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Written by Sophie et Jeremy   
Wednesday, 24 August 2016


We arrive at Petropavlosk airport after a 3.5 hours flight and many incomprehensible loops in the sky above the bay which gave us a great overview. The terminal is very small, the immigration police awaits us. Sophie's passport doesn't give them too much to think about, but the iranian visa in Jeremy's interests them very much (thankfully they haven t seen the stamp from Daghestan in Sophie's passport). Half an hour of questioning (via a translator who was picking up the 2 other foreigners of the flight) followed : we mustn't be many to come and visit kamchatka independently and that disturb them. After having taken pictures of our passport and faces, they welcome us and let us go.
The choice of buses at the airport puzzles us a bit, and we eventually jump in a random one towards the city centre. Our hostel is quite far in the suburbs, inside a very soviet-like building. The keeper doesn't speak english but helps us a lot through google translate.

avion 1 avion 1 avion 2 avion 2

We spend the day to finish the preparation of our trip to Klyuchevskaya national park. Most of it has been settle beforehand by our friend Dimitri but there s still a little to do here before the trek. It s very easy and fairy chip to move inside Petropavlovk by public bus, as long as you know the bus numbers. At the main bus station, we buy the long distance bus tickets to Kozyrevsk (the closest town to the NP). We search for a 6WD truck ride from this city to the beginning of the trail. We are given a new contact at the park office (oddly situated in Yelizovo, 20 km from Petropavlovk), where we met a very friendly and helpful english speaker. They also provide us map, GPS tracks, tools and advices against bears, as well as the mandatory permit to enter the NP. We will have to consider changing our planed route as Klyuchi (the village we were supposed to exit the NP is a military area and requires and extra permit from the FSB...

petropavlovsk petropavlovsk

Tough day. We wake up at 6am to catch a city bus that would never come. We have to call a "private" taxi that drives us across the city the russian way to catch our long distance bus right on time. The journey is a 10h bus drive on an almost totally straight line mostly not asphalted. The bus stops half way in the biggest village we cross for lunch break. Arriving at Kozyrevsk, we change to the 6WD truck which will drive us to the foot of the Tolbachik volcano, along with a group of 18 russians who carry what seems to us an impressive amount of food and drinks. After 5 hours on a very damaged track with the sounds of russian songs, we arrive at the first camp. We quickly set the tent, have a quick diner while the russians enjoy their evening.

cam cam

We wake up with the sun. Surprisingly our russian neighbours are awake too. We let in the camp most of our stuff and start the walk up to the Tolbachik. Very soon, we loose the trail as the we don't have a GPS track here and we walk around for an hour. Eventually, we see a group of people in the middle of the old lava flow which looked impossible to cross to us because of a very chaotic surface and hot gases emissions.

tolbachik 1 tolbachik 1 tolbachik 2 tolbachik 2

The ascent goes slowly. We rapidly understand that we walk on a glacier that is covered with volcanic hashes. We collect water from the melting ice because, unlike the map shows, there s no water at the camp. The view on the valley is gorgeous, full of different colours, volcanoes and old lava flows. Sadly, the weather is getting cloudy. We reach a plateau at 2600m high after walking 7 hours. It starts to rain and we don t want to finish our first day exhausted so we decide to go back down and miss the crater lake at 3000m.

tolbachik 3 tolbachik 3 tolbachik 4 tolbachik 4

During our descent, clouds gather and the top of the volcano disappear. We are back at the camp after 10 hours, where the russians welcome us and offer tea and candies. In the evening, we take our backpacks and start the route for the next days. We set our camp a bit less than one hour later in a nice place if not for the hundreds of mosquitoes flying around.

Tired by our first day, we sleep until 8, only briefly woke up by a group of hikers passing next to our tent at 11pm... This time we go for a whole day with our heavy backpacks, but it should by only for a short 12km walk. But the plans change a bit as the trail disappear and we discover there s no marking to follow it. We can only rely on the map and the GPS tracks which are not so precise especially in rough terrain..

tolbachik 5 tolbachik 5 tolbachik 6 tolbachik 6

We see some bear footprints on the ground which starts to scare a little bit Sophie. We start to be low on water and the only marked spring on the map was dry. We hope to find water near the hut that we approach after 5.5 hours walking and a last inefficient short-cut. We start to comment on its old and damaged aspect when we sight a bear right next to it, 30 metres from us.

ours ours

We will probably never know whether there is water there or not, but we now know that we can walk quite fast with 20kg on our backs. We decide to walk around the hut and look for water further. There is still no well marked trail and when we cross a dry riverbed with only a couple of puddle, we fill our bottles. Eventually, an hour later we cross a permanent river where we fill all our bottles and have a quick wash. But we are still on guard for loose bears, there are still many bear footprints all around. We walk about one hour more before pitching our tent. There are as many mosquitoes as the previous evening and tonight we follow the major advice about bears and leave our food hundred metres away from the tent.

