Kamchatka: BD Employees Find Powder Turns in Remote Russia
When we proposed to our friend Erika to go to Kamchatka, she said: “Awesome, let's go there. But, where is it?”
This is probably a normal question people may ask when hearing this name for the first time. Indeed, it's so remote, wild and indescribable that you probably think it's in the middle of nowhere ... but in reality, it’s in the very east of nowhere.
When we decided to go there in April 2017, we didn't know much about the place. We had seen some pictures and videos about heli-skiing in Kamchatka—and it being affordable place to do it—but no road infrastructure and incredible volcano terrain makes this place one of the best Heli ski destinations in the world. There are many companies who organize Heli-skiing adventures now in Petropavlovsk, the capital of the Kamchatka peninsula, so if you like a fast reach to the summit of dozens of volcanos and mountains around with about 15 dudes and rugged slopes—the Heli could be a nice option.
But, that was not us. We went there for two weeks of ski-tour missions to have a possibility to be completely immersed in this extra-terrestrial place, to blend with nature, blend with spirit and energy of this land and blend with the local community.
Our first destination was the valley of the Paratunka river which is relatively close to the Veluchinsky volcano (2173 mm) and Mutnovkiy volcano (2322m). The first serious mission was how to get out from the city with ground transportation. As the Russians say: "we have no roads, we have directions" and this is something that you can easily believe turning off from poor asphalt road to the mountains. In this season of the year when you can easily have 60 cm of powder coming every day, there are not so many options to get somewhere, it could be either snow cats, snowmobiles with a rope towing skiers or monster trucks.
And, even with these incredible machines, the 70 km stretch from Petropavlovsk to our Karimchina chalet took us five hours. The valley is famous for its hot creeks, smoky summits and fumaroles, a volcanic terrain that gives an amazing picture of perfect cone-shaped mountains covered by a huge layer of snow, but active underneath, and this activity is coming out everywhere, filing up this wild place with the breath of our planet.
The volcanoes of this part of the peninsula seems not so big, slightly over two thousand meters high but that means a two thousand meters ski tour as the start point lies almost at ocean level. That requires an early start from the lodge, three hours approach with the trucks and then six hours up with many boot-packing sections as it normally gets steeper close to the summit.
As ski-tours are still not so popular there, you can be sure you and your crew will be alone there and will get all the untracked powder on the way down as a reward for the tough climb to the top.
After one week of exploring local slopes and these two big volcanoes, we always had our 13-15 hundred meters of ski-tour per day in average. After enjoying the hospitality of locals with rich cuisine and hot swimming pools from natural creeks, it was time to move to another part of the peninsula to our main mission: Koryaksy volcano (3456 m) and Avachinskiy volcano (2741m).
Thanks to snow cats transfer facilities, we moved to the base camp. It was really a base camp in the full meaning of the word, consisting of dozens of insulated metal containers carried from the local harbor many years ago … and a separate remote toilet. It is worth mentioning that the winds in this area could be incredibly strong and destructive. When the wind comes, and we had one day of a storm like this, it's strictly prohibited to leave your container: just 40 meters to the toilet could be a life-threatening mission which would require all your experience in alpinism, and two people died during the toilet mission some time ago. #truestory
Nevertheless, this place is worth a visit. Apart from your experience, be sure to take your ski crampons, snow safety equipment and a proper insulation. During our two-thousand-meter ski-tour to Avachinsky volcano, the temperature fell to -25 C, even with some volcano activity on the summit. The huge 200-meter diameter crater smokes and pumps out vast amounts of gas and minerals creating an unreal view together with moon-like landscapes around.
We picked the Koryakskiy mission as the highlight of our trip, with a super early wake up at 3 a.m. It took us 10 hours to reach the summit having almost three thousand vertical meters to climb with numerous boot-packing sections. And, as always, the way down had rewarded us for diligence completely, with incredible powder, tenderly cooked by Pacific Ocean climate, volcanic activities and the wilderness.
As the season is coming, it is worth it to start the preparation now. As all the communication with regards to logistics, guiding and accommodation will take a lot of time, make sure you are motivated to face some difficulties in communication, be ready that everything could go not according to initial plan and don’t forget to change your mind if you think you have seen the most beautiful place on earth in your life. Other than that, start packing!