– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

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!

Update on the #twonights Challenge

Some time ago I challenged everyone (who dares) to try to spend two nights out every month through the year 2015. As the challenge was published in mid-January some people are/were not able to get their #twonights done in January so I decided it would be fair to offer also a February start for the challenge. After all, the idea is just to encourage more people (myself included) to get out more regularly.

IMG_8747_600So, one less excuse to get out and sleep under the nylon/stars/snow/whateveryoufancy. You can start getting your two nights each month on February and continue to the end of January 2016. Total of 24 nights at the minimum and two nights each month.

Also to be clear, it’s okay to spent the night in tent, in lean-to or even in an open wilderness log cabin. The idea is just to get our more regularly through the year. No strict rules as long as you get out in the nature and spent two nights out each month.

2013_04_12_9999_108_600If you want to participate take a look at the original challenge here. And if you want me to share your online content about your two nights of each month, follow the directions and notify me and I’ll share your nights through the whole year!

I also noticed that the father of microadventure, Alistair Humpreys, is running a similar challenge in 2015. It’s little easier as it requires only one night a month but you should be bivying (as it’s a microadventure, not just any overnighter) so no tents or cabins. If you can’t make two nights a month, at least try one night a month!

2013_06_21_9999_84_600To repeat myself: Now you have one less excuse! Start planning and make the 2015 one of the best outdoor years you’ve had!

That’s what I’ll be doing!

Outdoor Challenge for 2015: #twonights

Here’s a nice little challenge for you to give you some extra motivation to get outdoors also this year! 2013_06_11_9999_55_900 What?

The challenge is pretty simple:

1) Get out, do something “outdoorsy” and sleep outside. (Just sleeping on the backyard doesn’t really count.)
2) Do it twice a month through the whole year 2015. *

The idea is by no means original and I found it originally on Finnish outdoor forum Vaellusnet back in 2013.

I thought this would a nice idea and I’m sure all but the most enthusiastic outdoor folks usually have at least month or two each year when they don’t reach this target. For example I’ve been sleeping outdoors 60 or more nights a year over the past half a decade but still I have a month or two each year when I don’t sleep outdoors at all. There are the depressing shoulder season months, months busy with mundane responsibilities, the too cold winter months and many other excuses not to go out. But I’m sure that a public challenge and some peer pressure would fix this, so here we go! IMG_9097_900 Why?

The main motivation is naturally going outdoors and getting more nights under the canvas or stars. Also when “having to go” around the year you will hopefully experience new seasons and conditions and while squeezing in a night or two during the busy times you’ll find new ways and places to go for an overnighter trip. This should be already interesting on its own but to motivate you further… 2013_10_30_9999_10_900 If you are blogging or otherwise sharing your outdoor activities online I’ll promise to share your posts thru the whole year 2015! I hope this will motivate you and others to get outdoors more regularly and will probably get some extra attention and traffic for your online content.

There are no prizes set for participating but if this turns out to be popular I’ll arrange a nice prize and it’ll be raffled between those who make it through the whole year, all the way from January to December. Two nights a month. 2013_07_10_9999_16_900 How?

Rules are that you should get a minimum of two nights outdoors every month through the whole year, from January to December. * Edit: Due to several requests I added a February start option, so 12 months from February 2015 to January 2016 counts too.

So, a minimum of 24 nights out during the year. It’s far from impossible but will hopefully provide a nice challenge and plenty of great experiences. As said, only sleeping outside (backyard, camping area, parking area, etc.) is not enough but you should do something “outdoorsy” in addition. Walking or cycling to your camping spot or preparing dinner on a fire is enough for me. But maybe you could try something new? Go for a swimhike? The trip can be anything from a five-to-nine microadventure to a multi-month expedition, as long as you’ll get your two nights out every month through the whole year. 2013_07_09_9999_10_900 If you share your outings online and want me to help sharing them:

1) Comment on this post sharing the link to your blog or other online platform. I’ll include a list of participants with every post.
2) Post reports/proof of your two nights a month by the 7th day of the following month. If you are lucky to get more outdoor time in a month, choose any two nights you want.
3) Post links to the reports/proofs you’d like to share by commenting this or any of the #twonights posts in my blog. I hope to be in the outdoors enough not to have the time to go through all of the great content, so this will make sure your posts/reports will be shared.
4) At some point during each month I’ll gather and publish all the posts from the previous month into a single blog post linking to your trip reports. If you don’t blog or otherwise share your trips you can also comment directly on the summary post of each months, sharing the trips you did the past month.

Any language or media. Anywhere in the world. No limits for creativity. The outdoor experience is a universal thing.

Feel free to share the idea! It’s great to go out in the wild and sleep under the stars. I firmly believe more people should do it so the more “noise” there is online, the better. You can use hashtag #twonights for you reports. IMG_3322_900 I challenge you, and myself, to get outdoors more regularly,
starting with two nights a month through the whole year 2015!

Do you pick up the gauntlet?

Outdoor Year 2014 in Pictures

/ A word of warning: As has been the case with the previous OYIP posts, also this post includes a lot of photos. They are nice and varied outdoors photos but there are many. You have been warned. /

It’s again the time annual OYIP post. The time to wrap up the past year in outdoors with a collection of chosen photos and a few words in between. (Just like I did in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It’s becoming a tradition…)

My year started by guiding husky tours in the Taivalkoski region. This time I wasn’t working there for the whole winter  but was happy to help with the busy weeks now and then. Winter wilderness, sled dogs, log cabins, great people… What’s not to like? And I even got help out a TV crew shooting dog sledding for the Erätulilla program.

