Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: ski

Crossing the largest glacier in Europe – Vatnajökull 2013

The winter ain’t over yet!

Even though the winter is definitly over in most of Finland, it ain’t over for me. At the moment I’m hurrying with some last-minute preparations for guiding a ski expedition across Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe situated in South-East Iceland.

Urttaslaakso (Käsivarsi wilderness, North-West Finland) on a holiday ski-tour in April 2013.

The winter season has been a very busy one with guiding work. (My apologies for the silence in the blog and all the broken promises related to it.) It’s been hard at times but also very rewarding and guaranteed plenty of time in the great outdoors around and above the Arctic circle. This far I’ve spent little under 30 nights and closer to 100 days outdoors this year, which is never a bad thing. There are loads of unpublished photos and some stories to tell but that’ll have to wait until the end of May or so…

Winter magic - working the outdoors in cold but beautiful weather in January.

Winter magic – working in the outdoors in January. Cold but so beautiful!

The last time…

I was skiing across the Vatnajökull also about a year ago. The Vatnajökull 2012 expedition was a crossing from West to East (roughly along the line where the glacier is at it’s widest) and also included a longish detour to South to climb the Hvannadahlsnjukur (2110m), the highest peak of Iceland. The expedition took 16 days and was mostly very enjoyable experience despite the weather sucking big time every now and then: Freezing super-cooled rain, winds above 30m/s, temps below -20C, white outs, etc. – But luckily not all of that at the same time! And luckily we also had some days of great weather and good skiing to boost our moral.

Skiing on Vatnajökull in 2012.

… and here we go again!

The Vatnajökull 2013 expedition will be little different: we will start about 1 month later (meaning generally better weather), we will ski from East to West and won’t be doing the detour to Hvannadahlsnjukur and will spend 12 days on the glacier.

As we are leaving later in the season, I was expecting milder temperatures and generally better weather. I told to my clients that we’d probably have day time temps above 0C and night time temps down to -10C and would definitely get some rain at some point. But looking at the weather forecasts now at the eve of the departure it seems very different… Well, at least snow is better than rain and we still have good chance of rain at the end of the expedition.

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Itinerary of Vatnajökull 2013 expedition

– 26.4. flight from Finland to Iceland and drive to Hoffel
– 27.4. we will start skiing (or likely walking with crampons) from the edge of Lambatungnajökull in the East
– … skiing* …
– 7.5. arriving to the hut in Jökulheimar, on the Western edge of the Vatnajökull
– 8.5. super-jeep pick-up from Jökulheimar and drive to Reykjavik
– 10.5. flight back to Finland

* The basic plan is to ascent up on the Vatnajökull along the Lambatungna glacier in the South-East corner and then ski roughly to West across the glacier. But we might do also some detours on the way to check interesting places, weather and conditions permitting. At least we will try to visit the Grimsvötn volcano (1725m) on the middle of the glacier. There’s also a nice hut at the edge of the volcano…

The Grimsfjall hut in 2012. Expecting less snow this time…

Follow the Vatnajökull 2013 expedition!

We will be carrying a SPOT tracking device so you can follow the progress of the Vatnajökull 2013 expedition online on the awesome Social Hiking service: Click to the map!

In addition I’ll try to send some tweets along the way when we have cellphone reception (the sat phone we will be carrying doesn’t support tweeting…) but this will be scarce. But if you’re interested, it’s still worth to follow me on Twitter.

And if you’re really interested in the expedition you can also follow the weather forecasts on yr.no and Icelandic Met Office to get an idea of the weather on the glacier.

And if you happen to know Vaiska’s sat phone number, you can also cheer us with a message about the nice warm days, sunshine, beer and barbecue you are enjoying…. You enjoy the spring, we’ll be skiing.

I’ll be back in couple of weeks!

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…

Heads up: New Altai Hok fast shoes!

I had a pair of 125 cm long Altai Hok “gliding snow shoes” or “fast shoes” for test the last winter and I really liked them (see my Initial Impressions). Though there were few things I would’ve liked to change. I would have preferred:

– the longer model (wasn’t available for test at the time) for more floatation,
– maybe removable skins or some other way to make them a bit faster
– and a bit more camber for better skiing.

I was told some secret information about new models being developed in Finland but I never got any specific details…

Lurkin’ down a forested hill with the Hoks. It’s fun!

But now it’s all public information!

According to my sources the new models are designed and made in Finland by OAC! The new models are:

– “Kar” 147 cm, 125-110-122, 2700g (i.e. 2cm longer and 50g lighter than the original Hok 145)
– “XCD Tao” 160cm, 85-72-80, 1850g (i.e. very different design, maybe better suited for relaxed telemarking on forested hills?)

On paper the Kar looks almost identical to the original Hok 145 model so what’s the point? This: both models have more camber than the original Hoks and have more narrow skins which should make them better suited for cross-country skiing travel. And the Tao seems quite different from the original Hoks, more like a short Karhu Guide XCD. To me it looks more like a cross-country downhill type of ski just like the name implies.

Click to see the official info (in Finnish).

I have to say that I’m quite excited! The 147 cm long Kar sounds like a perfect tool for traveling the forested and bushy areas of Finland. It should provide more flotation, be faster and about just as agile as the 125 cm model I was testing. I was planning to get a set of “alpine touring” type gear (Dynafit stuff) for the winter but as that gear is expensive as hell and people only have two kidneys, I might seriously consider buying the new Kars, 75mm bindings and some low-cut plastic tele boots…

Hok 125s at camp after a day of skiing through bush.
Notice also the new X-Trace baseplates that I was testing. They are now in production!