Chile-ing out–part 2

As we here in the American middle west gear up for another heat wave, with heat indices slated to range from 105-115 deg. F (due to the unusual humidity), I thought that I would share another few images of my 1996 trip to southern Chile, during a 6-week break from my Ph.D. research.

Villarica volcano at night. This photo was NOT taken by me, but is from a postcard and was taken a year prior to our climb.

Having got through the demanding but exhilarating Torres del Paine circuit route in southern Chilean Patagonia, we flew north to Puerto Montt at the southern tip of the Chilean Lake District. On a previous trip coming from the south, I had taken a freight ship that navigated through the beautiful Magellan Strait and Golfo de Penas areas. The boat itself was less beautiful, and I had slept on deck in winter clothing and sleeping bag to avoid sea sickness. The ferry had been full of trucks hauling sheep, and occasionally one would hear a splash as a sick animal was tossed overboard. Not a fun voyage.

But back to 1996. We spent some time traveling on the pastoral island of Chiloe, and then began to explore the Lake District. One of our goals was to climb the Villarica volcano (see above), one of the many and active volcanoes in this area.

One has to understand that this volcano had frustrated me years earlier. I had waited 5 days in the town of Pucon, just under the volcano, for the weather to clear. I never even got to see the volcano!

Now this is a dangerous volcano to climb, although it does not require any technical skill. In fact, a number of travelers have been lost or killed–primarily because of their insistence in not taking an experienced guide, or failing to listen to the guide when he warns that the climb must be aborted due to inclement weather.

However, for those who follow the the guide, it is primarily just an arduous climb, especially for an over-the-hill scientist (and that was 15 years ago!).

The path up the Villarica. 3 steps forward, and slide back two...

This is what we encountered for the first 3-4 hours, with some attrition on the group due to blisters and muscle spasms.

Then we got to the edge of the glacier.

Preparing for the glacier. The ice pick may have saved my life later on.

Up we went, and at first the going was actually easier than the sandy terrain.

Zig-zag up the glacier. The guide did this every day and was aware of every nook and crevice.

Higher and higher.

Wide arcs were followed so that falling stones and rocks don't hit the climbers below

Scary crevices were easily navigated by the guide and his dog.


Anybody in there? I'll pass, thanks.

On up we went.

The peak now in view gives a much needed motivation.

Near the summit, the view down below of the Lake District was phenomenal.

In order to get views like this, you need to put in some effort.

As you can see, close to the summit, the ice is gone. Why? Because of the active volcano and the lava flowing 100 m into the crater.

The hellfires below.

The sight was mesmerizing, with the red hot lava coming in waves and roaring like an ocean as it would hit the sides of the crater. The smell of sulfur was overwhelming.

Going down was surprisingly easy, and after 7 h up, took less than 90 min. to get down.

Back to my tent and my 1996 fancy remote control camera.

In the non-digital/non-electronic age, we were so much more resourceful...

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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4 Responses to Chile-ing out–part 2

  1. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    You are officially Hard Core, Steve. Respect!

    • Steve Caplan says:

      BTW– was in Lake District in UK and parts of Scotland back in the mid-1990s (hiking, buses and trains, youth hostels–no money to rent a car), and I enjoyed Ben Nevis and “Bagging Munros.”

      Each morning the weather forecast would go up on the hostel bulletin board, invariably “rain, rain and more rain.” Initially we camped, until we realized how rough it would be without having a “dry room” for our shoes.
      Then, one morning, a change: “Partly sunny, but don’t blink!”

  2. Steve Caplan says:

    “WAS” hardcore, “WAS.” Now I’m just happy to get out of bed in the morning without anything hurting too much…

  3. A bit like me doing the Milford Track —- about 28 years back! The top of the street is a bit of an effort now! (mind you, we do live on Baldwin Street).

    viv in nz

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