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Volcanoes of Kamchatka

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How many volcanoes do you think there are in Kamchatka? You will be surprised, but there are almost 300 volcanoes and 30 of them are active. Big and small, extinct and active, destroyed and nascent volcanoes. They differ in age, structure, formation and volcanic emissions. Each volcano has its own character. Kamchatka today is one of the most active volcanic regions in the world. The land of 'giants' is capable of changing the planet one day… Volcanoes are very dangerous and that's why they are so attractive. I’ll tell you about the most interesting volcanoes on the Kamchatka peninsula.

3 “domestic” Volcanoes on Kamchatka: Koryaksky, Avachinsky and Kozelsky. 

Avachinsky volcano (2751 m)

Avachinsky Sopka (hill) - one of the most popular volcanoes for climbing, it is located 47 km from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It is also the most “civilized” - there is a checkpoint with an on-duty rescue team (in the summer) on the pass, there is also a mountain hut where you can stay overnight. All the attributes around you will assure that you are on a volcano: warm soil, the remains of lava, red volcanic bombs lying around under your feet, fumaroles and sulphur deposits. Scientists say when the volcano is in the active stage, the Avachinsky crater is filled with lava.

Ascent: a trek to Avacha takes 6-7 hours for well-trained climbers, a descent will take 4 hours. You will need good hiking shoes, warm clothes, snacks and a lot of water. Another popular route is the passage to the Nalychev Valley through the Avachinsky Pass. You need to get permission in the "Volcanoes of Kamchatka” Park Center in order to climb the Avachinsky volcano.

Camel Rock

Geologists call this hill a volcanic extrusion. In other words, a short 'camel' is the 'bastard child' of the Avachinsky volcano, which is in fact a big pile of stones.

Ascent: easy, anyone can climb it. The “live” moving stones are the only small danger.

Kozelsky volcano (2189 m)

Kozelsky is the closest volcano to the Pacific Ocean out of all the 'domestic' ones. It’s just about 25 km from its foot to the coast. In the summer months a kind of “nature oxymoron” is going on around the volcano - next to last year's snowfields you can see glades of flowers and heaps of volcanic slag. Kozelsky is a favorite volcano of geologists. So much to find on its slopes! The rarest thing to find is the black diamond mineral - carbonado, which can only be found in a few places on the planet. Previously, the origin of dark diamonds was considered cosmic, but now it has become clear - the carbonado comes from the Earth. Kozelsky is also loved by snowboarders – the snow on the volcano’s slopes doesn’t melt almost all year round.

Ascent: Trekking to the very top will be interesting only for climbers and athletes, the most difficult part runs along the southern ridge. However, anyone can climb it, but idle volcano lovers will be bored. Kozelsky is considered to be an extinct volcano, on its slopes there is not even a fumarole.

Koryaksky volcano (3456 m) 

This giant with its steep slopes is an active volcano on Kamchatka. You can see many large fumaroles on its slopes. Koryaksky is the only volcano on Kamchatka that is included in the short list of 16 potentially dangerous volcanoes which are closely monitored by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI). Most of these volcanoes are very close to settlements, and there are a lot of examples in history of their destructive eruptions.

Ascent: climbing Koryaksky is allowed only with a guide and only to those who understand the classification of difficulty from 1B to 4A, and who have the ability to traverse in a rope team. But experts say, technically the trek is not complicated. There are steep slopes at 35 degrees along the route, sometimes rock-falls occur. Equipment should include safety systems, a crampon, an ice axe, a helmet and goggles. Climbing time - 12 hours one way. In winter, skiers and snowboarders often climb to the top

  • Orange fact
    The Kamchatka Peninsula is part of the Ring of Fire, where 300 of the most active volcanoes on the planet are concentrated. Between 4 and 8 volcanoes erupt annually in Kamchatka. About 70 eruptions have happened on the peninsula over the past 25 years.

