– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.



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.)




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!


Kesä 2016 // Summer 2016

Tämä on lyhyt kaksikielinen info kesän 2016 opastetuista reissuista ja kursseista.
This is a short bilingual info of my guided tours and courses for summer 2016.


Kesä 2016

Kesällä 2016 tarjoan seuraavia:

1. Upea viikon patikkaretki Huippuvuorille Isfjorden-vuonon eteläosiin 24.7.-30.7.201
2. Yksipäiväisiä packraft-kursseja Kymijoella 13.8., 14.8., 20.8. ja 21.8.2016
3. Perinteinen packraft-vaellus Kilpisjärveltä Reisadaleniin 3.-11.9.2016.

Lisätietoja kaikista kesän ohjelmista täältä. Ja yleisempää infoa Opaspalvelut-sivulla.

Jos olet kiinnostunut kesän tarjonnasta, voit ottaa yhteyttä sähköpostitse!

PS. Olen opastamassa retkikuntaa yli Grönlannin jäätikön 28.5. asti. Mikäli olet kiinnostunut, voit seurata reissua osoitteessa: http://www.avotunturit.fi/greenland-2016/


Summer 2016

Unfortunately most of the info is in Finnish this time but here are very short descriptions with dates:

In summer 2016 I will be guiding:

1. A beautiful one-week backpacking trip around the Southern Isfjord in Svalbard on 24.7.-30.7.2016.
2. One-day packrafting courses at river Kymijoki (Sourhern Finland) on 13.8., 14.8., 20.8. and 21.8.
3. The classic one-week packrafting trip thru Käsivarsi wilderness area from Kilpisjärvi (Finland) to Reisadalen (Norway) on 3.9.-11.9.2016.

Tailor-made programs are available also during the summer season and if you’re interested, I’d suggest contacting early before my calender is fully booked!

You can find slme general information from my Guiding page. And
if you’re interested in a particular program, please contact me with e-mail and I can share more information in English!

PS. I’m guiding a group across the Greenland icecap untill 28.5. If you’re interested, you can follow our expedition at: http://www.avotunturit.fi/greenland-2016/


The blog’s dead, I’m alive

The blog has been dead for the past four months but don’t worry, I’m alive.

The winter has been extremely busy with work which luckily means lot’s of time outdoors and if not outdoors, then doing laundry and preparing for the next tour. That’s also the reason why the blog has been in coma for a while. More on skis, less behind the screen.

Please accept a few photos from the past winter as an apology. More blog content – words and photos – coming later. Maybe in June…

This winter I’ve been skiing and camping in Finland…

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…and in Sweden…

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…and recently in Svalbard.

But the winter ain’t over yet. At least not for me.

Later this week I’ll head to Greenland to guide a small group across the Greenland icecap from West to East which should mean another four weeks of skiing and living in a tent for me. Though the spring in Finland is tempting, I can’t really complain.

You can follow our progress on Social Hiking and read daily blogs (in Finnish) on the Avotunturit blog.

So, enjoy the spring also on my behalf!

And if you’re interested, I’ll be at the Erämessut in early June so come and say hello! And later in June you can meet me at 64° Wild. After that, I might disappear in the woods for a holiday…

Stuff for sale!

Packing for a long work stint in the North I tend to notice I have a lots of unused outdoor stuff and this winter season is no exception. Here I’ve listed pile of stuff for sale, mostly small and affordable. Some of it used, some new and unused. I hope you’ll have more use for them than I do!

All prices in euros. Real shipping costs will be added to the prices. Payment via wire-transfer or Paypal. If you’re interested in something, write a comment here or send me an e-mail to jaakko_heikka@hotmail.com

Update: Items reserved or sold market with a striketrough. Thanks for all who were interested in the kit!

Berghaus Expedition Lite 80 backpack, size 4

Unused, tags still attached. The size 4 is the tallest but in my opinion fits for a wide range of people, say starting from 170cm.

160 eur


Madshus Glittertind boots (2013 model), size 48

New and unused, tags still atatched and in original box. Nice soft and warm back country touring boots. Size 48 has room for two pairs of thick warm socks for someone normally wearing size 46 footwear, or closer fit for bigger feet. I skied across Greenland in similar boots.

90 eur

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Meindl Vakuum Men GTX hiking boots, size 48

Used but in good condition. Size is 48 but I usually wear size 46 and this fit fine with the classic combination of thin liner and mid-weight hiking sock. As rarely used hiking boots are known for aging midsoles crumbling, I’ll give these one month crumble-free money-back guarantee.

90 eur

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Merrel Proterra Mid GTX, size 46

Seen very little use as they are little too small for me. Nice wide last and roomy but little shortern than size 46 usually is, I’d say better for people using size 45 footwear.

80 eur

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Cold Avenger Balaclava Expedition Balaclava

Seen very little use, in good condition. Some stiches added to the face mask part under the chin for better fit.

40 eur

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Guahoo Outdoor Heavy Merino shirt and pants

New, unused still in the boxes. 230g/sqm, outer 100% merino, inner 100% polyester. Basic design. Size run little small so I’ve added my guess in typical sizing after the actual size.

  • polo style shirt, size XL (L), 30eur
  • pants, size XXL (XL), 30eur
  • pants, size XXXL (XXL), 2 pairs, á 30eur or boths for 40 eur

Aclima Woolnet Polo w/Zip and 3/4 Long Pants

Used and accidentally washed with a wrong program which caused them to shrink so I needed to buy another set. Originally size XL, but now more like wide size L.

Á 20 eur, or 30 eur as a package

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BW Winter Mittens, size 9

BW military surplus winter mittens. In good condition and not used by me but surplus so not new either.

5 eur

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Savotta Rucksack Cover, size L

Used very little but has a rip that has been stiched and sealed with Liquidsole so fully functional.

5 eur

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Gerber Bear Grylls Folding Sheat Knife

Unused, unopened, in the original package. Includes a sheat. Partially serrated blade unlike the knife in the link.

20 eur

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Hähnel Unipal Universal Charger

Unused but package opened. 12V input (car or wall) and charges about anything.

20 eur

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Olympus Tough 3000 camera + accessories

Old and used but still functional waterproof “tough” digital camera. Comes with the original battery and cables, two accessory batteries and small Gorillapod clone. Not the latest nor the greatest but it works.

20 eur

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Primus Fuel Bottle, 0,6L

Used but in great condition.

5 eur

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Primus Pot Gripper

New and unused.

Two for 5 eur!

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Prestige Bliz Altitude, cat 4 mountain glasses, red

New & unused, spent some time in a box in a pulka as spare glasses. Cat 4 lenses with borwn tint and side shields.  No case though.

20 eur

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Goggles: Scott Cure (cat 2 lens) and Revolution Arctlens F12 (I’d say cat 2)

Both unused and in original package. Basic goggles. Recommended price 39,90 eur each.

á 20 eur

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Sigg Siggnature White Bottle, 0,6L

Used but in good condition. Similar style McKinley branded 0,5L bottle as package deal!

10 eur.


Blå Band Expedition Meal Mixed Flakes with Fruit

Just-add-water high-energy breakfast. Best before 3/2016. (And in my experience edible for a year or morep ast the date.)

The “best before date” is closing in so here’s a little deal: 20 bags for 30 euros!