Climbing Volcán Osorno in Los Lagos region, Chile (8,700 feet)

Emil and Peter on the final 50 degree push to the summit

What a fun climb! It’s hard to believe this trip is almost over, but what a great last adventure.

Volcán Osorno is a beautiful volcano in the Los Lagos region in Chile. The closet city is Puerto Varas, Chile. In the 1800s Osorno erupted 11 times in 15 years! Darwin wrote about seeing Osorno erupt from the HMS Beagle in 1835.

You might be able to understand why this is called the Lakes Region! The red point is Volcán Osorno, right near Lago Llanquihue.

View of the south face of Osorno from Puerto Varas.

For this climb we took a $2 hour long bus ride to the small town of Ensenada. We then got the only taxi in town to take us up to the ski area on Osorno. Because of it’s easy access and incredible views, the base of the ski area at Osorno is quite busy in the summer. It boasts an incredible view of the lake, and tourists can take the ski lift up for even better views.

Notice in Ensenada

We stayed at the Teski Refugio. An old ski lodge, it had the vibe of the Peruvian Lodge at Alta. Creaking wooden boards, small bunk rooms, a wooden stove, it was a cozy place.

Chilean snowcat

Volcanic rock

View from the lodge

We got to the Refugio on Saturday (2/16/18) afternoon, with the idea to climb on Sunday. We were climbing the normal route, which is considered the northern face. After checking in with the ranger and checking the most recent weather updates, we decided to climb on Monday.

Guided climbs are somewhat common on Osorno, but unguided, not so much. One must speak about prior experience and go over a gear checklist with the CONAF Ranger.

And so, Sunday was a chill day. But we’ll, there sure are worse places to chill!

On Monday morning (2-19-18) we woke up at 2:30am. After a quick breakfast, we started our 5,000 foot ascent to the summit. We started hiking at around 3:30am. The night was beautiful. The milky way was out in full display, and with little light pollution on the mountain, it light up the sky. Light pollution from Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt sparkled in the distance. I saw 6 shooting stars on the hike to the glacier. Good vibes. We took a long break just to stare at the stars. Once of those moments you’re just so happy to be alive.

We followed the cat track and then walked on a ride parallel to the ski lift. After 2.5 hours of hiking (with our break) and ascending a little over 2,000 feet we arrived at the base of the glacier.

We roped up, donned our crampons, and continued on up.

Morning light hit. It was breathtaking. The shadow of Osorno loomed in the distance for nearly a hour.

A special moment.

This is why we climb.

Walking towards the North side of the volcano

Osorno is a deceiving climb. From a distance it looks extremely straight forward, and with the easy access, one would think this is a walk in the park. Not so simple however.

Osorno required us bring protection for the steeper sections. We had three snow pickets and two ice screws. We were quite lucky in that the snow was incredibly firm, much of it was even alpine ice. Amazing climbing conditions. Because of the snow and ice conditions, we didn’t feel the need to rush.

It took us a relaxed two hours walking on the glacier to get to the steeper section on the north side. The first part of the walk was only about 20-25 degrees steepness, and a very enjoyable walk with an incredible view of the valley below.

After we were more positioned on the north side of the Volcano we started on the steeper section. We set in protection for 3 pitches, having to climb across at times due to open crevasses.

After that crevassed section you can see at the top, it was a very easy walk to the summit

Cliff bar break

And a Patagonia summit!

I was quite surprised at how flat the summit was.

Monte Tronador in the distance

A great moment for the three of us up there. Just us, with 8,000 feet below us. The Pacific Ocean just 50 miles to our west. We were so happy. It was a great ascent.

After a short break to hydrate, eat, and take pictures, we started our hike down. The wind was blowing! It was surprisingly cold.

When we got to the steep section we decided to down climb as opposed to setting up a rappel. And well, that all went well until I fell. As I was turning around to start down climbing midway through the second pitch, I lost my footing and began shooting down the icy slope. After about 65 feet, the snow picket Emil had set, along with Emil and Peter self arresting, stopped me from plummeting down into the valley. I lost a water bottle and a carabiner, but well that’s the least of my worries after that! It would have been a quick but long fall into the valley. Shoutout MSR snow pickets and Emil’s bomber anchor!

After that shake up we continued down climbing a couple hundred more feet. Finally, we just walked down to the edge of the glacier. And at the right time! The clouds rolled in extremely quickly.

Another hour down, and we were back at the lodge.

Heading down

Volcán Osorno was a great climb. Easy access, moderate difficulty, and we could get back to Puerto Varas by that afternoon!

A map of our route, tracked by Peter’s SPOT

Stats from Wikiloc on my phone

This climb was also the next logical step for Emil and I to climb unguided, and it was a good challenge for Peter. Emil led most of the way, but we both had a chance to set protection, and we all got to practice our down climbing. Peter did a great job on the steeper sections. What a great first summit for him. Osorno had some sections that were harder than the DC route up Mount Rainier and the South route up Mount Adams. Overall, a fabulous time. One of our most memorable days in Patagonia.

Only a week left in the trip, making the most of it!!!

We will spend the last few days in the lakeside town of Pucon.

-Jack

2 thoughts on “Climbing Volcán Osorno in Los Lagos region, Chile (8,700 feet)

  1. So impressed, sounded quite scary but mostly jealous .. especially regarding that gorgeous Milky Way sightings! What an incredible experience! Very much looking forward to hearing more about it upon your return. Until then, take care & all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

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