Volcanoes that can be seen from a helicopter:

Karymsky volcano (1536 meters)

This cone-shaped giant is now very peppy. From time to time, ash clouds burst from its volcanic vent and smoke soars. It 'smokes' the sky for a long time, in its ancient caldera with a diameter of 5 km there is a 'young' cone with a crater. The lava from Karymsky volcano is so thick that it hardens before it reaches the foot of the mountain. At the southern slope of the volcano there is the acidic Lake Karymskoye, it is considered the largest acid reservoir in the world. Until the most recent eruption, the lake was bland. But while it was boiling, salts and acids fell into it and turned it into an acidic lake.

Ascent: Any trips to Karymsky are forbidden because of its activity - at any moment an explosive eruption and pyroclastic flow can happen and then a dirty avalanche will sweep away everything in its path.

Maly Semiachik (1560 m)

There is an airway to the Valley of Geysers right near Maly Semiachik. A small volcano famous for its turquoise acidic lake directly inside the crater. The temperature of this 'spicy' liquid (a mixture of hydrochloric and sulphuric acids) ranges from 27° C to 42° C. The depth of the lake is 140 meters.

  • Orange fact
    In Kamchatka, there is an organization called the Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team that monitors volcanoes daily. It also monitors ash clouds that can be dangerous for aviation. The organization uses 4 colors of hazard codes — from green to red.

“Sleepless” in Kamchatka: the Mutnovsko-Gorely group 

Mutnovsky volcano (height 2322 m)

The neighbors of Mutnovsky maintain a calm disposition. But they are energized and cheerful. Mutnovsky breathes deeply - through multi-colored fumaroles, drooling sulphur droplets, and puffing with geysers. There is a scattering of colored stones and black sand underfoot. Mutnovsky has four craters, each with a diameter of up to two kilometers. The largest is located at an altitude of 1600 meters. On the way to Mutnovsky everybody makes a stop at Opasny (“Dangerous”) Canyon - a deep cleft where the Vulkannaya River breaks down with a beautiful 80-meter waterfall.

Ascent: Even a trip to the foot of Mutnovsky will be very memorable. You can get to the foot only with an SUV. But such a car will often get stuck in melted snow and bogged down in the mud. Climbing the craters is simple and takes about an hour. It’s 125 km from the city to the volcano.

Gorely volcano (1829 m)

Well, every family has a black sheep. Gorely is absolutely unremarkable. But its caldera has an area of 9x14 km with a chain of 11 craters, it is known for its acidic lakes of an unreal emerald color. The most spectacular crater is called “Active”, there is a lake inside of it with smoking fumaroles on the slopes. The largest crater is the Blue Lake. There is also an irregulary shaped lake in the funnel, where ice floes float at the beginning of summer. It is located in 114 km from Petropavlovk-Kamchatsky.

Ascent: Trekking to the top takes 4 hours one way. Climbing along the slag fields and lava is not difficult at all.

Viluchinsky volcano (altitude 2175 m)

By volcanic standards, Viluchinsky is already a 'grandfather'. An extinct volcano in Kamchatka that has become a beautiful mountain. But scientists do not believe it - life has not left it, such a stage of volcanic 'hibernation' is called solfatara. Viluchinsky is located 80 km from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Ascent: There is a stunning view of the ocean and all the famous volcanoes of the Mutnovsko-Gorelovsky group on top of the mountain. But only physically-fit tourists can enjoy the sight. In order to climb it, you need to take both a crampon and a towel; almost every trek usually finishes with a swim in the Paratunka Hot Springs.

The most dangerous active volcanoes on Kamchatka: the Klyuchevskaya Volcano Group

Klyuchevskoy Volcano (altitude 4790 - 4 860 m) 

Photo: Nasa Earth Observatory
Klyuchevskaya Sopka is the most formidable of the 13 volcanoes included in the group, it is the highest volcano in Kamchatka and in Russia, after the Caucasus Mountains.  It is the most active volcano in Eurasia and 650 km from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It is young - about 7 thousand years old and it is 'handsome' - Klyuchevskoy has an almost perfect cone shape with a crater 700 meters in diameter. Even when it’s calm, Klyuchevskoy is capable of throwing volcanic bombs weighing up to a ton! It has been active for several hundred years. And in the spring of 2020, lava poured down the eastern slope.

