Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Valtijoki

Gear for the upcoming packrafting trips

At this time next week I will be walking into my first serious packrafting trip, the FPE2011. Starting with a 45km walk in followed by likely the most remote and wild rivers in Finland: Valtijoki, Poroeno and Lätäseno totalling over 140km of packrafting. The Valtijoki sounds quite intimidating with its big drops, class IV rapids and stuff but, well, man has to do what man has to do. Because of mundane concerns we had to squeeze the trip into eight days meaning that we will likely skip the Halti fell and Govddajohka…

"Last minute" trip planning and trying to get a better understanding about the various challenges of the Valtijoki.

This post deals about my gear choises for the trip with a quick look on the menu and little information about another packrafting trip following immediately after this one…

The gear

First, here (FPE2011_gear) is a detailed pdf gearlist for you to inspect and criticize. The weights followed with question mark are estimates as I haven’t yet weighted that stuff. There will be an updated list later with exact weights.

As usual, the list comes in a little late for me to do any major changes to it, but all feedback is very welcome, so please leave a comment if something comes into your mind.

There is some new stuff in the clothing section. Instead of my normal synthetic long sleeve I’ll be hiking in a buttoned Haglöfs shirt as it seems like a perfect hiking shirt: cool, quick drying, wind resistant and mosquito proof! The other major change is that inspired by Joe’s Death to Rainpants I decided to take only Montane Featherlight pants (new to me but seem good). So I’ll leave my usual hiking pants (very old Haglöfs Mid Fjell) and shell pants home. This saves me a lot of weight and has relatively low impact as I’ll spent six days out of eight paddling in a dry suit instead of hiking. There’s quite a lot of warm clothing as the night time temperatures have been occasionally around +4C and freezing temps are not especially rare even though it’s July. In July 2009 we had temps near 0C, accompanied by some snow and freezing winds from the Arctic Sea. That’s the summer in the North. But it might as well be +25C with sun and horrible hordes of mosquitoes…

The forecast makes me reconcider the rainpants... At least there should be enough water in the rivers.

For footwear I’ll be taking my trusworthy La Sportiva Wild Cats with Inov8 socks (very nice socks but not too durable) and Inov8 debris gaiters. And as the primary mean of travel we will naturally have packrafts. I’ll be riding my new 2011 model Alpacka Denali Llama and Tuomas will be having an older model Alpacka Yokun Yak. Both of the boats have spray decks. As a paddle I have 215cm long 2-piece aluminum one from Finnish Welhonpesä. It’s a bit on the heavy side but it’s sturdy and cheap.

Unrelated picture of my Llama at the near by island this weekend.

As we will be rafting for about 75% of the time and the river is very challenging to us, we wanted to have good boating kit. We decided to go for full dry suits, the Finnish made Ursuit AWS 4-Tex suit. Jörgen is using a lighter Ursuit MPS for his trip to Nahanni, but we wanted a bit beefier suits to suite also other uses because a drysuit is quite an investment. In addition we’ll be having helmets, foam PFDs, throw lines and the whole usual white water kit. This weight while hiking in might save our asses later when boating, so for us the it is very acceptable.

Carrying and packing stuff is quite the usual: Golite Pinnacle and Ortlieb Aqua-Zoom for my EOS 550D. But I decided to take a bit heavier 100% waterproof Ortlieb PS 17 dry sack to line my rucksack with as the light ones from Tatonka that I would normally use do leak a bit under pressure. The Ortlieb should keep my gear dry even if capsizing.

In camp we will share a light propane stove and 1,4 liter pot in addition to Golite Shangri La 3 tent with MYOG inner tent to protect us from bugs. We will use a paddle as a center pole to save some weight.

Quite horrible picture of my Golite Shangri La 3 with the MYOG inner. Pic from last summer's trip to Käsivarsi where I drowned my camera on the first day.

I had plans about making all the kind of cool new stuff for this trip but the reality is that I haven’t found any time to spent with the sewing machine so instead of a new cool Pertex Endurance & Primaloft quilt I’ll be taking my old and weary summer sleeping bag. I might even take my girlfriends Haglöfs Zensor bag which is a bit heavier but a lot warmer as the forecast show night-time lows around +5 Celcius.

We will take an Iridium sat phone for extra safety. This is something that I don’t usually carry with me but now it feels appropriate. It also helps communicating with a group of Tuomas’ friends who we plan to meet along the way. They will be rafting down the river in a big white water raft (flown in to the beginning of Poroeno).

As for camera gear, I decided to take only one lens for my EOS 550D and that is naturally the magnificent EF 24-105 4 L IS. And as we will spent a lot of time in the water I’ll take waterproof Olympus Though 3000 point&shoot and a Gorillapod to attach the camera to the packraft or to myself.

