Camel volcano (Verblyud) in Kamchatka actually resembles the two-humped creature. In fact, it isn’t actually a volcano, just an extrusion of the Avacha Volcano. Camel looks rather modest compared to its “parent” — the pile of volcanic slag and hardened lava seems to be easy to climb. However, for an unprepared traveler it is still hard to breathe at the top. The Camel mountain range is a kind of a volcano “sample”. You can climb it, experience what it is like to drown in the black snow, roll down the rocks. You are free to look around from the top, enjoy the fantastic views and then pick a real volcano for a challenging ascent.
It takes about an hour to get from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy to Nalychevo park in Avachinsky pass, where everyone leaves their cars. The distance is about 30 km, but the major part of the road lies along the stream-bed of the Sukhaya River (Dry river). It only appears after the rain rushes across the valley and leaves a track of red rocks from the Avachinsky slope, soaked wastelands and destroyed trees. Every driver passing this road has a "video" of the river at its wildest, washing away UAZ trucks sometimes.
It is a half an hour walk from the base (camp) that is situated near the foot of the Camel mountain. If you have time, it is better to go slowly, just like a camel itself. You will for sure want to make some “green stops” to look at the flowers, every one of which is a local endemic, snowy piles coated in volcanic dust, muddy waterfalls of melted snow from last year. Where else could you possibly see all that?
The area between Avachinsky and Koryaksky volcanoes, where the Camel is located, is huge, literally enormous. While ascending slowly you glance at the slope of Avacha promising yourself: “I’m going to climb you too, just watch me!” The volcano replies with flares of steam and smoky fumaroles — it awaits you.
The Camel is the easiest peak to hike in Kamchatka, it is suitable for absolutely everyone, even those who have put on hiking boots for the first time ever. It is essential to take a large amount of water with you, as well as some extra clothing in case it is suddenly chilly, rainy or sunny. All of that can happen during the ascent. You might also want to take trekking poles.
It isn’t too difficult to hike, however, you might find old crystallised snow creaking under your feet or small smooth stones. These are the dangers of the Camel. These stones often roll down the slopes.
Amazing views can be seen from the top of the Camel — at Mutnovsky, Gorely, the Viliuchinsky Volcano and a spot in the Nalychevo Valley. This whole territory constitutes the Nalychevo Nature Park. The Camel’s height is quite impressive — about 1100 metres above sea level, however, it’s only 200 above the ground.
There are some pink flowers at the top, trembling in the wind. It seems like they grow right out of the rocks — so tender and fragile. I am no botanist, but I guess those are Kamchatka rhododendrons — these flowers only grow in Kamchatka. Actually, it could also be Diapensia obovata, it’s also common there.
The Camel mountain has two peaks — two humps. However, both of them were created by eruptions of the nearby volcanoes. The mountain itself was formed roughly ten thousand years ago by two volcanos: the Caldera's Fault of Avachinsky Volcano and a large lava mass from an eruption of Koryaksky Volcano.
I’ve heard that if you walk a little further from the Camel across the Avachinsky pass towards the Nalychevo valley, you will see completely different landscapes — rivers and hot springs heated by the Zhupanovsky volcano.
It’s much easier to descent, especially, when you are heading to the cafeteria where you’ll get some hot soup. There is always merriment at the visitor's centre. The people there are looking for gophers. Feeding Arctic ground squirrels is one of the expected activities when hiking at the extrusion. The animals live here in huge numbers and seem to be waiting for tourists who come and bring them kilograms of treats every day. “Get some nuts, peanuts for them” — the guide advised earlier.
After descending from the Camel and inspecting every burrow around the base, I didn’t manage to find a single gopher. Obviously, they have been full since morning, when the first tourists brought them their daily portion, and didn’t feel like getting out of the burrows and making cute faces.
The only gopher I was able to lure out was in a burrow a kilometre away from the centre. It ran out to the surface hoping for a delicious lunch, sniffed the nuts in my hand, gave me a judging look, turned his fluffy butt at me and disappeared in the hole. What? What did I do wrong? It turned out, it was all about the diet.
The previous evening I stopped by at the nearest store and bought a large bag of peanuts, which turned out to be a mistake. Without looking I got regular salted peanuts, the squirrels don’t eat those and it’s good that they don’t — there is too much salt in it. I had to borrow some nuts from other tourists. Actually, I have to mention that the ground squirrels based at the foot of Mountain range Vachkazhets weren’t so spoiled. They followed us like dogs for a sweet granola bar and showed us the shortest way to the waterfall.
Of course, it is better to hike at the Camel on a sunny day. In the fog or the rain, all the greatness of the place disappears. However, if you do not really have a choice, you should go anyway. It’s going to be another great day at Kamchatka.
The “Four Seasons of Russia” project is supported by the Russian geographical society www.rgo.ru
The trip to Kamchatka is recommended by the Russian geographical society.
The tour is available for purchase at the “Russia Discovery” website www.russiadiscovery.ru
Also read about Kamchatka:
Mutnovsky Volcano on Kamchatka: How I climbed into the crater of an active volcano
Trekking to Vachkazhets Mountain range
Kuril Lake: something about the life of bears and humans
The Small Valley of Geysers
The Valley of Geysers
Volcanoes of Kamchatka
Kamchatka: Life-hacks and tips
Translation: Irina Romanova, Instagram: @astrabella1