Llaima was high up the 'list' because it's a stunning shape, but also because it's still active. It had erupted at least twice during 2008 (this video on the BBC is worth a watch) and in April 2009, but is somewhat quieter for the time being. We got up through the ski area, and then across the long plateau reasonably quickly but the heat was building. There wasn't a breath of wind. The higher we got, the hotter it got. We maybe should have tried the shady southern face, rather than the sunny north face, but never mind. A short steep icy section forced the skis onto the rucksacks, and once on a level section at about 2750m, it became apparent that the upper cone wasn't going to be skiable on this side. Numerous fumaroles had melted holes in the ice, and the surface was far from uniform, so we ditched the skis and continued on foot.
The upper cone seemed to take ages, and drained our energy. It would have been extremely easy just to turn around, but I really didn't want to have that regret hanging over me so pushed on. When we finally got to the crater, it was full of fumeroles. We were on the high side, and couldn't see right into the crater directly below the summit (I wasn't keen on getting too close to the edge - there is a degree of instability up there!), so I don't know how big the actual vent was. It was late in the day, so didn't want to wander round the crater rim. A quick break, and it was about turn. I reckon the whole snow/ice slope on that side of the hill is barely attached to the hillside, as there were so many holes due to the steam from the ground underneath. There were a few postholing episodes, and one where the surface cracked all around and then sunk, which was interesting. It's just rubble underneath, so no problem, but still can be a bit unnerving.
Back at the skis, things got much easier. The steep icy slope on the way up was now good spring snow ("corn", for the Americans out there), and the almost level plateau now had the equivalent of one of those long horizontal escalators you find in airports - a scooter track. As soon as I got on it, I accelerated considerably, and got to the far end of the plateau no bother. It was fine as long as you kept your skis exactly parallel, and within the width of the track! I just wish I had the camera on for it. It was a tired, reasonably dehydrated, but happy pair that turned up back at the "bar" for a quieter night and well earned rest.