Then there is a big bunsh of small stuff pushing the total skin out baseweight to 16,7 kilo! It’s not especially nice but there is a big pile of boating equipment in that weight. Top that with consumables and the full skin out weight will be around 23 kilos meaning a heavy rucksack in the beginning. It might be a bit uncomfortable with the Pinnacle… When we start packrafting at the source of Valtijoki my pack atatched to the bow of my Alpack should weight around 14 kilo which should be tolerable bow load for white water. We will likely portage a lot of the harder stuff (there are some class IV and V rapids on the river) but might occasionally try to run a harder rapid or drop without the extra load if we think it’s safe enough. Most of the class II and III should be doable with the planned load. Or at least we really hope so!

Any ideas or criticism? Feel free to drop a comment!

The food

I didn’t bother to pay too much attention on the food for this trip, i.e. I didn’t too a comprehensive spreadsheet. I think I have enough experience with one-week-long summer trips and on trip this short the nutritional aspects are not as important as on very long trips. But I hate to be hungry so I ended up to about 850 grams of food per day meaning maybe 3500-4000kcal per day. Less would have been likely sufficient but I decided to play it safe. I could have also gone with only two different dinner options but my mate Tuomas wanted a bit more variation so now we have four different types of dinners. The weight/day figures are somewhat questimated average figures.

I did some shopping this week. The stuff just needs to be re-packed.

The menu includes the following:

– breakfast: oat meal with sweet blueberry soup OR muesli with powdered whole milk (total 150g/day)
– lunch: tortillas with chocolate spread and home-dried bananas OR flapjack bar and mini salami (total 150g/day)
– dinner: a delicious home-dried cook-in-one-pot candle light dinner (175g/day)
– snacks: M&Ms, a small chocolate bar per day, beef jerky, chilli nuts and some chocolate chip cookies (200g/day)
– drinks: one cup of tea, coffee and hot chocolate for each day and some sports drink stuff if it gets really warm (50g/day)
– and in addition: butter, oil, hard rye bread and some more salami (around 125g/day, mostly fats)

Oh, and a bottle of Scoths for the evenings… It’s worth it, especially if it’s rainy and cold. 😉

The follow-up trip to Sweden

After ending the FPE2011 trip to Markkina on Saturday, Tuomas will head to South with his friends and I will take a bus back to Kilpisjärvi where I will meet my girlfriend. I’ll spent the Saturday at Kilpisjärvi resupplying, washing clothes, etc. and on Sunday morning we’ll be heading for a 6-7 days long hike to the Swedish side of the lake Kilpisjärvi.

Skiing the Kummaeno in April 2010. Now we plan to packraft it down to the Finnish border.

We will take a boat ride (a boat named Malla makes threertrips a day in the summertime) to Koltaluokta on the western side of lake Kilpisjärvi. Instead we could follow a 15km trail thru the Malla National Park North of Kilpisjärvi but we will save little time when taking the boat. From Koltaluokta we will walk West to the Pältsan and Moskugaisi fells. If the weather is nice we might climb to admire the views from the top but the main idea is to traverse the fells via the Isldalen valley. The travers will take us near Pältsastugan hut and the upper part of Kummaeno river which floats all the way to the Finnish border to the Southern end of Kilpisjärvi. The plan is to float down the river in one packraft. We have tried it on a lake and despite being very cramped, it works. With the new 2011 model Llama both rucksacks go on top of the new big butt and we sit on our sleeping pads in the “honeymooner position” recommended in the Roman Dials book Packrafting! The river is very easy with only couple of harder white water sections that I might ride down alone with Nina walking past them. The trip should end to the road side at Keinovuopio some 10km South from the Kilpisjärvi. After that we’ll try our luck in hitch hiking or take a little run along the road with out the gear. I’ve done it earlier. A nice way to stretch you legs…

For the second trip I’ll do some changes in the gear: I’ll ditch most of the white water kit and instead take rain pants and neoprene socks (neoprene shorts would be cool but I didn’t come up with the idea early enough). I will also strip the Llama down by removing the spray deck, seat and backrest to save some weight. I will probably also leave the satphone behind as unnecessary weight.

PS. Does anyone of you know a good online map service for Sweden? If I’d find one, I could put the planned route online.

Plans for the summer: The Finnish packrafting epic?

For the last three weeks I have been teasing you with my trip plans for this summer. I’ve been given several clues but apparently the guessing  was too difficult as there were no right answers. So, it’s time to reveal the bold plans!

But first… the winner of the competition!

Even though there were no 100% correct answers I feel like that Yeti deserves the promised free meal and dessert as he was the first to guess that I will be packrafting. Yeti’s guess was that I would be packrafting from Kilpisjärvi to Tornio along the Swedish border, but this is not quite it… Congratulations Yeti!

Oh, and if you haven’t done it yet, check Yeti’s superb bikepacking blog!

And why there is a question mark?

There is a question mark at the end of the title. That is because I feel that the word epic starts to be somewhat over used and it is in the danger of loosing meaning. For me the word epic is reserved for the state-of-the-art of each method/style of travel on each distinct regions. For example I wouldn’t call my annual three-day spring kayaking trips epic, they are just nice and relaxing weekenders with good friends.

Kayaking in the Jongunjoki river in May 2010. Not epic but really good time!

