Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The last overnighter of the winter

The crust conditions of last week's overnighter were fantastic. So good, in fact, that the thought of doing it again was inevitable. I studied the map and found a good route that would traverse four or five rather large open bogs in a circular manner. The crust is strong enough only in the open areas, hence the need for open terrain. The place is around here. In addition, I would estimate that snow crust strong enough for riding a bike only occurs once per three or four years and then only for a little over a week. The current weather forecast showed a time window of four more days for this. All this led me to take a vacation day off from work and go out riding.

I started from my home in Turku 17:00. Ahead of me was 40 km of mostly roads to the start of the crust riding. This took me almost 2.5 h. I had mostly head wind and the Pugsley is no racing machine on road.

Arriving at the start of the Vajosuo bog around sunset at 20:05 (I love daylight savings), I had some 700 meters of bike pushing through deep snow...

...until the bog opened up and the crust became nice and strong.

At first the back wheel broke through the crust a lot, but after releasing some air from the tire I stayed on top of it.

It got darker.

After crossing the bog there was a short bike pushing section before I arrived at the Vajosuo shelter, where I was to spend the night.

I started a fire to grill my delicious sandwhiches and to melt snow for drinking water.

I was in no hurry and went to sleep some time before midnight. The next morning I started to wake up when it got lighter around six o'clock. The thermometer showed -11ºC (12ºF).

The usual coffee and morning porridge. I always arrange the stuff I need in the morning to be at an arm's length from me. That way when I wake up I just put on the down jacket and keep the lower body in the sleeping bag, and can handle the breakfast while being totally warm and cozy.

My goal was to get going around sunrise (7:05) and I almost made it. The morning was nice and crisp.

I explored every corner of the bog.

Island hopping. I naturally had to check out the small island on Vajosuo as well.

Leaving Vajosuo. First some bike pushing through breaking crust...

... followed by a nice hard field...

... and finally almost 2 km of mostly rather hard bike pushing through deep snow.

Animal trail.

Finally the Laidassuo bog opens up for riding.

After Laidassuo there was again a short traverse to the next open bog.

I'm not sure about the name of this bog. It could be Lammenrahka, but the map is not clear on this.

I found a nice spot for making lunch. This time I tried a Blå Band meal. The list of additives was a bit long, but it tasted quite ok. It still had the freeze dried taste like all the other alternatives (except Real Turmat), but I could eat it again. My favorite outdoor meals are the ones from the Norwegian Real Turmat series, but most shops in Finland have stopped taking it in, since it is so ridiculously expensive. I also melted more snow for water, this time on the stove. The water melted on the open fire tasted rather smoky, a trait I like in a good Scottish single malt, but less so in water.

No lunch is complete without coffee. The filter thingy works great.

Yet another bog. Takaniitunvuori in the background, where many short breaks have been spent when riding in the summer.

The lake Lakjärvi.

Another lake, Savojärvi.

The last bog section, Kurjenrahka.

Only a short bit of bike pushing to a road the leads home.

Just 40 km of road riding back to Turku. The precipitation, which consisted of the entire spectrum between rain and snow, did not bother me much. I did ride a little too hard, in order to get home in time for my wife to go to her Tuesday hobby and not leave the kids home alone. When arriving I was somewhat nauseated and was probably pretty near a total bonk. Nothing that an hour of sleep and some food didn't cure, though.

A slideshow with more picture is found here.

And a video:

This concludes the winter season for me. It has been a fantastic winter, with the highlights being the full moon overnighter in February, the ice adventure and these two crust riding overnighters.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Snow crust riding

Last Sunday I was skiing in the Kuhankuono area and also checked out the possibility for doing an overnighter there on my fatbike. I found a few snowshoe trails and some old snowmobile trails which appeared to be (barely) rideable. The snow crust was much too soft for that to be an alternative, since there was some fairly fresh snow on top as well. The week continued a bit warmer with 7ºC (45ºF) on Tuesday. After that the temperature sank again and by Friday it was clearly below freezing and we even got some 5 cm of snowfall. Hence Friday evening seemed a good time for going out for an overnighter. The forecast promised clear weather with a night temperature of about -12ºC (10ºF). Originally I had toyed with the idea of riding to Kuhankuono on roads, maybe 2.5 h, but a strange stomach sickness and fever on Wednesday and Thursday left me weak enough to take the car there instead.

I arrived at the starting place a little over six in the evening. There was about
half an hour until sunset when I started riding. To my surprise, the crust actually was strong enough to ride on, something which certainly does not happen every year.

(Playing with the new wireless remote)

Underneath that crust is still about 50 cm of snow.

My camp site from five weeks ago. This was my first alternative for this trip as well, since I thought this was as far as I could get with two hours of hard work. There was some amount of wind, though, so I went to look for a more sheltered place.

A snowshoe trail through the Iso Välisaari island. I think it is safe to assume that I am the first one to ride a bike here. It was dark in the dense forest.

Almost one hour after sunset and still light enough too see without problems.

My other campsite alternative did not offer both protection from the wind and a view to the east for the sunrise, so I returned to the first one through a different route. By digging a hole in the snow for sleeping on the east size of the largish rock, I had a place fullfilling the two requirements. I made pancakes before going to sleep. For the first time I actually had some problems getting the stove, a Primus Gravity MF, to work with a gas canister due to the cold. By keeping the canister close to the flame it warmed up and started to work correctly. The reason for this was probably that the canister was less than half full. At least the temperature was not too cold, -12ºC (10ºF).

Good night!

I usually sleep very well outside, but not this time. My feet were quite cold and only when I removed the inner socks and had only thick ragg wool sock on I got the warmth back. The inner sock, which also were made of wool had obviously shrunk so much that they constricted my feet too much.

It started to get light before five o'clock in the morning, with the sunrise being at 6:15. My breakfast consisted of porridge and coffee, as usual. The quest for good coffee outdoors has yielded a French coffee press by GSI as the best solution when it comes to taste. It is not the lightest, though, and takes a bit of space. A coffee press made of unobtainium would be lighter and a lot more expensive, but still bulky. Now I tried the GSI Ultralight Java Drip, which weighs almost nothing and takes almost no space. The first impression is very promising.

Packed and ready to go by 6:30. It was about -10ºC (14ºF) in the air.

My plan was to explore every corner of the Kuhankuono bog, now that it was possible by riding. During the summer a large part is a wet peat bog, with some places totally impossible to traverse and except for a few trails with boardwalks a forbidden place.

I met a snowshoe walker and chatted with him for a while. The snowshoes were not really needed in this case, though.

The exploring continues.

I found lots of dead trees, and I guess a forest fire is the cause for this, probably a long time ago.

Double track.


Some melting already occurs.

When taking the previous picture I stepped through 30 cm of snow, followed by 30 cm of air and then some water. I did not check how deep the water was, but under the water is probably several meters of peat mud.

Lake Savojärvi.

I also chatted a while with a guy making ski tracks.

The inner of the Mustasaari island.

A final view before I returned to the car after riding for a little under three hours.

This was a worthy finale for the winter fatbiking season. The Pugsley has been exactly the kind of expedition capable winter bike I was looking for. I've practiced with it enough this winter to have the capability to do some more demanding trips next winter.

A slideshow with more pictures is found here.