Klyuchevskoy and Tolbachik – The northern Volcano Giants

Warming-up in Esso and back to Shiveluch

The never changing structureless cover of clouds permits no sunny intervals. Our temper and hope drops, is now somewhere deep down where the magma chamber is. In the need of light, good weather and volcanic activity we decide to wait in Esso, a village in western Kamchatka’s hills being famous for thermal pools and hot springs but before we need to pass Klyuchi and Kozyrevsk, two villages that now we already know all too well. In Kozyrevsk, at Nikolai Nikolaevich’s house, whose actual name is Valudya, we start the last stage of this short trip and stop along the way at a thermal pool providing inhalation of natural Radon gas. With an admission fee of only 100 Roubles it is a good bargain.

The village of Esso is famous for its thermal pool, hot springs and commitment for indigenous people. For us first and foremost it was about drying our clothing and equipment as well as warming up ourselves again, but of course we didn’t reject to visit the local indigenous museum, where plenty of faithful reconstructions are explaining the living of Kamchatka’s natives. For example you can learn that names like Shiveluch and Tolbachik, two volcanoes, are not Russian as they emerged from the indigenous word pool. Kamchatka is full of such relicts, meeting real indigenous people like f.e. Koryaks is pretty difficult though. At the very small but mighty bear museum, being accommodated in the library, you can take lessons in understanding Master Bruin, the bear, much better.

We leave on a day trip to close by Osero Ikra, the so called Caviar Lake, that was surely ironically named like that due to its complete lack of salmon presence. The picturesque lake silts up step by step as it has no natural water supply. Having barely reached the lake we open the door of our off-road vehicle and get instantly eaten up by an army of mosquitoes like curry by a pisshead.

No matter where we walk to, our heads are always surrounded by a dense bunch of buzzing winged pest trying to enter and conquer any imaginable body orifice for the purpose of stealing blood. Waving wildly (but uselessly…) about, we’re hiking through the spinney, talking out loud the one or another curse. The pest is even that omnipresent that you automatically have them in your photos looking like sensor dust…

In Esso we got to know that our bad luck in terms of weather answers to the name of cyclone. Whole Kamchatka got stuck in the extensions of a typhoon being that strong that it even reached the faraway north-eastern coast of Asia; and as for the recent years it wasn’t the first storm of this kind as climate is changing. When hitting Kamchatka cyclones get stuck at the mountain ranges and tall volcanoes where they rain down and due to their rotation they even pump polar air into Kamchatka. So much about the prats denying climate change and thinking all things will stay the same…

Alexey calls someone in Klyuchi. Over there things cleared up and the rain moved out. Sounds like Shiveluch gets a second chance, or better to say we get a second opportunity to capture volcanic activity over there at the smaller, more central lava dome that we spotted from Apachonchich. Hence back to lovely Klyuchi village where even the ferryman’s face, normally being set in granite stone, wonders a little about the strangers going back and forth so many times only because of getting in touch with volcanoes. Before that we tried to get to Kizimen volcano, which didn’t carry out since the water level of the river close to Lasso village was too low for the ferry to go, but too high to make us crossing the river ourselves. Yet another dead end…

But let’s get back to Shiveluch volcano where yet another time we put up our tents but now on the other side of the volcano, at the eastern flank and where yet another time weather screwed us. Within a few minutes only clouds came down and said hello again. No sight. No light. No lava dome. Unbelievable. Light- and photography-wise I’ve never felt that being on top of the world but also down in the dumps like in Kamchatka. Well, either way it was time to say goodbye to Shiveluch as we wanted to join forces with local photographer Denis Budkov and the group attending to his annual photo tour; painting the town Tolbachik mountain red was on the bill.

When watching back frustration was perfect as during our ride to Kozyrevsk the sky cleared up and almost everywhere the cloud mash moved away. Even the summits of the volcanoes were visible now. THAT’s what we would have needed, maybe spiced with a little volcanic activity. Crazy world. Despite all frustration Kozyrevsk’s forest cemetery mobilised my photography motivation as this place expresses a very interesting combination of nature and human impermanence.

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