Today, Kamchatka is zero. It rains the whole day, so we stay in the tent with our ebooks. Around 2PM, we see our 18 russians friends passing nearby the tent, they look pretty wet.

tente tente

No rain when we wake up, but a very thick mist, we can t see 100 metres away and everything is wet. The walk is unpleasant, still no clear track even if we can see time to time so human footprints, and a lot of rivers to cross. We get web very fast despite our gaiters, our shoes are soaked and we wring our socks regularly. Moreover, we must be in a gorgeous landscape but we can t see anything, that s very frustrating. We see a second bear from far, and we walk around at distance. We refill our bottles in a swollen river which water is black and full of volcanic sand. After lunch, it starts to rain and we take our our rain covers. At 4pm we decide to call it a day and stop. A brief rift in the clouds at 8pm, let us see the surroundings and the volcano Zimina.

brume 1 brume 1 riviere 1 riviere 1

riviere 2 riviere 2 Zimina Zimina

Kamchatka weather does not improve. Still the same rainy and cloudy weather that prevents us from enjoying the scenery. We have seen big ground hog and some kind of very sociable of squirrels that run all around and beg for food. We have again meet our russians friends, as wet and disenchanted as us. The Mars camp site shelter, where we are tonight, consists almost in 4 poles and a roof made of wood planks. So it basically leaks from everywhere. We are afraid of being short on fuel, so we keep it to cook, and limit tea.

brume 2 brume 2 ecureuil ecureuil

Rain and ebook day. All our clothes, especially, shoes and socks are totally wet, and with this weather nothing can dry. At the camp is a group from Belarus, who are much more geared than us, and carry a huge number of gas bottle and food. Everybody is depressed by the rain, but this kind of weather it is not uncommon here.

mars campsite 1 mars campsite 1

The morning is very clear. So we can see for the first time 3 more volcanoes around us. most of our clothes dried out except for the shoes (which are really unpleasant to wear today). There is a clear spring at the camp where we can fill our bottles and wash a bit. As the weather is nice, we enjoy as much as possible the scenery and take a lot of photos. Some clouds appear during the day but the sun continues to shine. We loose a bit of time in a quite rough terrain before having our lunch break near a small but rather deep canyon.

mars campsite 2 mars campsite 2 canyon canyon

Rivers that have been said difficult to cross yesterday are almost dry at noon today. It seems that the various water stream can over flow rapidly in case of rain or melting snow. We see some other hikers including the group of 18 russians that invite us for dinner. After a short nap and the visit of the canyon, it is about one hour walk to the Edelweiss camp site where our friends set their camp. The shelter here is in a slightly better condition than the one from yesterday and there is a small water spring 50 metres away, down a small canyon. They have cooked locally and freshly picked up mushrooms and we accompany them with sausage from Corsica. In the evening, we have some clear view over 3 volcanoes including the Tolbachik, which we haven t seen the last 5 days despite having been walking around all the time.

tolbachik 7 tolbachik 7 edelweiss CS edelweiss CS

After dinner, we continue the evening with local alcohol, around a camp-fire, fuelled with all possible waste.

Today is clear but very windy. We walk around the camp, enjoying the view over the volcanoes and the valley. After lunch, we start the last walking leg of the trail. We climb to a plateau from where we can see 5 volcanoes. We pass a group of starting a 17 days trip in the area, they look a bit doubtful about the weather. The Klyuchevskoy, the highest volcano around start erupting hashes for 2 hours. We sight a third bear that runs away as soon as it sees us. At the last camp, we are alone. We can t see any water spring around, but there is a hut in which we decide to spend the night, to be isolated from the wind.

hut hut last CS last CS

Today is still very windy but we stayed sheltered in the hut. Our friends arrive at the same time as the truck and we all jump in the go back to Kozyrevsk. Once there, they offer us to join them in their accommodation for the night. We walk the post office which serves also as bus station and change our tickets for the next day. We spend the afternoon which our friends, enjoying the russian sauna and eating all the food we could have bought in the village including fresh salmon caviar.