- my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Hell on the hills and the great river

Ivalojoki, one of the four big wilderness rivers in Finland. It is said to be the most beautiful of them all and after packrafting the Lätäseno ja Pöyrisjoki rivers I thought it was finally time to check out the Ivalojoki. (Näätämö river has to wait little more.)

Mid-July with a heat wave isn’t maybe the best time for a packrafting trip but that’s when N had her holiday so it had to make due.

And it was unbelievably great river running in a magnificent valley full of history and beauty! Way better views than on Lätäseno or Pöyrisjoki and also shorter flat sections to get bored to death and smaller and easier rapids (good news for some, bad news for others).

But as a spoiler I have to say, the creek-like Valtijoki in the alpine surroundings of Käsivarsi wilderness might be even better: 15 kilometers of near constant white water to keep the speed up and frequent challenging section to keep things interesting.

At Valtijoki in 2011 looking for a safe line.

At Valtijoki back in July 2011. Tuomas looking for a safe line above a big drop.

But the Ivalojoki wasn’t bad either, only the way to the river was bad. More of that below…

- – -

We started from an established landing spot below Tolonen by ferrying first our kit and then ourselves across the river with a single packaft. There was mild but clear flow and minor bugs. Temps were still warm in the evening,  as had been the case for the last week or more.

After the crossing we had a road walk in the program. Long stretch of dirt-road was beating our feet not yet used to hiking with heavy pack but the good views, great weather and occasional animal sightings kept the spirits high.

We camped by a little pond at the end of the road. There was an old fire-place so instead of the wood stove we lit a proper fire to drive away the bugs and enjoyed the golden light from the low hanging sun taht doesn’t actually set at all this time of the year.

We slept well and long in the shade of the trees and after breakfast headed up the Paskaluottuma fjell as the plan was to stay on the higher ground in hope of fewer bugs. Quite soon the plan started to feel flawed: the packs felt heavy with the extensive packrafting kit, there was no shade, breeze was only occasional and bugs were frequent. The views were good but it was damn hot! I drank 6 liters of water during the walk from camp to the next and didn’t have to pee until late in the evening after hydrating more in the camp… Too hot. (Official readings on nearby Ivalo airport hit +30 °C that day.)

At the camp the plan started to feel even more flawed: there were loads and loads of black flies and it was hot due the absence of wind or proper shadow. The smoke from the Bushbuddy wood stove helped a bit to keep the bugs away and we were able to fall asleep when the sun was low behind the Hammastunturi fjell. The largest hill on the area named after it.

Unfortunately the sun soon rose above the hills, as it always does, and we woke up uncomfortable literally dripping with sweat. I moved my mattress and sleeping bag to the side to sleep against the cool ground but this provided only temporary relief. Option were to be eaten by the bugs or drowning in your own sweat… We pondered on the situation and re-evaluated our plan. Hiking over the hills in the scorching sun accompanied with hordes of bugs wasn’t fun and N had quite bad, inflamed bites on the neck and face despite wearing a head net. We decided to cut the trip short. I was kinda disappointed as I would’ve really wanted to packraft as much of the river as possible but on the other hand I didn’t enjoy the hiking at all.

N’s neck at the end of the trip, looking already a lot better.

We did a quick hike up on top of the Hammastunturi, broke the camp and then headed down towards the river. We headed to the historical Kultala Crown Station, a relic from the gold rush in the 1870s. It was again a hot walk. We were interrupted by a large herd of reindeers blocking our way and while waiting we got rid of our butter and cheese supplies that were pretty liquid at this point of the trip…

We arrived at the Kultala in the evening and found it to be inviting and comfortable place after the hell on the hills: cool and shaded meadow with very few bugs despite the proximity of the big river. (The latter was quite a surprice.) There was a couple staying in the open wilderness hut, which was also too warm for comfortable nights sleep, so we pitched the tent nearby and slept well and long thanks to the trees lending their shade.

