Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Crossing the Vatnajökull

After the three weeks spectacular in Svalbard I had a week back home to take care of mundane issues and repack for another two weeks on the ice. This time the destination was Iceland and the plan was to guide an Avotunturit ski expedition across Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.

This would be my third time crossing the Vatnajökull, this time from East to West once again visiting the Grimmsfjall volcano, a high-point in the middle of the glacier with spectacular views and a cozy hut on top of it. I was looking for a nice, relaxed little ski expedition with easy-going, good food and good company, mixed with little bit of infamously bad Icelandic weather.

But it didn’t go quite as a hoped for. The tour turned to be quite different from the three superlative-packed weeks in Svalbard. Good with it’s own highlights, none the less, but different.

The logistics of getting at the Eastern edge of the Vatnajökull are little more difficult than getting to the fjells in Lapland (or to Svalbard in that matter). We flew to Keflavik, took a rental car to Reykjavik were we shopped for food and fuel and spent a night in a familiar cozy hostel. The next day we drove along the Southern coast to a small village of Höfn near the glacier. The last time I did the drive straight from the airport, driving in the dark and missing most of the beautiful coastline so this time we took our time stopping every now and then to admire the sights. It got windy quite soon on the way, a state of conditions that would define our little excursion.

The views along the coast were not too bad.

In Höfn we returned the car, made ourselves home at nice bed & breakfast accommodation and readied our gear for the start. And of course we made time to enjoy the geothermal heat in the pools nearby. It was windy. And colder than it should be in early May. When walking from the pools back to our rooms the wet swimming suits and towels didn’t dry in the wind but instead froze into hard plates…

The next morning we got a ride to a pass near our entry to the glacier. The previous night I had asked about the road conditions (a small private road recreated every summer after the spring melt washes it away) and I was told they hadn’t yet driven up to the pass that spring but would go for a reconnaissance drive in the evening. In the morning I was told they didn’t go but instead would “just wing it.” And that’s what they did. Excellent driving once again.

And no, we didn’t all die on the way.

The drive wasn’t too long in kilometers but it took about two hours. We didn’t get quite to the pass because of sloping snow blocking the way but this was expected. So we carried our ski expedition gear in 20-24 m/s headwind over the pass and down to the glacier where the valley protected us from the worst of the wind.

Down in the valley we repacked the gear once again, this time for 11 days of skiing and manhauling, and set on the glacier after searching for a safe route. Because of the heavy hauling and carrying, we skied just a short stretch to a safe and flat campsite before calling it a day. It was beautiful but windy day.

The next day started beautiful with very little wind but while pushing up from the glacier to the plateau of ice, the wind picked up. And it wouldn’t stop. For five days.

In the afternoon the drifting snow hampered the visibility and wind got bad enough (15-20 m/s) that going downhill to the plateau wasn’t safe anymore so we camped. The next day we spent a good hour digging our tents out of the snow (mostly a single geodesic dome, the tunnels did a lot better) and got back on our skis but stopped again after four hours because of bad conditions.

The next day we postponed the start by two hours, then again by another two hours and then once more by two hours to decide it would be a full weather day. Wind wasn’t impossible but around 15-20 m/s with thick drift lowering the visibility to 5-10 meters at the worst. On the evening’s radio call the inhabitants of the dome tent, referring to themselves as the bear cubs, asked if someone would bother to come and dig them out of their tent. And of course we did. And the next morning we once again dug up and packed the tent, an hour of group effort…

The weather was only slightly better than the previous days but that was enough for us to start the push towards West. We skied some 15 kilometers in eight windy hours before setting up camp. This time the dome tent stayed in the bag and we utilized the extra space in our three person tunnels to make things faster – and cozier. We did the same on the following two days after skiing nine hours in varying weather. On the fourth day after the storm we got the Grimmsfjall in our sight and climbed the icy slope up to the cabins. A small victory! We relaxed at the cabin, enjoyed the volcano-powered sauna and went for a little walk at the edge of the caldera to witness a beautiful sunset.

The next morning was gorgeous but we missed most of it sleeping long and relaxing in the cabin. Soon after we had departed from the safety of the cabin we skied into very humid wind. Those who have been to Iceland know what I mean. But that doesn’t really stop one from skiing so we continued towards the Western edge for half a day.

