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Round Tolbachik volcano in 10 days

From "Kamchatka Live" travel company

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The route

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky - Kozyrevsk - Leningradka - Alaid cone - wood house on Tolud river - Tolud pass - Tolbachinsky pass - Jupiter crater - Plotina pass - wood house Plotina - Bezymyanny pass - Barany stream - "Table" - Kozyrevsk - Esso - Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

duration: 13 days
duration of footpath part: 10 days
passed distance: about 75 km

From "Kamchatka travel guide-book":

"Kluchevskoy park is a vast territory... in the middle there is Kluchevskaya group of volcanoes - the most majestic and the most active in Eurasia. It contains 12 volcanoes that forms a huge mountain range with summits from 1000 to 4750 metres above sea level."

"For tourists Kluchevskaya volcano range undoubtedly is one of the most interesting places in Kamchatka. The highest mountains of the peninsula, the biggest glaciers and the most active volcanoes gathered on relatively small territory."

"... any travelling group coluld select a route in the park according to their abilities - on any volcano or round them. Travellers have a great opportunity to find many interesting and fascinating routes in this region. … In differense to other parts of the park, region of the Big Tolbachik Crack Erruption is available for tourists of any ages, there is no need in any special equipment or skills."

Day 1

Departure from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky "10th kilometre" bus station at 8-00 - the bus "Petropavlovsk - Kluchi — Ust-Kamchatsk". The route is owned by "Optimus" company, the bus departs every day, it is necessary to purchase tickets in advance at the bus station ticket office (3-5 days before departure). The bus is rather small, for about 30 passengers, comfortable, with high soft seats and certains.

We are the three going to try a new route - I (Pavlin), Dima and Andrew, fourth grade students of the Moscow State University. It's Andrew's first time in Kamchatka, last summer Dima was on Mutnovsky volcano and in Nalychevo park. I've been staying on the peninsula almost every summer for many years, but travel of such type is new even to me and we are a little bit frightened.

The target of our travel is to see the volcanic desert, that was formed as a result of Big Tolbachik Crack Erruption in 1975, and to walk around Tolbachik volcano in order to admire the most majestic group of volcanoes in Kamchatka - Kluchevskoy, Kamen, Bezymyanny, Ploskaya Blijnaya, Ploskaya Dalnaya, Zimina, Udina. We learned some tourist reports about this region preliminarily and we planned to be guided using GPS with two kilometres map (we purchased it in Petropavlovsk for 1000 rubles) and some key waypoints.

The road to Kozyrevsk is rather exhausting - it takes nine hours, seven of them by the dirt road. At about 12 we have dinner in Milkovo dining hall. Right near Kozyrevsk we cross Kamchatka river by ferry.

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In 15 minutes after the river crossing the bus arrives to Kozyrevsk (it's about 17-30).
Here a local driver Nikolay Bytrimenko is waiting for us. As I know Nikolay is one of the two drivers in Kozyrevsk who delivers tourists to Tolbachik region. He owns an off-road vehical "Ural", two minibuses and a hotel for 10 guests. It takes three hours to get to the starting point of our route — "Leningradskaya" volcanologiests station. This road can only be passed by a vehicle like Nikolay's Ural. But the vehicle is not enough - to pass the road you also need to have some special knoledge and skill. For example, you need to cross Studennaya river. Later we find out that next day a driver from Petropavlovsk get stuck in it. Nikolay have been driving along this road for more than 10 years and it seems that he knows every turn of it. Of course he delivers you to the right place, but moreover during all three hours he will be speaking without any pauses about interesting and sometimes suprising things - a lot of inforamtion, useful and not very useful, diluted by jokes (which are indecorous and very indecorous). For example, I learned that there is a settlement of ancient human (it is about 10 thousand years old, so there were people in Kamchatka before Egyptian pyramids had been built), that tarbagan's meat is medicinal, that the road to the "Table" was constracted by locals many hundred years ago in some mystic way - it goes through the thick forest dodging and wiggling, but its constructors haven't cut any trees - there are no stumps at all!
In addition we get a confirmation that it is possible to drive away from the peninsula by car, and such event took place in reality. For those who is not informed - there are no roads from the peninsula to the continent, human settlements are very rare, distances are great, there is no fuel, etc.).

On the way to Tolbachik we saw many bear's fresh tracks, there are really many bears here. Suddenly in 80 metres in front of the vehical we found out a deer - he was standing quietly - but at the time I was turning around to call Dima and Andrey the deer dissapeared. Than we met Kamaz vehical that was mooving back to Kozyrevsk, it delivered to Leningradskaya a German group. As we find out later, this German group significantly influenced us.

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Except Nikolay's stories the road is depressing - low clouds, rain, cold, of couse we can't see any volcanoes and little by little the forest is getting thiner and is turning into miserable volcanic desert. Considering that except Nikolay our group consists only from three men, the situation looks like a nice beggining for a cheap horror movie.

