Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Kilpisjärvi

Quick Hike Around Käsivarsi Wilderness

This is “one from the archives” i.e. one of those trips I did but haven’t written about. But it was such a nice trip, it deserves to be blogged about and I thought now would be a good time since I’m again on my way to the same area…

Last year I was guiding a packrafting trip to Reisadalen and as I had some free time before that, I decided to go for a quick stroll around the Käsivarsi Wilderness area.  I had very rough plan of walking first to East, then up North and at the end returning to Kilpisjärvi. A simple trip without several kilos of packrafting, glacier travel or polar bear safety kit was a welcome change. Just a simple hike with light gear: HMG backpack, minimalistic tarp, “fancy feast” stove, etc. I even left the DSLR home in favour of a lighter point-and-shoot. So, here’s the story from that simple walk:

I arrive to the luttle village of Kilpisjärvi late in the afternoon on Sunday 30.8. I shoulder the delightfully light pack and start walking along the trail towards Terbmisjärvi hut. I had hoped to have a full day of hiking but work commitments turnnit into only a few hours of daylight.

The walking is easy, though my mind is still wandering and occasionally I stumble on the worn and rocky path. It’s quite warm for the final days of August this far North. There are some bugs along the birch woods and I wonder if it was a mistake not to pack the headnet and repellent. But usually you don’t need them this time of the year and once I get out from the bush to the higher ground the bugs are gone and won’t be bothering me again.

The 16km walk takes little over three hours and I’m pitching my tarp in good time near the Terbmisjärvi hut. The open hut would be empty but I want to see if the minimalistic 3×1,5m tarp actually works for me in open terrain. And with tarp you are way more connected to your surroundings than while in a tent or hut. I cook dinner, enjoy a beautiful moon rise and later admire an owl who soars around my tarp silently and gracefully.

I woke up to a drizzle the next morning. The tiny tarp has kept me dry and I’m ready for a new day, even if it seems to be a grey one. With minimal gear the morning chores take very little time and I’m on my way around 08:30.

I had planned to follow the valley East and then up thru Kutturakuru pass but with the light pack I’m tempted to head straight over the peak of Jollanoavi (1023m). On my way up I play hide-and-seek with a curious stoat (Mustela erminea) before reaching the summit. The clouds mess the views but it’s still nice to be on top of a big hill. It always is. I head down and meet two hikers who by coinsidense happen to be fellow bloggers Mari and Markus. A small world.

At lake Japmajavri the sun finds it’s way through the clouds and the views open. It’s beautiful, quiet and I have that good solitary feeling you get from traveling thru remote wilderness. I make a little detour North-East to wade across the Poroeno river from a safe place. Easy but long and cold crossing. Once my feet are warm again I stop for a coffee break. It’s close to 18:00 and this is the first proper break of the day but why stop if you are feeling good walking?

Bad bush steers me closer to Valtijoki and I can see my course crossing with a tent pitched on the river bank. I’m not really in the mood for meeting other people but prefer dry feet and easy going over solitude. At he campsite I meet a man who is half-way into his four week solo trip – without food! Instead of food he has a flyfishing kit snd plenty of spices. He has been fishing and foraging for over two weeks and seems to be living his dream: There’s an aura or satisfaction and happiness, and a constant smile. After a longish chat I continue up the Valtijoki feeling happy for meeting the man.

Valtijoki is a beautiful creek and there’s a good trail following it on the sand ridge. As expected, the waterlevel is a lot lower than the last time I was here with a packraft in July 2011. Around 21:00 I find a good spot to camp. There’s some dead wood by the river so I make a small fire to cook dinner and decide to cowboy camp by the river without the tarp. Close to midnight it starts to rain and I find myself hastly setting up the tarp in the dark with a headlamp. Would’ve been a lot easier to do it in the evening… Once under the tarp I fall asleep to the sound of water rushing over the rocky drops of Valtijoki. Over 31 kilometers off-trail in a day makes falling asleep easy but I wake up a few times being cold and adding layers. Apparently the long day has also eaten into my energy reserves.

