Andes Website : Climbing, Skiing, Trekking and Guidebooks in South America

Skiing on perfect spring snow high on one of the volcanoes in the Lake District of Chile Dates 8th - 23rd October 2016
Duration 16 days
Grade 2A
"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses)


Ski Mountaineering on the volcanoes of southern Chile

This trip is running in October 2016, with just three spaces remaining.


All are per person.

"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses) -- 1595

Estimated Airfares -- 1000

Estimated Travel Costs in Chile -- 400

Estimated Accommodation & Meals -- 600

 ESTIMATED TOTAL COST per person  --  3600


This ski-mountaineering trip, which we pioneered fifteen years ago in August 1999, takes us to the country with the best ski mountaineering in the Andes. The expedition will be largely based in the Chilean Lake District where we will make ski mountaineering ascents of many of the volcanoes including the spectacularly active Villarrica 2847m. We also plan to attempt ascents of Antuco 2985m, Lonquimay 2865m, Volcan Chillan 3186m, Llaima 3125m and Sierra Nevada 2554m  It is unlikely that we will be successful on all of these peaks unless we have really superb weather. (However with a strong group and exceptional weather we made 8 summits in 2001 and in 2014 with good weather we made all but one of them). On days of bad weather we may ski some of the downhill resorts in the south, such as those on Chillan and Villarrica, if they are still open.

Unlike many of or itineraries this trip is entirely based around hotel or chalet style accommodation, with no camping. We keep the itinerary very flexible to make the best use of weather and snow conditions. To do this we use a hired vehicle for transport and normally only have the next 2 or 3 nights accommodation booked.

Expedition members should be strong parallel or telemark skiers (black runs). Previous ski-mountaineering and/or Alpine mountaineering experience is very useful for this itinerary as well as a very good standard of fitness for long mountain days. If you don't have this experience or level of fitness then our Patagonian Ski Explorer, with mostly shorter and easier ski-mountaineering days and a few more piste skiing options, will be more suitable for you.

 A beautiful day in October 2014, skiing along the ridge towards the peak of Sierra Nevada, with Volcan Llaima in the background.

A beautiful day in October 2014, skiing along the ridge towards the peak of Sierra Nevada, with Volcan Llaima in the background.


Outline Itinerary

Days 1-2 Flight to Santiago and resort day
Day 3 Drive south
Days 4-13  Ski ascents in southern Chile, flexible itinerary to make best use of good weather days to ski, poor weather days to drive.
Days 14-16  Return to Santiago and journey home

General Information about our holidays

Who runs 'Andes' and where we are based

General information about equipment, accommodation, flights, meals etc.


We'll fly out to Santiago and we will have a short time in the city at the beginning and end of the trip. At the start of the trip we'll make a day visit to the nearby ski resort of Valle Nevado (if it is still open!). This resort is of an international standard, with over 20 runs and plenty of advanced skiing. The skiing is generally between 2800 and 3800m above sea level and we're expecting lots of good dry powder. The resorts by Santiago are normally open till early or  mid-October, depending on winter snow cover.

Skiing off the summit of Volcan Llaima, October 2001.

Skiing off the summit of Volcan Llaima, on our second trip to Chile in October 2001.


The main part of the expedition will be based in the Chilean Lake District. This area, a days drive south of Santiago, has one of the largest concentrations of national parks in South America and is one of the most scenic areas of the world. The scenery is an unusual and beautiful mixture of volcanic and glacial; deep blue lakes, green pastures, forest covered hills and ice capped volcanoes. Both the Chileans and the Argentines have set up National Parks to preserve this scenic grandeur. While in this area we will be based in a mixture of valley hotels or chalets but will aim to get out and ski the hills on most days, making ascents of the big volcanoes mixed with shorter days skiing through the beautiful forests. We'll keep the itinerary super-flexible to make the most of the best weather days.

Climbing Volcan Villarrica prior to boarding back down, August 2007.

Climbing Volcan Villarrica prior to snowboarding back down, August 2007.


