Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Canon

Getting over the expedition hangover

The blog has been quiet for about two months. That’s a long time. Of that time I’ve spent about five weeks on my longest expedition yet, skiing 27 days across the Greenland icecap. It was a wonderful tour and I had great time. But the price to pay seems to be the worst expedition hangover I’ve ever had. Some sort of post-trip torpor is typical to me but this time it feels exceptionally bad.

Yours truly enjoying life at the Greenland icecap. Photo by Matias Utriainen.

Yours truly enjoying life at the Greenland icecap. Photo by Matias Utriainen.

I was physically fine after the trip. I had to catch some sleep and took it easy for the first couple of weeks after the skiing but I lost only 2 kg of weight and it was solely fat so my body was fine. I didn’t have any bigger aches except for minor cold damage on the tips of my middle fingers and big toes but basically after a week of rest I was ready to go and ski cross the thing again.

And actually, I was also mentally more than eager to return to the simple life on the icecap. Back home I was initially interested mostly in sleeping and eating. After some time reading, sauna by the lake, sitting by a fire and walking and biking in the forests also started to appeal but most other things felt repulsive. And they still do. I’d rather be in some remote and wild place than back home with the myriad everyday responsibilities. This is what I call expedition hangover and that has also kept me away from the blog…

But in addition to longing for another expedition I’ve been also going through the huge amount of photos and video we shot on the expedition. I alone took over 1800 stills and nearly 50 GB of video. And I wasn’t the only one with a camera.

The first patch of photos is now ready and published and you can find them from my gallery. The photos are accompanied by short captions and I think they are best browsed in full screen view (click the icon on top right when browsing the photos) by clicking through the photos one by one. But you can watch them also as a slide show and also hide the texts if you want. You can get to the gallery by clicking any of the photos in the post.

Oh, and if you know cure for the post-trip hangover feel free to share it! 😉

PS. I also gave some interviews about the expedition. You can find the list from a post in the expedition blog but the only one in English is on Explorer’s Web and can be found from here.

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Wet Winter Tour in Sarek

When a one-week winter ski tour starts with heavy wind-driven rain you have to remind yourself why you like that stuff. This far I’ve always managed to convince myself that I’m doing what I really like and, fortunately, this time wasn’t an exception. In early March I was in Sarek National Park guiding the Advanced Course in Arctic Ski Expeditions with a great group of nine people. The tour was good but conditions were very unusual and quite challenging.

Rock Ptarmigans (Lagopus muta) in storm on the second day of the tour.

The conditions got interesting already on the approach to Ritsem. While we were enjoying a late hamburger-based dinner at Gällivare one participant, driving ahead to Ritsem, called on the way to report some serious winds and banks of spindrift. Little bit later he called again reporting flying gravel, wind ripping apart the ski box on top of his car and that he decided to bail and wait for us… Wise decision as the close-by weather station measured 35m/s average and 47m/s gusts!

A couple of hours and one serious heart-to-throat spindrift bank push-through later we met at the Stora Sjöfallet hotel, ditched the broken ski box, repacked and headed towards Ritsem. The wind had calmed down a bit and we managed to push to Ritsem were it was eerily calm as the big valley protected the area from the stormy winds.

The next morning we got our gear organized and started to ski across the lake Ahkkajaure.  A local couple on snowscooters had ventured out early in the morning and returned before we left all soaking wet reporting “terrible weather”. What a great start for a course in demanding ski expeditions! And an hour later the weather hit us on the open lake ice: high winds and heavy rain. SKiing in slush getting soaked by rain. Very Arctic indeed. But the fantastic group just soldiered through in marvellous manner despite some of them being dripping wet down to their base layers.

Towards the evening the weather got better for a little while with moments of sunshine and it all felt right again. Once we were pitching camp in the cover of the birch forest showers of wet snow and gusts returned. But by that time we were camped and sheltered, wet but happy.

The next day dawned in reasonable conditions as we broke camp and headed towards the big uphill push. It looked windy higher on the fjells and once we got further up on the shoulder of the Ahkka fjell then wind and snow really hit us. The steep bank requires a push with the heavy loads even in good weather and now we got a little extra challenge on top of that. But once again the group did great. The terrain got easier and we got little protection from the worst of the weather by taking a route down in a ravine. After one more push up from the ravine it was time to set up camp.

