Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: guiding

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!

 

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Crossing the Vatnajökull

After the three weeks spectacular in Svalbard I had a week back home to take care of mundane issues and repack for another two weeks on the ice. This time the destination was Iceland and the plan was to guide an Avotunturit ski expedition across Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.

This would be my third time crossing the Vatnajökull, this time from East to West once again visiting the Grimmsfjall volcano, a high-point in the middle of the glacier with spectacular views and a cozy hut on top of it. I was looking for a nice, relaxed little ski expedition with easy-going, good food and good company, mixed with little bit of infamously bad Icelandic weather.

But it didn’t go quite as a hoped for. The tour turned to be quite different from the three superlative-packed weeks in Svalbard. Good with it’s own highlights, none the less, but different.

The logistics of getting at the Eastern edge of the Vatnajökull are little more difficult than getting to the fjells in Lapland (or to Svalbard in that matter). We flew to Keflavik, took a rental car to Reykjavik were we shopped for food and fuel and spent a night in a familiar cozy hostel. The next day we drove along the Southern coast to a small village of Höfn near the glacier. The last time I did the drive straight from the airport, driving in the dark and missing most of the beautiful coastline so this time we took our time stopping every now and then to admire the sights. It got windy quite soon on the way, a state of conditions that would define our little excursion.

The views along the coast were not too bad.

In Höfn we returned the car, made ourselves home at nice bed & breakfast accommodation and readied our gear for the start. And of course we made time to enjoy the geothermal heat in the pools nearby. It was windy. And colder than it should be in early May. When walking from the pools back to our rooms the wet swimming suits and towels didn’t dry in the wind but instead froze into hard plates…

The next morning we got a ride to a pass near our entry to the glacier. The previous night I had asked about the road conditions (a small private road recreated every summer after the spring melt washes it away) and I was told they hadn’t yet driven up to the pass that spring but would go for a reconnaissance drive in the evening. In the morning I was told they didn’t go but instead would “just wing it.” And that’s what they did. Excellent driving once again.

And no, we didn’t all die on the way.

The drive wasn’t too long in kilometers but it took about two hours. We didn’t get quite to the pass because of sloping snow blocking the way but this was expected. So we carried our ski expedition gear in 20-24 m/s headwind over the pass and down to the glacier where the valley protected us from the worst of the wind.

Down in the valley we repacked the gear once again, this time for 11 days of skiing and manhauling, and set on the glacier after searching for a safe route. Because of the heavy hauling and carrying, we skied just a short stretch to a safe and flat campsite before calling it a day. It was beautiful but windy day.

The next day started beautiful with very little wind but while pushing up from the glacier to the plateau of ice, the wind picked up. And it wouldn’t stop. For five days.

In the afternoon the drifting snow hampered the visibility and wind got bad enough (15-20 m/s) that going downhill to the plateau wasn’t safe anymore so we camped. The next day we spent a good hour digging our tents out of the snow (mostly a single geodesic dome, the tunnels did a lot better) and got back on our skis but stopped again after four hours because of bad conditions.

The next day we postponed the start by two hours, then again by another two hours and then once more by two hours to decide it would be a full weather day. Wind wasn’t impossible but around 15-20 m/s with thick drift lowering the visibility to 5-10 meters at the worst. On the evening’s radio call the inhabitants of the dome tent, referring to themselves as the bear cubs, asked if someone would bother to come and dig them out of their tent. And of course we did. And the next morning we once again dug up and packed the tent, an hour of group effort…

The weather was only slightly better than the previous days but that was enough for us to start the push towards West. We skied some 15 kilometers in eight windy hours before setting up camp. This time the dome tent stayed in the bag and we utilized the extra space in our three person tunnels to make things faster – and cozier. We did the same on the following two days after skiing nine hours in varying weather. On the fourth day after the storm we got the Grimmsfjall in our sight and climbed the icy slope up to the cabins. A small victory! We relaxed at the cabin, enjoyed the volcano-powered sauna and went for a little walk at the edge of the caldera to witness a beautiful sunset.

The next morning was gorgeous but we missed most of it sleeping long and relaxing in the cabin. Soon after we had departed from the safety of the cabin we skied into very humid wind. Those who have been to Iceland know what I mean. But that doesn’t really stop one from skiing so we continued towards the Western edge for half a day.

The next day offered the best skiing of the trip: good weather, good condition and nice looong downhill. It was not difficult to persuade the group to do a longer day of full ten hours on skis to reach the edge of the glacier, and another Jorfi cabin. And that was it. The biggest glacier in Europe was crossed!

The next day we were picked up by a trusty super-jeep driver and delivered safely back to the cozy hostel at the heart of Reykjavik through the snowy (and officially closed) highlands. After ski, dinners, a visit to Bluelagoon and other appropriate pastime followed until we returned to Finland.

The ski season was over for me for the year but I wouldn’t quite get rid of the snow. But more about that later…

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And as usual, more photos in my gallery.

Guided trip for 2015! / Opastettuja vaelluksia 2015!

