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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Kamchatka, Russia - 15 July, 2003



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Tolbachick Base Camp at Lunakhodchikov N5544.368' E16016.765' 1,190 meters .
Summit of Second Cone of Tolbachick N5541.311' E16014.740' 1,206 meters .
Finish Tolbachick Base Camp at Lunakhodchikov N5544.368' E16016.765' 1,190 meters 14 km (by foot)

Total (by train):

766 km

Total (Kamchatka):

534 km

Total (other):

139 km


1,439 km


Weather: Clear, sunny and very hot with a cool wind.  In the mid-afternoon it briefly became cloudy with a very short rain shower.  In the evening it was clear and cold.



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We wake to a wonderful view of the Tolbachick volcano from our tent.  We left open the door of the tent and we can just lay back in our sleeping bags and enjoy the view.  It is a great way to snooze and slowly wake up in the morning.  Breakfast is at 9 AM and we reluctantly crawl out of our sleeping bags.  Breakfast is pancakes and porridge.  We then get ready for our hike - our first one of the trip.  We can travel light as we will be returning to this campsite.


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We head off shortly after 10 AM and head off away from the volcano.  We will be hiking towards one of the outer cones of the same volcano.  The trail goes along the black volcanic ash that covers everything around here.  But the black ash makes a great background for the profusion of wild flowers that cover the area that we hike through.  It is wonderful.  They come in all colors - we can see one that come in white, blue, purple, yellow, red, lilac and other colors we cannot describe.


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It is only the first day of the trek, but we have begun to go through our film at a rapid rate.  But it is gorgeous.  We make our way along a path that is flanked by volcanic hills and cones on each side.  This part of the walk is pretty straight forward, except walking on the ash and fine gravel is a bit more difficult then expected.  It is like walking on the beach.  One had to be careful - there were a few booby traps where you would step on the gravel and your foot would fall into a hidden hole below the surface.  The ash was covering a very rough surface of volcanic rock.


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At about 12:30 PM we reach the base of the cone that we will be climbing up.  It rises steeply above us and we have to go around to the backside to get to a ridge that allows us to climb up to the top of the half cone.


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In 1975 this cone erupted for a whole year and one half of the cone is missing - the remains of a massive lava flow can be observed.  At the top of the cone we stop for a break and a light snack.  We take in the view and spend some time wandering around and exploring.  Every once in a while we come upon a strong sulfur smell.  We also find some parts of the rock that are very hot to touch.


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At the top, we measure the altitude by GPS and are surprised to discover that the height of the cone is almost the same height as our campsite.  The trail we have taken must have gently sloped down towards the base of the cone.  We are 6.05 km away from the campsite as the crow flys.


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After about an hour at the top, we make our way back down to the base of the cone.  This time we walk towards a rock that looked like a monument to us as we went up.  It turns out to be a memorial to two volcanalogists that died in the 1975 eruptions.


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We carry on back, making our way up the track that slowly makes it way up in height.  It is amazing that when you take the path the goes slightly down, you do not notice, but when you head back up, it becomes very obvious.  We continue to enjoy the many wild flowers that we come upon as we make our way to the campsite.  On our way, we come upon a block of snow that is covered by the ash - it has been insulated from the heat of the sun.  We refresh ourselves with the cold ice.


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As we begin to near the camp site, clouds begin to roll in.  the temperature drops as the rays of the sun are blocked.  We also have a very light and brief rain shower.  But it is so light that our clothes dry as quickly as they get wet.  Just before the campsite we come upon a fresh water spring.  We take advantage of it and fill up our water bottles.  The flow is very low, but we can get enough.


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We get back to the camp site just before 5 PM and decide to relax in our tent while waiting for dinner.  The rain has stopped and the clouds have begun to clear.  We lay back on our sleeping bag and listen to some music on our IPOD while watching the clouds swirl around the summit of Tobachick.


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An hour later we have dinner at the small table that our crew has snagged from somewhere.  Victor cooks up another great meal - borsh (soup) and beef stir fry, along with snacks and tea.  We then spend the rest of the evening just hanging out around the camp site enjoying the vodka that has been brought up with us.  During this time we discuss some of the damage the bugs have done to us.  We get a close look at Victor, the cook's, face - it is all swollen up from bites.  While peeling potatoes he was defenseless and was attacked.  It looked horrible.  Jacqui had bites all around her neck and hairline.  We thought the mozzies were bad, but these little black bugs are worse.  Someone said they were small wasps.  They would bite and leave a big red mark with a bloody wound.  On Jacqui's neck we counted over 21 bites, many in and around the hour.  The collar of her shirt was covered with blood spots.  These marks lasted and often itched.  With the mozzies, the bite itched for a few minutes and might swell up, but it went away after 10-20 minutes.  In this camp site, the mozzies were not as bad as down in the valley, but they were still quite a nuisance.  We prayed for the wind to remain strong, as that kept them away.


We retired to our tent just before 10 PM and after changing and washing up, laid back in our sleeping bags and enjoyed the views of Tolbachick in the fading light.  The clouds had cleared, providing us with a great view.  The temperature dropped once again overnight.


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