2019 Trip – Day 7

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
46.9 km 11.4 km/h 34.7 km/h
  • An abandoned hut

A very warm day up to 3 degrees above freezing. Equipment started to get wet and the “English snow” repeatedly clogged the brake.

Managed to get away by 10:30 and after a great deal of pondering decided to see if I could explore the western half of the north swamps and then follow the trail across the other side of the main trail around Parkavaara.  As it turned out this was a good idea.

I started by searching near the power lines for the other end of a trail which I had seen joining the northern cross road.  I spotted the entrance and it was not somewhere I had been before.  I passed an old abandoned shed and ended up where I had hoped.  Once on the swamps I managed to find the trail heading east and reached the main trail.  This was passable northwards and I reached the end of the Parkavaara trail which – whilst clearly not driven for some time – was passable.  I followed the trail all the way to the logger’s entrance road.  Fortunately the recent snow meant it wasn’t quite as terrifying as the Tilsa road had been.  In addition, careful sweeping had made it easy to turn north onto the main trail.

Spotting a track to the left I followed and and discovered that it went back to the train I had been on at the lake popular with ice hole fishermen.  I shall try to remember this route as it will be useful in future.  I went back round via the road to the main trail and hence to Jänisvaara where I had lunch.

Now with a heavier sled I drove across the swamps to the snow mobile trail.  On the way I passed Jossi with three guests having lunch.  I presumed they were his overnight group.  I turned right down the snow mobile trail and made my way to Tilsa via the canyon.  After a quick slug of juice I followed the recently opened trail along the base of Ramavaara before turning north and taking a straight forward route back to the kennels via the lake crossing.

I then returned all my equipment, paid and was given a lift to the hotel.

Items left at farm this year:

  • Twelve AA batteries (3 packs of 4)
  • Simpson patent leash
  • Knife
  • Wrist compass

2019 Trip – Day 6

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
43.1 km 10.1 km/h 25.6 km/h
  • Kattla loves to roll in the snow but Necky doesn't

An even warmer day with some snow and sometimes above freezing.  Got away from Kylkeinan at about 11:15 and tried to make my way towards Lohilampi.  I had already heard from Milla that it wasn’t possible to cross this year due to concerns about ice state, but thought it would be nice to visit the general area.  One trickiness was trying to avoid ending up on the Tilsa road and I ended up crossing it just next to Tilsa and ending up back on the Tilsa snow mobile trail.

I followed the trail as yesterday, but went on past the swamp turning.  The trail became very soft and has clearly been little used.  I followed the snow mobile trail north and then turned south on the road that passes Lohilampi.  As predicted there was no trail across the lake.  I then went past the top of the Tilsa canyon and along the Koivuvaara road until I could turn north at the same place as on Tuesday.  From these it was a short drive to Jänisvaara to take lunch and drop my bags.

After lunch I drove over to the main trail and after a brief excursion in wood cutter tracks on the other side turned north hoping to reach the north swamp trails.  This northern part of the main trail was softer than I have ever known it.  It became almost impassable north of the junction with the north cross road to the power lines so I turned east along it and then found the southern entrance to the swamp trails.  I followed these round to the east to the eagle’s nest junction and then followed the power lines back to Jänisvaara which I reached at about 17:00.

2019 Trip – Day 5

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
42.1 km 11.2 km/h 24.7 km/h

I was collected from the hotel at 1100 with a Dutch day trip group.  They left first and I got away at about 1230.  The weather was warmer with snow and some strong winds.

Dog Change – Amber replaced by Foxy.

I drove to Tilsa doing my best to avoid the swept Tilsa road.  This involved a roundabout route including the usual hair raising descent of the Tilsa canyon.

Whilst I was at Tilsa I met Juuso who said that he would open the swamp and  Hameenvaara route from the Tilsa snow mobile trail over to Kylkeinan for me.

