Our third day at the Gorely camp was the day we climbed the camp’s namesake, Gorely Volcano. The morning weather was surprisingly perfect – only a few wispy clouds and lots of sunshine and blue sky overhead. It looked like an excellent day for a climb. The “eruption,” or cloud plumes, we had been seeing the last couple of days seems to have stopped for the time being.
Much to the relief of our tired backsides, there would be no riding in the 4WD vehicle today! From our base camp, we walked down into and across a dry lake bed, then ascended directly up the trail towards the summit. About half-way up, the volcano began venting small plumes of smoke again. This hike was much different from yesterday’s in that we didn’t have any vegetation or snow fields for the entire hike. We continued up the trail to the crater rim where we had lunch.
There were two main craters inside Gorely; the bottom of the first crater was covered with a beautiful green lake. After lunch we continued to a high point on the rim which is considered the summit. From there we could look deep into the second crater. The second crater was the source of the venting that we had been witnessing over the last couple of days. From the rim high point, we walked down about a hundred feet and then along a bench to a spot where we could see further into the crater. The source of the venting was a large hole near bottom of the caldera. Although there was only a little steam coming out of the vent while we were there, the volcano emitted a jet engine-like roar that was almost deafening, even from our perch 1,000 feet above. With binoculars, we could just barely make out the red glow of lava inside the vent’s opening – a bit unnerving to say the least!
We returned to the crater rim and headed back down the trail to camp. The hike down seemed to go on forever and after thinking about it, the hike up Gorely was deceptively long and it was the warmest day of hiking we’d had on the trip. By now Gorely was really kicking out smoke, sending a long plume to the east. It was still warm and sunny when we arrived back in camp. Valerie was desperate to wash her hair, so I helped pour water on her head while she shampooed and rinsed. It’s amazing how a clean head of hair can make someone feel like an entirely new person. The rest of the group enjoyed some Russian beer while we awaited dinner. The beer had the same effect on them as Valerie’s clean hair had on her outlook.
We had a special guest for part of our dinner. A group member had met a German gentleman in the dry lake bed below camp who had completely busted an axle on his car. He was awaiting help from Petropavlovsk so he joined us for soup in our cook tent. He was a businessman running his company in Moscow and was quite interesting to talk with. As it was almost getting dark, we heard the din of a helicopter in the distance. Moments later, the noise much louder, the helicopter landed at our camp and deposited a tourist from Australia who had just flown in from a bear-watching trip at Kolysuk Lake. So, we again had an interesting chat with this newcomer around our evening fire pit.
As we settled into our tents, Gorely began belching copious amounts of smoke and steam, making us just a little nervous about its intentions.