The next day offered the best skiing of the trip: good weather, good condition and nice looong downhill. It was not difficult to persuade the group to do a longer day of full ten hours on skis to reach the edge of the glacier, and another Jorfi cabin. And that was it. The biggest glacier in Europe was crossed!

The next day we were picked up by a trusty super-jeep driver and delivered safely back to the cozy hostel at the heart of Reykjavik through the snowy (and officially closed) highlands. After ski, dinners, a visit to Bluelagoon and other appropriate pastime followed until we returned to Finland.

The ski season was over for me for the year but I wouldn’t quite get rid of the snow. But more about that later…

– – –

And as usual, more photos in my gallery.

Three Weeks in the Wonderland

It’s pretty much summer now. At least in most of Finland. The snow has melted away, the winter kit is serviced and packed away and plans for summer adventures are being finalized. But let’s go back a couple of months and return again to the winter wonderland of the high Arctic…

In April I was guiding a three-week Ankarat avotunturit ski expedition to Svalbard. When the starting date drew closer, for some weird reason, I was more excited about the Vatnajökull crossing waiting in May, thinking it would be more interesting than Svalbard. I was wrong. So wrong.

Three weeks is a long time and there is too much to write about in detail but I think the photos do justice for the tour, to the time and place where we were.

We where there…

…sweating our way up the hills.

…skiing through the remote valleys.

…crossing the wast glaciers.

…waking up to the gorgeous mornings.

…climbing up to the jagged peaks.

…and skiing back down.

…finding our way to the cold shores.

…overcoming obstacles.

We where there…

…for the scenery.

…for the wildlife.

…for the sweet little surprises along the way.

…for the good life.

To make memories that define us.

I’d like to thank the great group I had privileged to guide. And the weather gods. And who ever sold his/her soul to keep them happy and favourable. Sorry for the soul, but it was well worth it.

Weeks like those, in wilderness like that, leave their mark. They change us. They define us. They leave a longing for more.

And so, I will return to those cold shores and jagged peaks.

– – –

As usual, more selected photos in my gallery.

– – –

And a little technical side note:

Due to hassle and serious sleep deprivation on departure, I accidentally packed my spare camera batteries to my checked luggage and as li-on batteries they were confiscated by the airport security. I noticed this way too late in Longyearbyen and didn’t have a chance to get any spares and thus had to survive with the single battery in my EOS 6D. I turned off the screen, the image stabilization, etc. and put the camera on only momentarily to take pictures trying to conserve power as much as was reasonable. I was amazed by the performance.

I took 1178 pictures with my camera (EOS 6D with 24-105 4 L IS lens)! And in the end the battery even had a tiny bit of juice left despite the camera warning of low battery level for the last three days. I was pretty damn impressed. But the next time, I will take spare batteries. And pack them to the carry-on luggage.

Opastettuja packraft-reissuja! / Guided packrafting activities!

This blog post about guiding services I am offering for summer 2015 is  in Finnish as the packrafting courses and tours I’m offering with set dates will be guided in Finnish as default. But if you’re interested in a course or a guided tour in English, feel free to contact me with e-mail and we’ll arrange something great together!

This post serves also as a “commenting area” as the comments on pages are disabled. / Tämä tiedote palvelee myös kommentointi- ja keskustelualueena, sillä info-sivuilla ei voi kommentoida.

Kesä 2015 packraft-kurssit ja -vaellukset

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Vuodelle 2015 tarjoan seuraavia packraft-kursseja ja -vaelluksia:

Packraft-melonnan peruskurssit
– 22.-23.8.2015, Kymijoki, Etelä-Suomi: 22.8. perusosa, 23.8. jatko-osa
– 29.-30.8.2015, Kymijoki, Etelä-Suomi: 29.8. perusosa, 30.8. jatko-osa

Packraft-vaellukset
– 27.6.-5.7.2015, Ivalojoki, Pohjois-Suomi:  Hammastunturista löytyy rauhallista erämaata ja Ivalojoen legendaarisilta kultamailta taas vauhdikkaita koskia. Nämä on mahdollista yhdistää packraftin avulla. Kalastusmahdollisuus kiinnostuneille.
– 5.9.-13.9.2015, Nordreisa, Pohjois-Norja: Pohjois-Norjassa Reisadalenin mahtavassa rotkolaaksossa virtaava Reisaelva on kuin luotu packraft-melontaan. Parhaaseen ruska-aikaan, jolloin luonto on kauneimmillaan.

