Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: EF 24-105 4 L IS

One Raft, Two Bikes and an Ancient Campsite

The last weekend N and I had a rare overlapping weekend without other projects and an overnighter was soon planned…

I wanted to do some more packrafting and found the Ruokolahden melontareitti, a 110km paddling route with some shelters and fireplaces along the way. As is the case in South-East Finland the route is mostly on the waters of lake Saimaa. But there was also a short river section, Lieviskänjoki, which was of interest for me as a packrafter.

The plan was simple: drop bikes to a shelter at Hiekkaniemi cape, drive to Pieni Jukajärvi lake and paddle 18km along the river and lakes to the shelter, spend the night at the shelter and cycle back to the car on Sunday.

We started the Saturday by dropping the bikes near the shelter and happened to meet some amateur archaeologists who had been searching the area as people have lived and traveled there also on the ancient times some 6000 years ago as the ice sheet had given up the area. The waterways were the natural routes before the time of roads that nowadays, sadly, reach almost every corner of Southern Finland. It was nice to think that we were about to follow an ancient waterway and sleep next to ancient campsite or settlement. There would be also some rock paintings on the way and we planned to take a look, but things don’t always go as planned.

After some more driving we were at the Pieni-Jukajärvi lake and found a good put in to start paddling. Thanks to sleeping in and spending some time chatting with the archaeology enthusiasts we were about two hours behind the planned schedule. But it was only 18 kilometers and we had nearly six hours before sunset and good possibility for a back-wind on the lake so we were confident…

To keep things interesting we had chosen to share an Alpackraft Explorer 42 instead of having separate boats. We hadn’t tried that ever before but it seemed possible. With the two of us and the gear we were probably close to the recommended maximum load of 200 kg and despite being quite big people we did fit in surprisingly comfortably. (We’ve also paddled sections of rivers in a single Alpackraft Llama with plenty of gear but that was far from comfortable…)

The river started as a small ditch but had enough room for the packraft and even a little flow to help us. We passed the first lean-to on our route, populated by a friendly group of men spending quality time in the woods with plenty of booze and car camping equipment. As we were on tight schedule we soon continued on the river taking breaks one at a time while the other was using the paddle as a two-bladed kayak paddle instead of two canoe paddles.

The flow was low and the river was quite densely vegetated, especially under the surface, which slowed us down and instead of the planned 4km/h our speed was around 2km/h and thus the 6 kilometer river took us some three hours leaving less than three to the sunset. As the wind had died we had no hope for packsailing across the lakes so it seemed we’d have to paddle in the dark… It was sort of “all in” situation as the waterway was the shortest route available because of the broken shoreline that was protected and thus without summer houses and roads. And to be honest, a long walk on the gravel wasn’t very inspiring idea either.

So we kept on paddling. 2,7 kilometers across the Lieviskänjärvi lake followed by a short and late lunch break at the mandatory portage around the ruins of an old mill. Then 4 kilometers along the narrow Lieviskänlahti sound. We passed the site of rock paintings in the sunset not having time to stop to search for them and rushed to cross the 6 kilometers of open waters at Muikunselkä and Rajakivenselkä. “Rushed” at what seemed to be 3 km/h as we started to be little tired and uncomfortable in our tiny raft.

It got dark and we had to navigate by the close-by shorelines and the horizon lines against the darkening night sky where stars started to appear. I was cursing myself not checking the time of the moon rise as I had been counting on some moonlight to help us but there wasn’t any available yet. We followed a marked boating lane as it would lead us by the little sandy cape we were aiming for. We paddled without headlamps to preserve our nightvision and to better see the little of the surroundings visible in the distance.

I was getting cold and N wasn’t too keen on paddling on the open lake in the dark.

The latter wasn’t helped by a boat heading to the opposite direction on the lane. We hadn’t seen any boats earlier the day but now heard a boat from the distance and then saw its lights and paddled out from the way towards a nearby island. We continued again, until we heard a second boat approaching. This time we didn’t see any light but heard the boat closing in fast and hastily paddled again out from the way. The boat passed us from a safe distance with high-speed – and without any lights. We decided to take the headlamps at hand to signal our existence and location in case of more boats.

