Terra Incognita. Southern Kamchatkan volcanoes: Kambalny.

Though Kamchatka isn’t the most well-known or accessible tourist destination in the world, it still has more than its fair share of ‘touristic meccas’, like the Valley of the Geysers, Tolbachik (especially during an eruption), and the Mutnovsky and Goreliy volcanoes. But it also has less-visited attractions too, for example the Ksudach volcano. Then there are places where a bear‘s paw print in the mud is observed without the slightest increase in heartbeat – as it would be just one among thousands of bear paw prints. And the sight of a human’s boot print similarly calls up zero emotions – as you see humans’ boot prints… never! For no one lives in such places, and only one or two groups of tourists visit… per year! These places are utterly barren, desolate, deserted and silent: Terra Incognita!

Oh, what a shame. For these incognito lands are all must-see! 

Two such must-see spots on Kamchatka’s Terra Incognita are the two volcanoes Kambalny and Koshelev.

Alas, we didn’t climb up to the very top of their crater rims as our schedule wouldn’t permit it. We settled instead for strolling about the area, and in doing so worked out our plan for the next Kambalny/Koshelev visit: to walk from Pauzhetka to Kambalny, then down to Kambalny Lake, and then… we’ll just have to see how much energy is left for onward volcano climbing…

Kambalny is a volcano 2161 meters high, but it also has a volcanic ridge some 15km long, which goes straight from north to south right in the middle of lower Kamchatka – directly between the Sea of Okhotsk and Kurile Lake.




Oh my gorgeous. Fantastical spectacles…

Black rock, red rock, yellow rock, white rock; hills; volcanic cones; panoramic landscapes that go on forever. Over there to the left – the Sea of Okhotsk, over there to the right – Kurile Lake, and behind it on the horizon the Zheltovsky and Ilyinsky volcanoes (~25 and 40 kilometers away, respectively). What can I say? Nothing! This needs to be witnessed in the (bareback!) flesh. With one proviso: it needs to be sunny. If overcast (like for most of the year) you can’t see a thing.

The multi-colored rocks – out of this world!

And here they are, the beauts, volcanoes Kambalny and Koshelev, in person :).



As you stroll along, occasionally you come across different forms of volcanism: hissing, bubbling, burping, and the unmistakable whiff of underground boiling water…



…Hot springs! Inevitable really…

This place – one time long ago a geological research outpost or some such – is called Yuzhny Domik (Southern Cabin), but there’s not much left of it apart from a half-rotten plank that once served as a path, some rusty old iron and shattered glass.


The stream is perfect for a spot of meditative relaxation. Most refreshing…

We got up to the peak of the range from the Pauzhetka side. That’s around 800 meters up vertically – with backpacks. Ouch! Then up another 200 meters in altitude after that, then another 10-15km walking. Oh yes. This day was very demanding physically, made all the more so as it’s hardly all smooth urban paths here with steps and benches; sometimes the slopes are steep and it’s loose rock underfoot. So, for the habitually office-bound pen-pushers, just make sure you put plenty of stamina training in beforehand should you ever plan on coming to Terra Incognita.

Another warning: if you check out Terra Incognita with just backpacks, you’ll fit in a comprehensive walk/climb into your day. But if you take your camera with you, your walking/climbing needs to shift up a gear – since you’re forever stopping to take pics, and that’s even if you’ve been here several times before!



The sunset over the Sea of Okhotsk…: superlative.

Check out the third pic below. Yes: BEAR! On his way down to the lake for his dinner – heading directly towards our camp!! The evening peace and harmony was thus rudely interrupted by our noisy shouting to shoo the beast back down the valley!

I’d long dreamed of trekking around Kambalny. And finally, we did it!

All the photos from Kambalny are here. Next up from Terra Incognita: Koshelev volcano…

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