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Now, it's 9 p.m. and at last we arrive to Leningradskaya station of volcanologiests. It's raining and very cold.

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I am trying to find a place in the wood house - may be we are lucky and there will no need to stay outside. The first floor is occupied by German group, on the second floor I find Balts, although they have free space they behave themselves very unpleasant. This conflict we will remember for many times during our journey.

In the second house we find a dinning room, and in the third little house - kitchen with a stove. Russians from the travel company serving German group are having supper - six porters (alpinists from "Kuth" club), two cooks (Raya and Ksusha), interpreter Lena and guide
Alexandr Bichenko (!!! I will say some words about him later). At once they offers us wonderfull fish soup!!! We find out that their route is almost the same as ours - they also are going round Tolbachik and the car is waiting for them near the "Table" two days before Nikolay is taking us away.

Andrew sleeps with Germans in a house with leaking roof - as a result he sleeps really bad. Dima and I stay on the kitchen floor with cooks - the heat from stove is a great thing! The roof is also leaking, it's raining through all the night.

Day 2

The weather is not going to be improves. Fog, zero visibility. In case of Germans - as they paid monye for the tour and the plan contains Plosky Tolbachik ascent - they have to ascend. But half of them decides not to go — others starts ascending with Alexandr Bychenko and alpinists. We decide not to join them and we will never regret about this decision. In the evening alpinists will say "the most boring mountain in the world, we saw nothing except fog". Volcano ascent in such weather
brings satisfaction to very few travellers in the world. According to our plan we must go radially to Gorshkova cone (it's also called "the Second" or "Hot") and Dead Forest, but we are still a little bit shocked by the disgusting weather, and we just manage to have a four-hours walk to the first Alaid cone, we ascend it and have a look at surroundings.

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The surroundings are very unusual, they could be called even beautiful: somewhere slag of different colors and some strange vegetation forms interesting pictures - circles or roads or carefully organized suburban settlement. There are also many grasshoppers, on Alaid slopes we even saw a hare, what was he doing in this desert - nobody advanced any reasonable answer.

At this moment cooks informed us that Alexandr Bychenko is one of the most famouse travellers in Kamchatka - he arranged numerous trips in Kamchatka and ascents on peaks of different continents, and in 2007 he reached the Everest summit (as a member of expedition from Kamchatka). After our trip round Tolbachik, while walking in the centre of Petropavlovsk, we found a DVD-film about that expedition - it's very well shot and edited. Bychenko have been travelled to Tolbachik region for many times and he showed us some secret places on this route - for example, a spring between Mars crater and Barany stream (there is no water on this part of the route), a lake in kilometre from the "Table" (there are also troubles with water there), waterfalls near house on Tolud river. Moreover, now well known lava caves to the south from the third cone of the Northen Brake were discovered by him.

It's crowded on Leningradskaya this day - a new Ukrain group came, and there is one more camp near ours. Ukrain group has grandiose plans - they are going to asdend Kluchevskoy volcano concerning that they have 20 people and not all of them are well trained, just before this trip they travelled to Avachinsky volcano and someone even couldn't ascend its summit. In the evening we gather in the kitchen to discuss our plans, A.Bychenko tells and points at the map all details of the route, and gives an advise to restrict to looking around the glacier and not to ascend Kluchevskoy. The head of Ukrain group turns out to be an experienced one - he persuades the group not to take unnecessary risk. But next morning the most impatient youth protest agains this decision - "Why we are not going to Kluchevskoy?"

That day we had a deel with cooks, we changed two tins of saury on a half of frying pen of minced meat, the initiative was theirs. And through all days of our travel we had been giving some food to each other. As you might understood, we decided to join the German group and go with them to the finish of the trip. Concerning our experience and weather conditions in such a situation another decision would seem unreasonable.

For a night we stay in a tent with a fortification of stones around it. Slag is everywhere - in clothes, shoes, tent, sleeping bag, between teeth...

Day 3

Mooving in the direction of Tolud pass, we are going through the desert, the weather is still bad. It seems that it would be very difficult to travel here without GPS.

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In two kilometres from our target little by little the grass is appearing.

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And finally - our tents are in front of the house on Tolud river. In theory from this point of the route we should see a magnificent view of Ovalnaya Zimina volcano, but we know this only from stories.

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There are no problems with water, much berry, but no firewood - may be some little roots. The next day we are promised to see many bears. Experienced travellers are saying that there are plenty of them on Tolud pass. We are eating vacuum-dried puree with summer sausage, which we have taken with us in huge amounts, and with some brave Germans and A.Bychenko departing to see waterfalls. The bravery is nesessary because we have to pass a kilometre of extremely wet grass - I finnaly got my feet wet, and during the trip I had no chance to get them dry and I had to change them on rubber boots (a great device!).

