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

Monday, March 5, 2018

My Kilpisjärvi to Abisko Trip Report

(Click on pictures for slideshow)

Now that I have been home for about a week the trip almost seems like it was a dream.  During the trip I was very focused and despite not really seeing anyone the time flew by.  I suppose that is in part that the time I wasn't skiing I was mostly trying to recover and sleep.  In any case it was one of the most fantastic gratifying trips I have done in my life.  In general the distance of the trip is not huge but traveling in the mountains either going up or down and with no tracks made it pretty slow going.  It is hard to describe to someone but when there is waist deep snow to pure blue ice and everything between it is very tedious and slow.  In town on tracks it would be easy to ski this distance in one or two days.  Also for this trip I had to use quite wide and long skis(Fischer S-bound112 double camber 112-78-95 and 189cm) which makes general progress a bit slower.  Without them you couldn't have skied most parts.  Also I had to carry all my food, sleeping stuff, and equipment to stay overnight in a snowhole in an emergency.  This made the downhill skiing a bit akward sometimes but it was okay.  In the future I will try a similar trip in a different style meaning by camping the whole time.

Day 1:
After traveling nearly 24hours by train and bus from Helsinki I hopped off the bus at 17.00 in the evening and started to ski immediately.  I crossed Kilpisjärvi lake and by the time I got to the other side the light was dwindling and fog set in.  It was okay as I used my GPS to guide me in the dark whiteout conditions.  I had a moment of panic and laughter as once for some reason when I was checking my GPS the ski came off and I sunk to my waist.  After a comedy sketch of getting the ski back on I continued the way to the first cabin.  It was only about a 2 hour ski and I experienced some glorious northern lights alone.
8.02mi (12.90km) 1h58min

Day 2:
I started off in the early hours at 7am when it was still dark.  I had a nice enjoyable ski of about 2.5 hours to the next cabin.  This area I knew very well so I just cruised and enjoyed the nature and the nice sunrise.  When I arrived at the cabin I accidentally woke two Norwegian girls and they were laughing as I was just starting to make lunch.  After a quick chat and lunch I continued on my way.  Once I left the cabin morning hurricane winds set in and it was some 50kph winds a -20'C.  The next part I had to go over a tricky mountain pass through some moraine fields and very hard snow/blue ice.  Once I navigated through the steep rock bands I cruised down the other side and passed through the reindeer herds to the next cabin.  The second part took about 3.75 hours
17.55mi (28.24km) 5hr 45min

Day 3:
The day started deep in a valley with -25'C and hurricane winds again.  It was very hard to get motivated to move but I started with a different clothing combination which I used to use in the past.  A thin wool tech layer with a shell.  It was perfect as through the day I was a bit cold but stayed dry.  I once again had to pass over a mountain pass and had an intense downhill skiing section which was about 45' through some small rocks.   I reached the next cabin after about 3.5 hours.  The next section was quite long.  After a quick lunch I set off and it seemed to be going quite well.  Then somehow I made a navigation error when I routed myself to the top of some cliffs.  Luckily I was able to retrace and reroute pretty fast but still lost about 20min.  Once rerouted I came to the hardest and most stressful part of the trip.  I had to pass over a mountain pass that was very steep... A long section of 45' and pure windblown blue ice.  I tried to remain calm as I was half trying to skin/slip up the ice as I climbed above some rock bands.  This was entering a no fall zone.  It was scary alone as I tried to skin up some lichen for extra grip.  It was very intense and once I reached the top I was elated and cruised down the other steep side enjoying the downhill skiing.  This second part took about 5 hours.
23.23mi (37.38km) 8hr 32min

Day 4:
My feet had started to become a blistering mess but I thought it would be okay so I just quickly taped them up.  Leaving that cabin I descended deep into a river valley and soon found myself floundering in deep snow.  The progress was really slow but I managed to route myself onto a frozen river bed and get going.  Once I realized my progress was too slow I decided to try to climb out of the valley onto a higher valley plateau and go the other way around the mountain.  I felt like Mr. Bean floundering on my hands and knees trying to get out of the steep walls of the river bed.  After a big struggle I managed and climbed up to the plateau.  After 4.5 hours I finally reached the next cabin which was super warm as there was a Norwegian worker spending 4 weeks in the mountain refurbishing the cabin.  It was nice to make lunch and have a quick chat and then I set off again.  I felt in a trance but my feet started to really bother me then.  I quickly passed over the mountain pass and started to head down the very icy decent to the next cabin.  After a difficult downhill I reached the cabin and found my feet to be in a horrible state.  This part took about 3.5 hours
20.05mi (32.26km)7hr 18min

Day 5:
After making special bandages from one of my boxers I set off and found myself skiing in very cold conditions.  It was about -30'C and I felt it in my bones even though I was moving.  I made some comedy navigational errors when reaching the next cabin but found it anyways.  Once again after a quick bite I set off up the mountain pass.  After about an hour of climbing I met another Norwegian guy whom was going the other way.  He asked where I was coming from and where I was going.  He looked at me like I fell of my rocker or something.  It had taken him two days to go over the mountain pass and he slept in a tent.  He said it was pretty far up there... I said "okay"!... Then I continued for another 2.5 hours uphill and passed a nice summer Sami village.  Once up top I really started to enjoy the skiing and cruised along.  The last part to the cabin was an intense downhill and had to be navigated carefully but at the same time was kind of fun.  I arrived to the cabin after about 5 hours.
20.38mi (32.79km) 8hr 7min

Day 6:  After spending the night overlooking where I was supposed to be going I realized that it was still quite a journey.  I still had to descend into a steep river valley before I reached the Abisko lake.  It was very tricky skiing in soft snow and I managed a few face plants.  Good thing it was low risk skiing with soft snow!  After a good laugh and some strange skiing I ended up on the lake... The next hours felt like days as it was about 20km across the lake.  Nothing seemed to move and then I started to wonder if I was even going the right way.  After some confirmation I reached Abisko after about 4 hours and climbed immediately onto the train.
12.93mi (20.85km) 4hr 32min

Total: 102.16mi (164.14km) 36hr 12min Tracking points
After a quick train trip to Gällivare, Sweden I stopped to recover a for a few days at my friends house which I was very grateful as my feet were a mess.  I look forward to more trips like this in the future and soon I will be able to bring the kids when they get a bit older!  Next time I have to maybe cross Finnmark or ski into the Abisko range.  Lets see!  In any case my equipment was perfect and I learned a lot once again!  Just have to sort out the feet thing and I will be golden!  Looking forward to more adventures!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Kilpisjärvi to Abisko Round 3


Today I will set off on a ski trip today.  I have tried this trip 2 other times and didn't manage for various reasons but learned a lot from my mistakes.  This time I think I am very prepared physically and equipment wise.  You can follow my progress which will start on Saturday.


In anycase I suppose this is my own Olympics!  Stay tuned to see how it goes! =)