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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Our Adventure to 69'N in Norway and Finland

(Pictures in Random Order - Click on For Slide Show)
Hartmut and I just got back from a really great adventure at 69' North in Norway and Finland.  First of all I must thank my wonderful wife for letting me go on this trip.  I must also thank Hartmut for being such a great adventure partner, good spirit, and contributing greatly to our adventure.  Next I would like to thank Annina's mom Merja for helping out a great deal as it also would not have been possible without her.  Lastly I would like to thank Antti and Toby for loaning a few bits of spare climbing gear which we used.  I greatly appreciate everything as it turned out to be a great adventure!

Hartmut had quite a long journey to get here as he came all the way from China but had an extended stop in his home in Germany.  He arrived and we quickly tried to put everything together before taking off.  We then started the nearly 24 hour journey north by boarding a train headed to Rovaniemi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rovaniemi.  Once we arrived after traveling through the night we jumped on the morning bus and spent the rest of the day traveling to Kilpisjärvi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilpisj%C3%A4rvi .  We arrived at about 17.00 as the sun was setting and quickly jumped on our skis and starting heading out in the dark.  We had a target of reaching a Finnish cabin near the triple point http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treriksr%C3%B6set   It was a boring slog across the huge lake as the scenery seemed to not move but we arrived and quickly warmed the place up.  We were treated to a fantastic dancing Nothern light show that night.

The next day we tried to slog to some water falls in the bad weather but were defeated by the soft deep snow.  Hartmut was on full skins and I was on half so he had a hard time getting on top of the snow.  So after some mixed climbing recon we called it a day.  Due to the soft snow we decided to abandon our original plan and try to get to Gappo and some harder snow.  We would try to climb Barras a 1419m (4655ft) mountain that stands prominent in the Valley.  We had a long day ahead of us as we started to climb out of the Finnish lowlands in the morning.  There were times where the sled flipped on very icy traverses and other times it was so steep that we just shoved the 80kg (176 lbs) sled over the edge and gave chase.  After skiing for 6.5 hours we finally arrived to Gappo below Barras.

That night we were treated again to a fantastic show of northern lights.  They danced across the whole sky even above us.  It was amazing!  The next day a 'rest day' we went for a nice 3.5-4 hour ski up the lower slopes of Barras.  It was a fantastic day and everything looked good.  We had a great time downhill skiing over the lower slopes and we finished off the day with some cake and rum! =)  Although we awoke with a grogginess at 5am we were ready to go.  Unfortunately the weather had some better ideas and it was nearly a white out.  So we decided to explore a nearby river valley which was suprisingly not frozen in some spots!  We filled the rest of the day playing some board games and watched the seemingly close window to a clear world.

The next day we again tried to make an attempt.  We awoke to fantastic star lit skies and took off loaded to the hilt with equipment.  We had even cut birch wood to used as deadmans on the way down if we needed to!  We had no idea what we were going to encounter.  Once we skinned up to the bottom of the summit pyramid we decided the safest way up was this rocky steeper section just below the ridge.  This way we could avoid any avalanche prone slopes. We ran a running belay for most of the climbing and had to be very careful which rocks we slung as sometimes I would pull off a huge boulder!  In anycase we climbed with care but some good speed.  Once we reached the ridge it was all snow and ice.  I managed to place a few t-anchors which looked pretty good and then we swung onto the summit ridge.  Once there we were surprised to find a big snow mushroom at the top of which we had to of course go onto!=)  Such a great day as we could look down into Norway, Sweden, and Finland!  So fantastic and I managed to get some good panoramas too.  We safetly decended rappelling most of the way down and managed to get back just before darkness fell.  It was still a very long day as we were exhausted from the nearly 10 hours out skiing and climbing.

The next day we decied to head back to the Finnish side as a safety backup if the weather turned for the worse.  We were again lucky with the weather.   Although very tired I pulled the now slightly lighter than 80kg sled back to the Finnish side.  We managed to find a better route and we got back to the Finnish side in only 4 hours.  The next day was going to be epic so we turned in pretty early.

In the morning we once again took off with the sled and me pulling.  We pulled it 5km and then buried and ditched the sled to head to some waterfalls.  The aproach took nearly 3 hours but once we arrived it was awesome!  The name of the water fall is Kitsputous and is a free falling water fall of about 35m (114ft) or so.  You could even go behind them and climb there too! =)  I decided to lead a route starting from the back of the falls and then swing onto the free hanging curtain.  It was a bit nerving climbing as we were pretty remote but I managed to put in a lot of screws and led probably my best pure ice climb ever!  Great times and Hartmut gave it a go on top rope and enjoyed himself as well.

