Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rare Alpine Skunk Tracked on Villarrica Volcano

Pucon, Southern Chile

Today, the mission was to try to summit this steaming 10,000-foot beast and ski down from the top.

Finding a spot in the parking lot wasn't a problem. Seldom is, at Chilean ski resorts.

My equipment. Note the US Open 2007 credential lanyard serving as safety retaining strap to my ice axe. Like everything having anything to do with the US Hopeless, the credential lanyard is a piece of shit, the clasp shattered while I was using the axe about an hour after this photo was taken.

This is Llaima, the volcano next to Lonquimay, which I skied the day before yesterday.

Another view of Llaima, which exploded last ski season.

Could it be? The Rare Alpine Skunk has been to Villarrica?

Yup. Those tracks are unmistakably from a Rare Alpine Skunk.

What a beautiful place. Amazingly raw. A bit of Whistler, a bit of Hawai'i, a bit of Chile.

That Rare Alpine Skunk must be feeling pretty frisky, he's been all over this mountain. Note the steam flume emanating from the summit of the volcano.

Another view of the volcanic steam flume, this time with sunlight.

Closed chairlifts probably outnumber open ones in Chile. A combination of poor maintenance, old equipment, and employees who don't give a shit. Can't let it get you down....just slap on the skins and the crampons and take matters into your own hands.

Never made it anywhere near the summit of Villarrica today. Too dangerous. A storm is blowing in, it was very windy, the light was flat, and the whole mountain was an ice cube. The surface was about 4" of fresh powder on top of solid, unbreakable ice. After using my crampons and ice axe to climb about 1000 feet, I gave up on summiting and just did some skiing.

I like adventure as much as (probably more than) the next guy, but I really do not enjoy pushing it to a near-death experience (much less a full-death experience).

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