Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Lappi

All sorts of winter weekends

The blog has been quiet as I’ve been busy with my work as a husky tour guide and with my own winter guiding projects (meaning 10-14 hours per day, sometimes over-night, seven days a week). And again I don’t have too much time to write but I’ve been taking photos and here are some from the last three weekends. Very different but very interesting weekends occupied with work.

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In mid-January I was in the North-East Finland near the Russian border on lake Inari practising winter skills with two ultra runners who are planning to participate on the Siberian Black Ice Race on lake Baikal in 2014. (The race was supposed to be held in 2013 but was postponed due the lack of participants.) The conditions were quite easy: cloudy the whole weekend, temps starting with -5C and dropping below -10C on Sunday morning and varying wind – which was good for the training. The customers were moving on foot but still did steady 5km/h despite  the occasional soft snow. Ultra runners are tough! A great weekend all together. Thanks Dave and Diana!

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And as a bonus few photos from the way back to Taivalkoski as there happened to be some sunshine at Saariselkä region…

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On the last weekend of January I was running The Basic Course on Arctic Ski Expeditions in South-East Finland. The first half of the weekend was filled with lectures and familiarizing with expedition gear and the later half was spent on an over-night trip practising the new skills in real life conditions. The conditions were quite similar to those at lake Inari: -6C, quite windy, some drifting snow and super-good surface conditions for skiing. Another good weekend that will be later followed by the one-week tour to Sarek in Northern Sweden. A tour I’m really looking forward to!

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During the last weekend I was guiding a 3-day husky tour in Taivalkoski area. The conditions were unbelievably similar to those of the previous weekends: mostly cloudy, temps around -5C and some wind with drifting snow. Early February should be damn cold up here (sub -30C) but it hasn’t been the case lately and I kinda miss the cold… Anyway, we had good time covering some 80km with dog teams (Well, I was driving a snowscooter opening the trail, or sometimes getting stuck in a slush…)  We spent the still quite long nights in private wilderness huts. (Though I tried to build a quinzee the second night but the temps were too mild for the snow to settle properly in the short time I gave for it and the structure cracked while carving it…) Good travel, good food and great company – even though this job is occasionally hard, I really love it most of the time. 🙂

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While working in the woods I don’t really have a possibility to write real blog posts but I try to tweet regularly so if you’re interested in the life of a guide / seasonal worker in Northern Finland, you might want to follow @Korpijaakko on Twitter.

PS. With the knee-deep snow we have here it took only 15 minutes to shovel the pile of snow for the quinzee and another five minutes or so to gather twigs for marking the proper wall thickness. The carving would have taken only some 15-20 minutes but was brought to halt because of the structure collapsing when about 90% done. If you happen to live on an area with enough of snow, I highly recommend building a quinzee and spending a night in it. It’s nice activity, teaches important skills related to winter backcountry safety and is great experience that you can do even on your backyard! Just remember: let the snow settle long enough, make a hole for ventilation and have a candle burning inside (if the candle goes out, there’s not enough oxygen!). I’ve also written a post about building quenzees. The post would benefit from some proofreading and I’d have also some new experiences to share but it’s still helpful as it is.

PPS. I also try to find some time to write first imperssion on a high-quality expedition sled I’ve been testing: The huge Isohitti which is 100% made in Finland by Hiking Travel Hit. I also have some new Kar 147 gliding snowshoes, not Altai Hok Skis but a similar (and dare I say upgraded?) model by a Finnish company OAC. Oh, and also some original Altai Hok 145s for comparison. Impressions coming when I have the time to write more, now to sleep as I have an overnighter to guide tomorrow…

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Stuffed with six sets of insulated overalls, six pair of Sorel boots and a chair. And still room to spare…

Guided dogsled tours! / Opastetuja koiravaljakkoretkiä!

This is again a bilingual blog post about guiding services I am offering. / Tämä on toinen 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.

Which track you’d like to follow? Choose your favourite, both options now available!
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Kumpaa latua haluaisit kulkea? Valitse vapaasti, molemmat vaihtoehdot nyt tarjolla!

Dogsled tours, in English

As I’m working at Husky Center Kolmiloukko this winter I’m able to offer also guided tours with dogsleds in addition to my other guiding services. The tours combine learning vital winter skills to enjoy the Nordic and Arctic winter with dogsleds and skis and/or snowshoes.

