Climbing Avacha


Red, green, and violet lights filled the cabin. I gazed out the window sleepily. Fireworks soared through the camp: it was time to climb Avacha. My mother and I dressed quickly and warmly. We headed down towards a gathering crowd at the banks of a river. Close to 500 people were going to climb Avacha on that cold July morning. Babushkas, veterans, sports men, children, teachers, musicians -it seemed everyone was going to make the climb.

My mother and I arrived in Kamchatka after traveling for two months through Siberia by buses, trains, planes, and at times even horses. A taxi driver who picked us up at Petropalovsk international airport told us that there would be a communal climb up Avachinsky Volcano in memory of a local philanthropist and musician. The next morning we were part of a colorful crowd loading up into old Soviet buses. It was dark when we arrived at base camp. We went to sleep in our cabins soon after. It wasn’t until morning that I saw where we were.

The peak steamed like a warm bowl of borsht on a cold winter day. The route started off steep and everyone found their pace quickly. After a few hours I was in my own world. I watched the clouds envelop people below and above me. One moment I was only inside of a cloud it would become cold and disorienting. Where had the volcano gone? Where was I? Then the sun would come out and I would see for miles across the Kamchatka wilderness: grizzly country.

On approaching the last stretch of the climb I began to breathe heavily. I had never been up so high in my life close to 9000 feet. Generally it is better not to look down but on that day I found that looking up was more dangerous –it didn’t seem like I was getting any closer to the peak. I was exaughsted and my feet were beginning to give out on me. I entered some kind of a trance and before I knew it  there was a rope in front of me and I grabbed onto it and pulled myself up to the peak.  I lay on warm volcanic rocks and breathed sulfur for the next hour. People slowly trickled entering over the rim of the volcano. I was impressed to see the colorful bunch of locals make the same difficult journey I had just made.




27 Responses

  1. It would definitely be a prbleom for much of the life that is on our planet anyway. Tectonic processes that lead to earthquakes and volcanoes are responsible for chemical recycling of the crust, and for topography. It may be that some nutrient poor ecosystem in a global ocean could survive One way to look at it is to imagine what would happen if you shut off tectonics on earth and then watched what happened.For a while (tens to hundreds of millions of years I’d guess) it wouldn’t be a prbleom. No more volcanic eruptions would reduce nutrient input into some ecosystems, but similar nutrients could be derived from mountain erosion.Gradually erosion and deposition would lead to a planet dominated by ocean and broad coastal plains with rounded upland hills and low mountains. At this point the rate of erosion would be dropping off because the softer sediment would already be eroded, and steep slopes where erosion is enhanced would be reduced. This means that the mineral portions of soils, and dissolved minerals in groundwater, would be becoming less and less. Also without upland sources rivers would be sluggish and low oxygen. Beaches would be broad and muddy, and tides would be damped by broad shallow seas along the coastlines. This is a planet where diversity is reduced, but life is likely still abundant.Next the land would vanish, eroded away by the ocean. The ocean floor is covered in a layer of clay, sealing off any geologic nutrient sources. Life would have to evolve to make use of a narrower spread of chemical building blocks, but would still have sunlight as an energy source.This picture is built around the impossible scenario where tectonics on the earth get shut off. If you had a planet where the nuclear heat that powers tectonics was absent from the start, then there would be no topography to start with. Many scenarios for the beginning of life, and for life’s survival of hard times like possible snowball Earth periods, rely on geothermal springs. And without tectonic mixing of the earth’s mantle and crust much of the volatile water and CO2 might never reach the atmosphere perhaps it would be a frozen dry rock.One thing that might alleviate the issues of no tectonics is the occasional meteor impact. For a time after such an impact there would be fresh rock exposed, and heat from the impact would drive groundwater circulation and nutrient flow. Impacts can be a very large source of energy that is similar to volcanic processes The K-T impact 65 million years ago likely lofted a huge quantity of sulfur into the atmosphere, similar to a very large eruption, and a much older impact generated the complex metal-rich mineral deposits at Sudbury similar to the way magma intrusions can concentrate scarce minerals.

  2. Sí, es que esa es otra. Estoy hasta el moño de los listonguis que creen que con llenar un texto de esdrújulas y de palabrejas complicadas están diciendo algo interesante. El verdadero talento es el que expresa argumentos inteligentes de la forma más sencilla posible. Lo otro es ser un tontaco y un repelente.Y te alabo el gusto si bajas la nota por faltas de ortografía, Javivi. Tú, que trabajas con estudiantes, ¿cómo ves su nivel? Porque de verdad que lo de los becarios de periodismo es -salvo honrosas excepciones- de vergüencica ajena…

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