Martin on Cnicht

Martin on Cnicht

Friday, 4 December 2015

Volcán Puyehue

December 3

A lie in was in order as we awoke to find ourselves in a cloud.

However, Volcán Puyehue was beckoning us through the mist, so after breakfast in bed (we are allowed to cook inside our tent here, and were even encouraged by Santiago, the park warden, to gather wood and light a fire) we ambled off up the hill well before 9 am.

Volcanoes are steep by nature. This one last erupted in 2011, so the ash has bedded down a bit, and the upper slopes were still clad in snow. Steep snow. Unfortunately the ash created a layer impervious to water, so nine out of ten trees in a wide area below the refuge have died. The walking routes were also largely destroyed, so the map we bought from Armin is rather useful. Both Ray and Shohan had tried and failed to get a map of the area, possibly because they tried before it was published - it turns out to be hot off the press, so they spent some time photographing ours!

I'm sure it was perfectly safe as it was only icy in places, but the gradient of the snow on the upper slopes made me wish I had an ice axe. We reached a rock band at 2100 metres where I decided to stay put whilst Sue went to the 2250 metre summit and peered into the snow filled crater.

From where I was I could see evidence of volcanic activity, but the black rock from the 2011 eruption wasn't quite visible.

We were back at camp in time for a very civilised lunch at a picnic table. There were no new arrivals, and only Shohan remained from last night's crew. He had lit a fire in the refuge and was going to clean it before going down.

We went down. Steeply. 1000 metres. At first, where a lot of the trees have died, there was a good selection of wild flowers - celandines and dog orchids being the most common, thanks to there being a fair amount of light. Further down, where fewer trees had died, there weren't many flowers that were able to flourish in the low light beneath the leaf canopy.

Lapwings and ibis guided us back to El Caulle, where we signed out and were given tea by Santiago. We needed it. We had run out of 'plan' and pored over the guidebook for a while.
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Meanwhile, Sue has compiled her own take on today, which I've decided to include in full below, despite the duplications, as I know certain readers will appreciate that. 

Here we go:

"We woke in the tent around 8am, to high cloud that soon descended to the level of camp. Had tea and muesli in bed, as there are no restrictions on cooking, or even lighting fires here. It had been encouraged by Santiago, where we signed in.

At 8.45am, we set off from our 1400m camp with just my rucksack to climb to the crater of Volcán Puyehue at 2250m. Cloud swirled but it was quite bright. Initially through clumps of grass, we soon got onto fairly solid volcanic slopes, where the route was marked with cairns or short stakes. Although we broke through the cloud, there was another level of high cloud above, so everything was a bit monotone. A cool breeze blew and we needed jackets.

It was a slog. The slope steepened. From the rocky gravel, we moved onto snow. It was soft enough to make steps but it was hard work. At one point there was a view across the slopes to the area of the eruption in 2011, all very grey and partly covered with old snow.

Martin decided not to continue and waited in a sheltered spot at 2100m, whilst I continued, up a section mainly clear of snow to gain a ridge. Here, I turned left on a clear path to reach the crater at 2250m. The bottom was covered in snow, but it was an impressive sight, with some cloud below me. Later, Santiago told us about a Red Bull-sponsored event, where a group of people were dropped by helicopter into the crater. Flares were set off to  simulate a volcanic explosion, and they had to climb out of the crater using ice axes. Once on the rim they could ski down to the refuge. Mad!

I didn't stay long as Martin was waiting below, so once I'd put on gaiters, I retraced steps and was soon back. We then had to negotiate the snow slopes which I enjoyed yomping down, but it was a bit too steep for Martin and he took the slope carefully. We re-entered the cloud before reaching the refuge again (needed the marker posts) at 12.30pm. We could have taken the traversing path part way down, but neither of us fancied it and there was probably insufficient time anyway.

Despite being in the cloud, it was bright and we had lunch on one of the picnic benches, brewing a welcome cup of tea. Rolls, yesterday's cheese and a tin of sardines fuelled the imminent descent.

The tent was struck and we set off back down at 1.30pm. We had noted that quite a lot of the trees were dead, both around the refuge and further down, and Santiago confirmed that it was as a result of the 2011 eruption. 

Initially in cloud in the trees, we eventually dropped below it to emerge into the green pasture where the bull, cows and calves were contentedly grazing. The cloud was clearing well, but not sufficiently to clear our volcano.

Where ibises had been yesterday, lapwings were today. As we approached El Caulle restaurant, we laughed to see the tiny Yorkshire terrier chasing a cow across a field. He really is very feisty for a small dog!
Santiago enjoyed a chat (we were down by 3.45pm) uand made us a (free) cup of tea. 

Shohan arrived in time for a lift to Aguas Calientes, on the road to Antillanca.
Not having any accommodation organised, and wanting to be inside rather than in the tent again, we have ended up in a cabin, quite expensive by this trip's standards but a bit of luxury. Number 22 is spacious with an open dining, kitchen and lounge area (with two single beds) and separate double bedroom and bathroom at the back. Outside is a patio. There is a stove for heating. The kettle was soon on!

Showers were welcome after no facilities last night, and we had a meal at the restaurant, the only two dining. Big salads, chicken and lasagne, with cold beers. Through the window, we could see a blackbird with a mouthful of wriggling worms, ready to feed its young."

Today's pictures, in chronological order, are pretty much self explanatory. The last one shows the bamboo that doesn't seem to have been as badly affected by the ash as some of the trees and is now rampant on the lower slopes of the mountain.

2 comments:

Nightbird said...

Very impressive views from the climb, quite a difference in the weather too! I think you deserve that cabin. Can't beat a cup of tea either :-)

Phreerunner said...

The third photo down is from my vantage point at 2100 metres, towards the areas of eruption, which haven't recently involved the cone that we climbed. 

The most recent (2011) area of eruption is apparently denoted by an area of black rock just out of sight to the right. We would have seen that from the traversing path mentioned by Sue. The area has changed a lot since John Sanderson's visit in 1993, when there were green meadows and fumaroles and geysers on the plateau in which to bathe.

Yes, the cuppa from Santiago was most welcome.