For the winter 2013 I offer two one-week programs with fixed dates but tailor-made trips with dogs are available through January, March and April:

– Deep-winter wilderness; 13.-19.1.2013; Taivalkoski, Finland.
Learn “expedition style” winter skills in the dead of the Nordic winter. Makes also a great introduction for Advanced Course in Arctic Ski Expedition in Sarek!
Sunny spring crust; 7.-12.4.2013; Taivalkoski, Finland.
Enjoy the sunny days and crusty snow of late winter season driving dogsleds and on skis or snowshoes.
Tailor-made trips in January, March and April 2013; Southern Lapland, Finland.

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

Ps. Remember also the ski expedition courses and trips for winter 2013:
– Basics of Nordic and Arctic Winter Travel; on request; Southern Finland or Finnish Lapland
– Basic Course on Arctic Ski Expeditions; 25.-27.1.2013 and 6.-8.2.2013; Lappeenranta, Southern-Finland
– Advanced Course on Arctic Ski Expeditions; 1.-9.3.2013; Sarek, Northern Sweden
– Vatnajökull 2013 – Expedition Across the Largest Glacier in Europe; May 2013; Vatnajökull, Iceland

Koiravaljakkoretket, suomeksi

Työskentelen tällä talvikaudella Husky Center Kolmiloukossa ja tarjoan muiden opaspalveluideni lisäksi myös opastettuja koiravaljakkoretkiä. Retkillä opit tärkeitä talviretkeilytaitoja liikuttaessa koiravaljakolla ja suksilla ja/tai lumikengillä arktisissa talvioloissa.

Talvelle 2013 tarjoan kaksi valmista retkeä kiinteillä päivämäärillä ja lisäksi räätälöityjä ohjelmia on tarjolla tammi-, maalis- ja huhtikuussa:

– Sydäntalven tunnelmia; 13.-19.1.2013; Taivalkoski, Suomi.
Opi “retkikuntatyylin” talviretkeilytaitoja sydäntalven pakkasessa. Kurssilla opit myös tarvittavat taidot osallistuaksesi Arktisen hiihtovaeltamisen jatkokurssille Sarekiin!
– Keväthankien kimallusta; 7.-12.4.2013; Taivalkoski, Suomi.
Nauti kevättalven auringosta ja hankikeleistä koiravaljakolla ja suksilla tai lumikengillä.
Räätälöidyt ohjelmat tammi-, maalis- ja huhtikuu 2013; Pohjois-Pohjanmaa/Etelä-Lappi; Suomi

Räätälöityjen retkien saatavuutta ja hintoja voit tiedustella sähköpostilla!

Ps. Muista myös hiihtovaelluskurssit ja -retkikunnat talvelle 2013:
– Arktisen hiihtovaeltamisen perusteet; 25.-27.1.2013 ja 6.-8.2.2013; Lappeenranta, Etelä-Suomi
– Arktisen hiihtovaeltamisen jatkokurssi; 1.-9.3.2013; Sarek, Pohjois-Ruotsi
– Vatnajökull 2013 – Retkikunta halki Euroopan suurimman jäätikön; toukokuu 2013; Vatnajökull, Islanti

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!

Sleeping off the polar night at Lake Inari

I’m sorry for the few weeks of down time but now I’m back with the blog and there should be a lot of things coming up. Or at least I have a pile of drafts waiting to be finished…

But let’s start with a trip report about the trip I mentioned in my latest quick sitrep. It has been way too long time since I wrote a proper trip report to this blog. I rarely get inspired by short overnighters or daytrips so I have to wait for bigger trips to put together some sort of trip report. Even this four-day skiing trip to the lake Inarijärvi felt a bit short but that’s probably because of the few kilometers of skiing and not because of the duration.

