American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Russia, Kamchatka Peninsula, Kamchatka Exploration

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Kamchatka exploration. Our self-sufficient, four-person team—Melis Coady, Aubrey Knapp, Keri Meagher, and myself—made the first ski-mountaineering expedition to the Pinechevo Pass area on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. With support from the American Alpine Club’s Mountaineering Fellowship, we departed from Yelsova in April, 2002. From Pinechevo Valley, we set up base camp on the southwest side of Pinechevo Pass, and made many forays into the surrounding valleys to climb and ski.

We made a number of first ascents on small unnamed peaks near Pinechevo Pass (up to 8,000'), including a route up the south ridge of Volcano Aag’s southwestern sub-summit. We also made many ski descents on slopes up to 40° and as long as 4,000 vertical feet. The snow varied from exceptional to “survival.” Our initial objective had been to climb and ski some of the larger volcanoes in this area, but horrible weather, wet snow, and problems with stove fuel (Russian diesel) thwarted us.

This area offers tremendous potential for alpine mountaineering routes. Steep narrow couloirs, jagged rock, and clean ridgelines abound with potential routes ranging from moderate to long and challenging. It is a ski-mountaineering paradise with the added bonus of smoking volcanoes and natural hot springs. Planning an expedition to Kamchatka requires time and patience. Only recently opened by the Soviet government, the logistical challenges include tourist invitations, travel to the peninsula, the Russian bureaucracy, and a scarcity of accurate maps. The payoff is an unexplored area with unlimited possibilities.

Molly Loomis, Wyoming

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