Extract from “Kamchatka Journeys: Joyous Adventures to Protected Places” by Gregory Sedov
Gregory Sedov is a Kamchatka traveler who loves to explore new places in this unique part of Earth. He works for a local Kamchatka tourist company.
In summer, we made a decision to conquer active Plosky or “Flat” Tolbachik Volcano. We were told that it’s eruption had already stopped, and we intended to find out. We carefully prepared for the trip: we took a 6-wheeler ATV, bought some provision, and hired a professional guide. At first, nothing seemed to threaten our journey.
Tolbachik is about 500 km from Petropavlovsk. We left on Friday evening and arrived on Saturday afternoon. After the arrival we camped, set up the tents, and made a campfire. Kamchatka weather hailed the travelers with rain, fog, and wind. However, it didn’t spoil our mood. The next morning, we reached Yuzhny Proryv or “Southern Break” – lava streams remaining from previous eruptions. The whole day we enjoyed the unique mosaic of plants, rocks, and lava caves. It looked like the moonscape had from a futurists’ paintings. The guide showed us the area where such space equipment like the moon and Mars rovers, and the Venus ATV, were tested. The day was full of positive emotions. Actually, everything was too good on that day…
After a 15 kilometer cross-country hike, we returned to the base camp. Later that evening, the guide unexpectedly suggested ascending the cone to see if there was any volcanic activity as the bright lava glow can easily be seen at night. Six of the most curious volunteered for the chance. The guide assured us that the ascent and decent would not take more than 3 hours. As it turned out later, we put too much trust in the guide.
We left the camp and took a trail, quickly climbed along the hardened lava flow, crossed it, and reached the cone. A majestic view opened before us – the crater was spattering fiery streams of magma from the bosom of the earth; the explosions vibrated the slag under our feet, and clouds of sulfur rose in the air. All this amazed us. We took some photos of ourselves against the slope and soon began to descend. Then true adventures started…
A thick fog suddenly appeared from nowhere. We lost the trail and, as it turned out later, took the wrong turn. Having realized our difficult situation, we tried to find the trail making stops and resuming the walk. Several times we ran into an impassible rock wall. The trail, as if in a frightening tale, completely disappeared! We started arguing about the right way. Everybody made completely opposite suggestions.
All of a sudden, the sky became clear for an instant, and we saw a flash of red light at the far top and heard a distant roaring. It was the crater. After this “message” we reconfirmed our decision, turned round, and slowly began our next ascent on that crazy day. From time to time we turned the torches off in complete darkness and looked forward to another eruption, which signaled us the right way, and kept on crawling up. Some of us were encouraged by the idea that the rescue team from the base camp might be waiting on the warm cinder top of the cone.
By the morning we had reached the top of Tolbachik and later found the trail. It looked like nature took pity on us clearing up the star-spattered sky and showing a young crescent moon from behind the mountains. Occasionally checking our way, we had returned to the base camp by 6 a.m. absolutely worn out, where the other people were sleeping in peace. We experienced all delights associated with mountaineering – the night ascent to the active volcano, a search for the way back in the fog, communication with mountain climbers and so on. We are looking forward to next year ascending Kluchevskaya Sopka Volcano!
This extract was published with permission from author Gregory Sedov.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Useful Links & Resources:
- Alaska – Russian Far East Flights: Direct, non-stop air service between Alaska and Kamchatka.
- Everything You Need to Know About Russian Visas.
- Check Kamchatka Travel Portal. It provides a wealth of information about many local activities, restaurants, hotels, and more.
Interviews and articles about Kamchatka & The Russian Far East you might like:
- The Ichanga River: An Epic Kamchatka Fly Fishing Adventure.
- Interview with Secret Compass’ Phil de Berger: Life on an Adventure Expedition in Kamchatka, Russia.
- Interview with Rene Limeres: On Kamchatka, Writing and Fishing.
- Adventures in The Russian Far East: Interview with Vadim Mamontov, Director & Founder of RussiaDiscovery Travel Company
- Alaskan’s Adventures in Kamchatka: Interview with Scott McMurren
- How Was Your Trip to Kamchatka? Traveler Janet Read Answers Our Questions
- Interview with Michael Schneider, Adventurer & Founder of 56th Parallel
- Questions with Martha Madsen: Adventure Travel Specialist on Kamchatka, Russia