Monday, March 28, 2016

Halti - winter skiing trip

Halti - winter skiing trip

It was time to hit the fells of Lapland again with my good skiing buddy, Florian. We took the train to the northern most Finnish train station, Kolari, then took another bus to Kilpisjärvi and we were against in the midst of the Lappish fells. We aimed at reaching Halti, the mighty, tallest mountain of Finland (1365m), a 54 kilometres trip and, hopefully, come back.

The two first days are easy going, skiing, enjoying the very simple landscape, eating well and plentifully and sleeping in the tent. Some German skiers tip us about a coming storm, which might severely affect our plans. So we rush to Halti, racing with the bad weather on his way. It is about 2 pm when we arrive at the foot of Halti and we go for a south face attempt. The climb doesn't include actually any difficulty, Halti is simply the highest fell around (on the Finnish side), but it is not very impressive. No cliffs, almost no visible rock, a very round shape. Anyway, we arrive at the top facing some pretty strong wind already. We can feel the storm coming and the visibility is very poor. The downhill is miserable since Nordic skis are just not meant for any control in downhill. Pretty tired from our long day and not so keen on performing a storm test on my tent, we head for the hut (autiotupa). One of these wonderful wooden huts maintained by Metsähallitus that is found mainly in Lapland. They are welcoming, fire wood is provided, inside there is a wood stove, a gas stove, a couple of table and room for about twelve people to sleep. And all that for free and not locked in any way. The place is so cosy that I express the wish to get stuck there by the storm for a day or so, just to spend a day doing nothing else than reading and listening to the crackling sound of the fire. 

Somebody hears my wish and we do get stuck for three days in the hut and we have plenty of time for reading and listening to the fire in the stove. It is actually pretty enjoyable, our days are made of reading, sleeping, eating, chopping some wood and talking. We sometimes go out on our ski to give it a try and kill time. With over 20 m/s wind, it is pretty interesting. Sometimes the wind carries so much snow that we barely see the toilets that are 50 meters away from the huts.

On Thursday, the wind seems to weaken about 2 pm and we head off for Meekonjärvi in the wind. The conditions are indeed easier and we make it to the absolutely stunning valley of Meeko, surrounded by massive cliffs with an arctic forest at the bottom. The next day brings us at the foot of Saana, the photogenic mountain next to Kilpisjärvi. The trip is almost finished, we feel it in our body and we are pretty pleased with the adventure. It is a particular feeling to do this kind of trip all on skis and with all the food in our pulka. We give a last look to Saana under a bright moon when we realise that some weak Northern lights are visible, apparently we are given to enjoy a light show just on our last day.

The last day is made of the horrific downhill in the forest to Kilpisjärvi retkeilykeskus and here we are, waiting for our bus to go home. 104 kilometres in about 8 days. February 2016.