The day was far from over though as we had to get down and still ski quite a lot.  Luckliy it only took us about an hour to get down and then we resumed sking across Kilpisjärvi towards town.  It was going well until we started hitting thawed patches in the ice!  Everytime we hit the patches of water we ended up with a good 15cm(6inches) of ice on our skiis and sled.  We managed to hammer off the ice the first time but the second time Hartmut couldn't free his binding so we pitched camp right there.  It ended up being 12 hours on the skis that day!  In the morning we hammered away the ice and continued but Hartmut once again got a huge layer of ice on his skis.  Lucky at that point we only had a 1 km to go.  So we finished it up and headed to a a gas station where the bus was supposed to meet us.  We filled our faces with all kinds of food and boarded the bus to head home.  We were able to relax and reminisce as we managed to do everything we set out to do for the most part.=)

Overall the journey was a fantastic one!  We saw northern lights almost every night, climbed a mountain, ice climbed, and winter camped!  Such amazing scenery although we didn't see much wildlife except reindeer, a fox, and loads of arctic birds.  All in all we finished very tired as we spent 43hours skiing, climbing, and sled pulling.  It was one of the best journeys of my life and I will never forget it.  I also think we were blessed with good weather especially for February! I am glad to be home now with my wife however and someday hopefully can take her next time! =)  I also hope to soon go on another adventure with Hartmut in the future!  Thanks again for everything and I hope you enjoyed reading!  Stay tuned for updates and also a short film about our trip! (Pictures Below)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our Expedition to Norway


Today Hartmut and I leave on our journey north.  We will depart Kilpisjärvi on the 14th and come back on the 22nd.  During this time we will be out of cell phone range.  The map is approximately where we will be going and checking out during this time.  We plan on heading to Goldahytta for a few days and making some day trips.  We may head to Gappohytta for a night.  Otherwise we plan to head up the valley to the big lake, make camp, and make day trips from there.  we plan to come out the same way we went in.  It should be fun!
 This is a pic from the mass packing of the sled and all of our gear.  Craziness! =)
 Last weekend we went to Vierumäki for a nice skiing with Annina's dad.  It was awesome and was a very nice weekend.  We also had home made special pastries which in Finland are eaten once a year.  so good! =) 
Once we get back in range I will quickly update the blog so as not to worry anyone.  I hope everyone has a great time in the next week!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates! =)

Friday, February 1, 2013

31 Days of January and 31 Routes


This month has certainly been a busy one and nice to be mostly though the dark period!  Besides the everyday job applications I have been managing to fit quite a lot of activities in everyday.  I checked my logbook yesterday after climbing and noticed I have completed exactly 31ice climbing routes in the 31 days of January!  It is kind of funny because I didn't plan to do this but it sort of just happened.  It is pretty cool as most of those routes I led from ground up and most of them were new routes for me.  It is no wonder that I finally have started to feel a lot more comfortable ice climbing again.  Most of the routes have been about WI4 or so and that is also pretty nice. Thanks to all of my climbing partners and good company for getting so much climbing done.
The rest of the time has been filled with some awesome skiing on the sea ice.  I have been quite a few times with Annina and also once I went with Hippo.  Hippo (Johan's families dog) is a Suomenlapinkoira breed which means Finnish Lapland Dog(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_Lapphund)  It was pretty fun after we skied for a while but when we got pretty far out onto the ice Hippo got  nervous and wanted to head home.  It was geat fun however though and hope to soon get our own dog.  Otherwise I have got a fair bit of skiing done almost everyday and everyone asks how much I have done.  I haven't really kept track but have just been going out as it feels more natural just to ski with no set goals.  Once in awhile I record the route to see how things are going but otherwise it is just good to get out.
Photo: http://caes-e-caes.blogspot.fi
Last week I tried out my kite again on the sea ice.  It was great fun and it went pretty smoothly but soon it started to snow hard so I packed it in after awhile.  When I came ashore there was a channel 4news car sitting there.  It was funny as they were asking if there were more kiters out and asking if I was going out again.  I was the only one out since it was in the morning of a work day and the weather had turned quite bad.  I was ready for lunch and pretty tired so I declined and called it a day.  I think they might have had to wait quite awhile for someone else to come along.  Overall though the kiting session was a good success as I managed to keep a pretty steady pace and keep in control.  I still managed to get in a quick 30km.
Me kiting last spring at the summer cottage
In another funny note this month has been funny as I decided to have a alcohol free month.  It was actually pretty hard as it is nice to have a beer in the weekends in the sauna or something.  It felt like ages since I last drank a beer but I managed the whole month without, which I was surprised that I managed to do.  Along with all the other activities we have managed to play hockey a few times with friends which is always fun! 

Overall January has seemed to steamroll past and seems like time just flies these days.  Perhaps it is just my old age but you never know.  I think it is important to live life to the fullest and know that you did something each day that makes the soul happy.  I am sure there will be more adventures soon to come!  We also hope soon to visit the summer cottage again!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates!