Above the town of Pucon (800km south of Santiago) in southern Chile, a spitting, spewing volcano looms. The Villarica volcano is one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes on the planet. Everyday, smoke & magma can be seen coming from the volcano from the town below. It’s a Strombolian volcano, which means magma doesn’t slowly flow out of it but rather erupts violently. This tends to happen every 20 years or so, with the last eruption happening in 2009.
A year and a half before the last major eruption, skiers Elyse Saustadt, Cory Townsend, Phil Meyers, and I came to Pucon to ski on the volcano. We took one of the two ski lifts on the mountain to the top and then hiked for 3 more hours to get as close to the top of the volcano as possible – what drew us to the top, I don’t know, but the sight is one I’ll never forget. We peered into the crater at the top and stood 150 meters from the Earth’s boiling blood – it was as amazing as it was humbling. Our goggles completely fogged up and we had to wear bandanas over our mouths to breathe. We stood amazed, but couldn’t stay long.
After we took all that we could stand of the sulfurous fumes and heat, we turned and skied down the mountain. The views on the way down were some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever witnessed with a 360-degree view for miles & miles around us. When we safely reached Pucon again, it was almost dark– looking back at the mountain, the volcano’s warm glow lit up the night sky. It’s not a sight or experience I’ll soon forget.