On Tuesday, we climbed the Volcan Villarica.
We started at 6.30 and went by van up a long dirt road to the ski lift at the bottom of the volcano.
I was a little daunted by the fact that we were wearing borrowed hiking boots which were very heavy and were carrying huge backpacks with crampons, climbing clothes and ice picks, and also by the fact that we were some of the oldest and least fit people that were there.
My fears were confirmed after we took a ski lift to the top and began to trek up the volcano – the ground was loose and steep and after the first half an hour or so I was finding it very difficult. Each group has two guides, so we split into two groups with our guide Rambo staying with Reuben and me. It took us about an hour and a half to climb up to where the glacier began, and we had already been told that we would not be able to make it to the summit due to me being so slow.
I encouraged Reuben to go ahead but he decided to stay with me. We were able to put on our crampons and climb the glacier, but Rambo would not let us climb up further as he was concerned that we would lose control and possibly be killed as two tourists had been last month. We did enjoy climbing around the glacier and then sliding down it while wearing special pants.
We met up with around 15 other people who had not climbed to the top, and climbed back down the loose volcanic rock to wait for those who had gone to the summit. We wound up hiking for about 5 hours all up.
Talking to some people afterwards, not everyone had made it to the top – a few had not even walked on the glacier and one guy we talked to had had to stop due to sickness. One girl who had made it described it as extremely difficult and very scary and they had not seen lava, only smoke, which we had also been able to see. All of the people who made it to the top seemed extremely athletic!
This was another example of where Reuben and I see things a bit differently. I was really gutted at not being fit enough to make it to the top, and felt terrible letting him down as he had really wanted to climb it. I wanted him to go on by himself, and felt very frustrated that our guide would not let us go further on the ice when we knew we could do that part. It was also frustrating waiting for the others who had been to the top to come back down (although we did get to watch the entertainment of Rambo flirting with the Israeli girls and finding out what painful things he would have to do to convert to Judaism). Even though I am much fitter than I was when I was last in Chile, I am still not an athlete and this was really upsetting to me that I was unable to achieve my goal. I am learning to make peace with not always being able to achieve and being content with trying my best.
Reuben, being more of the glass half full perspective, pointed out the stunning views of other volcanoes, how awesome it was that we were able to walk on and slide down a glacier, and that we did really well by giving it a go (we saw plenty of other tourists at the bottom who just drove up to look). He was not interested in leaving me to walk alone but rather in doing as much as we could as a team. He assures me that he is not disappointed in what we didn’t do, but rather enjoyed what we could do. He also says that he didn’t realise it wouldn’t be so difficult, and had thought that it would be more like the Tongariro Crossing which we have both done. He really is awesome to travel with – so encouraging and more interested in what we can do as a team than what we can each achieve singly.