Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Category Archives: Wilderness Guide School

We all should know better…

The name of the post refers to the unofficial Wilderness Classic motto “We all should know better than to do this race” which I quoted several times towards the end of “Kaksnelonen” a 24-hour walking challenge that I did during the last Thursday and Friday. Here are some thoughts along the 105 kilometers I walked.

.. For years I have traveled in coldness,
But my heart is warm as the darkened sun above me…

Nothing can ever take away
What I’ve seen with these tired eyes

Face of the weeping night
And the shade of the fading light

The dawn will never rise again for my eyes
And I will never sleep again

– Beyond the Dark Sun (Wintersun/Jari Mäenpää, 2004)

The 105 kilometer quartet: J, T, K and me. Tired & happy.

Thoughts

Incredibly psyched! Huge amounts of energy. Went to gym and did a personal pench press record. Sauna and swim in the lake helped and I managed to sleep after packing up the kit.

Tired in the morning. The energy of the evening is only a memory. But the mind is determined. Breakfast and time to go.

News on the radio tell that Thursday is a national failure day. That doesn’t apply for us. We are about to walk.

0 km

The supply point at Suomu information centre. Ready to go. Start at 11:15 am. Walking very fast without poles. Maybe too fast? Me and Big T ease up the pace a bit and let J, T and K go ahead. Good going. 2 hour and 45 minute lap. 15 minute break. No hash or coffee yet at the supply point. No need so no problem.

15 km

Walking with poles. The poles help a lot. Walking the lap to the other direction to get some variation. Good walking with reasonable pace. Another 2 hour and 45 minute lap followed with 15 minute break.

30 km

Chatting and walking. Wind driven rain showers. It’s getting dark and Big T didn’t have his headlamp with him so we finish the lap in dark with only one head lamp. beautiful full moon and stars above the lake. Legs are getting tired after walking 45km in less than 9 hours. Longer break needed. We agree to have 30 minute break and end up spending a 50 minutes with legs leaning to the wall. Shit! Time to walk some more.

45 km

It’s dark but we have headlamps and the trail is already familiar. Careless step and I got my left shoe wet. Big T is listening to music and I try to keep my thoughts together while not having anyone to chat with. Hard. Should I also start listening mp3s? An old knee injury strikes and that’s it! Shit! No more walking for Big T. I walk alone the last 4km of the lap. Huge energy boost from walking alone but feeling tired at the supply point. I ask J, T and K to wait for a while and have a bit longer break. I eat and do some stretching in the warm tent before joining them. This is now the longest distance I’ve ever walked in one day.

60 km

J, T and K have a lot faster pace. We run the duckboards and walk on the trail. It’s Hard to keep up but it’s the only chance to make enough kilometers. Dark. Mentally pushing myself to keep up the pace. It’s snowing. My legs feel like they are made of wood. We decide to have a longer break. 40 minutes break. K is missing when we are leaving and we decide to go without her as the seven hours left is not too much. This is now the longest distance I’ve ever covered under my own steam in one day.

75 km

K soon catches up with us. After the first 4km of the lap we have some six hours left. A short motivation speak. Incredible speed. J leads the way, probably way over 6km/h. We have such strenght within if we just dig deep enough. Dawn. Time to turn of the head lamps. Really tired towards the end. I ask for a one minute break to sleep on the trail side. And then we continue over the last bridge. We made a 2 hours 47 minutes lap! Only time for a short break: some food, some stretching and it’s time to go.

90 km

The final lap. Tired and hurting but determined. Another 60 seconds of sleep on the trail side. J is leading the way until a blister in his feet bursts and it’s time to stop for a while. Sleep! Several minutes of sleep! J is patched up and it’s time to continue. Sun is rising and there are people fishing on the lake. We must be a comical sight limping on the trail. I’m leading the way. Everything feels really slow and hard but according the watch we are making decent time. The last three kilometers are very long. My feet hurt. So does everyone else’s feet. A lot of time to think “What the hell?” and “Why?” No answers. We wobble forwards and reach the goal around 10:40 am. A never-ending three hours lap has ended. No need to go further. This is enough.

105 km

Packing up. Feeling beaten but good. A beer in the car and falling asleep. That was it.

A shover at school. An hour of sleep and then packing up in torpor. Sitting in car. A hamburger meal. I don’t have to stay awake so I fall asleep.