In the fourth morning we, again, re-evaluated the plan while having breakfast, around the midday, in the now empty hut. We liked it by the river, we were not in hurry and not interested in battling the head-wind down the river so we decided to spend the day exploring the historical area and the surroundings. Ivalojoki river has a long history of cold digging starting from the 1870s and there is still some small-scale digging going on. Lots of related history and relics around for those interested. In addition we hiked up the river  to paddle down some of the easy rapids above Kultala and climbed on the opposite river bank to enjoy the views. A good, lazy day was finished with fresh sweet buns with curious Siberian jays and voles zipping around looking for any leftovers or crumbles…

The next day we headed down the river with our little rafts. The rapids were easy, the flow was decent and the weather was still gorgeous. We had a break at the mouth of the Sotajoki creek where we met a father and son team on a canoeing trip and wondered the huge fields of rocks and the several kilometers long (I assume) hand dug ditches. Again relics from the time of the cold rush. It must have been hell of a job to dig gold from here, though the skilled and lucky got couple of kilos relatively easily in just few weeks during the first summer of the rush… For us the river provided just leisurely paradise after the hard time on the hills.

Later we continued downstream stopping at some more cold-rush era memorabilia: a failed dredger, another digging station at Ritakoski, a memorial near the place where the first cold was discovered, etc. The river got wider and shallower. There was barely enough water to get through the shallowest rapids but by choosing good lines and with some aggressive power paddling we didn’t have to get out from out little boats at any point. There was still  also some flow to help us but more importantly, we were blessed with back wind. :)

We arrived to an established fire-place at the confluence Louhioja and Ivalojoki where we planned to camp. The father and son team had taken the single obvious camping spot near the fire-place and were warming up an old stacked rock stove for tent sauna. There are lots of old fire-places, shelter support structures and rock stoves for saunas along the riverside. In my opinion too many. I’d love to see less human impact on the river (save the historical impact from the late 19th century) especially when it would be easy to have camp fires near the waterline where the floods will remove any marks…

But I have to admit I wasn’t sorry when we were offered a chance to use the tent sauna after the father and son. And we enjoyed the soft “löyly” (just missing a cold beer…) before retiring to our tent which we had pitched on a comfy spot right on the low river bank. There was no danger of water level rising that night and I don’t think the red tent added too much on the already abundant signs of human activity.

After a breakfast by the fire we walked up the Louhioja to check out the Louhioja open wilderness hut and then started paddling down stream. And there was plenty of paddling to do as on this last section the rapids were short, shallow and few. It was mostly flat and still water except for Toloskoski. The river notes recommend scouting the lower part of Toloskoski but it seemed reasonably easy and being lazy we just went for it. The price was bumping into couple of sneaky rocks at the very end. nothing serious with packrafts but might have very well resulted a swim in a canoe. After Toloskoski there was some more flat water to paddle untill we reached our car.

We packed up and took a final swim in the river with a thunder rumbling in the distance and a cloud front slowly rolling in. Little later at Ivalo the skies broke with proper down pour and thunder storm. But at this point we were sheltered and happily munching burgers. A perfect timing.

Ivalojoki proved to be great packrafting destination: nice views, lots of history and easy rapids with reasonable flow in between. But do hope for back wind. With a canoe or a kayak you’d most likely start from Kuttura which you can reach by road or higher up from the bridges at Ivalon Matti or Repojoki. But with a packraft you’re free to choose and the Hammastunturi wilderness area around the river offers great hiking terrain for the way in. We saw plenty of birds and reindeers and also moose and bear droppings. Proper wilderness with forested valleys and bare hill tops for the views, but also quite a lot of signs from humans: reindeer fences, etc. And with packraft you’d probably also get some fish from the several lakes of the area.

Once again I hope to return one day. Maybe in June with more water and definitely starting higher up, maybe all the way from the head waters.

Side note for future paddlers: The discharge at Pajakoski of Ivalojoki was around 30 m^3/s during the time which is quite typical summer flow. This was just enough for packrafts and we were able to power through the occasional (well, frequent) shallow sections with strong forward paddling and there was also reasonable flow to help us most of the time. But little more water wouldn’t hurt in my opinion. With this water level the rapids are quite safe but require careful reading of the water to avoid getting stucked on rocks. And unless you’re experienced paddler it’s wise to scout the biggest rapids in advance. It’s also good to keep in mind that there are no big bodies of water above river so the discharge can change fast.

There are also reasonably good river notes for the section from Kuttura to Ivalo. Good beta worth checking if planning a trip.

As usual, there are some more photos in my gallery and if you’re interested, you can find them here.

Rowernighter – Trip Report and Competition

You know all these fancy names for simple trip that includes spending the night in the woods, hills or other wild(ish) place? S24h, microadventure, extreme sleeps, Browernighter and the like. Well, last week I decided to go for a one as I needed to treat my chronic post-trip hangover.

