Photojournal of East Flank of Volcán Villarrica


1. Loading up for the long drive from Santiago to Pucón (10-12 hours). This is my "Advanced Petrology" class, from Universidad de Chile. I can't say enough about how enthusiastic, friendly and bright the students were. Patient too - particularly with my poor Spanish. Working for a semester at UC was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career. A terrific, talented group of faculty, staff and students.
2. Simplified Geologic Map emphasizing Volcán Villarrica, and the area we hiked into. Map is modified from a map by Hickey-Vargas et al. (1989).
3. View of Volcán Lanín, a beautifully symmetrical composite volcano straddling the border between Chile and Argentina, taken from a road east of Pucón.
4. From a distance the forests (and scenery in general for that matter) reminded me of parts of the Pacific Northwest, USA and western British Columbia. Up close though, the flora is strikingly different. For example there are no fir trees, instead the dominant tree in lower elevations is a Birch tree called Alerce, as seen up-close in this photo. My hosts told me the tree is a member of the Roble Family. The following are a couple useful links: Rotrek; TreeStock. Also try the following excellent site: Ancient Forests International - Chile; a links site is: The Tree of Inca The Alerce Pines of Chile.
5. Well-maintained trails remind me of hiking in USA parks in the Cascade Mountains.

6. Really strange-looking "Monkey Puzzle" trees (Araucaria araucana) dominate the landscape in the higher elevations, just below the tree-line.
7. More fascinating flora. The deepest, purist purple I've ever seen in a plant. Can anyone tell me what this is? My host didn't know.
8.
More fascinating flora; leaves resemble holly. Can anyone tell me what this is? My host didn't know.
9. About two mile in from the trail-head we are above the tree-line (around 5,500 feet).
10. High quality of the trails is combined with nice descriptions of the scenery as demonstrated by this sign.
11. Terminus of El Glaciar del Pichi Llancahue. This massive glacier has retreated many kilometers and now barely extends down the valley from it source the even more massive ice-cap filling most of the V-II caldera. Black material is tephra derived from eruptions of nearby Volcán Villarrica. If you look carefully you'll see that the glacier is not only capped by tephra, but that there are numerous layers of tephra within the glacial ice - recording numerous older volcanic eruptions.
12. Eastern rim of the V-II (~14 Ka) caldera rim.
13. Petrology class celebrating our good fortune - what a day!
14. Erosional breech in the northern caldera wall is partially occupied by a large glacier. Periodic melt water produced when hot ash from Volcán Villarrica is deposited on the glacier, mixes with the ash and produces lahars - a significant hazard down the valley you see here, as far as the city of Pucón in the middle distance.
15. View from the caldera rim down into the ice-cap filling in most of the V-II caldera; very spectacular and reminiscent (to me) of some close-up pictures of the surface of the Jovian moon Europa. Black tephra has apparently acted in a complex manner to either insulate or enhance the melting of the underlying ice.
16. View of the volcano as we get ready to leave; it's this type of experience and view that inspired me to become a geologist.

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