The 24 hours were pretty close to what I anticipated. The first 45 km were easy and good going. When it got dark and the body started to get tired it became more challenging. We planned to walk an average of 3 hour laps and have 15 minutes breaks in between but laps ended up being a bit faster and breaks being a lot longer. I knew it would hurt and that I’d get tired but I was also quite sure that I would make it. In the beginning I gave myself an 80% chance of walking the 105km. The 20% was the possibility for injury that would stop me or slow me down. Luckily there were no injuries and I was able to pull it through. The most surprising thing was that we were able to walk the two last laps so fast despite being so tired. It was also surprising how slowly the time passed towards t he end despite the kilometeres passing by. And it was suprising that the last three kilometers felt so terrible. I thought it would have been a “victory march” to the finish line knowing that it all would end, but it wasn’t.

But what the hell did I do and why? As I wrote above, there were no answers. I didn’t get enlightened. Now few days after the walk I’m still not sure. Of coure there was the aspect of shoving of to others and myself, the aspect of learning things about my body and mind and so on. But I’m not still sure what I actually accomplished and why I did it. Maybe it just needs mroe time or there is no need for the answers. Isn’t a walk always worth it?

Stuff

Me in my walking gear after the 105km. Gear performed well.

As I hadn’t done anything similar before, I decided to play it safe and had a huge pack of clothes and another huge sack full of shoes (six pairs from rubber boots to Crocs) for the Kaksnelonen but I didn’t use most of it. I ended up using mostly the kit in the picture above. The temperature was around 0C, there was occasionally moderate wind and rain showers during the first day and even some snow during the night.

I walked all the way in My La Sportiva Wildcat trail runners with Inov8 Debris gaiters. The combination was again superb! I used two pairs of socks (Inov8 Prosocks and Bridgendale Endurance Trekkers) chancing them after the first 45km. It might have been a good idea to chance the socks a bit more often but I don’t think it would have made any difference. I even got my left feet wet once stepping into a bog but this didn’t cause any problems. I had Icebreaker merino briefs, Haglöfs Intense series thighs and shirt, Montane Featherlight pants, a cheapo windshirt and fleece gloves. The cheapo windshirt isn’t too breathable because of some kind of coating so I think I’ll need to buy a proper windshirt. For headwear I had a Haglöfs box cap and two Buffs that I used in the beginning of each lap before warming up. And because of past injuries I was wearing neoprene knee braces on both legs. I wore this kit all the time except for the first 15km lap while I was wearing powerstretch fleece instead of windshirt but it was way too warm. On breaks I wore a thick flurry fleece jacket on top of everything. Any down or puffy jacket would have done the same trick. Also a warm trousers (easy to put on and take off with shoes) might have been good addition for breaks.

I carried an Osprey Talon 33 pack all the time loaded with water bottle or two (0,7L sports style bottles), two chocolate bars, few energy gels, small first aid kit, mp3 player, phone, watch and some spare clothing (first a shell jacket and later on the powerstretch fleece). The pack was a total overkill for the load but it was the best one I had. I have a Terra Nova Laser 20 in order but it didn’t make it in time. And after the first lap I started to use walking poles which made a huge difference. I think that without the pole I wouldn’t have made the 105km.

Chow

I had a lot of food (15000+kcal) for the walk but naturally I ate only small part of it.

I had also huge amount of food with me. The basic idea was that I can have whatever I’ll be craving for during the walk. The plan was to consume two chocolate bars, 0,7 liters of sports drink and maybe a flapjack on every lap while walking. This worked quite well for the first five laps. On the two first laps I ate the chocolate bars and flapjacks with sports drink, then only the chocolate bars with sports drink and on the last two laps I was quite sick of the “processed” stuff and ate only one chocolate bar but several slices of rye bread and drank water instead of the sports drink. On breaks I ate a banana and drank 0,5 liters of chocolate milk, just as planned. In addition I ate few apples, some bread and small portion of hash provided by the school. This all went quite according to the plan which was to eat a lot on the first half to keep energy levels up and then towards the end eat only as much as felt good.

To keep myself awake I had some caffeined energy drink and “Rooster boosters” that contain caffeine and probably every legal additive and stimulant that can be sold in grocery stores in Finland. The stuff tasted terrible but gave a significant energy boost for 90 minutes or so after drinking it. The package advises using only one sachet per day. I used five during the latter half of the walk and didn’t notice any problems expect that the last one didn’t help too much.

Damage

One of the damages. A typical blister for me, caused by the partially missing toe nail.

