Chile Theme Routes: Speed-flying / Speed-riding

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Speed-flying off volcanos

Alex Pavlovic, Ucrania.


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Although it is summer to the south of the world, the idea of skiing in Chile is a dream for all winter lovers. It is not necessary to watch movies or to be told ... this is a wish that is always there. Check this note where I tell you all about my amazing adventure in the magical volcanoes and mountains of Chile.

A crazy idea

While it is summer on the other side of the planet, an idea of skiing in Chile is a dream of all winter lovers. You don’t even have to see any films or talk to friends — this is kind of an idea which is somehow always there. So ever since I started skitouring I was continuously planning a speedriding trip to Chile. The thing that became obvious right away is a car: there is just no way you could travel such distances to different locations without one. At first I thought about bringing a tent and renting a car, but living in a tent in winter for a substantial amount of time… well, task not for a fainthearted people. And then my friend brought it up: a camper. It just hit me: here’s a solution.

Yeah, an obvious one, but trust me, I’m not from a country where you see many campers roaming around. I’ve never lived in a camper, but somehow it didn’t look like anything demanding.

Speedriding is a weather-demanding sport, we needed a lot of flexibility. It’s not like you can make a route on the map and follow it. You have to read the forecast and constantly change your plans, chasing calm winds. A camper gives almost unlimited freedom and an ability to adapt. Turned out it’s also quite useful to check volcanic activity reports… When you ski and fly on volcanos, you do not really think they can start erupting. But they can.

The crossing begins

During a month we’ve managed to get to Llaima, Osorno, Lonquimay and Villarrica volcanos. We’ve never stayed in camping areas as they tend to be quite far from the mountain. Llaima and Villarrica are surrounded by beautiful forests offering sweet places to park a camper several kilometres from the start of the hike, on Llaima even with a clean nice river. I’d say my favourite camping spot ever was at Llaima: the forest is so calm and cosy you almost feel in the middle of nowhere. Other volcanos can’t boast a river, so make sure you have enough water heading there. On Osorno we stayed somewhere close to the refuge with majestic view over the lake and the volcano.

Planning an early hike up to the summit you can stay right at the parking lot (free) in the beginning of a climb by the shelter, but it’s not so cozy and quiet as staying just a 10-minute drive away.

Ski centers on the volcanos might look strange for a European. First thing that looks odd is the absence of hotels and restaurants close to the lifts. The most you get is a café by the parking and that’s it. Probably that’s because of volcanic activity, but I must say it feels nice. Several ski lifts hardly spoil any scenery. Here’s when a camper is especially handy, as in any way you need a car or a transfer to a resort.

Also, touring mountains without active resorts is quite a task as options of accommodation are limited and public transport is scarce. For those who only ski on piste resorts would look too small. Lift passes are a bit more expensive than I would expect, but if you’re lucky with snow freeride is going to be awesome. Chances to meet a couple of fellow skitourers are quite high, especially on Llaima where skilifts aren’t working anymore.

We were incredibly lucky to catch a small eruption on Villarrica, and that’s what a camper is for: you get a hotel under a billion of stars and one glowing volcano! First of all, it’s totally not what you imagine it to be. The eruption was small — volcano just “coughed” a bit — so the first thing we noticed were dozens of people going TO the mountain! Mountain workers and photographers headed to the volcano in the middle of the night. Next morning, I was ready to be stopped by the national park workers at the entry, but to my astonishment the resort was full of people! Obviously, nothing can be more exciting to locals than skiing on an erupting volcano. Even more: the only thing that can stop climbers from climbing to the top with lava fountains is the army. Which was the case here: at 2000 meters the guards were stopping the people from climbing and sending them back. Once you’re there it’s obvious that climbing an erupting volcano is worth 14-hour flight…

Lonquimay has highest reaching lifts, so the top is some 400 meters above. You can ski into the crater here! However, we could not find a really cosy place to park here and the road is narrow and deep. The only nice place is a secondary parking lot some kilometer away from the lifts.

By the way, those who tried to ski in several different locations, probably know how much time and effort it takes to pack and unpack all the ski gear. Add to that our flying gear… With a camper it’s more like a bliss: you wake up in the morning, have your coffee, take your skis out and you’re ready to drive! While your wings and boots can still dry in the camper. This is probably the second greatest advantage of a camper. The first being the ability to pop inside a nice warm place and have huge cup of tea right after a long climb…

Apart from skiing and flying our camper took us to the wildest places on the shore. One of the most spectacular place for the night was the cliff in the area of Budi lake. All of the ocean coast there drops with a sharp vertical cliff right into the ocean, and you can have a “hotel” right by the roaring drop. Amazing spot for watching the sunset and birds…

What amused me was the fact that possibilities to exit to the shore are not that numerous. While preparing we paid most attention to skiing and flying spots, and as to the shore we just thought “oh, it’s a country on the ocean! What can be easier? Just to west and you’re somewhere”. Well, not that easy. Sometimes hundreds of kilometers of shore don’t have any roads. But tiny villages on the shore are quite lovely and in winter it’s really quiet and cozy as a break during bad weather days in the mountains.

By the end of our trip we decided to go up north and spend a couple of days hiking in big mountains. This is the thing you can’t do without a camper. Where we went roads go all the way up to 3600 meters, but there is not a single village or people. Sleeping over 3000 on the outskirts of Atacama under a nice warm blanket is a thing you can’t underestimate, for sure… Even though you hardly see any people there you can see plenty of guanacos!

We will definitely get back to explore the north of Chile!
This is a country of unlimited adventure!



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