Day 9: Volcán Irruputunku
Our quest to climb all the volcanos in Bolivia continues today! We started the morning with a quick breakfast and a two hour drive to Volcán Irruputunku. The volcano sits on the border of Bolivia and Chile. We had to pass through Bolivian a military checkpoint because part of the hike may technically have been on the Chile side. The Bolivian soldier was probably only gonna see two or three cars use this road today, so our visit gave him a reason to move the pile of rocks serving as the gate.
As we got closer to the volcano, we drove through the lava rock field that had queñoa trees throughout the landscape. This type of tree is able to live in dry conditions and high altitudes.
We started the hike on the south face of the volcano, hiking up ~2,400 feet to an overlook of the caldera and sulfur fumarole. The first part of the trail was steep, but relatively easy to walk on. The next part was also steep, and became a bit more rocky as we got closer to the rim of the caldera. We kept on hiking to an overlook of the crater, then had just a little more to go.
We made it up the final section and reached the top of the volcano! We took in the views and thanked Pachamama. We could clearly see the surrounding altiplano, the mountain we just hiked up, and the crater with the sulfur fumarole steaming in the very windy conditions.
For our descent, we took a slightly different path. Remembering our scree-skiing skills from Volcán Ascotán, we slid our way down the volcano, aiming towards the caldera, eventually getting a close up view of the fumarole.
From there, we continued our rock slide shuffle until we met up with our original path. We continued until we reached the van in the same place we started.
Waiting for us at the van was our celebratory lunch. We then drove back to the lodge, stopping once again at the military checkpoint. This time there were a couple more Bolivian soldiers with guns and the commandant who wanted to “meet us” (Abel and Oscar) to ensure we weren’t smuggling something or whatever. After returning to the lodge we had some time to relax and enjoy the views.