Sunday, 5 July 2009

Oh my god... I´ve just climbed a Volcano, 23 June 2009

Yesterday I went into a few tour agencies to ask about climbing the Volcano this week. They were all a bit dubious and I didn´t really trust them. They gave me super cheap prices though to participate in the climb, but I just didn´t feel safe with these. I went to one more tour agent on my way home (the one that was recommended by my hostel). Aguaventura filled me with confidence right away. They said that tomorrow (today) would be a good day to climb the volcano. I asked if I could wait till Wednesday, but they told me I am better to do it on the first available opportunity which would be tomorrow rather than risk a turn in the weather. The weather was looking good and the prospect of raching the top was promising. The guys in the shop showed me the equipment and I was happy to hand a bit more money over to these guys. I was measured up for my kit and given all the pre-climb information.

I woke up this morning really early. To be honest I didn´t really sleep much. I had booked to climb a volcano that I still had not seen from the town, but that I had heard was steep and hellish. What was I thinking?

I made my way to the tour operators and they assured me that the volcano was good for climbing. I put all my gear on in the shop and packed up my bag filled with crampons, waterproof trousers, snow pick, back protector and helmet. I was scared as I packed my bag. What did I need a snow pick for? Was a helmet really necessary? What on earth had I let myself in for?

There was only me and one other guy on the trip but three members of staff from the tour agency came along as well as our two volcano guides.

It wasn´t until the minibus pulled up at the base of the Volcano that I saw VIllarica for the first time. It didn´t look that big. But it did look steep at the top.

I could see smoke billowing from the top of the volcano and got really excited. In a few hours I would be at the top of this active volcano looking out across the surrounding countryside.

The prospect of the walk was no longer a fear for me, it was going to take 5 hours to reach the summit we were told. The only thing that bothered me was the snow. I have never hiked in snow before and the volcano was covered in snow from top to bottom.

I have never seen so much snow in my life it was everywhere. But we put our bags on and we were off.

To be honest I got the impression that the other guys thought I wasn´t up to the climb. I was determined to show them otherwise.

It was a nice walk to begin with. It was a steady climb and the snow was not too deep.

But then the snow got deeper. Every step I took I sunk down to my knees. It still wasn´t steep at this point, but it was hard work with the deep snow. Moving through the snow was like climbing up really deep steps. I could really feel my muscles working but I was having a great time. The guys all looked on to make sure I was ok, but there I was battling on in spite of the snow with a smile on my face. I would show them!

The snow was a pristine white colour and we were the first group moving up the volcano.

We took frequent breaks which was a good thing so that we didn´t over do it. Half way up two of the guys from the tour agency decided to stop, they were tired and couldn´t hack it any more! Ha! And there they were expecting me to be the first to stumble and fall! I felt smug and as we walked away leaving them to make their own way down I was satisfied with myself.

After a while it started to get steeper. This wasn´t too bad at first and I continued to climb at a steady pace.

But then after 4 hours of hiking I was knocked with a blow. I thought we were on the final ascent to the summit and was super disappointed to discover it was a fake summit and that there was still a long way to go. My leg muscles were really starting to feel the burn and my motivation was starting to plummet. I kept thinking that I´ve never been beaten by a trek either on my Duke of Edinburgh or when I was trekking in Morocco. But I was able to justify the difficulties that I was facing by telling myself that this was the first time I had ever trekked in snow, and therefore it was going to be harder than anything I had ever done before. It was worse than running on sand. I kept on going but I was slower than the remaining members of my group. One of the guides, Felipe, hung back for me and kept asking me ´Que Pasa?´ What Happened? It was hurting, and it was getting steeper, that´s what had happened. He was really sweet and kept me going. I kept going because I´m too stubborn to give up. The snow got really hard and icy and we had to kick our feet into the snow to make footholes. The snow made this climb the hardest climb I have ever undertaken in my life. Every few metres I would stop because I found it so difficult. I asked if i could put on my crampons but Felipe said it wouldn´t be safe. So i carried on kicking out foot holes in the snow. I marched on and on like a trooper. By this point however I was miles behind the rest of the group. It was only my stubborness that was keeping me going and my body was really struggling.

Then I remembered Mick Clegg and our discussion about positive thinking and motiviation. With Mick in my head I found a new lease of energy and my motivation was back. The rest of my group and the other tour groups were having a break further up the mountain side and with my new energy I powered up the side of the volcano to join them and raring to take on the rest of the Volcano until I reached the top!

When Felipe and I joined the group I was so disappointed to discover that all the guides from all the tour groups had decided that it was too dangerous to climb to the top. It was the middle of the day, the sun was really bright and strong and the ice was starting to get wet and slippy. The guides deemed it unsafe to climb any higher.

In total the volcano is 2840m. We reached 2400m.

I was so gutted. I´d hit my wall, but I´d struggled on and broken through it and I wanted to reach the top. I was really upset as I was so charged to climb higher.

Felipe could tell I was sad and told me to turn around. For the first time i turned to see the view 2400m up on Villarica VOlcano. It was incredible. There was a bit of cloud but that made the view all the more dramatic. It was so fantastic that I definitely shed a few tears.

As I took in and savoured the view I was sad that I wouldn´t reach the top, but satisfied in the knowledge that I had the energy and the motivation to keep on going right up to the top.

I ate a sandwich and took some photos before we made our way down.

It had been a steep climb and the thought of walking back down would have been horrible, but we didn´t walk back down. Oh no. We SLEDGED back down.

In my bag I had a plastic round circle with a handle and this was key to getting back down. This was the best fun ever.

I had to use my ice pick to control the speed. And Felipe made me do emergency stops which involved rolling on to my front and stabbing the pick axe into the snow as a brake. There was no need for the emergency stops but they were jsut as fun as the sledging itself. Hanging on a steep slope from a pick axe was very very cool.

Felipe and I even did tandem sledging which took us down the hill even faster.

I´ve done some good sledging in my life, but this really was the best sledging ever! Watching the incredible views as I slid down was incredibly cool.

It was a long day of hiking and I was glad to get back to the hostel and chill out on the sofa. Jess even had dinner ready for me.

When I got back I had a text from mum and dad saying that had just been for a lovely two hour walk along the cliffs in Saundersfoot to Tenby. I wrote back telling them that I had just climbed 2400m of an active volcano, in the snow for eight hours. I think I won on that one!

1 comment:

  1. Very moving Amy and well done.
    Our walk wasn't a walk in the park either, it too involved lots of climbing, granted not to the great heights you managed, twas enough to make my calfs feel like they were going to explode.☺ X X X