"Dreams are the touchstones of our characters" -David Thoreau

Monday, May 30, 2011

Whitewater Kayaking and a Dark Day of Climbing in Kotka


Last Thursday my friend Toby and I decided to head to some new crags that are being developed near Kotka and Hamina.  I was really excited as it is always fun to go to climb in new areas.  After a bit of a drive through the countryside we finally found the crags.  The first one was called Marjuvuori and presented some fine bushwhacking to get to it despite it only being about 500 meters from the road.  Once there we started climbing immediately.  Toby did a good ascent of this diagonal crack called Hirven Hönkä which looked reasonable.  While he was leading I was doing the mosquito dance as they were swarming me.

Once he was down it was my turn to lead.  The first 5 meters were very tricky.  I didn't even manage to barely get 2 or 3 meters above the ground and then fall on my first cam(a spring loaded device in a crack).  I was somehow so nervous that Toby noticed that I didn't even finish my double figure 8 knot to my harness.  What an idiot I was as it was a miracle that I didn't hit the ground!  Once I tied my knot properly, I fell three more times on the same cam.  I think the nerves got the best of me as I seemed to just try to reach and scramble instead of climb.  I decided to throw in the towel on that route.  We then went to look at this new unclimbed route.  It again had a very hard start with a hand jam crack.  It would be a first ascent if we could get up the thing.  I tried to get over my nervousness and tried first.  I managed to do a layback up the crack and place the first cam.  Then somehow I fell again as the rock was crumbling in my hand.  I tried again and managed to place a second cam a bit higher up the crux.  Then I fell again!  I tried to collect myself and tried one last time.  When I seemed to clear the second cam the top of the crux seemed in sight but my left foot slipped and had a good fall.  I threw in the towel again and Toby managed to lead it cleanly using my first two cam placements.

Then afterwards I was searching around and managed to climb a new route through this cave system sort of by accident.  I was just having a look and found it was easier to go up than down. Toby followed me up and we ended up on top of the crag.  Then we decided to bushwhack back to the car and head to the other crag.  Once there I tried to lead another route called Ähellys.  I managed the first section pretty easy but when I came to the crux I managed to get stuck with my chest between two walls!  I felt like a beached whale!  Pretty embarrassing but after a long while managed to place more protection and get out.  My nerves and confidence at this point were pretty low.  Even though the rest of the climb was easy I seemed to flop up the climb making the easy moves hard.

To add to the day I realized that somehow my GPS meter had gotten cracked.  The worst for me was still to come as on the way home I hit a bird while driving.  I felt sick and hope the poor guy died quickly as he was minding his own business before I came along.  What a dark and bad day of climbing for me.  Maybe one of the worst this spring with my bloody arms from falling so much and climbing like a whale... although the company of Toby was very nice as we had some interesting conversations and hope to go with him soon again.

On Saturday morning I went on a quick mountain bike ride with Christian.  It was good fun as we cruised around all the trails in the city.  We also found some new trails.  Afterwards Annina and I went for a nice walk through the marshes near our house.  It was fantastic weather and really nice scenery as everything is so green now.  Was also nice to see some more flowers out and about.  Really lucky with the weather as it was on and off all day.  Managed to go exactly when it was sunny as it was cloudy and cold before and after.

In the evening we went to Annina's brother's(Robert) new house and had a wonderful barbeque with his wife(Ellu) and daughter(Julia).  It was a fun evening as we first started with sushi and then barbequed!  The meat turned out fantastic and with a nice sauna completed the really relaxed evening.  It was unplanned but a really nice way to spend the saturday evening and hope to do it again soon.

Yesterday we decided to go whitewater kayaking near Kotka.  It was a really nice trip as when we arrived there, we were using another clubs summer house next to the river as base.  I have never been whitewater kayaking before so I was really nervous.  Once we started we paddled upstream through the rapids.  It felt as if I was just going to tip over all the time even from the smallest waves.  Once we got pretty far upstream near these large rapids the other guys started to play in the large standing waves that were1-2meters high formed from the rapids.  I finally got the guts and just plowed in and it was no problem.  After a few tries trying to surf on them all of a sudden I was upside down!  I tried to eskimo but didn't manage but managed on the second try!  =)  It wasn't so scary after all just kind of strange being upside down in big rapids!  So the rest of the day we just played in the rapids for many hours.  I flipped over maybe 7 times and the eskimo seemed to get easier and easier as time went.  By the end I was able to surf a bit and really enjoy myself until my arms could not paddle anymore.   Was pretty happy that I never had to swim from the kayak as two others did.  Seemed to go really well for my first time!  Once we went back to the cabin we had a nice sauna and made this huge dinner!  So fantastic.  Everyone was in a good spirits and we were laughing a lot and playing loud music.  Then we headed home in a sleepy relaxed mood.  A fantastic day and even though my ears were full of water it really made me smile.

Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for the next update! =)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mellunmäki and Suomenliina


My weekend started off a bit rocky as there was some problems at my work but then I went for a nice short ride with Annina.  We went down the Vaanta river a little bit and found this nice rock to enjoy  a cider.
 It was a welcome and nice relaxing break from the strange week at work.

The next morning on Saturday I woke pretty early and headed towards Mullunmäki to do some bouldering.  It was funny as I have never been there so I just punched in the coordinates in the GPS and just decided to see what happens.  I have never used it that way before but wanted to see how it worked.  I ended up on some pretty tiny roads and then when I looked around I was riding by some huge mansions!  Really strange as I had no idea that those neighborhoods existed over there.  Anyways by 'following' instructions from the device I ended up at the bouldering place.  Funny feeling about following the GPS as I felt out of control.  I decided from then on I will only use that function as a need to basis.  I guess I like the feeling of a traditional map and choosing my own way.

Once I arrived the place was filled with huge literal boulders in which the climbing problems existed.  I climbed 13 routes pretty quick and failed on two of them.  Most of the routes were graded 5 but I also managed two 6a's and twp 6b's to my suprise.  I was a bit nervous all the time because I was alone again without a crash-pad and there was some strange guy walking around the forest.  I wasn't really concerned about my safety but more about my belongings.  I think this was another reason I climbed so fast... also the 6b routes I didn't really mean to climb.  It sounds funny but I tried the opening moves then I realized I was pretty high up already and just decided to finish them off.  One interesting problem was called Reebus.

It was under a huge roof that was pretty easy but to get over the roof was very committing.  I decided that without a crash pad i just couldn't do it as there was a sharp rock below.  After about 15 tries I gave up on it and decided to head home and felt relaxed as soon as I left the area.


Later on in the day with a little bit of a rush I picked up Annina and we headed to the Merimelojat clubhouse for the 80th year birthday party of the club.  It was a bit funny as we arrived 1 hour late but luckily my friend Juha saved us seats.  We spent the night chatting away with Juha's little sister and girlfriend.  After some dancing the fire alarm went off.  When the firemen came apparently they were trying to film some reality tv show.  It was a bit funny somehow.  Anyways after some more drinks and a nice evening we headed home on the bikes. 

The next day we decided to head to Suomenliina.  It was really nice once we got there.  For some reason the Seagulls were incredibly aggressive.  It took us nearly 1 hour to find a place from the seagulls and wind.  We finally found a place that was somehow a dip in the land where there was no wind.   It was so warm as we baked in the sun for the next hours.   It was a pretty fantastic day as we just relaxed and watched the Kingfishers fish all day.  Then when it was time to go I accidentally found a whole new part of the island!  It is crazy as I have been there countless times but never had been to that part.  We walked around a bit there and it felt kind of strange because there was almost no people there.  Really crazy but really nice!  Then we sort of ended up by accident in the dry docks.  Pretty cool but I don't think we were supposed to really be there.  What a nice day!

Yesterday was kind of boring, but cool at the same time because of a botched boat building project was given to me.  I cut it down yesterday to make a small usable motorboat.  Then next step will be to get it to the summer cottage...Fun fun!  My hamstrings were crazy sore as well... I guess I ended up riding about 100km on my mountain bike this last week only just riding around.  Not very far but since I have been off the bike for a long time it is okay.  Now I just need to ride more!  Overall the weekend was a funny one but really nice!  This week will be more kayaking and climbing!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kayaks and Rocks

Hello again!

The week began with quite a celebration as the Finnish hockey team came home.  100,000 people flocked to the streets to great the team.  We decided to stay at home to avoid the chaos and to actually see something.  It was quite impressive.

They seemed to really enjoy themselves as they paraded around town.  With hockey meaning so much to Finnish people it was quite a sight!  The president also came over and congratulated them and presented them with a card from some children.  Really nice! =)  They sure played their hearts out this year as every game they came from behind to win!  They never gave up and kept the fighting spirit!  Anyways congrats to them again! =)

The next day after work I headed straight to Meilahti to do some bouldering.  It was pretty fantastic place as I have never been there before.  The wall is pretty high at nearly 8 meters so I had to take my time and be careful as I was alone.  I managed three routes, one which was quite interesting with a small roof to climb over. 
 They were all pretty difficult but managed to work out the moves and got to the top.  The climbs were rated 5c, 5c, and 5a.  Had a pretty good time and then immediately after went to help teach a kayak class at our club Merimelojat.

