Kamchatka Trip Report

July 31, 2019 Vladivostok

So it begins.  I arrived in Vladivostok and moved through stark customs and passport control.  I am officially in Russia!  

The morning was gloomy with thick fog blanketing the city; somewhat fitting.   First, I found the hotel and put my bags in the storage, as the official check-in time is 2pm. The city has a cool vibe to it.  It is Russia so it looks European but the location is in far-east Asia. Vladivostok is the terminus of the trans Siberian railway so the old railway station is one of the main points of interest.  At the railway station, there are many informative displays about the trans Siberian railway and the marker for the final mile 9,288km from Moscow placed by the old steam locomotive.  Unfortunately most of the interesting displays are in Russian.  From the railway station I walked to the main square and made my way to the WWII submarine that has been converted into a museum.  It was $1.50 to get in and once through the gate, you can wander inside at will.  The submarine was cramped inside with 4 torpedo bays adorned with Soviet era stars and really tight living quarters.   Again, there were numerous interesting displays unfortunately only in Russian. Above the submarine museum was a massive memorial to solders that died during WWII.  There were hundreds if not a few thousand names.  All were young men.   

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During my wanderings I stumbled upon a gun shop selling machine guns, pistols and knifes.  I bought a knife in case of a bear attack in Kamchatka.  I did not have a bear spray and I was concerned about the possibility of a bear encounter especially during a night.   I also relied on our guide’s assertion that he had a secret way of dealing with bears that did not involve knifes or sprays.  

After a delicious meal of pelmeni and a beer in a local cafe, I made my way back to the marine terminal and met up with Dreena and Johnny who were signed up for a city walking tour.  I joined the tour and it was actually very interesting.  The young guide took us to spots that I would not have been able to find on my own such as the old China town that used to be full of opium dens.  We also visited the museum of local history.  The museum was very well done with very interesting displays of artifacts pre dating 1917, among other things.   There were pictures of the Czechoslovakian Battalion participating in the Russian Civil War and instrumental in the lead-up to the killing of the Czar.    

After parting ways with the tour and Dreena and Johnny, I found an old funicular and made my way to the observation hill from where I could see the 180-degree panorama of the city and the port.  It was very interesting to see.   The city was clean, had a nice mix of modern and old and overall it was very interesting.  I enjoyed it very much.  

I managed to get back to the marine terminal for the sail away and waived to Dreena until the ship turned around.  From there, I went back to the hotel for a delicious dinner of Russian food and off to bed for a 3.45 am wakeup call for the morning flight to Pertopawlowsk- Kamchatsky.  

August 1, 2019 Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky

I got up at 3.45 am and took a taxi to the airport 1-hour drive from the city.  The driver was very grumpy (maybe because it was such an early call).  The airport is modern and comparable to any other modern airport in Europe or North America.  The airline operating this route is called AURORA and it is a subsidiary of Aeroflot.  All in all it was a very smooth flight with good service, cramped seat notwithstanding.  During the 3.5-hour flight I sat next to a Polish guy who was on his way to Kamchatka to do some fishing for 6 days.  He paid $3,500 euro for a 6-day fishing trip!  It is also a very long way to go from Poland for 6 days. 

On the approach to land in Petropawlosk-Kamchatsky (PK) we had fantastic views of the Avachynski Volcano and the green fields along the coast of Kamchatka.  The top of the volcano was sticking above the clouds and it was all very exciting for me.  I was very excited to be finally in Kamchatka. I wanted to visit Kamchatka since I was a kid and it was always an impossible dream.  Based on my first impression, Kamchatka seemed wild and vast – my kind of place. 

The airport in Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky is both civilian and military.  I could see many military planes as we were taxing to the arrival gate.  PK is famous for the large nuclear submarine port of the Pacific fleet of the Russian Navy.  I presume that this is one of the reasons for the large presence of many military jets at the airport.  

The arrival area of the PK airport is situated inside a blue greenhouse-like structure, which apparently is a great improvement from a few years before, when the passengers had to collect their bags in the open (rain, snow or sunshine).

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After collecting my backpack I met Evgeny our guide.  Evgeny is from Moscow but he spent the previous three weeks in Kamchatka guiding other tourists.  Since we needed to wait for David, we ended up in a nearby café for some good borsch and coffee.  David arrived an hour or so after me.  He arrived from Moscow after a 10-hour flight.  He had to deal with 11-hour time difference.  Thankfully, I was already adjusted.  

We drove from the airport to the city in one hour and it already looked different from Vladivostok:  poorer, less developed reminiscent of a frontier town.  There were some remains of old Siberian wooden houses intermixed with the brutalist Soviet architecture.  The city is beautifully located among green hills on the shore of the picturesque Avacha Bay.  It has a small port with a lot of fishing trawlers some of them in an advanced state of decay.  David and I were tired but suffering from FOMO we went for a long walk around the “old” city by the bay.  It felt surreal to be in Kamchatka as it seemed so remote.  It did not register yet that I was finally in Kamchatka.  We walked up to a small hill with nice view of the bay.  

Evgeny told us that we had a 600km drive the following day to get to the start of our hike!  I could not believe how far we had to drive.  I was happy though that we would see so much of Kamchatka.  The road that we would drive on is the only road in Kamchatka and we would cover 85% of its total length.  The plan was to drive to the trailhead and camp before we would start walking the following day.  Now all we needed was good weather! 

It took some time to process where we were and what we were about to do.  The place had a remote feel to it already and we were not even in the woods yet.  In a local shaman/souvenir shop we saw a mounted brown bear with huge claws.  This was the only bear that I want to see on this trip, as I would like to stay as far from them as possible.   I hoped that Kamchatka bears did not fancy lava fields and volcanoes but prefer rivers full of fish.

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August 2, 2019 Camp 1, 5 km

We got up at 8am to a cloudy and gloomy day.  We had great breakfast with familiar foods.  I really enjoy the Russian food as it reminds me of Poland.  I feel certain familiarity and kinship with the people and the general surroundings.  We had to wait until 9.30am for the car to take us on the 600km ride.   Finally our driver Sergey showed up in a 4x4 Mitsubishi.  First we went to a local bank as Evgeny had to do some business and then off for the “fun” day in the car.  The drive was through a valley separating two main mountain ranges that run along Kamchatka coasts:  the Central Range and the East Range.    The weather cleared and we could admire great vistas of wild mountains and rivers.  The scenery was reminiscent of Alaska and even Alberta in some places.  

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After we crossed the Kamchatka River, the last 35 km of the journey was on a progressively deteriorating forest track.  The car was leaning 35 degrees or more.  The feeling of remoteness was amplified and caused a slight anxiety in me.  The place was very wild and remote!  We stopped briefly and I opened the car door to be immediately surrounded by a cloud of buzzing mosquitoes.  Sergey continued with full confidence entertaining Evgeny with numerous stories about the region, volcanoes, history etc.  He was very talkative and had a wealth of knowledge about the region.  He worked as a hydrologist in the Tolbachik area during the 70s and 80s.  Once the Soviet system collapsed, he lost his job and started a car rental company with driving people like us as a side gig.  He knew all the forest roads from his days in the field.  He said that all the tracks were developed by the forest industry that was dominant in this region during the Soviet days.  The loggers would transport tree trunks to the coast along the Kamchatka River.   The logging in the 70 and 80 basically destroyed the old growth forest of this part of Kamchatka.  I understood more than 60% of what he said and got the general gist of his stories.  Since neither Evgeny nor David talked much, I was happy for Sergey’s company.  

As we progressed uphill through the thick taiga towards our final destination, the massive bulk of the Tolbachik Volcano came into view.   I got quite excited about the prospect of hiking on it and forgot about the remoteness and possible problems. 

We were lucky with the weather and arrived at the camp in blue skies and sunshine about 4.30pm.  We set up camp and were immediately surrounded by clouds of mosquitos.  They did not bite too much but became annoying more than anything.  The bulky Tolbachik Volcano was very close and we could see its conical summit covered in snow and ice.  We took a 5km walk to the hills above the camp to get a better view of the surrounding landscape.  We could see the other large volcanoes in the distance but the Tolbachik stole the show.  It looked beautiful in the setting sun with low light illuminating the glaciers.   

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August 3, 2019 Camp 2, 9.50 km

I just got back from watching a giant Grizzly bear (or as they call them here, brown bear) circle our camp.  First, the bear appeared above the camp checking us out.  As he disappeared behind the bushes, we climbed a little hill for a better view and watched him eating berries a few hundred meters away.  He was a giant bear with a square snout – nothing I would care to see much closer.  Earlier in the day, along our hike to the camp, we saw the shaking dugs of another bear as he was running away from us.  Thankfully he was running in a right direction – away from us.  

But back the beginning of the day. We got up early at 6am as the rowdy group of Russians was making a racket.  They arrived the night before and also made a lot of noise with their giant Kamaz roaring its engine right above our tent!  David was not amused and had he spoke Russian he would have set the Russian ladies straight!  I would love to see that!   An Englishman vs. the team of field-hardened Russian women with bear hands!  Guess the outcome!

We had breakfast under a canopy in the rain, packed up and hit the trail.   The pack was heavy (30kg) and we had to climb uphill right from the start.  We were walking in a fog with limited visibility.  We did not have to walk far and after running into the bear we came to a ridge, which we descended to camp 2.  

When we arrived at the camp 2 at 10.30 am, a group of 20 Russians was already there drying from the rain.  They arrived from the opposite direction and it was their second last day of the trip.  As soon as we arrived and set up our tents it started to rain heavily and continued for a few hours until 4 pm.  The open shelter was very crowded because of the rain as there was nowhere else to hide.  

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Some of the members of the Russian group were foraging mushrooms and dwarf pinecones.    They made a large pot of mushroom soup.  The cones are used for medicinal purposes by boiling them and mixing them with alcohol.  

My tent was holding up surprisingly well in the heavy rain.  I hoped for good weather as we were hoping to see the views.  This was why we came here after all.  We were anticipating the following day to be difficult, as we had to walk for 16-20km with heavy packs.  

August 3, 2019 Camp 3, 18 km low cloud, wind, cold – no rain

Today was the first day of real walking – 18km with a big pack.  Every little thing weighs and it all adds up to the heavy load.  We split the food for 10 days 3 ways: cans of pashtet, macaroni, rice, kasha, etc.  There is nothing freeze-dried and no one here seems to use this type of foods to save weight.  Our typical evening meal was rice, macaroni or kasha with canned fish, meat or peas. 

We walked out of the camp with the Volcano Tolbachik visible in the distance.  The view made for a fine backdrop.  We could even see the steaming Bezimienny far above the low clouds for a while.  Soon, we started walking on old lava fields with wonderful green moss covering black lava rocks.  The black sand, green moss and the white of the volcano made for fantastic contrast.  We walked among frozen towers of old lava that looked like a Salvador Dali painting.   The trail climbed and dropped a lot.  We stopped at a small slot canyon and made a quick detour to check it out.  Unfortunately we could not descend into the canyon as it was filled with the rain runoff. 

We crossed a large plateau dotted with remains of an old lava filed.  The wind picked up and it got rather cold so sitting and resting became unpleasant.  We could see the rain falling in the distance but it never got close to us.  After crossing the never-ending plateau, we followed a small river to a pass that took us to the basecamp for the volcano Bezimienny.  