The summer in Finland is at its best with blue skies, sunshine and warm days and nights. And as I happen to live by a big lake (just nominated as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world by WSJ) a trip to the lake was the way to go. The summer is always best by the proximity of water. At the moment my packraft is in good use somewhere in Lapland and I don’t own a kayak or canoe but that didn’t even slow me… I had an access to a simple rowboat and a friend willing to take up a pair of oars!

Rowernighter to Riutanniemi

We started in the afternoon with the most important thing: shopping. The food seems to always play a major role on the short overnighter near home and this time wasn’t an exception. Well stocked with equipment and food we headed to the shores of Western parts of Lake Saimaa and found the boat we were looking for. A boat, two sets of oars, a bailer but no PFDs. I highly recommend wearing PFDs when on the waters but we decided the lack of floatation devices would not stop us the weather was quite good, water was warm, there were two of us and the boat would float even if filled with water.

We cleaned and loaded the boat and set of around 6 pm.

The plan was to row to Mielakanranta, which was new to us, and spend the night there. We rowed the little under 10 kilometers in little over two hours, mostly into head wind, fueling ourselves with chocolate bars and beers on the go. The place at Mielakanranta was nice but judging from the amount of cars and boats we thought it might be little too busy for our taste and decided to continue into old and familiar lean-to shelter at Riutanniemi.

Even though rowing is quite easy we really felt the last kilometers as neither of us has ever done any serious rowing,or any rowing during this year. We took frequent photo and snack breaks admiring the sunset on the lake. I took photos with my Canon EOS 6D while my friend was shooting with his new Samsung Galaxy S5 which had incredibly good built-in HDR function: no candy shop colour horrors, just a great dynamic range with resolution higher than in my full frame camera! Very reasonable camera for shorter adventures which made me feel the need to upgrade my phone…

Finally we arrived at the shore, unloaded the gear and pulled the boat up high on the rocks. There were no people at the lean-to, only few mosquitoes and even those didn’t bother us untill late in the evening. We were hungry and had loads of food so we set up the kitchen and started with beers. In the spirit of Brovernighter we had brought some quality brews from Brewdog – of course in an insulated box with ice to keep them cold. Along with a barbecue and coals as open fires were restricted at the time. And fresh food and wine. The weights don’t really matter when you’re out with a boat.

Beers, tapas with toasted ciabatta, grilled pork and chicken with red bell peppers and vegetables, red wine, grilled peaches with whipped cream for dessert followed with irish coffee and some more irish coffee and whiskey when we ran out of coffee… We were spoilt, and properly stuffed.

The moon was shining bright and the night was beautiful and tranquil but the increasing bug density made relaxing in the hammock difficult so we pitched a tent for a good nights sleep and slipped inside. Sleeping bags weren’t really necessary in that weather but helped cushioning the ground.

After good but short night’s sleep the sun woke us up early but we decided to ignore it covering our heads with clothes and continued sleeping little longer. Quite a lot longer actually.

After lazy morning and late breakfast it was time to pack up, load the boat once again and head back home. And this time with a nice tailwind! We covered the 13 kilometers back home in 2 hours 20 minutes with little breaks, mostly rowing and occasionally trying to use a hammock as a sail. The latter didn’t work too well so I guess I’ll have to invest in a proper sail. We  managed to dodge a rumbling thunder front with our fast pace and before we even noticed the trip was over.

It was a nice trip with an old friend but, as I was afraid, it didn’t really help with the post-trip hangover. It’s chronic now. Rowing was fun and I’d like to try a “proper rowboat” with gliding seat and all. That should be a lot faster and maybe even more fun. Maybe next summer… And I definitely need to get a hammock with a bug net. And maybe a sail. And I need to get out on a trip again…

Reader Competition

Rowing has been traditionally very important mean of travel in the land of thousand lakes and big rowing events are still very popular but I’ve never encountered anyone on a longer trip with a rowboat or hadn’t done one myself, not even an overnighter. But this is time to change! Rowboats are (at least in Finland) readily available and underrated resource that can take you on a nice trip. about everybody know somebody who has a rowboat. So maybe you should also find a boat you can use and go for a little trip? It’s summer out there and it’s very beautiful.


