Tuesday, January 6

Ain't nothin' to it...

Lounging on top of the Villarica Volcano, Pucon Chile...

Climbing a Volcano that is. Pfff.

The brilliant thing about being an endurance athlete is that i can do anything - keep it one thing - continuously, for quite some time. Examples would be laying block, painting the roof, pouring grout, riding in a bus, and hiking 4 hours to the top of a volcano. Switch me onto auto-pilot and i can get it done.

this shot was taken on the way up: Looking out over the valley filled with lakes, mountains, and other volcanos. Here's a secret for you. I had no desire to go on this trip. I am addicted to my routine, my structure, my control. I am also addicted to cycling and my bike and the community it gives me. I had no idea how to cope without it.
The ONE thing i was completely looking forward to was trekking up the volcano. I researched it, opted out of the ever-fun white water rafting that day, and planned my outfit. I knew it would take all day and i would virtually be by myself. Things that i am used to.

Only 4 other people from our group of 71 joined me on the trek. The Sims family from Canada. Through a long process, we got outfitted along with 22 other "tourists" with crampons, ice picks, gaiters, snow clothes and a back pack.
It was a 15 minute drive to the base in a rickety mini-bus over packed with foreigners and gear. I heard German, Portuegues and Spanish. About 7 minutes into the ride it hit me like a flash. I am meant to be a teacher. All plans of hopping back on the education wagon flew out the window with the dust that had come in. I lost all desire to go to physical therapy school. I just KNEW I must teach. This, was a turning point in my mind frame, thought process and basic existance. Borderline creepy, but all too real.
We had 4 guides with us and through the process of natural selection, our group split in two within the first 20 minutes. I found myself with the front group of 8. A German couple, some Brazilians, Chileans, and Danny - a tenth grader from Canada, who became my Charge.
This is Guillermo, one of our guides. Classic...completely classic.


We began at 4,565 ft in elevation. OVer the course of the next four hours we Slowly trudged upwards beyond on the clouds and towards the sulfur steam of the volcano to a max of 9,305 ft.
Now i have raced at 11,000ft and not had much of a problem. But at those events, we were on flat ground. Here, we were pasted to the side of an extremely steep cliff. Each step was buffetted with a stamp of the ice ax into the snow. We stopped at one point and the swirling of the clouds around us had a dizzying effect that left me nauseated and stairing at the snow.
This was so much more than a ride in the woods....
Rumor has it the volcano erupted last January. Here you can see where the lava went....the white on the left side is the cliff...
Resting on a lava flow....looking down into the valley
Danny and I 30 minutes from the top. You can see the steam rising out of the crater...
Once on the top, we had to go see for ourselves...
And this is what we saw. 200 meters across, and you can find lava 50-100 meters down. The sulfur smell wasn't too bad, probably because of the gail-force winds. The volcano sounded like a giant hungry belly, growling and spewing.
We walked as far as we dared around the crater. We had come up there the light snow is...
YOu have to take at least one tourist shot...

Being summer, it was extremely warm. The backs of my hands got super sun burned. i Never even thought to put the gloves on.

Getting down was amazing.

We looked like snow Kayakers!!

With ice axe held between both hands, waterproof suite on, and helmets locked on, we literally jumped into snow slides and flew down the mountain. I felt like i was a human bobsled, you could catch air and a wave of snow started to follow us. There was snow spray behind us and you could use your ax as a paddle to get going faster.

I laughed so hard my eyes teared up and my abs hurt so bad!! Plus, your entire rear become completley numb. i still have bruises on my hips from hitting frozen spots or small rocks!! Amazing...

Watching 10th grader Danny get to the top and back down was another high light of my trip. If i was that overwhelmed with the experience, the sights, and the landscape, how did he feel? The sense of accomplishment and fulfillment is one that rivals when i won the expert MTB National Championships.....

3 comments:

Julene said...

What an incredible experience. I can identify on a TINY level when I climbed Mt Taranaki in 2002 and nearly died. I would have loved to go with you but fear there would have been a third and much slower group...me!

Luke said...

Joyful One,

I really enjoyed reading your perspective on the Chile trip. We're glad you were part of it. Thanks for not falling off the church roof. My girls love you! (Sorry.)

Take care.

JOY said...

Hey Luke!
Glad to hear from you! And your girls were great, along with all the others! and yes, i am very glad i did not die that day on the roof either. That would have been bad!

take care!
Joy