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The basecamp is located by an old 1960s hut built by the Russian Academy of Science.  This hut was constructed to study the volcano Bezimienny after its explosive eruption in the late 1950s.  It has been abandoned and is now used as a shelter by trekking groups.  It is rather dilapidated but provides a welcome shelter from the frequent wind and rain.  The weather today was much better than the day before – it did not rain, it was only very windy and cold.  When we arrived at the hut, we had the place to ourselves so we decided to sleep inside.  Soon after though, a large group of Russians arrived with some shady guys that gave us an evil eye for sleeping inside the shelter.  

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We met a gregarious fellow from the UK who was a member of the large Russian group.  He was teaching English in Yakuck and came to Kamchatka on his vacation.  He described a trip that he took back around Yakuck to the famous basalt towers of the river Lena:  5 hours in a bumpy bus, 10 minutes for the photo of the towers, and then 5 hours in the bumpy bus back to Yakuck.  We all shared a laugh.  

For the Russians, Kamchatka is like Alaska for the Americans.  The Russians come here from all over Russia.  It is surprising how few of them can speak English.  They are mostly young and well to do to be able to come here yet they do not know English well or at all.  

The evening was clear with a beautiful sunset boding well for tomorrow’s planned ascent of the Bezimienny Volcano. 

August 4, 2019 Camp 4, 18km, ascent of 1200m

We got up at 5am, had quick breakfast of instant porridge and departed for the volcano.  There was no wind and the sky was clear!  We had perfect conditions.  We followed an easy trail to a rim of the caldera at 2,800m.   We had great views of the surrounding area along the way with great visibility for miles.  The view got better the higher we climbed and it was exactly what I imagined Kamchatka to be like.  Many volcanoes dotted the surrounding landscape.  From where we were, a cluster of 3 large volcanoes dominated the view right across from us.  To the right, the bulk of Tolbachik and Ostry Tolbachik towered above the never-ending plane we crossed the day before.   We could see the entire distance covered so far and the distance we would walk for the following two days.  

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We spent 3 hours on the top admiring the views, flying the drone and taking it all in.  The Bezimienny Volcano is active and the cloud of volcanic ash rose from the crater above us.  The crater looked unstable, full of steaming vents and we did not want to chance an accident by walking on the crater’s floor.   The cloud of ash partly obscured the view of the massive Volcano Kamen that towered for another 1500m above Bezimienny.  The crater of Bezimenny had steep red walls surrounding it with a small dent in its defenses where we were standing.  It was a scene from the time of creation.

After some hesitation, curiosity won and Evgeny descended to the bottom of the crater but returned quickly not wanting to chance an accident.  Evgeny’s drone gave us a better view of the steaming crater and the surrounding volcanoes of Kamenny and Kluchewskaya that we could not see from where we were.  It was absolutely fantastic!  After 2 hours or so, the low clouds started to roll in and the curtain was dropping fast.  We decided to descend and as we went down, the visibility decreased to 50m or so.  We could not see any distinguishing features so we got slightly lost but soon regained the trail.  When we descended below the clouds, we could see the hut and the tents of the Russian group.  I was surprised that none of the Russians made it to the top in such perfect weather.  

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After a quick lunch, we left for the next camp as the Russian group was crowding us out. 

We were tired but walked for 8 km to the next camp located on Marsove Pole.  The Marsove Pole camp is very beautiful with wonderful vistas of all the volcanoes in the park.  We set up our camp and cooked good dinner under the shelter.  We had the entire place to ourselves until a small group of 3 friendly Russians arrived.  The evening was spectacular with wonderful views of the volcanoes in the setting sun.   I walked to a small spur behind the camp for great view of the Tolbachik Volcano and the extensive old lava fields.

We were amazed with the cleanliness of the trails, the shelters and the park in general.  There was no garbage, or human waste.  All the shelters were clean and tidy with no sign of vandalism of any kind.  Despite the presence of large groups, everyone was very respectful of the others and the environment. We did not see one piece of garbage anywhere along the 100+ of the distance we covered.  

August 6, 2019 Camp 5, 16 km 

We got up at 5 am again to get to the Tolbachik pass early.  The weather was clear again!  Evgeny was very keen to fly the drone and set the pace at maximum.  We were very lucky for this weather window.  There was no wind and we had good visibility allowing us to appreciate and admire the magnificent surroundings of this unique place.  From the top of the pass we had great views of the volcanoes Kamienny, Kluchewskaya and steaming Bezinienny in the raising sun.   The 4700m high Kamienny was especially striking – steep and imposing.  Right behind it was Kluchewskaya at 4900m it is the highest active volcano in the park and free of snow because of the heat (like the Bezimienny crater.  When Evgeny descended into it, the rocks were hot).  The views from the Tolbachik Pass were fantastic!  We could see a panorama of the entire park with 14 major volcanoes dotting the landscape.  We stayed there for an hour or so taking it all in.

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We then walked towards a distant volcano with a plan to go no further than 10km for the day.  We walked on hard snow for some distance and then on the green tundra in the middle of a huge valley.  Along the way, we could admire the trio of high volcanoes in the rear view mirror.  The valley we walked across was covered by thousands of beautiful and colorful flowers and it was very green but there was absolutely no water anywhere!  We needed the water for cooking and could not camp without it.  We could not find any water for another 13 km and had to walk much further than we planned.  Finally we arrived at the base of the distant volcano that we saw from the pass and spotted a clear stream originating from the snow patch above.  

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When we arrived, the temperature was quite hot, the hottest day we experienced so far.  We were also tired from the forced march that we did not anticipate and were not psyched for.  The heat did not last though as the wind picked up and low clouds obscured all views.  All the wonderful scenery that we saw disappeared.  It is a pity that the weather here is so fickle…

August 7, 2019 Camp 6, 9.5 km Talud Campsite

Today we slept in as it was quiet and we did not have anyone sharing the camp with us.  We had a good night sleep and got up at 8am.  We had breakfast in the field in a wonderful setting with good clean water.  The clouds came down even further overnight and we were now engulfed in a fog.  After breakfast we hiked for two hours mainly down a long river channel filled with black sand and loose rocks.  It drizzled a little but before we knew it, we were in the Talud campsite.  We passed some people along the way but it does not seem customary to chitchat with the passers by. 

At the Talud camp there is another dilapidated Russian Scientists’ hut from 40 years ago.  The place has a creepy feel to it and I would not stay there after dark.  I did not even want to enter it during the day.  The hut also dates back to the Bezimienny eruption of 1957.  The eruption was as large as the Krakatoa eruption and it was this event that started the scientific interest in this area. 

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The Talud camp is also besieged by thousands of mosquitoes.  I could not see them all but I could hear their buzzing like a swarm of WWII airplanes waiting to attack.   

Thankfully they do not bite too much.  We had a relaxing afternoon here – time passed by quickly despite miserable weather.  We made a nice fire and enjoyed each other’s company.  

August 8, 2019 Tolbachik Basecamp, 12.5 km

We arrived in the Tolbachik campsite late afternoon in pissing rain.  It rained all night and finally stopped in the morning. The MSR tent was holding amazingly well in constant rain and wind.  We decided not to climb the Tolbachik Volcano as it was shrouded in a thick cloud.  Some Russians made the effort only to return wet and deflated from the failed attempt.

Instead of climbing the volcano, we decided to explore the extensive eruption area that this place is famous for.  The most recent eruption was in 2009 and 2012.   It was one of the largest fissure eruptions in the world producing astronomical amount of lava.  

We left early in the morning and as soon as we reached the first lava field it started to rain again.  It was very windy and it rained for the entire time that we were in the eruption area.  Without proper rain gear, it would have been very cold due to the strong wind.  

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The lava field is massive and very interesting.  The lava has many shapes and colors and it looks like glass art or roots of a giant tree all twisted and roped.  The colors are amazing:  different shades of silver, grey, red, yellow and maroon.  As it cooled, the lava formed into fantastic shapes and looks like frozen glass or glue.  It is light in weight but extremely strong.  We walked on large lava tubes and channels and I was afraid to break through and fall into the chasm.  The lava is also very sharp and any fall would cut through skin like a razor.  The lava that is close to an active area is yellowish or bright red in color.  One can feel the heat radiating from the earth below.  Some of the active areas on this field are over 100C hot and can burn skin if touched.  

We went further afield to climb two volcanic cones from which the lava erupted during the 2009-2012 eruption.  The cones were covered in light red pumice.  The pumice is very light and good to walk on as it provides good traction.  The range of shades of pumice was amazing:  from bright red to fluorescent yellow.  The colors were very vivid in the rain.  At the top of the first crater there were many active vents and sulfur gases were coming out of the fissures in the rocks.  This kaleidoscopic landscape was situated at the base of the massive Tolbachik Volcano covered in snow and ice making for striking contrast.   It was truly amazing and fascinating to see.   It was all very wild and untamed – raw nature that is still forming in front of us.   All of this in the rain and wind – totally wild!   

We then climbed to the top of the second massive crater.  The crater was a huge gapping hole with steam of gas coming from its bottom.   The colors of the rocks were amazing and very vibrant as well.  The smell of carbon and sulfur was in the air despite the wind.  I have never seen anything like this on such a massive scale in such a wild and remote setting.  From the top of the crater we could see the distant volcano where we camped two days prior.  The black field of lava extended as far as we could see.  

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On the way back we walked into a huge lava cave that seemed to extend for some distance.  We did not walk very far as we did not bring a flashlight with us.  We also looked for a hot lava cave that was somewhere in the area but we could not find it.  We did find a lot of thermal areas some of them so hot that Evgeny burned his hand when he touched the rock.  

After a few hours of exploring we were wet and cold and decided to return to the camp.  During lunch a wicked wind suddenly picked up by making a loud punch to the roof of the shelter.  I had to go back inside the tent to anchor it down, as I was afraid that it would get blown away by the wind.  The poles of the tent started to fold with each gust all the way to the floor and I had to hold them up to prevent them from breaking. As the wind increased in intensity, I decided to move the tent behind the hut.  As soon as I moved my tent, a group of Russians set up one of their large dining tents in the very spot that I vacated oblivious to the gale force wind.  Needless to say, their tent did not survive the night.  

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August 10, 2019 20 km 

During the night the gale force wind increased even more and eventually destroyed the entire campsite.  The Russians were running like crazy chasing their tents all around the desolate campsite in the dark.  All night long, the wind was twisting and pushing my MSR tent onto me.  And I was sheltered behind the hut!  The tents out in the open did not stand a chance including Evgeny’s.  I could not sleep until 3am due to the noise from the wind although I was exhausted.  I finally fell asleep after 3 am and I was up at 7 am.   

After meager breakfast (we were running out of food), Evgeny and I returned to the active zone for more exploring.  I was fascinated by the entire area and could spend hours just walking around.  I was far more interested in exploring this area than in climbing the Tolbachik volcano that frankly looked like any other snowy mountain to me.  During our exploration, the wind was still very strong but it did not deter us.  We climbed the two large craters again and Evgeny flew his drone for wonderful areal photography.   I was surprised that he could fly the drone in such strong wind.  From the air, the area was even more magical than I could appreciate from the ground.  After much exploring, we returned to the camp around noon.  

