Volcan Lanín was an objective high on my tick list of things to ski. It is a 3770m volcano that stands very independently on the border between Chile and Argentina. I needed a partner though as I thought it might be a bit too much for Barbara. So I asked Kev if he wanted to come along, he didn’t take much persuasion given the offer of a lift to the bottom and a keen partner.
The day after getting down from Refugio Frey it was off to Lanín to try and catch what looked like a two day weather window. There was a bit of a worry when Kev was not in his bed at the hostel in the morning. He was last seen with a nice Argentinean lady, what could have happened we wondered!? We needn’t have worried he arrived on time-ish and we still enough time in hand to get to the ranger station before 12pm. The rangers require you to report in to the station before 12pm to confirm your itinerary and a gear check before they let you out on the mountain. We arrived at 11.45 and got the OK to go up, but they said we needed to check in by radio when we got to the hut, when we head out to summit in the morning, when we summit and once we get back to the refuge. We were also given a 12pm turn around time for the summit day.
Check in done we got our gear repacked and had some food, but stretched the leaving time a bit, there was no great hurry we just needed to get to the refugio at 2400m (about 1000m or so of ascent) before dark.
Photo setting off.
It was a fair slog up the hill carrying skis, boots plus everything else on the extensive kit list, which included ice axes we suspected would be totally unnecessary.
We had planned a 6am start, which we reckoned would give us an extra hour in hand to get to the summit, however we somehow only got going at 7am. We set off on skis, but only managed to skin about 400m of ascent of the total 1400m of vertical required to reach the top before deciding booting it would be more efficient given the icy conditions.
The wind was really picking up as we ascended, but it was still manageable and we made reasonable progress although we passed the turn around time. We weren’t going to turn around so close to the top, we kept plodding even though the wind was pretty ferocious by now always threatening to knock you off your feet. I stopped few hundred meters away from the summit at a kind of ledge that was below a short plateau and a bit sheltered from the wind. I didn’t think there was any way we would be able to stand up if we tried to get on the plateau, never mind the summit that rose beyond that. Kev thought we could and stood up from our hunkered down position his upright stance did not last long as his skis caught the wing like a sail and sent him flying into me!
It appeared there was only one way to go – down! The full 360 degree view was not going to happen today. I radioed the now somewhat concerned rangers that we were fine and on our way down, apparently they had already been to see if Barbara had heard from us after our lateness calling in. We had to start our descent on foot until we could get out the wind enough to get skis on, which we managed a few hundred meters lower.
The skiing was horrific, a mixture of rime ice, random chunks of ice and wind packed kind of crusty powder made the skiing pretty tough and unenjoyable. Kev was going ok, but I was finding it really hard, then I managed to fall and wrench my thumb. Damn it. Fortunately conditions smoothed out a bit as we approached the refugio. Once back to the shelter of the refugio we could relax, eat and pack our things for the decent back to the van.
We had some fun eeking out the skiing as far as we could right to the bottom following a ribbon of snow in a stream bed. Then it was an hour or so hike back to the van and victory beers that Barbara had been chilling for us.