In the morning the sun starts to warm my black sleeping bag and I sleep well past the alarm and wake up around 09:00. Two hours later than planned! There’s a damn cold wind straight from the North but otherwise the weather is nice. I continue up along the Valtijoki. The scenery is great and there would be plenty of excellent camp sites. After crossing the river I head to the open Kopmajoki hut for a coffee break. I meet a lone hiker with fishing kit on a two-week tour. Only few people wander in the remote parts of Käsivarsi and those who do, seem to be going solo, on a longer trips and often fishing…

From the hut I decide to hike up to the Ritnicohkka (1317m) which is actually the highest peak in Finland. The highest point of Finland is merely a point on the slope of the Halti fjell with the peak itself situated on the Norwegian side of the border. I follow the wide ridge from stellite peak Ritninolka and in the end have to scramble through some steeper slopes. I walk thru a barren landscape of grey rock and over patches of white snow. I sit down, admire the views to North-East and really enjoy being up there. Little later I’m on the summit in the jaws of the relentless wind. Everything is frozen, the  temperature is well below zero and the wind feels very cold. I put on my puffy jacket and seek shelter behind the shed on the top and have a little break taking photos and sending a text message back home.

From Ritnicohkka I continue towards the actual summit of the Raisduottarhaldi (1361m), some two kilometeres to North and into Norway from the highest point of Finland. There’s a funny squeeky sound coming from my kit which I can’t localize despite checking my kit for stowaway lemmings. Soon the clouds roll in making navigation difficult and hiding the views. I adjust plans accordingly and head a bit more to the West until I meet the trail leading to the highest point of Finland (1323m) and walk up there to sign the book. No point of going for the actual summit. Near the border cairn there’s a book with a running number for visitors. Even though it’s not exact it gives an idea of the popularity: my number this time is 120066. The last time I was up here was in 2008 and then my number was 91203. Around 30000 vitits in the last eight years.

It’s still humid and cold and the wind is blowing. I hurry down from Halti to reach the open huts in the valley before darkness falls. The cozy old little hut seems to be empty so I head there. I really like it. It’s one of my favourite wilderness huts. And as the cold wind keeps on blowing, I’m happy to spend the night inside instead of sheltering under the bit-too-small-for-me-but-very-light tarp. I fetch water from the stream, light a fire in the stove and light the candle I brought with me and settle in while rain patters the single window. It’s warm and cozy inside. This night I don’t mind being little less connected to my surroundings.

Going thru my gear in the warm hut I find a reason for the weird squeeky sound that started while descenting Ritnicohkka: the soles of my trail runners are vetically broken between the heal and ball of the feet. They are worn and beaten anyway so it’s not a surprise but it means that for the return journey, I’ll stay on the trail in case of a catastrophic failure.

I don’t sleep too well. The hut feels too warm and the wooden platform feels hard as I only brought a thin short pad to save weight. Despite the discomfort I sleep until 09:00. Apparently I’m tired from the long days of walking. After morning chores I’m ready for the final 50km walk to Kilpisjärvi. I have an idea of walking it all in a one go as the trail is reasonably easy to follow even in the dark. My legs feel stiff and tired but soon pick up the rythm and I enjoy the downhill walk in the sunshine. Weather is good, views are good and going is easy. No reason not to enjoy.

Around midday I arrive to Pitsusjärvi hut. There’s a man sitting outside on the porch and he greets me with a question: “Do you have cell phone coverage?” It turns out his knees are in bad shape and he’d like to fly our with a float plane but doesn’t have signal to make the call. His brother is up on the nearby hill searching for signal. There’s no phone coverage in the valley but luckily I happen to have my satellite phone with me.  I have it for guiding remote ski expeditions and don’t usually carry it on summer trips in Scandinavia but decided to take it with me this time. A happy coinsidence.

We wait until the second man returns from the hill. He didn’t have any luck of getting signal so we make series of calls first asking for the number of the floatplane service and then trying several times before getting thru. I have plenty of time to eat snacks and drink coffee.

Almost two hours later I depart from the hut and from the Southern end of the Pitsusjärvi lake I can see a small plane approaching the hut and landing near the shore. I’m not too happy for loosing nearly two hours of daylight but I’m happy that I could help some fellow hikers in need. I guess my concentration is not at it’s best as I walk off from the trail and miss a bridge. A mistake I’ve made also back in 2008 in the same place. I backtrack, cross the bridge and blaze down the trail towards South and Kilpisjärvi.