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After meager lunch consisting of a candy bar we walked for another 6km to the rendezvous point with our ride.  The way to that spot passed though very desolate landscape of black sand and low calderas.  I was apprehensive about our ride being there as we were very far away from the road and civilization.   We finally arrived at the designated spot.  Thankfully there was a shelter to hide from the wind and rain.  Regardless, we were wet, tired and hungry.  I started to get quite cold.  To stay warm, I climbed to the top of a small volcano behind the shelter.  It was quick and very enjoyable as the crater was also active and had many wonderfully colored rocks.   The views from the top were also wonderful despite the low clouds and wind.  I really like this landscape and find it very photogenic and intriguing.  Along the way to the top, I could feel the heat of the earth through my boots and I could smell sulfur despite the wind.  

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Our plan was to meet up with Sergey, the driver at 3pm.  He did not show up at 3pm and as the hours passed, we were getting concerned.  We did not have any food left, there was no water nearby, we were tired and it was really miserable (cold and wet).  We also had no way of communicating with the outside world.   Our only other was to hitch a ride with one of the larger groups and take a bus back to Petropawlosk-Kamchatsky from the village of Kozierowsk 100km away.  

Finally Sergey appeared at 7pm apologetic that the approach track was blocked by fallen trees, which he had to chainsaw to get through.  

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We packed up, got in the car and drove a short distance to the area called Dead Forrest.  The area is not really dead as there are new trees all around and beautiful bushes of lupine everywhere.  The contrast of green trees, black sand and purple flowers were quite striking.  

As soon as we arrived, Sergey sprang into action:  made a fire to keep the mosquitos away, cut wood for more fire, unpacked loads of baked salmon, malosolne, cold beer (!), and excellent samogon (the Russian hooch).  We started to eat the delicious salmon and drink the beer and the hooch.  Despite my good intentions, the hooch sent me back to the tent very quickly.  I passed out and did not wake up until the next morning.

Well, this part of the trip was over.  Mosquitoes, rain, hunger (never enough food as we could only carry so much), wonderful views, volcanic wonders, it was all part of the wild adventure in the vast and unforgiving land of Kamchatka.  We walked well over 100km covering a large part of the Kluchewskaya National Park.  The effort was totally worth it and it exceeded my wildest expectations.   It is one of a few remaining wild and unique places in the world that exists despite the encroaching civilization.  There are not many places like this left.  

August 11, 2019 Drive from Tolbachik to Paratunka 

Today we drove for 11 hours!  After the hooch-fueled evening everyone was asleep until 8.30am so we did not start until 10 am.  The morning was foggy and with the back sand of the volcanic desert, it looked bleak.  We made a fire, brewed good cowboy coffee and ate the leftover salmon and rice from the previous evening.  

On the way we stopped to help a stranded jeep in very muddy and almost impassable road.  Then we turned into a barely-visible forest track known only to Sergey (we could not see it and thought that he was turning into the bushes).  We drove through this overgrown track for an hour or so bulldozing our way across the new-grown taiga.  We finally emerged onto a large river, crossed its main channel and then hit the main road 30kms beyond.  We stopped at the Kamchatka River for our last view of the volcanic giants peaking from above the clouds.  It was very beautiful and a great way to say goodbye to this wonderful place.  Despite the fickle weather and hard work, I was sad to leave this special place.  

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We then had a few hours of driving to the village of Milkovo where we had borsch at the gas station and actually not too bad pastry. After, hours of driving to Petropawlosk.  In PK we stopped at a local supermarket to stock up on food for our next leg of the trek.   We also bought some beer from a dispensary in the store.  The lady operating the dispensary pours beer to a large plastic bottle for $1 per litter!  Cheap and very good.  We also stopped to photograph the beautiful volcanoes surrounding PK.  

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We checked into a nice hotel in Paratunka, a hot spot for thermal baths.  We were very tired but had enough energy for a nice soak in the hot pool.  The facilities were clean and modern.  The water was bathtub comfortable.  We retired back to the room at 11.30pm, had quick dinner and were off to bed at 12.30!  It was a long day.

August 12, 2019 Goriely Volcano 20km

We got up at 7am and had great breakfast at the hotel.  Good Russian food again.  After breakfast, Sergey picked us up and drove us to the base of the Goriely Volcano along a bumpy and rocky road.  The weather was great and decided to go up the top of the volcano to take advantage of it.  It was such a contrast from the fog, cold and rain of the Tolbachik area two days prior.  

The hike is quite easy and we climbed 800m in 1 hour.  At the top, a splendid panorama of two huge craters opened up. One crater has a lake in it and the other is still active.  The entire double crater looks like a giant hole, jagged and colorful.  I walked along the narrow rim of the crater to the true summit slightly above 2,000m.  Soon after arriving, David joined me and we continued our exploration by walking along the entire rim of the volcano.  We were both amazed with the incredible scenery and the beauty of the area.  We walked through some active thermal areas with smoke steaming from between the cracks.  The crater had a “Wow” factor similar to the Bryce Canyon in the USA.  We were lucky with the weather again when it counted most!  We walked a long way and were both tired and hungry.  

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Once we got back to the camp it was still sunny but it became very windy making it unpleasant to sit outside.   Thanks to the wind though we had no mosquitoes! 

This area is very beautiful and very different from the Kluchewskaya Park.  It is also much busier due to its proximity to PK (only 2 hours away).  Because of the beautiful weather we hiked with many locals of various shapes and ages. Everyone was enjoying the scenery and the warm windless summit.  

August 13, 2019 Mutnowski Volcano 23.5km

In the morning we left the Goriely campsite and walked 11 km, mainly on the 4x4 road to the Mutnowski camp.  It took us 3.5 hours to walk the distance and we were quite tired.  The walk on the road seemed tedious to me.  We were passed by many day-trippers on their way to the Mutnovsky Volcano from PK.  We walked in nice sunshine with little wind.  We set up the camp, had lunch and took off to explore the Mutnovsky Volcano.  We wanted to take advantage of the good weather.  

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To my surprise the Mutnowski geological area is located inside the crater (I was not expecting this).  What an entrance!  Through the gates of hell – yellow steep walls of volcanic rocks bring you inside a giant caldera.  We entered the realm of smoke and sulfur.  As we entered the crater, we started to see smoke rising from various vents.  Inside the crater there are numerous fumaroles spewing gases.  Some gases emanate from the earth with violent force like a jet engine.  Some are so toxic that one cannot breathe.  The crater’s colors are of various shades of yellow and brown blending into each other like a painting.   There are numerous sulfuric vents and holes, liquid mud, boiling water, geysers etc.  It is a fabulous and amazing place, interesting and dynamic.  I walked around in wonder.  It was hard for me to believe that it was real.   The Mutnovsky crater is quite huge and there is also a glacier inside above the active zone.  The contrast of ice and fire is quite amazing.  Blue ice seracs lean above hot vents spewing sulfuric gasses.  

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We hiked still higher to the rim of another crater that is hidden from view until the moment that you stand at its edge.  This hidden crater is very active spewing a huge tower of smoke continuously.  The crater’s walls are vertical and on its bottom there is a red lake.  There were quite a few Russian day-trippers and we all stood there amazed at the display of raw power of the earth.  We stayed inside the Mutnovsky crater for 4 hours and of course it started to rain as we started walking back to the camp.  The weather window was closing fast.   I was amazed that we could wander around such dynamic and violent active area without any restrictions or safety measures (in Yellowstone there are walkways, barriers and rangers to watch the people.  Here nothing at all.). 

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It was too cold, wet and windy to cook outside so Evgeny cooked inside the tent.  After the rain, the moisture was evaporating from the warm ground around us, which looked quite amazing.  The mountains in the distance looked very dramatic in the rain and swirling clouds.  The weather has turned again.  

August 14, 2019 12km

We got up to a cloudy sky and cold.  By now the weather felt familiar so no one was complaining.  Thankfully we camped close to the small pass that we had to cross that day so we did not have to retrace any distance.   We did not have many kilometers to cover to our meeting point with Sergey.  We slogged up the small pass from where we had a view of the Mutnowski Volcano and in the distance the geothermal power plant that was our final destination.   I was beginning to feel quite tired from the cumulative days of carrying the heavy pack.  We stopped along the way to check out geothermal installations that were all over the valley that we were crossing.  We ended our walk on a disused road with multicolored hills towering above it.  It was all very beautiful.   The scale of the landscape here is very big and mountains stretch into the distance.  

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When we arrived at the power plant, the weather became warm and sunny.  Since we arrived a day early and had no obvious means of contacting Sergey, we asked for a ride but everyone refused.  Finally I realized that I could use my cellphone as the power plant had a cell tower.  We called Sergey and he could pick us up at 5pm.  Since we had some time to kill, David and I went for a walk to a nearby thermal area with numerous geysers and fumaroles.  The area was small but quite impressive.  We could walk among the fumaroles and geysers to our heart’s content.  Unlike the Yellowstone or Iceland, the thermal areas here are wild and we had unrestricted access.   

We were amused by the Russian families that came for a day hike.  They all had very similar routine.  Before the hike, they would have a large amount of food with vodka.  Then, dressed in camo gear (entire families wearing camo, including kids) and with a large knife attached to the side, the patriarch would lead everyone into the wild.  After the hike, the family congregated at the table, the food was again consumed along with more vodka.  I noticed that the alcohol was consumed in very limited quantities more for social bonding than drinking.   

Finally Sergey showed up and took us back to Paratunka.  We stayed at the same hotel with the wonderful thermal pool. We had great BBQ dinner at the restaurant adjacent to the hotel.  The food was excellent and the beer was cold.  In addition to successful conclusion of our adventure, it was also David’s 25th birthday so we had two good reasons to celebrate.  After the dinner we soaked in the warm water for 2 hours.  The pool was open until midnight so we enjoyed every last minute of it!  We were all happy not to be in the tent.  The trip was coming to the end.  

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Камча́тка, Russia - The Mutnowski and Gorely Volcanoes

Please see my comments on the Tolbachik Volcano Circuit page. After our incredible adventure in the Kluchewskaya Cluster National Park, we drove for 11 hours back to Petropawlowsk or rather to nearby Paratunka, a spot full of hot springs!

Our next objective was the Mutonvsky Volcanic Plateau and its two active volcanoes: Mutnowsky and Gorely. We needed good weather and we were lucky again. We had sunny weather during crucial days and then the rain returned. We hiked out in a cold wind and rain.

This area is quite different from the Tolbachik Circuit. The volcanoes are not as steep and majestic but they have incredible craters with lakes and active vents. The Mutnovsky crater is almost unbelievable. It felt like walking into another world through a narrow gap in the rocky crater. I was truly awe struck and could not believe that the place was real.

We felt that it was an incredible experience to see the magnitude of geothermal formations in such a small place. Furthermore, one can wander around without any restrictions and get close to some very spectacular places.

Evgeny’s drone provided us with a completely different perspective and allowed us to see the grandeur from high above without having to rent a helicopter. We left tired but happy to have been able to see such an unbelievable spot.

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The Koryaksky Volcano near Petropawlowsk Kamchatsky (PK). It is 3,456m high. It belongs to the Avachinskaya group of Volcanoes. It had a small eruption of ash in 2009 forcing landing aircraft to change course. the upper part has a 35 degree slope and some exposed rocky sections.

