Sunday, February 22, 2015

Vajosuo Beer Ski 2015

After last week's excellent ski overnighter I wanted the winter to continue and do more skiing. The weather however turned from great to miserable to worse and in Turku the snow season was definitely over. I still thought that the Kurjenrahka National park 25 km north of Turku would have enough snow and decided to go on a ski overnighter, quite possibly the last one of the winter. Jarkko and JJ joined me.

It certainly didn't look like skiing would be possible and it was just when we arrived to Kurjenrahka that there was enough snow. We unloaded our gear from the cars and got ready to start.

It turned out that there was enough snow for skiing after all. We started in the prepared ski track, which had been made for the 40 km skiing event the week before.

Soon we started to choose our own route, though.

The skiing was actually quite good and it seemed the snow had hardened a little, even though the temperature was still just above freezing. At one point we made a slight orienteering mistake, which had us skiing 300 m from our route in the forest instead of the open mire, even though we did arrive at the intended location. We skied the last kilometer over open mire without using our head lights and saw just enough to arrive at the Vajosuo shelter after 8.5 km and a little under three hours, where we immediately started a fire.

The evening went eating, talking and drinking a little beer. It was almost two o'clock before we went to sleep.

I had a new air mattress, the NeoAir XTherm Regular, and was really warm and cozy, despite only having my 600 g summer sleeping bag. The temperature was just above freezing. Jarkko got up at seven in the morning and started a fire. I got up at 7:30.

The breakfast was excellent with coffee and toasted sandwhiches. Beats porridge any day.

Sometime before nine in the morning we got ready and started skiing.

The snow was now a little softer than in the evening and the open mire had less snow than it had seemed in the darkness.

I still used my pulk, even though a backpack would be enough for a small overnighter. A pulk is so much more comfortable to have, though.

All three of us had forest skis, mine were 270 cm long. I think this was a good choice now that the snow was soft and there was now and then slush and water on the bottom.

Jarkko has a green sack with his sleeping bag on the backpack.

Otherwise the colors on the mire were somewhat less cheerful.

Yours truly, Photo by Jarkko.

An elevated ski track. A really good idea, maybe the shoes will stay dry.


Jarkko's backpack lacks a color.

Another picture of me by Jarkko.

We checked out the small island on the Vajosuo mire.

There was water under the snow.

Following the snow mobile made ski track to see the new route from the mire,

On the Kurjenrahka mire. Soon Jarkko noticed that his backpack was missing something.

The snow was now clearly softer and it was rather wet at some places.

The final stretch before arriving at lake Savojärvi.


 We arrived at the parking place after a little under three hours and 8.5 km again. We now needed to retrieve Jarkko's sleeping bag, which we based on the photos in my camera had located to be somewhere in the middle of the Vajosuo mire. I let Jarkko off close to the norther side of the mire, while I continued to the southern side and parked the car 1.5 km from the mire. I skied a little faster and found the missing sleeping bag in the middle of the mire. The green color had a slightly different hue than the other green stuff on the mire.


We then skied to the car. This gave an additional 5 km of skiing.

That's it. A nice overnighter and in all likelihood the last one on skis this winter, at least the way it looks now. The winter has been miserable again, but I think I got the most out of it with four weekends and four outings with at least one night out. From a fatbike point of view the winter has been totally useless, though, with only a few really good days. I guess the kayaking season starts soon...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Levaneva Ski Overnighter

In the middle of February the schools have their spring break, which in Finland is timed to the statistically probably best winter week. I took a few days off from work and went with my family to visit the kids' grandparents in Ostrobothnia. The weather forecast was also wintry enough that I brought some skiing gear with me. A short skiing overnighter to Levaneva, which I've previously visited once by bike, was planned. I tried to get some fellow Vigu students with me, but still ended up going alone.

I started skiing around sunset at five in the afternoon on Saturday and immediately started skiing on the open mire.

The light was quite dramatic with very dark clouds in the west.

I had a tent and the rest of my gear in my pulk, which I much prefer compared to carrying a backpack.

A selfie.

In the other direction the sky had a different color.

There wasn't much snow on this part of the mire, but it was packed very hard and the skis stayed on top of it.
It got darker. The orienteering was becoming difficult, since I hadn't remembered my compass. About two hours after the sunset it was dark enough to make using the map without a compass difficult, and I had to check my smartphone GPS now and then. I first checked out a possible tent spot just outside the nature reserve, but discarded it since it was not scenic enough and instead continued to a laavu shelter. (As a sidenote, there is a really good free offline topographical map over Finland, which works very well with the Android OruxMaps app).

The mire and the occasional small waterbodies were mostly frozen and safe. On one occasion I actually came upon an open one, but detected it two meters before getting wet. The final approach to the shelter also crossed some ditches and I almost got wet once.

My surprise was big when I arrived at the shelter after 10 km and three hours and found no laavu there. Instead there was this small shed there, which was open for occasional overnighters. I generally prefer to sleep in a more open shelter like a laavu, or in a tent or just a bivy bag, but this one looked quite cozy and I decided to stay there.

There was a small stove in there...

... and a table with chairs.

I made pancakes, the most noble of outdoor food.

The stove was nice, but didn't actually make the shed any warmer, since it was not very tight and the warmth soon disappeared. I slept on the loft and was happy for my winter sleeping bag.

The next morning all the water in the shed had frozed solid and it was surprisingly cold, about -10C inside. According to the closest weather station it had been -19C during the night.

It was a splendid morning...

... especially after the morning coffee.

The shed and the sunrise.

Excellent and crisp weather.

Animal tales.

It was excellent skiing and the skis stayed on top of the snow.

Remnants of the summer, a cloudberry leaf.


Mire trees.

The next mire is visible behind the trees.

Finally some other tracks. I was quite surprised that the area seemed to be so little frequented.

Yet another selfie.

My waxless Fischer E-77 skis from the end of the nineties still work very well. Some people say waxless skis only give a good grip for a few years, but I disagree. I still have excellent grip with these skis, and they certainly have seen action, having been my skis for if necessary almost snowless conditions for many years now.

I got through the small forest section and only had one kilometer of mire left. The Paris Expedition pulk also work very well. It is big enough for about a week of self supported solo trips and very light. The Ikea bags work surprisingly well, but are not waterproof. For a longer trip I would probably back them up with some sort of ground cloth or similar. I've also contemplated getting the Fjellpulken poles for it, but I don't think anything is better than just ropes for going on ice and flat mires.

There was another shelter 600 m from where I parked the car. It probably would have been an excellent place for the night, but it would have felt stupid to be so close to the car.

I skied about 10 km and a little less than three hours in the morning and got back in time for my mother's lunch. An excellent overnighter again and a good way to make the best of the winter, which might not be here for long.