Leivonmäki Winter Adventure

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In the early spring we did a short trip to Leivonmäki National Park in Central Finland. It’s known for swamps, shores of two lakes, forests and ridges. I would say that Leivonmäki is a very versatile National Park. Here you can go hiking and kayaking in the summer, and in the winter you also can go cross-country skiing. I you choose to go kayaking or skiing it gives you the opportunity to visit the camp sites on the islands. Here’s a map for the area: Leivonmäki (luontoon.fi).

We arrived in Leivonmäki late in the evening when it was dark. Our base camp was a small hut, at Harjunlahti, without electricity. Our first plan was to just ski away to a camp site, but the hut looked so cozy, that we decided to stay indoors for the night. The problem was that we had planned to eat some sandwiches, grilled over open fire, wrapped in aluminium foil. But now we were inside, with a heating stove, so no open fire. Well, we found out that we had a disposable grill with us, so we just turned it into an oven! We placed the oven on the stove’s top. The oven sandwiches were super! We also made some product development, and for breakfast, when we also ate warm sandwiches, the oven was equipped with an additional bottom, so the sandwiches wouldn’t get burned.

In the morning we skied to the actual National Park, to the lake Rutajärvi, Keskisenvesi. We were really surprised how empty the park was, and we saw only a few others on the ice. We skied eastbound towards the other lake, Kirkkoselkä, but we had to ski through a narrow strait to get to the lake.

As we imagined the strait was an open water channel, so we skied on the shore of the strait. It was a little bit challenging with the pulk, especially in the forest, but we managed to get through to the other side.

We found the camp site and shelter Halttunen on an island, where we prepared some food. We had a really long lunch break. It was still early in the day, so we decided to ski to another camp site to put up tents for the night.

We skied back in our own ski tracks, and when we reached Joutsniemi ridge, we took a short cut over it, so we got to the to camp sites on the west side: Joutsniemi and Lintuniemi camp sites. At Lintuniemi you can also find a shelter.

I the evening we decided for some night skiing, and we had got a little bit lazy. We skied back to our base camp at Harjunlahti for the night. Next morning we had got some new snow! The winter was back!

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A Bunker From the Past

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Meiko is a nature reserve in Kirkkonummi, Southern Finland. The surroundings of the lake Meiko are popular for day trip hikers. We took a short trip in the sunny winter weather. The aim was to find the bunker located at Meiko’s southwest shore.

We were initially uncertain to take us out on the ice, but after we found an open fishing hole, we found that the ice was thick enough to hold our weight. We took a coffee break before we walked away west across the ice.

Because we knew there was a Geocache near the bunker, it was easy to navigate to the right place with the help of the Geocaching app, even though we didn’t follow any official trail. We were a bit unsure when we arrived, because the snow covered the ground, and we didn’t at first got a sight of the bunker. But the unnatural shapes of stones turned out to be concrete! So, we had found the bunker we were looking for!

At first we found some round concrete structures, and then we found the entrance, which was a narrow vertical drop with steel bars as a ladder. The odd thing was, that it wasn’t pitch dark in there. It turned out that the light came from the actual entrance, which was at the end of a long corridor. So we had taken us in the hard way …

There are several bunkers in the area of Meiko, and they are all from the Porkkala parenthesis period. The area was leased to the Soviet Union in 1944, and was returned to Finland in 1956.

A Mouse Problem in Nuuksio

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In mid Oktober, it was time for our annual autumn hike with Emmi, Henrik and Lisa. This time we headed for Nuuksio National Park, not far from home, simply for not having to sit in the car for so long. Our plan was to stay for two nights. The focus was on good food and enjoyment. Besides the usual breakfast we had packed pork fillet, vegetables, sausages and ingredients for hot sandwiches in our backpacks.

On Friday, we arrived quite late to Nuuksio. We left our car in Solvalla, where we threw our bags on our backs and walked away to the east. We had aimed to hit up camp at Urja or Valkialampi. After an hour of hiking the sun set down, and our walk turned into night orienteering. After wandering through rough bushes and shrubs, hills and valleys we found the first campsites. There was a full house, and we decided to go ahead. At Kattilajärvi we finally found an empty fireplace. In the darkness it was still pretty challenging to find the perfect tent place in the bumpy terrain. The dinner, or rather supper,  was the big program number for the evening. Another program number was the little mouse that ran around our tents, but even at that stage we did not know how much attention the mouse would finally get…

At breakfast the next morning, Emmi claimed that something had chewed on the cheese container. The rest of us were convinced that the chewing marks were not caused by any rodent or any animal in general. The food had been inside a closed backpack for the whole night! Well, this will continue later … Sadly… So read on!

We wandered off against Luukkaa area and took a lunch break at Kaitalampi west side. We went ahead and rounded the lake from the north and camped at a fireplace by the eastern shore. The tents we pitched on a hill with a nice view over the lake. We spent the evening  cooking hot sandwiches and grilled sausages. Then it was time to seek out the sleeping bags for the night.

04:50 a.m. it happened! There was a hard rustling in our vestibule! Drowsy, we tried to find out the origin for the rustle. When we opened the zipper to the vestibule it went quiet, and when we put our heads back on our pillows the mysterious rustle started again. We woke even our tent neighbours when our detective maneuvers became too loud. But in the end we got the culprit in the act! A mouse was standing in the spotlight of the headlamp on my backpack! We started to check our bags, and it was at that moment we noticed the devastation! The mouse had gotten into Lisa’s backpack through an opening with velcro and then chewed through a thick waterproof bag! The mouse had found our breakfast bread and it was like someone had taken a mega bite from each slice of the bread! The whole bread package flew out of the tent, and in the end we managed to sleep undisturbed the rest of the night.

In the morning we ate breakfast without any bread … Only cold cuts and porridge … It had clearly been a mouse also the first night when someone had chewed on the cheese container. What we do not know, is if it had been the same mouse that had traveled around in some of our backpack?  This was the first time I experienced an animal thief on a hike. Maybe I should be more hawk-eyed next time!

An island on an island

In Espoo archipelago there’s an island on the sea called Pentala. On this island, there’s a lake. On the lake there’s an island. That was our destination!

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There are couple of reasons why we wanted to visit this island. The first introduction we got of this place was from a board game that we played many years ago with my friends. The board game was published in 1992 by the kayaking club Canoa for their 60th anniversary. In the game you are kayaking around and collecting bird observations. The rarer the birds are, the more points they are worth. There is also a dodo in the game, and since it is extinct since 1700 it’s worth the most!


In the game you can carry your kayak on land, for example if you want to visit the island on Pentala. So, it was from this game we got the idea to do this same thing in real life!  We were also assured that we were going to find the extinct dodo on this island! We also knew that there was a geocache on this island, so we definitely had to log that as well!

On a sunny day we jumped in our kayaks and started paddling towards Pentala. We started our tour near Hirsala, so it didn’t take a long time to reach our destination. We stranded on a beach in the south of the island Pentala. From there we took a path towards the lake carrying on one kayak. We chose the wrong path, because we ended up climbing over the highest point before we reached the lake. The distance was about 400 m. But it was really worth it!

The lake was surrounded by green leafy plants, the water was completely still, except for a few waves a pair of swans caused. And there on the lake, we saw our destination: the island! In turns, we jumped in the kayak and paddled around the island. We also stranded on the island and logged the geocache, as it was one of our goals. 

On the way back we found the right path, and it was so much easier to carry the kayak that way! Sadly, we didn’t spot any dodo birds, but now we can check one item from our bucket lists 😉

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Happy after the trip!

Winter Gear That Matter

The summer is around the corner,  but it’s time to look back at the Svalbard winter expedition for one final time. The focus is now on the gear I used during the trip.

On my final equipment list for the Svalbard expedition, I had 126 items. Some of the list’s items, which belonged to the category unnecessary, I removed during the planning phase. The removed items were most spare clothes and spare equipment. The rest of the equipment on the list was more or less important or necessary. Some equipment belonged to the category comfort, but those equipment contributes greatly to how you enjoy the journey.

You can download my equipment list for the Svalbard 2016 expedition:
Svalbard2016 GEAR (PDF)

Below I have listed the top 5 equipment that I experienced that contributed to how comfortable and successful the journey was. I would absolutely take with me these equipment again on a similar winter expedition.

Top 5 Winter Expedition Equipment:

1. Inflatable Mattress – Thermarest NeoAir All Season

A month before the Svalbard expedition, I did a short winter tour in Koli National Park. It was the first real winter test for my Thermarest NeoAir All Season mattress. I had used it several times in the summer, autumn and spring, but never in the winter. It was under that trip I concluded that it’s a thousand times more comfortable than a foam mattress and I was really rested in the morning. On Vatnajökull, for example, I slept directly on my Thermarest Ridgerest Solar foam mattress, and I remember that my arm got numb every night and my back hurt in the morning. It was easy to take the decision to bring the mattress to Svalbard. I like the mattress because it’s light, warm, comfortable and when deflated it doesn’t take much space. In the winter it is not good to inflate the mattress by blowing, because the moisture is collected inside the mattress and then freezes. Therefore I have a small battery powered electrical pump to the mattress, but to Svalbard I borrowed a pump sack from a friend, because the electrical pump is not so efficient. The pump sack worked great after you got used to it after couple of days. Under the NeoAir I had the Ridgerest foam mattress, just for safety’s sake, if the NeoAir would have gone flat.

2. Vapour Barrier Socks – Rab VB Socks

First some information about VB socks. The idea is to dress a pair of liners on your feet as base layer, on top of those these waterproof VB socks, and outside of those a pair of thick and warm ski socks, and of course the ski boots on top of that. In this way the moisture will not get through from the feet to the warm socks and boots, and that prevents freezing condensation and they hold heat better. These Rab VB Socks was the equipment that I was most skeptical about, but because the socks weighed almost nothing, I decided to take them with me. I had heard very good reviews about them, but I hadn’t had time to test them properly before departure. Once we set of skiing on Svalbard I decided to give them a try, and I was really, really surprised how well they worked. I was worried that the socks would cause chafing or blisters, but in the end I think they prevented that. Under the whole trip I got only a few small blisters under my big toes and a small blister on one of my heel. With some sports tape I easily fixed those problems. The ski boots and the thick ski socks were dry throughout the whole expedition.