The Koryaksky Volcano near Petropawlowsk Kamchatsky (PK). It is 3,456m high. It belongs to the Avachinskaya group of Volcanoes. It had a small eruption of ash in 2009 forcing landing aircraft to change course. the upper part has a 35 degree slope and some exposed rocky sections.

The Avachinsky Volcano 2,751m high is the closest volcano to PK and apparently quite easy to ascend.

The Avachinsky Volcano 2,751m high is the closest volcano to PK and apparently quite easy to ascend.

The closeup of the upper section of the Koryaksky Volcano.

The closeup of the upper section of the Koryaksky Volcano.

The Vilyuchinsky Volcano 2,173m. It is 1.5 hr away from PK by car on a so-so road. The sign at its base indicated that it required 6 hours for an ascent.

The Vilyuchinsky Volcano 2,173m. It is 1.5 hr away from PK by car on a so-so road. The sign at its base indicated that it required 6 hours for an ascent.

The viewpoint for the Vilyuchinsky Volcano.

The viewpoint for the Vilyuchinsky Volcano.

The road from PK to The Plateau of the Mutnovsky Volcano. The area of the Mutnovsky Volcano is located about 70km south from PK and is on the edge of the Mutnovsky National Park. The volcanic plateau is 600 to 900m high where cones of active volcanoes tower above the alpine tundra, free of snow only for three months of the year. There are three volcanoes in the area: the active Muntovsky and Gorely and the dormant Vilyuchinsky. The area receives over 15m of snow in winter! The road is not muddy but very rocky and dusty,

The road from PK to The Plateau of the Mutnovsky Volcano. The area of the Mutnovsky Volcano is located about 70km south from PK and is on the edge of the Mutnovsky National Park. The volcanic plateau is 600 to 900m high where cones of active volcanoes tower above the alpine tundra, free of snow only for three months of the year. There are three volcanoes in the area: the active Muntovsky and Gorely and the dormant Vilyuchinsky. The area receives over 15m of snow in winter! The road is not muddy but very rocky and dusty,

We set up our camp at the base of the Gorely Volcano. The hike to the top of the crater takes an hour (850m elevation gain) but the hike around the entire crater takes a few hours.

We set up our camp at the base of the Gorely Volcano. The hike to the top of the crater takes an hour (850m elevation gain) but the hike around the entire crater takes a few hours.

The dormant Vilyuchinsky Volcano. At the base of the Gorely Volcano you can see the parking for the day-trippers from PK.

The dormant Vilyuchinsky Volcano. At the base of the Gorely Volcano you can see the parking for the day-trippers from PK.

The upper section of the Gorely Volcano. The ascent has an easy gradient but it is long in distance.

The upper section of the Gorely Volcano. The ascent has an easy gradient but it is long in distance.

Photo by Evgeny Androssov. Going up the Gorely Volcano. The high Mutnovsky Plateau is beyond. You can even see the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Photo by Evgeny Androssov. Going up the Gorely Volcano. The high Mutnovsky Plateau is beyond. You can even see the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Almost at the top! The Gorely Volcano is located in a large caldera 13 x 12 km in size. The Volcano has 11 craters! The craters are strung one after another. The variety of craters and ease of access make this volcano one of the most spectacular in Kamchatka.

Almost at the top! The Gorely Volcano is located in a large caldera 13 x 12 km in size. The Volcano has 11 craters! The craters are strung one after another. The variety of craters and ease of access make this volcano one of the most spectacular in Kamchatka.

The main crater with a beautiful lake inside. The Gorely Volcano had 9 explosive eruptions in the past. Next to this lake crater is the eruptive crater with an active gas vent. The top of the mountain is the prominent fin in the distance.

The main crater with a beautiful lake inside. The Gorely Volcano had 9 explosive eruptions in the past. Next to this lake crater is the eruptive crater with an active gas vent. The top of the mountain is the prominent fin in the distance.

drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The active crater of the Gorely Volcano with the active gas vent on the lower right side. The gas vent has a temperature of 900C. The activity began in 2010 and is still ongoing. The drone photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The active crater of the Gorely Volcano with the active gas vent on the lower right side. The gas vent has a temperature of 900C. The activity began in 2010 and is still ongoing. The drone photo by Evgeny Androssov.

One of the main craters of the Gorely Volcano seen from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

One of the main craters of the Gorely Volcano seen from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The edge of the crater and the beautiful volcanic lake. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The edge of the crater and the beautiful volcanic lake. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The path around the crater is very spectacular. It is like a walkway in the sky!

The path around the crater is very spectacular. It is like a walkway in the sky!

Fantastic formations of the main crater.

Fantastic formations of the main crater.

The edge of the main crater.

The edge of the main crater.

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The entire main crater of the volcano is quite large and requires a few hours to traverse. It is a great hike though providing views of various craters, the surrounding plateau, and distant volcanoes.

The entire main crater of the volcano is quite large and requires a few hours to traverse. It is a great hike though providing views of various craters, the surrounding plateau, and distant volcanoes.

The path around the Gorely craters.

The path around the Gorely craters.

The bulky Mutnovsky Volcano towering over the plateau.

The bulky Mutnovsky Volcano towering over the plateau.

The Mutnovsky Volcano seen from the top of the Gorely Volcano. To access the active crater of the Mutnovsky, we walked through the canyon break in the crater wall. The existence of a glacier inside an active volcano was quite incredible.

The Mutnovsky Volcano seen from the top of the Gorely Volcano. To access the active crater of the Mutnovsky, we walked through the canyon break in the crater wall. The existence of a glacier inside an active volcano was quite incredible.

The top of the Gorely Volcano is 2000m high.

The top of the Gorely Volcano is 2000m high.

The view from the top of Gorely.

The view from the top of Gorely.

The elevation of the highest point on the Gorely Volcano.

The elevation of the highest point on the Gorely Volcano.

One of the active areas and the steaming ground.

One of the active areas and the steaming ground.

The active main crater of the Gorely Volcano.

The active main crater of the Gorely Volcano.

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The view from the top of Gorely to the Mutnowsky Volcanic Plateau.

The view from the top of Gorely to the Mutnowsky Volcanic Plateau.

Walking on the rim of the Gorely crater with the Opala Volcano in the distance (2,475m).

Walking on the rim of the Gorely crater with the Opala Volcano in the distance (2,475m).

This side of the mountain was quite hot. Even on this warm day, the steam was visible (and smell-able).

This side of the mountain was quite hot. Even on this warm day, the steam was visible (and smell-able).

An unnamed crater of the Gorely Volcano and Mutnowski Volcano behind.

An unnamed crater of the Gorely Volcano and Mutnowski Volcano behind.

On the edge of the Gorely crater with Mutnovsky in the distance.

On the edge of the Gorely crater with Mutnovsky in the distance.

The active crater of Gorely, We walked by numerous active vents and the smell of sulfur was in the air.

The active crater of Gorely, We walked by numerous active vents and the smell of sulfur was in the air.

The closeup of one of the vents of the Gorely Volcano.

The closeup of one of the vents of the Gorely Volcano.

One can take a day trip to the Gorely crater from PK for around $700 US per person. The large Mi8 helicopter takes about 24 passengers. It has max cruising speed of 225km/h and a flight range of 900km. It is the most popular twin engine helicopter in the world. We observed their approach and landing. On the next photo, see the helicopter parked in front of the crater for scale!

One can take a day trip to the Gorely crater from PK for around $700 US per person. The large Mi8 helicopter takes about 24 passengers. It has max cruising speed of 225km/h and a flight range of 900km. It is the most popular twin engine helicopter in the world. We observed their approach and landing. On the next photo, see the helicopter parked in front of the crater for scale!

The Mi8 helicopter parked at the rim of the active crater on Gorely Volcano.

The Mi8 helicopter parked at the rim of the active crater on Gorely Volcano.

The Mutnovsky Volcano 2,323m is 15km away.

The Mutnovsky Volcano 2,323m is 15km away.

The Gorely Volcano from our camp.

The Gorely Volcano from our camp.

Walking through the remains of the 15m snow drifts!

Walking through the remains of the 15m snow drifts!

The bears and us shared the path. Thankfully not at the same time!

The bears and us shared the path. Thankfully not at the same time!

The bulky Gorely in the distance.

The bulky Gorely in the distance.

Approaching the Mutnovsky Volcano, still 4km away. We camped here and hiked to the crater without our heavy packs.

Approaching the Mutnovsky Volcano, still 4km away. We camped here and hiked to the crater without our heavy packs.

The Mutnovsky Volcano has a complex structure. It is really formed from four separate stratovolcanoes with a common top and a double crater of 2 x 1.5km in size. The Vulkannaya River broke through the wall of the crater creating a gorge and provided an access point to the inner crater.

The Mutnovsky Volcano has a complex structure. It is really formed from four separate stratovolcanoes with a common top and a double crater of 2 x 1.5km in size. The Vulkannaya River broke through the wall of the crater creating a gorge and provided an access point to the inner crater.

The campsite for the Muntovsky Volcano.

The campsite for the Muntovsky Volcano.

The gap in the crater walls formed by the Vulkannaya River. The trail goes along the crater walls. It feels like walking into a castle!

The gap in the crater walls formed by the Vulkannaya River. The trail goes along the crater walls. It feels like walking into a castle!

The gorge of the Vulcannaya River. There is a wonderful waterfall further down.

The gorge of the Vulcannaya River. There is a wonderful waterfall further down.

Day-trippers from PK. It is a full day excursion with a long and shaky drive on both ends of the trip.

Day-trippers from PK. It is a full day excursion with a long and shaky drive on both ends of the trip.

The local operators use these monster trucks to negotiate the rough road from PK to Mutnovsky. There seems to be a monster truck cult in PK as some of them were incredibly large.

The local operators use these monster trucks to negotiate the rough road from PK to Mutnovsky. There seems to be a monster truck cult in PK as some of them were incredibly large.

The general map of the Mutnovsky crater, Aside from this warning, there are no restrictions or barriers preventing a thorough exploration the crater. I am sure that in time, as the number of visitors grow, there will be walkways and barriers (like the Yellowstone NP). It is good to be here before it happens!

The general map of the Mutnovsky crater, Aside from this warning, there are no restrictions or barriers preventing a thorough exploration the crater. I am sure that in time, as the number of visitors grow, there will be walkways and barriers (like the Yellowstone NP). It is good to be here before it happens!

Walking into the crater.

Walking into the crater.

As we got closer, it felt unreal to be here! It was hard to imagine that a place like this exists and that we can explore it freely.

As we got closer, it felt unreal to be here! It was hard to imagine that a place like this exists and that we can explore it freely.

Massive walls of the crater. It felt like we were inside a castle from the Lord of the Rings.

Massive walls of the crater. It felt like we were inside a castle from the Lord of the Rings.

A big glacier lies inside the crater stopping at two vast fumarole fields: Donnoye and Verkhneye. An active funnel over these fields emits powerful gas and steam jets, which rise up to 1.5km above the volcano.

A big glacier lies inside the crater stopping at two vast fumarole fields: Donnoye and Verkhneye. An active funnel over these fields emits powerful gas and steam jets, which rise up to 1.5km above the volcano.

The pano view of the fumarole fields.

The pano view of the fumarole fields.

Inside the active fumarole field.

Inside the active fumarole field.

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The pano view of the active fumarole field inside the crater. The filed is full of gas vents, boiling mud, small geysers and other active formations.