The third day was probably the best day of the tour weather-wise. We made good progress but some health issues in the group and a forecasted storm loomed in the back of my head. When we arrived to the point were we had to choose whether we try to do a longer tour and take the shortcut the answer was quite obvious as the latest forecasts warned us about serious storm with wind speeds over 30m/s.

Shortcut it was.

At the end of the day we set up camp and fortified it with some unusually robust snow walls (I rarely bother…)  to protect our tents from the predicted high winds. As a bonus I managed to break the leeward main zipper from the Hilleberg Kaitum 3 I was using and after several repair attempts I had to sew the door shut and turn the tent around in the wind and snow… Later in the evening the wind grew into a proper storm and our tents played us the characteristic lullabies of flapping silnylon.

In the morning the weather was still bad and the forecasts predicted even worse weather towards the end of the tour. We waited for couple of hours and as the wind died down we broke camp and skied a short stint to a place suitable for digging snow caves. We arrived little late and the group really worked hard to get the snow shelters ready before the dark and soon we were sheltered behind half-a-meter of snow, sipping Jägermeister and trying to get warm in our damp clothing.

As the forecasts threatened us with no-go weather (loads and loads of snow with over 30m/s winds) for the next day we decided to ski out from the high fjells a day early for a sheltered camp spot at the birch forest at the shores of lake Ahkkajaure. Skiing was good with reasonable visibility, warm temps and no wind, though we did get again some rain on the lower elevations. There hasn’t been anyone on the snowscooter trail before but the wind had packed the snow reasonably well so going was easy but rather monotonic. During the week Luc Mehl’s recipe of dance music on iPod and yellow lenses became known as the “Alaska prescription” and turned out to be quite popular. It really helps to cope with sub-optimal conditions. Add some hard candies and you become invincible to the elements…

Our last camp was well protected from the winds but the serious gusts still shooked our tents in the evening and it looked like serious weather up on the fjells as you could hear the wind howling even while camped on the low ground and the fjell tops were all covered in a thick veil of snow rushing through the air. We got our part of the snowfall with about 60 cm of fresh snow covering our tents overnight. I woke up around 5 a.m. as it was too quiet and noticed my tent was mostly buried under snow muting the characteristic flapping the tent fabric makes in high winds. I was too lazy to get up in the dark and waited until the dawn before getting out for some serious shoveling.

As the weather was supposed to get better in the evening we spent the last day mostly resting in camp wondering the constantly changing weather swinging from sun shine to full-on blizzard every five minutes. It was important to time the calls of nature accordingly. It turned out to be nice and relaxed day fixing equipment, frying bacon and pancakes, listening to iPods, etc. It’s not for everyone but it’s part of the game.

Towards the evening the weather got better and after late evening nap we woke in a frost covered tent for the first time during the tour. Even though the last stretch towards the lights of Ritsem  is always a long one the conditions made it more tolerable: calm, little below zero and partially cloudy letting in some moonlight painting the scenery we didn’t really get to see on the tour.

After such an ending  it’s always easy to convince yourself that you actually liked it and want to go for another round. Especially after a sauna, dinner and some quality beer in good company.

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More photos from the tour can be found from my gallery.

Antti’s trip report from the climate change simulator is also worth reading and can be found from his blog. Highly recommended blog anyway. As is his photography work from the Arctic and sub-Arctic at anttihaataja.kuvat.fi.

Marko took also great photos on the tour and you can find the photos with captions here. The creative man also shot a short video from the stormy night at camp number three:

Icescapes of lake Konnevesi

As February turned into March it was time for the AcrossGreenland2014 expedition to gather for a meeting. This time we had agreed to meet outdoors to test gear and get some kilometers on skis. Even though the lousy winter conditions in Southern Finland were against us, we didn’t let it slow us down and thus headed to Etelä-Konnevesi i.e. the Southern parts of Lake Konnevesi, a future national park.

