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The Land of Ice and Fire

This summer, Colin Souness (a fellow glaciologist and caver in Aberystwyth) and myself are planning a three-week expedition to the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia. Bordering the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, the region is renowned for its high volcanic activity, as well its numerous glaciers.

The objectives of the expedition will be twofold:

  1. Make detailed observations atop debris-covered glaciers in the area, acting as a direct Earth analogue for interpreting Martian surface morphology (Colin’s PhD research).
  2. Climb 2-3 volcanoes in the region including Avachinksy (2741), Klyuchevskaya Sopka (4705) and Ploskaya Blinyaya (4057).

After landing in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and preparing visas/supplies, our first climb will be the dormant Avachinsky (left). The route should not prove too taxing and will act as a good initiation. Upon return to Yelizovo we will catch a bus 500 km north to Kozyrevsk (only the first 63 miles is paved) to reach the next target – Klyuchevskaya Sopka.

Of the three volcanoes, Klyuchevskaya Sopka is the highest summit in Kamchatka, and also the highest active volcano in the northern hemisphere. Almost adjacent lies Ploskaya Blinyaya. Depending on permit restrictions (Klyuchi lies within a military controlled zone), we will approach the summits from either the south or north side. On the hike in, we will stop off at one of the debris covered glaciers flowing down the volcanoes’ flanks in order to carry out Colin’s fieldwork. If time allows we also aim to do some underground exploration down the lava tubes in the area. Once we reach the pass between Klyuchevskaya and Ploskaya Blinyaya at ~2600 m we will set up a base camp from where we will be able to acclimatise and reach both summits (right).