The pano view of the active fumarole field inside the crater. The filed is full of gas vents, boiling mud, small geysers and other active formations.

Beautiful pool close to the active vents.

Beautiful pool close to the active vents.

The “Boiling River” Vulkannaya. There were some boiling water pools next to the river.

The “Boiling River” Vulkannaya. There were some boiling water pools next to the river.

Fumaroles rich in sulfurous gas create various domes of brimstone. I inhaled the gas accidentally and could not breathe as long as I was near it!

Fumaroles rich in sulfurous gas create various domes of brimstone. I inhaled the gas accidentally and could not breathe as long as I was near it!

Brimstone formations - loud and smelly

Brimstone formations - loud and smelly

Another brimstone dome emitting steam with a jet-like force.

Another brimstone dome emitting steam with a jet-like force.

Brimstone

Brimstone

The edge of one of the two active craters.

The edge of one of the two active craters.

Two active craters are visible.

Two active craters are visible.

This is also an active crater. The much larger lake disappeared after 2003.

This is also an active crater. The much larger lake disappeared after 2003.

The glacier and the edge of the fumarole filed.

The glacier and the edge of the fumarole filed.

The active crater of the Mutnovsky Volcano.

The active crater of the Mutnovsky Volcano.

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At the bottom of the 150 deep crater, there is a red lake.

At the bottom of the 150 deep crater, there is a red lake.

The red lake of the active crater.

The red lake of the active crater.

A large cloud of gas emanating from the active crater.

A large cloud of gas emanating from the active crater.

The active crater of the Mutnovsky. Notice the people in the gap. Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The active crater of the Mutnovsky. Notice the people in the gap. Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The active crater of the Mutnovsky and the fumarole field. drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The active crater of the Mutnovsky and the fumarole field. drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The small green lake is also the bottom of an active crater. Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The small green lake is also the bottom of an active crater. Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The 150m deep active crater of the Muntovsky. Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The 150m deep active crater of the Muntovsky. Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

The double crater of the Muntovsky with two colored lakes! Drone photo by Evgeny Adnrossov

The double crater of the Muntovsky with two colored lakes! Drone photo by Evgeny Adnrossov

The large glacier and the fumarole field of the Muntovsky Volcano from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The large glacier and the fumarole field of the Muntovsky Volcano from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The fumarole fields of the Mutnovsky from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The fumarole fields of the Mutnovsky from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

Hiking back! We leave the interesting Mutnovsky Volcano behind.

Hiking back! We leave the interesting Mutnovsky Volcano behind.

The north side of the Mutnovsky Volcano. We were lucky with the weather again. Low cloud and rain moved in as we left the area.

The north side of the Mutnovsky Volcano. We were lucky with the weather again. Low cloud and rain moved in as we left the area.

Hiking from the Mutnovsky Volcano to the Mutnovskaya Geothermal Station.

Hiking from the Mutnovsky Volcano to the Mutnovskaya Geothermal Station.

The Mutnovskaya Geothermal Station in the distance. The power plant uses the geothermal heat to produce electricity. The gas reserves provide power to the station. Numerous wells channeling hot steam to the station dot the landscape. The plant can withstand an earthquake up to magnitude 9!

The Mutnovskaya Geothermal Station in the distance. The power plant uses the geothermal heat to produce electricity. The gas reserves provide power to the station. Numerous wells channeling hot steam to the station dot the landscape. The plant can withstand an earthquake up to magnitude 9!

The Mutnovka Electric Station. It produces 30% of all electricity in Kamchatka. The deepest well drilled for the purpose of extracting steam is 2.2km.

The Mutnovka Electric Station. It produces 30% of all electricity in Kamchatka. The deepest well drilled for the purpose of extracting steam is 2.2km.

Old part of the station

Old part of the station

One of the 90 wells of the station.

One of the 90 wells of the station.

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The Dachnye Hot Springs. There are numerous boiling and pulsating springs, fumaroles the temperature of which can reach up to 250C.

The Dachnye Hot Springs. There are numerous boiling and pulsating springs, fumaroles the temperature of which can reach up to 250C.

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Nature’s steam room

Nature’s steam room

This wonderful campsite has hot springs nearby.

This wonderful campsite has hot springs nearby.

Some of the more exotic souvenirs in PK.

Some of the more exotic souvenirs in PK.

PK souvenirs…

PK souvenirs…

Камча́тка, Russia - The Tolbachik Volcano Circuit and Volcano Bezimienny

Great thanks to Evgeny Androssov, our guide who made this trip a reality for us! It was a pleasure (again) to share this experience with my long-time trekking buddy David.

In August of 2019, we traveled to explore the volcanic landscapes of Kamchatka in Eastern Russia. Volcanoes are not the only reason to go to Kamchatka. Many people go there for fishing and hunting as well. It is also known for its hot springs and senatoria.

Kamchatka is quite remote and it was closed to all tourists until 1992 due to militarily sensitive areas. The landscapes of this peninsula are very unique not only in Russia but the world. Volcanoes are Kamchatka’s biggest attraction and you can see them even before you land in Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky, the capital city of the region. Since the region has only one main road, getting to some of the remote volcanoes requires planning and can get quite expensive.

Our primary goal was to explore the large Kluchewskaya Cluster National Park. The Park is located 600 km from Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky and it takes around 10 hours of non-stop driving on progressively deteriorating roads to get there. The final stretch from the main road to the park is on old Soviet logging tracks (one of the primary industries of the region back in the USSR days). The experience of the driver and the quality of the 4x4 are very important as getting stuck in this remote region could basically put an end to the trip. Thanks to Evgeny, our industrious guide, we engaged the help of Sergey, a former hydrologist who worked in the region and knows the forest tracks very well.

Another minor annoyance are the mosquitos and very unpredictable weather (prolonged periods of rain and strong tent-damaging winds). One needs luck to be able to see the beautiful views that Kamchatka has to offer. We were very lucky indeed.

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On the Kamchatka Peninsula, there are over 200 volcanoes, 30 of which are active and erupt frequently.

On the Kamchatka Peninsula, there are over 200 volcanoes, 30 of which are active and erupt frequently.

There only one road on the Peninsula. Thankfully it takes you to some beautiful places!

There only one road on the Peninsula. Thankfully it takes you to some beautiful places!

The map of the trails inside the Kluchevsky Cluster Park. Our journey was 120 km long, one of the longest in the park. One can also ascend most of the volcanic peaks without major difficulties except the weather.

The map of the trails inside the Kluchevsky Cluster Park. Our journey was 120 km long, one of the longest in the park. One can also ascend most of the volcanic peaks without major difficulties except the weather.

The summit cone of one of the volcanoes near Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky from the landing airplane. I was so excited to be in this mysterious land!

The summit cone of one of the volcanoes near Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky from the landing airplane. I was so excited to be in this mysterious land!

Kamchatka - wild and green - looks splendid!

Kamchatka - wild and green - looks splendid!

The modern airport of Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky.

The modern airport of Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky.

On the road from Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky to the trail. It is a long drive through pristine tajga forests full of bears and mosquitoes.

On the road from Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky to the trail. It is a long drive through pristine tajga forests full of bears and mosquitoes.

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The Kamchatka River is the largest river on the peninsula. You can see the Volcano Kameny above the tajga forest. It is at least 80 km away through the mosquito infested tajga.

The Kamchatka River is the largest river on the peninsula. You can see the Volcano Kameny above the tajga forest. It is at least 80 km away through the mosquito infested tajga.

The Kamchatka River

The Kamchatka River

The Kamchatka River and the Kluchewskaya group of volcanoes from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The Kamchatka River and the Kluchewskaya group of volcanoes from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The Kamchatka River from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The Kamchatka River from the drone. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The Kluchewskaya Sobka 4,750m Volcano and Krestowski Volcano 4,057m and the endless taiga forest from the drone. We had to drive through this forest first to get to the trails. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

The Kluchewskaya Sobka 4,750m Volcano and Krestowski Volcano 4,057m and the endless taiga forest from the drone. We had to drive through this forest first to get to the trails. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

Driving through the taiga - home to billions of mosquitoes!

Driving through the taiga - home to billions of mosquitoes!

The old Soviet logging roads can be quite challenging. We helped out the Nissan to get out of the mud. Some of the old tracks have been further damaged by the Tolbachik eruptions in 2012. The local drivers just cut alternative tracks through the thick bush. The roads are not maintained.

The old Soviet logging roads can be quite challenging. We helped out the Nissan to get out of the mud. Some of the old tracks have been further damaged by the Tolbachik eruptions in 2012. The local drivers just cut alternative tracks through the thick bush. The roads are not maintained.

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Some larger groups charter these industrial KAMAZ trucks. A KAMAZ truck can take up to 20 passengers and it costs 3,500 Euro for the round trip from Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky. We met a few large Russian groups that traveled this way. Some were overlanders and some were trekking in the park. The KAMAZ drivers deflate the tires to handle the tracks.

Some larger groups charter these industrial KAMAZ trucks. A KAMAZ truck can take up to 20 passengers and it costs 3,500 Euro for the round trip from Petropawlowsk-Kamchatsky. We met a few large Russian groups that traveled this way. Some were overlanders and some were trekking in the park. The KAMAZ drivers deflate the tires to handle the tracks.

Our starting point. We started at the Stolnik hut. The forrest track ends here and it is walking from this point on. The large cone of the Ostry Tolbachik Volcano towers above the camp. See the ubiquitous mosquito in the photo frame!

Our starting point. We started at the Stolnik hut. The forrest track ends here and it is walking from this point on. The large cone of the Ostry Tolbachik Volcano towers above the camp. See the ubiquitous mosquito in the photo frame!

The simple shelters provide a welcome escape from the frequent and intense rain. The air temperature can vary by a lot in the matter of hours. The Ostry Tolbachik 3,672m dominates the view.

The simple shelters provide a welcome escape from the frequent and intense rain. The air temperature can vary by a lot in the matter of hours. The Ostry Tolbachik 3,672m dominates the view.

Our first view of the Ostry Tolbachik Volcano 3,672m.

Our first view of the Ostry Tolbachik Volcano 3,672m.

On the left is the distant Kluchewska Volcano 4,750m (the highest active volcano in Eurasia). On the right is Kamen Volcano 4,580m, more imposing and with permanent snow. The Kluchewskaya has no snow as it is active and hot.

On the left is the distant Kluchewska Volcano 4,750m (the highest active volcano in Eurasia). On the right is Kamen Volcano 4,580m, more imposing and with permanent snow. The Kluchewskaya has no snow as it is active and hot.

The beautiful tundra and the Ostry Tolbachik Volcano. The little cones in the photo are picked by the locals for medicinal purposes. They are boiled and often mixed with tea or alcohol to create a healing concoction.

The beautiful tundra and the Ostry Tolbachik Volcano. The little cones in the photo are picked by the locals for medicinal purposes. They are boiled and often mixed with tea or alcohol to create a healing concoction.

During our first day we had two bear encounters. We almost walked into one young bear (he run away promptly) and this old one came quite close to our camp checking us out. He lingered around eating berries but eventually left and went on. We have not seen any other bears after that but they sure came close to our tents during the night.

During our first day we had two bear encounters. We almost walked into one young bear (he run away promptly) and this old one came quite close to our camp checking us out. He lingered around eating berries but eventually left and went on. We have not seen any other bears after that but they sure came close to our tents during the night.

