December 29th, 2009 – by: dznek
The first day starts actually on the previous night when we board a ship in Tallinn and start driving towards Hetta at about 9pm. We arrive at about 11am. The worst thing about Lapland is probably that it’s so damn far away. Anyhow I slept through most of the trip. At Hetta we grab a quick snack and tea and prepare skis and change for the day. We start near a silver jewelers shop. The owner also organizes our bus to the end of the trail. When testing skis I had no problems, but the instant I put on my skis for the actual trip one of the braces breaks. Fortunately I had a spare one. To reach the trailhead we have to cross a lake and off we go. We’re instantly knee deep in powder and some people fall. Daily legs are about 15 km long each, which might not seem such a long distance, but that’s not definitely you usual cross-country skiing.
On a good trail and downhill it is possible to go 5-7 km/h, but when you have no trail or it hasn’t been used for some time then you can expect 2-3 km/h. So for the first 6 km we followed a path and reach first checkpoint before it got dark at about 1530 or so. Had some tea and warmed near a fireplace. There are a lot of huts in Finnish national parks where people can warm up, spend the night, cook some food or just take a break. Most of the are free but that means you have to be there before the others, ‘cause they are free for all and you can’t leave those coming late outside. These huts are called autiotupa, which means free room. To be sure that you get a place for your own you can also book a room for some fee �" these are varaustupa. There might be a sauna nearby also. The huts are mostly for 8-16 people with bunk beds, a wood stove and gas stove. Gas and firewood is prepared by the park rangers. There are also toilets and garbage bins so you don’t have to cut down living trees or carry your garbage around. The wood stove provides enough heat so you don’t have to carry a winter sleeping bag. Basically you can manage with a sleeping mat and a blanket. It became to hot to sleep in a sleeping bag in most nights, but it might get chilly when the fire goes out. Back to the trip. We started again in the dark with headlamps, but it soon became clear that it is near to impossible to follow the planned route ‘cause we couldn’t find the markings in the dark. So we decided to go over the hill instead following the valley. But we had to find the right track first. We had a GPS unit and that showed the hiking trail we wanted to reach. To get to it we had to spent quite some time to go uphill through knee deep powder, which was quite fun actually although somewhat tiring. I took point and after some time unsuccessfully fiddling with the GPS I tried to get directions figured out with the map and compass. By that time someone had found the trail post. Or was it like that I found a post then lost it, tried with the compass, but someone found the markings again. Anyhow then we decided to follow the trail posts, which wasn’t that easy also ‘cause it started to snow and you had to really look for the markings. Occasionally they were almost covered with snow with just a little bump visible. We ascended about 300m and reached the 711m high hilltop called Pyhäkero. From that point onward we only had to descend to the first hut, where we were to spent the night. Descending was actually more difficult ‘cause the snow was blowing right to my face and it was even harder to see the markings and you were going downhill. Often you had to guess the direction and then change direction while speeding downhill. The slope wasn’t steep but it was difficult to turn with those skis. I managed to land on my face quite a few times. But in daylight conditions and different skis both the slopes we went up and down would have been great for off-piste. We arrived at the Sioskuru hut at about 8pm with another guy who had taken the point at halfway down and the others arrived about 45 minutes later. Ate and chatted a bit to get to know each other better and crashed at around 11pm