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.
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.
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.
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…