I felt a bit funny as all the instruction was in Finnish, so I was just kind of checking all the time that people didn't tip over and help keep together.  We went for a small tour around the local island.  We went ashore and had a talk about gear and safety things.
Afterwards we practiced the sea rescue techniques.  Since I have never done them, they also said I have to participate.  At first they said I wouldn't have to go swimming if I could do the eskimo.  I did the eskimo(flipping back over without getting out of the kayak) no problem but then a few minutes later they made me go swimming anyways.  I felt a bit funny tipping over on purpose and getting out, so instead I just jumped out.  The water was freezing!  It went well though and with a little help managed to get back in okay.  Everyone else also managed.

The next day we focused on kayak polo(similar to regular water polo but with kayaks) techniques.  After we got started I was just going around again making sure noone tipped over and if they did help them.  I wasn't really paying attention then somehow I managed to flip over myself!  hehe.  It took me a second as I had the paddle in one hand but managed the eskimo again no problem.  Glad that Juha has taught me so well!  Then afterwards we had a mock polo game which was pretty fun.  Three new people tipped over but they just swam ashore no problem as we wer quite close.  In the end it was really nice to get back in the kayak and can't wait for next week when we start to play again!

In the evening at home we noticed a pretty funny things happening.   A plant was growing from our drain!  hahahaha!  =)  Really funny.  Maybe we should keep watering it!

Well in any case it has been an interesting week so far with water and rock.  This weekend there is no plans yet but I am sure there will be some adventure!  Thanks for reading and stayed tuned!  Take care!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sea Island and World Championship Hockey


The weekend began by picking up Robert and heading west under the looming clouds to Kasnäs.  The drive was a short 2.5hour journey which took us across one fairy to another large island.  We finally arrived in Kasnäs after a quick stop for food in a nearby town.  The weather was pretty atrocious and really windy so we met Hefe and went for a quick beer and watched a small section of the Finland-Russia hockey game.  Hefe is the one we were helping on his island and a professor at our school.

After feeling a bit goofy after one beer we loaded the boat full of supplies and took off.  It was a short 4km ride but it was so windy we had to sit on one side of the boat to balance it as the waves crashed into the side.  

We continued crashing through the waves and darkness until we reached his island in the sea.  It was a welcome respite to see very nice prominent buildings standing on the island.  Both Robert and I had packed our camping gear but lately even though the main house is not ready they prepared the small shed for us to sleep in.  Even though the shed is quite new it already had a lot of character especially as it seemed like every corner was jammed with little wooden boats.  Really gave the feeling that we were out at sea.  After all we were so..  Then after a quick tour of his island I immediately was drawn to the next island where there stood some pretty high sea cliffs.  After the tour with the wind flapping madly at the island we decided to turn in and wake up early the next morning.  Was also nice to hear the new that we had won the game against Russia.

The next morning we woke quite early to a pretty frigged shed and hard rain outside.  We ate some breakfast quickly and Hefe headed to town to get some concrete.  Robert and I Dreaded going outside in the cold drizzle... After all in the middle of the night I saw it was snowing.  Once we got going though it didn't seem like such a problem as I even managed to enjoy a cold break in the rain and watch the sea.

Once we finished up these doors we were supposed to fix we started drilling holes in this rock for the windmill we were helping to install.  The rain was relentless and we started to get colder and colder but we managed to make a cement form near the shed anyway.
Once we finished up the forma we put it in place and awaited the concrete.  Once it arrived we started mixing the  stuff up.  When it was raining it seemed like the concrete just went everywhere including  all over us.  With Hefe being his usual self we managed to pour 6kilos of concrete and by the time we were all said and done the day seemed to have passed as we did lots of small chores between.  Robert and I managed to find this Kerosene heater and we passed the night away drinking a few beers and chatting.

The next morning Hefe was in a rush to get a trial run of the heavy pole up for the windmill so we decided to give it a go.  We ended up building this big A frame contraption and an elaborate pulley system.  
At some point we had the pole quite high but with the concrete still wet the enormous weight shifted the block.   So we quickly lowered the pole and took the boards off to find that Hefe had placed stones in the bottom.  This made it so that the concrete didn't bond to the rock.  So the rest of the day we dedicated to fixing the block.  By the time we were done it was time to call it a day.  With a less eventful journey back to shore and a quick look at the climbing cliffs we headed back to Helsinki.  Once home it was a short break before the Finland-Sweden Final hockey game for the World Championship started.  It was fantastic as they really played their hearts out and won 6-1.  Really fantastic to see!  Congrats to them as they really deserved it!!

