Everything comes to an end. And so did the skiing season of the year 2012. (And as you might have guessed, this is not a trip report from Vatnajökull, sorry for that. It’s still under writing…)
Doesn't seem like skiing season, does it?
Today was a great day! Probably the warmest day of the spring this far with temps closing to +15C with blue skies and hardly any wind. It was also a good day to end the skiing season for this winter. There’s hardly any snow left to ski in the Southern Finland but there is still ice on the lake and snow like slush on top of it. And as it was freezing the night before I though it would be good for skiing.
I slept long, lounged around eating Sunday brunch and got on my skis around noon, way too late to make use of the thin layer of crust formed during the night. I packed some spare clothing into a dry sack, tossed a bottle of juice to the side pocket and attached the skis to my backpack. (By the way, the Osprey Talon 33 is totally lacking sensible ski attachment points!) I walked to the lake to find nice and skiable ice near the beach at the shadow of an old grown spruce forest.
Skiing started good and felt great after fwo without skiing! I followed the shore line towards a little island some five kilometers away. I tried to ski as much as possible along the whiter areas on the ice and follow old snowscooter tracks when available. And I really tried to avoid the very dark areas: signs of thin ice or open water. This went quite well and for most of the time the thin layer of frozen slush (on top of very wet slush followed hopefully by strong layer of ice) carried me well but was soft enough for proper kick and glide. Judging smart route became soon automatic and skiing was good.
Sun shine from the blue sky and no wind. It was really warm! A T-shirt and shorts would have been better option than long trekking pants and a powerstretch fleece but I wanted to have some padding in case I’d fall through the ice…
But I managed to reach the little island without falling in the ice and went for a little walk on it listening to the concerto of birds, unfortunately not being able to identify too many of them by the sound (as I should be able to by early June to pass an exam). I drank some juice, ate few candies I found from my pocket and jumped back on my skis after enjoying the sun on a rock near the shoreline.
On my way back the sun had done its job and the surface of the ice was soft and I fell into the slushy layer several times. My boots were thoroughly wet (at least I got confirmation for them leaking as they seemed to be doing already in Iceland) but in the nice warm weather it wasn’t a problem. Skiing back on the ever softening ice, many times pushing trough ankle-deep partially frozen slush was slower than the good skiing to the island and the way back took about 45 minutes instead of the half an hour.
I came back to the shore, took of my skis, improvised yet another way to attach them to my backpack and walked away on the sand. That was it. The last skiing trip of the season. Next, it’s hopefully packrafting, kayaking and other spring-time outdoors things.
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For outdoors oriented people the spring is interesting time in Finland. At some point in April or May (depending on the year and where you live) there is a short period when many kind of outdoor sports are possible at the same time and around the same area: There is still snow to ski, but sunny forests are snow free for walking as are little dirt roads for running or biking. Tivers are running free of ice for kayaking, canoeing or packrafting and flooding enables running the little streams usually too small for any kind of boat. And it’s also warm, there is already plenty of daylight but no mosquitoes! It’s truly magnificent time of the year, though only for a very short period of time.
I originally planned to take the advantage of this short period and do a combined skiing, hiking/running and packrafting day trip but unfortunately I was a week too late for my plan as the ice on the middle of the lake was way too rotten to safely cross. The original plan included skiing about 5km across the lake to a little stream, leaving the skis there and walking or running about 5km of dirt road upstream where I would have inflated my packraft and paddled down couple of kilometers of the little flooding stream back to my skis and skied back home. Unfortunately I was too late for this and actually I didn’t even have the time because of guide school related paperwork… (Paperwork be cursed! Wilderness Guides should be trained and work outdoors, not behind a desk!)
I published my little plan and the little trip report here because I hope that they’ll inspire people to go out and enjoy the spring! Especially in the Northern parts of Scandinavia the possibilities to combine different means of travel on the same day on the same area is still very much possible and I hope you’d take advantage of this and enjoy the sunny days ahead! Or did you already do it?
I’m back from the Vatnajökull and after few intense day at the Guide school studying the wonders of nature it’s time to start blogging again. Unfortunately the school will continue to be very intensive for the rest of the spring but I’m determined to blog along with the school. And as there are many things that I’m planning to write about, I’d like to give you the chance to choose what’s the first (and second) topic I’m going to write about. So go ahead and vote! The voting is open only for one day so hurry!
And to give the post also some other content here are some:
… Numbers along the way
Click to see more pics!
0 blisters – despite skiing several days in wet boots pulling a pulka uphill. Thanks feet! (Though no thanks for the terrible stink!)
1 quite damaged nose – again! Don’t know if it was because of the ice crystals and the high wind or because of the sun. Maybe both?
2 attempts to get on the top of the Hvannadalshnjukur (2109,6m, the highest peak in Iceland).
3 bird sightings, no other wildlife seen on the glacier.
+8 C, the warmest temperature we had.