This is again a bilingual blog post about guiding services I am offering. / Tämä on jälleen kaksikielinen tiedote tarjoamistani opaspalveluista.

This post is also to serve as a “commenting area” as the comments on pages are disabled. / Tämä tiedote palvelee myös kommentointi- ja keskustelualueena, sillä info-sivuilla ei voi kommentoida.

Templet, Svalbard. Would you like to go there? I can help! - - - Templet, Huippuvuoret. Haluaisitko sinne? Minä voin auttaa!

Templet, Svalbard. Would you like to go there? You can join me for expedition in April 2015!
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Templet, Huippuvuoret. Haluaisitko sinne? Lähde mukaan retkikuntaan huhtikuussa 2015!

Winter 2015

My winter 2015 will be mostly spent guiding for the Ankarat avotunturit ski expedition program. In 2015 the program offers selection of short courses, one-week ski tours and longer ski expeditions to the fjells of Lapland, to Vatnjakökull the largest glacier in Europe and to the cold shores and jagged peaks of Svalbard. And if you dare, you can join us on these memorable trips!

Most of the programs will be guided in Finnish only but we have a tailor-made, all-in-one program guided in English: The Crash Course in the Arctic Expeditions (click for more information)!

I will be personally guiding set of trips. As said the main language will be Finnish but except for the introductory courses you can get away with very basic understanding of Finnish and we can discuss things in English in addition.

More information available on the Ankarat avotunturit website but again in Finnish only.

Tailor made programs in English are also available on request.

If interested, please ask for details with e-mail!

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Talvi 2015

Talvi 2015 kuluu pääosin Anrakat avotunturit -koulutusohjelman kurssien, vaellusten ja retkikuntien toteuttamisessa. Suuntana ovat siis pohjoisen jylhät tunturialueet, Euroopan suurin jäätikkö Islannissa sekä Huippuvuorten kylmät rannat ja terävät huiput. Ja myös sinun on mahdollista lähteä mukaan matkaan!

Minut saa oppaakseen ainakin seuraavilla kursseilla, vaelluksilla ja retkikunnissa. Ja  todennäköisesti olen mukana myös monilla muilla kursseilla.

Katso myös tiedot muista kursseista ja vaelluksista www.avotunturit.fi sivuilta! Olen mukana mm. useilla erikoiskursseilla.

Minun lisäkseni Ankarat avotunturit -koulutusohjelman kursseja pyörittävät Kari “Vaiska” Vainio ja Carissa “ADQ” Lehtolainen. Mikäli minun tarjoamani päivämäärät eivät sovi kalenteriisi tai joku toinen kohde kiinnostaisi enemmän, katso muu tarjonta Ankarat avotunturit -sivuilta!

Nordic nature at its best! - - - Pohjoisen luontoa parhaimmillaan!

Nordic nature at its best!
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Pohjoisen luontoa parhaimmillaan!

Packrafting with Autumn Colors and Auroras

Less words, more photos.

Packrafting the Reisaelva in Reisadalen. The last day of the one-week tour.

The last week I was guiding a one-week packrafting tour from Kilpisjärvi (Finland) to Reisadalen (Norway). Unlike the last time I was there, we had good luck with really good weather, nice autumnal colours (ruska) and auroras almost every night.

The trip started from Kilpisjärvi where we followed the Nordkalottleden near the Kuonjarjohka hut for our first night. There were some footwear problems that lead two of the clients do most of the tour in more or less improvised footwear. But apparently neoprene diving booties with double socks are good enough for hiking with heavy rucksack over the mountains to Norway… I had some though clients with great moral.

After a cold night we continued with perfect weather to Meekonjärvi where we inflated the packrafts and got on the waters. This is the most packrafts in one place in Finland that I’ve ever seen. Scenery was beautiful and water level very low.

The little clouds we had the previous evening quickly made way the sunrise and a cloud inversion over the lakes. We continued with rafting going down the Poroeno river which had very, very low water level. After enough of the rocky rapids we decided to switch to walking and headed towards North-East off-trail. Still perfect weather all day.

The fourth day started with thick pea-soup mist that quickly changed to blue skies and just as quickly turned into cold drizzle with wind and thick cloud cover. Luckily the clouds broke and the sun returned in the afternoon once little further on the Norwegian side of the border. Even though I say it myself, the navigation on this off-trail sections went very smoothly. We decided to push little longer than planned and ended up camping in the tree line on the slopes of Jierta fjell.

The fifth day was short: traverse the slopes of Jierta, descent down into the Reisadalen canyon/valley/ravine and follow a trail to Nedrefosshytta hut. A luxurious hut on Finnish standards with sauna and everything. Long afternoon and evening to relax after the initial longer days: good food, a bit of reading, sauna and swim in the river with auroras later in the night.

The next day we did a day-hike up the Reisaelva river to Imofossen waterfall. The trail up to the waterfall was interesting but easy enough without backpacks. The river looks great further up from the hut except for the narrow canyon closer to the (definitely not boatable) waterfall. I think the canyon might be packraftable… I would just need skilled company, some climbing gear to descent in and then a big commitment to run it down… After the day trip we tidied the cabin, lashed rucksacks on the packrafts and headed down stream in search of a perfect gravel bar camp site. And we found one.

