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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Our Christmas at the Cottage


We headed to the summer(winter) cottage for the Christmas holidays.  It was just Annina and I, but we had six days off so we decided to spend a quiet Christmas at the cottage.  Although we were a bit bummed since I had lost my camera we still managed to get some pictures from our cell phones.  We also got some nice videos from my helmet cam which I will try to make some compilation sometime this next week.

In any case when we arrived it was a balmy -19'C(-2'F).  We skied in like normal except the sled this time must have weighed 100kg(220lbs)!  I am not sure but it was pretty heavy as we had all the Christmas food, Christmas decorations, and loads of wine and beer for six days.   Overall though it wasn't too bad and after 4 or 5 hours we got the house warmed up.  We immediately cut a Christmas tree from the forest and set it up.  It was fun as we found a very nice tree and we had enough decorations to decorate it.  =)   
Then the next days seemed to pass by fast before Christmas.  We skied on the lake everyday and it was fantastic!  We also made a gigantic snow angel on the lake from our ski tracks.  The ice was surprisingly rather thick as two weeks before the ice was only 4cm(1.6").  Now it was 25cm(9.8") and really hard.  It was so hard that the ice drill had a hard time to penetrate the ice.  We also found that the wolves had come back for the winter.  I tried tracking them a few times as they made fresh footprints every night.  One day it was interesting as there were fresh sets of moose tracks and the two wolves were tracking the moose.  I didn't go to far but followed the track for awhile on my skis. Someday I hope to catch a glimpse of them!  The neighbor saw them once last winter so hopefully! It was good fun and it was fantastic weather!  It was the first time we had seen the sun in over three weeks!  It was a bit funny though as we had to ski to the other side of the lake to get any sun.  At noon the sun was barely above the trees.  Then at 12.40 or so the sun set.  It was fantastic while it was up!  

Then just before Christmas day we made a nice Gingerbread house from scratch.  It was good fun as I haven't made one for many many years.  Then for Christmas eve dinner instead of the traditional ham we made a nice beef roast.  We also added some spruce to the roast for a nice flavor.  It turned out to be awesome and was very good.  We also had made the traditional Christmas porridge for the morning.  Every day we made the sauna and it was the same on Christmas day.  We made the sauna listened to Christmas music and drank Glög(Hot mulled wine).  It was very relaxing.  It was a perfect Christmas.  Then it seemed that the six days just whizzed by and it was time to go.  We packed up full of good memories and food and headed home.

Overall we were very lucky with the weather and it was just wonderful to spend Christmas at such a special place.  I sure miss all of my family though and hope soon that I could spend Christmas with them again.

Then last Friday after we had come back Juppe and I headed to Solvalla(Nuksio) to do some ice climbing.  There was some nice easy ice falls to climb and the ice in general was pretty okay although a bit fragile due to the big temperature changes.  Even though I had finally got a new camera I didn't take it but Juppe got some nice pics from his cell phone.  It was a fun day and can't wait to get out again!

Thanks for reading and I wish everyone a happy new years!  It sure has been an interesting year in 2012!  All the best to everyone in 2013!  Take care and stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Snowy Weekend at The Summer Cottage


Last weekend Annina and I headed to the summer cottage for a four day weekend.  This was due to Finland's Independence day on Thursday and then we both took Friday off from work.  When we arrived on Thursday morning we found surprisingly that there was not too much snow and we were barely able to drive the car in.  We decided to watch the weather very carefully so we did not get stuck at the cottage.  After about 4 or 5 hours we finally warmed the house well and settled into watching the Independence Ball.  It is held every year at the presidents palace and usually most Finns watch it.  I was surprised we were able to watch it on my phone live!  It was a funny feeling sitting next to the fireplace but was nice to see it and gave the feeling of Independence day.

The next morning it started to snow heavily so we quickly moved the car out and then had to ski back to the cottage with the sled.  We were just in time as the bottom of the car was dragging the whole way out.  Good thing we have good spiked tires!  When we came back I made a nice ice hole in the lake.  The ice was fairly thin at 4cm and you could here it crack when I was standing on it.  So we made the hole very close to shore in a hope of swimming later while in the sauna. Each evening though while we were in the sauna the weather was very windy and snowy so we passed the swimming up.  In the end I ended up just jumping in the snow instead to cool off!

The days seemed to fly by and we skied in the days and had look around the forests close by.  We were looking for signs of the wolves that were there last year but we didn't find any tracks.  We didn't see many animals around except a funny flock of birds and a funny looking squirrel.  Even though we didn't do that much during the time the main goal of the day was to cook dinner and warm the sauna.  So simple and nice.  We even managed to smoke a Norwegian Salmon one evening.  mmmm.   The time zipped by way to fast and then it was time to pack up and go home.  It had snowed almost 25cm (almost a foot) or so since we had come. Luckily I had my expedition sled so we stuffed it and headed out.  When packing up the car the local farm dog sort of snuck up on us and gave us a funny visit.  She was very kind and inquisitive and gave us a goodbye.

