Tag Archives: Trekking Chile

Volcan Puyehue – and the coldest, most frustrating refugio

25 Jun

Now usually a mountain refugio should be a place of shelter, warmth, a refuge from the cold, windy conditions outside.  This was what I was hoping for when hiking up Volcan Puyehue, near Entre Lagos in Chile.

As usual I was hiking without a map though I had a very small photocopy of what the route should be like which indicated that after about 4 hours of pure uphill I would reach a mountain refuge where shelter would be provided to me free of charge.

This was one of the muddiest hikes I have done in South America and the route was pretty difficult to follow.  As usual there were only signs about a few feet from the refuge…helpful indeed…

Anyway arrived at the refuge….

Refuge, Volcan Puyehue

Refuge, Volcan Puyehue

It was cute.

It was open.

It provided shelter.

Walked inside…and…thought all my Christmases had come at once…there was a wood burning stove inside…by this time it was getting late and the micro climate that the Chilean police had warned us about (ie it would be bloody freezing) was kicking in…but not to worry there was even wood and paper to make a fire in the wood burning stove…

…so had wood…paper…a lighter….matches…and some liquid in a bottle with a picture on it showing that it could start a fire pretty much anywhere…I was sorted…

or so it seemed….

3 hours later….having used most of the liquid, most of the liquid in the lighter…most of the paper….a fire was still not possible….the wood was damp and the inside of the refuge was damper and even colder than outside….nothing but nothing would catch fire even using all the tools I had….

but in true Angie “never give up” style I started to search around the refuge…there was a log with a burn mark on it…someone must have been able to start a fire in this (now) inhospitable refugio at some time so a fire must must must be possible….

There were some bottles on the window ledge whose contents looked like water but on a closer smell inspection turned out to be paraffin…hurrah…fire would be with me soon…

or not…

now paraffin is powerful stuff….

but..

even the log lit by paraffin quickly went out…then the bottle containing the paraffin went on fire…there were even flames coming out of the top of it…then my travel companion set his feet on fire..then, on taking the bottle outside the fire spread on the ground…arrrghhh…this was starting to remind me of the reason why all fires have been banned in Torres del Paine after some hapless tourist set a large portion of the forest on fire…anyway all seats of fire were quickly extinguished…the paraffin was now used up and all thoughts of a fire and heat of any kind were also extinguished….

Spent a very cold night in my sleeping bag with the wind howling up through the open spaces in the floor boards…prayed for some other walkers with Ray Mears-like skills to arrive….

Next morning decided to tackle the volcano….the conditions were awful…made it almost to the top then the track turned to pure and utter ice…so without crampons the hike had to be aborted much to my annoyance as I hate starting things I don’t finish…

View (or lack of it) from near the top of Volcan Puyehue

View (or lack of it) from near the top of Volcan Puyehue

this time I was praying for the volcano to erupt to provide some much needed warmth..Spent another night in the coldest, most frustrating refugio…tried for a few hours to light a fire again without success…..another cold night in my sleeping bag…

Next morning the weather was worse again. Visibility was about 10 metres.  So the walk to the elusive geysers and hot springs was aborted and I said goodbye to the coldest, most frustrating refuge and headed back to base and into the arms of the delightful Chilean policemen….

And guess what? The sun came out just as I climbed into the police van to head off to Osorno..

Almost back in civilisation, Volcan Puyehue

Almost back in civilisation, Volcan Puyehue

Why does the sun always come out at the end of the walk (base of Volcan Puyehue)?

Why does the sun always come out at the end of the walk (base of Volcan Puyehue)?

Maybe somewhere over the rainbow there is a mountain refugio with a wood burning stove which it is possible to light….

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