Walking over 100 km in 24 hours without training inevitably causes some damage to the body. I think that I got away with relatively little damage:

– A painful blister in my pinky toe. It is quite typical  problem for me because of the partially missing toe nail. The blister developed around 45km and kept slowly growing towards the end.
– Blisters in both heels. These are not typical for me and I think they were caused by the edge of insoles because of the feet swelling a lot towards the end of the walk. Removing insoles around the 45km might have helped. Also pre-emptive taping might have been a good idea.
– Varying degrees of pain on the soles of feet. I think this is inevitable if you don’t have very well conditioned feet. Just suck it up and enjoy the walk. The pain eased out about two days after the walk.
– Some pain in the knees but not too much.
– Some pain in lower back starting after the first 30km but it soothened away with 600 mg of ibuprofen taken after 75km.
– Some chafing in groin, buttocks and armpits but this I noticed only after the walk so it didn’t bother me while walking.

Now about two days after finishing the Kaknelonen I’m feeling good enough to enjoy a short walk. I’m still quite tired despite sleeping a lot. The blisters are still a bit sore and muscles in the legs feel stiff but it seems that I got away with minimal damage taking into account that I really didn’t do any training or conditioning for this. I’ve done occasional long day-walk every year and of course several longer hikes every year but the daily mileage has always been very modest in comparison. I didn’t even do any long training runs or walks during this autumn, only short 20 minute morning runs, some orienteering and some weight training at the gym.

I mention this because I believe that anyone who is relatively fit, doesn’t have any bad chronic injuries and has the mental edge required can walk over 100km in one day. And I highly recommend you trying! I’m not sure why one should do things like this but maybe you find your reason on the way if you give it a chance.

The Kaksnelonen is open also for graduated guide students of the school but I think I’ve had enough at for a few years… Or how the hell should I know as “we all should know better…”

Advertisements

Monthly highlights of September

Monthly highlights” is a series of post concentrating on a 10-month wilderness guide course I am taking this year at Niittylahden opisto near Joensuu in Eastern Finland. These posts try to summarize the best parts of each month and are naturally published at the end of each month (or in the beginning of the following month as it seems to be now). Hopefully you enjoy it!

Highlights of September: The Herajärven kierros trail, autumn hike, kayaking and passed exams!

As the regular readers recognize the highlights of the last month include some things that I have reported separately to give them more depth. But as a quick reminder:

Instead of attending to a fire drill at school, me and most of my classmates walked a 40km long Herajärven kierros trail at the Koli national park in one day, under 12 hours to be precise. A great trail with nice views, good infrastructure and service and surprisingly high total elevation gain for a Southern Finland trail. A longer trip report can be found here.

Views along the Herajärven kierros trail.

Another big highlight of the last month was the autumn hike to Muotkatunturit wilderness area in Lapland. This was a six-day trip with the class,  short in kilometers but quite rich in group experiences.  An in-depth trip report is also available.

In addition to these two trips we had a four-day course in white water (or more like quick water) paddling with kayaks and canoes and few days at the school, partly in a classroom and partly in the forest. Some of the days at school were spent for planning and preparing for the autumn hike and one day at the forest was dedicated solely to orienteering exercises. I will write more about orienteering in the next monthly highlight post as we had our orienteering tests in the beginning of October. (And for those interested: I passed, so from now on I don’t have to know anymore how to orienteer.)

The starting day of the course at the Pielisjoki in Joensuu.

One of the interesting things of the past month was the basic course in white water paddling. The course is continuation to the four-day basic course in (lake) paddling and later on we will have a course in advanced white water paddling and also bunch of other water related stuff. The course started with a brief theory session but very soon we moved into an easy quick water at the Pielisjoki in the city center. We trained the basic stuff like going into the moving water, taking out into an eddy, ferrying across the river, paddling upstream and so on. People were taking pictures of us from the bridge and Google might have caught us on their street view while driving by… Luckily we had only few swims this time.

Someone screwing his kayak with dancer group in the background. Please, don't ask. 😉

On the second day we moved to the Ruunaa rapids that are very well-known in Finland. On this course we didn’t go into the best known section called Neitikoski (known for the big stopper wave that is favoured by freestyle kayakers, but trained and played in four different white water sections: Haapavitja, Kattilakoski, Murrookoski and Siikakoski. These are all typically class II rapids and despite the lowish water level they were class II also this time.  We trained with kayaks and canoes doing different maneuvers, running different routes and then carrying the vessel back upstreams for new runs. The first day at Ruunaa was dedicated to the basics at Siikakoski, second day was spent running the Haapavitja several times learning to use different routes and on the third day we did a short river trip starting from the Ruunaan retkeilykeskus and running the Kattilakoski, Murrookoski and Siikakoski.