Luckily, there were no more boats and we soon saw the horizon line dropping against a more distant horizon line marking the cape and the end of our night-time paddling. Seven and half hours after the start we had covered the 18 kilometers and were happily ashore on our planned campsite. We wobbled out from the boat with numb toes and stiff feet. To be fair, it wasn’t too bad taking into concideration the time we’d spend paddling in the tiny boat.

We put on more clothes and changed the wet and cold neoprene socks to dry woollen socks and trail runners and started a fire to get warm. Proper packrafting stuff. I noticed I was actually more cold than I had thought while paddling. Something you don’t think too much while you’re concentrated on navigation and making progress… +5 C night-time temps were forecasted and I had been only wearing two thin layers and Anfibio Buoy Boy vest which is not as warm as a typical foam filled PFDs. No wonder I was cold.

About immediately after we got on the shore the moon rose behind our back lighting the scenery. Soup, toasted sandwiches and hot chocolate tasted very good. Actually, even better than the cold beer. I spend some time taking photos of the moonlit mist on the lake before retiring to the warmth of my sleeping bag, once again sleeping on the thickest airbed I’ve ever taken on a trip: the packraft.

I woke occasionally to admire the misty moonlit lake and later the sunrise over the waters but always fell asleep after a short glimpse at the scenery. No ghosts of ancient travelers or hunters bothered our sleep. After sleeping in late the day was started with porridge and local lingon berries, smores (we were too tired to eat them the previous evening) and grower’s cup coffee (Quick verdict: Good coffee but little pricey and the trash would be a problem on longer trips.)

I hadn’t spent much time planning on lashing the gear on my bike and thus ended up with just some gear on the beam rack and most of the odd but lightish kit in my trusty HMG Porter pack. After some iterations and re-lashing I was good to go for the 30+ kilometers back to the car. I had sketched the route roughly on map by following the smallest continuous roads back to the car. I hadn’t payed any attention on the contours and was surprised by the amount of hills on our route. There were plenty. It made good training but would’ve been more fun with less equipment on the back… No surprise there.

We took it easy admiring the forest, rocks and ponds on the way following small winding gravel and sand roads up and down towards East. After a lunch break and couple of hours of pedaling we were back at the car and soon on our way back home for pizzas and beverages. A weekend well spent, though not exactly in the way we I had planned.

The small river provided an interesting adventure and the scenery on the lakes was good with plenty of rocky shores without summer houses or forestry roads, thanks to the conservation areas. The paddling route is worth another visit but next time I’ll take a kayak or canoe and paddle most or all of it. In my opinion packrafts just aren’t much fun on long lake crossings, though this time the darkness gave it a special twist keeping it interesting. But if I have to do extended lake paddling with a packraft the two person variant is a viable option: it’s little faster, you can take breaks in turns and easily socialize while paddling. I’d love to try the Alpackraft Gnu for trips like this. Maybe I’ll just have to buy one…

Special thanks for the Packrafting Store for the equipment I had in for testing!

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Footnote on photos: In addition to my trusted combination of Canon EOS 6D body and the EF 24-105 4 L IS lens I also took my old and nearly forgotten EF 50 1,8 lens and it was great fun to use it in the dark with a Gorillapod. I should keep in mind that DSLRs are systems as the name says and not get stucked using one lens only. It’s not good for inspiration. Now I found myself looking for reasonably priced high aperture lenses around the 24-35mm range. Any suggestions?

Packrafting at Kymijoki

A couple of weeks ago I was guiding a packrafting course at Kymijoki and had great time first alone and then with a nice group. Packrafting seems to be almost always great fun.