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Day 4

In the morning we are crossing Tolud river and climbing Tolud pass. We are mooving up by a wide grassy and inclined slope and it takes us about three hours. On the top of the pass Germans are having dinner. There is no descent from the pass - we are appearing in the wide plateau. Now we must be surrounded by three volcanoes but we have no chance to check this statement. The plateau is crossed by many dry and not comletely dry channels, there are many mushrooms - we gathered enough for the soup.

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In about two hours from Tolud path we are coming to a lake which is on the right from the straight way to Tolbachinsky pass. It's clear that there are no firewood, we are cooking on gas. By the way, two big Kovea gas bottles (450ml) were enough for all the trip, and we didn't economize. And Germans' cooks used other Korean gas bottles.

As usual it's very cold, so in the evening we are lying in the tent and enjoying hot tea. Then alpinist gyes came and told us some fascinating stories - about the Black Alpinist from Kozelsky volcano, about the goust of the woman in red ski suit, who died on Avachinsky volcano and who are sometimes seen coming down from its slope. Boris narrated a stirring story which began like this:
"One autumn day I had nothing to do. And I thought to myself - why not to go alone to Nalychevo?" Really, why not? And he went. He was speaking about how he frightened the inspector in the central cordon and how he stayed for a night alone on Semyonovsky cordon and at five o'clock in the morning he had a vision of a man walking in front of the window. So, there was much fun. Suddenly Udina volcano appeared - it was the first volcano that we saw in our trip! So we ran to call the Germans, they got out of their tents, for some unknown reason stood in a line and seemed to be completely happy looking at the volcano. From time to time it was dissapearing behind the clouds but when it could be seen again Germans were clapping and shouting "Heeeey!".

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Then we got some more stories from the "Kuth" alpinist club members.

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Day 5

Today we are climbing at Tolbachinsky pass. As Tolud pass it takes about three hours to get to the top, but it is more abrubt than than Tolud, although there is also nothing difficult. Water could be found everywhere right to the top. Before the start of ascending there are plantations of berry - bog bilberry and shiksha. Bog bilberry is very tasty, but at this place it's not very big and a little bit green. The best berry we found later on Barany stream.

On the way to the pass we occasionally see different parts of Zimina volcano. As usual on the top of the pass we found cold sharp wind.

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On the other side of the pass there is a slight descent and terrain changes significantly. One more time we appeared on some differnt planet - slag cones, lava fields and rocks. I believe that this place is the most impressive and memorizable on the route - it's difficult to move the sight away, very beautifull, unusual and mysterious.

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We settled a camp not far than in two kilometres from the pass. I said that previously it was always cold, but at this place I even can't find words to describe how cold it was, the height was also felt - about 1450 metres above sea level. Washing a hand in the stream was like a deed, though one of the alpinists even could to somehow take a shower.

Now if we still didn't see any volcanoes, at least we could here them. Before the beginning of our trip we heard about serious Bezymyanny volcano activity. Sometimes we saw a strong column of steam/gas/smoke from its crater and heard loud roar.

In the evening just before the sunset the clouds have dispersed a little. We ran on the rock to see Ostry Tolbachik for the first time, some of us even forgot to put on their shoes and ran in slippers. The view was magnificent! The sun had already fallen beneath the horizon, it was getting dark, but covered with snow Zimina volcano got free from clouds for twenty minutes and got flooded with light - the illumination was just excellent! Than we also saw a sunset over Tolbachik.

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Day 6

Today according to the plan German group should go radially to Plotina house. So far we almost became friends with them and finally decided to follow the group untill the end. The weather was the same - clouds, wind, rain and cold. We are climbing at Plotina pass, on the other side there is a lake. Here A.Bychenko tells Germans about Bezymyanny volcano - it is very active, the most powerfull erruption of the 20th centure happened right here, furthemore at the moment of the eruption the volcano had been concerned as an extinct one, eight kilometres to the east from volcano a huge volcanic bomb more than 10 metres in diameter was found.

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From time to time we here roar from somewhere around Bezymaynny. I found strong aassociations with pictures of Orodruin mount from a well-known movie - some places look like theirs in the movie. I and Dima are serious connoisseurs of the movie and during this travel we found many places that looked like that was shot in it. Sometimes it seemed that they were shot right here and not in New Zealand.

Near Plotina house we were dazzled by shuttlecocking susliks (we call them "evrajki") - they are running, fighting and pushing one another, and of course they eat everything you'll give them. We crumbled a quarter of a loaf of bread and they were eating it for about ten minutes. At this time Germans surrounded them and took many photos.

A.Bychenko offered us to "run" on Bezymyanny and back but concerning its activity and very slight visibility in the fog we refused. By the way as we heard previously there really is an easy way to the triangulation on Zimina slope from Plotina house - there must be a great view on Kluchevskoy and its neighbours.