A happy student pushing through a wave. Our paddling teacher Pertti in the background.

We also trained with canoes.

We stayed in small huts at Ruunaan retkeilykeskus next to Neitikoski (And I would have wanted to run the Neitikoski with a packraft but there were no volunteers to provide safety for the run…) and had sauna on both evenings. Very nice facilities for a paddling course as we have many other occasions to learn camping in the woods and in thus could concentrate solely on the paddling. After some swims at the first day at Siikakoski no-one capsized even though we had couple of very interesting runs with canoes that filled up with water and bumped into rocks… And all the unintended swims of the first day were related to playing in stopper waves and fooling around not really running down the rapid. I think it is very good achievement and big thanks goes to our visiting paddling teacher Pertti. There was another group of Wilderness Guide students from another school at Ruunaan retkeilykeskus at the same time and all but  their teacher ended up swimming in Murrookoski when they were supposed to run it down with canoes…

Carrying a kayak back upstream. A packraft is so much easier to carry!

I also had my packraft with me and run the Haapavitja couple of times in it and let one classmate to test it. He had never paddled a packraft before and had paddled a kayak only at the school courses but after couple of spins in the still water he headed down the class II Haapavitja with some advice from me. And he didn’t flip and liked the packraft a lot! Packrafts are just cheer joy to use and easy to learn.

Notice the differences between the loads. There is a right way and there is a wrong way to do it.

Another important thing were the exams. To qualify as a wilderness guide you have to pass several exams measuring the skills and knowledges required. The last month we had an exam about insects, about plants and about mushrooms. To pass an exam you have to get at least 80% right. In the insect exam we had to name bugs from dead samples and I blew this because of couple hard ones. Well, I’ll be having another try at the end of October and it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m more afraid about identifying birds and their voices in the spring! In the plants and mushroom exams we went out into the woods and had to name living samples pointed by one our teachers. I passed both with pretty good scores (19/20 and 18/20). I really liked the exams being held out in the woods in “real life situation” instead of using dried samples or photos in classroom.

Mushrooms at a trip. In the exam we didn't pick them up.

At the moment we are having a very tasty open fire cooking course and the next interesting thing will be likely the “Kaksnelonen” at the end of the week. It is a voluntary 24 hour challenge were one can test how far one can walk or run in 24 hours. Well, not exactly how far but how long distance one can cover, as we will have two loops (a 15km and 30km loops) to choose from and a service point in between.  I’m hoping to cover over 100km but I’ll have to see how things turn out. I haven’t been running nearly as much as I should have so I might be walking all the way. There might be a separate report about it coming later on.

Wilderness Guide Course blog is online!

Just a short note:

Some weeks ago I mentioned that there will be a dedicated blog for the Wilderness Guide Course I am taking. Things took some time, as they tend to do, but now the blog is online and already has a decent amount of content there for you to read!

But, all the content is in Finnish at the moment. Later on there will be some posts also in English and I will let you know when it is timely. The readers who know the dark secrets of the Finnish language can already enjoy trip reports, stories about life at the school and the school itself. The blog will be updated weekly by different students from our course.

The blog is called “Luonnon valintaa” and can be found here: http://luonnonvalintaa.wordpress.com/

Wood smoke and breeze under a tarp

Last week I returned from the autumn hike of the Wilderness Guide course that I’m participating. We did a six-day hike in the Muotkatunturit wilderness area in Lapland North-West from the village of Inari. Most of the Muotkatunturit area is nice and friendly with easy-going terrain, open fjell areas followed with dwarf birch forests and sheltering valleys growing old pine woods. Most of the water crossing in the area easy except for some big lakes.

For some of the guide students this was their first time in Lapland and the longest hike they had done so the daily distances were kept relatively short while planning the hike. In addition we needed to have some extra time for “daily guide” duties and teaching tasks as this was not only a hike but also a learning occasion. I would have wanted to cover more distance to get a good overview of the area as this was my first time in Muotkatunturit. On the other hand, I had a very pesky flu on the first three days of the trip and easily got out of breath, so maybe it wouldn’t have been that good idea to do long days. But the hike was very enjoyable none the less.

Wood smoke, tarps, ptarmigans and things

The trip started early in Wednesday morning with a longish drive towards the North. (Why is Lapland so far away?) We spent the first night up North in nice cottages at the Youth & Holiday centre Vasatokka. The evening was spent doing some last-minute gear decision with the help of a scale that H, one of the students on the lightweight side, had brought with him.

Views from the Vasatokka.

