It’s nice to get away. Even if it means sometimes frantic planning, frustrating waiting and enduring a 2×13+ hour drive in a minivan stuffed with gear, food, skis and 6 other people. (more…)
The greatest thing about the birthday of one’s country is that it’s a day off from work. Unless one has to attend the parade. Luckily not me this year so I could pull off another day skiing in the countryside. I had some work to do also so it was good that it could be done during the trip.
But again – lazy as can be so I again started at 12:30pm. And again starting from the Ohepalu hiking trail for some kilometers and then turning west towards Saksaare. Reaching that place I continued west aiming for the Kukepalu practice area where I was to mark some coordinates for the upcoming live-fir exercise. Reaching that proved not very easy, but I had plenty of time and too it easy. There were other ski tracks around, but those were much narrower than mine, but as the snow is rather compact those seemed to carry as well.
The weather was very good, with temperatures at -15 again, but sun shining at warming quite well. Had to wear only quite thin layers and moving kept me from cold. Gloves were a problem until I switched to thick mittens. Still, when you remove the mittens to do something that requires fingers, they get cold very quickly.
So with the sun getting lower already I started towards Pakasjärv. It’s a small lake in the middle of the bog. At summer I tried to reach it once, but it was too wet for my gear at that time. In a winter like this – no problem and skis are just perfect. The snow was powdery, but carried fine. After reaching the lake, headed towards the main road going through the exercise area. Went off the planned course a bit and had to go back about a 1,5 km on the road. On the road the going was rather quick, ’cause the road was icy. The edges of my skis aren’t actually that sharp so it was quite slippery also. When reaching the planned trailhead I was on the path already well known and therefore going was easy. Unfortunately some tracker vehicles had also moved on that road and it wasn’t very good path. Still a lot quicker than breaking my own path. Quickly going through the old rocket-base it was already very dark and I had the last strech to go. But it was also the worst strech ’cause it was a long-long, very straight path. There was also a smaller, partly unfrozen stream I had to cross. No problems though. Reached the car at 19:30, after being on the move for almost 7 hours and 32km.
A very good day and hopefully some more to come before everything starts to melt.
I managed to be active and complete some plans again. Since the winter is freaking awesome this year I had made plans to go out touring as much as possible. This weekend became free so I decided to head to Lahemaa national park and look around. I had sketched two possible routes and chose the one around the peninsula of Vergi.
As I’m lazy as can be then I hadn’t prepared the previous evening and didn’t wake ’till 9am. So after eating and making tea and picking up the boots from my office and shopping and driving to Võsu it was already noon and I got on the trail at 12:15. The first part was following a ski-path and ended near Altja after which I followed a smaller stream and reached the beach at 14:00. The sight proved to be worrying cause the bay was filled with pressure ice and that’s not very good for skiing. Fortunately near the shore the ice was even and smooth enough so I had to take only a small detour. Skiing was OK ’cause there was also a thin layer of snow on the ice so it wasn’t very slippery. The pole tips could have been sharper though. Had the first break near Vergi harbor at 14:30. When continuing towards cape Pedassaare I had to walk for a kilometer or so ’cause there was no good way around the rough ice. Rounded the cape at 15:30. Occasionally the ice had built up wall, consisting of ice blocks looking like some construction details. The sun was getting lower also providing some decent shots.
When rounding the last cape the sun was setting and to my great satisfaction the ice far smooth until Võsu and made skiing very easy although I was getting kinda tired. When I reached Võsu it was already dark, but I had only a few kilometers to go to my car. Ended the hike at 18:45.
So it was fun. Weather was cold -15 to -20 but no wind and the sun was shining all the way. Should have started earlier and prepared on the previous evening, but still managed to finish at a reasonable time. So distance about 30km and time without pauses 6 hours.
I modified the ski-bindings and they held together well. Although not adjustable any more, but as I plan to use the same boots for skiing then it’s ok.
Now as I didn’t get enough of skiing on the last weekend i had planned two days of ski touring with consripts. Area – Ohepalu nature reserve.
First day was perfect weather, but very hard going. I failed to navigate precisely enough and that led us through quite bumpy and dense vegetation, which slowed us down. But the soldier liked it – at least mot of them seemed to enjoy the day out. We started at about 10am and finished near 10 pm. And in that time we covered 25km.
As the second day was Friday and most of the conscripts were supposed to go home I didn’t want to take that long time to reach the end so I modified the track a bit and we stayed mostly off the harder terrain. Again starting at 10, but today I finished as early as 17.30 covering about 25km again.
Now most of the group managed quite fine and we would have moved at a much faster speed and reached our destination hours earlier that we did, but there were some factors.