But unlike kayaking packrafting is relatively new sport in Finland. I know that few people have been packrafting in Lapland for some years and for example Mikko Kilpeläinen has been blogging about his trips (In Finnish only, sorry!) and I’m sure we can soon read about Hendrik’s packrafting trips from his Hiking in Finland blog. But to my knowledge no one in Finland has done the kind of trip me and my friend Tuomas are planning to do. So, I leave the question about epicness of this trip to you dear readers. Is it epic or not?

The Finnish packrafting epic 2011

And here it is!

We plan to take the route drawn to the picture below. You know that you are doing something cool when you have to use 1: 500 000 map to make the route fit on the computer screen…

The route of the Finnish packrafting epic 2011!

As I told earlier we plan to start from the Norwegian side of the border North to Kilpisjärvi. From there we will follow Didnujohka river upstream to the border and cross the border. From the border we will follow Urttasjohka river down stream but it is too small to be rafted in July. After some hiking the river turns into a lake system which should be raftable. The first lake is about 40 meters above our take out point so there should be reasonable current, and maybe some drops requiring portaging, to get a feeling how the boats handle in heavy load. On the eastern shore of Vuomakasjärvi lake we will deflate the boats and start to hike along the Kalottireitti (Nordkalottleden) to Pitsusjärvi lake where we will take a turn to East to Somasjärvi on the border between Norway and Finland.

If the water level is unusually high (for example because of heavy rains) we might – instead of walking straight to Somasjärvi – walk to the  Halti fell (the highest place in Finland) and try to packraft back to Pitsusjärvi. The small river, Govdajohka, that runs from the base of the Halti is under 10km long but drops 186 meters on the way! This means a lot of portaging but luckily we can scout the river while walking upstream. If we end up rafting the Govdajohka we will end up back to Pitsusjärvi, pack up the rafts again and head to Somasjärvi along the trail. But it might be that we pass the Covdajohka option…

The rocky Govdajohka in the background and Pitsusjärvi behind the fells. Hiking to Halti at the end of June 2008.

From Somasjärvi starts the Valtijoki river which is about 25 kilometers long and drops about 150 meters on the way to Porojärvi lake. It is likely that we’ll have to do quite a lot of portaging to bypass big drops and hard white water but luckily packrafts are light to carry! Valtijoki is too small and rocky for traditional white water rafts but it’s possible to paddle it with a white water kayak. This happens occasionally but I don’t think that the river is runned even yearly, maybe biennially or so. The main reason for this is that the river is in the middle of nowhere so it’s hard to access and safety aspects are also challenging. Experienced paddlers describe the river in the following words (translation from Finnish by me): “Valtijoki can be considered as one of the most challenging river routes in Finland. – – For a beginner the river may turn into a nightmare-like fight for life but for an experienced boater with a solid kayak roll it is higly recommended as a “once in a lifetime” trip.” Frankly said, we are a bit unsure if we are trying to bite more than we can chew here – but with packrafts there is always the option to walk.

The Valtijoki ends to Porojärvi lake and from there starts one of the most classic wilderness river routes in Finland. It starts as a Poroeno river which is about 44 kilometers long and drops 135 meters on the way. There are few dangerous class IV rapids that likely require portaging and a lot of easier white water to enjoy. After this section Rommaeno river joins the Poroeno forming the Lätäseno that continues 70 kilometers all the way to the village of Markkina on the border of Finland and Sweden, dropping 118 meters on the way. There are few dangerous class IV and V rapids in Lätäseno that require portaging but there are also long stretches of smooth backwater. The river route from Porojärvi to Markkina is quite popular to do with a white water raft, canoe or kayak. The boats are usually flown to the lake with helicopter or plane. Our trip will end to the village of Markkina after some 200 kilometers of wilderness travel by foot and packraft. After the trip Tuomas will head back to South but I plan to stay in the North for week more. My girlfriend will join me and we will head to Swedish Lapland for a summer hike, and maybe for some more packrafting… 😉

We plan to do the route in eight or nine days, depending on a few things. In the beginning the packs will be quite heavy with food for nine days and about 5-6kg of rafting gear each. I’ll post detailed gear list and menu when I have them figured out. We are going to start in either July 8th or 9th and end the trip the next weekend. As the July is somewhat the official month for summer vacations month in Finland we might meet some friends along the way. My colleague will be fly fishing at Valtijoki at the same time so we might get some fresh fish along the route but we plan to be self-sufficient. There is also group of friends rafting the Poroeno-Lätäseno river route with a traditional white water raft (flown in by helicopter) and if we are quick enough we might meet them along the way and float the final stretches together. The major uncertainties, in addition to the water level and raftability of some parts, are related to the logistics as our starting point is about 150 kilometers from our ending point and bus schedules in the North are crappy. But if we don’t come up with anything better, we’ll solve the problems with hitchhiking.

So, if we can pull this together… Could this be called an epic trip?

Psst! Jyrki and Joel from Loimumedia paddled the Poroeno-Lätäseno route with a canoe and documended it. First they hauled the canoe to the starting point in March and came back in July to ride down the river. Respect for not using motors! You can buy the DVD from their website but the trailer is of course free so here you go: