Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Category Archives: Ankarat avotunturit

Kebnekaise Traverses – The One With Crampons

In July I spent (again) a week on Kebnekaise area, this time combining two trips into a one-week tour. Both were traverses of a sort, the first including a traverse of the Kebnekaise summits and the second traversing the whole massif. This post is about the first one involving crampons but no packrafts.

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The go-to summer-holiday kit in and around the go-to backpack.

The first part of the tour was a three-day glacier travel and climbing trip with Ankarat avotunturit guides. The idea being training and exchanging knowledge and skills – and of course climbing the mountain, should the weather permit.

After a long  drive and short sleep our group of three (me, Nina and Thomas) woke up to a blue skies and sunshine in our tent near Nikkaluokta, drove the final kilometers and met the rest of the group at the heliport.

We had chosen to fly in instead of walking to make out most of the limited time. My HMG Porter pack felt heavy and when the scale showed 33kg, I wasn’t too surprised. This wans’t an UL trip. Even though most of my kit was light, I had my share of the heavy “workhorse” climbing kit, heavyish packrafting kit and some fresh food as we were flying in anyway…

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After a very short flight (instead of a day’s walk) we landed on the Storgläcieren, pitched base camp, had early lunch – which was very welcome, as I had missed breakfast. Then we roped up and headed on the slopes to train some individual and rope-team techniques. It was a beautiful sunny day on the glacier ending with a hearty pasta dinner and red wine. Somehow climbing and red wine go well together…

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The next morning was equally beautiful and seemed good for climbing the mountain. The snow is always slushy under the 24-hour Arctic summer sun so instead of an alpine start we headed out around 9.00 after a proper breakfast including coffee, fruits, fresh bread, scrambeled eggs and so on. Flying in has it’s advantages.

First we crossed the glacier and then climbed up the steep snow slope leading to the Halspasset pass. The sun was hammering us on the climb but we could see clouds speeding thru the pass from the West promising a change in the weather. After a break, sheltered behind some rock to get out from the wind, we continued up towards the Nordtoppen scrambling and climbing some easy rock. There were old pitons for protection but they required quite a bit of hammering to feel somewhat secure. As the climb was easy we used them as running protection to make climbing faster and easier.

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Towards the top the weather closed in: cloudy, windy and cold. No views. But after a short walk over some snow and rocks we reached the Nordtoppen! 2096,8 meters of rock, soon to be the highest peak in Sweden. On the top we roped up again for the ridge-walk to the Sydtoppen. The ridge is quite narrow and airy but without seeing the drop on left and right, it didn’t feel too special. Soon we reached the Sydtoppen (2097,5m) which still is the highest peak in Sweden, but will likely loose its status as the snow melts as the climate warms.

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There are some huts near the summit (and apparently they were building new huts even closer to the summit?) where we had our second lunch-break before descenting down the via ferrata style Östraleden. As usual, the weather was bad only near the summit and on the way down we started to see the views again: the surrounding mountains and the tempting curves of the river we would be packrafting a few days later… The Östraleden was very nice climb/scramble with via ferrata style safety making going fast, safe and easy. Down on the glacier we roped up again and reached our camp about 12 hours after the start.

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After securing a near run-away TNF VE25, more pasta and red wine was on the menu. (It was a windy day! And the tent was pitched with three parachute-style deadman anchors and was flapping sideways in the wind only one left when we arrived…)

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The third and final day was again sunny and warm. We spent the first half of the day training crevasse rescue techniques, then broke camp and headed down. As the wine, beer and fresh food were mostly gone my pack didn’t weight 33kg anymore but it still felt heavy with 50 meters of wet rope making up the difference in food weight.

