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The Camel

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This story happened to me 7 years ago in Kamchatka, during an easy warm-up ascent in the area of so-called "Home volcanoes", close to the capital of Kamchatka – Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky. We got into bad weather and sat in the tents at the foot of the Koryaksky volcano for three days. There was no longer any chance to climb the top, we were trying to get the proper weather window for the descent.

 Home volcanoes - Koryaksky and Avachinsky

Having decided that anyway we would not go down that day, with my guide-partner we decided to warm up a little and run upwards on the nearest slope. The weather was shit - with charges of rain, gusts of wind and lack of visibility. The route category of the volcano was 3b Russian grade, - the ridge which could be climbed with a certain skill without using a rope – basically it is needed in a couple of places, but you can always find fixed ropes there.

 Climbing volcano Klyuchevskaya Sopka, Kamchtaka

In short, we got up and start climbing very fast - dressed very lightly (I was wearing thermal underwear and a light raincover) - we did not plan to stay on the route for a long time. Neither did we plan to separate with my friend, so we took one navigation kit for two - a walkie-talkie and a GPS navigator.

Bad weather at the top of Klyuchevskaya Sopka volcano, Kamchatka

Right from the camp we took a very high pace of movement and gained 700 meters in one hour, there were still 1300 meters altitude gain to the top - we decided to try to go to the summit. Approximately 500 altitude meters before the summit, my partner decided to go down - he felt tired and got some altitude sickness.

 Volcano Klyuchevskaya Sopka in Kamchatka

My own condition, on the contrary, was close to ideal, for me it was estimated only 40 minutes to the top. At this point, I did my first mistake. We decided to separate - I gave the GPS device to my partner, and kept the walkie-talkie for myself. Theoretically, the route allowed such a decision - it was almost impossible to get lost while climbing the ridge. But...

 A lonely inhabitant of the volcanic desert in Kamchatka. Volcano Shiveluch

Damn, I've been working as mountain guide for over 20 years, also I'm a field navigation instructor…. It would seem that I know all these nuances like the palm of my hand - I have always taught others the basics of security in the mountains. That's for sure, the experience does not protect against one's own stupidity. So starting from this moment, I made several mistakes in a row, leaving almost no chance for life.

 Kamchatka landscapes – volcano Middle crater, Klyuchevskaya group

I climbed to the top and began to descend, half an hour later I received a message by the radio that my partner was already in the camp.

Continuing the descent, I realized that down climbing the rocky ridge is inconvenient, but along this ridge there was a wonderful snowy couloir. I went down and tried to glide - it turned out just perfect - the dense snow of the couloir snaked down along the ridge, gliding along it was just remarkably beautiful... Being fascinated by the fast descent, I did not notice that the ridge on the right was no longer mine, I missed the branch of the ridge and went away from the correct descent route.

Wandering clouds on the slope of Klyuchevskaya Sopka, Kamchatka

When my altimeter showed approximately the altitude of the camp, I tried to contact the base by radio, but received no answer. It was the first surprise - a powerful military walkie-talkie was supposed to provide a perfect connection, even if I was a few kilometers from the camp. But there was no connection. I climbed some hillock nearby and tried again - the signal was barely getting through, it became clear that my camp was somewhere quite far away from my location.

MCS AlexClimb camp on the northern slope of Klyuchevskaya Sopka, Kamchatka

In short, I downclimbed 2 km of altitude to the completely incomprehensible direction, but obviously not in the direction of the camp. I was very lightly dressed, thermal underwear and a light raincover had been wet through from the time I got to the summit. A moderate wind blew, intermittently with showers of rain. There was no visibility at all – just some 5-7 meters maximum.

Dead forest at the foot of Klyuchevskaya Sopka, killed by an eruption

All around me was a volcanic desert - a plateau with a slight slope, without any landmarks, covered with black volcanic ash. It was impossible to find any protection from rain or wind here...

