Hiking 127 km without sleeping?


Jouni Laaksonen 18.6.2018

Have you ever wondered where your physical limits are? Hiking is normally not a sports exercise where you test your limits, and normal hiking should not be – but it can be if you want to.

When Pallas-Ounastunturi National Park was enlargened to Pallas-Yllästunturi NP in 2005, the area of the NP doubled. Now all the way from Ylläs to Hetta, 127 km along a marked hiking trail, was inside national park. With a friend of mine, Markus Rask, we decided to try if we can hike all the way without sleeping.

Markus at 10 km sign. 62 km to Pallas and 55 from there to Hetta. Still smiling…

We were and are not ultrarunners or any kind athletes. We were just two about 35 years old guys with normal physical condition. Well, we had walked long distances many times earlier, but we did not train for good physical condition.

We fully understood that probably we would not succeed, so we took ultralight backpacks, but with plenty of food, spare clothes, other necessary accessories, and also sleeping gear.

One bright June morning we stood at the yard of Visitor Centre Kellokas, in Ylläs. Planning was over and all that was needed any more was to execute our plan. We started walking.


About 50 km behind, over 70 km ahead. We are on Ylläs-Pallas trail, on top of Äkäskero. Pallas fells behind the lakes. Note the very light backpack, Markus designed and sewed it himself.


127 km of without sleeping?

We kept a brisk pace, took long strides and our rest stops were short and far apart. That’s our mode when we want to walk fast.

I’m not going to bother you with details, but here are some conclusions:

  • We had fun! With a companion of similar mindset and sense of humour even the most crazy idea can produce very good time.
  • We walked through the day, ate a couple of lunches, walked through the night, ate couple of dinners, and snacks in between. We took care of our feet by lying on our backs on rest stops and lifting feet upwards. We saw great fell and forest and lake views and for example snow buntings. It was pleasantly warm, but not hot, and as usual, there were no mosquitoes yet. Mosquitoes often arrive to Lapland at the end of June.
  • No, we did not succeed in our goal. In Nammalakuru, at 80+ km, we were zombies, still walking but almost asleep. We barely made it to Hannukuru wilderness hut, 100 km, and had to stop to sleep.
  • After a nice 18 hour nap we continued rest of the way to Hetta.
  • During the first 72 km from Ylläs to Pallas we saw 0 other hikers. From Pallas to Hetta we saw over 100 other hikers. This is the norm, Pallas-Hetta trail is the most popular in Finland, and Ylläs-Pallas is quite forgotten one. However, Ylläs-Pallas is very much worth hiking, too.
On left Ylläs-Pallas section: no other hikers. On right: Pallas-Hetta section: lots of other hikers.
1. In June it’s totally possible to encounter some stretches of snow in Northern Lapland. They are not a problem, though. Markus filling his water bottle. 2. My feet, letting blood flow away from them while Markus is preparing our gas stove. Soon we’ll have our first dinner after a couple of lunches. 3. At Hannukuru wilderness hut we had to stop to sleep.

* * *

Next week let’s continue on this same subject. This time we tried to walk 100 km in 24 hours. Did we succeed? (Don’t let these two posts mislead you. Normally, something like 95% of my hikes, I hike something like 12 to 25 km per day. These ultralong day marches are exceptional ones.)

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