We are going back through Bezymyanny pass, having a look at Polennica - rocks looking like a conglomeration of logs, and completed the circle arriving at our camp.

Day 7

We are mooving to the finishing point of our route - to the "Table" near "Kopyto" mount. As in all previous days we have to pass about 15 kilometres. At first we are going across lava fields. Then we see a tarbagan lying on the stone, walk along a dry riverbed of Razmyvochny stream. After seven kilometres we got to one of the few springs in this region - there we had dinner. While we were preparing for the dinner, a bear appeared in 150 metres from us. He was peacefully grazing for five minutes then we scared him away. This day occured reach of bears! Throughout the trip we have seen only six bears and all of them we met this day. We were following one of the bears for about half an hour - he didn't give us much attention. Here we found fruitful fields of ripe berry. At this moment bog bilberry got competely ripe and undoubtedly bears knew that! Thats why they all gathered there. It was normal to eat berry up to ten minutes on one place, just turning around youself!

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Slightly turning to the left from our route we got to a canyon where Razmyvochny stream flows into Studennaya river. Canyon is a deep one - about 10 metres. It's possible to get into it from behind but our alpinists concerned this variant as abusive and got into canyon from the front side where they had to climb down in a high gorge, then they helped the others to repeat their action.

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So we get into the canyon, while we are walking, looking around, suddenly we hear some load noise, roar! A.Bychenko is crying "Run!". Germans are running, one of them push another on the rock and he brakes expensive lens. We are running out of the canyon from the opposite side and see water flowing away from it! Where we were five minutes ago there is a waterfall now! The noise occured just when water got into gates of the canyon. Fortunately nobody hurted.

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From the canyon we are walking for two more hours. Overnight stay on Barany stream. We are about five kilometres from the "Table". Today for the first time we have a fire! And for the first time there is clear sky full of stars. A.Bychenko is saying that the weather will be nice tomorrow. Well, he had been saying it almost every day during our trip but this day he didn't mistaken!

Day 8

We get up at six o'clock in the morning in order to see sunrise. And for the first time there is really something to look at! We can view Bezymyanny and Kamen!

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Today we part with the German group. They are taken away by the vehicle and don't have enough space for us. So we stay here for two more days waiting for our driver - Nikolay. We leave our camp of one tent on Barany and accompany the group to explore the way (as we understand later this decision was a correct one). We are crossing a dry Barrany stream. It seems to be a powerfull one in the season - we found there dry waterfalls up to 20 metres height. Then we ascend a small hill and get on a pleteau cut by many ravines. We pass five kilometres and arrive to a lake. Here the rut is clearly distinguishable, indeed it appears even earlier, in about three kilometres from the "Table". The finish is near and we say goodbye to the group and turn back to our camp. We have been travelling with a group of thirty people for a week, so it's very sad now to walk for our group of three across spaces which look like infinite. Moreover fog is comming down...

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Day 9

In the morning the weather is nice. So we get up early and move to watch interesting rocks (they are called "dayki") - we heard about them from Nikolay and A.Bychenko. Dayki look like Polennica but we think that thay are even more interesting. We are moving along Barany stream down in the direction of rocks passing the edelweiss glade.

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There is no footpath but we found footprints of a small group who was there recently. It looks like it is possible to get to the "Table" this way without ascending the hill. At first we are going across grass, then through bushes and along a dry stream, but there we have to avoid some high dry waterfalls. After passing about four kilimetres we get to the rocks. They are very beautiful! Every from three to five minutes some stones begin falling down from almost vertical slopes forming little rockfalls. We pass a killometre along the rocks up to a different rock formation that looks like Polennica but from vertical logs. Right beneath it there is a dry canyon. It seems that in the right season it is filled with water which undercuts the bank and helps it collapsing in such an interesting way.

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At 3 p.m we are in the camp, a slight dinner and departure to the "Table". On the road we are caught by very tight fog, without GPS we had now chance to get out. We decided to stay for a night
on the lake - may be there will be no clouds in the morning and we will have chance to see volcanoes. But it was raining throughout the night and there was no view.

Day 10

We got to the point in an hour. About five hundred metres from the "Table" we saw our orange vehicle!! The jouney is succesfully finished! We arrive at Kozyrevsk, Nikolay changes his Ural on minibus and in three hours we are in Esso - shop, hotel and a swimming pool are waiting for us!!!

Resume

We haven't passed all route according to our plan, we haven't seen most sights because of the weather. But we finished the route without loss, got very usefull expirience, explored the route, got satisfied from interaction with such nature, some nice photos and ... usefull meetings!

More photos and information you get get from http://www.inkamchatka.com.

Posted by KamLive 02:52 Archived in Russia Tagged ecotourism

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