Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 - A Retrospective

The year 2011 is nearing its end and it is time to look back at the year. What went well during the year? What could be improved in the next year? Or wait a minute, that was the Scrum Retrospective. Anyway, 2011 was good year and from my own outdoor perspective an excellent year. Below I will recall some highlights.

The winter 2010/2011 was the best winter for years in Finland. We had a lot of snow and consistently cold temperatures. The skiing season lasted well over four months and the entire winter was a fatbike paradise.

I had a fantastic overnighter in February under the full moon in really cold weather.

The absolute highlight of the winter was the ice road adventure with Toni Lund.

The end of March provided rideable snow crust, something very unusual in Southern Finland.

A winter well spent was still extended with a ski overnighter in the beginning of the spring. Surprisingly, this turned out to be a little out of the ordinary.

After the fantastic winter, the ordinary summer overnighters somehow felt too easy and anticlimactic. Nice, but nothing special. The highlight of the summer was the week-long unsupported bikepacking trip in Lapland at the end of July. This trip proved (for me) the value of a fatbike and that my gear and packing philosophy works as expected.

I continued doing overnighters through the fall, despite the unusually wet fall weather. The real glimpse of light was that the kids got enthusiastic about joining me for overnight backpacking. We did four of these trips during the year and hopefully next year will see a lot more of these. There is something profoundly satisfying in sharing this stuff with the kids.

My goal of at least one overnighter a month and a week-long bikepacking trip was revised during the summer and at the winter solstice I made my last overnighter for the year, spending my 30th night out. It might not sound much for true adventurers, but I'm very satisfied with it. My family comes first for me, so I cannot realistically improve on this one much more.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter solstice overnighter

I wanted to go on one final overnighter this year, to realize my (revised) goal of thirty nights out in 2011. The grey and rainy weather in December and November had not really invited to this sort of activities, but for the winter solstice dryer weather was forecasted. Since this would pretty much be my last possibility for an overnighter this year I decided to go, even though both Wednesday and Thursday were workdays for me. With a time of 5 h 43 min between sunrise and sunset, most of the outing would have to take place in the dark.

I left home a little over eight in the evening. The temperature was around freezing and trails not directly in dense forest had hardened up a little.

The few millimeters of snow or frost on the ground made everything a lot less dark.

My goal for the night was the shelter at Vaarniemi, which would be about 45 minutes away from my home the fastest way possible. I did however not take the fastest route, opting to ride some forest trail sections in addition to multiuse urban trails like this one.

I arrived at the Vaarniemi shelter around 22:30 and had planned to make a fire and enjoy it for a while before going to sleep. Unfortunately, the shelter was already taken, so I had to look for another alternative. I did have a bivy bag with me, so I just continued for a half hour to a ridge with good view to the sea in the south, hoping the the cloudy weather would give way to a clear and crisp morning. In clear weather the sky should begin to lighten up a good time before the sunrise at 9:38. By the time I went to sleep, a little before midnight, the stars became visible and everything looked great.

I slept fairly well until I got up around 7:35. Inside my bivy bag I had my 600 g down bag, a short Thermarest Prolite 4 and my down jacket between the sleeping bag and bivy. I was warm and comfortable in the -2°C night. I made a cup of good coffee from hot water in my thermos bottle using a light coffee filter mounted directly onto my cup and ate a small breakfast before starting riding. The morning was cloudy.

As I got closer to home the darkness gave way to the day.

I got home a little over nine in the morning after around one and a half hour of riding. After quickly unloading the bike and I rode to work and was only one minute late for our Daily Scrum-meeting.

That's it. Short, but nice.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Planned misery

I was still feeling some laziness after a flu a week ago. Most of the symptoms had already passed, so I wanted to go out and do at least something. Going out for a run or any other form of real training was out of the question, but a short overnighter seemed like a good idea. Originally I intended to go on Friday evening, since that would have provided a good opportunity to experience some real misery, with a blizzard that turned to hard wind and rain in the evening. However, I was too tired for that and decided a good night's sleep would do me good.

I felt a lot better on Saturday and the forecast still contained some amount of misery, so I decided to go.

After a bit of Christmas glühwein (glögi/glögg) and traditional gingerbread with the family, I started riding. I planned to ride for 2-3 hours. The weather was better than forecasted, with very little rain.

The trails were very wet and I soon noticed that my feet were getting wet fast. Strange, the Shimano MW81 winter cycling shoes should keep the water out a little better.

The Pomponrahka boardwalks would have been easier with a fatbike, since at some places there was quite a bit of half-packed snow on them. For the most part, the Fargo with the studded Nokian Extreme 29x2.1 tires was the right choice, though.

Falling down from the boardwalk was not tempting...

A little later the cloud cover thinned enough for the full moon to become visible. Shame this did not happen some five hours earlier during the total lunar eclipse.

More boardwalk.

I continued riding and a little over ten o'clock in the evening I made camp. By now my feet were very wet and cold. Some Christmas decorations would have been cool, with a Christmas spruce just outside the tent.

Moon light.

I went to sleep a little before midnight. The moon provided a some light.

Around 8:20 in the morning I got up after a fairly good night's sleep. With the sunrise at 9:25 and total length of the day under six hours one can sleep in a little. The morning naturally starts with a good cup of coffee. Zoegas Dark Temptation was a pleasant surprise. It is not as dark as the coffee I usually drink, but the taste was good.

When I put the shoes on in the morning, the mystery with my cold feet was solved. By mistake, I had taken my summer cycling shoes instead. Both are black Shimano shoes, but the summer shoes are a little bit cold in temperatures around freezing.

I was ready to go a little before sunrise.

The Nokian Extreme 29x2.1 studded tires work well in these conditions. There were some spots of blank ice, where the studs were necessary. In many places there was also was a little slush on top of ice or the ground, and the relatively narrow tires with the very coarse tread pattern just cuts through the slush and provides grip towards the surface underneath. Fat tires do not work in these conditions, since they just float on top of it, without anything to work against.

Still some spots with snow on.

An edible mushroom (Wood Hedgehog) in December. Quite rare.

Some last leaves.

I was home again at 11:30 after a nice little outing. The misery was missing. Maybe I'll have better luck next time.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tour de Pöyrisjärvi video

I finally finished the video from the Pöyrisjärvi bikepacking trip.

Due to loosing my tripod head quite early in the trip, I didn't quite get the footage I had planned and had to settle for a rather short video. I also feel that some POV clips would make the video more interesting, but the EOS 60D DSLR was too big and heavy for that. Finally, I was unable to actually create the output video with Windows Movie Maker on my own laptop when having edited it. The computer just crashed when it was 99 percent done. I think this was the last time I used Windows Movie Maker. The application is otherwise good enough and easy to use, but it lacks the necessary stability.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The state of the winter

November is now past us. It was one of the absolutely warmest Novembers in Finland in the history of recorded temperatures. We had a lot of rain and grey weather and almost no signs of the coming winter except the shortening days. The contrast against last year is enormous. This is what December 4th looked like last year:

As a contrast the following pictures are from today, December 3rd. The temperature yesterday around sunset was 8°C. During the night the temperature went below freezing, so maybe there is some hope after all. The weather forecast also shows colder temperatures next weekend, though a lot of rainfall is forecasted before that.

Yes, this picture was actually taken today.

My Fargo has mainly seen commuting service lately, due to the wet weather having turned the forest trails into mud.



The afternoon was spent outside with the kids, until it started to rain around sunset.

Hopefully we get snow and colder temperatures soon...