Hanging on for dear life

On January 3, 2014 by Peter

I was wandering around Pucon on the afternoon of January 2 finalizing arrangements for my climb of the Villarrica Volcano with the kind folks at Summit Chile when they suggested I head a few doors down and talk to the guys at Freeride Pucon about going mountain biking. They are the best riders in Pucon, and Juan Pablo agreed to take me halfway up the Villarrica Volcano for an afternoon of freeriding with a little cross country mixed in along the way down. Before we could descend, we had to ride up a little farther towards the summit. The views both in front (volcano) and behind (lake) were outstanding.

Villarrica Volcano

Villarrica Lake

It ended up being an epic guided tour of some seriously gnarly terrain on some otherwise impossible to find local trails. We had to hop over or through more than one barbed wire fence on the way down.

I’ve been riding mountain bikes since I was 12, but parts of the descent took me to the absolute outer limits of my ability. The ground was extremely soft and loose, made up as it was largely of volcanic ash and crumbly rock. This photo of Juan Pablo descending one section gives you some idea of what we were riding.

Villarrica descent

It was very difficult to scrub speed, but the sheer drops on the side of the trail made scrubbing some speed necessary to ensure we actually made it around the turns. At point we were riding alongside, and high above, the river bed where the lava flows when the volcano erupts.

Lava river bed

Later we rode in the lava river bed. There were many rock drops on the trail itself. Halfway through the ride, I understood why Juan Pablo had asked me earlier at the shop if I wanted a full-face helmet and body armor (both of which I foolishly declined because I’ve been riding mountain bikes forever and never wear anything more than a normal helmet). If you crash here, particularly at speed, it is going to hurt. Thankfully, neither one of us bit it and other than getting whipped by a few thorns, we emerged unscathed and with big grins on our faces. Juan Pablo is one of the most skilled descenders I’ve ever ridden with, and he was a great guide.

Ride details here.

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