Tolbachik volcano at night

Tolbachik volcano by night

The caldera at night

We trekked the five or six kilometres from our camp to the live cone which was erupting late one evening to have a night shoot on the edge of the crater. We crossed the destruction of the fresh lava flow with its smoking jumble of loose boulders and climbed the cone to get a spectacular spot right on the rim of the crater. We could look over the edge right into the lava lake below. Lave was boiling and spurting into the air. Clouds of poisonous gasses hissed and swirled around in the strong cold wind.

Looking into the crater

The devil’s cauldron

At first I was shooting one the side that everyone was on and then crossed across to the far side as the light was much better. I was alone on the top and it was very atmospheric. The wind was howling and very very strong. It was bitterly cold. I put on all my extra clothes including my weather proof Gore Tex shell and two pairs of gloves to keep warm. There was a constant whoosh and hiss from the crater as lava leapt into the sky and poisonous gasses filled the air. The strong wind was a good thing as it kept all the gasses blowing in one direction, making it easy to avoid.

Tolbachik volcano, Kamchatka

Sunset on Tolbachik volcano, Kamchatka

I was so absorbed in taking it all in and shooting photographs that I didn’t notice that it was nearly midnight and I was totally alone. Everyone had abandoned me and walked back to camp. While it was so late, it wasn’t totally dark as Kamchatka is so far north and out here you only get about three hours of complete darkness at this time of the year. Camp was a good six kilometres away and between us lay a huge stretch of treacherous fresh lava flow comprising of ankle breaking loose boulders and razor sharp rocks. I was not impressed with they way I was left behind without any notice and I made that known in no uncertain terms when I stumbled back into camp later that night.

Trekking in Kamchatka

Trekking in Kamchatka

It was an eerie feeling knowing that I was standing on the crater of a live volcano at midnight, the only human being for miles around, in one of the most remote place in the world. Luckily I had come prepared. I had my headtourch, GPS, warm clothes, snacks, water and years of experience. So I sat back to take it all in……till I saw a burst of lava land exactly where we had all been standing a few hours ago. At that point I decided that it was time to get out of there and back to safety of camp. I packed up my tripod and camera gear, shouldered my rucksack, clicked on my headtourch and headed off into the dark.


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