600 km hike

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions
Jouni Laaksonen 22.10.2018

I tried to tell about this hike last week, but never got to the actual hike. 🙂 We’ve glimpsed on this 600 km hike already here and here.

Now, let’s go to 1st of October 2000. I and Markus Rask are in Kilpisjärvi village in the northwestern arm of Finland and we both have 10 kg backpacks. We are going to hike ultralight through Lapland, to the eastern end, village of Nellim.

We did not have a GPS with us on this hike, and even if we had had, I’m not in a habit of recording my routes. However, we both drew our line of walking to a map, and just now as I write this, I’m reliving our hike by following that line, and converting it to a gpx file with excursionmap.fi.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

I uploaded the gpx file I created to paikkatietoikkuna.fi and took a screenshot out of there. You can upload your gpx files as zip packages to Paikkatietoikkuna, and see them in whatever scale you wish to. Start from left, Kilpisjärvi, goal on right, Nellim. Green/black circles are food resupply points.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

Another screenshot from Paikkatietoikkuna. Part of the same route, but on much more precise scale.

If you wish to see our route in more detail, here’s the gpx file I created at excursionmap.fi.

 

Memories from the hike

I have written a longer story of this hike in magazine Erä 5/2001 and my book Erämaat (Edita 2010), so I’ll not repeat those stories. Instead I’ll tell what came to my mind while now, when I was following our line:

  • At Termisjärvi we had a wonderful morning. The wilderness hut we had spent the night is situated on the shore of a lake that is jutted between two sharpfaced and high fells. Sunrise colors and mist, beautiful!

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Mostly Käsivarsi area offered good terrain to walk: open fell with not much rocks, but there were also some more rocky (and misty) sections.
  • Crossing rivers Rommaeno and Toriseno was no problem, but crossing river Lätäseno was life threatening. I was more stupid than I’ve ever been on my hikes. I’ll tell more about this river crossing next week.
  • In Tarvantovaara Wilderness Area we hit a couple of times too wet bogs. It’s not nice to find yourself on a surface that shakes and tries to slurp your boots into a bottomless wetness… After second or third time we decided to stay on the Finnish-Norvegian border, which runs along higher ground. Even after that decision I remember having crossed at least one untraversable bog by hanging to a reindeer fence. It is no wonder Tarvantovaara is one of the least hiked wilderness areas.
  • In Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness Area crossing river Pöyrisjoki was a bit dangerous. We took it slowly and finally found a safe enough wading route. Other rivers, like Suukisjoki and Käkkälöjoki were nice to wade: soft sandy bottom and not too much water. In Kortejoki wilderness hut we had a rest day and washed some laundry.

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Wading across river Pöyrisjoki. Looks easier here than it really was.
  • In Lemmenjoki, and in other areas, too, we saw many times large flocks of willow grouses.
  • In Muotkatunturi Wilderness Area our tent pole broke. It sure is a good thing there are spare parts in quality tents. We replaced the broken section of the pole and all was well again.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

Me in Muotkatunturi area. Photo: Markus Rask.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

Lunchbreak on the shore of river Karigasjoki. We are leaving Muotkatunturit behind us and moving on to Kevo.
  • In Kevo Strict Nature Reserve we got a fit of adrenaline, or testosterone, or whatever. In any case we decided to try to walk through all of the Kevo SNR in one day, 51 km. It’s no even ground, but lots of sharp ups and downs – and fantastic views. I remember how we found a half full box of fructose sugar in the turf hut at Fiellu waterfall. Someone had left it, and the mice had not found it yet. (Because of mice it is not a good idea to leave food at huts.) There was almost half a liter of it, and we ate it all. I guess we were in need of extra energy. In the end we did march all the way in one day. In the evening we telephoned a taxi to pick us up from the eastern end of Kevo Trail to Utsjoki. This way we avoided walking 25 km on a paved road. While we waited for the taxi to come we spread out our sleeping pads on the ground and laid on our backs, lifting our feet high up towards the posts of the information table of Kevo Trail. We could feel how blood pumped down from our swollen feet…
  • In Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area we walked the first day in hard wind. The terrain was treeless, and while the wind did not hinder our walking, or pose any threat, it still got to our nerves. It was a relief to reach the quiet of the downy birch forest or Vetsijoki and Vaisjoki river valley. Vaisjoki turf hut served again as a good base for a rest day, same as on our two month hike.
  • On the bank of river Pulmankijoki an eagle took off just in front of us. It was a majestic sight! It had been eating a willow grouse and we inadvertedly scared it off. I also found an eagle feather that was two cm longer than my sleeping pad roll, meaning it was 52 cm long.
  • We knew Vätsäri Wilderness Area is the most rocky area in Finland, but still it was a surprise to find out that we walked a whole long day, over 30 km, without stepping on ground more than just a few times. All the time from one rock to another.

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Me in the endless rock areas of Vätsäri. Photo: Markus Rask.
  • It was exceptionally warm in Vätsäri. The midpoint of October had already passed, but one day we could walk in t-shirts, and eat blueberries! Usually it is lot colder, and there may well be first snow on the ground at this time.

I see I remembered many hardships. However, we were in a good mood throughout the journey, and enjoyed ourselves all the time hugely (well, except maybe a couple of less well planned bog crossings, and the Lätäseno occassion). We were fulfilling another dream.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

A summary of our hike.

Thoughts about ultralight hiking

I liked ultralight hiking. We had a lot less gear than usually, but we did not miss anything vital. The lightweight equipment functioned well.

This hike did not make me adopt ultralight way of hiking permanently. I have used this approach when we have tried our limits with Markus (like trying to hike 127 km without sleeping, hiking 100 km / 24 hours), and I always use it in wilderness competitions. When the backpack weighs something like 8 to 12 kg, it does not feel burdensome. My shoulders do not start to ache even if I hike two hours without stopping.

However, when I head to a week or ten days hike, I select a larger backpack. I try to leave the unnecessary equipment home, and I choose lightweight gear, but still carrying for example ten days worth of food, and camera accessory, makes the backpack a lot heavier than ultralight. Still the difference to the weight of my backpack in my youth days is clear. Even on ten day solo winter expedition my backpack now weighs about 20 kg, in summer and/or in a group naturally less.

Trying to make your backpack lighter is a good goal. Take small steps and find out what is a good balance for you between comfort on trail (less weight on your shoulder) and comfort in camp (more clothes and accessories).

* * *

Next week I’ll tell how I was about to drown while wading across river Lätäseno.

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3 thoughts on “600 km hike

  1. Wow, very nice that you share this Jouni! I only wish I read this before my own long hike with similar route! This must have been one of the first, if not the first lightweight hikes in Finland. A small but interesting piece of Finnish hiking history. It was also late October, so it could have been very cold. Funny how you managed to combine the rubber boots test with the ultralight trip!

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  2. Thanks, Ossi. It sure was interesting to read about your ultralight 600+ km hike!

    About October: Yep, it could have been -5C during days and -20C during nights, and some snowcover. October is often rather a good walking month even in Lapland, but sometimes it starts to be quite wintery.

    One thought about the start of ultralight hiking in Finland: Even if ultralight was not common in Finland in year 2000, or maybe it was almost unheard of, in hiking, it was common practice in wilderness competitions. The top teams in ‘Erävaelluksen SM-kilpailut’ (Finnish Championships in Wilderness Skills) had really ultralight packs on their backs for that four day competition already in the 1990’s.

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