Near the mighty cliffs of Meekonpahta I notice a lonely rucksack on the side of the trail. I look around but can’t see anyone. I assume someone has left it there to visit a nearby summit. There’s a short section of duckboards which makes going fast and easy and I soon catch up with a group of four hikers. One of the group is not wearing a backpack but is insted wrapped in emergency blanket.

Soon I find out that she had slipped and broken her wrist and they are on their way back to the previous hut. We arrive to the Meekonjärvi hut in no time and I hear that someone has already headed higher to search for signal to make an emergency call. I offer to make a call with my satphone and call to the Emergency response center in Kerava, near Helsinki. They are first taken aback for me calling to them from Lapland but the normal 112 doesn’t work from a satphone… They reconnect me to the center in Oulu that oversees the Northern Finland and I get to know that a helicopter will be send to get the lady to hospital.

In less than an hour a Boarderguard helicopter arrives to the hut, lands nearby and the paramedics go in the hut to prepare the patient for the transfer. I chat with the pilots and the winch operator who seem to have really nice job. They were actually returning from another mission when being alerted here and that’s why they were so fast. After waving the helicopter goodbye I decide to utilize the little daylight that’s left by walking to the next hut.

The walking is incredibly good: The trail is easy. Views are good. The coolness and freshness of the dusk feel good. My feet are light and go on autopilot, the last 100 kilometers have thought them well. It’s already dark when I arrive to the hut so I decide to sleep inside. Instead of a mammoth 50 kilometer day I walked just the normal 30 km but this is how things roll.

The night in the hut was again too hot and the platform too hard. Beaten feet on hard wooden platform just doesn’t work. But in the morning I’m ready to continue and get the hike finished. I enjoy a lazy morning reading the guestbook before getting started with the final leg around 09:00. It’s cloudy and I don’t really care for the views. Instead I’m more interested in getting the boring trail walk finished.

There’s one more hut about midway to Kilpisjärvi and I have a coffee break there. I catch two hikers who left the previous hut earlier and they offer me some proper coffee, which is welcome change for the instant stuff I’ve been drinking. On my way to Kilpisjärvi I find few handfulls of ripe cloudberries and spy a willow grouse family in the birch woods for a while. Hiking on the worn trail feels dull and indifferent but when I arrive back to Kilpisjärvi I feel happy and tranquil. I remeber all the good feelings, the beautiful views and the solitude. There’s an aura of satisfaction and happiness.

A good hike.

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A few additional photos in my gallery.

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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. 😉

Photos from the North now online!

I finally got all the photos from the recent “Hiking North” trips sorted out and a selection of them is available in my online gallery!

The trip report from Sarek National Park is still a-work-in-progress and won’t be online at least for the next week or so because… I’m going hiking instead. 😉 As I’ll be going to Lapland anyway I thought I might do some hiking aswell. This time I’ll be heading either to Pyhä-Luosto National Park or to Urho Kekkonen National Park for a little four-day trip. The trip is cut a bit short to my liking (I prefer week+ long trips while hiking) but there is a good reason for that: The Banff Mountain Film Festival in Helsinki on October 3rd where I’ll be meeting Hendrik from Hiking in Finland and hopefully some other cool dudes. It’s an open invitation so feel free to join us and enjoy the festival!

But now back to the topic!

The first bunch of pictures is from a fast packing trip in Norway and Sweden on the Western side of lake Kilpisjärvi. The trip included also some packrafting along the Kummaeno river with very low water. Here is a trip report from the trip and here would be more photies.

The second set is from the hiking and packrafting trip from Kilpisjärvi in Finland to Reisadalen in Norway. We didn’t get to do as much packrafting as planned because of too tight schedule but it was still a great trip and the float down the Reisaelva river was great. I wrote a trip report on it and from here you can find more photos.

The trip to Sarek was a nine-day round-trip from the Suorva dam without any strict plans. We ended up hiking over Skårki massive along a glacier and scrambling down to Rapadalen and hiking back to Suorva via Låddebákte. Nice relaxed trip with awesome scenery and varying weather. For me Sarek represents a real mountain wilderness, maybe the best we have in the Nordic countries, and I will definitely be returning there again. But before getting back, here are the photos!


And as a bonus there are also a few photos from a day trip to Saana fjell (1029m) next to the village of Kilpisjärvi. If you happen to be on the area and the weather is nice pay a visit to the top. Nice views with little walking.

