Sunday, November 13, 2016

Tour de Kurjenrahka - Early Winter Edition

Just a few days into November the temperature suddenly dropped. After five days the ice on smaller lakes was just strong enough to open the Nordic skating season (the earliest ever for me). A little later it started to snow, though the amount of snow varied a lot locally. A bit further to the east enough to go skiing in the forest, and in Turku enough to get a wintry feel. Such an early start to the winter naturally had to be taken advantage of, and thus I went to the Vajosuo shelter on Friday evening to meet up with Toni.

We were to try the route I've coined Tour de Kurjenrahka. I first rode it on a fatbike in 2011 and have since skied it a few times and ridden it twice. It is a rare treat to be able to ride it on a fatbike. You need either a strong enough crust to ride on or the mires to be frozen without much snow. This time we didn't have snow, but there was the question if the mires would be wet enough to have ice on them, after an unusually dry fall.

I took the car to the Vajosuo parking space, which is just a few kilometers from the shelter.

The trail to the shelter.

I did a short detour onto the mire to see if it would be rideable, which turned out to be. There was less snow than in Turku,

Arriving at the shelter, the first thing to do was of course to start a fire.

The weather was cloudy, which was a shame since we were almost at full moon (a super moon that is biggest since 1948). Occasionally, the moon peaked through the clouds, though.

I made food and waited for Toni, though I had actually gone to sleep when he arrived a little after midnight.

I got up a little before eight in the morning, but let Toni sleep for another half hour,

Morning coffee.

Another check at the mire.

One of the things I did consider a lot was whether it was a good idea to ride the mires at all. With bikes you always have to consider to impact of the tires, much more so than when you are walking, since mountain biking is always under scrutiny. Looking at the tire tracks on the frozen mire I arrived at the conclusion that the impact was far less than a cloudberry or cranberry picker would make, and that is certainly socially acceptable. Walking would have been a far worse alternative, like this footprint made before we arrived shows.

My bike in winter mode. This is not the optimal winter bikepacking bike, mostly because there is no good way to attach gear at the fork, since it is made of carbon with no ready made attachment points. Also a rear rack would be better than a saddle bag. It could take a rear rack, though I haven't at least yet purchased one. I'm still waiting for Salsa or Surly (or why not someone else) to come out with a fatbike that takes tires wider than 5 inches.

The winter setup with 100 mm wide Clownshoe rims and 4.8" tires.

Mounting a light directly on the handle bar has the disadvantage that the handle bar bag blocks a lot of the light. The solution is to get the light a bit above the handle bar.

The 45NRTH Cobrafist pogies are excellent.

Toni discovers that the candy he intended to use for energy was almost totally gone. A mouse had disappeared with most of it.

Toni is ready and we got going a little before ten in the morning.

Toni's ITI tested setup.

The Vajosuo mire was quite easy to ride. There was enough wet places that had frozed solid.

Finding the route involved looking for as smooth lines as possible, mostly as wet places as possible. It was not a straight line, as shown in this picture of the route. (The return route is also shown).

A surprise. I had expected this grassy (which in this case means wet) section to be rideable, almost pure ice, but it was so dry that the nothing had frozen. This was one of the few occasions when we actually leaved some deeper tracks, in this case footprints.

Removing some clothes at a small island on Vajosuo. It was rather hard riding, after all.


About to leave Vajosuo. Though we stopped at the right place, it took some searching to find the ski route through the forest.

The ski route is not used during the summer, which shows.

A short section on small roads followed....

... before we arrived at the Kurjenrahka mire.

The first part of Kurjenrahka was quite easy to ride, with smooth ice sections, but that soon changed.

We eventually decided to push the bikes to the closest forest trail, since the mire was soft and unrideable at the route I had planned, a route that mostly goes on ice.

The trail was easy to ride and took us to the Lakjärvi shelter, where we had lunch a little before two in the afternoon.

Heating water...

... for the lunch. I've done enough sea kayak touring lately, where we make pizza and stuff, to consider this kind of food more a necessary evil than a culinary experience.

On the move again.

Crossing Lakjärvi. You should never take lightly on crossing ice that is not strong enough, but I was quite confident in the thickness of the ice this time. I also went first and had ice claws around my neck.

Lakjärvenrahka was not rideable, it never is. Lammenrahka was rideable for a short while in the lagg zone towards Huhtasaari.

Lammenrahka was to dry and hence too soft to be rideable.

We did actually find a track, either an old ditch or probably rather an animal trail, that had ice on the bottom of it, and could ride it across the mire, though the direction was not entirely correct. Some hardcore bushwacking followed...

... after which we arrived at the next mire.

It turned out to be rideable, but demanded quite an effort.

Using animal trails and some bushwacking got us to the final mire, Laidassuo, which also turned out to be rideable after a while.

There was still the possibility to get wet on the mire. Generally mires always contains spots that are weaker and that might even be completely open even in the winter.

The Laidassuo mire was occasionally a bit uneven,

... though there were smoother ice sections as well. Generally those sections went 90 degrees in the wrong direction, though.

I always have problems finding the desired place to get off the Laidassuo mire. There simply aren't any good reference points there and this time we left the mire 200 meters too early and had to get down on the mire again, before finding the correct place.

A trail section with a little road as well followed, before we could get back on the Vajosuo mire. After a while we arrived upon our own tracks and followed them back.

We arrived at the Vajosuo parking place around six in the evening, a little over eight hours since we started in the morning. We were both quite low on energy now, after a rather hard day. Toni still had 40 km of riding home on roads, but I gladly took the car home.

An excellent and quite hard outing, Thanks to Toni for the company.

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