Lake Inarijärvi in January

First I’d like to use few lines to promote the lake Inarijärvi as a winter adventure destination. The lake is traditionally known as a summer playground for fishing, boating and canoeing/kayaking. It’s the “wilderness sea” of Northern Finland and rarely thought as a place for winter trips. This was my second trip to Inarijärvi in January. (The first one was a year ago and there is a bunch of pictures from it in my gallery.) What I like about Inarijärvi in January is that:

– It’s quiet there: Not many if any skiers or hikers there. So, remember to keep the secret… 😉
– The scenery is goog: Lots of open big sky “ground” on the ice with forested islands and hills in the horizons.
– Easy and good skiing: Flat surface with  relatively hard wind beaten snow and not too much of it.
– The light: With good luck you can see amazing Northern lights and the daylight can be very soft and beautiful as polar night continues until January 12th.
– Challenging weather: The weather can be really challenging. Temps can plummet well below -40 degrees, high winds are likely, visibility can be very limited and so on. Which is cool!
– Shelter available if needed: There are lots and lots of cabins on the lake. There are both free-to-use open wilderness huts and rental cabins. The forests on the shores and islands also provide shelter, especially in the Eastern parts that are part of the Vätsäri wilderness area meaning for example that you can build fires there (limited or forbidden in the islands).

Northern lights at the lake Inarijärvi in January 2011.

But as I already mentioned, there are also some challenges related to Inarijärvi in January. The daylight is very limited, in the beginning of January there is only about five hours of good “twilight” for travelling but a full moon can help a lot.  There are also strong currents at some parts of the lake that can lead to thin and treacherous ice. A boating map helps to judge these areas and in general the ice should be thick (typically nearly half a meter in January). The biggest and the most enjoyable challenge can be the weather. I know of people reporting temps below -50 degrees Celsius on the Inarijärvi in January and temps around -30C are more of a rule than exception. And as it’s a big open area there can be also high winds and high winds combined to low temperatures which is unusual in Finland. Heavy snowfall, dusting snow or mild temps can also lead to poor visibility or white-out conditions that make navigating challenging. But, if you can handle the challenges, I highly recommend the lake Inarijärvi as a winter trip destination.

N in -25C in January 2011.

As I mentioned, the lake is traditionally seeing as fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking area but I think that winter open lots of other possibilities.  In addition to skiing I could think:

– walking: if you want to walk in Lapland in January the low snow level might make Inarijärvi one of the best destinations, some sort of traction devices (like Microspikes) might be useful and you might need snowshoes to move in the islands and mainland forests but probably you’ll manage just fine in warm footwear
– biking: flat surface, thin (maybe generally around 10cm) of hard packed snow, lots of shelter for going light but comfortable, etc. I’d recommend some fatbikers doing this the next year?
– kiting: it can be very windy there and there are long open stretches to speed through with kite and skis – or a snowboard if you can’t handle too moving parts 😉
– dog sledding: there are some restrictions for dog sledding but the packed snow and flat surface would be very suitable for a nice dog sledding safari even with quite small dog teams

Tuomas kite skiing in January 2011. I'd recommend doing the kiting trips in March or April for more light and better weather.

And now to the trip report itself…

Sleeping long, skiing less

Already before the internship period begun, I hoped that me and N could get about three days off at some point to do little mid winter trip to Lapland as we were nearly there already because of working at Taivalkoski. Instead of three days we got four days off on my last week at Taivalkoski. We had planned a trip to Urho Kekkonen National Park but with the extra day we decided to head to the lake Inarijärvi instead. The plan was to ski in the mid Southern parts of the lake and sleep in open wilderness huts.

Leaving from Veskoniemi. It felt bitterly cold!

We started from a small fishing harbour at Veskoniemi in the Southern parts of the lake. We got started around 14:00 and it was already getting dark. The temperature was around -10C but it felt bitterly cold to change clothes in the parking lot. We started skiing towards the open hut in Iso Jääsaari. It took a bit over an hour for me to get sensation back to my toes but I wasn’t too worried as it’s unfortunately quite normal to me after getting little cold damage in March 2010.

It was getting darker all the time and I think I said maybe three or four times that “I don’t think it will get darker than this” but it did as the moon rises until around 22:00 and there was a thick veil of clouds. We saw a snowmobile safari of six in the horizons but otherwise the lake was ours to enjoy. It was dark, silent and calm.

The best full moon we saw. It was really bright despite the clouds.