To further encourage people to go for a Rowernighter I’m giving away a little price for the first three to report their Rowernighter online. I don’t have much to give away but the first three to report their trips will get a pouch of BlåBand Expedition Meal breakfast delivered to their mail box for free, and in addition you get to go on a nice trip! The rules are quite simple:

1. You have to go for a trip using a rowboat. Trip must last at least overnight but longer trips are also fine. Any trip during the year 2014 will do.
2. You must report the trip online with at least one photo and some text. Any language will do.
3. Post a link to your report or the report itself as a comment to this post.
4. THe first three people to submit their Rowernighter trip reports will get a free meal. (I’ll start sending these out on Monday 11.08.14).
5. Competition is valid untill the three meals are gone or by the end on 2014. Naturally trip reports are always welcome!

Please, wear PFDs and take care of ourself, fellow outdoor adventurers and the nature!



Quality kit for sale

As usual big expedition are not good for your bank account. And to avoid personal bankruptcy I’m selling some kit I’m not using enough to justify owning it. Most of it is winter kit but as you know, the winter is right around the corner and now is a good time to stock for the colder season.

Unrelated scenery photo from the Greenland crossing expedition.

I can send items to anywhere in Europe but buyer pays the shipping (unless you buy in bulk, then we can negotiate). Payment preferably by bank transfer but Paypal works also. Questions and reservations via comments or e-mail to jaakko_heikka@hotmail.com.

Photos of each item can be found from my gallery.

Cumulus double sleeping bag

A tailor-made double sleeping bag system from Cumulus made of the top materials with great quality. Nothing unnecessary making it incredibly light for the warmth.
Excusitic 1200 down sleeping bag, lengthened by 16cm making enough room to store kit in the footend for 180-190cm user. Slim fit, 186cm/100kg man still fits inside but there’s not much extra room. 1890 grams with 1280 g of down. Used for 6 nights.
– Tailor-made Climashield Apex filled synthetic overbag. Synthetic overbag with perfect fit over the down bag to add warmth and help control moisture. Pertex Endurance outer, 2x67g/sqm Climashield Apex filling ans Pertex Quantum inner. Full length two-way YKK zipper. 980 g making it nice stand-alone summer bag. New & unused with tags.
– Prices for new bags 580 euros + 205 euros. My price for the set 600 euros.

BC ski boots

Alpina BC1550, size 41. Used for about 100km, great conditions. 80 eur.

BC ski boots

Madshus Glittertind, size 48. New & unused with tags. Good fit for size 46-47 feet with warm double socks creating very warm combination. 120 eur.

Sold! Sole insoles

New & unused Sole insoles, sizes 41 and 46. 10 euros per pair.

Sold!  Down trousers

Nahanny Down Trousers, sixe XL, yellow&black. Used a few times, good as new. Tailor made super warm down trousers suitable for serious Arctic expedition or high mountains, or just for the dead of winter in Lapland. Waterproof/breathable fabric both on the outside and inside. Zipped kangaroo pocket, separating two-way side zips (i.e. drop seat function), etc. 150 eur.

Sold! Insulated skirt

“The Manly Red Skirt”, orange. Used a few times, good as new. Tailor made insulated skirt with light windproof nylon and 60g/sqm Primaloft Sport. Separating #5 YKK zipper and draw-cords on both ends. Only 173 grams! Great easy-to-use extra warmth for colder trips. Little too small for 186cm/100kg man, should fit slender users. 60 eur.

Insulated jacket

Rab Generator Jacket, size XL, black. Couple of years old but hasn’t seen much use. Small hole in the lining inside one of the pockets (not compromising the insulation). Great as standalone from late Nordic winter to late autumn but works also in deep winter when combined with thick fleece or insulated vest.  70 eur.

Merino wool shirt & pants

Guahoo Outdoor Heavy merinowool shirt & pants. New & unused, still in the box.
– turtleneck shirt, black, size XL, closer to normal size L. 30e ur.
– pants, black, size XXL, closer to normal size XL. 30 eur.
– pants, black, size XXXL, closer to normal size XL/XXL. 30 eur.

Sold! Coldavenger mask (reserved)

Coldavenger Snow Hunter Balaclava. New & unused, still in the box. It actually works! I have the black version in use so selling this. 40 eur.

Sold! Backpack

Golite Odyssey Womens, 78 liters, size M, blue. New & used but tags not attached.  78 liters and 1420 g. 120 eur.

Freezedried breakfasts

Blå Band Expedition meal “Mixed Flakes with Fruit” breakfast i.e. müesli with fruit.
– 1 bag, 4 eur
– 5 bags, 17,50 eur
– 20 bags, 60 eur

Sold! Headlamp

Petzl Tikka 2 headlamp, purple. New & unused, still in the box. COmes with Duracel AAA batteries. 25 eur.

