I spent last weekend hauling pulka at Tiirismaa region near Lahti. At 222,6 meters Tiirismaa is the highest hill in the Southern Finland. There used to be a skiing center but it was shut down in 1990s. Me and fellow Ultima Thule skiers Matias and Olli found Tiirismaa to be a great training ground for Svalbard expedition.
On Saturday around midday we met in a little cáfe near Tiirismaa and headed to the hill. We donned our gear and skis and set off. Me and Matias had winter expedition style gear for an overnighter trip plus extra weights for training and testing purposes. My Paris Expedition pulka weighted around 40 kil altogether. Matias’ Fjellpulken sled was loaded a bit heavier and Olli’s huge custom-made sled, weighting around 15 kilo alone, was loaded with 40 kilo of plastic pellets and some gear for the day.
My Paris Expedition pulka in 40kg training load.
Skiing uphill with this kind of weights requires a lot of grip. We all had Madshus Voss skis with the MGV+ wax free bases but waxed or wax free bases don’t provide enough grip for hauling heavy sleds on steep slopes. I had new Madshus Intelligrip skins for test. I started with the Intelligrips but found very soon that they had less grip than the MGV+ bases have for 100 kg skier. Judging by this experience, Intelligrip skins seem like a good idea for leisure skiing without pulka or skiing with backpack on a relatively level terrain. But for training, I switched to full length mohair skins just like Olli and Matias had done from the start.
Preparing for some repeated ascent. Full length skin visible on the other ski.
The afternoon was spent skiing up and down an old ski lift track, stopping for a drink and snack after each descent. The old slalom slopes are growing thick bush but the ski lift track was kept clear and offered over 80 meters of ascent to the top of the hill. Skiing up took about an average of 25 minutes and coming down was a lot faster but caused occasionally some stumbling and cursing on my part. Matias is an old down hill skier so he had no problem and Olli decided to run down without skis… The Fjellpulken fibreglass shafts that I use in my pulka held up fine even when the pulk tried to pass me with its 40 kg mass when I stumbled. With five repetitions we totalled over 400 meters of elevation gain during the day.
Matias and Olli skiing up the old ski lift track
The temperature was barely below zero and there was only a slight breeze. The day was cloudy and it is still January in the Northern hemispere so eventually it started to get dark. Olli packed his gear and headed home (regretting his decision) while Matias and me pitched the tent, lit the stoves and started to cook supper. We had a big pot of peasoup and piles of pancakes with coffee. You can’t go wrong with cozy tent, loads of food and good company.
We had pitched the tent in a bit sloppy manner using just the six staking points in the ends of Matias’ Hilleberg Keron 3 GT and left the four guy lines on each side unstaked. In the evening we noticed that wind was rising and the tent started to flap a bit. During the night I woke up couple of times. Mostly because of the tent flapping loudly and once to open the zipper of my sleeping bag. A winter bag with 1420 grams of quality Polish down is a bit over kill for -4 Celsius but that is what I am taking for Svalbard also and it was good to test it also in the milder temps.
No wonder that it felt windy! The next day we had to maneuver some fallen trees, there was a lot of fallen tree branches on the snow and later the weather data from near by Asikkalanharju shoved average wind speeds closing 20 m/s during the night!
Wind data from the time of the over night trip. No wonder if it felt windy! Source: fmi.fi
After breakfast we broke the camp and headed once again up the ski lift track. Instead of skiing back down we toured around the hill our provoking wonder and questions in bypassing skiers. Temperature was couple of degrees below zero, the skies started to clear and sun was shining on frost and snow-covered tree tops and he wind made little ice crystals in the birches jingle. It was just awesome! Not just sweating and training for a distant goal but enjoying the physical strain, good company, hot chocolate and beauty of the nature.
You could hear the thousand little ice crystal jingling in the tree tops.
On the way we did some off trail skiing, passed a swamp with nice wilderness feel in it and about three and half hours later ended up to the backyard of Matias’ house. During Sunday we gained some 200 meters of ascent.
Matias negotiating way around fallen tree near the top of the hill.
There is a beautiful view from the top of the Tiirismaa hill and the area itself was really beautiful, at least in winter time.The area is full of ski tracks in winter and trails in summer. I recommend visiting it for a day trip or overnighter if you happen to be close by. I was told that it is also great area for mountain biking.
View from the top of Tiirismaa hill.
Go out! Enjoy the nature! It is beautiful out there, even on strange places like old bush growing slalom slopes.
The 327 meters high link mast on top of Tiirismaa is the highest building in Finland. But not a beauty for the eye.
Next… An overview on Ultima Thule 2011 expedition gear, hopefully followed with more detailed gear reports.