Millennium hike, part 2: Kaldoaivi

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions
Jouni Laaksonen 12.11.2018

(In case you just bumped here, welcome to follow a two month hike done in year 1999 at this very time of the year. See three earlier posts also, starting from prologue.)

After the rest day at Sollomusjärvi open hut we continued early next morning. Our goal was Opukasjärvi wilderness hut after about 23 km. That sounded like a tough task, but we were well rested, and after eight days of eating, and burning candles and so on, our packs weighed under 30 kg now.

That’s more than my backpack ever weighs, but compared to what it weighed in the beginning of our expedition it did feel considerably lighter. As I told, we had to lower our packs and sit down every thirty minutes in the first days. After the first week the time between sitting pauses grew to forty minutes, and sometimes even to an hour.

Probably our walking speed also increased, but having less breaks helps a lot to gain more kilometers per day.

ppreitti_varit

During this post we are crossing wilderness number 2, Kaldoaivi.

Of course, in hiking gaining a lot of miles per day is not often the target. The goal is to enjoy the nature without stress, in peace. This time we had a clear goal ahead of us: to stand on top of Finland’s highest point, Halti fell, on 1st January 2000.

But don’t you worry, my dear reader, we were not just mechanically executing a plan. 🙂 Every day brought it’s own surprises and delights. We enjoyed every day, and the enthusiasm I told last week was still overwhelming.  Having to carry our skis, and other problems, were just minor things compared to that.

 

From hut to hut

Translation from my diary:

“Boy, isn’t it nice to sit in Opukasjärvi wilderness hut and to look at aurora borealis through the window! My stomach is full of good tasting dinner, and there’s a piece of chocolate slowly melting in my mouth.

But the situation could very well be completely different. We might still be trying to find our way here, or pitching our tarp out there. For the latter part of the day we followed a marked hiking trail, though the last hours in pitch dark. Already half a kilometer earlier we thought we should have reached the hut. We could not see one, and we cautiously continued. Still we had a nagging feeling that perhaps we just didn’t see the hut and we are now walking away from it. Finally I said to Markus: ’50 more paces, and then we turn back.’ I counted my steps and got to 34 when the toilet of the hut came to the beam of light of my headlamp. That was a close thing!”

We were hiking in the dark because we wanted to enjoy the luxuries of Opukasjärvi hut. (This open hut was sadly burned down in February 2018.) The luxuries meaning warmth generated by the wood stove, shelter from wind and cold, and the dim light of our candle flickering on the table.

In Kaldoaivi we were able to enjoy huts a lot. Next day we walked to Iisakkijärvi hut where we had our lunch break. During last two days the amount of snow had increased all the time, and after lunch we decided to try to ski, finally! There wasn’t enough snow to ski on all the time, but of the afternoon distance approximately half we skied and half walked.

The next morning we continued skiing, and succeeded to ski all the day. It sure is a lot easier to transport 280 cm long skis on your feet than my carrying them…

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

A normal lunch break: Markus breaks his noodles to pieces, then pours them into the small saucepan that acts as his plate, adds spices and pours hot water over the noodles. After waiting for a couple of minutes the warm lunch is ready to be eaten. There’s only a fleece jacket on top of the skiing clothes, because our down jackets are waiting for us in the post office at Karigasniemi town.

We were following marked hiking trail Sevettijärvi–Pulmankijärvi, but still we managed to get into trouble with crossing river Silisjoki. I already told about the most dangerous situation of my hiking career, but that’s arguable. At river Silisjoki I might have been in even greater danger.

I’ll tell about river crossings during our hike later in a separate post. Crossing rivers is the single most dangerous thing about hiking in Finland. However, normally, in the normal hiking seasons and on the normal hiking routes they are not dangerous. November is way out of any hiking seasons.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

Arriving to Tsaarajärvi hut. We are skiing!!

