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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Kamchatka, Russia - 20 July, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Platina Camp at the base of Bezemyanny Volcano N5555.844' E16035.028' 1,433 meters .
Crater rim of Bezemyanny Volcano N5558.111' E16035.127' 2,762 meters .
Finish Platina Camp at the base of Bezemyanny Volcano N5555.844' E16035.028' 1,433 meters 14 km (by foot)

Total (by train):

766 km

Total (Kamchatka):

612 km

Total (other):

139 km

Total:

1,517 km

 

Weather: Highly variable.  In the morning at camp low laying clouds and cold.  Mid-way up the volcano, clear, sunny cold and windy.  Misty and cloudy at the summit.  In the valley, mostly cloudy with occasional sun, cool and windy.  Very cold overnight.

 

 

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We have an early start this morning.  Jacqui has decided not to climb the volcano today - she does not want to damage her knee any further.  It turns out to be a wise decision.  We are up at five and waiting for our light breakfast before getting ready and heading off at 6:30 AM.  It is sad leaving Jacqui behind - she does not give up easy, but it is better to take care of the knee.  We still have a few days of walking ahead of us.  The weather does not look good.

 

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The climb up is pretty much straight up.  There is only a short stretch at the beginning that is gentle, and then it is up, up and up. After about an hour of walking we come to a dead-end.  No way to go further - just rocky outcrops that lead to slopes that we could never climb.  We must have missed the turn in the mist.  It is getting windy and cold.  We hang around for a while as they try to find the way.  We climb up a steep ridge partly covered in snow and after a while we seem to be on the correct path once again.  But the trail is very rocky and it would have been murder on Jacqui's knee in it's current condition.

 

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And then at 8:30 AM the highlight of the climb - we make our way above the clouds covering the valley floor below us.  And the view is stunning.  We can see three to four volcanoes spread out before us.  It is one of those amazing scenes you sometimes get in the mountains.  Clouds below you and some above you, but clear and sunny in between.  With those magnificent volcanoes.

 

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With the clouds coming and going, we stopped often and turned to see what had happened to the view.  For a while, it seemed to get better, but then we slowly walked up into the mist above us and lost the wonderful view.  And the climb continued - it was difficult.  On loose rocks on a steep slope.  Also, the mist had covered the rocks in a coating of water.

 

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At 11:30 AM after a very slow climb with many stops we finally reached the crater rim of the volcano.  Just one problem - we are completely misted in.  Cannot see anything around us, other then that it was a straight cliff down the other side into the crater.  We hung around there for about an hour.  We had a light snack.  The iron rations came out - hard biscuits with salami and processed cheese.  The usual nuts and raisins.  While sitting there, we had the occasional sniff of sulfur.  Finally, just before we were going to head down, some of the mist cleared up.  While we could not see far, we could at least see down into the crater and get a feeling for its size.  It was 700 meters straight down from where we were to the bottom.  We could often hear rock slides occurring on the volcano.

 

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It was then time to head down.  And this was not going to be easy.  It is still misted in and visibility must be only 20-30 meters.  It is a steep path just filled with loose rocks.  While we are all walking very carefully, there is the constant cry of "rocks, rocks", as we would jar loose some of the rocks and they would go tumbling down the slope towards the walkers below.  We had to do some careful dodging to avoid these rocks.

 

It was also very slippery and unstable.  In addition to making sure the rocks did not slide down, we had to make sure that we did not slide down ourselves.  We had frequent stops and at one stop a number of men decided, at the same time for whatever reason, to go take a dump.  Well, there were not many places and the one spot out of sight of the group got pretty crowded.

 

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One had one gentle, smooth stretch, but that soon gave way to another tricky, steep section with loose rocks.  This one we had to make our way down very carefully.  It was very narrow and the rocks were coming loose and sliding down.  I was at one tricky part, making my way across a steep, rocky section when the cry of "stone" went out.  These three or four big rocks were rolling straight down at me.  All I could do was grab onto the rock outcrop next to me and lift my feet up so that the rocks could tumble harmlessly past me as I held on for dear life.  That was a tricky section.

 

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The last remaining stretch was very straight forward - a gentle downward slope to the camp.  We return to the camp just before 4 PM - a bit later than expected.  Jacqui has been awaiting our return.  She has her own amazing story to tell us.  In the morning, after we had left, she went back to the tent and into the sleeping bag due to the cold.  After a while, however, she heard a couple of gun shots and Victor comes running up to the tent calling out "Jacqui - bear, Jacqui - bear".  Jacqui raced out of the tent in her sleeping clothes to get a good look at a huge bear that was trundling away from the camp.  She later learnt that the bear had passed right next to our tent, while she was sleeping in it, and that Victor had fired two shots into the air to scare off the bear.  How exciting for Jacqui - bears three days in a row!!!  To bad she had no time to get out a camera.

 

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The next couple of hours are spent relaxing in the camp.  The sun is shining and the view of the mountains is wonderful.  We decide to wash up and go and head down to the stream near the camp.  We take advantage of the sun's warmth and the not too cold water to wash our hair.  Now that felt good after so many days.  After getting all cleaned up and putting on a clean shirt for the afternoon, we have some tea at the cabin.

 

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Dinner is just before 6 PM - once again served in the cabin.  It turns out to be a bit of a special affair.  We all eat together with the crew and the passengers in the tiny small room.  There is some spirits that have been drummed up from somewhere, so as we are eating our dinner, we have a series of toasts.

 

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For dinner, we have noodle soup to start, followed by sausages with mashed potatoes.  We also have some salads and the usual chocolates and biscuits.  The toasts last through the whole meal and are insides are warmed by the spirits.

 

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After dinner it is quite pleasant outside, so we hang around for a while.  The only problem is that one or two other groups have shown up and the camp is starting to get very crowded and noisy.  It is a group comprised of Germans, Swiss and Dutch.  Some of the people start to play with marmots.  One of our porters decides that he wants to trap one of them and sets up a crude made from a bucket, stick and piece of string.  While he had a few chances, in the end he is not successful.

 

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One of our guides catches a marmot by sneaking up from behind as someone else his feeding it.  He gets a bit of a nip on the finger, but manages to hold on.  He is soon let go and runs off under the cabin.  These marmots will now have lost our trust.

 

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As we hang around and chat we get occasional glimpses of the volcanoes around us as the clouds swirl in and out.  We retire early to our tent to pack our bags and to just hang out.  The only problem are the noisy people from the other group.  We have to close the door of our tent for some privacy, so we do not get to enjoy our view any more.  Oh, well.

 

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