Tolbachik Volcano (Kamchatka). Part I: How to Get There
Русская версия Along with Mutnovsky, Kamchatka is a home to 160 volcanoes; 29 of them are active. Recently, in 2012, Tolbachik volcano erupted in Kamchatka, and in 2014 it was still possible to fry eggs on its lava. When we visited Tolbachik in 2015, we did not fry eggs, but it was still possible to set sticks on fire putting them into the ground holes. This is the first part of the story about our trip to Tolbachik – one of the most wonderful landscapes we have ever seen.
Getting to Tolbachik is not easy. At first you have to fly to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and then to get by bus from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Esso. The bus from Petropavlovsk departs at 9 AM and it takes the whole day (about 10 hours) to get to Esso.
One-way ticket costs 1750 rubles, you pay for the luggage separately (the road is very dusty, so we advice to wrap your luggage). The first hundred kilometers of asphalt soon change to the gravel road; that is why the bus is quite slow. In the middle of the way, the bus stops in Milkovo for the lunch in a café.
The bus returns from Esso to Petropavlovsk at 7AM, be aware that the cashier desk is open only several hours a day, and you should buy tickets in advance (and with your passport). In Esso, we stayed at the tourist camp “U sychej”, for 350 rubles per tent. The price includes the possibility of using fireplace and water; next to the camp there is a hot springs pool where you may swim for free.
The next day at 11AM we started for Tolbachik. The trip had been organized in advance by the guys from Archangelsk, whom we had found through the Internet. Before going to Kamchatka, we realized that group trips would be cheaper than individual tours, and were looking for the travelers who would be in Kamchatka at the same time. That is how we found Olya and Ivan as well as their friends Yaroslav and Tania and just-married honeymooners Gleb and Masha. In Esso, a German volunteering in Kamchatka Lukas and a local Zhenia joined us. A 3-day trip cost 3000 rubles for all of us, as it was organized through the Bystrinsky Reserve, not some private tourist companies; we were guided by their employee Ruslan Tushin.
At the appointed time, the open lorry (with a tent to be used in case of rain) drove to pick us up in our camp.
On the way to Tolbachik, we stopped to see a hydropower plant and a waterfall.
The asphalt soon turned into the gravel road, and then – to the dirt road.
Having crossed the mountain river, we stopped for a lunch.
Our driver and guide Ruslan is the reserve inspector, also counting animal population and working on constructing. Strict on the first sight, he turned out to be kind-hearted and soft. Vitya was with him in a cab for some time and learned a lot about the recent eruptions of Tolbachik. Tolbachik erupted for many times, but the 1975 eruption became the first well-documented one. It was also predicted by the seismic stations, and no people died, although the deer pastures and trees suffered from lava. Two previously unknown minerals were found at the place of eruption.
Meanwhile, the results of the second recent eruption (2012) are much more obvious for a tourist. Before, there had been a road leading to Tolbachik, but in 2012 lava and scoria destroyed it. Because of this, it now takes the whole day to get to Tolbachik. Imagine, there was a road here before. Now these are lava fields.
The bypass road going through the hummocks and stumps still lets the car go with the speed of 5-10 kms/h only. By the way, those, who now made this new road did not conform it with some officials and received a huge fine.
Ruslan stopped in the forest to cut the woods.
After the forest road we got to the final strip going through the scoria and sand; the car lacks oxygen here and gets overheated. At the same time, the landscape is truly Martian.
The scoria is a volcanic crushed stone produced during the eruption. Ruslan told that once they had been making a long-term tourist stand and digging the hole for the toilet. The scoria layer was 3.5 meters tall in that place, and the glacier was below that (the eruption had happened in the cold time of the year). The most interesting thing is that in the lifeless scoria covering lifeless glacier the flowers gradually start to grow.
By the way, the fact that we saw Tolbachik, according to Ruslan, is very unusual: due to the weather conditions it can be rarely seen.
Honestly, we always imagined a volcano as a huge mountain with a hole in the middle, where lava splashes. This is not true. For instance, Tolbachik volcano consists of the main Plosky (“flat”) and Ostry (“sharp”) mountains and multiple smaller hills – the new formations, caused by the eruption. Also, the eruption does not always happen from the center of the volcano, but also from its bottom or side. We were going to ascent a smaller, flat Tolbachik, and the sharp one requires special preparation and equipment.
With all the lunch breaks and stops, it took us 10 hours to drive to the bottom of volcano. By the evening, we reached the camps, from which an ascent usually starts (many choose this place because of the water will). Here, a tent with an oven is set by one of the tourist companies. Anyone can use it if it is not already used by the tourist company. There was a group of merry grannies there when we came.
So, we set a camp nearby. While we were setting a camp, a strong wind came with the rain; the tents were blown off as the poles did not hold on two the volcanic sand. We had to secure the tents with stones.
We started the fire, had dinner, some walked on the hills, some talked at the fireplace, some left to take pictures. We watched the sunset and went to sleep to start an ascent to Tolbachik the next morning.