We arrived at a quiet little fishing harbour after midnight and as the lake was covered with bare black ice we opted to pitch our tents on the snow patches on the parking area. The morning saw us packing our pulkas and local pensioner driving back and forth on the ice road starting from the harbour. Clearly he was curious of what we were doing but not daring enough to stop, come out from the relative safety of his car and speak to five strangers in bright coloured clothing…

The skiing was, well, interesting. There wasn’t any snow on the ice and on every push I felt stupid for not having ice skates. But as it was supposed to be a ski expedition training, skis we had. Going was fast and friction minimal so one could easily tow five pulkas and three skiers taking a break on top the pulkas…

We got to our destination the Pieni Navettasaari, an island with a lean-to shelter, in few hours. We had good company at the lean-to (in addition to the friendly dog who started following us on the way…) but despite the company decided to go for a quick spin on the skis also in the afternoon. Skate skiing on the steel edges of the skis was the most efficient way to travel as we had partial skins fixed to the bases of our skis. The little loop offered nice views and most of all very interesting miniature icescapes.

We spent the early evening chatting by the fire and once it got darker we retired to our tents to go through the endless lists of planning and preparations related to big expeditions. Heini also wrote a little blog post from the tent, though we had to send it over 3G network as our satellite hotspot refused to work. That’s why you go for training trip in the first place.

There was a slight dusting of snow overnight which made the ice even more slippery. Taking down the tents pitched on the ice was a slow process and required all concentration and balance available. And as the temperature was below zero the surface was too hard even for the steel edges of our skis so we changed into plan C – crampons – and walked back to our cars. Sub-optimal, but we are expecting to walk our fair share on crampons also in Greenland so why not at the lake ice as well…

The Etelä-Konnevesi area was very nice: countless little island with rocky shores, bits of old-grown forest, wind fallen trees et cetera. It’s not a big wilderness with all the summer houses and locals driving cars on the ice but it’s definitely worth a visit and it’s great to know it’ll be protected also for the future generations as a national park. I assume the best ways to visit would be skating (conditions permitting), skiing (assuming a normal winter) or paddling the summer, preferably not during the holiday seasons.

More photos of the ice in my gallery. All photos taken with Canon EOS 6D and EF 24-105 4 L IS. Still a lot of learning to do with the full-frame…

Shoulder Season Chill Out

Shoulder seasons are interesting time for outdoor activities. An unusual mix of seasonal activities is possible, many things are little more challenging than during “normal seasons” and even popular destinations are usually quiet so you can have the wilderness for yourself.

Shoulder season packrafting trails…

Super-cute little furballs!

N had holiday on the last week of October but as I had some work to do a normal one-week hiking trip wasn’t an option. So instead we did something else. It was rainy and grey with temperature around +6C in the South-East Finland so North sounded like a better option. As we both wanted to visit Husky Center Kolmiloukko (we both had been working there the previous two winters) the North-East* was the way to go. (* In Finnish the are called Koillismaa meaning North-East land even though it’s still far from the most North-East parts of Finland…)

The owner of Kolmiloukko had said we should take skis instead of mountain bikes and we believed him and left the bikes at home but took packrafts instead of skis. Once we arrived at the snowy North-East we started to think if we should’ve taken the skis after all… The first days were spent at the Kolmiloukko catching up, reconnecting with the dogs training for the upcoming season and of course playing with the adorable husky puppies!

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Packrafting at Savinajoki

The main trip of the week was to be a packrafting trip at Oulanka National Park. There are plenty of interesting rivers at the area ranging from small streams to roaring class V drops. As N isn’t that familiar with white water packrafting we chose Savinajoki, a 15km long class I-II river, as our destination. We got the starting point little late and from the bridge it looked like there would be little water and plenty of ice, especially as there were some lake sections in the beginning. Well, it’s shoulder season so ice is part of the game. As are short days. The two combined lead to quick decision of not boating all the way but hiking at an open wilderness hut near the mouth of the river and doing a day trip from there. The hike in turned to be some 6km longer than expected as the last bit of road was not accessible with our car.

With badly packed packs we hiked to the hut arriving in the dark around 17 pm. Short days also mean long evenings so a hut or comfortable shelter is welcome. And so is good slow cooking food and loads of hot beverages. And we had both. Perfect relaxed time in the backcountry. There had been a group of four hikers from the UK at the hut the previous day but during our stay we didn’t see anyone else and had the hut for ourselves.

The next day we started to hike upstream the Savinajoki river scouting on the way when possible from the trail. The 80-kilometer Karhunkierros trail follows the river before reaching its Northern terminus at Hautajärvi and crossing the Arctic Circle. The Savilampi lake at the mouth of the river was mostly frozen but the river was mostly free of ice. The water level was very low, even lower than on average in the late summer or autumn but it still looked quite packraftable.