When I went to school we had skiing lessons in winter for our PT. So everybody could ski. We also had plenty of ski-tracks in the vicinity. And we had some slopes that we particularly enjoyed, ’cause going down hill is by far much easier than just cross-country skiing. So long story short – 99% of people I know could ski. But now I have theses 20+ year old young, supposedly strong men at my command and there are those who have never been on skis. Fair enough – a lot of them managed quite well. Maybe slow, but at least their movement was co-ordinated. But then there are those who were like they had woken up this morning and discovered that they had grown two hands and feet and didn’t know what the fuck to do with them. That meant that at the time I had covered 100m in a moderate speed they managed barely 10m. And they didn’t get any of the instructing I gave. Like talking to a cactus-plant. I swear there were moment when I thought that one of us will not make it to the end of the day. How the fuck have you managed to get by for so long!! Now I know what people mean when they describe somebody so clumsy that they probably wouldn’t succeed in getting hit by a truck, while standing in the middle of the highway at the rush hour. Unbelievable.
Went skiing today. Started from Tõreska and the first plan was to go all the way to Moe, but that changed a bit. Karmo drove me to the starting point (he was supposed to come to, but decided to be lazy instead) and at about 1pm I was off. Snow was very light, basically powder so it was rather easy to push through it. 10 minutes on the trail I had a minor failure on one of the bindings, but I managed to fix it. After few kilometers the tracks turned left and I had totally untouched snow. Easy going still. Weather was perfect – no wind, -5 C. Some sunshine would have been nice.
Near the Udriku lake I encountered a wild boar. I saw it first at about 75 meters, so I stood still and tried to get a picture. It went on and off the trail and when it was about 50 meters from me and still didn’t see me I gave out a blood-freezing and ear-crushing roar letting the beast know, who is the boss here. It froze, probably trying to blend in with the snow and when realizing his pitiful attempt has failed escaped in terror. So I carried on.
After about 6 km the snow grew thicker, but still about half way to my calf. Going got tougher. I hadn’t treated the soles of the skiis and they gathered clumps of snow which hindered the gliding seriously and it began to get dark. It didn’t really dark because all of the snow and the glow from Tapa was visible too. So I pushed on like that for the last 8 km to the Valgejõe bridge, where I called Karmo and arranged a pickup. Still had about 1km to go. By that time the temperatures dropped to about -10 C and I was mighty tired.
But it was great to get out and start the skiing season In 3 weeks we’ll try to ski to Vormsi and after that I’m going to Trysil. Hope the winter stays like this ’till March
A ski trip to Lapland in the end of last year. We spent four days skiing through one of the Finnish northernmost national park following roughly the Hetta-Pallas trail. Overall conditions were great: –15 C, very-very-very much of powder snow. Too bad the sky was mostly overcast, but we got some clear nights. No northern lights though.
A panorama of pictures taken near the first hut using long exposure. I managed to step outside during the few minutes the sky wasn’t cloudy and to take advantage of the situation
The first day starts actually on the previous night when we board a ship in Tallinn and start driving towards Hetta at about 9pm. We arrive at about 11am. The worst thing about Lapland is probably that it’s so damn far away. Anyhow I slept through most of the trip. At Hetta we grab a quick snack and tea and prepare skis and change for the day. We start near a silver jewelers shop. The owner also organizes our bus to the end of the trail. When testing skis I had no problems, but the instant I put on my skis for the actual trip one of the braces breaks. Fortunately I had a spare one. To reach the trailhead we have to cross a lake and off we go. We’re instantly knee deep in powder and some people fall. Daily legs are about 15 km long each, which might not seem such a long distance, but that’s not definitely you usual cross-country skiing. On a good trail and downhill it is possible to go 5-7 km/h, but when you have no trail or it hasn’t been used for some time then you can expect 2-3 km/h. So for the first 6 km we followed a path and reach first checkpoint before it got dark at about 1530 or so. Had some tea and warmed near a fireplace. There are a lot of huts in Finnish national parks where people can warm up, spend the night, cook some food or just take a break. Most of the are free but that means you have to be there before the others, ‘cause they are free for all and you can’t leave those coming late outside. These huts are called autiotupa, which means free room. To be sure that you get a place for your own you can also book a room for some fee – these are varaustupa. There might be a sauna nearby also. The huts are mostly for 8-16 people with bunk beds, a wood stove and gas stove. Gas and firewood is prepared by the park rangers. There are also toilets and garbage bins so you don’t have to cut down living trees or carry your garbage around. The wood stove provides enough heat so you don’t have to carry a winter sleeping bag. Basically you can manage with a sleeping mat and a blanket. It became to hot to sleep in a sleeping bag in most nights, but it might get chilly when the fire goes out. Back to the trip. We started again in the dark with headlamps, but it soon became clear that it is near to impossible to follow the planned route ‘cause we couldn’t find the markings in the dark. So we decided to go over the hill instead following the valley. But we had to find the right track first. We had a GPS unit and that showed the hiking trail we wanted to reach. To get to it we had to spent quite some time to go uphill through knee deep powder, which was quite fun actually although somewhat tiring. I took point and after some time unsuccessfully fiddling with the GPS I tried to get directions figured out with the map and compass. By that time someone had found the trail post. Or was it like that I found a post then lost it, tried with the compass, but someone found the markings again. Anyhow then we decided to follow the trail