I'm in =) Where do you want to go? It is pretty warm in Pirkanmaa, and I reckon you'd like to go for a circle trail? Maybe something in Helvetinjärvi? Hopefully the snow carries well.
That's how this trip started, with an Email from Antti. Thursday night I take the train back to Tampere, and then the planning starts. A phone call and we sort out starting time and location.
Hopefully my skis will fit in your car?
Good question! I don't have a rack on the roof but the car will take 225cm long skis inside (max).
Friday morning I'm in a hurry to wrap up a project, pack my backpack, double-check that I have everything and have a quick lunch. As I walk out of the front door Antti is already waiting. My skis are short enough to fit in his car. Inside, I fiddle around with my GoPro HERO2and record a timelapse of the drive.
We arrive about an hour later at the National Park, park the car and get the gear out. Antti has the Altai Hoks 145 with him, and I'm curious to see how they will perform. I step into my Madshus Glittertind+, put the Porter on, snap the ZPacks Multipack on to the shoulder straps and we're off, hundred meters down the road, and then in the forest.
Hilarity ensues. The sun and plus degrees leave the snow in a soft, slush-puppy-kind of state, and both of us sink in. Boot-deep, shine-deep, hip-deep if you fall. As we arrive at the lake, I'm briefly happy - the snow carries, there's little water, and the ice is thick. But we still sink in, boot-deep. It is not too bad, but far from perfect. If I'd be alone I'd ski carefully straight out. So, I consult with Antti. We decide to stay closer to the shore, also because Antti is taller and heavier than me. We rotate, every time one of us stops to take photos the other one takes the lead.
We ski along the shore line, cut through a forest, and then get so bold to cross the lake in the middle to Hiekkaranta. This is the same sweet camping spot I was with Phil & Steven two years ago, in the early spring. We ski up to the hut, and I am surprised by the absence of any human tracks. This spot has a Parking lot a few hundred meters away, and I would have expected it to be more popular, given its fine view. There's even a good amount of fire wood in the shed.
It is 15.30 o'clock, and we ponder what to do. The next pretty campsite is about six to seven kilometer away, via lakes, swamps and forests, but forcing us on the trails towards the end as cliffs dot the landscape. We estimate it is at least two hours, more likely three. Here we would have a fine view for both sunset and sunrise, and good camping spots all around. Well, no reason to to push it, this is Antti's first snow camping trip after all, better make it a good experience so he's hungry for more!
We set out to pitch our shelters. Well, compacting snow, letting it sit for a while, compacting again and then pitching. All goes smooth, and soon we have both our shelters pitched at the edge of the lake.
We enjoy the sun and pretty view, take an unreasonable amount of photos, and then head up to the woodshed to split enough logs for the night and breakfast next morning, with some to spare for the next people visiting. Transporting wood via Antti's Incredible Rulk certainly makes it easy. We are so occupied with chopping and transporting that we almost miss the sunset; the sun is already hidden behind the forest on the opposite shore when we head down to the lake to take even more photos.
It is pretty. Dusk sweeps over the forest behind us, while we look out west where the sun disappears. The deep blue night sky, with a light blue band at its bottom, makes the stage for the stars. And stars we shall see. Jupiter, Venus and Mercury all make a grand entry in the twilight. We gaze in the sky towards these distant stars, while the silence is only interrupted by the blowing wind.
We head up to the shed. Feather sticks are made, birch bark is lighted up with the help of knife and firesteel, and soon we have Channel One of Wilderness TV delivering Prime Time entertainment. Stoves come out to boil and melt snow. Hot meals warm us up, and the two beers I carried in are shared while talking about life, gear and backpacking. Occasionally we throw a log on the fire. I fuss around, trying to get a good photo of the moonlit forest. After I switch to Manual Focus, things work out. Then Antti is initiated into the circle of Minttu Cacao Enthusiasts™, a society of outdoors people who like the taste of chocolate and peppermint.
We head back down to the lake. The sky is dotted with stars. GorillaPod and Tripod are deployed, ISO, A and S settings changed until the results satisfy. Another photography fest ensues, and continues until we head to our shelters. As I lay down, my new Exped Synmat UL7 gets softer & softer. Lights on, re-inflate, looking for the culprit. Yes, definitely a leak. Splendid. Good that I brought my Multimat Summit CCF mat, which always performs fantastic - and I don't need to inflate it. I doze off, and as I awake it is again light outside. A look on the clock says it is after 7 o'clock already. Lets take a look outside then, I decide.
Pretty. The first rays of sunlight touch the crowns of the trees on the western shore, soft pastel colours are in the sky and the white canvas of the lake lie before us, waiting to be skied. Yes, the snow crust carries. Even without skis. At leisurely pace we eat breakfast, break camp, and I play with Antti's Hoks before we set out to ski on the lake. In the beginning we still stay close to the shoreline, following overblown skiing tracks - surely a few weeks old - though soon we cross the lake, skiing from island to island. The sun shines, and we both shed layers. Sunglasses are mandatory. Tracks from hare, elk and lynx dot the lake, and before long we're back at the forest.
We ski the same way back to the road as we came, though it is easier for me to go through the virgin snow, as it carries so well. Until I fall down. Backwards. Sitting on my ass, I laugh, and Antti documents it all. At least I was able to rise again without taking pack and skis off. The final few hundred meters to the car are positively hot, probably the thermometer already climbed to the plus side. Gear gets stored in the trunk, and we start to drive down the forest road. Around a corner, an Elk stands on the road, and starts running. Antti slows down, to not scare and exhaust it. After a while it final turns. We navigate down the forest roads, and a male Western Capercaillie flies up. We laugh - in the past 24 hours we only heard a few song birds and a pair of ravens but haven't seen any wildlife, now, in the car, twice within minutes.
The ride back to Tampere goes quick. The sun is up in the sky, it is warm, pretty. Conversations go about planned trips, gear, and to repeat such a trip again in the future.
Kiitos Antti for a great 24 trip! Keep an eye on Antti's blog Huoltokatko to read his take. More photos on Flickr.