Last weekend I was skiing in Repovesi National Park with four other Ultima Thule 2011 expedition members. The trip was good, people were great and weather was nice for training. Even the most sloppy packing ever didn’t ruin the trip…
185 bags of freeze dried meals from Fuizion
In Friday afternoon I hurried to home from work as a courier phoned me and told that he had a big package for me. The package was a big box full of freeze-dried meals from Fuizion. They make really great stuff! More on it later on… It took me over an hour to sort all the 185 meals to packages to be delivered to the expedition members. After that I was in a hurry to pack my own gear for the weekend. As I have done a decent amount of winter overnighters this and last winter I don’t anymore have a list of gear which I should pack but instead I go with a hunch and routine.
So I threw all the stuff in a big pile on the floor and started to pack it up. I was already late when leaving home but noticed that I had forgotten my wallet with driving license and stuff to the office. Luckily, that caused just a minor detour.
Already on my way to Repovesi I noticed that I had forgotten to take: my laptop (we planned to test some expedition-like communication system by sending photos to the blog from the camp), the new self-made drying nets (that we were about to test) and a ditty bag with my first aid, repair and hygiene stuff…
After some time of try and error (the small roads near the national park are not mapped in my car GPS…) I managed to find my way to Tervajärvi parking area. Three other people were already pitched their tents on the ice of Tervajärvi not far away and I walked there with the sled. My tent partner Matias had his Keron 3 GT already pitched and we threw in the cooker box and started his stove. As I searched for my own stove (we have two per tent in the same aluminum cooker box) I noticed that everything wasn’t alright. The weekend before I had used my Primus Omnifuel stove in a Trangia with a self-made adapter and hadn’t remembered to switch back to the original stove body. So I had a stove without legs of pot supports. Quite useless actually. Luckily I had an old surplus Optimus Hiker with me that I was going to show to Matias so I returned the useless Primus and fuel bottle back to car and we used the Optimus instead. It is a nice stove: great adjustability, very quiet and good pot support, but it is heavy as hell compared to the modern stoves.
Moon over the first camp at Tervajärvi
The temperature dropped down to -32C during both nights.
After some cheese and jalapeno filled tortillas, moonlight photos and enjoying the scenery and silence we retired to the warmth of our sleeping bags. We woke up in the morning feeling that the temperature might had got a bit warmer but instead it was -32 Celsius! Well, good for training.
Skiing towards Saarijärvi. I am soon to notice something...
After breakfast we packed up and headed towards Lojusalmi were we moved from the ice to skiing tracks well available in the national park area. Three of five were skiing with skins on as a training for Svalbard and because of the rolling terrain. On our second break Matias and I decided also to put on skins. As I opened the bag of skins I noticed that I had taken wrong bag. I have to identical Coltex bags and the other has two pairs of skins and the other has remnants of old DIY skin projects… And thus, I kept happily skiing with the grip provided by the waxless MGV+ bases of my skis. They worked well enough with 35 kg or so sled. The downhills were a joy but for the steeper slopes I had to really attack upwards with force and speed to keep going.
Skiing towards Olhavan vuori on the road side.
Near Saarijärvi a bit before our third break I had a funny feeling in my head and I asked Matias to check whether my sleeping bag, packed on top of the sled under my down jacket, was still there. And it wasn’t! Loosing a sleeping bag when night-time temps drop below -30 Celsius is not a good thing. We agreed that the others would ski to Saarijärvi towing my sled and I would ski back with the sled harness only to find my sleeping bag. On the way I though about emergency arrangements: I could but on all my clothing, including down jacket, down trousers (which I had luckily taken with me) and down socks and then borrow Matias’ light weight synthetic over bag and I could probably spend a decent in the system. The bag wasn’t in the place where we had previously had our break so I had to ski bag almost all the way to Lojusalmi where I found the bag sitting in the middle of the skiing track. Luckily skiing without skins or load is fast and it took me only about 45 minutes to do the extra skiing, though I skied with HR between 160-170…
My sleeping bag (in a tent bag) as found some kilometers away...
To not lose more stuff I repacked my Paris Expedition pulka in Saarijärvi. I have known from the beginning that my packing system doesn’t work well with the open structure of the Paris but it hasn’t caused problems before. After the incident we skied to Olhavanvuori for a nice lunch break in the sun. The temperature was merely -10 Celsius! From there we skied to Katajajärvi were we pitched out tents. Me and Matias were very satisfied that putting up the tent and getting meal done and snow melted was really fast. Pitching the tent took some 15 minutes as we let the snow on the snow anchors to settle down for a while but after getting in the tent we had stomachs full of warm food and thermos full of hot water in an hour, and we didn’t even feel hurried. It seems that training and routine pays off.
The walls of Olhavan vuori
After routine chores we had nice evening with five people and three stoves crammed inside one three person tent. We made popcorn and pancakes and had a good look on Svalbard maps that Olli had from his previous trip.
Our second camp at the ice of Katajajärvi
It was a bit warmer in the tent than outside, but still crispy.
In the morning the temperature was again -32 Celcius. We had breakfast and I packed up my belongings and head to the parking area as I had other things to do in the afternoon. The others were about to spend the Sunday skiing around the area. It took less than an hour to get to the cars and for my relief the car also stated despite the -30 Celsius temperature.
The lonely ski tracks
After about half an hour drive I noticed that the engine temperature was rising abnormally high but it was freezing inside the car. I though that the coolant might have leaked from some frozen seals so I stopped the car and popped the hood up. It seemed that there was enough coolant in the reservoir but when I opened it, it started to boil and vaporized away. I called my dad for technical support and hes diagnosis was that the coolant inside the engine was frozen solid. As a solution I covered the front half of the car with a tarpaulin, let the engine run and put a stove inside the car to get some extra warmth. After an hour of warming up and cursing my phone which stopped working, I managed to melt the coolant and got on my way to home. It is good to have some down clothing (especially down socks!) and a stove in your car in winter…
During the weekend we saw other people only once: inside the Mustalampi hut. So it was very quiet and quite wilderness like, despite the roads and tracks. Maybe the cold weather had scared people away? The weather was otherwise nice: calm and sunny with blue skies and full moon at night. There is a huge network of prepared skiing tracks in the national park to doing trips with track skis is also possible. It is a nice place, I recommend. The cold can be tackled with proper gear.
I had some new gear with me and also some old gear that should be refined. The new stuff included a battery grip for my Canon EOS 550D, fur for jacket hood and MYOG pack for food and bottles. All the stuff worked well. The battery grip takes two standard LP-E8 batteries and it increases the battery life of the camera a lot. I keep the camera always outside in the camera bag and the batteries died only during the second evening. Usually one battery lasts only for a while in below -30 Celsius temps. In additions the battery grip can take six lithium AA batteries instead of the standard Lion batteries. That should work down to veeery cold. The fur on the hood was nice but as it wasn’t stormy it wasn’t really put to test. The MYOG pack is a bit ugly but worked well. It is a zippered bag that can take three one iter bottles and the food and snacks for a day’s skiing, it is insulated with 5mm CCF.
The only gear problem that I had, was with my skiing boots, a nice pair of Alpina BC1600 boots for NNN BC system. I already knew this, but they are not warm enough for below -30 Celsius. They worked reasonably well when skiing but when stationary the toes soon got cold. In addition some moisture froze to the leather of the boots making them really stiff. This can be solved with ski boot covers or overboots. Covers are available for example from Finnish companies called Urheiluareena and T-tossu, but I’m planning to make my own out of some pile, Goretex and Keprotec…
The trip was really nice despite the little mishaps but it made me think a bit. First, for serious use, I have to make a proper sled bags for the Paris Expedition pulka. And I need boot covers. Second, maybe I should do a gear list and check that I have everything necessary before leaving for a weekend trip. I will definitely do this for Svalbard but maybe I should do this also for shorter trips. Third, I changed the car coolant to some stuff specified down to -50 Celsius…
Do you have a gear list to check that you have everything with you? Should I use one also?