3. Ski boots – Crispi Stetind GTX

Last year, during the expedition on Vatnajökull, I had a pair of ski boots (Alpina BC 1550) that weren’t so good. Actually they were horrible. I got some nasty blisters on my feet, which affected negatively my skiing. They weren’t waterproof at all, so I had soaking wet boots throughout the whole trip, except for couple of days I dried them directly over the cooking stove. In the early winter I bought a new pair of ski boots, Crispi Stetind GTX. I was first worried that I wouldn’t have time to break them in, but I had time to make a few ski trips with the boots before the expedition. In most of my shoes and boots I use custom made insoles, because it’s really difficult for me to find shoes that fits my feet. For some reason the insoles in the Stetind boots fit perfectly my feet, and they were really comfort. The boots are very steady and sturdy, but enough soft for skiing. The thing I like most is that they are waterproof! If you like to go uphill with crampons, the Black Diamond Contact Strap fits perfectly on these boots.

4. Devold Merino

Under a winter expedition you don’t change your clothes so often. Therefore you have to wear really comfortable clothes, especially for the base layer. I haven’t tried many brands of merino wool garments, but I have been really satisfied with the Devold Expedition brand. On Svalbard we changed our base layers once, except for our underwear that we changed more often.

5. Durable spoon – Sea To Summit Alpha Long Spoon

The Sea To Summit Alpha Long Spoon is the best spoon when you are eating directly from freeze dried food bags. Because of the length of the spoon, it is easy to get all the way to the bottom of the bag. One more thing is that it’s really durable. I hadn’t thought much about this feature, but in harsh expedition conditions it’s proved to be an important feature. To Svalbard I had with me one Alpha Long Spoon and two Light My Fire Sporks. I use Sporks when eating in the tent. Both of my Sporks broke into two pieces. The total amount of broken Sporks in our three person tent, during our expedition, was four! Well, the cold temperature and the frozen food may have had something to do with the breakage of the Sporks, but now I understand why some spoons are made from strong aircraft aluminum alloy. Maybe I will til the next expedition get a Spork Titanium? The cons of the aluminum or titanium spoon is that it’s not Teflon friendly.

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The Alpha Long Spoon compared to the two broken Sporks.

 

If you are interested in the winter clothing, I have written a separate blog post about Layers For the Cold.

Soon it’s off to Svalbard!

The final preparations for the Svalbard expedition are in full swing! We are flying early in the morning, but everything is finally packed ready. It looks as if my final weight of the sled will be below 70 kg, which is nice! The last thing I have done is to update the playlist on my iPod, but I realized that I had not so much music on my computer, so it will be for me to listen again and again the same songs

I’m glad I’ve packed my warmest sleeping bag combination, because the forecast is on the cold mode in the beginning of the week… Luckily the weather gets warmer by the end of the week.

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Screen shot from yr.no

Expedition Food for 3 Weeks

When I’m planning the food for longer trips, I try to make the food as easy and lightweight as possible. It can be fun to sometimes luxury something up, but I like simple meals that are easy and quick to cook. I’m not really choosy when it comes to food, but some may think that my menus looks a bit too monotonous. The most important thing is that you really like what you eat, so that you easily  can take in energy.

Winter expedition food are little easier to plan, and here’s the reasons:

  1. Weight: You’re pulling your stuff in a sled, which is for volume much larger than a backpack and you can pull a lot more weight than you can carry, so you can take some weighty gourmet food with you.
  1. Durability: You can take fresh food with you without fear of rancidity, eg cheese, ham and butter, as the temperature remains low.
  1. Water Sources: You get water anywhere, just as you can melt the snow. So the only water you need to pull in the sled is what you need during the day for drinking and lunch.

Menu for the Svalbard expedition (19 days):

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Food for 3 weeks: potato mash, porridge, blueberry soup, chocolate drinks, sports drinks, minced meat of moose (dried), freeze dried lunches (add water), coffee and coffee creamer, beef jerky, multivitamins, cookies and chocolate with nuts. Still missing from the picture: Bread, butter, cheese, ham, 10 x freeze dried lunches and some more chocolate and nuts.

BREAKFAST

  • Porridge (Elovena Plus Whole Grain Oat & Wildberry Milk, portion instant porridge)
  • Bread (with butter, ham and cheese)
  • Coffee (Moccona and creamer)
  • Multivitamins (effervescent tablet)

SNACKS AND DRINKS

  • Sports Drink (HartSport and Fast, powder)
  • Chocolate with nuts (200 g per day)
  • Beef Jerky

LUNCH

  • Freeze Dried Meal (LYO foods or REAL Turmat)
  • Coffee (3in1) or Chocolate Drink (Oboy)

DINNER

  • Mashed potatoes (Rainbow and various tastes of Mummon Muusi)
  • Minced meat of moose (fried and dried)
  • Chocolate Drink (Van Houten)

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Blueberry soup (Ekströms, powder)
  • Cookies (Ballerina milk chocolate)
  • Potato chips (Pringles)