Spring on our latitude

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expedition
Jouni Laaksonen 1.4.2019

The weather services tell me there’s temperatures above +20C in many places in Central Europe. I bet the first flowers are blooming and birds are singing?

Spring is very different in various latitudes! In Finland April is also a spring month, but in a different way. In Southern Finland there’s only a little of snow left, and soon you can walk on dry paths. And the first flowers start to emerge there.

Here in Northern Finland there’s plenty of snow right now, and the skiing conditions are at their best. When the daytime temperatures are above zero, and nighttime temperatures below zero, there starts to form a crust, a hard layer on top of the snow field. This is called hankikanto in Finnish.

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expedition

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expedition

In the centuries past, when there were no roads in the more remote corners of Finland, like all of Northern Finland, this hankikanto period was very important. It’s super easy and fast to ski wherever when there’s hankikanto, so long journeys could be completed with some ease by skiing on hankikanto. Also fetching firewood, or hay that you had cutted during autumn on distant bogs, or other important articles was easy now.

Also hikers typically enjoy hankikanto period. Many people head to wilderness and national parks to enjoy an easier week of winter backpacking than in other parts of winter.
April fun!

The last two weeks the temperatures have gone up and down just that way, and therefore there is now a hard layer on top of the 80 cm snow mattress.

(By the way, as much as I live in Northern Finland, this is not Lapland yet. In Lapland the above zero daytime temperatures have just started only now, so hankikanto is only now starting to form there. The weather forecasts look good. I’m soon going hiking to Lapland and seems seems I’ll get to enjoy hankikanto there, too.)

Anyway, we had a lot of fun this weekend with my family. We skied on the fields and forests near our house. Sun was shining, the snow was hard and skis were gliding fast!

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expedition

Hiking in Finland - Day Trips and Backpacking Expedition

We saw some animal tracks: many elks (moose), some hares, and here a wolverine.

Most of the winter you have to use long and wide forest skis (mine are 280 cm long and 7 cm wide). With those you only sink something like 10 to 20 cm into the snow. The skis do not glide much, as you can imagine with that much sinking, but still you can move forward with relative easiness. Without skis you could not move forward at all, and with shorter skis you would sink a lot more. Snowshoes are an option, too, but that’s a slower method of moving.

Yesterday and the day before we used normal cross-country skis, I think mine are about 200 cm long and 4 cm wide. And I sank 0 cm into the snow. April is a great month!

At some point in April the also nights start to have temperatures above zero, and then the hard crust starts to crumble, and after many enough nights and days like that the snow starts to get mushy. But right now that is far away, and let’s enjoy hankikanto!

* * *

Next week I’ll ponder gear reviews. I’ve conducted gear reviews for outdoor magazine for twenty years. How do you decide what are the important factors? How are the different factors weighed?

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