We didn’t walk all the way up the river but pushed to the river through the snow and forest maybe one-third of the way from the lake. We had some hot tea from Thermos bottle and energy from bars to keep us warm as we inflate the packrafts and put on the secret weapons: Ursuk drysuits. I have no desire to go white water paddling on shoulder seasons without a proper dry suit. N was using my prototype packrafting specific suit which is two or three sizes too big for her so it was little bulky and the neck didn’t seal properly but it was still a way better than only wearing hard-shell clothing.

After breaking few meters of ice we were in the nice flow going down stream with decent speed. We got stuck on rocks every now and then but mostly it was good going maneuvering around rocks and occasional bigger wave. Typical rocky class I-II river with low water but enough water to keep it enjoyable.

The paddling went fast and soon we were at the Savilampi lake and reached the edge of the ice. The ice wasn’t strong enough to support a packraft for pushing ourselves over it but was weak enough to be break under the bow of the packraft when paddling vigorously. This was hard work but I was quite happy as it warmed up my fingers that had gotten very cold during the downstream part. 3mm neoprene gloves are not enough for me with aluminium paddle and temps (water and air) near 0C.

First we tried to break our way straight across the lake towards the hut but that didn’t work. There was just too much ice. After a while we turned towards the Northern shore and were soon walking on top of an esker back to the trail and hut. More real food was cooked, hot beverages were consumed and pancakes were enjoyed. Good time. A top tip for spending long shoulder season evenings at huts is to bring candles! And a book. N had one, I didn’t but would’ve liked to have one.

The next day was the walk back. We planned to go along a different route following first a 6-kilometer Kanjonin Kurkkaus trail along the canyon of the upper Oulankajoki river and then head to a forest road back to the main road and our car (parked at a local farm with the kind permission of the owners). There had been a proper autumn storm on the area and several fallen trees blocked the trail giving a bit of extra wilderness feeling to the otherwise well-marked and established trail. The river looked awesome and the big rocky cliffs were very impressive. I’ll be definitely back – when there is more water! But I’ll be down in the canyon in a packraft…

Once at the road we had learned our lesson from the first day’s walk-in with the heavyish packs and utilized a packraft as a sled pulling the loads instead of carrying. A great option on easy terrain (like a snow-covered forest road).

Day trip along the Pieni Karhunkierros trail

After the packrafting trip we spent some time at a cottage at Ruka (a fjell with a skiing center) and did a day trip to one of the most famous and frequently visited trails in Finland: the 12-kilometer Pieni Karhunkierros trail. It’s a nice trail following the scenic riverside of Kitkajoki river and crossing the old-grown spruce forests of the area. As it’s very popular trail it’s very well-marked and established and even eroded and worn. Going there during the shoulder seasons has advantages: fewer visitors and the snow covers parts of the infrastructure and erosion so it feels more wild – and you also probably smaller impact as you walk on snow!

We were again on the trail little late and had to hurry a bit to get out before the dark but it was a nice day walk. For me the Kitkajoki river was naturally the most interesting part. As the water level was low the class III Myllykoski and class IV Aallokkokoski didn’t seem too bad. If I would’ve had a dry suit in the car I would’ve been very tempted to drop the walk and paddle the rapids with my packraft. But as I said: no dry suit = no shoulder season white water paddling. And my suit was drying at the cottage.

The next rapid dowstream, Jyrävä, was about as scary as I thought it would be. A rocky nine meter drop with water squeezing between rocky river banks. With low water it didn’t look much easier, only more rocky. Not for me. At least not yet and probably not with a packraft. The rest of the trail was more in the woods with occasional glimpse at the river until the trail crossed the river and ascended up to the forests to return back to Myllykoski rapid.

On the trail I was missing two things: proper gaiters and walking poles. As plan was to spent most of the time in dry suit I didn’t take proper gaiters to accompany my Merrel Proterra goretex mids (goretex mids are great for the shoulder seasons). And as I don’t usually take poles for packrafting trip I didn’t have them with me at all. Both would’ve helped a lot in the snow.

As a conclusion the week was quite succesful: peaceful and relaxed with nice views even though the weather was mostly grey and uninspiring. The little packrafting we did was good and I’ll be definitely returning to the area in summer when the temperatures are warmer and there is more water in the rivers. It’s a great destination for packrafting!

