Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Snow crust overnighter

The winter has moved on and I have been slightly limited by my frostbitten toes. Skiing puts too much pressure on the still not completely healed parts and thus I have only been on a single overnighter on skis. Bike riding works better, and when the conditions suddenly seemed very promising for rideable snow crust, I had to get out. Strong snow crust usually demands great temperature differences between night and day and does not happen every year. In fact, just two week earlier I did an overnighter in the area on skis and sank straight down through the snow, so things have changed rapidly. The weather forecast showed a window of maybe three or four days of possible snow crust and I seized the opportunity.

On Sunday afternoon at 16:35 I started riding from my home. I would have liked to set out a little earlier, since the sunset was at 18:11, but could not get away. I had about 37 km of riding along mostly small roads to get to my starting point, the Vajosuo bog.

I started to get closer a while after the sunset. The temperature rapidly sank, from having been slightly below freezing to about -10C.

I got out on the bog and confirmed that the crust was indeed strong enough.

After a while I found a good place to set camp. I had actually intended to test my new Alpkit Rig 7, but ultimately decided to just roll out my sleeping pads in the snow to enjoy the surroundings even better. There was no wind and no risk for precipitation (snow), so the tarp would not have added any value. I ate my sandwhiches with a cup of hot chocolate. Life was good.

The night was crisp and clear, with the moon being a few days from being full. The night was also very quiet: No owls, no wolves and no black grouse.

The following morning was a little colder than forecasted at -16C, but still not cold enough to start making things difficult. I just ate a very quick breakfast, with sandwhiches and real French dark roast coffee, for which I used hot water from a thermos bottle. My sleeping place opened up to the east.

Walking through breaking crust before getting out in the open, where the crust was strong enough for the bike. I got going around 7:30 in the morning, a little after the sunrise.

The Vajosuo bog.

Riding into the sun.

The burning bush.

I haven't learned to identify animal tracks with certainty, but I think it is safe to assume that there were a bunch of wolf tracks on the bog, based on the size of the tracks and the weight of the animal. A lynx weighing at most 30 kg would not break through the crust.

Nice ice crystals.

Big Fat Larry track.

Ski tracks.

Most of the wet places on the bogs currently seemed to be frozen, but I didn't push my luck.

Yet another bog pine.

Three different modes of transportation. Skating on XC skis is great fun, as is a fatbike, but the snowshoes seem a little unnecessary on this hard a surface.

Occasionally I broke though the crust.

The side of the Cokin filter box is about 65 mm. I guess from the size of it, this should be a wolf track.

Just riding along.

At some time after ten in the morning I took a second breakfast with coffee and some cookies. I also melted snow to fill my water supply (0.75 liter thermos bottle, 0.75 liter insulated bottle and 1 liter bottle).

It was quite warm and nice in the sun. The temperature was now about -9C.

A quick field amputation is the only possibility...

I continued to ride. but a little after noon the crust started to get soft and I started to break though more often.

Finally, I left the Vajosuo bog for some trail riding.

I rode a small road section to the Kurjenrahka bog, to find that the crust was too soft there as well. There were however some snowmobile trails to ride there. After a while it was time for lunch and a decision. The lunch was nice, but it was with some regret that I decided to head home in the afternoon. The original plan was to be out one more night. Toni was to join me in the afternoon, but I had to call him and tell him that I was heading home. My frostbitten toes are still a source of some uncertainty, and I did not want to risk prolonging the healing process. The problem is that I still don't feel whether they are cold or warm, which isn't really an optimal situation when the following night is forecasted to be quite cold.

I headed home and rode 40 km in a little less than three hours on smaller and bigger roads. I was home at 17:30 after a rather exhausting last section.

All in all, a rather nice outing again.

And a short video:

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