The rucksack was a bit on the heavy side heavy. Do I really need rain pants? Or do I really need two knee braces? This lead me accidentally leaving both of my knee braces at the car but luckily I didn’t encounter any serious knee problems on the trip.

It was nice to notice that several of us had relatively light backpacks despite some heavyish group gear. My Pinnacle was around 15,5 kg, over 6kg of this being food. In addition I had 2 kg of camera gear on my waist and about 2 kg of worn clothing. H’s pack was even lighter and he had everything crammed into an old Golite Breeze. T’s rucksack was a bit heavier – but it was pretty good taking into account that the pack itself was over 3kg weighting bomb-proof military pack with only 40 liter capacity! And some of the girls had also quite light rucksacks. The infection is spreading! 🙂

The group at Muotkanruoktu and still smiling. Notice the crop of the daily leader. 😉

The hike itself started in Thursday morning from Muotkanruoktu were we left the cars. It was cloudy and chilly, as it would be for most of the trip. The thermometer said +3C and we had no reason to disagree. For most of the first day we followed a river-side trail to a small cottage called Lahtisen kämppä. On the way we had an “educational” swamp crossing but we managed to cross with dry feet. (Well, toes of my right foot got a bit wet in my trail runners.)

One of the very few swamps we had to cross. And all of them were relatively dry.

This small cottage was the last human built thing we saw for days (excluding some old fire places). The wilderness was really a wild place. (In the pic T is placing a 3kg weight disc in S's rucksack!)

From the hut we had only a short stretch of off trail walking to our first camp at Ylempi Harrijärvi. The camp was very nice in the setting sun but also windy and chilly. Afterwards it’s easy to say that there would have been a lot better camp side at the shore of Alempi Harrijärvi: more sheltered, more level spots for sleeping, more pine for fires.

Tarps being pitched at the first camp.

I was sharing food with my mate S and for a dinner we had really nice moose fry with instant potato smash. We prepared the meal on open fire as we had fires every day in every camp – and occasionally on lunch breaks too. I spent the night in my Golite ShangriLa3 with S. I had a good night in the warmth of a borrowed sleeping bag (Thanks Harri!). S managed to swivel his way out from the shelter and was awaken by the rain drops hitting his face…

The first morning in the wild started with an overcast, a slight breeze and chilly weather. And of course included bacon and scrambled eggs. We took a high route via the summit of Peltoaivi fjell. The views from the top were very nice but it was even better to see some Rock Ptarmigans on the way down. They were not too eager to fly away but after I got too close with the camera, I got the shot that I wanted.

The first morning in the wild.

S admiring the views from the top of Peltoaivi fjell.

Rock Ptarmigans fleeing as I'm approaching them with a camera. (Click for a bigger picture.)

We had a nice and long lunch break at the shelter of some dwarf birches on the lower slopes while making our way to the shore of lake Peltojärvi. On this lunch break we introduced the so-called “Course Spoon” with S, T and H. This meant a group of people spooning up for a nap or just for the comfort of the extra warmth provided. The spontaneous Course Spoon proved to be a popular concept later on the trip. Warmth is comfort so why waste it? 😉

Spooning under an Erätoveri tarp on the third day. Really cozy and comfy. Highly recommended!

After the lunch I did some extra walking with H back to the lunch spot to retrieve his forgotten monocular. While we were enjoying the walk and some more Ptarmigans on the way others had pitched the camp near the shore of Peltojärvi. S had decided to sleep under an Erätoveri tarp with some other guys so I decided to sleep under H’s old Golite tarp (probably Cave 2, original Ray Jardine desing) which proved to be a good idea. I’m a convert now: Tarping is great! And in certain conditions it will be my first choise for a shelter. The camp lacked a good supply of fire wood but we managed to put up a small camp fire for the evening.

The third day started once again with an overcast, a little bit of wind and relatively cool temperature but no bacon and eggs this time. After the morning meeting by the fire we hiked over Oravamorosto fjell and saw a largish herd of reindeers in the way and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the valley were the Alempi Honkavuoma river runs.

Reindeers. We saw quite many of them but rarely from a close distance.

S adopting the local ways.

There was also plenty of lemmings out there.

In the afternoon we had a short shower of real rain instead of the usual misty rain. The light was beautiful as the rain passed by. As we were going to spent the following two nights in the same spot, we spent some time looking for a good place for the camp around Honkavuoman latvajärvi lake. After an hour of scouting we found a really nice sheltered area with good spots to pitch shelters, plenty of firewood and running water nearby. The smoke smelled like tar as we burned some old high resin pine wood in the camp fire. And as we had a good fire going, it was good time to make some pancakes on the fire. I spent the night again under the simple silnylon tarp which was again great.

