Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Category Archives: photographpy

All sorts of winter weekends

The blog has been quiet as I’ve been busy with my work as a husky tour guide and with my own winter guiding projects (meaning 10-14 hours per day, sometimes over-night, seven days a week). And again I don’t have too much time to write but I’ve been taking photos and here are some from the last three weekends. Very different but very interesting weekends occupied with work.

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In mid-January I was in the North-East Finland near the Russian border on lake Inari practising winter skills with two ultra runners who are planning to participate on the Siberian Black Ice Race on lake Baikal in 2014. (The race was supposed to be held in 2013 but was postponed due the lack of participants.) The conditions were quite easy: cloudy the whole weekend, temps starting with -5C and dropping below -10C on Sunday morning and varying wind – which was good for the training. The customers were moving on foot but still did steady 5km/h despite  the occasional soft snow. Ultra runners are tough! A great weekend all together. Thanks Dave and Diana!

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And as a bonus few photos from the way back to Taivalkoski as there happened to be some sunshine at Saariselkä region…

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On the last weekend of January I was running The Basic Course on Arctic Ski Expeditions in South-East Finland. The first half of the weekend was filled with lectures and familiarizing with expedition gear and the later half was spent on an over-night trip practising the new skills in real life conditions. The conditions were quite similar to those at lake Inari: -6C, quite windy, some drifting snow and super-good surface conditions for skiing. Another good weekend that will be later followed by the one-week tour to Sarek in Northern Sweden. A tour I’m really looking forward to!

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During the last weekend I was guiding a 3-day husky tour in Taivalkoski area. The conditions were unbelievably similar to those of the previous weekends: mostly cloudy, temps around -5C and some wind with drifting snow. Early February should be damn cold up here (sub -30C) but it hasn’t been the case lately and I kinda miss the cold… Anyway, we had good time covering some 80km with dog teams (Well, I was driving a snowscooter opening the trail, or sometimes getting stuck in a slush…)  We spent the still quite long nights in private wilderness huts. (Though I tried to build a quinzee the second night but the temps were too mild for the snow to settle properly in the short time I gave for it and the structure cracked while carving it…) Good travel, good food and great company – even though this job is occasionally hard, I really love it most of the time. 🙂

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While working in the woods I don’t really have a possibility to write real blog posts but I try to tweet regularly so if you’re interested in the life of a guide / seasonal worker in Northern Finland, you might want to follow @Korpijaakko on Twitter.

PS. With the knee-deep snow we have here it took only 15 minutes to shovel the pile of snow for the quinzee and another five minutes or so to gather twigs for marking the proper wall thickness. The carving would have taken only some 15-20 minutes but was brought to halt because of the structure collapsing when about 90% done. If you happen to live on an area with enough of snow, I highly recommend building a quinzee and spending a night in it. It’s nice activity, teaches important skills related to winter backcountry safety and is great experience that you can do even on your backyard! Just remember: let the snow settle long enough, make a hole for ventilation and have a candle burning inside (if the candle goes out, there’s not enough oxygen!). I’ve also written a post about building quenzees. The post would benefit from some proofreading and I’d have also some new experiences to share but it’s still helpful as it is.

PPS. I also try to find some time to write first imperssion on a high-quality expedition sled I’ve been testing: The huge Isohitti which is 100% made in Finland by Hiking Travel Hit. I also have some new Kar 147 gliding snowshoes, not Altai Hok Skis but a similar (and dare I say upgraded?) model by a Finnish company OAC. Oh, and also some original Altai Hok 145s for comparison. Impressions coming when I have the time to write more, now to sleep as I have an overnighter to guide tomorrow…

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Stuffed with six sets of insulated overalls, six pair of Sorel boots and a chair. And still room to spare…

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Photos from the winter wonderland

The regular readers probably know that for most of this winter season I’m working at Husky Center Kolmiloukko at Taivalkoski (a small town in North-East Finland) guiding husky safaris.

I’ve been lately quite busy with the huskies and guiding because I’m also putting together my own ski expedition courses and tours and actually spent the last weekend at lake Inari training winter skills with two ultra-runners. It turned out to be a superb trip but more of it later… Despite being busy I’ve had some time to take photos on the way and here are some shots from the winter wonderland here at Taivalkoski. Photos from the Inari are to follow later…

Here are some photos from a full-day husky safari in early January. The customers were great (as they usually are) and we saw the sun for the first time for over a week or so.