Ascent: This volcano is only for professional climbers, the climbing category is a difficulty of 2A. It is on the short list of “Snow Leopard of Russia” (an honorary title in Russian mountaineering). The peak can be reached in 10 hours. Before climbing you need to get all details, news and instructions in the volcanic station in Klyuchi Village. From there, all climbers have to ride in a Kamaz truck to the foot of the volcano. There are two climbing routes: the northern one, from the volcanologists camp called ’Horseshoe'; and the eastern one, from the Apakhonchich camp, through the Volcanologists pass. Climbing without a guide is a very bad idea. Climbing during an eruption is prohibited.

Compound Volcano Tolbachik 

Photo: Nasa Earth Observatory
The two brothers Plosky (flat) Tolbachik  (3140 m) and the extinct Ostry (sharp) Tolbachik (3682 m), which had grown together at their craters, recently easily defeated their 'boss' Klyuchevsky when they showed the world a colossal “Hawaiian” fissure eruption with lava in 2013. Lava flows rushed through magma-conducting faults, burned down a volcanology camp, formed a beautiful lava field with caves, a dead forest, and new types of diamonds. Even before the new eruption, the first Soviet moon rovers were tested on the slopes of Plosky Tolbachik. At the top of the volcanoes there is a complex system of calderas, formed like a Matryoshka one inside another.

Ascent: Tolbachik is very far from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, so climbing this volcano turns into a great adventure. Usually, on the night before the ascent, the group sleeps in the Tolbachinsky  Dole near the Kleshnia (crab claw) cone. In the visitor’s center you need to pay an admission fee for trekking in the Klyuchevskoy park. At the top of the Plosky Tolbachik, all tourists fry sausages. They say: if you ate a volcanic hot dog - you were at the top. It is 6-8 hours one way; anyone can handle it. But only professionals climb Ostry Tolbachik.

Bezimianny volcano (2882 m)

Bezimianny was considered 'retired' until suddenly, in 1956, it woke up and erupted. Since then, it has been surprisingly predictable, the perfectionist Bezimianny erupts almost 'by the clock’ twice a year. At the top, volcanologists recorded a powerful release of gases, and the lava dome continues to grow.

Ascent: It is considered a classic, Bezimianny is lower than Klyuchevskoy and more comfortable for climbing. And from the top there is a fascinating view of the Klyuchevskaya Sopka and all the other 12 volcanoes of the group. And this is a great stimulus for trekking, right?

Orange fact
While you are reading this fact, 20 volcanoes are erupting in the world.

Three more active volcanoes:

Shiveluch Volcano (3283 m)

Photo: Nasa Earth Observatory
The northernmost and one of the most ancient volcanoes of Kamchatka has already erupted twice in the new millennium in 2005 and 2010. Both times, its 'night show’ destroyed forests and covered everything around it with fragments of lava and ash. The longest lava stream travelled 28 km down from its foot. Still today, it is an inconvenience to aviation - frequent ash emissions are a hindrance to flights. The lava dome on Shiveluch is getting thicker and is almost 560 meters high, so we are waiting for a new season of the volcanic show.

Ascent: the lava dome of the volcano can explode at any moment, so it is better to stay away from Shiveluch, at a distance of 15-20 km.

Zhupanovsky Volcano (2958 m)

Zhupanovsky volcano is 100 km north of Petropavlovsk. It woke up again during the 50s of the last century, and like all active volcanoes it periodically spits out emissions of ash. There were days, when it did it twice a day, up to an altitude of up to 3,500 km.