We arrived to the hut (cozy small huts with narrow bunk beds for three) and started the usual chores that were repeated every evening: N wanted to train her axe use so she made fire wood, I made a fire and started melting snow and warming the hut and later we prepared dinner and enjoyed the silence. On the first night the cloud cover broke a bit and we watched herd of reindeers crossing the ice from island to a nother in the bright moonlight. And then it was time to sleep. And sleep we did. We first planned to get up early enough to start around 09:00 to utilize all the daylight available but we ended up sleeping untill 11:00. The sleeping bags were so comfy and maybe we were tired from the work…

As mentioned in the beginning, there lots of open wilderness huts.

From the Iso Jääsaari we continued to the hut at Hoikka Petäjäsaari island (the hut, wood shed, cooking shelter with fire-place and other stuff in the picture above) which wasn’t too far away but it still got dark before we got to the hut. That’s what you get for sleeping in late… In the morning it was -6C with low winds and clouds and that kind of weather continued for the rest of the trip.

We followed reindeer tracks, it got darker, occasional snow shower impaired the visibility but with the help of a compass and GPS orienteering wasn’t too hard. There were buildings for a small village at the Hoikka Petäjäsaari as it seems to be popular during summer time. The same evening routines were repeated but this evening the clouds covered the sky as they did during the day and actually for the whole trip, so no Auroras, starry skies or full moon to photograph.

The next morning we slept long again. I would’ve wanted to ski to a hut at Kaikunuora but N was against this because there are strong currents in that area and ice wasn’t particularly thick this January. (There is ice thickness info available behind the link.) So, we decided to ski back to the hut in Iso Jääsaari. We skied, saw reindeers from close distance and snowmobile speeding far away and arrived at the hut again in the dark. That evening it was hard to fall asleep, I guess sleeping 12 hours on the two previous nights was enough. In the morning we packed with a decent routine and a lot faster than in the first morning and skied back to our car in the harbour at Veskoniemi. It didn’t even get dark during the last day and we saw few snowmobiles on the ice when closing the village at Veskoniemi.

That was the end of the little mid winter skiing trip. A quick wash with snow and changing clothes and turning the car towards Rovaniemi to meet Mark, the man behind Backpacking North.

Not the best visibility imaginable but way better than the worst experienced.

Reflections on gear and food

For this trip I had quite atypical kit. Well, atypical winter kit for me to be precise. For the last to winter I’ve been doing all my skiing trips with a sled and most of them with a very comfortable Hilleberg Keron 3 GT tent and other heavy stuff. This time the stuff wasn’t available as I didn’t have it with me at Taivalkoski so I got to try other things. I carried stuff in my Golite Pinnacle (which isn’t quite adequate for heavy loads in my opinion), had Golite SL3 as a backup shelter, and an old Optimus Hiker 111 as a stove, instead of down jacket (I couldn’t fit my Nahanny expedition down jacket into the Pinnacle) I had only PHD down vest and so on. I skied with my Madshus VOSS with NNN BC bindings and Alpina leather boots and wore a Finnsvala merino baselayer, Haglöfs midweight Climatic pants, Sasta Everest jacket and occasionally had a Finnsvala Powerstretch fleece for extra warmth.

As the temps were mild the down vest was easily adequate and I didn’t need most of my extra clothing. Neither did we need the shelter or the stove because of the huts, but I wouldn’t go out there without them. Though lighter options would suffice. I also lugged over 3kg of camera gear with me but because of the uninspiring weather took only few dozen shots. Oh, to have a m3/4 system in addition. Btw Does anyone know if there are m3/4 system that would be compatible with Lithium AA batteries?)

I’d say that for skiing on flat open area, a pulka is far superior to a rucksack and thus I was missing my Paris expedition pulka but the rucksack was manageable. Though for longer winter trips the 70 liters isn’t that much of volume and as stuff tends to get heavy I’d prefer more rigid load carrying system. The HMG Expedition seems like a perfect winter (and packrafting!) rucksack but unfortunately there is no way I could afford it.

And also few words about food… I think I had quite a lot less food than I usually have for winter trips but it was still a bit heavy because of some fresh ingredients. And even though I had less I had way too much of it! I think this was mainly because of the short skiing days (only around three hours a day) and mild temps. I didn’t eat half of my snacks nor any of the freeze-dried lunches. This meant having some excessive weight in my rucksack but also proved to be nice learning experience. For easy winter trips, I’ll do well with about 3000kcal instead of the typical 4000-5000kcal per day.

Red lentil & tomate soup for dinner. Also fresh onions and garlic...