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Once we got down from the glacier and moraine me, Nina and Thomas set camp to the valley and went through our gear once more as we would continue for our packrafting trip. But before heading further, we would lighten our loads by taking all the unnecessary climbing (and comfort) gear down to the Fjällstation to be flown out on the sheduled daily helicopter flights. The Fjällstation was in opposite direction but lighter packs would be worth the walk. And there would be beer too…

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The 7km downhill walk on the trail took around two hours and a duffel of gear was paid and handed over fast but somehow the beers and soft sofas allured us to stay little longer. You know, it’s only one beer… And maybe second. Oh, you brought a third? Well, why not.

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The second trip, a packrafting tour around Kebnekaise massif, would start from here.

Crossing Greenland – So Familiar, So Different

Starting at the end of April I was guiding a ski expedition across the Greenland icecap. This was my second time crossing the ice cap, the first being in 2014 little earlier in the season but not much. Almost the same time, almost the same schedule, almost the same route. Very familiar but also very, very different.

Of course it’s different to be guiding paying clients than to lead a group of friends.

And of course things are always different on the first time. (The second time I didn’t get as bad expedition hangover.)

But the biggest difference was due to conditions: In 2014 we started somewhat early in the season and had quite challenging winter conditions: temperatures down to -36°C with high wind (12m/s) on top of it, some winter storms that prevented skiing and lots of soft snow to struggle with close to the end. But it was still a great trip. This year was record-warm in Greenland with the melt season starting almost two months early. The locals said the same as the scientists: spring was a month or two ahead of the normal. And some still say the climate isn’t changing…

Well, anyway.

Starting a week later on a record-warm year ment quite warm temperatures and with good weather made really nice and easy-going. I think there were only two days out of the 27 when I wore my Sasta shell jacket for the whole day. Most of the time I skied in my Rab Boreas shirt, and a few legs even without any shirt. On several morning I woke up before the clock to open the zipper of my sleeping bag as it was getting too warm. No sign of hoarfrost in the tent! Most of the time the surface was hard and with the warm temps made the skiing easy. We skied an average of seven 50 minute legs a day while in 2014 we skied seven 60 minute legs a day. That makes quite a difference over a course of four weeks!

Easy conditions and predictable going don’t make especially good stories but I enjoy them. When you spent enough time outdoors, you will get your share of the bad conditions, so embrace it when it’s good. And when I don’t encounter (unwanted) surprises, I’ve done my job well. You know how the saying goes: “adventure is just bad planning”. 😉

Naturally there are some challenges when you want to ski 550 kilometers unsupported and unassisted across a big empty glacier but luckily they were all manageable. Some crevasses in the beginning and end, the sheer distance and duration of the trip, the group dynamics and as a bonus challenge: a fuel problem.

On the fifth day of the expedition it turned out that one of our fuel canisters (10 liters out of 50 liters i.e. 20%) wasn’t white gas but something else, which didn’t burn in our stoves. Not even in the trusty MRS XGK! Later we found out it was stuff called Brymul which is used to wash engines… Stoves are crucial on Arctic expeditions to melt water, prepare food and also to provide extra warmth for drying gear and keeping up the moral. So, it was a major problem. But thanks to our ample fuel provision (330ml/person/day) and the good conditions we survived. And even enjoyed our time on the glacier.

Easy going, long and warm evenings in the camp, well workign gear, ample amount of food, swimming on the glacier, an improvised sauna high on the glacier, four weeks of simple living… What’s not to like? Another good tour.

It’s somewhat difficult to wrap 27 days (plus a week of traveling) into reasonable amount of words. So here are some photos instead. More to come later.

And even though I’m really looking forward to get packrafting and hiking, I started to long for another ski expedition the minute I saw the sunrise above the familiar Vatnajökull glacier from the plane on my way back home. This ski expedition thing, it’s a chronic illness.

PS. While camping next to the abandoned DYE 2 radar station a guy drove to our camp with a snowscooter. He was with a science expedition and speaking with an american accent and wearing a light puffy patched with plenty of Tyvek tape he seemed somehow familiar so I had to ask if his name was McCarthy. And it was! What a coincidence to meet someone you know from the blogosphere in the middle of the world’s second largest icecap. I hope you had a good expedition to the Summit, Forrest!