This picture doesn't do justice for the magnificent light but it's the best I could do...

Insanely good fire wood!

Rain isn't a problem when you are sheltered and have a fire going.

The next day was to be different. We had first planned to do a 27 kilometer day hike to the Kuarvikozza fjell and back with a small group while others would have stayed in the camp doing their own things. We woke up at 0600 am to see clouds hanging on the slopes meaning poor visibility. There was not much enthusiasm for a long push. I think that most of us just wanted to crawl back into the warmth of our sleeping bags and after a unanimous decision we did exactly that. On the morning meeting we rearranged the day a bit: For first half of the day H teached us some very interesting techniques and skills useful for nature observation and hunting and on the latter half of the day we did a short trip to nearby fjell Bealdoaivvas and to a canyon called Luolikkokuru.

Views from the slopes of Beldoaivvas.

You don't even want to know. 😉

After dinner me and two other guys decided that we would go for a swim into the nice little lake near the camp. The water was seriously cold but the swim was good. I had borrowed S’s Crocs for swimming shoes but despite that, got a small cut to my right heel as some sharp rocks rolled under my foot. The bad thing was that I didn’t notice this because I had lost all sensation from my feet in the cold water. In the evening I walked several hours without shoes or socks in the camp and only noticed the wound in the next morning while putting on my shoes. Luckily, I didn’t get any nasty infections, only a sore heel for the next few days.

Nice place for a swim.

In the evening  we had once again fire going on and when it came dark, the clouds moved aside revealing the starry skies! I held a short lecture about the Solar system and things you could see on the night sky but when people started to fall asleep while lying on their sleeping pads, it was time to call it a day.

An evening gathering by the fire.

As the weather seemed good, I decided to sleep under the stars near the fire. This felt like a great idea as nothing is better than falling asleep under the Milky way with a faint scent of tarry smoke in the air. Some hours later it proved to be a bad idea as I was woken by a shoe thrown at me! S was sleeping under an Erätoveri tarp next to the fire and wanted to tell me that it was raining and my sleeping bag was getting all wet. I was sleeping so well that I hadn’t even noticed it. It was time to pack up things and head to the shelter of the tarp. The outer of the sleeping bag was a bit moist but it dried nicely during the rest of the night.

On the fourth morning it was time to leave the “basecamp” behind and start the hike towards the road and civilization. We had a nice walk via a fjell top and a nice little rocky canyon and had an excellent sunny weather for the lunch break!

S looking for extra food supply in the little rocky canyon.

Excellent weather for a lunch break! Notice the sleeping bags airing out.

We found a great spot for the last camp in a pine growing forest, next to a river with good supply of fire wood. For the evening program we had some water crossing training and some demonstrations about different types of fires including the rakovalkea (two big logs on top of each other that theoretically should burn through the whole night). Lots of hot drinks, some pancakes, fires and tarping with good company. Is there anything better?

H demonstrating a safe way to cross a stream.

A rakovalkea fire in the last camp.

All good things come to an end. After the last morning’s tea and Poptarts it was time to head back to the troubled world of mundane concerns. No more sheer simplicity and joys of the wilderness. I was acting as a daily guide with T and we opted to take another high route instead of walking through swamps and old-grown forests to get one last glimpse of the area we had to leave behind. The walk was easy and we had only few short breakes before arriving back to Muotkanruoktu.

The world of mundane concerns somewhere in the distant horizon.

It was a good hike but felt like it ended all too quickly: There would have been so much more to see and experience. I have to go back when I have the time. There are so many views to be seen from so many hill tops, so many sheltered valleys to walk, great spots to camp in and small lakes to swim in. I highly recommend the Muotkatunturit area for those who enjoy wild but relatively friendly places without much human made trails or structures.

The Grub

I’ve no picture of the food I was carrying, but I was carrying quite a lot of it: over 6 kilo for 5½ days. But the food worked really well and I really liked it. For breakfast I had some rye bread & cheese, Poptarts, about one liter of tea and a fresh apple. I really like an apple for a breakfast but it’s even better to see the expressions of others while eating fresh food out there. 😉 And speaking of fresh food, for the first morning me and S had bacon and scrambled eggs. I had less snacks than I’d usually carry: only two chocolate bars (á 50g) (for each day!), some honey roasted peanuts (my new favourite) and home-made moose jerky. I could have eaten more snacks but didn’t really need more. For lunch I had a Flapjack or a protein bar and a bit of salami. And as the lunch breaks were long (from hour to hour and half) we also made some tea or coffee and often had some bread with the salami.