Have a nice autumn and remember to enjoy the outdoors!

Packing the Raft – Kilpisjärvi-Reisadalen

The second of the three #HikingNorth trips is done and me and N are heading towards Sarek National Park for the third trip before returning back to South. While we are hiking in the Sarek, here are some pictures from the second trip from Kilpisjärvi (Finland) to Reisadalen (Norway). It didn’t go quite according to the plan but turned out to be a nice packrafting trip after all, thanks to the great float down the Reisaelva river.

The trip started from Kilpisjärvi on Monday morning – in very uninspiring rain. As we gained altitude the rain turned into wind-driven sleet and soon into snow. The temperature was around zero and it started to look more like an early winter trip than autumn trip. As the shell clothing slowly failed and the weather stayed miserable we decided to cut the day short and spend the first night in open wilderness hut at Saarijärvi.

The second day the weather improved a little bit being mostly foggy with a bit of drizzle. The views at Kuonjarjoki seemed quite similar to what Mark and Roger had about two months earlier. After a lunch break at Kuonjarjoki we continued to Meekojärvi. As we descended down to the valley the clouds broke for a while. We slept  in tent near the open hut at Meekojärvi with large reindeer guarding the surroundings.

The next day was supposed be the start for one and half days of packrafting the lake system from Meekojärvi to Porojärvi followed by a section of the Poroeno river. After pushing through the thick bush to the shore and getting the packrafts inflated we soon found the wind to be too much for the little rafts. We had about 45 degree head wind that was high enough to create breaking waves on the small lake. This made paddling hard and slow and thus we soon decided to pack the rafts and walk the Northern shores of the lakes towards East. And as we were already nearly a day behind our schedule we decided to skip the Poroeno river all together and take a short cut walk to Reisadalen. This saved us a day but we also missed the big river packrafting…

We crossed the Valtijoki river which had considerably lower water level than in mid-July the last year. The water level was probably too low even for packrafting.

On the first two days on Kalottireitti trail we met something like over 40 people but during the third and fourth day going off-trail we did’t see any humans, only reindeers and birds. After a hard day of walking (the rucksack felt quite heavy with all the packrafting gear) we camped near the Norwegian border at Inggajärvi lake.

The next day we crossed the border walking towards Reisadalen with the Jierta fjell as a landmark in the horizon. On the way we crossed Gieddajohka river with one packraft (taking first packs to the other side and then N). After the disappointments when trying to paddle the lakes it made me feel that there was maybe some point in carrying the packrafts after all. At least we didn’t have to swim. We camped on the shore of a little lake with reindeers accompanying us.

The fifth day started with rain and overcast but it didn’t slow us down. The slope down to Reisadalen valley was occasionally a bit hard, maybe a 30 degree slope with wet crass and as the soles of my trail runners were pretty worn out I took occasional slides down the slope but luckily there were trees to stop the glisades. After the descent we arrived to Neddrefosshytta, admired the surroundings, had lunch and inflated the rafts and started the float down.

We floated only about an hour as I wanted to find a good camping spot well before the dark. And we found a very nice spot on a gravel bar with enough drift wood for a small fire and good views to the surrounding canyon. Rain showers and some late-season bugs (no bugs up on the fjells but quite some in the valley) interrupted occasionally the evening by the fire but it wasn’t too bad.

The final morning of the trip broke with spectacular views and we finally got some real sun shine! Morning chores were soon followed by a good swift float down stream the easy but fast river. The Reisaelva has a good flow and there are no real rapids on the way from Neddrefosshytta to Saraelv and thus it makes great packrafting also for beginners.

A little downside on the Reisaelva is the quite frequent boat traffic up and down the river. This didn’t bother as too badly but it removes the feeling of real wilderness quite effectively.

The canyon/valley is a great sight in itself but one the major sights on the way is the Mollisfossen waterfall. Unfortunately it’s on the other side of the river than the Kalottireitti trail but for a boater that isn’t a problem at all. And the 269 meter high waterfall is worth a visit but crossing the river without a boat would require swimming is swift current.