Later in the evening it turned into even more of a perfect spot with good company, camp fire and auroras dancing above the canyon walls.

The last day was an enjoyable, lazy rafting down the river with good flow and enough water despite the almost record-low water level. We visited Mollifossen on the way, admired eagles flying above us and finally arrived to our pick-up point just to find out the road was closed due a damaged bridge. But luckily, packrafts are easy to carry that extra mile…

It was simply a splendid tour. On tours like this it’s easy to love my job.

This was the last guided packraft tour I’ll be doing this year but if you’re interested, I will be offering more the next year!

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And if you would like to see more photos, there are plenty more in my gallery.

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Packrafts for the tour were from Backpacking North. If you need a packraft, support a local business and rent one from here.

And if you need a guide or just good company, you know who to ask from. 😉

Guided packrafting activities! / Opastettuja packraft-reissuja!

This is again a bilingual blog post about guiding services I am offering. / Tämä on taas kerran kaksikielinen tiedote tarjoamistani opaspalveluista.

This post serves also as a “commenting area” as the comments on pages are disabled. / Tämä tiedote palvelee myös kommentointi- ja keskustelualueena, sillä info-sivuilla ei voi kommentoida.

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Guided packrafting activities, autumn 2013 – English

In autumn 2013 I offer two guided packrafting programs. The first one is an introduction course to packrafting, which is available in English on request. The other is a one-week packrafting tour to Reisadalen in Northern Norway and is a bilingual tour guided in Finnish and English.

(If you’re wondering what is a packraft take a look at the “What is a packraft?” page for an answer.)

Packrafting course – Introduction to packrafting; 24.-25.8.2013; Kymijoki, Southern Finland.
Learn the basics of packrafting for still and swift water: gear, safety, technique and useful tips and tricks. Makes also a great introduction for future packrafting tours in Northern Scandinavia and Arctic regions beyond the seas! The course on the set dates will be held in Finnish but similar courses are available in English on request due the demand similar course will be arrange later in the autumn at Kymijoki. E-mail for possible dates!
Packraft tour 2013 – Reisadalen; 7.-15.9.2013; Nordreisa, Norway.
Experience the hills and valleys of Northern Norway, the mighty valley of Reisadalen and float down the Reisaelva – and learn packrafting on the way in the awesome scenery and good company!
Tailor-made courses and tours on packrafting, (lightweight) hiking and kayaking/canoeing are also available on request and can be arranged anywhere in mainland Scandinavia for individuals or groups.

For tailor-made tours please inquire availability and prices via e-mail!

Edit: Update on the “Packrafting course – Introduction to packrafting”, it will be arranged in English too!

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Opastettuja packraft-reissuja, syksy 2013 – Suomeksi

Syksyllä 2013 tarjoan kolmea opastettua kurssia/vaellusta  kiinteillä päivämäärillä: “Packraft-kurssi – perusteet”, “Packraft-vaellus 2013 – Reisadalen – Kalottireitin helmi” ja “Vaeltamisen ABC”. Lisäksi saatavilla räätälöityjä ohjelma- ja opastuspalveluita.

(Ja jos mietit, että mikä ihmeen packraft niin vilkaisehan “Mikä packraft?” -sivua saadaksesi vastauksen.)

Packraft-kurssi – Perusteet; 24.-25.8.2013; Kymijoki, Suomi.
Opi packraft-lautan käytön perusteet järvillä ja joilla. Tutuksi tulevat kalusto, turvallisuus, tekniikat sekä käytännön niksit ja vinkit. Kurssi toimii myös erinomaisena ponnahduslautana tuleville packraft-retkille Lappiin ja Arktisille alueille.
Packraft-vaellus – Reisadalen – Kalottireitin helmi; 7.-15.9.2013; Nordreisa, Norja.
Koe Pohjois-Norjan tunturit ja laaksot, Reisadalenin mahtava rotkolaakso ja kellu alas Reisaelva-jokea – ja samalla opit packraftin käytön salat upeissa maisemissa ja hyvässä seurassa.
Vaeltamisen ABC; 28.-29.9.2013; Repovesi, Etelä-Suomi.
Yleisön pyynnöstä vaeltamisen peruskurssi, jolla opit sulanmaan vaelluksilla tarvittavat tiedot ja taidot, pääset kokeilemaan erilaisia varusteita ja välineitä käytännössä ja yövyt ulkona valitsemassasi majoitteessa. Samalla tustumme Repoveden kansallispuiston mahtaviin maisemiin !
Räätälöidyt ohjelma- ja opastuspalvelut liittyen packraft-lauttoihin, (kevyt)retkeilyyn ja kajakki- sekä kanoottimelontaan ja vaikka mihin muuhun! Toteutettavissa eripuolille Skandinaviaa niin yksilöille kuin ryhmillekin.

Räätälöityjen retkien saatavuutta ja hintoja voit tiedustella sähköpostilla!