Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Hiking and packrafting in Northern Karelia

After spending nearly half of the winter skiing and hauling and sleeping on snow and ice, it was time to kick-start the summer season in mid-June. For this I headed to Northern Karelia, near the Eastern most corner of Finland where one can find almost untouched nature in the deep woods and also excellent white water paddling on several rivers.

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Sasta 64 Wild

First part of the summer season kick-start was the 64 Wild hiking event organized by the Finnish outdoor clothing company Sasta who I’ve been working with developing the perfect shell clothing for demanding Arctic expeditions. Sasta hails from the deep woods and vast mires of Nurmes and wanted to show their natural habitat to their clients and other outdoor enthusiasts in the form of a three-day hiking event.

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My role during the weekend was partially just hanging around, partially guiding and giving a campfire seminar on the first evening. A fellow wilderness guide Anton Kalland gave an excellent campfire seminar on wild greens and other useful resources one can collect from the nature while hiking.

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The route plan suggested daily distances of 17km, 24km and 10km with some scenic or historically interesting waypoints along the route. In reality I ended up walking around 19km, 31km and 10km, skipping one way-point on the first day, visiting all the waypoints on the second day and cutting it a few kilometers short on the third day to catch the bus back to Nurmes with majority of the participants. A proper start for the backpacking season! The route was very nice with good views and interesting nature. But when walking in the woods I prefer shorter mileage to have more time for the details of the fine surrounding nature.

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My feet took quite a beating as I chosen to walk in my waterproof mountain boots instead of light hikers better suitable for long days. At least the feet are now literally “broken in” for the upcoming summer. The weekend was also quite rainy and being little lazy selecting my spot I ended up sleeping in a stream during the first nigh. Luckily my tent has a good quality bathtub floor turning a possible catastrophe into a quite comfortable although weird water-bed.

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It was a great event and I wish to participate again the next year. Hopefully with an option of shorter distances for more time to admire the nature and spend time by the camp fire in good company.

More pics here.

Packrafting at Ruunaa area

After the hike I went to Ruunaa area at Lieksanjoki. The area is well-known for its whitewater (mainly for one excellent and easy to reach wave for playboating) and fishing. Me and two friends were after the whitewater to test our new MRS Alligator 2S packrafts.

We arrived to the end of the road near Paasikoski rapid around midday, walked to the river, inflated our packrafts and got out for a little test spin. The Alligator was slightly less stable than packrafts with wider tubes but with its six-point rigging it offered tons of control and very agile boating. After feeling confident with the new boats we strapped our packs to the bow and headed down stream.

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Paasikoski (class 1) was very easy-going. The Haapavitja (class 2) rapid offered little more fun in the form of bigger waves and more speed and was followed by easy going river sections which ended into the Neitijärvi lake. Lake paddling into headwind was hard work as always but it was soon rewarded by the Neitikoski rapid (class 2*). A short, narrow and deep bit with an excellent stopper wave suitable for freestyle kayaking.

We had all done the rapid in the past so decided to go straight thru heading into the big wave to see how the boats would perform. I went first, capsized and took a swim. Huck followed and did the same. Thomas coming as the third decided to take the easier line on the right and stayed upright. We probably did a good impression on the kayaker playing in the wave!

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After routine self-rescues we went back to the shore, got rid of our packs and went testing the wave again. Huck tried to get thru the wave with the rucksack on the bow and managed on his third try but capsized in the wave train following the stopper. Me and Thomas concentrated on trying to get into the surf. Thanks to the thigh-straps of the Alligators it was possible but the current was simply too strong for our skills, or for the packraft in general, as once you got into slightly wrong angle or position the rushing water twisted our low-pressure rafts in a way that even agressive bracing didn’t help and swims were inevitable.

But it was still damn fun!

After an hour or so in the Neitikoski we continued down stream paddling Kattilaskoski (class 1) and Murrookoski (class 2) which we scouted for a safe route and also to get warmer as it was raining and our energies were getting low. After Siikakoski (class 1) we took out and camped at one of the many lean-tos on the area. We had a great evening by the campfire enjoying good food, beers, stories and the short night of the summer solstice with a glimpse of the full moon and falling in sleep to the sound of the rushing water.

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In the morning we packed our packs and headed upstream enjoying the warmth and sunshine. We decided to take a slightly adventurous shortcut following a little stream to Neitijärvi and crossing the lake to reach a road near the parking area. A nice thing possible with packrafts: you hike, you find a waterway, inflate your raft and follow it. Even though the stream was quite short it added a lot to the trip which could’ve otherwise been done with a canoe or kayak as well. (Leaving the boats down stream to be picked up after walking back to the car.)

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The new MRS packrafts worked really well and I’m excited to get more whitewater time with them. Packrafting is so much fun, and packrafting whitewater is even more fun!

I’ll write more about the boats later this summer. Altogether it’s a 4 kg package which, in my opinion, hits the sweet spot between the whitewater performance and the packability and performance for general use. If you want to test them yourself, ask for possibility to rent one or join one of my packrafting courses!

As usual, more pics here.

* These are my estimates on the classic whitewater rating scale based on the water level (138,9m) and discharge (95m^3/s) we had on the trip. The official ratings are little higher, especially for higher water levels. For packrafts the big stopper wave in the Neitikoski difficult but there is a way around if you don’t like the chance of swimming it.

 

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7 responses to “Hiking and packrafting in Northern Karelia

  1. Caj Koskinen 28/06/2016 at 06:51

    I was at the Ruunaa rapids also in may. Really nice, easy rapids with a lot of water and not so much stones. I left my bicycle at the Horkka lean-to shelter, near Siikakoski “bridge” and we left car near the Russian boarder. So we saw all the wilderness like places at the up stream. Really nice places. So I made my way back to car with bike and it was really nice scenery there also. My wife was first time at whitewater and she didn’t capsize even at the stopper wave in Neitikoski. I made a little video also:

  2. Mark Waring (@mjdwaring) 28/06/2016 at 12:11

    Looks great and reminds me that I need to head to eastern Finland one day (assuming the pound sterling ever recovers against the Euro 😉 )

    Is that a Nallo 2 or Rogen you are using there?

  3. Korpi-Jaakko 28/06/2016 at 13:50

    Thanks Mark! The sterling is not that cheap yet (looking to buy some outdoor kit from the UK) so I recommed coming around before you need a visa for that… 😉 For packrafting in Eastern Finland, I’d recommend late May. Also less bugs.

    The tent is actually Anjan 3. Too big for the rare solo use but I wanted bathtubfloor and bug protection for the trip and it was the lightest option in the closet.

  4. Korpi-Jaakko 28/06/2016 at 13:55

    Hi Caj! I did watch you’re video before leaving. Very nice video and it looked like a great trip! The stopping power of the stopper wave depends quite a bit on the flow. I’ve been there a couple of times in May (around peak flood), in autumn (August?) and now in June. The highest flows seem to make the wave bigger but also easier to go through. But it’s fun at any waterlevel.

  5. Caide 28/06/2016 at 14:36

    Ok, so that’s why it was so easy for us. I was a little bit afraid before and I was pretty sure, that one of us will capsize 🙂 I think I’m going there again, I like the Ruunaa Hiking Area very much!

  6. Korpi-Jaakko 28/06/2016 at 15:02

    It’s great area and worth several visits. Especially if one likes fishing as well. During flood the smaller rivers of Northern Karealia are also definitely worth a visit (Jongunjoki, Haapajoki, Jänisjoki, etc.)

  7. Pingback: Packrafting at Ruunaa – Video! | Korpijaakko

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