 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5092 ft / 1552 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 4567 ft / 1392 m; Extra: 525 ft / 160m
    Gain on way out:525 ft / 160 m
    Distance:4.4 mi / 7.1 km
    Route:West Slope
    End Trailhead:Rio Blanco  3379 ft / 1029 m
    Time:1 Hours 38 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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