The 25km float from Neddrefosshytta to Saraelv (the end of public road with a good parking space) took only about 6 hours of lazy packrafting so it is good float! Even though we had to skip about half of the originally planned packrafting the Reisaelva saved a lot and left me wanting more. I think that on this trip I also understood better the role of packrafts as wilderness travel tools in addition to tools for accessing remote rapids and having easy white water fun. The packrafts are equally suitable for both, though for wilderness travel one should reserve enough time for things like serious headwinds on flat water. Our schedule didn’t allow any slack and it would be better to reserve around eight days for the originally planned route (instead of the six days we had).

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Once again The Social Hiking map (based on Yellowbrick beacons) gives you a good idea about the trip but once again the distance covered (149km) feels quite a bit exaggerated. The Yellowbrick YBlog page gives you some additional info like some speed figures. Pictures linked to the map are coming later when I get the last week+ trip in Sarek done… And you can also follow the trip on Social Hiking as well as on Twitter!

Racing Style – The Moskkugaisi Traverse

The first part of the “Hiking North” trip series (the Moskkugaisi Traverse) is done and after two days of pizzas, burgers and beer at friend’s place in Kilpisjärvi I’m feeling ready for the next trip (the Poroeno-Reisaelva packrafting). And before the next trip it might be good idea to share some initial thoughts from the first trip.

I have to say that the trip turned out being a bit harder than I expected but it was doable anyway and gave me an idea about the type II fun the Alaskan racers often talk about…

After some five hours of sleep we started the trip from Signaldalen at Thursday morning 09:30 a.m. and finished it to the roadside South of Kilpisjärvi at about 03:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. According to the Social Hiking map based on our Yellowbrick beacons we covered 119km and gained 3274 vertical meters of altitude. For me that feels like quite a bit too much as measured from a paper map the distance should be more like 90km, though the height gain seems right. But on the other hand the beacons seem to be on right places and GPS shouldn’t lie. So who knows, maybe we covered 119km in 41,75 hours?

We started from the parking area at the bottom of the valleys and started to walk up the trail to the peak of Bárrás.

After visiting the peak we ascended back to our backpacks and started the walk towards the rest of the peaks hauling our backpacks up to a pass at 1063m and visiting the Pältsan from there.

After summiting the Pältsan it was very clear that we had underestimated the time needed for hiking over 3000 vertical meters (of which well over 2000 meters with 15 kg backpacks). This meant that we couldn’t start the high route traverse of the Moskkugáisi during that day as it wouldn’t be wise to do it in the dark and camp sites are hard to find up on the ridge. So we camped on the fjell side: two man under a small one-man tarp… I also had a summer weight sleeping bag and as the temps were below zero had a bit cold night.

We left the camp at 07:00 a.m. and headed up to the Moskkugáisi followed by a spectacularly scenic high traverse to the ridge leading to Juoksvátnjunni.

The last peak to visit was the Juoksvátnjunni with cool sharpish rocky ridgeline leading to the summit.

After the last summit we walked to the trail leading from Pältsastugan to Kummavuopio, walked a bit along the trail and then inflated our packrafts and started the float down along the Kummaeno river.

To our surprise the Kummaeno offered quite poor packrafting. It was fun for a while but soon we got frustrated with the very rocky rapids and several sections too shallow for packrafting. The going was also slow and we were again running out of daylight. And we were also miserably wet and cold. We took out at the edge of Oaggujeaggi bog, made a quick fire using a gas stove as a lighter and had a proper one-hour break with hot food (the first and only proper break excluding the camp).

After the break we packed the rafts and started walking along the trail to the abandoned farm of Kummavuopio. From Kummavuopio we headed towards the road on the Finnish side of the border following very wet snow mobile trail and doing two river crossing with packrafts in the dark and enjoying a section of quite bad brush between the rivers. This was then followed with a  few kilometers of forested uphill to the road where a friend picked as up at 03:15 a.m. (Sorry, no photos from this sections as it was dark and I was tired and too busy to get the trip finished.)

I have to admit that I was quite tired after the trip but I did enjoy it in a twisted way. I don’t really recommed doing the trip this way but as it’s a spectacular route in my opinion I’ll be writing later about better ways to do it…

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The Social Hiking map gives you a good idea about the trip but I forgot to use the #HikingNorth hashtag on some tweets so it’s missing some tweets but the missing ones are available from the Yellowbrick YBlog page. Pictures linked to the map are coming later when I get the two other trips done…