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Best seen from the distance!

Best seen from the distance!

Beautiful surroundings of the lower parts of the Kluchewskaya Park.

Beautiful surroundings of the lower parts of the Kluchewskaya Park.

Our first view of the Bezimienny Volcano.

Our first view of the Bezimienny Volcano.

Bezimienny Volcano in the distance

Bezimienny Volcano in the distance

Evgeny Androssov, our guide, is an outdoorsman from Moscow who works as a guide in Kamchatka and other interesting places in Russia.

Evgeny Androssov, our guide, is an outdoorsman from Moscow who works as a guide in Kamchatka and other interesting places in Russia.

That day, we trekked for 18 km along the Tolbachik massif. We walked through some beautiful old lava fields with bizarre formations. The contrast between black soil and green vegetation was very striking.

That day, we trekked for 18 km along the Tolbachik massif. We walked through some beautiful old lava fields with bizarre formations. The contrast between black soil and green vegetation was very striking.

Old lava fields and towers.

Old lava fields and towers.

Volcanic bombs from ancient eruptions The black soil seems to be very fertile for various kinds of mosses.

Volcanic bombs from ancient eruptions The black soil seems to be very fertile for various kinds of mosses.

The water made these deep channels and caverns in the soft volcanic rock. There is a narrow slot canyon that one can walk trough during the dry periods.

The water made these deep channels and caverns in the soft volcanic rock. There is a narrow slot canyon that one can walk trough during the dry periods.

This slot canyon is about 20m deep and quite narrow.

This slot canyon is about 20m deep and quite narrow.

Bizarre and high lava formations. This one was at least 10m high!

Bizarre and high lava formations. This one was at least 10m high!

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Easy walking through beautiful surroundings. If the weather is good of course.

Easy walking through beautiful surroundings. If the weather is good of course.

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The vast land and a volcanic desert.

The vast land and a volcanic desert.

Lower slopes of the Tolbachik Volcano. The old lava fields stretch over wide area.

Lower slopes of the Tolbachik Volcano. The old lava fields stretch over wide area.

Ahead is the small mountain pass we need to cross to get to the base of the Bezimienny Volcano.

Ahead is the small mountain pass we need to cross to get to the base of the Bezimienny Volcano.

Rain and drizzle were our companions (photo by Evgeny Androssov). Good rain gear is essential.

Rain and drizzle were our companions (photo by Evgeny Androssov). Good rain gear is essential.

On our way to the base of the Bezimienny Volcano, we had to cross a small pass. We were carrying 50-60lb packs so any “up” was hard work.

On our way to the base of the Bezimienny Volcano, we had to cross a small pass. We were carrying 50-60lb packs so any “up” was hard work.

Old Soviet geo marker on top of the small pass that we had to cross.

Old Soviet geo marker on top of the small pass that we had to cross.

In some areas snow lingers all year round. The summers are very short here and it can snow at any time of the year. Walking on these snow fields was tricky as sometimes there was a hidden channel of melt water. It was easy to punch right through and fall into a wet crevice.

In some areas snow lingers all year round. The summers are very short here and it can snow at any time of the year. Walking on these snow fields was tricky as sometimes there was a hidden channel of melt water. It was easy to punch right through and fall into a wet crevice.

The weather did not look good, and we were supposed to be going up a volcano the next day!

The weather did not look good, and we were supposed to be going up a volcano the next day!

Apparently there are volcanoes behind this cloud!

Apparently there are volcanoes behind this cloud!

Zimina Volcano is ahead. Often, the peaks were obscured by low clouds.

Zimina Volcano is ahead. Often, the peaks were obscured by low clouds.

The Volcano Zimina 3,081m seen from the basecamp of Bezimienny during the evening.

The Volcano Zimina 3,081m seen from the basecamp of Bezimienny during the evening.

Bezimienny Volcano exploded violently in 1956. It was very unexpected as the volcano was considered dormant. The explosion was extremely violent and the ash cloud circled the planet twice. After that event, the Soviet volcanologists started to study the caldera. This hut belongs to the Volcanology Institute of the Russia Academy of Sciences. It is no longer in use and provides shelter for hikers and trekkers and serves as a basecamp for the Bezimienny Volcano.

Bezimienny Volcano exploded violently in 1956. It was very unexpected as the volcano was considered dormant. The explosion was extremely violent and the ash cloud circled the planet twice. After that event, the Soviet volcanologists started to study the caldera. This hut belongs to the Volcanology Institute of the Russia Academy of Sciences. It is no longer in use and provides shelter for hikers and trekkers and serves as a basecamp for the Bezimienny Volcano.

Miraculously the weather cleared and we decided to ascend the Volcano Bezimienny 2,882m. It is active and the smoke is rising from the caldera. The ascent is quite steep in places and walking on sand and loose small rocks can be challenging.

Miraculously the weather cleared and we decided to ascend the Volcano Bezimienny 2,882m. It is active and the smoke is rising from the caldera. The ascent is quite steep in places and walking on sand and loose small rocks can be challenging.

Shiveluch Volcano, 3,283m is 80km away! It is the northernmost active volcano of Kamchatka that exploded quite recently in 2019. The volcano has the greatest edifice of all volcanos (70 x 40km). It consists of Old Shiveluch and New Shiveluch with newly formed lava dome 500m high. The wide caldera on the opposite side of the mountain is 9km wide. It erupts twice a year. It also has catastrophic eruptions every 100 years or so.

Shiveluch Volcano, 3,283m is 80km away! It is the northernmost active volcano of Kamchatka that exploded quite recently in 2019. The volcano has the greatest edifice of all volcanos (70 x 40km). It consists of Old Shiveluch and New Shiveluch with newly formed lava dome 500m high. The wide caldera on the opposite side of the mountain is 9km wide. It erupts twice a year. It also has catastrophic eruptions every 100 years or so.

The fantastic views extending over the park. From let to right: Volcan Ostry Zimina 2,743m, Volcano Ovalny Zimina 3,081m, Volcano Udina 2,921m, Volcano Plotsky Tolbachik 3,085m and Volcano Ostry Tolbachik 3,672m.

The fantastic views extending over the park. From let to right: Volcan Ostry Zimina 2,743m, Volcano Ovalny Zimina 3,081m, Volcano Udina 2,921m, Volcano Plotsky Tolbachik 3,085m and Volcano Ostry Tolbachik 3,672m.

Ostra Zimina 2,743m and Ovalna Zimina 3,081m. In the distance, Udina 2,921m.

Ostra Zimina 2,743m and Ovalna Zimina 3,081m. In the distance, Udina 2,921m.

The Zimina Volcanoes

The Zimina Volcanoes

Ovalnaya Zimina 3,081m

Ovalnaya Zimina 3,081m

Ostry Tolbachik 3,672m

Ostry Tolbachik 3,672m

The edge of the active crater of the Bezimienny Volcano. The lava dome, 100m higher was steaming and seemed unstable to climb. Not worth the risk for another 100m of elevation gain. We had the drone to provide us with a peak into the crater, thanks to Evgeny who carried it in a separate pack!

The edge of the active crater of the Bezimienny Volcano. The lava dome, 100m higher was steaming and seemed unstable to climb. Not worth the risk for another 100m of elevation gain. We had the drone to provide us with a peak into the crater, thanks to Evgeny who carried it in a separate pack!

The view from the edge of the crater. The final 200m is steep and loose. We were very lucky to have such clear day!

The view from the edge of the crater. The final 200m is steep and loose. We were very lucky to have such clear day!

Our trekking route between the volcanoes.

Our trekking route between the volcanoes.

The height of the crater.

The height of the crater.

Evgeny and I from the drone (photo by Evgeny Androssov). We spent 3 hours on top taking in the incredible panorama!

Evgeny and I from the drone (photo by Evgeny Androssov). We spent 3 hours on top taking in the incredible panorama!

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Evgeny’s drone - max height has been reached but the volcanoes still tower above!

Evgeny’s drone - max height has been reached but the volcanoes still tower above!

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. The Volcano Kamen 4,580m and active Kluchewskaya 4,750m, they are very impressive! Between these two volcanoes, there is a pass at an elevation of 3,000m from where an ascend can be made. The trick is to get there in good weather.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. The Volcano Kamen 4,580m and active Kluchewskaya 4,750m, they are very impressive! Between these two volcanoes, there is a pass at an elevation of 3,000m from where an ascend can be made. The trick is to get there in good weather.

The rim of the crater, this is as high as we could go without descending into the crater itself.

The rim of the crater, this is as high as we could go without descending into the crater itself.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. This is the crater of the lava dome of the Bezimienny Volcano. It would be a tricky ascent given numerous active vents and ash.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. This is the crater of the lava dome of the Bezimienny Volcano. It would be a tricky ascent given numerous active vents and ash.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. Active crater of the Bezimienny Volcano. We could smell the smoke from the crater as we were hiking up the mountain.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. Active crater of the Bezimienny Volcano. We could smell the smoke from the crater as we were hiking up the mountain.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. The crater of the Bezimienny Volcano seen from the opposite side to us. The height of this “new” dome is 500m. It grew out of the larger crater formed by a large explosion in 1955. It is like a mountain giving birth to another mountain.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. The crater of the Bezimienny Volcano seen from the opposite side to us. The height of this “new” dome is 500m. It grew out of the larger crater formed by a large explosion in 1955. It is like a mountain giving birth to another mountain.

View over the park and half of our trekking route. We basically started on the extreme right and circled the Tolbachik Volcanoes (the mountain on the right).

View over the park and half of our trekking route. We basically started on the extreme right and circled the Tolbachik Volcanoes (the mountain on the right).

The smoking crater of the Bezimienny Volcano and the Kamienny Volcano towering above it. The Kamenny is obscured by volcanic ash.

The smoking crater of the Bezimienny Volcano and the Kamienny Volcano towering above it. The Kamenny is obscured by volcanic ash.

The upper part of the active crater of Bezimienny.

The upper part of the active crater of Bezimienny.

Kamienny Volcano 4,580m.

Kamienny Volcano 4,580m.

The active lava dome of the Bezimienny Volcano. The sulfur fumaroles were very active and smoke would come out with varied intensity.

The active lava dome of the Bezimienny Volcano. The sulfur fumaroles were very active and smoke would come out with varied intensity.

The outer shell of the volcanic dome of the Bezimienny Volcano with active sulphuric fumaroles.

The outer shell of the volcanic dome of the Bezimienny Volcano with active sulphuric fumaroles.

The old volcanic craters seen from the top of Bezimienny and the view of the small pass we had to cross the day before.

The old volcanic craters seen from the top of Bezimienny and the view of the small pass we had to cross the day before.

The Tolbachik Volcano. We were going to climb the Plotsky Tolbachik but decided not to due to inclement weather.

The Tolbachik Volcano. We were going to climb the Plotsky Tolbachik but decided not to due to inclement weather.

Evgeny is dwarfed by the walls of the crater.

Evgeny is dwarfed by the walls of the crater.

Evgeny inside the crater of the Bezimienny Volcano. The ground and the rocks were quite hot. There were a lot of fumaroles on the bottom of the crater.

Evgeny inside the crater of the Bezimienny Volcano. The ground and the rocks were quite hot. There were a lot of fumaroles on the bottom of the crater.