I went to the river a day ahead to check the water level and scout the rapids I’d been paddling only with considerably higher water level. I got at Kuovinkallio shelter, my starting point and shelter for the night, little late but was on the waters in 15 minutes after parking the car. I paddled around the area wondering the low water level and polishing plans for the days to come. Except for the roar of the water it was silent and even the roar was somehow soothing.

During the hasty start I had forgotten to take my headlamp and had decided I should stop after the sunset to have enough light for the short walk back to the shelter and to set the camp. Paddling alone in the maze of islands was so fun I ended up getting out an hour after the sunset and took an adventurous shortcut back to the shelter through the dark forest without my headlamp…

I met a local fishing supervisor and outdoors man at the shelter and had a great chat with him about the life by the river, local hunting and fishing and so on. After he left I started preparing late dinner and enjoyed the dark and silent surroundings under the stars. I fell asleep on my packraft thinking I should probably do solo trips more often…

The next morning I met the group on a breakfast at Aholan Lomalaidun and soon we were on the shore getting to know the tools for the weekend. The plan was to paddle to the nearby lake for starters but the headwind made our upstream paddling efforts useless. But as everybody had some previous paddling experience we changed the course and headed downstream for some swifter water. The day was spent learning basic techniques for moving water and at the end of the day we walked and paddled upstream back to Ahola for dinner and some self-rescue training with sauna as a reward.

The next day we paddled and floated again down the river, doing some training on the way towards bigger rapids. Despite the very low water level (it apparently hit the all time record low on Sunday) there was still plenty of waves and excitement on the Martinkoski rapids. There is sort of a “water guarantee” on Kymijoki, there’s always something for almost everyone, even enough to cause an involuntary swim…

On the way back we had the wind on our back and one of the group got a chance to try his Windpaddle Cruiser sail. Even with very light wind he was as fast as I was paddling an Explorer 42 as a solo boat with quite some effort. Sails do make sense and Packrafting-Store is now stocking them as well! After the hard paddle against the current it was time for good-byes.

It was a good course with a nice group. And at least one new packrafter was born on the currents of Kymijoki which makes me super happy. You can find Erkki’s blog post (in Finnish) here and some videos here and here. There will be more courses in 2015 for sure.

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As usual, some more photos in my gallery.

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PS. Remember the First Finnish Packraft Gathering!

It’s turning into an international event with participants coming also from abroad. It’s turning out to be quite popular event and if you have even slightest interest in packrafting I think it’ll be a blast! So, if you have the time on 3.-5.10.2014 and have or can get a raft, make sure to be there! With only one portage the route we’re planning is doable even with a PVC pool toy but for th best experience I’d recommend a real packraft. If you don’t have one, you can rent one from Backpacking North or Packrafting Store.

Rowernighter – Trip Report and Competition

You know all these fancy names for simple trip that includes spending the night in the woods, hills or other wild(ish) place? S24h, microadventure, extreme sleeps, Browernighter and the like. Well, last week I decided to go for a one as I needed to treat my chronic post-trip hangover.

The summer in Finland is at its best with blue skies, sunshine and warm days and nights. And as I happen to live by a big lake (just nominated as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world by WSJ) a trip to the lake was the way to go. The summer is always best by the proximity of water. At the moment my packraft is in good use somewhere in Lapland and I don’t own a kayak or canoe but that didn’t even slow me… I had an access to a simple rowboat and a friend willing to take up a pair of oars!

Rowernighter to Riutanniemi

We started in the afternoon with the most important thing: shopping. The food seems to always play a major role on the short overnighter near home and this time wasn’t an exception. Well stocked with equipment and food we headed to the shores of Western parts of Lake Saimaa and found the boat we were looking for. A boat, two sets of oars, a bailer but no PFDs. I highly recommend wearing PFDs when on the waters but we decided the lack of floatation devices would not stop us the weather was quite good, water was warm, there were two of us and the boat would float even if filled with water.

We cleaned and loaded the boat and set of around 6 pm.

