Russia : Kamchatka : #6 Gorely Volcano

From the top of Mutnovsky Volcano (2322m), we had been able to see the next volcano on our itinerary, Gorely (1829m).  This is another ‘live’ volcano and we’d been told that the view from Gorely was even more spectacular than from Mutnovsky.  That was a little hard to believe, but we would soon see for ourselves.


P1110426  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110426 © DY of jtdytravels

We were still camped by the bubbling stream in the Mutnotsky valley.  The small tents were ours; OK for one; a bit cramped for two. The crew tent was the larger tent.  The blue tent was the mess tent, and outside that, a bottle of water hung from an improvised hook.  Washing hands meant unscrewing the top, now at the bottom, to let a dribble of water out.  The water had come from the stream.   We could probably have drunk that water.


P1110442  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110442 © DY of jtdytravels

After a drive of a couple of hours from camp, we came to the road head for Gorely Volcano.  From there, it was a walk of over three hours to get to the crater rim.  The track was steep, stony and rough but the views compensated for the effort.  The vehicles are just small dots in the centre of the valley below.


P1110443  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110443 © DY of jtdytravels

Along the way, there were plants to find and photograph.

This one is the Diamond-leaved Willow; salix pulchra


P1110430  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110430 © DY of jtdytravels

The seed fluff of the Salix pulcra looks like a cotton head.


P1110434  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110434 © DY of jtdytravels

The blue of the tiny mountain bells, Campanula lasiocarpa, was even bluer than the sky.


P1110438  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110438 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed heads of Diapensis obovata


P1110448  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110448 © DY of jtdytravels

After looking for plants, there was another long, uphill hike to get to the crater.

And the higher we walked, the better the view; as promised.



P1110452  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110452 © DY of jtdytravels

The view down into the main caldera with its ice blue lake was breathtaking.   I’m told that this crater was formed after a giant eruption about 38,000 to 40,000 years ago. That eruption produced about 100 cubic miles of tephra, the name for the fragmental material produced by a volcanic eruption regardless of composition or fragment size. This is now a dormant crater but other parts of this large volcano are still very active. While the rest of the team rested and enjoyed this view, Rosemary and I determined to keep hiking to see the part of the volcano that is still active.


P1110461  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110461 © DY of jtdytravels

And the views got ever more expansive as we climbed.


P1110463  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110463 © DY of jtdytravels

It seems that you cannot climb here without a view of at least one other volcano.


Map of Kamchatkan volcanoes (from web)

Map of the many Kamchatkan volcanoes (from the web; The Lost World Ltd)

There are a great many volcanoes on the Kamchatkan Peninsula and about 27 of them are live, that is, they have erupted since 1900.  This map not only shows the many volcanoes, but it also shows the only two main roads on the peninsula.  They are depicted in red; one across the south, and one up the centre. The only way of getting to the coastal villages is by sea. This is indeed a very isolated part of the world and a hot spot of volcanic activity.


P1110469  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110469 © DY of jtdytravels

The path from one caldera to the next, was narrow, steep and not for the faint-hearted.


P1110471  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110471 © DY of jtdytravels

The view down into this caldera was grand; awe inspiring.

The earthy colours were stunning.


P1110473  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110473 © DY of jtdytravels

But what we had come to see, an icy green lake at the bottom, was non existent.  There was just a muddy pool.  Apparently, the water level rises and falls with the internal activity of the volcano.  My notes tell me that Gorely Volcano is very complex.  It covers 9 x 13.5 km, an area that is occupied by 3 closely spaced and overlapping stratovolcanoes. It is cut by 3 rift zones and has 11 summit craters and more than 30 flank craters. The lavas that come out of Gorely are mainly basalt and basaltic andesite.

In the 19th century, this volcano erupted in 1828, 1832, 1855, and 1869.  In the 20th century, eruptions occured in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1947, 1961, 1980-1981, and 1984-1986. During that last eruption, the ash plumes reached 3.5 km in height.  There’s still a lot of power in this volcano.

Underneath us, were roaring fumaroles.  We could hear them.  They sounded just like a large, very noisy jet taking off.  We didn’t have time to walk further around the rim to see where all the noise was coming from; it would have been another 12 kilometre hike.


P1110475  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110475 © DY of jtdytravels

We turned around to retrace our steps along that narrow ridge.


P1110465  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110465 © DY of jtdytravels

The view of the old caldera and lake lead the eye to a vast expanse of volcanic landscape.


P1050170  ©  photo courtesy of Gulya

P1050170 © photo courtesy of Gulya

Our translator, Gulya, captured this shot of our return down the slope.   Yes – I did carry the tripod all the way up and down again.  It’s the only way to get really steady video, although the Panasonic TZ30 does give a very steady video result if handled correctly.


P1110481  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110481 © DY of jtdytravels

We had caught a glimpse of a Black-capped Marmot on our walk up the volcano, so on the way down Sasha went ahead to locate their underground home.  He successfully found it some 150m off the track.  We detoured to watch a family of around 10 marmots going about their late afternoon business.  They weren’t particularly concerned about our presence so we got quite close.  They are rather cute.

I was rather surprised by the almost complete lack of birds in the bush.  We saw a few every now and then but most of those were crows scavenging around rubbish.  There have been the odd group of little brown birds, (lbbs), all rather drab and insignificant.  On one stretch of road we spotted a couple of rock ptarmigan in their summer plumage.  Although much bigger than the ‘lbbs’, they were still rather drab.


P1110485  ©  DY  of  jtddytravels

P1110485 © DY of jtddytravels

Our driver, Toly, and Russian guide, Sasha .


P1110487  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110487 © DY of jtdytravels

The drive to Gorely was a doddle compared to the one to Mutnovsky.  Even so it was a long day and we didn’t arrive back at camp until 18h45.  Even after a long day of hiking, this Aussie and NZ group had energy enough left for a game of cricket!  After dinner, we played with a rough piece of wood saved from the camp fire and a ball made by Peter from knotted plastic bags.  This ball was something like the ones I’ve seen in India, but our ball was an ‘upmarket’ one.  It was wrapped in duct tape which made it a little softer than the Indian variety.  It was great fun and it was an eye-opener for the crew.

As it became dark, a set of bright vehicle lights came over the ridge.  They belonged to a group of Russians heading for our campsite.  Why this spot?  The camp area was many hectares in area, but true to European form, they stopped right beside our camp fire and set up their camp – all very chummy, but totally unnecessary!


P1110489  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110489 © DY of jtdytravels

The all-but-full moon rose shortly afterwards so we decided it was time to retire and take our worn out and grubby bodies to our warm sleeping bags.  It was not the right time to wash in freezing cold stream water!


P1110488  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110488 © DY of jtdytravels

But before I retired, I took a walk by the stream, beautifully illuminated by the moon.

It had been another very special day in Kamchatka.



Photography  Copyright ©  David  Young  of  jtdytravels

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One comment on “Russia : Kamchatka : #6 Gorely Volcano

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