Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Ankarat avotunturit

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!

 

Farewell to winter?

Why are you leaving so early again, dear winter?

15-02-22EOS 6D9604_600It seems that it’s time to say farewell to the winter who is leaving the Southern Finland too early again. Way too early. The winter here was short but not as bad as the previous one either: We had a decent amount of snow and the lakes did freeze but the temperatures zig-zagged around zero… But it was still pretty good winter. Most of my time outdoors was spent on guiding and instructing the Ankarat avotunturit courses. The time in between was spent mostly doing administrative work and preparing for what is to come.

My outdoor year started with some hunting in early January and included spending a night in open (though not public, but still free to use if you find it!) wilderness hut. My friend got the fox and an hour later I shot the manged raccoon dog. Traditional sit and wait hunt with not-so-traditional tools. No luck with hare the following day but a great start for the year anyway!

15-01-09EOS 6D9250_600 15-01-10EOS 6D9263_600 15-01-10EOS 6D9265_600The first Ankarat avotunturit introduction course was held at the Syöte National Park. It’s a great location with open marsh plains and deep spruce forests framed by rolling hills. And with a guarantee of snow!

This time too, the snow was plenty but unfortunately the temps were around zero. I started with a solo overnighter to scout the conditions skiing with my OAC Kar 147s first from the visitor center to Ahmatupa hut (Great hut! Rent the key for the reservation hut to use the sauna if you visit it!). The next day I continued scouting the trails to and from Toraslampi doing a bit of bad orienteering as I forgot to take my map from the car the previous evening and thus missed the coffee and donuts at visitor center…

15-01-16EOS 6D9329_600 15-01-16EOS 6D9333_600On the course we skied from the visitor center to Toraslampi and back spending a rather wet night in tents. Thanks to Hotel Iso-Syöte for the course venue!

15-01-18EOS 6D9346_600 15-01-18EOS 6D9362_600The next weekend we had the training trip of the Svalbard expedition crew (Huippuvuoret 2015). This was held at Padasjoki at Päijänne National Park which offered awesome surface for skiing, mild temps and a cooling breeze that helped to keep our tents dry. The crew did really well and I’m sure we will have a great expedition in Svalbard! The Kelvene area also inspired me to plan some packrafting adventures for the closing summer…

15-01-24EOS 6D9374_600 15-01-24EOS 6D9387_600Then I had two more introduction courses. First at Taipalsaari skiing on the frozen Lake Saimaa. Again mild temps, wet snow and a fair wind in the evening which added a bit of challenge to pitching the camp on the ice. Good training.

15-01-31EOS 6D9418_600The second course was again at lake Päijänne but this time at Jämsä. Conditions were very familiar: overcast, mild temps and a bit of wet snow. The kind of winter we’ve had. Luckily I had a nice group of wilderness guides, students and teachers to add a bit of colour to the otherwise grey conditions.

15-02-05EOS 6D9428_600I was also instructing on the Ankarat avotunturit special courses related to safety training and first aid and expedition medicine. You can read more about them and see a few photos in the Avotunturit blog.

At the end of February I had time for an overnighter with N. We decided to explore the surroundings of our new home at Riihimäki. We had visited the groomed ski tracks and slopes of Riutta before for training and had noticed a map which showed a groomed ski track to some nearby shelters and fire places. We didn’t know anything but what was on the map. But that’s enough for a little adventure! Especially when you go without a map or compass only checking the map at the beginning of the trail and trusting that your phone will save you in case you get lost…

So, late on Saturday afternoon we packed the gear and headed to the ski track walking trough the dark slushy streets and drizzle. The winter seemed to be about to leave. The groomed track to Riutta was easy going but from Riutta there was no groomed ski track marked on the map. Just the signs of summer trail “Ilvesreitti” (click “Kesäretkeily”, “Retkeilyreitit” and “Riihimäen reitti”), but we assumed it would take us to the right place and after some open streams, road walking, forest walking and even a bit of skiing we found ourselves at the first shelter and called it a day.

15-02-21EOS 6D9590_600 15-02-21EOS 6D9592_600Nice dinner by the camp fire followed but the night was slightly uncomfortable as I had to sleep on me side because the benches at the shelter were too narrow for me to sleep on my back… Clearly ment for day visitors only. The morning welcomed us back on the trail with more rain and occasional shower of snow. In the daylight route finding was easier and we could ski a bit more but still had to walk every now and then to spare our skis. The snow was melting fast and the next week the only places to ski in would be the prepared tracks and open fields.

15-02-21EOS 6D9597_600 15-02-22EOS 6D9602_600 15-02-22EOS 6D9608_600We were back home wet and with new scratches in our skis but happy none the less. The most important thing is to get out!

15-02-22EOS 6D9612_600So, I managed to fulfill the first two months of the #twonights challenge! Six nights in January (counting the 31.1.-1.2.) and two in February. And even though the challenge is “closed”, you are still free to join for peer support and pressure to make sure you get a healthy dose of nights outdoors every month!

– – –

So it seems like it would be time to say farewell to winter.

But I don’t want to.

Hear this winter, I’m not finished with you yet! There is no mountain so high, cave so deep or wilderness so cold that I wouldn’t find you!

I’ll start from the fjells of Sarek in early March. And should you try to escape, I’ll be searching you from the cold shores and jagged peaks of Spitsbergen in April. And I’m pretty sure that in May I’ll find you from the glaciers of Iceland.

I’m not finished with you yet, winter!