Interesting colors in the lower section of the Bezimienny Volcano.

Interesting colors in the lower section of the Bezimienny Volcano.

The lower slopes of the Tolbachik Volcano.

The lower slopes of the Tolbachik Volcano.

The beautiful camping spot on the Fields of Mars (Massive Pole)

The beautiful camping spot on the Fields of Mars (Massive Pole)

Bezimienny and Kamen seen from the campsite called The field of Mars (Marsove Pole).

Bezimienny and Kamen seen from the campsite called The field of Mars (Marsove Pole).

The view of the volcanic ash cloud from the crater of Bezimienny at sunrise.

The view of the volcanic ash cloud from the crater of Bezimienny at sunrise.

The campsite at the Marsove Pole. I think that this spot is the most beautiful of all the campsites in the park.

The campsite at the Marsove Pole. I think that this spot is the most beautiful of all the campsites in the park.

The park has these shelters at each campsite to provide an escape from the rain for cooking and warming up by the fire.

The park has these shelters at each campsite to provide an escape from the rain for cooking and warming up by the fire.

The Field of Mars and the high volcanoes of the Kluchewskaya Cluster.

The Field of Mars and the high volcanoes of the Kluchewskaya Cluster.

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Ascending the Tolbachik Pass.

Ascending the Tolbachik Pass.

Tolbachik Pass with Kamen and Bezimienny behind.

Tolbachik Pass with Kamen and Bezimienny behind.

The Tolbachik Pass is an excellent view point from which all the major volcanoes of the park can be seen. From left to right: Ushkowsky Volcano 3,943, Krestowky Volcano 4,057m, Kamenny 4,580m, smoky Bezimienny 2,800m, Ziminna 3,081m, Udina 2,921m and Plotsky and Ostry Tolbachik 3,085k and 3,672m.

The Tolbachik Pass is an excellent view point from which all the major volcanoes of the park can be seen. From left to right: Ushkowsky Volcano 3,943, Krestowky Volcano 4,057m, Kamenny 4,580m, smoky Bezimienny 2,800m, Ziminna 3,081m, Udina 2,921m and Plotsky and Ostry Tolbachik 3,085k and 3,672m.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. Ushkowsky V 3,943m and Krestowsky V 4,057m (left). Kamenny V and Bezimienny V (right).

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov. Ushkowsky V 3,943m and Krestowsky V 4,057m (left). Kamenny V and Bezimienny V (right).

The view of Plotsky and Ostry Tolbachik Volcano from the pass.

The view of Plotsky and Ostry Tolbachik Volcano from the pass.

Early morning on the Tolbachik Pass. We were lucky again to have such nice weather. The weather changed later that day and remained rainy and overcast for the rest of our stay in the park.

Early morning on the Tolbachik Pass. We were lucky again to have such nice weather. The weather changed later that day and remained rainy and overcast for the rest of our stay in the park.

Ushkovsky Volcano together with Krestovsky Volcano are the biggest volcanic massif in Kamchatka. It is 3,943m high and 4,057m high and the base is 70 x 40km.

Ushkovsky Volcano together with Krestovsky Volcano are the biggest volcanic massif in Kamchatka. It is 3,943m high and 4,057m high and the base is 70 x 40km.

I am standing on top of a small mound. The Udina Volcano towers in the distance. That day we hiked to its base some 15km away. The large open space had no water, yet it is covered with flowers and vegetation! We were looking for streams all day and could only find water from the snow melt at the base of the Udina Volcano. Apparently all water flows underground in the old lava channels. The porous volcanic rock is conducive to existence of underground rivers.

I am standing on top of a small mound. The Udina Volcano towers in the distance. That day we hiked to its base some 15km away. The large open space had no water, yet it is covered with flowers and vegetation! We were looking for streams all day and could only find water from the snow melt at the base of the Udina Volcano. Apparently all water flows underground in the old lava channels. The porous volcanic rock is conducive to existence of underground rivers.

As we went further away from the large volcanoes, we could see them better in their full majesty. Kamenny, Kluchewskaya and Bezimienny. Notice the 500m high dome of the Bezimienny Volcano that grew from the crater after the 1955 explosion.

As we went further away from the large volcanoes, we could see them better in their full majesty. Kamenny, Kluchewskaya and Bezimienny. Notice the 500m high dome of the Bezimienny Volcano that grew from the crater after the 1955 explosion.

Hiking down from the Tolbachik Pass.

Hiking down from the Tolbachik Pass.

Going towards the Udina Volcano. Our plan was to go for 8km but we ended up doing twice as much due to lack of water and a suitable camping spot.

Going towards the Udina Volcano. Our plan was to go for 8km but we ended up doing twice as much due to lack of water and a suitable camping spot.

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Fellow trekkers camping at the base of the Zimina Volcano.

Fellow trekkers camping at the base of the Zimina Volcano.

The Kamenny Volcano and the active Kluchewskaya.

The Kamenny Volcano and the active Kluchewskaya.

Volcano Bezimienny that we climbed, looks so small in front of the 4,500+ giants! The Bezimienny Volcano is very similar in its nature to Mt. St. Helen in Washington State, USA. Both had very similar explosive eruptions and both have large lava domes forming inside their craters. Volcanologists study the behavior of Bezimienny to predict the explosions of Mt. St. Helen. Volcano Bezimienny exploded on March 30, 1955 submerging the entire area in darkness. The cloud of ash rose to 45km and burned all trees in the 25km radius. The blast created a 700m deep crater 1.3 x 2.8km large. Over the past decade, the dome inside the crater rose to the height of 500m.

Volcano Bezimienny that we climbed, looks so small in front of the 4,500+ giants! The Bezimienny Volcano is very similar in its nature to Mt. St. Helen in Washington State, USA. Both had very similar explosive eruptions and both have large lava domes forming inside their craters. Volcanologists study the behavior of Bezimienny to predict the explosions of Mt. St. Helen. Volcano Bezimienny exploded on March 30, 1955 submerging the entire area in darkness. The cloud of ash rose to 45km and burned all trees in the 25km radius. The blast created a 700m deep crater 1.3 x 2.8km large. Over the past decade, the dome inside the crater rose to the height of 500m.

The 4,750m high Kluchewskaya Volcano is the largest volcano in Eurasia. It is the most powerful and most productive in Kamchatka. It erupts 60 million tons of rock per year! Powerful eruptions occur every 25 years. The volcano started growing from 1,700m 3,000 years ago. Now it is 4,750m high.

The 4,750m high Kluchewskaya Volcano is the largest volcano in Eurasia. It is the most powerful and most productive in Kamchatka. It erupts 60 million tons of rock per year! Powerful eruptions occur every 25 years. The volcano started growing from 1,700m 3,000 years ago. Now it is 4,750m high.

Taking it all in!

Taking it all in!

A dwarf species of rhododendron flower during the short summer.

A dwarf species of rhododendron flower during the short summer.

The base of the Udina Volcano and our camping spot for the day!

The base of the Udina Volcano and our camping spot for the day!

Another hut built by the Soviet volcanologists. Sadly, the old Soviet books from the hut are used as a fire starter. The hut provides extremely rustic shelter from the wind and rain.

Another hut built by the Soviet volcanologists. Sadly, the old Soviet books from the hut are used as a fire starter. The hut provides extremely rustic shelter from the wind and rain.

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These ground squirrels were everywhere and were unafraid of people. They were very plump!

These ground squirrels were everywhere and were unafraid of people. They were very plump!

Distant Sredinny Range one of the two main mountain ranges of the Kamchatka Peninsula. It is rugged and remote with no road access.

Distant Sredinny Range one of the two main mountain ranges of the Kamchatka Peninsula. It is rugged and remote with no road access.

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There are extensive fresh lava fields on the opposite side of the Tolbachik Volcano from where we started. They were formed during the 2012-2013 eruptions. The Tolbachik Volcano is the only volcano outside Hawaii that erupts through fissures and not from the main crater.

There are extensive fresh lava fields on the opposite side of the Tolbachik Volcano from where we started. They were formed during the 2012-2013 eruptions. The Tolbachik Volcano is the only volcano outside Hawaii that erupts through fissures and not from the main crater.

Small waterfall over red volcanic rock.

Small waterfall over red volcanic rock.

The exposed volcanic rock

The exposed volcanic rock

The Udina Volcano and the black soil of the Tolbachik lava fields.

The Udina Volcano and the black soil of the Tolbachik lava fields.

Hiking towards the Tolbachik Volcano.

Hiking towards the Tolbachik Volcano.

The basecamp of the Tolbachik Volcano is 100km away from the main road. It is accessible via an old logging track and many people come to climb the volcano. It is a desolate place without vegetation and is covered in volcanic dust and old lava. The wind here was so strong that it damaged two of our tents (one completely). The basecamp is also home to the “Inspector” - the Park warden.

The basecamp of the Tolbachik Volcano is 100km away from the main road. It is accessible via an old logging track and many people come to climb the volcano. It is a desolate place without vegetation and is covered in volcanic dust and old lava. The wind here was so strong that it damaged two of our tents (one completely). The basecamp is also home to the “Inspector” - the Park warden.

The Inspectos’s hut. One can obtain maps and commemorative pins. The inspector also collects fees for the use of the kitchen facilities by large groups.

The Inspectos’s hut. One can obtain maps and commemorative pins. The inspector also collects fees for the use of the kitchen facilities by large groups.

Our camp before the wind storm. The wind got so intense that I had to move my tent to a more sheltered spot. The small green tent got totally trashed by the wind.

Our camp before the wind storm. The wind got so intense that I had to move my tent to a more sheltered spot. The small green tent got totally trashed by the wind.

My tent taking a beating during the wind and rain storm. The lava rocks provided solid anchors as it was impossible to peg the tent in the volcanic sand. I was quite amazed that the tent withstood the onslaught while all the other tents got blown away or trashed. I was fully prepared for the poles to snap as the wind “flattened” the tent on top of me during the gusts.

My tent taking a beating during the wind and rain storm. The lava rocks provided solid anchors as it was impossible to peg the tent in the volcanic sand. I was quite amazed that the tent withstood the onslaught while all the other tents got blown away or trashed. I was fully prepared for the poles to snap as the wind “flattened” the tent on top of me during the gusts.

We spent the day exploring the extensive lava fields and old volcanic craters. It was all very fascinating! The cooled lava made wonderful formations. Some looked like coiled rope or roots of trees. We walked through lava caves and lava tubes. Many areas are still active and, in some places, the ground temperature is in excess of 100C!

We spent the day exploring the extensive lava fields and old volcanic craters. It was all very fascinating! The cooled lava made wonderful formations. Some looked like coiled rope or roots of trees. We walked through lava caves and lava tubes. Many areas are still active and, in some places, the ground temperature is in excess of 100C!

The edge of the lava flow. The lava moved very slowly and just “froze” once it cooled.

The edge of the lava flow. The lava moved very slowly and just “froze” once it cooled.

Wild lava formations

Wild lava formations

The volcanic plugs sticking from the field of ash.

The volcanic plugs sticking from the field of ash.

Fresh lava field. We were often walking on top of lava channels. I was concerned to break through. The lava is very sharp and hard and can cut through like a knife. It is also very easy to walk on as the surface is abrasive and provides excellent footing. The lava is black on top but has numerous shades of reds and browns underneath. It forms beautiful shapes like glass art. If placed in an art gallery, many people would not be able to guess what it was.

