After spending a few hours in Santiago getting my airbag canisters filled and waiting for our bus (which was an hour late), we made our way to the town of Chillan. Getting there late, we stayed at the Hostel Canada in town.
The hostel was a terrific family run place. For 8,000 pesos ($16 US) we got our own room with two big beds and a TV! The next morning we bought food and managed to find some white gas. That afternoon we checked out Chillan’s open air market and then hopped on a bus headed for Las Trancas, the small town below the ski resort of Nevados de Chillan.
Arriving in Las Trancas, we found the cheapest hostal to be full, however we were able to camp out back for 3,000 pesos ($6 us) which was perfect since we are trying to keep the cost of our trip down as much as possible. Apparently in a normal year there is a few feet of snow on the ground, but this year is so dry that we can sack out on the ground.
While packing for skiing the next day, I found I had left my beacon in the hostel in Chillan. Of all the things to lose, a beacon is probably among the worst. Not only is it essential safety equipment, but it’s something that’s hard to buy in Chile. I would have had to go back to Santiago to buy one, a 5 hour bus ride away, and then it would be super expensive.
The next morning we called the hostel and luckily they had it. Fabrice, the owner of the hostel where we are staying, kindly offered to pick it up when he went into town and gave me his to use in the mean time. Thanks!
After resolving my beacon mess, we headed out to go skiing. Getting a late start, and with reports of winds up high, we weren’t sure how far we were going to get, but we decided to go as far as we could. We started by hiking up the ski area and reached the top in 1.5 hours. Volcan Nuevo, a volcano directly above the ski area, looked awfully close so we decided to head up there. The wind was persistent but not very strong.
We followed a snowcat track up above the ski area to a saddle between Volcan Viejo and Volcan Nuevo. At the saddle the wind was intense. We could barely stand up. But from what I’ve heard, in Chile if you can stand up, it’s good weather, so we kept going. We made it to the top a bit later and enjoyed a beautiful view of several other volcanoes as well as the Andes to the east.
The ski down was fun even though the snow was a field of inverted cast iron soup kettles. Still, it was awesome to be skiing a volcano in Chile, especially on our first day on snow!
The next day was forecast with bad weather so we decided to ski around and explore different areas for future trips. We toured up the ski area and then took a left and headed over to the Refugio Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat Hut). I had read a few brief descriptions in Spanish online about this refugio describing it either as too decrepit to use, while others said it was great. We found other skiers staying there and it looked nice enough. The building is quite large and parts of it are falling apart, but it has several rooms that are holding together and you get a wood stove with tons of fuel. The best part though, is that every morning we can ski right out of the door rather than hitching a ride to the ski area and hiking up below the lifts.
Tomorrow morning we head up to the Refugio Garganta del Diablo, stay there for a few days, and hopefully ski some more volcanoes. Perhaps we will find some powder pockets (one can dream anyways).
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.