Jouni Laaksonen 10.12.2018
(This is a long story of a long hike. The first part you can find here.)
Last week I told about our week number five that took us through Lemmenjoki NP (the green area). This week we continue across Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness Area, area number 6 on the map.
When Lemmenjoki National Park ends in west, the wilderness continues uninterrupted. There is no road, no habitation, or other signs of human activity – except a rendeer fence marking the boundary of Inari and Enontekiö municipalities. Or rather, the fence is there because the reindeer cooperative changes from Sallivaara cooperative to Näkkälä cooperative.
When we first saw the reindeer fence from farther away, it looked like a fence made of wooden planks. In reality it is a typical metal wire fence, but snow had accumulated beautifully all along every surface.
After the pic above it was only a two kilometre gentle downhill to Jorpavaara wilderness hut. (This super cozy hut was open in 1999, but nowadays it has been locked up.) We lighted the wood stove. We found a huge kettle at the hut, and we filled it with snow. Slowly the hut started to warm up and after a while we had water in the big kettle. We drank, and started to prepare food with the water, and filled the big kettle again with snow. Normal procedures in winter hiking when you can use the luxuries of a hut.
And you indeed feel this is luxury. There is no running water, no electricity, and while the hut gets warm during the evening, it cools down during the night, so often you wake up to a temperature something like zero degrees Celsius. But when you compare this to a night in a tent, this is luxury.
The next day was our weekly rest day. It was –30°C, bright and beautiful, and we did a short skiing tour in the nearhood of the hut. The downy birches looked like a fairy-tale forest, a forest that is iced with powdery sugar. Just like the fence in the pic above. We found an unfrozen spring to give us drinking water, which was a nice surprise. And as you can guess, we ate a lot, washed ourselves, ate some more, and rested. In the evening we once again enjoyed watching the aurora borealis.
Clothing in winter
Have you been watching Game of Thrones? I’ll tell what is the most implausible thing about that fantasy saga, or rather the television version of it, in my opinion. Not the dragons, or magic, or Cersei’s immense lust for power, no, nothing like that. They are normal ingredients in fantasy literature. But why on earth Jon, Sansa, and everybody who roams about the snowy north, are walking and riding about without any kind of a hat? In real life nobody walks, or skis, head uncovered. You lose a huge amount of heat via your head if you don’t cover it.
Well, there isn’t much sense in comparing Game of Thrones to real life…
Here’s us in –30°C. Me on left, Markus on right.
By the way, when you exercise yourself, like ski and pull a heavy pulka behind you, you need surprisingly small amount of clothes, even when it is –30°C. Longjohns, trousers, long-sleeved undershirt, middle layer shirt, jacket. When it’s something like ten degrees warmer, you might want to take the middle layer off. You don’t want to sweat, so you try to wear the minimum amount of clothes to keep you warm when skiing.
On the skin merino wool or polypropylene or similar (never cotton), and as the possible middle layer thin fleece or wool.
The crucial points are feet and hands. You need to have spacious enough boots to allow for several layers of socks and other insulation, and still have room to move your toes. And for hands you need large leather (or other sturdy material) mittens and well-insulating middle layer under them. Next to skin you’ll want to have thin woollen or Powerstretch gloves.
And if it’s windy, you need to protect your face. A good hood is essential.
If you are doing something less active than walking or skiing, then you certainly need a lot more clothes. And while on a skiing expedition, during a lunch break it’s wonderful to don a thick down jacket.
Views in Pöyrisjärvi
This was the first time in Pöyrisjärvi area for both of us. We were surprised how treeless this area is. Not very high, the fells rise mostly only to 450…550 metres above sea level, but they are still treeless for most part. The largest part of the area is so far north that no pine grows here, but in the river valleys there are downy birches. And there are large treeless bogs, also palsa bogs.
This time we did not see them, but later I have been fascinated by the sand bunkers and juniper “fields”. These are typical to Pöyrisjärvi area, though hidden under snow in winter.
Bright and beautiful weather in Pöyrisjärvi area.
We skied from hut to hut, most of the time enjoying the same bright and cold weather. One day, from Lenkihaka to Tshuukisautsi hut, was cloudy and gray, and navigating took more skill and effort than in clear days.
The day from Tshuukisautsi to Pöyrisjärvi wilderness hut was another spectacular one. We started by skiing to the top of Valkamapää fell in the dark of morning. When we reached the summit the day started to dawn, and we saw far away. Treeless, white, gently undulating fells everywhere. Slowly the southern sky started to shine in red, orange and yellow. The sky above us remained blue all day, and the northern sky glowed in light red and purple. The sun does not need to be visible to make views beautiful.
