Ascent of Volcán Llaima on 2013-12-31

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Adam Helman -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Adrian Rayner
Duane Gilliland
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Volcán Llaima
    Elevation:10253 ft / 3125 m

Ascent Trip Report

This peak is probably done mostly in winter: it was deserted when we were there and the top 350 m is a tough rubbly climb when there is no snow cover.

After our Volcan Lonquimay ascent we drive to the Llaima trailhead, stopping briefly at the small town of Curacautin en route. Note that much of the direct route after Curacautin is dirt road: good surface, a little steep in places but nothing which our Hyundai van couldn't handle. This route also happens to bypass the Conaf check point (which is closed anyway on the two occasions we pass it; there is no barrier). On arrival we check with the ski centre staff who tell us there is no need to register, also that we are welcome to camp nearby, also they provide tap water and a place to charge our phones. It's another gorgeous evening: we spend a leisurely time on the hardstanding just before the entrance (S38.68527 W71.80044, 1486m), cooking and organising, setting up camp under the native monkey puzzle trees. A couple in a pickup drive down the road which is the start of the ascent route and Adam arranges for him to pick us up at 6 the next morning. This will save a fair bit of effort - if he shows up...

Sat 29 BAD WEATHER RECCE Our lift doesn't show, so at 6.10 we hike the steep road (the first one through the entrance, following a chair lift line). After bending L, the main ascent line forks R S38.68791 W71.79100. Just before it ends, at S38.68957 W71.78193, 1904m we diverge L and walk cross country, skirting R of a cinder cone then making a fairly level contour east north east to the base of the north west ridge. There are a few cairns and poles (mostly fallen over) but there is no obvious trail. The ground is quite undulating and consists of easy snow separated by cinder patches.

The sky was cloudy from the start, and the cloud descends as we climb, and by the time we reach the NW ridge it is raining. The snow is steep enough for crampons in places: with them the ascent is easy - except for the rain. We persevere in the wind and rain until 2350m then turn around.

All the time we have been accompanied by the resort manager's young border collie, who seems to love every minute of it: rushing up and down steep snow; playing with rocks. He probably doesn't get to climb in these conditions very often. We wonder how often he has summitted.

We are down at about 1140. Learning that it will be wet for one more day we head south to Villarrica and find a hostel to dry put and spend the night. Villarrica weather prospects are worse that for Llaima so we return to the Llaima trailhead the next day and again camp for the night.

Mon 31 ASCENT The sky clears overnight but in the morning there are high clouds, and during the hike, mares tails followed by heavier clouds later. We start in sunshine, with Llaima's cone towering ahead of us and Lonquimay and Villarrica to north and south. We repeat Saturday's route initially, but after leaving the dirt road end and passing R of the small cinder cone we aim further R, climbing a cinder tongue (S38.68633 W71.76090) and climbing easy snow to gain the base of the NW ridge at a small saddle (S38.68602 W71.74802, 2240m) to the right of the prominent cone which stands at its base. We climb easy angled snow for a while, but as the angle later steepens we fit crampons. Under normal conditions we understand axe and crampons aren't usually required in summer but with the present cold spell they are essential.

Near the top of the main snow slope we traverse to the L side of the snow to avoid steep ground, then climb a wide gully on steeper snow. When the snow runs out we climb out of the top of the gully (note the small ridge on the L (S38.69235 W71.73285, 2841m) at the top as it is not obvious in descent).

The final 350 m of ascent involves toiling up awkward rubbly slopes - tough going! I later discover that the far L edge (R in descent has nice fine scree making for a good descent - this is probably the best ascent line too, ie on emerging from the gully make an ascending traverse to the far L edge of the slope.

At last the slope eases then ends at a rocky trough with warm steaming rocks, very welcome today with wind chill at -5C as forecast. We leave our packs and climb the final few metres to the summit S38.69611 W71.73035, 3130m, consisting of red rocks at the edge of the smallish rather shapeless crater with several steam vents. I have a gas mask in case fumes are blowing across the summit, but it is not needed, at least not today.

We are at the summit in 5h40 and after a short break, descend in 4h50. The snow is softer on the way down and makes for an easy descent once we have negotiated the summit slope, the gully and the steep upper snowfield. The cloud base follows us down, and a couple of hours after we get down, heavy rain starts. We have our peak, but it didn't give in easily.

We camp again at the trailhead (in fact we are invited in to use the dormitory in view of the bad weather; the ski centre is actually closed for renovation). We then head south in the morning (seeing Llaima's summit cone in cloud by 0930 - we chose the best day). We climb Volcan Villarrica three days later when the next weather window arrives.

Volcan Llaima photo album
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5444 ft / 1659 m
    Extra Gain:33 ft / 10 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.6 mi / 13.8 km
    Route:NW ridge
    Trailhead:Araucarias ski centre  4875 ft / 1485 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons
    Weather:Cold, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 50 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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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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