13 other people met on the ice (Finnarp team practising with Arctic Trucks guides, two Norwegians with Icelandic guide and an Icelandic-Polish duo on a long trek).
15 days at the glacier.
-23 C, the coldest temperature we recorded, might have been colder during the night.
30 m/s and over, the highest winds we had.
46 inch tyres on the super-jeep that dropped us to the edge of the glacier.
250km of skiing.
Countless good memories of the good moments, great company and shitty weather!
Jaakko, Nina, Heini and Jouni at the finish line - or that's what we thought!
… Heini who did all the blogging from the ice. A big daily task, especially as the blogs had to be written with small smart phone without the help of a real full-sized keyboard. I think she did a great job with great sense of humour in the posts.
… Kimmo who translated all the original posts from the ice from Finnish to English and sending them into my blog. Once again a abig task to do in addition to the everyday tasks. (So all the updates from the ice are written by Heini and translated by Kimmo.)
… My dear long-time girlfriend Nina who did great job and was great company on the trip.
… and Jouni who did incredible job pulling two pulkas all the way through the Vatnajökull and keeping the moods up with his incredible sense of humour.
All the people who helped us to make the expedition happen. Big special thanks go to Paavo (our contact in Reykjavik) and to Matias (our contact in Finland). And thanks to Eero the expedition doctor (who was luckily not needed) and to all the other people who helped to make the trip happen. Thanks also to Helgi who gave us the ride to the edge of the glacier and to the guys at Hoffel for the ride back from the edge of ice. Icelanders are simply incredible off-road drivers!
And thanks to all the people who followed our trip and commented to the blogs! Reading the daily comments in the tent every evening was important part of the day.
Today was yet another short and easy day. We started the trips last push by downhill skiing a magnificent crevasse-free (read: snow filled) half pipe for about eight kilometers. The best sled hill in the world! Shame we didn’t bring our Stigas. The snow ended two kilometers before the edge and we changed skis to crampons. Avoiding narrow crevasses we steered our sledges on the blue glacier towards the goal. Finally we hit the dark shaded moraine that borders the glacier. Mission accomplished!
Our ride off the glacier arrives tomorrow morning so we studied the moraine ridges looking for the easiest route to carry our sledges to the rendezvous point. We called the driver to discuss the pick up in detail, only to find out that we were in wrong place! Glacier, here we come again.. The right pick up spot is located in a side pass one kilometer before the glaciers edge. That wouldn’t pose a problem, unless we had to return 800 meters of rocky path and a 120 meter rise.
There was no other choice than get the gear on and head back. A couple of hours went in a light fitness exercise as we wielded five sledges worth of gear up the rocky hill.
Now the trips official part is successfully behind us. We are again frying crêpes to celebrate. Every face has a foolish and happy grin on.
The weather forecast predicted mild 10 m/s breeze for the night, but at small hours the tent got a full load of Vatnajökulls gentle blow and the sound was so terrible that we felt sorry for him. We’ve now realized that the only trustworthy part of the weather forecast is the wind direction. Wind speed needs an additional 10m/s. Temperatures and rain change as they like, with out any respect to the forecasts.
Today was the second last really easy skiing day. We planned a little extra trip to a glacier hut since the weather in the morning was still and mild. A few pale shirtless skiers defied the glacier for a leg. We thought that no ascension skins would be needed for the last icy hill leading to the hut. We had triceps. We no longer have them. We located the hut in a storm cloud with the help of GPS but one would have needed an angle grinder to get to the door through one meter wall of concrete ice.
Well forget the hut trip. We dragged back through the sleet, humiliated, wet snow whipping our faces like an angry cowboy. Found a place to camp and set there.
What’s the moral of the story? Never plan an easy and fun trip on this glacier. Never trust a nice weather. And never ever ski here without a shirt. A deed like that will not go unpunished. Tomorrow should drizzle. It looks like we’ll finish as we started. Wet.
Vatnajökull is an extremely lovely place. A weather one can’t find here doesn’t exist. Not a single day has passed with out the glacier putting us to a test, and today made no exception. From the very first kick the ski sucked an end of the world snow lumps to the bottom. It didn’t ease before lunch brake and when it did the wind started blowing in our harm. Nevertheless, we pressed on for 28 kilometers with the help of our mp3-players.
Now we’re camping already very close to our exit box Lambatungajokul. Tomorrow we will move the camp another ten kilometers closer to the top edge of the glacier, preliminarily assess the crevasses and fry some crêpes.
The trip has moved on to the point where one must face his food bag, eye to eye. Because it’s unethical and plainly wrong to throw food away most has to be eaten before Saturday. It might just be that at weekend there will be four overeaten, panda tanned milk whales soaking in the hot springs.
While I’m writing this, half of the wind barrier we build to protect the tent has been blown away, inside the tent is raining and there’s a Turkish sauna in the absid. Winter camping is relaxing.
Best regards to Nousiainen, the tent smells like a pine martens nest. We are confident that the smell was here before us.