Conguillio National Park and climbing Llaima

Hikes through rustic forests, up to the snow-covered Sierra Nevada past araucaria, views of lakes and the Llaima volcano, and finally an ascent of Llaima itself.

Llaima Volcano with Araucaria and Laguna Conguillio
Llaima Volcano with Araucaria and Laguna Conguillio

To reach the Conguillio National Park, I take a rental car for three days. I am greeted by mountain lakes dammed by lava flows, rustic forests, sometimes with huge southern beech, sometimes with araucaria. Above, the snow-covered mountain ridge of the Sierra Nevada and, of course, the Llaima volcano opposite.

I steer the car over the bumpy road to a campsite at Laguna Conguillio, where I pay a paltry 40 euros for camping. The next morning I climb over a ridge to the Sierra Nevada. The views of the lake and the volcano get better and better towards the top, just a pity that the picturesque island is not an island, because the lake has so little water …

Originally I wanted to get to the pass, but I end up too high because I followed the tracks in the snow. Then it was not far to the highest point (actually a secondary peak). From here, 6 volcanoes can be seen at the same time!

Southern beeches on Sendero Los Carpinteros
Southern beeches on Sendero Los Carpinteros

Later, I hike via the Sendero Los Carpinteros through dense forest to the small Laguna Captren. From here, Llaima is really a perfectly shaped cone, because the side peak is hidden.

Finally, I bump along various dirt roads to the Las Araucarias ski resort on the other side of the mountain. In summer, it is almost deserted; apart from me, only two Argentinians are camping in the car park, who also want to climb to the summit.

Sunrise with Llaima
Sunrise with Llaima

I set off shortly before sunrise, an hour later I reach the top station of the lifts and am already trudging through snow. It gets steeper and steeper towards the top, and I’m damn happy about the snow, the few metres without it are enough for me: Bombs and lapilli on a critical slope, Yeah! I don’t want to climb this mountain in high summer! Late November is probably the ideal time.

Crater of Llaima
Crater of Llaima

Finally, I am sitting on the crater rim, after a climb of almost 1800 metres of altitude. Since the Argentines were much slower, I have the view to myself: a crater full of snow, steaming fumaroles and all around on the horizon so many volcanoes that I didn’t even count them (or rather, I wasn’t sure what I had to count). The view of the neighbouring Sierra Nevada is also interesting, because from up here you can see that it is the “horseshoe” of an old volcano whose summit slid down in a flank collapse.


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