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The guide’s job here includes also quite a lot of driving with snowmobile – and waiting as N is doing in the photo…

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In addition to the 60 adult dogs, we have also some of these cute fellows as well. The big one, named “Nuoska” (meaning wet sticky snow), is probably the biggest husky puppy of her age I’ve ever seen and if she’ll continue to grow like that she’ll be around the size of a horse in the end… 😀

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As mentioned the work involves also waiting but luckily our dogs are masters in the waiting game. Here the dogs are waiting for customers to arrive for a full-day safari in mid January on a particularly cold day with temps below -30C. The upside with the cold weather is that here it goes hand in hand with clear skies and sunny weather.

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And this is how the cold here looks like…

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On my free time I try to go out skiing as often as possible. The views are often nice, like the dusk in the photo below taken while on a skiing trip at the close-by swamp plains.

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As we haven’t seen much auroras here lately, here’s one of the nice northern lights we saw in early December. The skies are clear tonight so I keep my fingers crossed for more fresh photos of the fire on the sky…

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For those interested: All photos are taken with Canon EOS 550D and most of them with the magnificent EF 24-105 4 L IS. Equipped with an external battery grip it works just fine below -30C temps and can be used also with thick mitts. Just remember not the breath towards the viewfinder or lens. 😉

Outdoor year 2012 in pictures

/ A word of warning: This post includes a lot of photos. They are nice and varied outdoors photos but there are many. You have been warned. /

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As the year is about to end (as it didn’t end in 21.12.12), it’s again time to share some of my favourite outdoors moments from the past year with you. And just like last year, I thought photos would  be a nice way to do it. I’ve been quite lazy writing trip reports the whole year so this also kinda fits the theme. But I’ve added a few words in between the photos to give some context…

And there are again way too many pics and 1200+ words but try to tolerate and stop to stare only the interesting ones – or grab a cup of coffee or tea and go through all of them.

The year began while I was doing my wilderness guide internship at Husky Center Kolmiloukko at Taivalkoski. In addition to taking care of the dogs and guiding safaris I had time for an overnighter at Syöte National Park and a skiing trip at Lake Inari with N. This time it wasn’t especially cold at Inari and instead of pulkas and tents we had backpacks and we stayed in huts. There’s even a trip report available.

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After the internship period it was time to return back to the guide school where we did some hunting, winter fishing and generally enjoyed the winter. Something worth of a special mention is the trip to Patvinsuo National Park as it happens to be my coldest trip yet. I wasn’t cold and it was actually very nice, but the temps were low – down to -38,5C at coldest. There is also a trip report of this.

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On my coldest trip yet and trough out the whole winter I was also testing Altai Hok 125 skis which proved to be very handy tools as I told in my first impressions. I have high expectations for the Altai Skis Kar 147 I’ll be testing later this winter!

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In addition to the internship period with huskies I decided to do some more and helped Vaiska on his Arctic ski expedition courses to get some extra experience to arrange my own in 2013. I worked as an instructor on two weekend courses in Southern Finland and as a guide on a one-week ski tour to Sarek National Park in Swedish Lapland. The weekends were damn cold (below -30C) and the trip to Sarek damn stormy but it all provided good outdoors experience, especially on guiding a big group in challenging conditions in challenging environment.

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After Sarek I started the last preparations for Vatnajökull 2012 expedition and at the end of March me, N and two of our friends headed to Iceland and spend 16 days skiing across the largest glacier in Europe (Vatnajökull) and climbed the highest peak of Iceland (Havannadahlsnjukur, 2109,6m) on the way. It was miserably wet and cold at times, very windy (up to or over 30m/s at worst) on few occasions but generally an awesome little expedition and great success!

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The spring at the guide school was filled with tests on nature lore but also with a lot of water sports: kayaking, canoeing and rafting. And as we were on the waters I naturally had to do some packrafting as well. On June 8th the school ended and later in the summer after getting the last assignments done I graduated as a qualified guide (Erä- ja Luonto-opas). During the guide course I wrote a “Monthly highlights” series of monthly posts on the school but it’s still missing the last few posts and I’ll try to do something about it.

