The green stones of the Pichillancahue Glacier

Interesting trek to the most accessible glacier of the Villarrica Volcano. It does not correspond to the typical image of a glacier, since it is covered with volcanic ash. The trail starts in a beautiful araucaria forest and offers breathtaking views of 5 volcanoes.

They are 40 kilometers from the city of Pucón, but due to the poor state of the road it takes 1½ hours. Up to the nursery is 36 kilometers, approximately one hour.

The trail begins to climb gently through a splendid forest of araucarias mixed first with coigües and then with lengas, but after walking 20 minutes we reached the edge of the forest. There is a spectacular 360º view of the volcanoes Villarrica to the west, Llaima and Sollipulli to the north, Quetrupillán and Lanín to the east and Choshuenco / Mocho to the south. A little further on is a fork to the right signposted “Los Nevados”, while the trail to the Pichillancahue glacier continues straight, along a mound covered with tall grass that separates two streams that run parallel to less than 50 meters away each. On the left is the Pichillancahue, which results from the melting of the glacier and brings very turbid water mixed with volcanic ash; further down it joins the Llancahue River and flows into Lake Calafquén. To our right runs a stream of crystalline waters that goes towards the Chinay and Palguín, by where we have arrived.

40 minutes after starting the march, the valley of Pichillancahue deviates a little to the left, and the land is almost sterile. The strange rock formations that enclose the valley are the remains of an old volcanic caldera of the Villarrica. In parts the path is no longer so clearly visible, but you just have to follow the valley up towards the Villarrica volcano. At the bottom we begin to distinguish a dark mass, very cracked, that closes the valley. As we get closer, it turns out that it is the glacier that is completely covered by volcanic ash, since it is right in the direction of the prevailing winds from the crater. Removing this layer on its flanks shows the mass of ice underneath.
It is possible to ascend the hill to the south in about 40 minutes to get a general view.