As most of you are aware a year ago we left to go on an expedition to Kamchatka to attempt to ski and snowboard the highest active volcano in Eurasia. At long last I am getting around to writing about it. It will be in four parts because if nothing else the pictures deserve the attention. I hope it won't bore you too much, for me this will be a little reminder as the years go past of this incredible experience.
Some of the gadgets that came with us
17th March :- Start trying to work our way through the complexities of Russian Visa applications. Realise Richard's passport will run out 3 days early. Emergency trip back to UK on 19th to get a new passport. Finish off the Russian Visa applications, send them to Madrid with passports. The visas and passports turn up 4 days before we leave. 6th April drop the dogs off at kennels, hate leaving them. Berghaus clothing does not arrive so have to pack our own clothing just in case it does not turn up in Russia! Clothing turns up in Lanjaron the day after we left!
Looking at all our gear
7th April : - Time to head to Russia. Gordon picks us up at 5am, drives us the five hours to Madrid airport for our flight to Moscow. The Aeroflot team here were great and didn't charge us any extra for our ski bags and the flight was just over 4 hours. Get met at the Moscow airport by someone from the hotel we are staying at. Now for people who are not linguists but can speak a 2nd language we find when you hear a foreign language you slip back to the one you know. I can speak Spanish (of sorts) but if I am in France I will speak Spanish instead of French but when I return to Spain I will be speaking French, the poor brain struggles with more than one language. Quite amusing trying to speak to the Russian man in Spanish, needless to say none of us understood any of each other. Meet Martin Hartley (no relation to Richard) the expedition photographer who was the first of the group to arrive at the hotel. Take the time and go visit Martin's website to see some of the stunning work he has done. I have kind permission to use some of his photos from our trip. We have dinner and nice bottle of Chilean wine at the hotel. Julia and Warwick arrive at some unearthly hour of the morning so we won't be meeting them until the next day.
Packed and ready to go to the airport
8th April :- We all meet for breakfast and afterwards sort through gear, there is a lot of gear. Julia and Warwick had to bring 2 sets of extra clothing because ours never turned up and the chances of it turning up in Russia before we left were near on nil and couldn't be risked. The day before Julia and Warwick left for their flight they made a dash to the Berghaus warehouse to get us our kit. We have 8 luggage bags, 5 ski bags and 5 hand luggage, ooops this is going to be fun. We leave for airport at 3pm to fly to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Kamchatka. Now Russian airports are funny places, you enter the door to the airport and immediately you have to go through security, yep trouble. Imagine us with all our gear, one scanner and lots of other travelers. We started putting our gear through the scanner then realised some of us need to be on the other side to retrieve the luggage, complete chaos and much laughing but we eventually manage to get us all and our luggage into the airport. We go to check in and Aeroflot are not happy with us and all our luggage (they did state on their website that ski bags go free but none of us saw the date it ends), there is a language barrier and a lot of confusion, being sent here, there and here and there, a lot of money handed over along with passports etc. We nearly miss our flight. We have a good flight, personal tv screens on the seats, watched a few movies, drank and ate and crossed 9 time zones and landed just one hour away from yesterday!
The team outside the airport in Moscow just before the fun starts. Photo courtesy of Martin Hartley
9th April :- Arrive in Kamchatka at 10am met at the airport by Martha (logistics and everything else to do with Kamchatka, highly recommend her friendly services) and Igor (expedition guide) who take us to our lodgings for the night. Now I have to say this is an airport with a view, as soon as you are off the plane you are looking at volcanoes. We spend the afternoon relaxing, going through gear and discussing a plan of action. Martha asks for our passports and migration pieces of paper that we were given when we entered the country, we have to be registered with the police, ummm turns out we lost one (Richard's) somewhere along the way in all the chaos at the airport in Moscow! Elena (expedition cook) turns up to meet us, talk about the food for the trip and cook our dinner. We eat and drink again, hohum it's hard on these expedtions.
The view as you get off the plane in Kamchatka
Collecting the luggage
10th April :- Delay of a day in departing because of the lost migration paperwork. Richard and I have to travel back to the capital of Kamchatka, Petropavlovsk, by bus to sort it out. The others go skiing at the local ski centre and Elena spends the day with us helping translate and takes us to a really really posh tea place to have cheese cake and coffee. The waitress wore gloves!! Anyway paperwork all sorted by very friendly staff, nothing to worry about. We head out to a restaurant to join some guests that are staying at Marthas place for dinner.
*The entrance to the Centre of Migrations
Feeling rather under-dressed
11th April :- Today we head to Klyuchi. Up at 5am for breakfast, very difficult to eat at that time of the morning. Two 4x4 vehicles with trailers turn up at 5.30am, start packing the trailers with all our gear that is coming with us. At 6.30am we leave for our 13 hour 600km journey to Klyuchi, the military town and last place of any type of civilisation. In one 4x4 me, Richard, Elena and our driver, in the other Julia, Warwick, Martin and Igor. The roads are covered in snow and it starts snowing again, the tarmac runs out and pretty quickly you are on unsealed roads when you are not on snow! We see plenty of broken down vehicles that have been abandoned. We really want to sleep but don't want to close our eyes and miss anything. We meet up en-route several times for photography and video sessions and then stop for lunch in a village on the way. I had mashed potatoe, beetroot salad, mixed veg salad, cabbage doughnut and fruit tea! You tend to eat lots of small dishes here, bit like Spain with Tapa. This is enormous tough country, as we start to near our destination we began to get a brief glimpse of Kluchivskoi and Tolblachik through the cloud. During the 13 hour drive 2 things I thought of, among many other things, must come back and visit this place again and how on earth did the people from the book "The Long Walk" endure this hostile territory when they escaped from a prison camp in Siberia during winter wearing rags! Seriously read the book. Arrived at our hotel, packed our kit that was to come into the mountains with us, Elena cooked dinner and then it was bed after a very long day.
Saying goodbye to our hosts Martha and Andreas and ready to leave for Klyuchi
Snowy road on the long road trip
The roads still being cleared of snow
Meeting up en-route
The long rough never ending roads
Crossing the Kamchatka river
A glimpse of our volcano and realising for the first time it is as steep as it appears
Now if this hasn't bored you be sure to keep checking as part 2 will be on soon.
Sumit Sen: Great report!
Alison Edwards: Lovely to hear about the trip now in detail as it seems crazy at the time! Look forward to part two !
Victoria Twead: Great stuff, Kiersten! Looking forward to reading more! Victoria :)
Christina Eberhard: Wow!! Wonderful! Thanks so much for this report. Can't wait to read part 2 - Thanks Kiersten!
Jenny Steiger: Looking forward to the next part Kiersten. All that snow made me shiver, I could not do that! I have to have warmth. Most interesting to read, well done, am wondering if you would ever try it again?