Kizimen (2,485 m)

It 'messed up' from 2010 to 2013. Kizimen managed to change the banks of the Levaya River during its last eruption and created a whole lake out of the Poperechny stream. Now it has been 'punished', probably for 30 years. But it is still active, from time to time it blows gases from its lava dome of the fumarole Revuschaya (Roaring), the diameter of which reaches 200-300 meters. It's been alive since 2010, periodically hiding in a hot lava blanket, bombarding the surroundings with ash and volcanic bombs. Scientists are sure that a large eruption is coming soon, its lava dome is already at the limit.

Volcanic Safety Rules:

  • Do not get close and do not climb volcanoes during an eruption.
  • Do not breathe fumarole gases; they are life threatening.
  • Approach the lava only on the windward side so as not to inhale toxic gases.
  • Before taking a step on the harden lava, tap the crust, and it is better not to walk around in such places without guides or specialists. Take an avalanche sensor on your trip.
  • Do not climb volcanoes and do not walk on lava fields in the dark.
  • Be careful in the the closest area of the active volcano. There is an excess of the maximum permissible gas concentration around it.
  • If you get into an ash-fall, you need to find shelter as soon as possible, wear a respirator or face mask, or breathe through a towel. Remember that volcanic ash can damage your lungs.
  • Do not use any electronic equipment or gadgets during an ash-fall.
  • When you see a pyroclastic flow, run as fast as possible in the opposite direction.
  • Always take signaling flares with you to scare the bears away.
  • Register before climbing Kamchatka volcanoes in the Central Emergency Situations Ministry of Emergencies of Russia in the Kamchatka region by phone: +7 (4152) 42-10-84, e-mail reg@41.mchs.gov.ru, or on the website reg@41.mchs.gov.ru in the Travel section. Tell them your itinerary, names of your group members, their phone numbers, dates of your climb. In case of an emergency, call the rescue team at 101.

Glossary of geological terms “I am a geologist a little”:

  • Pyroclastic flows are a hot dry mass consisting of pieces of lava and sand from the ashes. It can move at a speed of 100 km / h.
  • A pyroclastic wave is a sand-dust curtain, racing at a speed of 150-200 km / h in front of streams of hot masses. They destroy everything in their path.
  • Lahars are hot mud streams formed as a result of lava falling into snow or a glacier, sweeping away everything in its path.
  • Ash plume — is a cloud of super-heated ash, rocks and glass emitted during an eruption; it forms a vertical column of a height of 8 to 20 km and stretching for hundreds of km.
  • An extinct volcano is one that has not erupted for 3,500 years.
  • Fumarole — is an opening in the crater or on a slope which emits steam and gases, their temperature ranges from 300° C to 800° C.
  • Lava dome is a mound of hardened viscous lava, which is supported by new and fresh lava.
  • Vog — volcanic smog is a form of air pollution formed by volcanic emissions.
  • Lava or volcanic bomb - is a mass of molten rock thrown out by a volcano and hardened in the air, with a diameter of 6 cm or more. Bombs often have an aerodynamic shape.
  • Volcanic ash is a mass consisting of tiny, spiny fragments of stones, crystals and volcanic glass. Sharp sand falling from the sky that can damage your lungs.
  • Tephra is another volcanic shell: larger than ashes and smaller than a bomb (from 2 mm to 64 mm).
  • Pele's hair — lava, consisting of fibers of volcanic glass. Appears in the air when a hot wind blows hot lava, like toffee.
  • Caldera is a giant bowl-shaped crater that appears after the destruction of magma chambers.


The Four Seasons of Russia project is supported by the Russian geographical society www.rgo.ru
Travel to the Kamchatka Peninsula is recommended by the Russian geographical society.


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
Climbing Mount Camel
The Small Valley of Geysers
The Valley of Geysers
Avacha Bay
Kamchatka: Life-hacks and tips

Translation: Irina Romanova, Instagram: @astrabella1


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