Pedal and Stumble – First Bikepacking Trip

This is a slightly delayd story of my first bikepacking overnighter… The story form the second trip with auroras and everything can be found from here.

I’ve been interested in bikepacking for quite some time and I’ve been planning to buy a decent bike for over a year now. At the end of the summer I stumbled upon a heavily discounted 29er hardtail bike at the local shop and before I even noticed it I was a happy owner of a Ghost SE 2920.

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After few tours around the local trails I had a great chance to go for an overnighter bikepacking trip at Turku with the bikepacking gurus and fellow outdoor bloggers Toni Lund and Peter Nylund. After the trip I was busy guiding so Toni and Peter got the advantage and have already published their trip reports. But those reports seem to be missing some killer duckboards, several stumbles and occasional OTB… (See, I’m not complete newbie as I’m very familiar with the special terms!)

My trip started with a bike ride from home to catch the morning train from Lappeenranta to Turku. For the afternoon the trip was interrupted with non-wilderness related business with Ursuk but at the afternoon I was again on the bike on my way to shop some food for the overnighter. For schedule and logistical reasons Peter came to pick me from the shop and we took a car ride to Kurjenrahka National Park.

It was drizzling at the parking area when we arrived. But that didn’t really matter. I was eager to get going on my first bikepacking trip! We filled our water bottles and soon we were on the move on some very nice trails. Peter said getting to lean-to would take at least an hour. The trails were quite wide going through very green spruce forest with some rocks and roots but nothing too bad. But that was only the beginning…

Yours truly, photo by Peter Nylund.

When planning the trip Peter had asked if I could drive on duckboards. I promptly answered that I could and if not, I would learn. Back in the days I had driven duckboards with a 26″ MTB with 40mm tyres so I was quite confident with the matter. But that was 10-15 years ago and on dry and intact duckboards.

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The duckboards at Kurjenrahka were different. They were wet, worn, decayed, sometimes broken and often offered 4 inch of driveable width, few inch gap and another 4 inch of drivable board. The gap was just big enough to fit my 52mm tyres and slow me down. Slow me down really fast. And the wet and broken duckboards made sure this also happened every now and then.

It shouldn’t go like that… Photo by Peter Nylund.

And there were plenty of these duckboards on the way. I’m sure Peter, who was driving ahead, didn’t see me faceplanting into the bog but I guess the going was slow enough that he offered to switch bikes and I could drive with his Surly fatty. And the fatbike was great! The extra rubber on the tyres was especially welcome on the duckboards but the ride was generally smoother and stable and the bike felt more capable, and maybe even more suitable for beginner than the 29er.

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After one and half hours of pedaling and stumbling (I think I saw Peter also put his feet on the ground once so it must have been pretty demanding trail…) we arrived to the Vajosuo shelter in the twilight. Toni wasn’t there yet so we made a fire and got started with hot drinks.

2013_09_27_9999_1200Later Toni arrived and we had a great evening chatting, drinking and eating by the fire. It’s always awesome to meet with like-minded people and fellow bloggers in real life, and especially in wilderness settings. Peter had the gourmet food (and beers) you’d expect from a wilderness guide student and Toni had the minimalistic stove setup, some freeze-dried food and plenty of water, as you’d expect from a competing extreme cyclist… I had the proven Brovernighter combination of grilled sausages, buns and blue cheese. And naturally, a beer as well.

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After midnight it was time to retire to our sleeping bags as we were going to have an early start. I slept in a Madtree Core hammock, sheltered from the drizzle under a Rae tarp. I’ve been testing this setup for a few nights now and it’s very light, very minimalistic but also functional setup. More of it later after some more testing.

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After short but good night’s sleep I woke up to a blaze of fire that Peter had already lit (as you’d expect from an aspiring wilderness guide). After breakfast it was time to head back to the car the same way we came as Peter had to go to work and I had a train to catch. This time I drove all the way with my own 29er, scooting most of the deadly duckboards. The going felt actually little easier already so it really was a steep learning curve. And it still is. That’s the joy of adding new components to your outdoors hobbies!

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Peter showing how it’s done.

After a while in the car listening to quality extreme metal I quickly found myself carrying my bike (and a full-sized Subway sandwich) into the train to return back to Lappeenranta.

Thanks for the great trip guys! And now I want a fatbike even more than before…