Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Sarek

The best winter yet? Starting from Sarek.

The blog has been quiet since my contemplations of saying farewell to winter.

The reason is, that I succeeded and found the winter. And definitely didn’t have to say good byes in February. At the end of February I headed to Sarek in Northern Sweden and found beautiful winter on the fjells. No signs of the wet misery of last year but simply great late-winter conditions.

After Sarek I got a taste of wet winter on an overnight expedition training trip at Southern Konnevesi National Park and as I didn’t want to let go of the winter quite yet, I soon headed to Svalbard for a three-week expedition. As the pile of photos from the Svalbard expedition is still a mess of raw files, I’ll just settle into saying: It. Was. Awesome.

Well, there is one photo, so I’ll include it here as a teaser.

15-04-15EOS 6D1180_900But Sarek was awesome too, and the photos from Sarek are ready so lets get back there…

The first tour we started from STF station at Ritsem. We got a firm welcome from Nordic nature crossing the lake Ahkka: heavy winds with drifting snow. But starting from the second day it all got better. A lot better.

We were mostly blessed with bluebird skies and light winds. Temperatures dropped occasionally well below -20°C but mostly it was quite warm to be early March. In addition, one night we were blessed with short but spectacular auroras! We also saw quite a lot of wild life with the highlight, for me, being a wild wolf! We saw plenty of wolf tracks and on the lunch break of the fifth day spotted a black silhouette moving in the distance and later confirmed from the track that it was the wolf we had been skiing with!

Thanks to the good conditions we managed to ski “the long tour” as planned and clocked a bit over 120 kilometers in the seven days dispite a pretty serious burn on one participant caused by spilling a litre of boiling water on his thigh. It looked really bad, but he was a seriously tough guy and soldiered through the remaining three days of skiing without any issues.More photos from the trip in my gallery.

After a recovery day at Levi, it was time to go back with another group. Meanwhile Tero from the first tour had braved the winter storms solo and joined us for another tour.

The second tour started in spectacular weather but on the third day and the fifth night we got hit by a nice storm, not too bad, but enough to say it was a storm. In between the weather was again great, colder at times but mostly pretty warm. In the end we blasted over 5 kilometers in an hours (with pulkas!) and enjoyed coffee and refreshments at a pop-up coffee on lake Ahkka.

More photos also from the trip in my gallery.

Thanks for the great groups for the great tours! It was awesome.

For me the winter will still continue for a while as soon I’ll be heading to Iceland to once again cross the Vatnajökull glacier. I sure hope I haven’t burned all my good weather karma quite yet as the weather is Iceland can be horrible. I wouldn’t mind the spell of good luck continuing for a few more weeks. Or a few more years…

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Wet Winter Tour in Sarek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shortcut it was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auroras, snow shelters and husky tours

The blog has been little quiet, as has unfortunately been the way this winter. So, what have I been up to?

Mostly I’ve been busy guiding husky tours ranging from full-day safaris to over-night tours but there have also been other things…

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On the tours we spend the nights at huts but being out in the wild gives a good excuse to sleep outside and this week I decided to sleep in a quinzee as the night was expected to be a cold one. (The record low for this winter was recorded at Taivalkoski at the same week, -38,2C.) I was a little hasty building the quinzee and made the pile little too small and decided to go without the sticks to mark the wall thickness. The end product was livable but little too short with too big doorway and I had to patch one hole in a wall. But it still added apparently quite a lot of warmth as I managed to sleep most of the night comfortably in my sleeping bag rated to -18C (Tlim) and only woke up chilled a few times after 6.00 a.m. The cabin doesn’t have a thermometer but it’s in a cold place on low-lands next to big marsh so the temperature was likely colder than at the village of Taivalkoski… Snow shelters make sense! And there is still time to make some so don’t miss the chance!

Night_temp

The little free time I’ve had, I’ve used for arranging the guided ski tours. The last week I was guiding a group in Sarek (along the route mapped on Social Hiking, though the distance listed there is little optimistic). We also made snow shelters in Sarek as a training and they were not bad choise as the night was cold. Snow caves are especially nice shelters if you happen to find pile enough pile of hard snow. It was an awesome tour with good group and well worth sitting in the car for 21 hours – each way.

Sarek. There’s a feeling of real wilderness. And beatiful mountains as well!

I’ll write a separate post about the tour in Sarek later as this post is about northern lights! As the winter has been unusually cloudy there hasn’t been much auroras to be seen at Taivalkoski. I saw a good show here on early December, little faint lights every now and then here and at lake Inari and nice but little grey light show at Sarek. But this evening was different. After several cold and cold nights without a trace of the northern lights the lights at the sky were on a big time! Here are some photos of the showon Sunday evening. Hope you enjoy the photos in case you missed the show!

For those interested in the techy stuff all photos taken with my trusty Canon 550D (with a battery grip with dual battery for the cold), the cheap but stellar Samyang 14mm 2,8 lens and of course utilizing a tripod (a heavy Manfrotto 055). The only problem with this setup is the Samyang lens being fully manual, which shouldn’t be much of a problem but the markings on the focus ring are all totally wrong andgetting it focused in the dark is not too easy. I think I should make some new marking on it…

On the weekend we also had the pre-expedition meeting with the Vantajökull 2013 expedition and I can’t wait to get on the ice for with the group as it’s likely to be a great little expedition… But before that I still have some weeks of husky safari guiding to be done, including two nice longer tours. I’ll try to get some nice photos to share from the tours.