The Tilsa snow mobile trail was soft even after Juuso had opened it and clearly had been little used.  The open areas across the swamps were barely visible despite having been opened only two hours earlier.  Fortunately, the dogs were able to find their way and I arrived at Kylkeinan at about 1800.

2019 Trip – Day 4

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
67.9 km 12.6 km/h 30.2 km/h

A much colder start with a low of -28 °C when I was feeding the dog’s their breakfast but another sunny day which warmed up to about -5 °C by the afternoon.

I headed over in the direction of Saija and on the way decided to turn south on the disused railway line. I was hoping to find a trail which would lead me to the area south of the river which I have never managed to reach. It turned out that this was a very bad idea!

After a couple of km I found a track going the right way but it just looped back to the railway. So, I pressed on. After about another km I saw some sort of dip in the trail ahead. As I got closer I decided that it was a bridge, but wasn’t concerned as the snow mobile tracks I was following clearly continued across and up the other side. Unfortunately, when I was almost upon it I realised my mistake. It was one of those railway bridges which isn’t solid and just consists of a line of sleepers with big gaps between them like a huge cattle grid!

Scene at bridge crisis with wheel dogs rescued.

I stood on the brake, but by the time I stopped, all of the dogs were on the bridge and in serious trouble. Most managed to climb onto a sleeper and balance whilst shaking with fear. The drop though the gaps was about 3 or 4 m to a snow filled stream. I quickly put in the anchor and rushed to the rescue. My biggest concern was for Kattla who had almost completely fallen though a gap and was supported only by his harness and front feet. I pulled him up and managed to lead him to safety. Then I started to retrieve the others working towards the leaders.

I then had the problem of what to do with the dogs I rescued. I could just let them run free, but they might try to re-join their friends on the bridge. I therefore used some of my spare lines to fix them to the back of the sledge.

Collecting the dogs was difficult as the sleepers were covered with compressed snow and therefore quite slippy. The gaps were too narrow for me to fall all the way through but I was worried that I could easily break a leg if I fell. To make matters worse, some of the dogs were too scared to move and I had to carry them.

As I was working on retrieving the leaders two snow mobiles arrived. The driver of the first spoke English and said that there were three such bridges on the line. I turned the sled and started to re-attach the team with the driver helping by holding the leaders in place whilst I did so. I then started back the way a came very grateful that no dogs had been hurt and revising my view that it is always safe to follow where snow mobiles have been.

I resumed my drive towards Saija and took my usual route via the ski trail. Sadly and most unusually the trail had not been swept for the last few km. I then joined one of Saija’s trails north for a few km before cutting across to the army road to return south to the ski trail. I was just thinking about how the army road had been built during WW2 when I noticed the sign below. Sadly, I don’t know what it says but will update the blog once I have a translation.

Sign beside the army road.

As I approached the Saija trail again I hear a load rumbling noise and then in the distance I saw a huge machine which turned out to be the one which makes the ski trails. It appeared that Saija were paying to have their already perfectly serviceable trail upgraded to billiard table standard. I found my way over and had the delight of driving on the virgin trail before Saija had a chance to use it!

Driving on the virgin Saija trail.

I then made my way back the way I had come and collected my bag from Jänisvaara.

Finally I made my way back to the farm making the mistake of taking a route via the Tilsa road. Loggers had clearly on just swept this and with almost no snow it was both very fast and difficult to control. I was most grateful that Buddha took the command to turn off it as I would have been unable to put in the anchor to guide him or even reliably stop on the brake.

I got back to the farm at about 1800 and was given a lift to the Hotel Herkko on Taivalkoski to have a night back in civilisation.

2019 Trip – Day 3

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
31.5 km 11.7 km/h 24.6 km/h

  • A sunny morning at Keylkeinan

An unusual day with much better weather.  I got a text from one of the guides, Laura, to say that her uncle was coming to take some publicity photos and would I help.

After a late start I met up with Laura, Milla and the uncle and we drove to Janisvaara hill whilst Laura and I were photographed.