S pondering what to have for lunch.

For dinners we had either pasta with some smoked reindeer meat or rice with home-dried kebab, except for the first evening when we had the moose fry with smashed potatoes. The portions were of decent size (around 150-200g of dry ingredients per person) but I could have easily eaten more. In addition we had some dessert for every evening ranging from Finnish leipäjuusto (certain sort of cheese often fried in butter) to chocolate chip cookies. And of course some cowboy coffee! Despite being a lot heavier than instant coffee, real coffee is real coffee after all. We ran out of coffee on the last evening and had to borrow some for the last morning but other than that, we had adequate food supplies. When we finished the hike I had one tea bag, one sugar cube, some honey, some butter and the last day’s lunch in my bag so I consider the amount of food I had to be spot on. I knew I would loose some weight on the trip and it seems that I lost around one kilo of body weight which isn’t a problem for me, actually quite the opposite.

The Gear

All the stuff I had with me, including some extra I left at the car. I swapped the shared cooking kit to the shared shelter to make everything fit nicely.

For gear I had only tried and true stuff with me. I would have liked to have some new stuff for test but without a regular income (or incomes at all) I have to really think where to spent my money. I had my Pinncale (Which needs a little modifications to become even better.) lined with heavy but durable Ortlieb PS17 drysack, full-length Ridgerest as a virtual frame and for sleeping. As I don’t have a decent 3-season sleeping bag or quilt at the moment I borrowed a Marmot Sawtooth from a friend. I have owned a similar bag so I knew it would be warm enough for the trip, despite being a bit on the heavy side.* I carried my Golite SL3 but slept only one night in it so it was mostly dead-weight. Rest of the nights I slept under H’s silnylon tarp. And I’m going to get one for myself! Tarps are great for trips like this one!

For cooking I had a 1,4 liter pot and the Optimus Crux Lite stove with a lot of gas (a big 450g canister) shared with S. With the amount of camp fires we had, we would have managed without a stove or at least with a lot smaller gas canister. In the future I can leave the gas canister at home as I will be using a wood stove instead. Mr Newton had a BushBuddy Ultra with a nice titanium pot for sale and luckily H convinced me that I really needed one. H was cooking with a similar setup on this trip and it proved to be very good. I just need a bit bigger pot when cooking for two. Our cooking setup was supplemented with a 0,5kg frying pan which was a bit heavy but the pancakes were worth the weight. **

Evernew titanium pots are really hot! I'll be getting one too.

For footwear I had a brand new pair of the brilliant LaSportiva Wildcats. I really love those shoes! The footwear system also included Inov8 socks and gaiters and woollen socks with plastic bags to be used in camp. Most of the time I was wearing old Haglöfs Climatic cargo pants, merino wool briefs, a merino shirt and the Rab eVent jacket to protect me from wind and drizzle. I had a synthetic Haglöfs shirt that I planned to use for walking but I soon ditched it as changing a shirt every evening and every morning felt like an unnecessary task. One merino shirt is enough. For extra warmth I had a Finnsvala powerstretch shirt that I really like, a Marmot down vest (soon to be replaced by a better one) and long merino under pants. All these saw regular use as did the Buff during the days and a fleece beanie while in camp. I also had a pair of spare socks, spare under pants and rain pants. I didn’t use these too much or at all but probably would take them again for a similar hike.

Yours truly in his typical walking outfit.

For photography I had my Canon EOS 550D with the magnificent 24-105 4 L IS lens carried in a waterproof Ortlieb pack on my waist. A wide angle lens would have been occasionally nice but otherwise the 24-105 4 L IS is a great all-around lens well worth the price. I had three batteries with me that I have been using since the school started in August and I have shot probably some 1500+ pictures with them. Two of the batteries died soon after the start of the hike and I was a bit worried but the third had enough juice for me to shoot up the whole the 16Gb SD card.

More pictures

For those interested, more pictures in my gallery.

– – –

* Recommendation for a good 3-season (down to -5C) quilts and sleeping bags are welcome!
** Has any of you dear readers used a titanium frying pan? Do they work for pancakes, bacon, eggs and stuff? Would be a lot lighter than the cast iron ones…

Monthly highlights of August

“Monthly highlights” is a series of post concentrating on a 10-month wilderness guide course I am taking this year at Niittylahden opisto near Joensuu in Eastern Finland. These posts try to summarize the best parts of each month and are naturally published at the end of each month. This is the first post of  the series. Hopefully you enjoy it!

