Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Vigu Nordic Skating 2

Since taking the Vigu Nordic Skating 1 course a few years back, when I pretty much was a beginner, I've learned a lot. I feel pretty confident that I can read and assess the ice and skate safely in most situations, but when the ice gets thinner and weaker I've been careful. In practice this is the point when the ice pike goes through the ice, meaning that it is no longer fully safe. From that point on there is still some margin where it is possible to skate and this is what I hoped to get from the Vigu Nordic Skating 2 course, which finally took place last weekend.

We met on Friday morning i Ekenäs/Tammisaari to go through some theory and plan the skating of the weekend. Henrik and Danni were our instructors.

After checking out different sources for getting real information about the ice, we split into groups and went out to scout some different alternatives for the Saturday and Sunday skating. I went with Tjurre and Kim to check out the area north of the Hanko peninsula. In the beginning the ice was nice and even.

It didn't take long to arrive upon the first weak place. It was probably shallow at this place, since it wasn't that narrow a place.

We did a 12 km scouting trip and found ice of fairly varying quality. At this point we had to cross land, since the following strait was open.

For the most part the ice was quite ok.

There were weaker spots, though.

Before it got dark we trained going through the ice and up again. Not a big deal, since you always have to be prepared for it. If you go through the ice, the rucksack with spare clothes in a drybag keeps you floating high enough that it is easy to get up again using your ice prods. After that you simply change into your dry spare clothes, getting help from your buddies if necessary..

I went first.

Tjurre went totally under water.

Lone shows how to get up.

An interesting picture. It actually looks like a hole in the ice/water.

On Saturday we started from Bromarv.

Double ice. These darker spots should always be checked. There can be thin ice, double ice or both.

The archipelago in the winter.

Mia and Lone.

In this case the dark ice was weak.

And on we went...

... until we took a first lunch at Pettu.

We took turns leading the group. Part of the course content was leadership practice, but mostly we practiced assessing the ice.

Bypassing the ferry to Pettu on land.

Turning eastwards to Tenala.

At one point the ice started to make a peculiar sound. A quick blow with the ice pike showed that it wasn't yet alarmingly thin, but thinner. Even though the ice pike might not go entirely through, water sipping from the hole does give some indications. Jöns took a sample from it, shown later.

A bit later still the ice did become thin. Thin enough that I wouldn't have gone there before this course, unless it would have been really necessary. The ice pike went through fairly easily and the ice made a cracking sound under the skates, but this was what I had come to learn.

Jöns from Paddlingsfabriken with the ice sample. It's not visible from the picture, but the ice consisted of vertical pipes, much like in spring ice, frozen together at the top.

An area with stronger currents. This ice was 2-3 cm thick, to thin to carry a person.

A second lunch.

The rest of the day went mostly on thicker ice and even a small lake at one point. We skated a total of 37 km.

The plan for Sunday was to start from the Hanko peninsula and skate to Bromarv for a coffee break. It had snowed a little, which generally isn't a good thing on the ice, since it might make it harder to perceive visual cues about the ice.

The ice was still in good shape with only a small amount of snow on top.

Now it was becoming weak and we had to turn around and pass the section on land.

Åsa gets ready to test the ice on the darker area coming up.

Nice patterns on the ice.

The other group had deemed this place to weak, but we tried to cross it.

Now what? We did find a route across it safely.

No ice here.

Back on ice.

The Battle of Gangut (Gangut/Гангут is Hanko/Hangö in Russian) monument at Rilax. The battle took place on 27 July 1714 and was of great significance, since it was the first time Russia could get past the Hanko peninsula, which hade been successfully guarded by Sweden until then. At that time Finland was a part of Sweden. A period of unrest and plundering by the Russians followed.

Lunch break. Yours truly in the second picture.

We continued towards Bromarv.

A weaker section again, but there was no problem finding a route across it.

At Bromarv. I had hoped to find a Runeberg torte, since it would be a patriotic and cultural deed to eat one, but had to settle with what was available.

The return started with head wind, but after a while we changed direction and the wind no longer bothered us.

The return was uneventful and we took a slightly different route, where the ice mostly was stronger. The total of the day was 31.5 km, which isn't really that much, but the point of the course wasn't distance, but rather learning to assess the ice and deal with weaker ice, which I learned a lot about.

Thanks to everyone for the company, and the instructors for the teaching.

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