Volcano Antuco at 2979m was an impressive sight for our next Ski Tour, located in the Laguna del Laja national park in Chile. The access road was as usual a long gravel drive in of about 65km. A few narrow exposed sections but generally the road was fine to drive. At the base is a small ski resort with a couple of drag lifts along the flatter flanks. It seemed to be only open on weekends when we were there.
We arrived on a Saturday night fairly late. We parked up in the camper van just before the park entrance. A strange experience in the pitch black with no idea of our surroundings, the van was rocking violently from some pretty extreme wind, a stream ran past us into what looked like a large lake. The ground was black with old volcanic rock.
A few trucks sped past, one stopped and about 5 guys jumped out, we saw their faces lit up by cigarettes as they sheltered from the wind, for a moment we were afraid of what they were up to. They soon piled back in and sped off into the darkness.
Next day the wind was still battering us. An ascent of the volcano was off. It was way too windy. We explored the park and its setup hiking trails. These were actually pretty stunning. A few information boards told us that a German Botanist, Eduard Poeppig passed through and sheltered from the locals and the last eruption in 1854. There were huge Coihue trees and big waterfalls.
The road and national park was relatively busy, despite the wind, locals were driving to the small resort and using the drag lifts to ski the gentle slopes.
The next morning the wind had died down and we drove to the resort and soon started skinning up the slopes. It was totally empty not a soul in sight, tumbleweed rolling through the 4 or 5 buildings that marked the resort, in the light wind. We quickly reached the top of the ski lifts. The next section was surprisingly steep, after a few kick turns it was crampons and ice axes out until we reached the defined ridge on the lookers left. The ridge was much mellower. We followed this up to the summit, it got steeper, harder and more exposed but with crampons and axes we were OK. We took shelter from the wind just below the summit cone. The view down to the lake was amazing it was perfectly clear to spot the lava flow curling down the volcano flank and damming the river to create the huge lake after the 1854 eruption.
We then started back down, sadly for us the wind had destroyed the snow. We traversed to the front face away from the ridge we had climbed up, however it was a treacherous ride down, crust and ice on 40 degree slopes for almost 1800m of vertical height, we were scared for each turn. The lower section had softened and let us open up to the base.
A stunning volcano in a stunning setting, a ski touring must.