Tag Archives: kamchatka-2021

Southern Kamchatka: two more king-‘canoes: Kizimen and Kronotsky.

Northern Kamchatka – done!

Time to slither further down the peninsula to its bottom end, where there are just as many outstanding volcanisms as in the north – if not more…

First stop – another spectacularly splendid volcano: Kizimen, situated some 70 kilometers south of Tolbachik. Austere in appearance; climbing it… no thank you, I’d rather not risk it. For example, here she is in March 2013:

Steep sides, and lots of fumaroles at the top where special protective clothing and gas masks would be needed.

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Greater Tolbachik: Northern Fissure, Dead Forest, and the ‘Star’ nano-volcano with lava tunnels.

One of the unique natural phenomena of mid-Kamchatka is Severniy Proriv – Northern Fissure – a site where, as a result of a ‘fissure’, or crack, which formed during the 1975-76 big eruption of Tolbachik, three symmetrical cones of volcanic slag were left behind.

Such fissures are a rather rare volcanic phenomenon, but this one was predicted by volcanologists based on their constant observations of seismic activity around these parts in the mid-seventies: in 1975 the frequency of earthquakes around Tolbachik sharply increased – which meant that somewhere nearby there was lava bubbling up nearer and nearer the earth’s surface. So an expedition of volcanologists was dispatched there, who were lucky enough to observe the eruption from the very start. As a result this eruption was very well-documented and on the internet there’s a mass of information about it – admittedly, mostly in Russian. Today, the three cones formed by the Severniy Proriv – now collectively called Severniy Proriv (are you keeping up?:) – are still there, and they’re three mega-beauts:

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Some do politics; I prefer the Tolbachiks!

Onward – down the volcanic spine of the Kamchatka peninsula

Next stop volcano – Tolbachik, similarly A-list just like Klyuschevskaya Sopka, Avachinsky (near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky), and Khodutka and Ilynsky in the south. I’ve been all around it, up and down and across it on five occasions, and it’s always one of two things – OMG-beautiful, or an OMG-ruthlessly harsh experience (due to the weather). It’s like… Russian roulette – will you actually see Tolbachik in all its grandiose glory, or will you see… not much besides fog and rain (aka – Kamchatkan mirages), and fairly freeze while you’re at it.

I’ve been to the very top of Tolbachik tree times out of my five visits, but more on that later. For now, some photos of this distinctive, magnificent, monumental volcano:

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Kamchatka-2021: more mirages – in Volcano Alley.

There’s a ‘Volcano Alley‘ (some translations put it as ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes‘) in Ecuador, which features around a dozen photogenic volcanoes, all of which are at least four kilometers in height. Been, seen, was impressed: a grandiose must-see location for any volcano fan worth their lava. Well, there’s a volcano alley/avenue in Kamchatka too, only here – true to Kamchatkan lack of development modesty – there’s no official title (actually, Ecuador’s isn’t really an official title, but it’s getting there). The heights of the volcanoes here can’t compare with the Ecuadorian ones, but the elegant gracefulness of the constructions – the cones, craters, surrounding vegetation and landscapes – is for sure on a par with that of their South American cousins:

The full length of the alley – some 50km – can be trekked at a steady pace in three to four days: from Bezymianny in the north, down to the southern slopes of Tolbachik:

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Kamchatka-2021: Martian fields and canyon-kunst.

After inspecting Bezymianny, and had our nerves pushed to the limit by a near-miss violent mudflow, it was time for us to head in the direction of Tolbachik volcano…

After eight kilometers of trekking we came to our first rest-stop, which happened to be on the (Kamchatkan) Field of Mars (not to be confused with another Field of Mars, in St. Petersburg). This Field of Mars is so named for its covering of volcanic slag, and also features lava constructions of all sorts of bizarre random shapes, plus (bonus!) a distinctive volcanic cone + crater:

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So, what exactly is a ‘Kamchatkan mirage’?

Why have I use the word ‘mirages‘ more than once already in this series of posts on our Kamchatka-2021 expedition?

Normally this word describes images on a horizon which aren’t really there. Simply an optical illusion: the eye seems to see what isn’t there. Something caused by the bending of rays of light in hot places with distant horizons, like deserts. However, in the case of ‘Kamchatkan mirages’ it’s all the other way round: on the horizon there is (as per a map, for example) a substantial, often uniquely beautiful and meditation-inducing natural geological object – like a volcano, it’s just you can’t see it, as if it simply isn’t there!