The uncle then departed and we had lunch on top of the hill before driving a loop over the swamps in the afternoon and returning to Jänisvaara cabin.

2019 Trip – Day 2

  • The water hole found and opened.
Distance Average Speed Max Speed
27.0 11.8 km/h 24.4 km/h

Got up at 07:00 and only then thought that perhaps the missing axe might be in the wood shed – Duh!

Given a lift to the farm, Old safari house completely gone following October fire and now just an area of snow.
The guides managed to find most items I needed except snow shoes – which was a pity as they might have come in useful later. I was allocated a brand new sledding suit, boots and sled bag as these are all things which were lost in the fire. Unfortunately, Timo confirmed that my personal kit which I had left at the farm was not covered by his business insurance.
This year’s team are:

Budha Amber
Trapper Vital
Necky Kattla

Regular readers might recall that I had Kattla in 2017.

Got away at about 1100 trying to head for Tilsa. Unfortunately I was significantly hampered by not being able to use the new GPS wrist case sewn for me by Sophia as the straps kept coming loose. This made navigation very difficult and I ended up doing one large loop twice.

It was not very cold, but snowing steadily and rather windy out on the lakes. This made it hard for the dogs to follow the trails in open areas and at one point on a swamp the leaders lost their way and wandered into deep snow. It was very hard work to turn them and they succeeded in pulling the sled back over me and trapping me for a short period.

I finally found my way to Tilsa and spent some time trying to resolve the wrist case problem. I managed to fix it by reversing some of the clips (hard to describe without a diagram). The straps are now a little hard to tighten but they hold. This made navigation after lunch much easier.

I left Tilsa hoping that I could drive west along the bottom of Romevaara, but the trail only ran for a short distance. I finally found a route by re-tracing my steps. As always today I was hindered by a shortage of open trails.

Near Tilsa I crossed a large forest track which I have never seen before. Evidently it has been put in by loggers and I must ask the guides where it goes.

The trail across the swamps to Tilsa was only just passable and the dogs nearly lost their way several times. I got back to Kylkeinan at about 15:00 after a short but eventful day. A key task was to open the water hole to get the water for the dogs and this was quite tricky as the heavy snow had obscured the water hole. Fortunately, searching in the snow I stumbled over a block of ice from which I then started digging.

2019 Trip – Day 1

Due to early flight I spent Saturday night at the Heathrow Radisson Blu hotel. They did a deal with 8 days parking which was very reasonable. At a most unpleasant hour I caught the bus to the terminal for the uneventful flight to Stockholm. The plane was only about 1/3 full.
Whilst in Stockholm airport I tried to make use of their free WiFi. Now, I know that my travel laptop is old and weird, but it has worked fine in many places. Unfortunately, it only has the Opera web browser and this refused to connect to the WiFi login page as it claimed it was insecure. Only by turning off all of Opera’s security checking could I get it to work. Unfortunately, I managed this only seconds before needing to board the flight to Oulu.
I was hoping to catch the 15:10 bus from Oulu to Jurmu, but this was always going to be tight – even with a taxi – with an arrival time of 14:40 and this timing fell apart when a delayed departure from Stockholm. I therefore took a bus to Oulu centre and then spent a very long time waiting for the 18:40 to Oulu. The bus station hall was shut, but fortunately I was able to shelter in the adjoining cafe.
Despite selling me a ticket to Jurmu, the driver didn’t stop when we got there. I have never had this problem before! Fortunately, I was able to call Timo and the re-directed Milla to pick me up from the stop in Taivalkoski.
I had previously agreed with Timo that following their disastrous fire in October which destroyed the guest accommodation, I would spend the first night in Kylkeinan and she said that as I was quite late she would drive me straight there and that she had my meal with her.
Well, I coped, but it took even longer than normal to light the fire. Primarily this was because I couldn’t find the axe and therefore was rather short of kindling.