In April 2013, Kiersten Rowland and I of Spanish Highs Mountain Guides joined a team led by British snowboarder/mountaineer Julia Pickering attempting to become the first people to climb and snowboard down the largest active volcano in the Northern Hemisphere, Kamchatka in far eastern Russia. The team’s main sponsor was outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer, Berghaus.

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Klyutchevskoy Sopka 4750m is a stratovolcano, the highest mountain on the Kamchatka peninsula and the highest active volcano in Eurasia and one of the largest volcanoes in the world.

Kamchatka in 2013 was an unforgettable experience. Hard, tough and the weather was against us so we had a lot to contend with. My partner, Kiersten kept a diary of our trip that reflects very well our thinking and situation. I have posted links below to the relevant sections

Team members met in Moscow on 7th April and headed east on the 9 hour flight to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy in Kamchatka. There we met up in the city of Yelizovo with Martha Madsen of Explore Kamchatkawho were our in-country organisers

Note re our gear and equipment – we were fully kitted out with top notch Berghaus clothing. As you would expect this worked superbly and kept us well protected from the savage elements.

Many thanks to Berghaus and Julia Pickering for the opportunity to join the trip! Photographer Martin Hartleyand Warwick Pickering made superb team mates and not forgetting the superb guiding of Igor Sesterov and the cooking/laughing skills of Elena Bulatova!

Short summary

  • A tiring 11 hour 4WD drive followed through the taiga northwards to the town of Klyuchi on the banks of the Kamchatka river

  • An attempt to reach base camp via snowmobile was aborted due to poor visibility and high winds

  • Advance base camp established in bad weather on the high col (2700m) between Klyutchevskoy Sopka and Ushkovsy

  • Ski across the plateau in good weather to establish base camp at 2750m below the col between Klyutchevskoy Sopka and Kamen

  • Acclimatisation trip to 3300m to the col between Klyutchevskoy Sopka and Kamen. Weather worsening during the day

  • 6 days bad weather. High winds at altitude. Very cold (-20+).  Tent bound. Days spent reinforcing snow walls and clothing product shoots

  • Ferocious winds of over 120km/hr containing volcanic rock destroy a tent and damage others

  • In a short break from the bad weather we make an escape via ski and snowmobile back to Klyuchi

We returned to Yelizovo where we had a day on the local ski pistes followed by a 2 day ascent of Avachinsky volcano (2741m). A return to Moscow was made on 29th April.

We were blighted by incredibly bad weather, high winds and very cold temperatures for the time of year.   Having said that the whole trip was a marvellous and unforgettable experience in the Kamchatka wilderness.

As Julia Pickering said on her Twitter account

Back in civilisation after 100 mph plus wind/snow/volcanic rock storm tore our camp apart. With more storms forecast ,we had no option but to take v small weather window and get out. V disappointed to have not achieved our objective but team safety was primary concern. We still had an epic adventure and she’ll still be there next year and will hopefully be a bit less angry.

Kamchatka Diary Reports

The next adventure – A land far, far away with fire breathing mountains

The Kamchatka Expedition Part 1 – Getting there

The Kamchatka Expedition part 2 – Leaving Klyuchi and emergency camp

The Kamchatka Expedition Part 3 – Waiting for a weather window at base camp

The Kamchatka Expedition Part 4 – Deteriorating weather

The Kamchatka Expedition Part 5 – The escape and a very long bus ride

The Kamchatka Expedition Part 6 – Last few days in Russia