It was a wonderful and much needed relaxing weekend.  We plan to return for Christmas and spend it there.  Should be fun as we plan to decorate the place and cook a grand meal.  We already have started by decorating with porch lights.  Can't wait and I am sure there will be more adventures between now and then!  The rest of the pictures are below!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cassin X-All Mountain Pick Review

picture from www.backcountry.com
The Cassin All-Mountain Pick paired with a Cassin All-Mountain axe is great.  I had a solid season last winter on one set of picks.  I was surprised at their durability as they are a B-rated pick.  I climbed everything from WI5 to M6+.  They were just as adept on rock as on ice.  On cold hard ice there is nothing that can beat them!  Also they were great on thin sheets of ice where delicate one time placements were necessary.  They are a dream on all kinds of ice.  The only downside is that you have to be careful not to bash rock too much as they dull fairly easy.  Overall though a great reliable pick with a great value!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winter Arrival and Fun Times


Winter has finally set in and we finally got a blanket of snow all in one day. It dumped about a foot to a foot and a half of snow.  Is pretty awesome feeling that winter has finally come as the scenery is that muich brighter now. Last Thursday Juppe and I sampled the first part of winter. Was an awesome night of climbing as I managed to lead my overhanging project which I graded as M6+ due to the pumpy difficult roof crux at the top. I named it Truck Stop due to the large cave and ledge at 2/3 height. It is an awesome route and was nice to finally lead it and was protected mostly with small wires. Would be nice to climb it again sometime in the daylight when I can see everything. We also led another easier route that was about M4. Pretty basic off-width crack but hard to protect and took awhile.  Good fun and was a nice evening!
Me on Truck Stop M6+
Juppe climbing M4

On Saturday morning I awoke with a small hangover from the Christmas party from my work and headed out for a ski with Annina. We went straight from the house and went around through the forest next to the sea and by the horse farms. It was a kick as it felt awesome to be cruising around on skis.  It was also nice to see our new area in the winter which looks completely different.  Was beautiful and felt like Narnia as we cruised around the forest on our rock skis.
Annina in Narnia!

The next day Johan and I headed out to another crag to check the ice conditions. After a hefty snowshoe in we checked the area out. We found one place in the wall that looked like a WI2-3 ice fall that looked like it had formed. So I jumped straight on it without really checking it out. It turned out to be a muddy, snowy, and icy M4. Was pretty scary as the placements were quite thin. The top chimney also proved to be a small challenge in itself. I managed to get to the top though and then we top-roped what looked like a good route again. Once again it turned out to be a slippery fest with unconsolidated ice. Johan decided to wait until there was better ice but was really patient to belay me.  I think we were a few days to early but it looks promising for the weeks to come. After some nice snowshoeing on a beautiful sunny day we headed back.
Johan enjoying the sun
Me on Broken Slab M4

Later in the eve I again went cruising around on my skis. Was a fantastic feeling to ski down the beach and along the shore. Was very dark but quite exciting as the terrain is constantly rolling and there are no groomed tracks. So much fun! In the next days I am sure there will be more winter adventures! This weekend Annina and I are heading to the cottage for four days for a wintery weekend! Can't wait! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates! =)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fall Blues and Awaiting the Cold Strike

Our beach with a rare fall sunlight

The last month has been quite busy as the darkness has started to set in here in Finland.  A few weeks ago Annina and I headed to the summer cottage for a nice weekend and prepared it for the winter.  It was interesting as we have also had a small battle with the mice coming inside the cottage all year.  I think we managed to find the solution and it seems to be working.  In any case it was a nice weekend and we were lucky to have just changed our summer tires on the car for the winter spiked ones as it was already a bit wintery there.  We enjoyed a nice dusting of snow before we started taking out the docks and sweeping the roofs.  The snow actually helped with taking out the docks as it assisted the lifting process.

Annina and I also went on a small boat trip and was surprised to find part of the lake frozen.  We also searched for mushrooms and tried to track a raccoon dog for awhile.  It was fun but most of the mushrooms despite still being there were a bit frost damaged.  We were also surprised that the loons were still around.  I guess it seems they are always one of the last ones to leave for the winter.  In any case it was a great relaxing weekend and a relief to get everything done before the winter set in.

In the last few weeks I started working in the chem lab again doing fuel cell research.  It has kept me pretty busy.  In the meantime I have been searching and biking around our house and near the sea.  Cruising around on mountain bike rides I eventually found a small sea fortress similar to Suomenlina except near my house!  It was pretty surreal and crazy as the wall is about 100m long and there are many rooms underneath which you can walk around in.  In the same forest I did a lot of new bouldering problems between all the rain showers.  With some of my friends we also did a bit of dry tooling to prepare for the winter.  Was great fun!
Annina rocking it on a climb

Last weekend I entered a dry tooling competition.  A dry tooling competition is basically held on an artificial wall without ice but ice climbing equipment is used.  It was pretty cool as about 30 climbers or so showed up.  It was held at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium and went up one of the pillars and up the bottom of the bleachers.  There was a total of 6 routes.  I managed to top out on two out of the four routes I tried before I left.  One of the routes that I topped out on not many of the other climbers managed so I was pretty stoked.  For the final two routes the cue was way to long so I decided to pack it up and head home.  Seems a bit silly to cue in a 1.5hour line to climb.  In any case it was a good experience and I learned a lot and was quite fun.

