Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

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.

Packrafting at Ruunaa – Video!

In mid June I was on an overnight packrafting trip at Ruunaa Hiking area known for its rapids.

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In my trip report I promised there would be a video later when my friend has time to put it together… And as Thomas unfortunately damaged his hand on our recent trip around Kebnekaise (more about that later in my blog) he now had the time to edit the video!

You can find the video from Youtube or below:

More packrafting trip reports (and maybe videos from Thomas?) in the blog later. Meanwhile, enjoy the summer and remember to pick berries and mushroms for the witner!

Finnish Packraft Gathering 3

This bilingual post is a preliminary open invitation to packraft gathering at 16.-18.9.2016!
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Tämä  kaksikielinen kirjoitus on alustava avoin kutsu packraft-kokoontumiseen 16.-18.9.2016!

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In English: Packrafters in Finland – Unite once again!

We (me and a punch of other packrafters in Finland) would like to invite you to join us for the third Finnish Packraft Gathering at Vantaanjoki in Southern Finland on 16.-18.9.2016. The final details are not yet set but the dates are and so is a rough program:

Friday 16.9. Gathering at one of the camp sites (exact place to be announced in August) of Kytäjä-Usmi area (info pages in Finnish). Evening by the fire in good company. Nice lake-hopping and fishing available for those interested.

Saturday 17.9. Walk from the camp to Kytäjoki or Vantaanjoki river (depending on the water level) and paddling down the Vantaanjoki to Nukarinkosket rapids (fishing info in Finnish, kayaking info in Finnish = in brief: requires high water, class III-IV, 25m drop on 1300m). Distance around 20km, plus a few kilometers of walking to start the day. Second night at a fireplace at Nukarinkosket.

Sunday 19.9. Packrafting further down the Vantaanjoki to Myllykoski rapid (fishing info in Finnish, kayaking info in Finnish = in brief: requires high water, class III-IV, 11m drop on 300m). Distance about 13km. From here you can continue further down stream to Vantaa or even all the way to the sea. Or catch a bus back home. Car shuttles can be arranged if need arises.

A helpful .pdf leaflet in Finnish giving an overview of the Northern part of Vaantaanjoki.

More info (i.e. exact places and times) coming later in August. But make a mark to your calendars!

Everyone is welcome to join – even if you don’t have a packraft, you can just come to have a look or join us with a kayak or canoe. But if you’d like to rent one, feel free to e-mail me (jaakko.heikka@gmail.com).

The normal weekend hire is 65 eur (VAT 24%) but I offer rafts for the meeting for a special price of 40 eur (VAT 24%)!

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Suomeksi: Suomen packraft-melojat – on taas se aika!

Haluamme toivottaa sinut tervetulleeksi kolmanteen suomalaiseen Packraft kokoontumiseen Vantaanjoelle 16
.-18.9.2016. Lopulliset yksityiskohdat varmistuvat myöhemmin, mutta ajankohta on lyöty lukkoon ja ohjelma on suuriinpiirtein seuraavanlainen:

Perjantai 16.9. Kokoontuminen jollekin Kytäjä-Usmin (info-sivut) tulipaikoista (tieto tarkasta paikasta julkaistaan elokuun aikana). Illanviettoa nuotion äärellä hyvässä seurassa. Kytäjä-Usmin alueella on mahdollisuus myös mukavaan “järvihyppelyyn” ja kalastamiseen.

Lauantai 17.9. Kävelemme leiripaikalta vedenkorkeudesta riippuen joko Kytäjoelle tai Vantaanjoelle, josta jatkamme alavirtaan Nukarinkoskille (kalastustietoutta ja melontatietoutta). Melontamatkaa kertyy noin 20km, ja aamulle jokunen kilometri kävelyä. Toinen yö vietetään tulipaikalla Nukarinkoskilla.

Sunnuntai 18.9. Jatkamme melontaa Vantaanjokea alavirtaan Myllykoskelle (kalastusinfoa ja melontainfoa). Melontamatka noin 13km. Myllykoskelta halukkaat voivat jatkaa jokea alavirtaan Vantaalle tai vaikka merelle saakka tai aloittaa kotimatkan julkisilla. Autonsiirtoja voidaan järjestellä tarpeen mukaan.

Hyödyllinen .pdf-esite Vantaanjoen pohjoisosista, jolla liikumme.

Lisäinfoa seuraa elokuussa, mutta varatkaa viikonloppu kalentereihinne jo nyt!

Kaikki ovat tervetulleita mukaan, vaikka ilman lauttaakin! Voit tulla vain katselemaan menoa tai osallistua kajakilla tai kanootilla. Mutta jos haluaisit vuokrata lautan, se onnistuu esim. allekirjoittaneen kautta. Tee varaus sähköpostitse hyvissä ajoin (jaakko.heikka@gmail.com), sillä lauttoja on rajallisesti.

Vuokrahinta viikonlopulta on tavallisesti 65 eur (ALV 24%), mutta kokoontumiseen osallistuville tarjoan lauttoja erikoishintaan 40 eur (ALV 24%)!

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Hiking and packrafting in Northern Karelia

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

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Sasta 64 Wild

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

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

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

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

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

More pics here.

Packrafting at Ruunaa area

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

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

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

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

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

But it was still damn fun!

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

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

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

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

As usual, more pics here.

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

 

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!