Lisätietoja kursseista ja vaelluksista täältä!

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PS. Myös räätälöityjä kokeiluja, kursseja, retkiä ja vaelluksia on tarjolla sopimuksen mukaan. Räätälöityjen retkien saatavuutta ja hintoja voit tiedustella sähköpostilla!

(Ja jos mietit, että mikä ihmeen packraft niin vilkaisehan “Mikä packraft?” -sivua saadaksesi vastauksen.)

The best winter yet? Starting from Sarek.

The blog has been quiet since my contemplations of saying farewell to winter.

The reason is, that I succeeded and found the winter. And definitely didn’t have to say good byes in February. At the end of February I headed to Sarek in Northern Sweden and found beautiful winter on the fjells. No signs of the wet misery of last year but simply great late-winter conditions.

After Sarek I got a taste of wet winter on an overnight expedition training trip at Southern Konnevesi National Park and as I didn’t want to let go of the winter quite yet, I soon headed to Svalbard for a three-week expedition. As the pile of photos from the Svalbard expedition is still a mess of raw files, I’ll just settle into saying: It. Was. Awesome.

Well, there is one photo, so I’ll include it here as a teaser.

15-04-15EOS 6D1180_900But Sarek was awesome too, and the photos from Sarek are ready so lets get back there…

The first tour we started from STF station at Ritsem. We got a firm welcome from Nordic nature crossing the lake Ahkka: heavy winds with drifting snow. But starting from the second day it all got better. A lot better.

We were mostly blessed with bluebird skies and light winds. Temperatures dropped occasionally well below -20°C but mostly it was quite warm to be early March. In addition, one night we were blessed with short but spectacular auroras! We also saw quite a lot of wild life with the highlight, for me, being a wild wolf! We saw plenty of wolf tracks and on the lunch break of the fifth day spotted a black silhouette moving in the distance and later confirmed from the track that it was the wolf we had been skiing with!

Thanks to the good conditions we managed to ski “the long tour” as planned and clocked a bit over 120 kilometers in the seven days dispite a pretty serious burn on one participant caused by spilling a litre of boiling water on his thigh. It looked really bad, but he was a seriously tough guy and soldiered through the remaining three days of skiing without any issues.More photos from the trip in my gallery.

After a recovery day at Levi, it was time to go back with another group. Meanwhile Tero from the first tour had braved the winter storms solo and joined us for another tour.

The second tour started in spectacular weather but on the third day and the fifth night we got hit by a nice storm, not too bad, but enough to say it was a storm. In between the weather was again great, colder at times but mostly pretty warm. In the end we blasted over 5 kilometers in an hours (with pulkas!) and enjoyed coffee and refreshments at a pop-up coffee on lake Ahkka.

More photos also from the trip in my gallery.

Thanks for the great groups for the great tours! It was awesome.

For me the winter will still continue for a while as soon I’ll be heading to Iceland to once again cross the Vatnajökull glacier. I sure hope I haven’t burned all my good weather karma quite yet as the weather is Iceland can be horrible. I wouldn’t mind the spell of good luck continuing for a few more weeks. Or a few more years…

Farewell to winter?

Why are you leaving so early again, dear winter?

15-02-22EOS 6D9604_600It seems that it’s time to say farewell to the winter who is leaving the Southern Finland too early again. Way too early. The winter here was short but not as bad as the previous one either: We had a decent amount of snow and the lakes did freeze but the temperatures zig-zagged around zero… But it was still pretty good winter. Most of my time outdoors was spent on guiding and instructing the Ankarat avotunturit courses. The time in between was spent mostly doing administrative work and preparing for what is to come.

My outdoor year started with some hunting in early January and included spending a night in open (though not public, but still free to use if you find it!) wilderness hut. My friend got the fox and an hour later I shot the manged raccoon dog. Traditional sit and wait hunt with not-so-traditional tools. No luck with hare the following day but a great start for the year anyway!

15-01-09EOS 6D9250_600 15-01-10EOS 6D9263_600 15-01-10EOS 6D9265_600The first Ankarat avotunturit introduction course was held at the Syöte National Park. It’s a great location with open marsh plains and deep spruce forests framed by rolling hills. And with a guarantee of snow!