Camp on the saddle between Klyuchevskaya and Krestovsky volcanoes. Erman Plateau. Kamchatka

Realizing that I descended significantly to the left from the side I needed, I decided to move to the right, maintaining and controlling the current altitude by the altimeter. Theoretically, this should lead me to the camp or close to it - after all, any volcano is a cone, so by traversing its slope it was possible to get to the desired point - that's what I thought. But that also was a mistake - as it turned out later, I went down to the opposite side of the bridge between the two volcanoes - Koryaksky and Avacha - so, the traverse of the slope would take me to a completely different volcano.

Volcanic expanses of Kamchatka - no one lives here but mosquitoes and bears

I traversed the slope for about three hours, but the radio connection remained exactly of the same quality - the signal level was only 15%, scarcely enough to communicate, but for a 5-watt station this meant a very significant distance.

Lenticular clouds over Kamen volcano - a sign of impending bad weather

After a couple of hours, I began to feel tired - almost all the power was spent for the ascent, I did not plan to wander around after the descent. There were no options even to stop for a short rest - it was impossible to find shelter from the wind, so any stop, even for 2-3 minutes, led to that I started to fall asleep. I understood perfectly well to what result would lead falling asleep in such a situation - I had a chance to survive only as long as I could stay awake and move to keep myself warm.

The slopes of the dome of Klyuchevskaya Sopka and our camp above the clouds. Below - the selva of the Kamchatka River

The curiosity of the situation was that I not only committed a serious mistake - I was left without a navigator in difficult weather conditions, but I left a radio for myself - I could communicate with the guys in the camp, but this could not help me to find the way. My friends began searching around - they combed the area around the camp with a wide range, shot into the air from a carbine.

Aboriginal and owner of the Kamchatka plains. Huge bear runs away from an annoying drone

There was no effect. I was too far away. Someone suggested to me going down along any stream to the line of the forest - there at least it was definitely possible to get protection from the wind. But this option for Kamchatka was suitable only as a perverted form of suicide - after descending into the forest, nobody would find me even in the parts - there were too many bears.

 Black ice of Erman Glacier. Kamchatka

In short, after 8 hours of continuous walking, I began to realize the inevitability of my fate - less than an hour remained before darkness. There was no chance to survive the night even in the most optimistic scenario - I was exhausted, soaked through and there were no shelters from the piercing wind on the plateau, unless if I dig some hole in the ground. But, somehow, there was no desire to dig a grave for myself.

Sunrise in the Klyuchevskaya group of volcanoes in Kamchatka

I came across a small wooden post, the only sign of human activity during all my 8 hours of wandering. On the column were the numbers 1124 - probably some geodetic mark. I informed the camp by radion about this landmark - to do at least something good in the end, to simplify the task of the rescuers in finding the body.

 Eruption of the volcano Klyuchevskaya Sopka. Kamchatka

Also I dictated to my friends the last orders - to whom pass the messages and what to say to apologize. I can imagine what it was like for the guys. Everything looked completely hopeless. The batteries in the walkie-talkie would have been enough for another three hours... The irony of fate was that I could continue to talk with friends almost to the very end.

 Winter views of the Klyuchevskaya volcanoes group from the Shiveluch plateau

Suddenly, I heard on the radio the talks of the guys who were trying to search for me - one of them said the word "camel". This word sharply cut my ear - like a flash in my mind – just some 40 minutes ago in a break in the clouds I noticed a strange hill with two peaks, which I mechanically marked for myself as a "camel".

An unknown planet rises over the Erman plateau. Kamchatka

After short conversation on the radio it became clear - they see the same two-headed hill, just from the other side. I immediately felt very strong desire to live.

Having given the command to the guys not to leave the point from which they saw the "camel", I went back in my own footsteps.

