Vilyuchinsky Volcano’s regular cone, visible across Avacha Bay from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, even from a distance stirs ones imagination with its majesty and splendor. Dazzling white in winter or grey and white from alternate lines of rock edges and snow paths in summer, Viluchinsky is a true gem of Avacha Bay. Its view is set off by steam pillars, produced by two neighboring volcanoes: Mutnovsky and Gorely. The latter is a bit smaller in size…
For a closer look at the three giants, one should go there by car. The paved road to Mutnovskaya Geothermal Power Station suddenly gives way to a rough gravel road after passing Thermalny village in the Yelizovo District. The village is reachable by bus or by regular minivan. From the village the gravel road runs 30 km along the power
line and past holiday camps with thermal water to Viluchinsky Waterfall. The waterfall is the starting point of the journey.
Then, across Viluchinsky Pass, the road comes to a spacious volcanic plateau. Finally, thirty kilometers after the beautiful waterfall, the road takes a turn through the valley of Gorely Volcano to Asachinsky Field. Ten kilometers later emerges a check point of Mutnovskaya Geothermal Power Station, the oldest geothermal power station, using the Earth’s heat. From the check point one can reach Mutnovsky Volcano and its vicinities on foot.
Viluchinsky Volcano is extinct, showing no signs of seismic activity. It hasn’t erupted for three thousand years, so far. Deep furrows radiate from the top of the volcano with the cone cut to the west – the evidence of past mud and lava flows. The small crater on the northern slope is rimmed by lava outliers. At the piedmont is a small scenic waterfall; the top overlooks a panoramic view of Avacha Bay. To stroll about the picturesque slopes of iluchinsky, one should, first, climb up the left side of the canyon by steep scree rocks, immediately before the waterfall, and then follow snow paths, bypassing the mountain slope and finally coming to grass patches. In summer, the ascent to the top begins along the northwest slope to the rocky belt in the central part, which can be passed along the central couloirs, edged by vertical rocks. The trek takes 5-6 hours. Note that one must have safety equipment to walk on snow paths and ice!
In early summer, when Viluchinsky is still covered with snow, a winter trekking route is still available along the northeast ridge: the rocky ridge is visible and leads right to the top. However, when the snow melts, the rocks of the ruined ridge sprawl out, making it dangerous to walk.
Gorely (or Burnt) consists of two big structures: an ancient shield volcano, the top of which is crowned with a 13 kilometer caldera, and a modern stratovolcano. The modern structure occupies 150 square km and is situated in the caldera’s center. Its top is rimmed with a chain of craters, and its slopes have about 30 hornitos. The ancient volcanic structure with the area of 650 square km is very peculiar. Its gentle slopes stretch south to the Paratunka headwaters, while in the northeast – to the sources of the Zhirovaya River, in the east – to the Falshivaya or False and Vulkannaya or Volcano Rivers, in the south – to the northern slopes of Asatcha Volcano and in the west to Tolmachiov Dale. The odd relief resembles moonscape with almost zero vegetation or animal life. Gorely is very active: there are many fumaroles and a lake in one of the main craters with water just below boiling point. The volcano intermittently ejects steam-gas columns up to three kilometers. The height of Gorely is 1.82 km. It has 11 craters. Since observations began, the longest period of dormancy has been 60 years. On average, it erupts every 19 years. When the last eruption occurred in 1984-86, a thick black ash trail stretched to Petropavlovsk across Avacha Bay. The city was showered with heavy ash falls.
Trekking up Gorely is an interesting hike for both experienced mountaineers and people who can walk up a steep trail to view this very picturesque volcano. The road, which runs at the altitude of one thousand meters above the sea level, leads to all craters and numerous accessible ridges. The spectacular vista of multicolored streams of lava, fanciful pyroplastic outliers, and rocky steeps of the craters can impress everyone. To the west of the volcano, up to the Tolmachovskoye Reservoir, extends a lifeless lava field. By the way, the first Soviet Lunakhod (moon rover) was tested here.
Mutnovsky is an ancient volcano. This gigantic mountain consists of four merged cones, whose tops have been destroyed to various degree by volcanic activity. Two partially overlapping craters, which resemble the digit “8,” emerged on the western slopes of the massif a thousand years ago. They are 1.5-2 kilometers in diameter and 300 to 600 meters deep. All modern craters have merged into one crater, containing a rugged glacier on its southern slope and numerous fumarole fields. The external slopes also abound in fumaroles and thermal water outlets. The steaming gas vents in the crater are encrusted with volcanic sulfur, sometimes forming domelike structures
2.5 meters high and up to 5 meters in diameter. The area close to the Vulkannaya River contains water wells
and mud cauldrons. As for the river, it makes its way through the western slopes of the northern crater and ends in an 80-meter high waterfall, forming a deep canyon – Ovrag Opasny or Dangerous Canyon. Both the waterfall and the canyon add zest to the view of the volcano, and along with other criteria make the latter a world natural monument.
The serpentine, which starts on the territory of Mutnovskaya Geothermal Power Station between its main
building and Utinnye Istochniki or Duck Springs Lake, runs along Skalistaya or Rocky and Dvugorbaya or Double-
Peak Mountains to a spacious pass, located between Dvugorbaya and Mutnovsky Volcano. A trail leading southwest to Dangerous Canyon in bypass of Otkhodiaschy Ridge starts here. With the waterfall left behind, one
can rise to the glacier in the largest crater by the snow paths, lying in a chasm. Then in bypass of vigorous fumaroles, one can get to the upper active crater with the glacial lake by walking along the ridge above the river.
The trek to Mutnovsky Volcano does not have any class of difficulty. Nevertheless, one should not risk and go there unfit or without an experienced guide.
Before going to any volcano, it is strongly recommended to register at the local Ministry of Emergency!
This article was published with permission from Kamchatka Explore Magazine. Author: Ivan Fomin