This time too, the snow was plenty but unfortunately the temps were around zero. I started with a solo overnighter to scout the conditions skiing with my OAC Kar 147s first from the visitor center to Ahmatupa hut (Great hut! Rent the key for the reservation hut to use the sauna if you visit it!). The next day I continued scouting the trails to and from Toraslampi doing a bit of bad orienteering as I forgot to take my map from the car the previous evening and thus missed the coffee and donuts at visitor center…

15-01-16EOS 6D9329_600 15-01-16EOS 6D9333_600On the course we skied from the visitor center to Toraslampi and back spending a rather wet night in tents. Thanks to Hotel Iso-Syöte for the course venue!

15-01-18EOS 6D9346_600 15-01-18EOS 6D9362_600The next weekend we had the training trip of the Svalbard expedition crew (Huippuvuoret 2015). This was held at Padasjoki at Päijänne National Park which offered awesome surface for skiing, mild temps and a cooling breeze that helped to keep our tents dry. The crew did really well and I’m sure we will have a great expedition in Svalbard! The Kelvene area also inspired me to plan some packrafting adventures for the closing summer…

15-01-24EOS 6D9374_600 15-01-24EOS 6D9387_600Then I had two more introduction courses. First at Taipalsaari skiing on the frozen Lake Saimaa. Again mild temps, wet snow and a fair wind in the evening which added a bit of challenge to pitching the camp on the ice. Good training.

15-01-31EOS 6D9418_600The second course was again at lake Päijänne but this time at Jämsä. Conditions were very familiar: overcast, mild temps and a bit of wet snow. The kind of winter we’ve had. Luckily I had a nice group of wilderness guides, students and teachers to add a bit of colour to the otherwise grey conditions.

15-02-05EOS 6D9428_600I was also instructing on the Ankarat avotunturit special courses related to safety training and first aid and expedition medicine. You can read more about them and see a few photos in the Avotunturit blog.

At the end of February I had time for an overnighter with N. We decided to explore the surroundings of our new home at Riihimäki. We had visited the groomed ski tracks and slopes of Riutta before for training and had noticed a map which showed a groomed ski track to some nearby shelters and fire places. We didn’t know anything but what was on the map. But that’s enough for a little adventure! Especially when you go without a map or compass only checking the map at the beginning of the trail and trusting that your phone will save you in case you get lost…

So, late on Saturday afternoon we packed the gear and headed to the ski track walking trough the dark slushy streets and drizzle. The winter seemed to be about to leave. The groomed track to Riutta was easy going but from Riutta there was no groomed ski track marked on the map. Just the signs of summer trail “Ilvesreitti” (click “Kesäretkeily”, “Retkeilyreitit” and “Riihimäen reitti”), but we assumed it would take us to the right place and after some open streams, road walking, forest walking and even a bit of skiing we found ourselves at the first shelter and called it a day.

15-02-21EOS 6D9590_600 15-02-21EOS 6D9592_600Nice dinner by the camp fire followed but the night was slightly uncomfortable as I had to sleep on me side because the benches at the shelter were too narrow for me to sleep on my back… Clearly ment for day visitors only. The morning welcomed us back on the trail with more rain and occasional shower of snow. In the daylight route finding was easier and we could ski a bit more but still had to walk every now and then to spare our skis. The snow was melting fast and the next week the only places to ski in would be the prepared tracks and open fields.

15-02-21EOS 6D9597_600 15-02-22EOS 6D9602_600 15-02-22EOS 6D9608_600We were back home wet and with new scratches in our skis but happy none the less. The most important thing is to get out!

15-02-22EOS 6D9612_600So, I managed to fulfill the first two months of the #twonights challenge! Six nights in January (counting the 31.1.-1.2.) and two in February. And even though the challenge is “closed”, you are still free to join for peer support and pressure to make sure you get a healthy dose of nights outdoors every month!

– – –

So it seems like it would be time to say farewell to winter.

But I don’t want to.

Hear this winter, I’m not finished with you yet! There is no mountain so high, cave so deep or wilderness so cold that I wouldn’t find you!

I’ll start from the fjells of Sarek in early March. And should you try to escape, I’ll be searching you from the cold shores and jagged peaks of Spitsbergen in April. And I’m pretty sure that in May I’ll find you from the glaciers of Iceland.

I’m not finished with you yet, winter!

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