Hiking up Volcanoes – Anita Foster

Anita tells a story of a tough volcano hike

We were travelling in South America and staying on a farm near Villarica in Chile when it was suggested that we climb the local volcano. My first reaction was “No Way!” particularly as we had watched its glow in the dark sky the previous evening, and it was a long way up.  However, a ‘when in Rome’ attitude soon kicked in and a couple of days later Gary, my husband, and I were getting kitted out along with a group of others and our guide ready to climb the snow covered Mount Villarica.  In our party was an Australian girl, Natasha, we had met on the farm, and another mixed group of about 6 people.

We had been told the climb would take 5-6 hours and to start with it was pleasant enough trudging through the snow.  As the ascent got steeper we started to zig-zag up the side and by the time we stopped to put our crampons on I was struggling to keep up. Gary, Natasha and I started to drop behind with me most definitely at the back and I could sense frustration in the rest of the group that they had to keep stopping to wait – by the time I had caught up they were ready for the off again so I didn’t even get a rest.  It was incredibly hard work and I was feeling very sorry for myself. However, after about 4 hours of the most strenuous exercise I think I’ve ever done, we reached the summit and it was stunning – the views over the mountains and clouds, and the smoke and fumes emanating from the volcano’s crater were incredible.  Most amazing of all was the time it had taken – only 4 hours!

The descent was much quicker, half an hour or so, mainly on our backsides with an ice-pick brake – great fun.  Back at ‘base’ we were talking to the rest of the group, and even the guide was impressed by our climbing time, which made me feel a little better as I nursed my sunburnt nostrils, (it hurt to breathe in and out for days!), although I did wonder why we had done it so quickly.  Only then did I find out that the rest of our group were armed forces personnel on leave from the Falklands – superfit doesn’t even come close.

Next time I think I’ll check before we leave!

Anita Foster