Wide angle lens for Canon

Samyang 14mm F2,8 ED AS IF UMC for Canon. From 2011 but in great condition. Served me well with the crop frame but after moving to full frame camera I haven’t been happy with the image quality in the far corners so selling this. Comes with original packaging and accessories. 240 eur. I may consider Canon EF 16-35 2,8 II or EF 70-200 4 L (IS) in exchange.

Sompio Kiilopää Outdoor map

Sompio Kiilopää Outdoor Map, 1:50000 scale, from 2002 byt WSOY/Genimap. In excellent condition and comes with the original plastic cover. Good map for the Kiilopää and Nattaset area with all the trails, shelters, huts, etc. 10 eur including postage.


Getting over the expedition hangover

The blog has been quiet for about two months. That’s a long time. Of that time I’ve spent about five weeks on my longest expedition yet, skiing 27 days across the Greenland icecap. It was a wonderful tour and I had great time. But the price to pay seems to be the worst expedition hangover I’ve ever had. Some sort of post-trip torpor is typical to me but this time it feels exceptionally bad.

Yours truly enjoying life at the Greenland icecap. Photo by Matias Utriainen.

Yours truly enjoying life at the Greenland icecap. Photo by Matias Utriainen.

I was physically fine after the trip. I had to catch some sleep and took it easy for the first couple of weeks after the skiing but I lost only 2 kg of weight and it was solely fat so my body was fine. I didn’t have any bigger aches except for minor cold damage on the tips of my middle fingers and big toes but basically after a week of rest I was ready to go and ski cross the thing again.

And actually, I was also mentally more than eager to return to the simple life on the icecap. Back home I was initially interested mostly in sleeping and eating. After some time reading, sauna by the lake, sitting by a fire and walking and biking in the forests also started to appeal but most other things felt repulsive. And they still do. I’d rather be in some remote and wild place than back home with the myriad everyday responsibilities. This is what I call expedition hangover and that has also kept me away from the blog…

But in addition to longing for another expedition I’ve been also going through the huge amount of photos and video we shot on the expedition. I alone took over 1800 stills and nearly 50 GB of video. And I wasn’t the only one with a camera.

The first patch of photos is now ready and published and you can find them from my gallery. The photos are accompanied by short captions and I think they are best browsed in full screen view (click the icon on top right when browsing the photos) by clicking through the photos one by one. But you can watch them also as a slide show and also hide the texts if you want. You can get to the gallery by clicking any of the photos in the post.

Oh, and if you know cure for the post-trip hangover feel free to share it! ;)

PS. I also gave some interviews about the expedition. You can find the list from a post in the expedition blog but the only one in English is on Explorer’s Web and can be found from here.

Skiing across Greenland

I’ve mentioned once every now and then that my main tour of the winter will be a ski expedition across the Greenland ice cap – and it’s about to start right now!

We will leave Finland behind on April 13th and arrive to Greenland the next day. And if all goes as planned we will start skiing from the West coast on April 16th and get to enjoy little over four weeks of white horizon, simple life and solitude before arriving to the East coast. Ski, eat, sleep, repeat. My idea of a great holiday!

Into the white in Svalbard in 2011.

White horizon, simple life and solitude on Vatnajökull in 2012.

The beauty of vast ice fields from Vatnajökull in 2013.

The beauty of vast ice fields from Vatnajökull in 2013.

All the little trips, longer journeys and previous expeditions have got me here and now I just hope I can get across the ice cap and enjoy the upcoming weeks. I have to admit, I’m little nervous but at the ame time also relieved that it’s about to start and the preparations are finally over!

I wished to write a lot about all the preparations and the countless myriad things needed to be done in order to get to the ice’s edge with a good chance to ski some 600 kilometers in four weeks without resupplies or other outside help… But, the preparations (and the little life I have in addition) kept me so busy I didn’t find time to write about them. But once on the ice we will have time for daily blog posts so at least you have chance to follow our tour if you are interested.

The daily updates will be post to our blog acrossgreenland2014.com. The updates will be in Finnish but will always include a summary in English.

You can also track our progress on the map.

For tweets (Finnish and English) from the ice cap follow Pohjoisemmas on Twitter and if you like this project, feel free to like us also on Facebook.

While I’m searching for the winter, you enjoy the spring and have good time outdoors!

In search of the place where sky and ice become one. (Vatnajökull 2013)

In search of the place where sky and ice become one. (Vatnajökull 2013)






Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,115 other followers