With such a happy mood filling Monday it was time for me to start my kayak season as we have a few training sessions in the next days.  Overall it was another fantastic weekend and quite an interesting one at that!  Thanks for reading and look for my next update!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Beginning of summer!


I was supposed to go to the island I was talking about in the last post it was postponed until this coming weekend.  So instead my weekend was filled with lots of social activities.  First was Annina's niece's 2nd birthday.  It was fun as we had fantastic food and was nice to visit with her family.  Then immediately after the party we went to Annina's half sister Heli's 30th birthday party.  We didn't know many people there but it turned out to be a fantastic evening.  I guess this is in part due to the 30 bottles of champagne they had there.  =)  So it ended up being a pretty long but nice evening.  The next day Annina's mom and Pekka came over for dinner.  We made them some twice baked potatoes which they seemed to enjoy.  Overall it was a really nice weekend. 

On Tuesday I woke up early and started driving north with Christian to Annina's family summer cottage.  We first took a detour and went for a nice climb at this 25m (82ft) wall near Lahti.  It was an interesting place as the routes looked really impressive.  The first route was a nice slabby route that looked really easy.  Somehow I managed and ended up at the top and almost getting a cam stuck in a crack.  The next route called Taisteluplaneetta Galactica (VS) was really strange and interesting looking.  The route started with a big overhang and a large crack.  At first it looked really hard.  It was a bit scary to make the moves underneath the roof but managed to somehow get through them after doing the splits.  once over the roof it was fairly clear sailing to the top.

With the time going quite fast we did two other fairly easy routes with Christian seconding all of them quite okay.  We then decided to head to the cottage as it was still a small drive away.  As soon as we arrived it was really nice to see the open water.  Last time we were there it was still iced over and it definitely looked different.  We were starving since we hadn't really eaten anything yet in the day so we grilled courtesy of Christian some corn, potatoes, and a nice slab of meat. 
It was a fantastic lunch.  Then afterwards we did a few chores around the cottage and christian attempted to go fishing.  He found some worms and tried with no luck.  I had a different strategy and just threw a fish trap from shore.  I am a horrible fisherman so this was the best strategy for me.
After placing the trap we decided to start up the sauna and put the dock in place.  It was a bit funny putting the dock in until Christian's camera fell over and the lens broke.  It was very unfortunate as his camera is pretty expensive.  Luckily it was only the lens that broke and not the whole camera.  With a sullen mood we went for a quick row in the boat and then we headed for the sauna.  It was really fantastic as we were able to jump from the dock and start enjoying summer! 

With the day winding down it was time to head home.  It was funny as I had forgotten that I had thrown in the fish trap.  When I pulled it out we found two small fish there.  They were so small we just let them go.  I haven't used the trap very much but I guess it works pretty good! =)As soon as we left the cottage we saw a moose in the trees.  =)  Was funny as it's been awhile since I have seen a moose.  Christian was exhilarated as it was the first moose he had seen in the wild.  Was quite funny but really nice. 

The day was really nice and we were pretty tired at that point.  On the way home we stopped at Tähtihovi to have a look at the last sun of the day.  We finally arrived home after a pretty full day of excitement.  This next weekend will be interesting as I will really go to the island and do some work.  Should be interesting camping on the sea island!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the weekend report! =)

 Anyone interesting in this blog in German please go to Christian's blog here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Climbing, Running, Mountain Biking, and Snakes

Hello again!

This week has been full of lots of outdoor activities. Firstly on Monday after finally recovering from Vappu I went out for a nice climb at Rollarit with Johannes. It was a great time as I managed two pretty new hard sport route graded 6a. It was very productive and felt really good. I also managed to lead another E1 5b called 'Hanging Man'(E1 means it is very hard to protect). It was pretty scary as I had to make a very committing move over a small roof in the rock and had to climb pretty high above the last protection. Although I managed to place 2 cams in the roof it was pretty scary.

The next day Annina and I went for a run in Palohienä. We ran a nice 7km loop in a little over an hour. We walked about half of it but it was really nice to run through the forest and look at all the new flowers and such. Was surprised to find some snow still on the ski path too! Craziness

The next day Annina and I went climbing at this new place for us called Tussenkoski. It was a really nice crag. Really funny features as there were these little round pockets into the rock which gave fantastic hand and foot holds. It almost looked like the surface of the moon.=) I managed to lead two fairly easy routes and then Annina easily climbed both afterwards. The second route up this wide crack i think she even made it look easier than when I did it! hehe

Yesterday I woke up pretty early to go climbing at Jaanankallio with Johannes. After finally managing to wake up we managed two nice routes I had climbed the week before. Although they were the same it felt a lot more comfortable leading them. Then on the walk out I noticed that the grass was moving next to my foot. I first thought it was a siisilisko but then realized that the movement was too smooth. I jumped out of instinct and realized it was a black Adder. I tried to take a picture with my phone quickly but it was too quick and swam across a small creek and burrowed into the grass mat. Crazy as it is only the second snake I have seen in Finland! Good thing I had good boots on!
Later in the day I found out Christian came back from Germany so we decided to do some mountain biking. We rode out to Paloheinä to do a quick lap of the Scandinavian championship course from 2006 in which I placed 12th. There were not many racers but the level was pretty high.