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I celebrated the end of the course by going for a hike in Lapland. On the map me and N had planned anice  12 days 200-250km hike through the wilderness areas of Muotkatunturit and Paistunturit but due an embarassing scale mistake we had only 165km to walk in real life and did it in 10 days. Still very nice walk in the early summer with days of nice weather and days of bad weather.

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Due several reasons I was quite lazy doing overnight outdoors stuff in the summer even though I would’ve had time for it. I have to say that I regret it a bit. Instead I spend quite lot of time in the woods around the house foraging and enjoying the free delicacies fresh from the nature. The foraging madness continued later in the autumn topped with the best apple year for, ehm, years.The main reason for the lack of trips was that I was preparing to spend the academic year 2012-2013 in Svalbard on Arctic Nature Guide program. I had applied there earlier the year and got approved but financial reasons (five-figure sums of euros required) crushed my plans and I ended up doing quite a lot of useless work and not being out in the wild experiencing and learning.

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After the Svalbard related plans went busted I decided it was time for some comfort hiking and put together the Social Hiking in North plan with speed hiking and peak-bagging trip (and some packrafting) West of Kilpisjärvi (trip report), a six-day hiking oriented packrafting trip from Kilpisjärvi to Reisadalen in Norway (trip report) and a nine-day hiking trip in Sarek National Park in Swedish Lapland (sorry, no trip report).

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A few weeks after returning from Lapland me and N headed back to meer friends and to do a little three-day trip as Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Nice trails and cozy wilderness huts and very silent national park.

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I also managed to do one more packrafting trip as we still had full-on flood in October after very rainy summer and autumn. Me, Xavier and Alpo (on an airmatress instead of an Alpacka packraft!) headed to Kymijoki to enjoy the big river white water and little exploration in the tiny Valkmusa National Park.

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As the winter season was setting in it was time to head again back North for seasonal work as guide. Instead of guiding snowscooter tours at Luosto I ended up guiding husky tours at the good old Husky Center Kolmiloukko at Taivalkoski. Before I started the work I had time for a quick but relaxed overnighter with an old friend. When closing to Christmas the season really kicked off and I had to scratch the plans of little overngiht trips to Syöte National Park and concentrate solely on the work but luckily I like my work so can’t complain. In addition I launched my own ski expedition courses, tours and expeditions that are turning out to be very popular. Interesting work to come in winter 2013.

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Again I can say that the passing year was a good year outdoorswise. I’m a bit sorry that the Svalbard plan went bust but that opened new possibilities instead. Again I learnt a lot new things and got more experience in other things. I didn’t end up spending more nights outdoors than in 2011 but hit again the 60 nights out or so. (I don’t still really do counting.) On the latter half of the year I was a bit lazy spending nights outdoors as I found it hard to be inspired by little trips close to home. Partially this was due the big uncertainties with the Svalbard related plans and later getting work for the winter season. But it was good year none the less. As a closing remark I’d like to thank the teachers and fellow students of SELO11, people involved in the Vatnajökull 2012 expedition and especially N.

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The winter of 2013 is pretty much set involving guiding husky safaris at Taivalkoski and also running ski expedition courses and tours in Finland, Sweden and Iceland. What happens in May and thereafter is somewhat a mystery but once again I try to include a lot of outdoors to the upcoming year.

Photos from the North now online!

I finally got all the photos from the recent “Hiking North” trips sorted out and a selection of them is available in my online gallery!

The trip report from Sarek National Park is still a-work-in-progress and won’t be online at least for the next week or so because… I’m going hiking instead. 😉 As I’ll be going to Lapland anyway I thought I might do some hiking aswell. This time I’ll be heading either to Pyhä-Luosto National Park or to Urho Kekkonen National Park for a little four-day trip. The trip is cut a bit short to my liking (I prefer week+ long trips while hiking) but there is a good reason for that: The Banff Mountain Film Festival in Helsinki on October 3rd where I’ll be meeting Hendrik from Hiking in Finland and hopefully some other cool dudes. It’s an open invitation so feel free to join us and enjoy the festival!

But now back to the topic!

The first bunch of pictures is from a fast packing trip in Norway and Sweden on the Western side of lake Kilpisjärvi. The trip included also some packrafting along the Kummaeno river with very low water. Here is a trip report from the trip and here would be more photies.

The second set is from the hiking and packrafting trip from Kilpisjärvi in Finland to Reisadalen in Norway. We didn’t get to do as much packrafting as planned because of too tight schedule but it was still a great trip and the float down the Reisaelva river was great. I wrote a trip report on it and from here you can find more photos.