On an exciting note Annina's new neice named Maj was born.  It was pretty exciting time as her family welcomed a new little one.  

These next few days it should snow some and then we should have a nice cold snap!  Yeah!  I am really excited for the snow and the ice to finally (knock on wood) to be arriving.  In any case I hope the skiing and the ice climbing will start soon!  Also in one week we will again head up to the cottage for a wintery weekend!  Might even have to ski in again! Thanks for reading and stay tuned! =)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Burnt at Sea and Silly Stumbles


Almost two weeks ago we went on a kayak weekend trip to Skorvan.  The sea island is located in the archipelago of the Espoo area near Helsinki about 26km (16miles) away.  It was a pretty interesting trip and felt much harder than it did two years ago.  Juha and I started late Friday evening frantically packing the kayaks between intermittent showers.  At the last minute Henna joined us as we headed off.  We were quite lucky as we paddled in between three storm systems.  We even had sun for awhile.  The first 5km were really hard for my shoulders as I guess they were just warming up and i hadn't paddled in awhile.  It also didn't help that I had a full climbing rack in my kayak as well with loads of water and beer.  It was going fairly good for awhile but it seemed my kayak that I chose was a pretty slow one.  In any case, slowly the kilometers ticked by.

With about 10km to go the darkness really set in.  It was a bit scary as you couldn't see the waves coming but only knew they were coming by the sound.  It was a bit nerving as some of the waves were crashing over the top of the kayak.  We all stuck together really close and at some point with about 5km to go we got a bit disoriented and lost our way.  With some careful checking of the surroundings after a few minutes we were back on track.  Once the island came into sight it seemed like the last few km's just went forever!  Seemed like it was never going to end and I was completely bonking.  Finally we landed and quickly went straight to the sauna.  The first beer never tasted so good!  After a nice sauna and swim we pitched our tents and quickly dozed off after some grub.

The next day it was quite hard to wake up.  It was raining all night but in the morning there was beautiful weather.  So I decided to go check out the climbing wall.  It was  a little bit shorter than I remembered but still kind of at an awkward height.  So it ended up being more like high ball bouldering.  I did four fairly easy routes (font5-6a) and cleaned as I went.  It was pretty fun but didn't last long as the rain started coming down intermittently between the sun.  The day sort of just zipped by even though I didn't really do anything.  As the day went by more and more people from the club started showing up at the island.  Soon there must have been 50 people all on the island.  Thank goodness it is a pretty big island as everyone was in their tents.

Then it was time for the sauna again.  This time though there was so many people inside we were packed like sardines.  It was a bit claustrophobic so I had to go out.  I was coming down the steps and when I thought I was stepping on  step it was only air and I tumbled forward.  I hit the side of the sauna stove with a sizzle and jumped up very quickly.  Everything seemed fine until about 10 minutes later it felt as if someone was frying my back and arm.  I sort of seared my whole arm and a good part of my back.  It was so painful I couldn't do anything for awhile.  Eventually after some beers I managed to curb the pain and go join the bonfire.  It ended up being a pleasant evening despite being fried.

The next day we slowly packed up and got going back to Helsinki under some very nice sunny weather.  I was a bit worried about how the burns would feel to paddle with them.  Luckily there wasn't really any pain and the trip back was pretty uneventful even though my shirt was glued to my skin when I got back and took a tricky peeling operation to get it off.  Overall it was a very fun trip and nice to see everyone!  It was really nice of Juha to be so patient as he is quite a fast paddler.   Nice to spend some time with him too!

Then last week after my burn finally healed up I went out climbing with Juppe again.  I managed to lead another 6c sport climb called Jätkä.  Then afterwards I decided to give this one trad route a go despite being stumped the week before.  This time I found a micro foothold which opened up the whole route for me and I found 3 very good gear placements.  The route is called Spiderman which is E1 5b which actually seems pretty appropriate but on the upper end.  Was a great day again thanks to Juppe until I was riding home.  Was a bit silly rather as it was dark and I had a 30kg (66lbs) backpack on.  I came to a corner at a intersection and realized I could go and ripped around the corner except I ate gravel.  It must have been the extra weight as I have been around that corner dozens of times.  In any case I jumped up a bit embarrassed and rode home.  I didn't think anything was too wrong except when I took off my knee warmers I found that my knee had been gashed really good.  There was a huge open flap out open below my knee cap that could have used stitches.  I used butterfly stitches instead which worked pretty well.  Such an idiotic stumble as it ruined the plans for the last week as I have been trying to get it healed properly.
Self Portrait on Jätkä
Overall besides my stupid stumbles the fall season definitely has been setting in as well as the darkness!  Seems like the days are getting so ever short.  Already wondering when the snow and ice will come!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates!
The canal by my house in the dark
The bridge over the canel by my house