Then we glided down, to the old Lapp village of Kalkujärvi. This is a place where reindeer herders hold the summer round-up, for marking calves with the same earmark as their mothers. The village is not inhabited, except at round-up time. The village is a mystic mix of old and new. There are new log houses, and reindeer herders of today use snowmobiles. At the same time on the yard of every cabin there were poles of a conical Lapp hut ready to be covered with a cloth. No road comes here.
We continued across Pöyrisvuoma bog, half a dozen kilometres of treeless bog. Then we arrived to Lake Pöyrisjärvi, which is large, having a diameter of about six kilometers. We skied along the ice to Pöyrisjärvi hut.
High palsa mounds attracted us to take many pics.
Problems at Pöyrisjärvi hut
I don’t have a picture in digital format of Pöyrisjärvi hut, but let’s see another hut in the area. Two nights earlier we slept in Lenkihaka hut.
Lenkihaka wilderness hut.
Pöyrisjärvi hut is doubly as big, consisting of an open room and a locked, reservable room. We placed our skis leaning against the hut wall and left our pulkas beside the hut, and stepped into the vestibule between the open and locked room.
As we tried to open the room to the unlocked room, we found that the door handle was broken! Often in wilderness huts there’s no latch in the door at all, so all you need to do is pull and the door opens. This hut had a newer kind of a door, with a door handle that you have to push down in order to make the latch inside the door to go away.
The door handle was lying on the floor of the vestibule and it was completely broken. I don’t understand how that is possible, but it was. It was now no more than –20°C outside, but still when you have skied a long day and all the time thought that you’ll be spending the evening and night inside a warm hut, it takes some mental adjusting to accept sleeping in your tent.
We started to adjust our minds – but then we noticed there is a drying room in this extra big wilderness hut. There usually isn’t, but sometimes there is a separate room for drying your boots and clothes. This separate room does not have a stove, but the pipes of the wood stoves in the open room and the reservable room go through this drying room, so it heats up somewhat. As long as someone lights the wood oven in the hut.
Now, the great news was that the drying room had exactly same kind of a door as the open room with broken door handle. We fetched our multi-tool from our pulkas, screwed the door handle off from the drying room door, and screwed it on the open room door. Ta-daa! The door opened!
To prevent anyone going inside the drying room and locking him/herself inside, we screwed the door latch off. A couple of days later we told the situation in Hetta, Fell Lapland Nature Centre, and they promised to go and fix the doors soon.
So, we got in! We chopped some firewood and carried our sleeping and kitchen stuff into the hut. Then, just before we were going to light the wood stove, we started to sniff around. What’s this smell? It’s familiar, not too good, what is it?
Then we realized it’s the gas! The propane gas used in the gas cooker has this smell. Is the cooker… yes, someone had left the valve of the gas bottle open, and an amount of gas had leaked into the hut!
We opened the door and window and aired the hut completely. Only when all the smell was away dared we light the stove.
So far this was far from typical evening at a wilderness hut, but after this all went back normal. The wood stove is the heart of a wilderness hut. It heats up the hut, and it melts drinking water, it prepares the dinner, and it allows the boots and other stuff to dry. Candle lights the room, and all is so nice.
Hut to hut
We decided we’d try to ski a long day to Näkkälän Välitupa wilderness hut, and from there to Hetta town. We had planned to use three days, but it was cold, and the comforts of a wilderness hut tempted.
We did not take the easiest route, though. We wanted to see the scenery from the highest fell in Pöyrisjärvi area. Jierstivaara rises up to 640 meters above sea level, and the view from the summit was wonderful.
Then we navigated to a snowmobile trail leading from Näkkälä village to Hetta. There was a dense downy birch forest on the southwestern foot of Jierstivaara fell, and it was much easier to ski along a snowmobile trail than outside it. Though it is also much duller to ski along a snowmobile trail, and so we just skied quickly to the hut.
The next day dawned with –34°C. We continued along the snowmobile trail, not minding the views but just wanting to reach Hetta town quickly. This was our second and last resupply point.
It was 13th of December and we were now a day ahead of our schedule. There was a load of parcels waiting for us in the post office, both food packages sent by ourselves, and also other packages sent by our friends and relatives. Christmas was approaching and we got many Christmas cards and presents. Nothing heavy or bulky, but some small packages. A good friend of ours told us on the phone that she had sent us an express package and it should arrive 15th December. We decided resting two days will do us good, and the promised parcel arrived as predicted.
Also the landlady of our accommodation had a surprise for us, though we did not notice this for many days yet. I’ll tell about that, and about our week seven and Tarvantovaara Wilderness Area next Monday.