Fresh lava field. We were often walking on top of lava channels. I was concerned to break through. The lava is very sharp and hard and can cut through like a knife. It is also very easy to walk on as the surface is abrasive and provides excellent footing. The lava is black on top but has numerous shades of reds and browns underneath. It forms beautiful shapes like glass art. If placed in an art gallery, many people would not be able to guess what it was.

Negotiating the extensive lava fields. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

Negotiating the extensive lava fields. Photo by Evgeny Androssov.

When the color of lava was yellowish, it usually indicated a hot and active area. The ground was more brittle in those spots.

When the color of lava was yellowish, it usually indicated a hot and active area. The ground was more brittle in those spots.

The ground was hot enough to warm up and dry our wet gloves.

The ground was hot enough to warm up and dry our wet gloves.

Incredible lava formations.

Incredible lava formations.

The distant hills are the active volcanic craters that were the epicenter of the most recent eruption in 2012-2013.

The distant hills are the active volcanic craters that were the epicenter of the most recent eruption in 2012-2013.

Frozen lava

Frozen lava

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As the lava cooled the carbon exposed to oxygen remained black. Underneath the lava has different colours.

As the lava cooled the carbon exposed to oxygen remained black. Underneath the lava has different colours.

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Inside a volcanic bomb the lava is like a frozen sticky glue but hard like a rock.

Inside a volcanic bomb the lava is like a frozen sticky glue but hard like a rock.

Incredible colours of the volcanic rock near an active area.

Incredible colours of the volcanic rock near an active area.

Exploring lava caves - huge caverns that held liquid magma during the 2012-2013 eruptions.

Exploring lava caves - huge caverns that held liquid magma during the 2012-2013 eruptions.

Inside the lava cave.

Inside the lava cave.

Evgeny marching to the top of the lava crater. Notice the basecamp on the left.

Evgeny marching to the top of the lava crater. Notice the basecamp on the left.

The pumice rock is very light but walking uphill on it can be hard as it slides from under the feet.

The pumice rock is very light but walking uphill on it can be hard as it slides from under the feet.

Brittle volcanic rock. Still hot.

Brittle volcanic rock. Still hot.

The slopes of a volcanic crater. What an incredible place!

The slopes of a volcanic crater. What an incredible place!

Fresh volcanic crater. It is still hot!

Fresh volcanic crater. It is still hot!

Despite the rain, we really enjoyed exploring this area; it was a kaleidoscope of colors.

Despite the rain, we really enjoyed exploring this area; it was a kaleidoscope of colors.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov

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Many craters of the recent Tolbachik eruption. Notice David in a red jacket standing above the crater. It gives the sense of scale of the vastness of this area. In the distance is the Udina Volcano.

Many craters of the recent Tolbachik eruption. Notice David in a red jacket standing above the crater. It gives the sense of scale of the vastness of this area. In the distance is the Udina Volcano.

One of the craters.

One of the craters.

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The slopes of the Tolbachik Volcano obscured by the clouds. Poor weather and lack of visibility prevented us from going to the top although it was our plan.

The slopes of the Tolbachik Volcano obscured by the clouds. Poor weather and lack of visibility prevented us from going to the top although it was our plan.

The volcanic crater in front of the Tolbachik Volcano.

The volcanic crater in front of the Tolbachik Volcano.

Walking on ash created by the 2012-2013 eruptions.

Walking on ash created by the 2012-2013 eruptions.

Our final day of trekking. We walked through a volcanic desert. It truly felt as if we were on another planet. It was very desolate.

Our final day of trekking. We walked through a volcanic desert. It truly felt as if we were on another planet. It was very desolate.

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Like walking on another planet! This place of “nothing” went on for over 20km!

Like walking on another planet! This place of “nothing” went on for over 20km!

Just ash and volcanic sand - not a trace of vegetation is sight. This was completely different from the other side of the mountain.

Just ash and volcanic sand - not a trace of vegetation is sight. This was completely different from the other side of the mountain.

Massive volcanic bombs. Some of them were size of a small car! The crater above exploded in the 1970s. I hiked to the top of it and the crater is still active with smoke and hot areas.

Massive volcanic bombs. Some of them were size of a small car! The crater above exploded in the 1970s. I hiked to the top of it and the crater is still active with smoke and hot areas.

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We were waiting for Sergei, our driver, and I hiked up to the top of a volcanic cone next to the shelter. From the top, the desolate landscape spreads out as far as the eye can see. I hiked to the top to warm up as we are getting really cold in the mist and rain.

We were waiting for Sergei, our driver, and I hiked up to the top of a volcanic cone next to the shelter. From the top, the desolate landscape spreads out as far as the eye can see. I hiked to the top to warm up as we are getting really cold in the mist and rain.

Old Soviet “Zil” adapted to overland travel. According to the driver, there are not many original parts from the old truck left on it.

Old Soviet “Zil” adapted to overland travel. According to the driver, there are not many original parts from the old truck left on it.

Another volcanic lava flow from an old crater. This lava flow dates back to 1970s. It is old for us but very recent in geological terms.

Another volcanic lava flow from an old crater. This lava flow dates back to 1970s. It is old for us but very recent in geological terms.

Multitude of colours inside the volcanic crater.

Multitude of colours inside the volcanic crater.

A lava bomb

A lava bomb

Lava rocks and moss.

Lava rocks and moss.

Our final stop in the park was in the Dead Forest. The forest was killed by the volcanic eruption leaving only charred tree trunks. The life is returning though and the forest is regrowing.

Our final stop in the park was in the Dead Forest. The forest was killed by the volcanic eruption leaving only charred tree trunks. The life is returning though and the forest is regrowing.

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A wreck of a Soviet helicopter belonging to the Russian Academy of Science that crashed here in the 1970s.

A wreck of a Soviet helicopter belonging to the Russian Academy of Science that crashed here in the 1970s.

The Dead Forest

The Dead Forest

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Sergiey, a true Kamchatka man. He met us after our 10 day hike with beer, home baked salmon, samogon and other goodies! He knows a lot about Kamchatka, the geology of the land, the history and the stories of the people of the region. He can also drive through some pretty remote and obscure tracks that are almost fully overgrown by the Tajga. He is equipped for all eventualities. He had a chainsaw in his truck and used it to clear fallen trees from barely visible forest roads. He provided us with some good tips and suggestions. Thanks to him we saw places that otherwise we would not have visited.

Sergiey, a true Kamchatka man. He met us after our 10 day hike with beer, home baked salmon, samogon and other goodies! He knows a lot about Kamchatka, the geology of the land, the history and the stories of the people of the region. He can also drive through some pretty remote and obscure tracks that are almost fully overgrown by the Tajga. He is equipped for all eventualities. He had a chainsaw in his truck and used it to clear fallen trees from barely visible forest roads. He provided us with some good tips and suggestions. Thanks to him we saw places that otherwise we would not have visited.

A wall of lava advancing through the tajga. The lava is higher than the trees!

A wall of lava advancing through the tajga. The lava is higher than the trees!

Marveling at the extensive lava flow.

Marveling at the extensive lava flow.

Massive lava field

Massive lava field

Massive lava field dwarfing the forest. The height and volume of the lava is staggering.

Massive lava field dwarfing the forest. The height and volume of the lava is staggering.

The lava mowing down the forest just “froze” in its tracks. The eruption happened during winter and because of this, the forest did not burn down.

The lava mowing down the forest just “froze” in its tracks. The eruption happened during winter and because of this, the forest did not burn down.

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov of the massive lava field

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov of the massive lava field

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov - notice our car in the bottom centre

Drone photo by Evgeny Androssov - notice our car in the bottom centre

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Taiwan

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The most prominent historical landmark in Taiwan, the CKS Memorial Hall was erected in honor and memory of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the former President of the Republic of China, and was opened in 1980 as part of a national park and gathering area. The characters behind Chiang's statue read "Ethics", "Democracy", and "Science", and the inscriptions on the side read "The purpose of life is to improve the general life of humanity" and "The meaning of life is to create and sustain subsequent lives in the universe".

The most prominent historical landmark in Taiwan, the CKS Memorial Hall was erected in honor and memory of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the former President of the Republic of China, and was opened in 1980 as part of a national park and gathering area. The characters behind Chiang's statue read "Ethics", "Democracy", and "Science", and the inscriptions on the side read "The purpose of life is to improve the general life of humanity" and "The meaning of life is to create and sustain subsequent lives in the universe".

The name of the square is officially  Liberty Square (自由廣場) , as seen above the front gate, however the name change was politically motivated and most people in practice still refer to the entire complex as CKS Memorial Hall.

The name of the square is officially Liberty Square (自由廣場), as seen above the front gate, however the name change was politically motivated and most people in practice still refer to the entire complex as CKS Memorial Hall.

The name of the square is officially  Liberty Square (自由廣場) , as seen above the front gate, however the name change was politically motivated and most people in practice still refer to the entire complex as CKS Memorial Hall.

The name of the square is officially Liberty Square (自由廣場), as seen above the front gate, however the name change was politically motivated and most people in practice still refer to the entire complex as CKS Memorial Hall.

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The octagon-shaped white building rises 76 meters and is covered with blue tiles and red accents, echoing the flag of the Republic of China. The eight sides represent the Chinese cultural symbolism of the number eight which is traditionally associated with fortune and wealth. The two sets of 89 steps represent Chiang's age of death and lead up to main hall housing a large bronze statue of Chiang protected by military personnel which change hourly.

The octagon-shaped white building rises 76 meters and is covered with blue tiles and red accents, echoing the flag of the Republic of China. The eight sides represent the Chinese cultural symbolism of the number eight which is traditionally associated with fortune and wealth. The two sets of 89 steps represent Chiang's age of death and lead up to main hall housing a large bronze statue of Chiang protected by military personnel which change hourly.

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National Concert Hall

National Concert Hall

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Originally constructed in 1742 as a wooden shrine, the Bao'an Temple is a Taiwanese folk religion temple. Throughout Taiwan's history, the temple was renovated and reconstructed numerous times, leading to a 2003 induction into UNESCO for cultural heritage conservation.  Dedicated to the Taoist saint  Baosheng Dadi (保生大帝) , the 900 SQ METRE large temple faces south, in line with Feng-Shui practices, and houses the front, main, and rear halls, along with the east and west halls. The buildings also run from tallest to shortest in that order, in observance of Confucian principles. The temple also houses a drum tower.  Important architectural elements around the temple grounds include stone carvings, stone lions, dragon columns, stone bamboo windows, and wood, stone, and clay carvings.

Originally constructed in 1742 as a wooden shrine, the Bao'an Temple is a Taiwanese folk religion temple. Throughout Taiwan's history, the temple was renovated and reconstructed numerous times, leading to a 2003 induction into UNESCO for cultural heritage conservation.

Dedicated to the Taoist saint Baosheng Dadi (保生大帝), the 900 SQ METRE large temple faces south, in line with Feng-Shui practices, and houses the front, main, and rear halls, along with the east and west halls. The buildings also run from tallest to shortest in that order, in observance of Confucian principles. The temple also houses a drum tower.

Important architectural elements around the temple grounds include stone carvings, stone lions, dragon columns, stone bamboo windows, and wood, stone, and clay carvings.