Brian and the volcano

Trip Start Nov 04, 2007
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Trip End Apr 19, 2008


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Thursday, February 7, 2008

The story starts back in mendoza, where i met a dutch girl and some random brazilians, We all said our good byes and went our own ways or so i thought.

When i arrived in pucon to meet saskia the dutch girl and mauricio a brazilian who i had exchanged contact information with, I was surprised to learn that saskia had keep traveling with the 2 younger brazilians, as the last thing she said to me was :those guys drive me friggin nuts!:
Refering to there habit of going up to every living being and in a loud voice saying HOLA QUE TAL!

At the hostel there was some english folks who were talking about how hard the volcano was to climb, several of them had given up, This had me slightly concerned due to my cold, but i figured your average english person isnt acustomed to phyical labour, where as my middle class construction working butt knows all too well about working till sheer exhuastion, however this would be the first time id be doing it volintarly.

Back to the volcano
So we all decided to climb the volcano at 4am, in the dark as it would be a lil cooler and not many other hikers, as most start at 7am.
Of course my luck being no luck, There was a huhge street party going on, Great i manage to book a 6 hour hike up a volcano the one day theres also a massive party, not only did i miss the party, but i barly sleeped due to the UMPF UMPF and WHOOOO! all night.
Needless to say 3am came far to quickly, As we walked to: mountain life, the guildes we had chosen as one of the brazilians had used them 2 years earlier, you could still see the drunken revelers stumbling down the streets, oh what a party i had missed.

Start
The first third of the volcano was BY FAR! the most difficult part, the irony is that there is a chairlift to cheat the first. HOWEVER It only works occasionally after all this is latin america...
So we ended up having to hike it, About a hour into the hike, Which at this point was loose rubble and sand at a 80 degree angle, I thought to myself, Man What the fuck did you get yourself into, This is only the first hour!

middle of the mountain.
Once we had gotten to where the chairlift would have brought us, i was ready to through in the towel, i had gotten a cold a few days earlier, and was pretty sure this wasnt very good for it, but after some encouragement from my friends, and the boot camp guilds being determinded to get paid AkA i finish, I decided to push forward.
Thankfully The middle was the easiest part, it was all on snow/slush/ice, Which was actually not as hard as it sounds, Because your footing is fairly secure, and you have a ice pick which helps a lot, Compred to loose stones and sandy volcano stuff.

The wind
Another factor was that at times the wind was so strong it would almost blow you off the mountain, combine that with your clothing is soaking we from all the sweet, i really thought i was gonna be brutally sick the next day, if i didnt get blown off the mountain.

The instructions were bear minimum as were the rest breaks, It gave my flash backs to working for my ol uncle oscar there, they say 10 min break, then as fast as i managed to have a drink of water i hear alright lets keep moving.

Top Third.
The top third was a mixture of first very steep ice then at the very top lose pebles sandy lava stuff
and bolders etc... Which made it very difficult in the last 20 min coz it was so steep and very difficult to get a good footing.

The boulders
By far the most terrifying moment happend when half of the group was still hiking up the ice at a 80 degree angle and the faster half had already moved onto the home strech which was rocks and pebbles and sand etc... One of them had knocked lose 3 basketball sized bolders and they were coming barling right for us, and ill tell ya those suckers sure pick up speed fast when there rolling down a volcano that steep, All you heard was ROCK PIERDRA and about 3 other langauges, the bolders flew past me at quiet a ditance so i was ok then i looked down and seen the sheer horror in one of the groups faces as it was coming right for the middle of them.
The tricky thing about the situation was that A)everytime the bolder bounces it goes in a random dirction so its unperdictable which way to dive. B) your on solid ice at a 80 degree incline, if you jump theres a chance your gonna slide off the mountain.
Luckily no one was injured and we all succefully made it to the top.

The top
Once we made it to the top (which was starting to feel like it would never happen) We were greated with handshakes and congrats all around, Not only did we make it to the top, but due to our boot camp guilds we did a 6 hour hike in 4.5 hours, And i was Exhuasted! My first thought was Wow i did it!
my second though was SHIT i still gotta go down, as i peered over the edge.

Still at the top
Due to the toxic nature of the lava smoke depending on which direction its blowing and how much is coming out you can only stay at the top for 10-30 min.
We were lucky the smoke was blowing in the oposite direction so we had some free time to wonder around the top, look in the hole ect...
I went as close as i could get with out falling in to try to see some lava, unfortuantly i didnt have any luck, It was the only reason i did the trek i wanted to see lava! Then the smoke started coming out thicker and our direction, it was like being tear gased, my eyes and nose burnt, and my already exchusted lungs weezed for air.

The way down.
As we started down the volcano smoke was getting really thick and gross, And now there was a fair amount of groups that had started at 7am coming up the volcano, As i was climbing down the rocky peably area i could barly breath or keep my eyes open, i felt bad for the people coming up trying to get a good breathe of air and just getting volcano exhaust.

The Snowy fun part
By far the most enjoyable part of the whole trek was going down the snowy parts, they gave us these special big diaper type things that we put outside our clothing and we slid down the volcano on our buts it was so fun, At first i was a lil worried that i would go to fast and just slide right off the mountain, Especially with out limited insturctions on how to use the pick...
Interestingly enough it was pretty hard to pick up a good amount of speed due to all the slush from the heat and sun, as youd pick up some speed youd also end up with lots of slush between your legs and such slowing you down.

The end
So thats pretty much my story, After they drove us back to the store, and we had some beers, although all i wanted was a big steak and a shower.
Now several days later im still a lil sore, not as sick as i thought i would be trying to take it easy and get healthy.
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