Highlights of August: a saimaa ringed seal, first aid courses and the best tent-sauna ever!

Even though the line above tries to sum up the individual highlights of the past month, the most interesting thing has been a more abstract experience of getting to know the people on my class and getting used to the life at the school. I will write more about the life at the school later on when I don’t have other highlights to share with you.

Canoeing at Kolovesi National Park

When the school started a bit over four weeks ago we went straight into business and headed to the Kolovesi National Park for a five days canoeing trip. The trip itself was really relaxed with not much daily mileage but a lot of time together sitting by a fire, doing different tasks and getting to know each others. With the great weather we had it was very nice trip even though I would have liked some more canoeing.  As there were only few bugs and the views were awesome it was great to sleep under the stars without a bivy or a tarp. Because of the views I slept the second night next to a rock cliff and it was pretty cold place to sleep without the shelter of forest. Still, that night was one the greatest nights outside I’ve had this summer.

Maybe the nicest place I've slept in this summer.

The second highlight of the trip took place on the last evening when we were at Kirkkoranta making food and packing gear to the car. I think it was our teacher Pasi who spotted a saimaa ringed seal swimming next to the opposite shore a few hundred meters away. Saimaa ringed seal is very rare and endangered species – only some 270 individuals exist. The seal surfaced three times swimming back and forth probably looking for some fish to eat (or lurking to steal our coffee and pancakes?) I have never seen one before, and neither had our teacher Pasi even though he has spent some time especially looking for the seals… Lucky us!

The Saimaa ringed seal swimming to left. Use your imagination if necessary. 😉

The second week we spent at the school, mostly sitting in the class but also going occasionally outside for some orienteering or to learn nature lore as we are required to identify a lot of plants, birds, bugs and stuff to become wilderness guides. But there was not much interesting happening during the second week or at least not interesting enough for me to remember now when writing this… But on the third week we had two pretty nice first aid courses each lasting for two full days. The contents of the courses were based on the first aid 1 and 2 courses of the Finnish Red Cross but were modified for outdoor situations and had quite a lot of additional content. I got a lot of useful information from the courses and learnt to do few things also in practise. The teachers were also really good and thus the course gets a place in the highlights of the month. I can’t wait for the WAFA course in November!

Yours truly in a splinted stage of being.

And during the last week we got back into the woods! This time we headed to the Southern end of the Karhunpolku trail near the Patvinsuo National Park where we exercised basic wilderness skills like camping with Erätoveri tarps (relatively light traditional 3m x 3m PU coated tarp) and cooking on open fire. This wasn’t especially new for me but it’s always good to spent time outside under a tarp. We didn’t hike too much during the trip but instead did some fishing, orienteering exercises with 1:50000 maps during the day and night and  learnt many things about the surrounding nature thanks to our visiting teacher/guide Harri. He was a superb guy with very profound knowledge about the North Karelian nature.

I didn't bother taking of my trail runners for this. 😉

Cooking: grilled sausage, eggs in moss and mushrooms with some onion. Delicious!

But the best thing, at least for me, was tent sauna. We took with us a big box-shaped tent cloth that can be used as a sauna using an improvised stove. We made the stove from a big pile of rocks and some steel grating we found near the beach. Then we spent about five hours warming up the stones and ended up with a big pile of red glowing stones (see the picture, most of the red glowe is not from the fire but from the stones themselves). After that we shoveled away the embers, poured some water on the stone pile to put out the last of the flames and then pulled the tent cloth over corner poles to cover the stove and benches made of a big fallen log. And the sauna was ready! It was a great sauna, definitely making it to the Top 3 sauna experiences I’ve ever had. The only problem was that we had to cut it short as we had some more night orienteering to do that evening…

Straight from the deepest pits of Mount Doom: Improvised stove for sauna.

Enjoying the work done.

This week we’ve had a lot of time in the classroom and also some orienteering. The next week we’ll have some more sitting in the classroom, some more orienteering and our first exams in nature lore. We might also be going for a long walk but if we go, I’ll write a separate post about it. After that we will have the basic course in white water paddling at Ruunaa and the week after that we will head to Lapland for a six-day autumn hike. We have a challenge of getting the total pack weight below 15 kilo for the trip. That one should be relatively easy. even if I’d had to borrow a heavier sleeping bag for the trip.

Two Erätoveri tarps and a fire. A good place to be.