Was fantastic and felt really good and a bit nostalgic. Not as light as i used to be but still was able to roll pretty fast. Felt a bit funny also wearing baggy shorts and coat. =)
Might start biking a bit more again! Was surprised to have so much fun with it!  Christian seemed to have fun also despite having a few mishaps.  We managed a quick 27km with fantastic weather.  Well in any case this weekend will be interesting as I head to the west coast to a small island to do some work. The weather looks good. Thanks for reading and look for the post about the island! =)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vappu, Royal Wedding, and a First Climb

Hello again!

The week ended with the Royal wedding which I somehow ended up watching even though I said I wouldn't.  It was a bit funny as it seems like a whole different world that the royalty live in.  Would be nice in some ways but then again you could never do what you wanted and how you wanted. 

So later on Friday afternoon Annina and I went to this little cliff that I found the other day and cleaned some new routes.  They are small highball bouldering problems that have some nice white granite with some funny features.  Anyways after I did a first ascent Annina climbed the same route after me.  Then since it was a first ascent(never climbed before) I decided to name it Kate and William as they were married that day.  Was somehow a good name.  Then I managed a more difficult route which I named 'Bumpy Road' due to the huge lump in the middle of the climb.  It felt pretty nice to do some new routes.  Also managed a third very easy route which we named 'Big Steps'.  It was a overall a pretty exciting day with the wedding and doing my first official climb.

The next morning I woke bright and early to meet my friend from Sweden Johannes(Juppe) to go for a quick climb at Rollarit.  It was pretty nice weather as I managed to lead the route Rullaportat in which I got stuck 2 weeks ago.  It was nice to get that out of the way.  Then I managed one new lead called Kaatunut Koivu in which wasn't very hard but there was a awkward hanging position in which I was way above the last protection.  There was a good ledge to mantle to so instead of fiddling with somewhere to put a cam I just decided to mantle the ledge.  It wasn't maybe the best idea as the last protection was halfway down the wall but I trusted my hands and legs and then all of a sudden was at the top.  Really weird climb but okay.  Then I was about to attempt another climb when all of a sudden the sky opened up with a lot of hail.  We quickly went under a rock packed up and called it a day.

Since Saturday was Vappu eve as soon as I got home I opened my first beer of the day of many to come.  The weather was quite crap as it seemed to change every five minutes.  Annina and I eventually crawled out of our house and headed downtown to meet Swiss friend Rafi and his mate that were visiting for the weekend.  We waded though thousands of people to try and get a better view of the Havis Amanda hat giving ceremony.

The air was filled with a party atmosphere as I had my backpack full of beer.  There were funny costumes and even though there were thousands of people I kept bumping into people I knew.  Such a small world after all.  It was a bit of nostalgia as we walked around Helsinki Annina, Rafi and his friend.  We continued talking and drinking the night away.  We eventually went to visit their hotel they were staying at.  Then at some point after a beer to many it was time to go home.

The next morning I woke with a terrible headache and felt awful.  I think it was one of the worst hangovers I have ever had.  Maybe i am just getting old... hehe.  Anyways we were supposed to go downtown and have a picnic with the other thousands of people but at least I couldn't manage to do much.  We then tried to go to the store to buy some food but realized it was closed.  Then we decided to really stay home and just relax.  Our little picnic was a quite short one but we ventured out onto the porch and ate some strawberries from Spain.
The weather was still very cold and sometimes raining, snowing, and just sunny.  Really weird weather.  Then we decide to go go for a nice stroll down our local sea shoreline.  It was really pretty at least and I saw the first 'King Fishers' this spring which is my favorite sea bird.

They are incredible at catching fish and are really fun to watch.  Would be nice to have their exceptional vision.  I didn't manage to get a picture of them since they are so quick but maybe sometime.  Then I had a nice Skype conversation with my parents.  Oh do I ever miss home even more.  All in all the weekend was a funny and strange one.  Definitely one to remember.  Will be waiting for the next Vappu as each one seems to bring some great memories.  Thanks for reading and until next time!