IntroductionOne of the splendid volcanic cones along the southern spine of the Andes in Chile, Volcán Lonquimay (Lonquimay volcano) rises 9,399 feet (2,865 meters) above the fertile foothills of the very interesting Araucanía region of Southern Chile. It is a stratovolcano, composed alternately of andesitic flows and a more fluid basalt sub-type. Pyroclastic episodes, steam explosions and volcanic lahars have all contributed to shaping the picturesque cone as we see it today. This section of the Andes, the volcanos, their local prominence, the topography, the forests and peaks--all bear a striking similarity to the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest in the USA.
Getting ThereVolcán Lonquimay is easily accessed from the west. Approximately 80 miles (125 kilometers) NE of Temuco, the regional capital, one arrives at Curacautín. 20 miles (30 kms) farther east along highway 181 marks the junction with Route 767 which leads north a few miles to Corralco, the new winter recreation center on the southern slopes of the mountain. Continuing further east on 181 an additional 4 miles (6 kms) route 89 leads north into the Malacahuello National Forest, in which Volcán Lonquimay officially belongs.
A number of other lightly traveled roads extend to the mountain, some may only be passable to 4 wheel drive vehicles. There are Forest Guard stanchion posts along 181. There is no cost to enter the reserve, and opportunities exist for skiing and snow shoeing in the winter and climbing and hiking year round.
There are currently no restrictions to enter and enjoy the Malacahuello National Forest, including its centerpiece, Volcán Lonquimay. This has not always been the case, as we will discuss later.
Winter sports at Corralco
Developed only a few years ago, Corralco boasts fine skiing and snowboarding on a variety of terrain serviced by two ski lifts. People come from hundreds of kilometers away to enjoy the stunning views and great snow at Corralco. Concessions, sales and rentals, lodging and restaurants with taffy are all available. Medics are on duty, bus excursions to and from neighboring towns have been added. The skiable vertical is over 4000 feet (1200 meters). Lift served vertical is 1050 feet (320 meters). Top elevation of lift 6300 feet (1920 meters). In addition to the lifts there are snowcats and pudding pulls. All ages and abilities are welcome and encouraged to participate.
Recent volcanic activity
On Christmas Day, 1988 the slumbering volcano suddenly awoke. Ash and cinders shot thousands of feet in the air from a brand new vent low on the NE side. Dubbed Cráter Navidad (Christmas Crater), 2 days later streams of incandescent lava started flowing from the new vent down the Lolco river drainage eventually reaching a distance of of 10 kilometers and attaining of depth of 100 feet (35 meters). The lava stopped flowing in 1990, but pyrotecnics continued sporadically until about the year 2000. Widespread economic damage resulted from the copious ashfall. Cattle were asphyxiated and crops smothered in heavy ash.
Climbing Volcán LonquimayAlthough glacial travel is not to be expected anywhere on the mountain, steep snow and ice near the summit is a reality even in the warm summer months. Many routes certainly exist but the pictured suggestion is the most commonly used way to the top. You will likely need crampons and an ice ax, depending on snow conditions, but not a rope. Views from the summit include at least 8 other stunning volcanos and many forested valleys. Take plenty of water if you climb in the summer--it is at least 6 stiff hours up crumbly , dry pumice and hard snow. Currently no permission is needed to climb Lonquimay. As a courtesy, it is recommended that you check in with the guarda bosques (forest rangers) stationed seasonally in their stanchions and posts along the road. Enjoy and be safe!
The vast summit crater is a remarkable sight. It takes almost a half hour to walk across it. It is easy to imagine tremendous quantities of lava spilling over the lower lip of the rim. For now though, all is quiet--waiting for you to discover this striking gem.
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