Our appetite was enormous. I’ll tell what happened in Tsaarajärvi wilderness hut:

  • We arrived early, at 2 pm. We started to soak dried potatoes, dried ham and dried vegetables, and ate some bread  and leftover macaroni. There was a big kettle (4 or 5 liters) in the hut, and we used it to make a full kettle of pop corn as an afternoon snack.
  • Then we made the normal (=big) size dinner from the materials that were soaking.
  • Then we found a 400 gram package of spaghetti some other hiker had left to the hut. We looked at each other, but didn’t need to speak: we boiled the whole package of pasta. Eaten with lots of butter the spaghetti tasted delicious. Now finally we felt full.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

We knew we’d be using a lot of energy during our cold hike, and we managed to pack enough food to equate to that need. For example we had 500 grams of butter per person and per week, and we ate all of that. I don’t do that in normal life, not nearly, but here it was needed.

 

Snow storm

Tsaarajärvi hut was a turning point: after that we did not have to walk any more, but we skied all the rest of our journey. We continued west from the hut, off the Sevettijärvi-Pulmankijärvi trail and the huts along it.

We pitched our tarp near Lake Vuopme Gálddojávri. We were crossing the treeless central highland of Kaldoaivi area. We found some bushes of downy birch by the lake and tried to use them as kind of a shelter for our tarp. In the evening the wind was blowing gently from south and we pitched our tarp according to that.

Early in the morning we woke up to loud noise. The wind had turned 180°, to north, and it was blowing hard now. Our tarp looked like oversized football, as the wind blew straight in it. We jumped quickly out of our sleeping bags and into our clothes, and pulled our tarp down. We were quick enough to prevent it from breaking apart.

We kept our things in control and did not lose anything to the wind. It was really blowing hard, and we were going to be skiing across treeless fells all the day, and possibly going to sleep again under our tarp, and in a less sheltered place…

As we quickly ate our breakfast we decided we’d try to reach the next river valley, Vetsijoki valley, where our map told there would be birch forest.

This was a harsh day. The wind was so hard it was often difficult to keep your balance and not fall down. The landscape of central Kaldoaivi is treeless fells, treeless bogs and some lakes. In a snowstorm all looks white or gray.

The temperature was only near zero, but the wind made it so cold we did not want to stop for breaks. However, a lunch must be eaten, otherwise you don’t have the strength to continue. Behind a small hill we found a partial shelter from the worst wind and quickly ate a couple of ready made sandwiches.

I am slower one to eat. After eating his sandwiches Markus asked is it going to take long for me yet. I replied that maybe a couple of minutes. He mumbled something and I continued eating. When we continued our way couple of minutes later, Markus told he ate a whole chocolate slab (170 grams) while I finished my lunch. He said his energies were low…

There isn’t any sense in skiing a long way without eating properly. But sometimes the conditions are such that you have to. We were too hasty in the morning to boil water to our thermos bottle. If we had a tent instead of tarp, we could have pitched it, and prepared proper lunch inside the vestibule. But now we had to do what we had.

However, our tactic was surprisingly good. As we just skied and skied without pauses, we covered ground more quickly than we anticipated. It was wonderful to see a line of dark, which meant downy birches in the Vetsijoki valley, before the afternoon grew dark!

In the end we found an old and rotten wilderness hut we knew might be there, but were not sure about. The stove was very rusty and the cabin draughty, but the hut was quite a hotel to us.

 

Bright day, bright thoughts

The next day we woke to a still, sunny and much colder world than yesterday. It was minus 16°C.

Because of yesterday’s long march we now had only a short stretch to cover before we would arrive to Vaisjoen kammi, a turf hut that had somehow grown legendary in our minds. We knew where the turf hut was situated, but we did not know would it be locked or open, rotten or usable.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expeditions

Vaisjoen kammi. The turf hut was not only open, but also in good condition!

We took it easy, and arrived to the turf hut already by lunch time. The moment we saw that the turf hut has no lock, and it looks to be in good condition was hilarious. Yes!

We had planned to spend our second rest day here, in case the turf hut is usable. The kammi was great! It was neat and had a good wood stove, but as we arrived here already before lunch, today felt almost like a rest day.

We properly dried our sleeping bags that had got some snow on them in the windy morning at Vuopme Gáldojávri, and rested and ate a lot during that day, but the next day we were ready to again.

* * *

Next Monday we’ll continue through Paistunturit Wilderness Area and Kevo Strict Nature Reserve, on our week number 3.

 

 

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