The plan was to row to Mielakanranta, which was new to us, and spend the night there. We rowed the little under 10 kilometers in little over two hours, mostly into head wind, fueling ourselves with chocolate bars and beers on the go. The place at Mielakanranta was nice but judging from the amount of cars and boats we thought it might be little too busy for our taste and decided to continue into old and familiar lean-to shelter at Riutanniemi.

Even though rowing is quite easy we really felt the last kilometers as neither of us has ever done any serious rowing,or any rowing during this year. We took frequent photo and snack breaks admiring the sunset on the lake. I took photos with my Canon EOS 6D while my friend was shooting with his new Samsung Galaxy S5 which had incredibly good built-in HDR function: no candy shop colour horrors, just a great dynamic range with resolution higher than in my full frame camera! Very reasonable camera for shorter adventures which made me feel the need to upgrade my phone…

Finally we arrived at the shore, unloaded the gear and pulled the boat up high on the rocks. There were no people at the lean-to, only few mosquitoes and even those didn’t bother us untill late in the evening. We were hungry and had loads of food so we set up the kitchen and started with beers. In the spirit of Brovernighter we had brought some quality brews from Brewdog – of course in an insulated box with ice to keep them cold. Along with a barbecue and coals as open fires were restricted at the time. And fresh food and wine. The weights don’t really matter when you’re out with a boat.

Beers, tapas with toasted ciabatta, grilled pork and chicken with red bell peppers and vegetables, red wine, grilled peaches with whipped cream for dessert followed with irish coffee and some more irish coffee and whiskey when we ran out of coffee… We were spoilt, and properly stuffed.

The moon was shining bright and the night was beautiful and tranquil but the increasing bug density made relaxing in the hammock difficult so we pitched a tent for a good nights sleep and slipped inside. Sleeping bags weren’t really necessary in that weather but helped cushioning the ground.

After good but short night’s sleep the sun woke us up early but we decided to ignore it covering our heads with clothes and continued sleeping little longer. Quite a lot longer actually.

After lazy morning and late breakfast it was time to pack up, load the boat once again and head back home. And this time with a nice tailwind! We covered the 13 kilometers back home in 2 hours 20 minutes with little breaks, mostly rowing and occasionally trying to use a hammock as a sail. The latter didn’t work too well so I guess I’ll have to invest in a proper sail. We  managed to dodge a rumbling thunder front with our fast pace and before we even noticed the trip was over.

It was a nice trip with an old friend but, as I was afraid, it didn’t really help with the post-trip hangover. It’s chronic now. Rowing was fun and I’d like to try a “proper rowboat” with gliding seat and all. That should be a lot faster and maybe even more fun. Maybe next summer… And I definitely need to get a hammock with a bug net. And maybe a sail. And I need to get out on a trip again…

Reader Competition

Rowing has been traditionally very important mean of travel in the land of thousand lakes and big rowing events are still very popular but I’ve never encountered anyone on a longer trip with a rowboat or hadn’t done one myself, not even an overnighter. But this is time to change! Rowboats are (at least in Finland) readily available and underrated resource that can take you on a nice trip. about everybody know somebody who has a rowboat. So maybe you should also find a boat you can use and go for a little trip? It’s summer out there and it’s very beautiful.

 

To further encourage people to go for a Rowernighter I’m giving away a little price for the first three to report their Rowernighter online. I don’t have much to give away but the first three to report their trips will get a pouch of BlåBand Expedition Meal breakfast delivered to their mail box for free, and in addition you get to go on a nice trip! The rules are quite simple:

1. You have to go for a trip using a rowboat. Trip must last at least overnight but longer trips are also fine. Any trip during the year 2014 will do.
2. You must report the trip online with at least one photo and some text. Any language will do.
3. Post a link to your report or the report itself as a comment to this post.
4. THe first three people to submit their Rowernighter trip reports will get a free meal. (I’ll start sending these out on Monday 11.08.14).
5. Competition is valid untill the three meals are gone or by the end on 2014. Naturally trip reports are always welcome!

Please, wear PFDs and take care of ourself, fellow outdoor adventurers and the nature!

 

 

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.

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: