NOTE: I just added some of our pics to the previous post, as well (hydrospeeding).
We all got up at around 6am for a quick breakfast before we left to the volcano – located about 14 km from our campsite.
Just to give some background information, it´s one of the 3 volcanoes in Chile, but the only active one. According to Wikipedia, the last eruption actually took place in 2006. The elevation of the actual peak is 2,847 metets. If you look at some of the pictures that will follow, you can actually see sulfuric gases comig out of the crater.
So, we got picked up from the campsite by our guides. Out of 16 people in our group, around 10-12 went with us. First, we stopped by the guides´office to pickup our equipment which consisted of special pants, windbreaker, ice pick, and some other stuff. We were also required to bring sunglasses. The snow at the top is so reflective that without them, you can actually go blind. There was a case where one guy actually had it happen to him. He could not see for 3 days and was in a lot of pain, simply because he didn´t follow the procedure.
Me and Alex had to pick out sunglasses yesterday and tape them on top of ours. A bit weird looking, but there wasn´t really any other choice.
We put on all of the gear and by around 8am headed to the volcano. The road that led up to it was mainly made up of dirt, so the ride was a particularly bumpy one.
When we arrived, we started at the altitude of about 1,400 meters. The volcano´s peak is at 2,850, so we roughly had the same distance to cover. In the beginning, we had a choice. The first 400 meters, you can actually go up on a special ski lift that they built for that.
About 5-6 people went on the left and the remainder (including me and Alex) decided to go by foot. It´s interesting to note that all 3 of our guides actually went on the ski lift, so we had to cover that distance on our own.
For me, it was really the first time, I went mountain climbing, so I wasn´t sure what to expect. The trail (if you can call it that) went up at around a 45 degree angle and was covered with gravel and tiny rocks. Every step you made, the ground (gravel) under you moved, so you had to be careful not to slide back or lose your balance. The backpacks with the equipment and the food and water weren´t much help either.
The way up was incredibly difficult. Since we were already at a high elevation and continued to move up, it was getting difficult to breath. After a while, nausea was also added to the mix. This was pretty much a standard case of altitude sickness that affects many first time climbers, especially those that did not spend some time acclimating to the altitude.
We were moving slowly and had to zig zag our way up, since going directly straight was just too much and too difficult to achieve. I had to stop pretty frequently because at some point, my knees just refused to follow my will. Fortunately, our group was really great and they waited up for one another.
In about 1 hour and 20 minutes, we finished covering that area and came to the point where the ski lift ends. There, we were able to have a quick break, put on some sunscreen, drink some water and rest before the next part.
The next stage that lied ahead of us was the ascent directly through snow for about 1,000 meters. As we headed up, it became increasingly cold and even more difficult to breath. After every few steps, you felt out of breath and when you tried to inhale, the air was cold and not very comforting.
We were going up in zig zags in order to minimize the incline, but unfortunately that significantly increased the distance we had to cover. One of the guides saw that I was struggling and suggested that I stop at that point, as things will only get more difficult. There were still several hours ahead of us and towards the end, the incline became even steeper.
Truth to be told, I wasn´t feeling all too great at that point. The tiredness somewhat went away, as it was actually easier to go up in the snow. But I just couldn´t catch my breath and even the short stops weren´t helping anymore.
I went up for about another 450 meters to 2,250 but unfortunately, it just became too unbearable. Tiredness, I can deal with, but it was more about not being to breath normally, so I had to stop.
I have to give credit to the rest of the group and Alex, as they continued on and made it to the top 2 hours later. It´s really hard work and you never fully understand it until you try it on your own.
Anyways, here are some pics for your viewing pleasure.
p.s. We are leaving tomorrow to a small village and will be camping there and another city for the next 6 nights in a row. Internet should be available, so I´ll try to post again.