Climbing Krestovsky volcano, Kamchatka, Klyuchevskaya group of volcanoes

The finale of the story is in the best traditions of Hollywood: 15 minutes left before the complete darkness, the fog was thickening, I could barely move my legs beaten into meat... Suddenly, against the background of a slightly bright sky, I distinguish the silhouette of a man. I didn't believe it, I thought it was hallucinations.

Kamchatka Matterhorn - Kamen volcano - the most difficult climb in Kamchatka

In reality, there was no chance for salvation at all, my actions in this accident came from pure stubbornness and unwillingness to accept that what seemed inevitable. Just as a note - the "camel" hill was on the limit of the search zone, the guys reached this hill with no special purpose. Afterwards they could not answer at all why they moved so far in this direction.

The eruption of Klyuchevskaya Sopka in Kamchatka is an enchanting night spectacle

Why did I remember this story? The simplest things are always the most relevant - in any, the most hopeless situation, something completely unexpected can happen. The main conclusion from this story - never give up and move forward until the last drop of power.

Russian varian of Kamchatka breakfast

Here my tale ends ... One who learned the lesson – is a good guy!

The author of the text and photos - Alexey Trubachev

Your guide to climbing and trekking routes in Kamchatka


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Our Principles

AlexClimb Rule #1 - Safety First

From the very beginning of our activity, here nearly 16 years, the first Principle of work of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb is the Safety Priority. On the basis of this Principle all process of training is based, all programs and rounds are developed and carried out only within this main principle. We consider that at professional approach to development of programs, at personal discipline and correctly put motivation - occupations by mountaineering and rock-climbing are COMPLETELY safe. And from the return - all troubles and accidents in our sport come from nonprofessionalism, from ignorance or neglect by elementary standards of safety, from irrational motivation, from revaluation of own forces and opportunities. All these prerequisites we COMPLETELY EXCLUDE in our work - ours Rock-climbing, Ice climbing and Mountaineering are based on one Principle - the Safety Priority. In rock-climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing, the Priority of Safety of MCS AlexClimb-is your personal security and comfort irrespective of, than we are engaged - we train muscles and we work technology of the movement in the sports hall and on the rock climbing wall, we make the way through snowstorm to top or we relax on golden sand of the Caribbean beach after hot day of trainings on rocks. The Safety priority - the main credo of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb.

AlexClimb Rule #2 - Leave No Trace

Closely interacting with Nature, working with the active programs in mountains, woods, lakes and rivers, we perfectly understand the importance of carefull and respectfull bahavior towards the Nature, for its resources. From the very beginning of our outdoor-activity we adopted rules of  Leave No Trace technique - the standard of behavior of the person accepted in all the civilized world in relation to environment and especially - to the wild nature. After all on the relation of people to the nature near which they exist, itself can draw dalekoidushchy conclusions on the relation of these people to... Where and as we didn't travel - we don't reserve any garbage, we try to reduce whenever possible our influence on environment to a minimum. We clear earlier zagryazyonny tourist parking of the left garbage, we take out and we take out to utilization places that to us other people left there. We consider that only thus, at personal individual consciousness of each citizen, each tourist, climber or autotraveller, we will be able to keep the nature surrounding us in its state, natural, suitable for life, - in it pledge of the healthy future for ourselves and our children.

AlexClimb Rule #3 - Sober Concious

The position of AlexClimb Mountain and rockclimbing School regarding healthy lifestyle is quite clear - we consider that only sober consciousness is capable to fill sincere emotions,  to sympathize, to enjoy life in all its variety. Bright various enjoyable life is possible only on condition of keeping the absolute sobriety and purity of consciousness. Any way of obscuring our perception of reality is intended to do harm to our consciousness and bring harm to our physical health, to replace the true values by false ones, to destroy us physically - to turn us into flabby, weak, senseless, gray herd with empty hazy eyes. We don't force anybody to our point of view, everyone has a God's gift of making his own choice and to destroy himself if that is what he wants... But in AlexCilimb Mountain Climbing School we accept quite certain and very simple set of rules: neither alcohol, nor drugs.