The trip to Sarek was a nine-day round-trip from the Suorva dam without any strict plans. We ended up hiking over Skårki massive along a glacier and scrambling down to Rapadalen and hiking back to Suorva via Låddebákte. Nice relaxed trip with awesome scenery and varying weather. For me Sarek represents a real mountain wilderness, maybe the best we have in the Nordic countries, and I will definitely be returning there again. But before getting back, here are the photos!


And as a bonus there are also a few photos from a day trip to Saana fjell (1029m) next to the village of Kilpisjärvi. If you happen to be on the area and the weather is nice pay a visit to the top. Nice views with little walking.

Have a nice autumn and remember to enjoy the outdoors!

Outdoor year 2011 in pictures

As the year is ending soon, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourite outdoors moments along the year and I thought that photos would make nice variation to the thousands-of-words posts that I’ve been writing lately. But I couldn’t help adding few words in between… And there are way too many pics but try to tolerate and stop to stare only the ones that interest you – or grab a cup of coffee and go through all of them.

The year began with a nice five-day skiing trip on Lake Inari during the polar night. Great Northern Lights on several nights, easy-going and good company.

The beginning of the 2011 was mostly spend on preparations for the Ultima Thule 2011 a three-week ski expedition to Svalbard. As a part of the preparations I did few weekend trips and skiing but on the other hand, didn’t have time for longer trips because of work and preparations. But, the weekends were nice and I had some time to continue experimenting with snow shelters and I had a chance to try kite skiing which was great fun!

The Ultima Thule 2011 expedition in Svalbard was the main trip of the year, my biggest trip yet. We had good luck with the weather (though more challenging weather would have been welcome), the scenery was incredible and the expedition was a success on personal level and in general.

In the beginning of the summer I did few short trips with friends but mostly I was working after three weeks of work to catch up.

I had tried packrafting in the end of 2010 and in 2011 I pulled the trigger and bought myself a packraft. My friend rented one from a guy living in Rovaniemi and after a day of training we headed to the possibly “most wild and distant river in Finland” the Valtijoki-Poroeno-Lätäseno river system. We hiked in about 45km packrafting a bit on the way and then paddled down some 140 km doing even class 4-5 white water as the water level was low. In the end we were accompanied by friend paddling the river with a big traditional white water raft.

The packrafting trip was immediately followed by a hiking trip (with a bit of packrafting in the end) to the Western side of Kilpisjärvi with my girlfriend. A nice relaxed trip and in the end of the trip I packrafted down most of the Kummaeno river. The water level was too low and the raft too cramped for two to effectively travel the river but we tried also that for some kilometers.

In August I quitted my job at the university and started a one-year wilderness guide course. We did several trips on the guide course during the autumn but unfortunately I didn’t find any time for longer trips of my own. Couple of weekends had to suffice.

In December I started a four-week internship period working at a small husky company in Taivalkoski. For the first two weeks I’ve been mostly taking care of the 60 dogs, done some dog sledding and now that I know the dogs I’ll be hopefully doing some real guiding during the next two weeks. I also managed to do a short overnighter with my girlfriend to the Syöte National Park nearby and I’m hoping that we’ll get couple of days of in January for a longer skiing trip.

The year 2011 was very good outdoor year in general. I learned a lot of new skill and did many things for the first time in my life. I also slept more nights outside than on any other year. The number of night spent outside is somewhere over 60, I haven’t been really counting, but it still doesn’t feel like too much or even enough. So there will be more coming in 2012.

In the beginning of the year we will have a four-day winter trip with the school and I will be doing some extra work practise periods for Vaiska KY working as a junior instructor and assistant guide (or something) on weekend courses about expedition style winter trips. In the beginning of March I’ll be again working as an assistant guide for Vaiska but this time on a one-week skiing trip to Sarek National Park in Swedish Lapland. And at the end of the winter I’d hope to do a two-week skiing trip to some cool place…

My spring will be spent mostly kayaking, canoeing and rafting with the guide course and on June 8th I should qualify as a wilderness guide. What happens after it is a mystery at them moment. But I hope it would involve lots of outdoors and wild places: packrafting, hiking, canoeing, guiding, skiing – anything goes! 🙂