Social Hiking in the North

Seems that way too many of my posts start with the words ”it’s been silent here lately”. But… Well, it’s the truth. During the last two months I haven’t had motivation for bloggin, instead I’ve been working a bit and foraging quite a lot but haven’t done any hiking or similar outdoor activities (goes hand in hand with the blogging motivation). I’ve also spent quite some time figuring how to spend the next year or so. I had few cool plans and worked hard to carry them out but they got crashed…

But that’s not a reason to be depressed as it also means that I have time to do something else instead… Go hiking! And I guess hiking is also better topic for a blog post than writing about crashed future plans. (Though I might mention them in the future related to other topics.)

So, this post is about the plans and how you can follow things online.

Plans, plans, plans

The plan (named Hiking North) is to do three separate trips in the Northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland:

– Moskkugáisi Traverse: A fast & light style peak bagging and packrafting traverse from Signaldalen (Norway) to Kilpisjärvi (Finland).
– Poroeno-Reisaelva: A packraftring trip including some lakes and sections of Poroeno and Reisaelva rivers from Kilpisjärvi (Finland) to Saraelv (Norway).
– Sarek National Park: A week+ roundtrip hiking in Sarek National Park (Sweden) starting from Suorva.

MoskkugáisiTtraverse

Pältsan in July 2011.

The first trip, the Moskkugáisi traverse, is named after the highest peak on the route. I’ll be doing the trip with my good friend Tuomas (Who is working at Kilpisjärvi as a Wilderness guide for the autumn). The general plan is to:

– start from the valley of Signaldalen in Norway on Thursday 22.8.
– hike/climb to Bárrás (1419m)
– traverse the mountainous peaks of Pältsan (1442m), Moskkugáisi (1516m) and Juoksavátnjunni (1450m) in Sweden
– camp somewhere near Pältsastugan
– hike to Kummaeno and float it with packrafts to Finland
– hike along the road to Kilpisjärvi for cold beers.

This means some 60+km of hiking with decent elevation gain and about 30km of packrafting and we’ll try to complete it in two days. Have to see how it goes. The route should provide a bit of challenge, great views (weather permitting) and a nice gentle float with occasional sections of class II white water.

I tried to pack light but have to also take the autumn weather and temps into account. And my packraft and paddle are also quite heavy. As is my camera. Full skin-out weight in the start will be around 15 kg. For those interested, a pdf gear list of my planned kit for this trip is available here: Moskkugaisi-Traverse

Poroeno-Reisaelva packrafting

In camp while packrafting the Poroeno in July 2011.

The second trip is a packrafting trip with my girlfriend N. The plan is to:

– start from Kilpisjärvi probably on Sunday 26.8.
– hike along the Kalottireitti (Nordkalottleden) trail to Meekojärvi
– packraft the lakes to Poroeno river
– packraft along the Poroeno to the Norwegian border
– hike from ??? to Reisadalen
– packraft the Reisaelva as far as we can

We’ve planned it as a six-day trip with roughly 60:40 ratio of hiking and packrafting. Hiking along the trail is very easy but when in Norway we’ll hike completely off-trail in remote wild area but the terrain should be quite easy. The Poroeno section will have some challenging class IV rapids that we will portage as N doesn’t have any white water experience. But she’s a quick learner and we can probably get away with only few portages as the water level should be low. The lower part of Reisaelva that we’ll packraft should be easy, wide river with decent flow so there shouldn’t be any problems. The highlights of the trip will include the Meeko valley, the incredibly beautiful Reisadalen valley, covering some terrain completely new to me and hopefully some good packrafting.

For this trip I’ll be taking a bit more gear than for the Moskkugáisi Traverse bringing the full skin-out weight in the start to 20 kg mark. The core of the kit will remain about the same but if you’re interested in the details, take a look at the gear list: Poroeno-Reisaelva

Sarek National Park

Sarek in March 2010.

The third trip will be again with N. We will head to Sarek National Park in Sweden for a week+ roundtrip. The only solid plan we have is to start from Suorva dam on the North-East border of the National Park and do a roundtrip in the central part of the park. We will be packing food for about nine days and will be taking crampons for glacier travel but probably no packrafts. If weather permits we will try to bag some peaks and enjoy the views but time will tell how it goes…

Sarek is awesome in winter and should be equally awesome also in autumn. There are high alpine peaks, glaciers, big beautiful valleys, rich wildlife (including lynx, wolf, wolverine and bear!) and so on but very few visitors and no trails in the central parts of the park. Sounds great!

Again most of the kit for the Sarek trip will be the same but there are few minor adjustments and I’ll change the packrafting kit for crampons and hiking poles. And again, here’s a gear list for the details: Sarek-National-Park

Following the trips

As most of the trips will take place far away from cell phone reception I will be using a Yellowbrick satellite messaging device so I can share my position, progress and other information.

The Yellowbrick is state-of-the-art piece of kit that I’m testing for them and I will be using it at least to:
– send tracking signal every now and then so you can follow me on my YBlog page http://my.yb.tl/Vatnajokull2012
(The url is a relic from the ski expedition across Vatnajökull glacier earlier this year.)
– send tweets if there is something cool to share or the plans change
– maybe send a blog post or two from the wild using Yellowbrick App on my Samsung Galaxy Xcover

The coolest thing is that Yellowbrick is compatible with Social Hiking! I’ve just started using the Social Hiking service and I’m still only learning but it enables creating interactive maps showing my progress and the related (social) media. During the trips it will mostly mean plotting my tweets and blog posts on the map with my route. After the trips I’ll be also adding pics and maybe some other media too…

You can see all my maps on the Social Hiking site: http://www.shareyouradventure.com/user/maps/korpijaakko

In addition I’m planning also writing a short post to my blog after each trip.

Enjoy the rest of the summer! I’m quite sure I will…

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And a little reminder: Remember also to enjoy the free berries, mushrooms and other delicacies of the season! At least in Finland there’s plenty of ripe blueberries, lingon berries are soon ripe and there’s a lot of delicious mushrooms. And according to Joe’s post, it’s the same thing in Norway.