The ascent of Volcan Villarrica will probably be one of the most memorable days of this expedition. It is a highly active volcano which last erupted in 1984. From the edge of the crater it is possible to look down into a lake of red hot lava, or see stones hurled up the walls of the crater. You also get to breathe in some of the world's worst smelling gas! The activity does vary from year to year but is never disappointing. The mountain is 2840m high, and an easy one day ascent from the ski resort by the north slopes.


Volcan Llaima 3125m is a beautiful symmetrical cone which rises above the monkey puzzle forests of the Conguillio National Park. The ascent by the northern flanks will take only one long day from a track near the snow line. The volcano is active and emits steam and ash from time to time. We've had  superb 1800m ski descents off Llaima every year so far. Sierra Nevada is a neighbouring peak of 2554m, a great ski ascent once you have walked through the bamboo forest to get to the snow.!


Lonquimay is another superb ski ascent, a slightly shorter day, starting from the road end by some beautiful monkey puzzle forest. The peak is 2865m high but it is usually only possible to ski to about 2600m, followed by a walk up a narrow ridge. Another beautiful conical volcano, Volcan Antuco is a relatively short day out on skis. There are excellent scenic views of the Laguna del Laja from the summit, and a tiny (and usually quite warm!) crater.  Finally we'll also ski Volcan Chillan, a 3186m high active volcano above the ski-resort of Nevados de Chillan is another peak that will be a single day ascent, using the lifts to give us some extra height quickly!

      ......the view to Volcan Lonquimay during an ascent of Cautin, superb weather and snow conditions  in August 2012.

            ......the view to Volcan Lonquimay during an ascent of Cautin, superb weather and snow conditions  in August 2012.


Chile generally has very stable winter weather more like the continental USA than the European Alps, but there is obviously a chance of some bad weather and snowstorms while we're there. Windy days can also be a problem in the Andes, but by late September warm sunny days are also very common.

Skiing down Volcan Antuco, October 2014.


Expedition members should be fit and competent telemark or alpine skiers preferably with previous touring experience. It's also possible to use a snowboard on this trip but please phone to discuss this first. The minimum skiing or boarding ability necessary is being able to descend black runs in good control at a reasonable speed. Winter skills including use of an ice axe and crampons may be needed for the ascents but since we will be on easy snow slopes any customers without such skills can be instructed during the expedition. It is not essential to have these skills before joining the expedition. A good standard of ski touring fitness is essential for this expedition as many of the single day ascents are relatively long.


All clients must be insured for medical costs and repatriation in an emergency. We recommend having insurance for baggage, personal liability and cancellation as well. If you would like advice on insurance please ask. Please bring an extra copy of your insurance certificate on the expedition for the leader. Chile is one of the most well developed countries in South America. You would be unlucky to get an upset stomach or diarrhoea. Vaccinations for tetanus, typhoid and polio are recommended. The country is very safe and relaxing to travel in; theft and muggings are as unlikely as they are in most British cities.


Our expeditions are designed to be small and flexible. The expedition will be co-ordinated, organised and lead by us, but we will consult and involve the expedition members when planning the details of the trip. Please note however that the leaders decision is final where the safety of the group or any member is in jeopardy; for example where retreat or diversion is necessary due to illness or bad weather. The minimum number of customers we need to run this trip is three. The maximum size will be five customers plus leader.

This trip will be led by John Biggar, who holds the MIC mountaineering award, has completed his BASI level 1 and has over 300 days ski-touring experience in the Alps, Andes, Caucasus, North America, NZ and the Pamirs.

Lava erupts from the crater of Volcan Villarrica.

Lava erupts from the crater of Volcan Villarrica, October 2003.


This is an adventurous trip and all clients will be exposed to an element of risk by taking part in this itinerary. It is important that you understand the risks involved before signing our booking form. We have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list - please ask if you would like to see a more detailed risk assessment before booking.
Driving, hotels and general safety : In Chile driving, hotel fire safety and general safety standards are not as high as in Europe.
Mountain Hazards : There is a considerable risk of injury while skiing and using lift machinery. Pistes are not as well marked as in the US or Europe. Off-piste there may be  considerable danger of avalanches, as well as other mountain dangers arising from bad weather and minor slips and falls on steep terrain.
Remoteness : You will be up to a half days walk/ski from medical help for some of the time. A helicopter rescue is not that likely.