posts, which wasn’t that easy also ‘cause it started to snow and you had to really look for the markings. Occasionally they were almost covered with snow with just a little bump visible. We ascended about 300m and reached the 711m high hilltop called Pyhäkero. From that point onward we only had to descend to the first hut, where we were to spent the night. Descending was actually more difficult ‘cause the snow was blowing right to my face and it was even harder to see the markings and you were going downhill. Often you had to guess the direction and then change direction while speeding downhill. The slope wasn’t steep but it was difficult to turn with those skis. I managed to land on my face quite a few times. But in daylight conditions and different skis both the slopes we went up and down would have been great for off-piste. We arrived at the Sioskuru hut at about 8pm with another guy who had taken the point at halfway down and the others arrived about 45 minutes later. Ate and chatted a bit to get to know each other better and crashed at around 11pm
Our first sleeping hut. Autiotupa on the right and varaustupa on the left. Long exposure again
Started off in dark around 9am. A small ascent and then about 10 km over an even landscape. My first experience in a whiteout. Although it was day and plenty of light it occasionally got totally white around you. Almost like in fog. Again you could barely see from one post to another so the visibility was around 40 meters. Very cool though. Last part was between a low forested area with the path twisting and turning. Like in a winter wonderland. And soon we were near the lake in our next hut – Hannukuru, where we spent the night. Again being the first to arrive we started the fire and got some snow to be melted for water. After the dinner most people grew silent and some took a nap. We played Tower for an hour or so when one of us agitated us to check out the sauna nearby. Four of us still not sleeping went out ‘cause it was and idea worth to check out and the night still being young we had nothing better to do anyway. Turned out to be the best idea of the day. The sauna was in excellent condition and we quickly decided to heat it up. Opened up and ice hole so we wouldn’t have to waste time melting the snow. After an hour it was hot enough and it played out to be a great sauna evening. So great that I even broke a promise of mine not to drink beer from a plastic bottle. One of the best beers I’ve ever tasted. Everyone slept great that night.
This was probably the best day. We started off searching for the path, didn’t find it and ended up doubling back for a while and then climbing up a very steep slope ending up on a flat hilltop with great views. Tried to find the path and we were close or over it a couple of times, but couldn’t find any markings. But we carried on among the trees in total stillness. No wind, no animals the only sound being the snow under our skies. Simply awesome. Somehow I managed to find some stray track and we decided to follow it because it went to a general right direction and there was no point in trying to climb the hilltop without a track. Soon our path led out to the real ski track and our speed increased. We had a lunch break near a reindeer-gate just before the final push uphill towards our hut. This ascent was probably the best part of the trip. After an hour the trees grew sparse and the slope eased a bit as we reached the saddle. There a cold wind started blowing and stopping became a bad idea. And it was just 1,5km to go before the Nammalakuru. In the hut we found a group of 9 Hungarians, but they didn’t plan to spend the night and left after an hour as we began our preparations for the New Years Eve celebrations. The best part was that they had already warmed up the hut. Blood sausages and bacon, mashed potatoes, peppercakes, Tosca cake and strawberry liquor. At some point a Finnish couple arrived and we chatted with them a bit. They had came from the opposite direction of us and therefore we knew that we would have a good track the next day and they could use ours. Later in the morning we had and argument with the woman ‘cause she thought that we were overheating the hut. Felt kinda bad because of it later. Waiting for the midnight we played some Tower again and talked about mountains and where everybody had been and so on. The midnight was as usual – outside, shaking hands, listening for the distant fireworks.
The sky was again partly overcast but had some clear windows for picture taking
The valley of Miracles as our guide had named it
The final leg started with a gentle descent through some trees and we covered 5km in one hour. Could have been even quicker, but there wasn’t much room to pass. Besides it’s not a competition. During the trip I often found myself in the front putting distance between myself and the others. Not because I wouldn’t have enjoyed their company, but I find it difficult to go slow and stay behind someone. And being in front allows one to get a glimpse of some vary animals. Not that I saw any at all, but still the odds are greater. After a tea-break in the junction we had a decent uphill section onto a plateau, which we followed for about 7 km. A final lunch break and a 3km push to the end at the Pallas Nature Centre. It got pretty clear and cold in the end. Our bus was already waiting for us so we sat down for a moment while the bus warmed up a bit. Tried to help some Latvians to get their bus going, got into a potentially dangerous situation and had push our own bus up the hill ‘cause it was pretty icy. We got going finally towards our cottage or mökki as they are called in Finland. Pancakes and sauna and TV. And we managed to get some overpriced light beer from the reception. Everybody slept very- very good on soft mattresses.
The last day was planned in the Levi ski-resort. Unfortunately I couldn’t go so after breakfast when others were gone I slept some more. Like 5 hours or so and spent the rest of the day watching TV and prepared dinner for the others. Started driving back at 4am Sunday and landed in Tallinn at 1030pm.
It was a great trip and gave me plenty of ideas for the future. Skiing in Lapland is pure pleasure although it might be dark and you’re getting tired but you still go on ‘cause you know that there is great place waiting for you in the end. And thanks to Raki and Tanner and Andro and Priit and Taavi and Birgit and Jaan for being such a great company.