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Expedition Planner: Kamchatka

It's as big as California, boasts more volcanoes than Alaska, and counts nearly as many geysers as Yellowstone.

  • Valley of the Geyser (hike): Second only to Yellowstone in geothermal attractions, this wonderland is preserved as a United Nations World Heritage Site and part of the Kronotsky Preserve. More than 20 large geysers erupt here, some every few minutes, and you’ll see countless mudpots, thermal pools, 100-foot waterfalls, and colorful geyserite formations. This 2-week hike includes an exploration of the Uzon Caldera, camping along the Sestrenka River, and a side-hike to the Pacific Ocean to look for bears fishing in the surf.

    Access: Only by helicopter from Yelizova to Burlyaschy Volcano (60 minutes each way).

    Contact: Explore Kamchatka (see above).

  • Mutnovsky-Gorely Volcanoes (climb): This 3- or 4-day hike lets you climb two of Kamchatka’s 29 active volcanoes. At Mutnovsky, you’ll hike through fields of wildflowers and scorched earth right into the active crater of one of the world’s largest geothermal fields, where boiling pools bubble directly across from glacial ice.

    Access: Drive 50 miles from P-K, then hike the last 6 (or hire a six-wheel vehicle).

    Contact: Explore Kamchatka (see above).

  • Bystraya River (float): The whitewater is moderate (class II+) on Kamchatka’s second-longest river, but the grizzlies, which occasionally swim it, can boost the adrenaline quotient dramatically. Good fishing, birding (think Stellar sea eagles), and scenery are highlights on this 4-day float. Add a day at the end to bag Avacha Volcano and a commanding view of both an active crater and the Pacific Ocean.

    Access: Drive 90 miles from P-K to Malky, where the float starts.

    Contact: Lost World, Ltd., 011-7-415-21-983-28; www.travelkamchatka.com

  • Klyuchevskoy (ski mountaineering): At more than 14,000 feet, Klyuchevskoy Volcano is the tallest active volcano in Eurasia. It anchors a ring of 11 peaks including Bezyimyany, Plosky, and Karmen that dominates northern Kamchatka. A 3-week spring (May) ski mountaineering trip gives you access to thousands of vertical feet of virgin backcountry skiing. Also a great 10-day hike in summer.

    Access: From P-K, drive 10 hours to the village of Kozirevsk, then helicopter 30 minutes into the peaks.

    Contact: Feodor Farberov Mountain Guides, 011-7-415-22-704-03; fedia61@hotmail.com.

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