Sunday, February 25, 2018

Nordic Skating is on

Finally the Nordic skating season has started for real, in conditions one can usually only dream about. The archipelago of soutwestern Finland is getting ice, and the area of new ice without any snow is growing rapidly in the current cold temperatures.

The skating season on lakes started in the beginning of January, but on lasted for a week or so, before we got too much snow.

There was even a little sea ice skating, before the snow prevented it.

Then we got snow, which is also very nice. The winter was late, but since it arrived it has been quite nice. The skating season, though, had a break of one month, but now it hasn't snowed any mentionable amounts for a week and the cold temperatures has frozen big areas on the sea.

A first reconnaissance a bit west from Turku was promising. Very smooth ice that at one point got to thin, but the ice grows quickly in temperatures close to -20°C.

Two days later I joined a Skrinnari (the Finnish tour skating association) tour west of Turku and we had mostly very good ice.

And then it happened. The Archipelago sea got ice. Since these are the waters I often do kayaking in, I had a special interest in this. A Skrinnari tour went there on Saturday. The weather was cold and a bit windy, but the sun was shining.

The landscape opened up nicely.

The ice was generally thick enough, but there were the occasional wind wells. Open ones can be seen easily, but newly frozen ones can be dangerous if one doesn't read the ice constantly.

Smaller cracks in the ice can easily be crossed.

Mostly fantastic ice.

A wider ice channel that could not be crossed.

Skating along the ice channel.

A little rock island gave shelter from the wind during a break.

Some sections of uneven ice.

A happy skater.

The skating version of rockhopping?

Snow flowers do not affect the skating.

Ice patterns.

Rounding up.

The weather continues to be cold, but the weather forecast has some snow in it for next weekend. While snow is extremely nice, I could do without it just this one time, since there should be skating possibilities in the outer archipelago soon with this cold weather, something that doesn't happen often. Too much snow would prevent that.

And a final caveat: If skating on natural ice interests, don't go out alone. People go through the ice and drown every year. Join a Nordic skating club and learn to do it safely. Clubs are available at least in Finland, Sweden and to some extent Norway.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Yet another winter overnighter

This time there was some colors, so it feels motivated to write a short blog entry about the outing. On Friday-Saturday night I made a fatbike overnighter to Vajosuo, which I'm making a video from. On Sunday-Monday night I went on another overnighter with the 12-year old.

We started at 17:15,  a little before sunset. The first section was about 1 km through forest.

After a while we came to the open Vajosuo mire.

Though the sun had set, there was at least some colors.

Snowshoe tracks.

A picturesque tree.

We arrived at the Rettu shelter at 18:30 and immediately started a fire.

Pizza for starters.

Pancakes for dessert.

Father and son.

The temperature was -11C when we went to sleep a little before ten in the evening.

We slept quite well and it wasn't cold in the sleeping bag, except for my toes that took a while to get warm. I got up and started a fire around 6:30. It was around -12C in the air.

One hour later the breakfast was done and I woke up the 12-year old. Coffee/hot chocolate and sandwhiches with bacon.

I'm quite fond of the Klean Kanteen bottles, which are made of steel. You can boil water in them on the fire.

The sun rose at eight in the morning. We've soon gained for hours of daylight since the winter solstice and the sun is now up for 9.5 hours.  It feels great to finally get the light back.

At 8:45 we got going again. The easiest way out on the mire again is by following a ditch. My intention was to go on the other side of the tree, since the ice on the ditch looked a little suspicious. The pulk, however, had a will of its own and I took a few steps back and also went down to the ditch. The ice broke under my skis, but I was fast enough not to get any water in the shoes.

The mire is opening up.

It was clearly a bit colder on the mire.

We skied back in the tracks of yesterday.

Ice in the trees.

The tree of yesterday.

Back in the forest and a selfie to show that I was there.

This trail had been walked on.

We were back at the car a little before ten in the morning and drove home. I went to work a little late, but I've done fairly long days lately, so it was worth it. This was a nice little overnighter again and the Kurjenrahka area really is a winter paradise currently.