For example, the ‘collar’ of Bezymianny volcano is one such Kamchatkan mirage; at least, it was when we were looking for it this year…

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Kamchatka can be fun; Kamchatka can be frightening.

Volcanic landscapes are capriciously changeable…

For example, a beautiful volcano can stand pretty much unchanged for 100, 200 or 1000 years, and then ‘bang!’ – volcanic debris is flying in all directions, lava rivers flowing from volcanic vents, smoke bellowing several kilometers up into the sky, and the earth fairly shuddering. Well, that’s one scenario – the longer-term one.

There’s another scenario – of a shorter term (i.e., more regular), and of a much smaller scale. And such regular scenarios mean that a volcanic landscape can – and should – be returned to again and again: the picture you’ll be presented with is bound to be different somehow. For example, Bezymianny (which I told you all about in my previous post) has a gradually growing cone rising up inside its colossal crater ->

While from the other side, it looks like no changes at all:

But, when we look a bit closer, we did see a few changes of an unexpected kind…

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Kamchatka-2021: These volcanisms were made for walking, so that’s just what we did!

Sunset views of the Klyuchevsky group of volcanoes – done.

Aerial views of same (from a helicopter) – done.

Next up – walkies…

The route went something like this: heading southwest, and then west around Bezymianny volcano – known for its catastrophic eruption in 1956, which led to powerful pyroclastic flows (for those wondering what they are, and interested in learning about different types of eruptions – check out this link and other links below, included specially for the curious types among you).

And here she is – Bezymianny (Unnamed). The view from the southeast, which was the direction of the lateral blast of the eruption in 1956:

Though it’s been a full 65 years since that explosion, there’s still no vegetation on the volcanic landscape here today. The material spewed out of the bowels of the earth is probably simply too poisonous with assorted volcanic chemicals (too alkaline, or too acidic, or too much of this, that or the other…).

Read on…

Volcanoes in a row – one, two, three: it has to be… – Klyuchevsky!

Well, well. Here’s a first: I recently suffered a bout of writer’s block.

In the past, when I’d return from various exotic/meditative/emotionally-charged travels, tales (plus pics) from the adventure-tourism side would start to appear on this here blog of mine practically straight away. This time, however, I just couldn’t get my self going. The proverbial first step was indeed proving the hardest. Odd. I wondered why…

Well, first – I’d been to Kamchatka several times before, and duly written up series of reports on most of those trips. And I’m never one to go over the same ground: life’s too short for repeats!

Second – the weather on this year’s expedition around the peninsula was worse than usual – and it’s always mostly bad weather in Kamchatka! Sure, it could have been worse. It could have been a lot better too. Glass full or empty? I digress…

Third – due to the bad weather, I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked: I didn’t have much to show for a month-long tour.

Fourth – I committed a serious… pedagogical mistake: I agreed to take with me on the trip colleagues who weren’t quite prepared enough – neither morally nor physically. They’d read my previous expedition reports, and seen the photos, and so had long dreamed of joining me for a pop at the peninsula. However, instead of being able to gently ease themselves into all things extreme, severe and somewhat goddamn awful uncomfortable, they were thrown in at the deep end, for this year’s weather, as already mentioned, was mostly… goddamn awful – and most everything in Kamchatka depends on the weather. For this, I apologize sincerely to my colleagues who had a real tough time of it.

I finally put fingers to keyboard once I’d settled on the appropriate, doable, and – for me – most enjoyable format: a bit of a historical, encyclopedic, ‘all I know’ review of everything awesome I’ve experienced for myself in Kamchatka (so I’m not short on tales and pics due to this year’s deficit thereof). Oh, and any awesomenesses I’ve yet to experience I’ll save until having done so on future expeditions – of which there will be several, I hope!…

Well that was an (unexpectedly) long proviso-explaino intro, no?! So without more of a do, let me give you some snaps ->

That trio of voluptuous volcanoes are three of the total of 14 that make up the Klyuchevsky group of volcanoes. From left to right: Bezymianny (‘Unnamed’), Kamen (‘Rock’), and Klyuchevskaya Sopka. Kamen died out long ago, Bezymianny occasionally erupts violently, while Klyuchevskaya Sopka is so extremely active its peak doesn’t even have a constant height above sea level!

All righty. Lengthy intro text & intro pics – done. Next… everything I’ve seen in Kamchatka. No pressure…

Read on…