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I will probably remember the winter 2014 as “the worst winter ever” as we were trying to prepare and train for the big Greenland expedition in the spring but we didn’t have enough snow for skiing or cold weather for testing gear or getting used to it. The winter was excellent for nordic skating but for some reason I wasn’t doing it… Luckily we got enough ice and a dusting of snow on top of it for the Arctic Ski Expedition course I guided in January.

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During the winter we did a lot of preparations for the upcoming Greenland expedition and after one of our training trips on icy lake Konnevesi I headed back to Taivalkoski for more husky tour guiding and then continued to Sweden to guide a ski tour in Sarek National Park. And also finally got some proper manhauling done before Greenland. This time the weather was pretty miserable: temps around and above 0°C, honest heavy rain, high winds and half a meter of snow in the end. But on the other hand it was also good training and I had again the privilege to be guiding a group of great people!

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The main trip of the year was my biggest trip yet: a ski expedition across the Greenland icecap  along the so-called “normal route” from Point 660 in the West to Isortoq in the East. With great imagination we named the expedition “Across Greenland 2014” (loads of photos in my gallery). The crossing took us 28 days and we skied around 560 kilometers unsupported and unassisted, on our own in the middle of the great white wilderness. It was my biggest trip yet and a great success in every way.To be honest, the expedition itself felt actually even too easy. But still, it was great. I hope to return to Greenland in 2016 and maybe one day I will do even bigger trip as this didn’t yet feel like “the big trip”. ;)

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After returning from Greenland I was having quite a serious case of expedition hangover. I was mostly interested in sleeping, eating, reading, walking and biking on the trails in the lush greenery of early summer and of course relaxing at a sauna by the lake Saimaa. The early summer offered mostly pretty crappy weather being cold, rainy and windy. But it got better on the second half of the summer, even to a point that we had to cut our Hammastunturi-Ivalojoki packrafting trip, the main trip of the summer, little short because of the intense heat and bad bugs.

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In the South I did a rowenighter, a rowboat overnighter, with a good old friend. An interesting way to travel in the land of thousand lakes but would be more enjoyable with faster boat with proper sliding seat and all that. But at least you can take all the kit you want to!14-07-15EOS 6D8054_1800

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The outdoor life in late summer and autumn consisted mostly of biking local trails and packrafting. I guided a packrafting course at Kymijoki in August. In September me and N tried again packrafting with a single packraft , but this time with a raft build for the purpose, an Alpackaraft EX 42. It was a success.

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In October I called for the First (Finnish) Packraft Gathering and met lots of great people at Kymijoki. I hope this will become an annual event and I see no reason why it wouldn’t. Packrafting is growing fast in Finland and the people involved are such a great and varied bunch it’s very inspiring to get together for some packrafting and good time outdoors.

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The late autumn didn’t see much trips, save an occasional overnighter but I spent quite some time in the outdoors having decided to get back to hunting and thus being out hunting moose with the local hunting club. In addition I did the usual foraging for berries and mushrooms and we had maybe the best year ever for porcini (Boletus edulis) and the cupboards and now full of dried goodness for the winter(s) to come. This is a part of outdoors activities that I’m getting more and more interested in: hunting, fishing, foraging, etc. Not just being out in the wild but to actually live from the nature. I hope to have more time for this in the future as there is so much to learn, more than enough for a lifetime or two…

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In early November I spent five days on excellent WMA first aid course upgrading my Wilderness Advanced First Aid certificate to WFR (Wilderness First Responder) which I feel to be better suited for guides. Great course again from WMA and Outwardbound Finland though I would’ve liked more and more challenging drills but with limited time… Despite not sleeping outdoors it was very useful way of spending the five days.14-11-06EOS 6D8962_900

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At the end of November me and N traveled to Helsinki for the annual Helsinki Adventure Night and Marko published an open invitation for people interested in an after party to come up with something outdoorsy and so the Helsinki Adventure Night Adventure Night was born. Hopefully this will become a tradition as well!

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Me year will end indoors at my cousin’s wedding and the next year will beginning, once again, by moving house as me and N will be relocating to Riihimäki. Despite the hustle we managed to squeeze in one more overnighter before the year ended. This time with kick-sleds on the recently frozen lake Saimaa! It was my first kick-sled overnighter ever but probably not the last one. Nordic skates would’ve been even better but still lacking them the kick-sleds worked fine too, and enabled quite load hauling too. And with all that carrying capacity I did take my spoon (the classic item to forget) but I forgot the pot (a stupid thing to forget) so we missed all the hot beverages…

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Just like in 2013 I spent some 50 nights under the nylon or stars. This year the great majority of those nights were in Greenland and rest mostly on packrafting trips. In addition I was out around 10 nights on the husky tours. Now that the year is closing to its end I’m happy for all the time I got to spent outdoors but also little sad I didn’t spend even more timeout there. I would’ve had the time and chances if I’d tried…

On other hand the next year looks excellent! I’m not making any resolutions here but… Now as I’m running my own guiding business and having lots of courses, tours and expedition planned I hope to hit the magical 100 nights out next year. But if I don’t I won’t be too sorry for that either. We will see, we will see…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my dear readers and the awesome outdoor blogging community!

May the next year bring you long seasons with great adventures!



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