After a long night on the bus, our group started hiking from the parking lot at Ropijarvi at about 7 o'clock. The first meters were skied on the lake which was a quite nice and even wake-up for the trip. A motor shed had paved a road for us in many places. The sky was very clear (only a few clouds to be seen) and because of the almost fill moon we could safe the lifetime of our headlamp batteries for later. We advanced at a steady pace and had soon covered about 4 km. We took a small break and watched the sky became lighter to our right. Even though there was no real sunrise there were enough hours of daylight to get us safely to our first hut, Ropin Autiotupa. We got there at about 13:30 and started to prepare lunch because we hadn't done a lunch break during hiking. People went to take picture or they went to take a rest. At 7 pm we had a delicious pasta dinner from Riina. Tomorrow we are planning to go to the Autiotupa at Kaskasjoki. The trip should be about the same length as today. Maybe we will divide the groups some people want to go to Ropi and other don't. But we will see in the morning…
When we set out at about 9 o'clock in the morning, it was about –20 °C and it was windy. After a while the group divided in two and one group headed for Ropi mountain and the other group would go directly to Kaskasjoki-Hut, where both groups indented to meet again. Since it was that windy and cold, we didn't stop for a lunch, but ..... enjoyed dinner in the hut, which we eventually reached at about 4:45 pm. Down in the tundra the other groups had already caught up with us and had gone the last ~2 km together.
Anita / subgroup going to Ropi
At the top of the Ropi, Soopa tradition was filled by Tuomas, who took his shirt of and posed for camera. Me and Aili felt important enough holding the clothes and taking pictures. After sliding pyllymäki from the rocks piked up at the top, taking pictures and admiring the view we started the way back. We found our skies and backpacks and started the journey to meet the others. Later we ate (too much) and got up at the roof to admire the stars. (by the way, the inner door in Kaskasjoki turns in wrong direction)
10:00 –15 °C clowdy 15:00 –17 °C mostly clear with some clouds 23:30 –29,3 °C clear sky
Again, we woke up later than planned near seven o'clock. Following the trail left by the previous visitor we made our way out of the brush and into the open highlands. On the way we saw several willow grouses and some fox and rodent tracks. We made good haste with a few good point men and women ploughing a path toward Kutukoski, or so we thought. Because of some strangely misslocated fells we headed south happily ignoring that our actual destination was nearing due east. As all natural light was fading we got our journey mercies from a GPS and were now headed at least in the right direction. As stars tell under cloudy skies our only guidances were our own shadows and a quick glance at the compass. Despite the pitch blackness some even managed to have a second lunch while skiing. Finally under clearing skies we reached the Kutukoski cabin. There we were greeted by reindeer skins hanging in and outside the cabin. In the early evening we marvelled at the brightly shining stars trying to name a few constellations of the northern skies. The quickest even got off a wish or two from a shooting star. Later that evening our Czech friend Martin saw his first Northern lights that shone as a crest in the north. And after a great meal (we had a lot of these) we all fell asleep with bursting bellies.
Yesterday was a bit long, so today, we started to wake up only at around 8:00. Riina did a great and efficient breakfast and for fans of Austrian food style, there was enough from the evening left by us and not finished by – probably – big and fat mice during the night. The hut was as always already nicely warm, as Aili's hobby is often to care about the comfort of the others. The track today was easy and short – basically "cross" the Ylimmäinen Lulit Vuotnesjávri and continue a bit south east under the hill of Kalkkoivi. The only difficulty is a temperature –32 °C. Together comes bright sky and air so a little bit elevated view from the hut of Kutukoski through the snow and ice-crystals-covered birch trees direction sunrise is NOT bad. Me and Toumas are going at the back. Mari signalizes the place, where one can step into not frozen water and waits until we understand. The other members are going straight, there is not much to say and nobody is willing to stop in this temperature just to enjoy only slowly changing view. But what do they think about? Just concentrated on the advancing? Mari asks and discusses the origin of the unusual valley formation as soon as we start to get out of the lake. Katharina is heading further without break – our long distance runner, glittering by crystals on her eyelashes – later commenting the previous day as going through the tunnel when the dark falls. I am getting exhausted , being far at back, showing map to Mari and having eating break with Anita. The front part of our group aimed for first visible hut, but is was probably somebody's personal hut (not locked however) of course. The correct hut is visible on the opposite side of the valley. I need a tea break and Mari stays behind me – my personal body- and ahkio-guard, whenever the terrain gets difficult. We arrive at about the end of today's sunrise or sunset – if you want. My task is to make a dinner – so I am stepping around 2 trangias making lohikeitto, some people eat or have a rest, Aili – as usual – has complete shut-down recovery break and afterwards goes with Mari to watch the stars. Anita tells stories from travelling, history , Austria, Tuomas is interested in Austrian Alps, Riina finds common words from the time of being an exchange student in Slovenia at the same time when Anita was there. Martin makes shorter and longer comments and jokes from all possible fields so that the lazy day gets to its end – the day defined by us.
Today we tried to have an earlier start than before and we almost managed to do that. We got started around 9… Jiri announced that the temperature is –13 °C and we had to make sure was it really that or –30 °C. Later it started to feel very cold compared to the thermometer which showed only –15 °C. However we had more breaks than before I think. We also got good news that Mari's sister had got a baby today. Congrats! On our way we have occasionally seen some marks of previous skiers. Today we came through some serious ryteikkö ("thickish forest") with the help of these marks. At Aatsa hut we met a person!! It was quite nice to arrive when the hut was already warm. In the evening we enjoyed a smashed potatoes & meat/tuna meal by Martin. And Martin really enjoyed being the Emäntä :-) The hut was nicely spacious and we spent a nice evening together.
Some of us spent the night outside the hut to ease the lone ahkioman's pain of meeting a group of SOOPA hikers in the wilderness that used to be so silent and peaceful. We had an isolating tent fabric below us and northern lights and stars above, so the night wasn't bad at all. The temperature was about –20 °C in the evening, but rose during the night. After eating breakfast we did a small expedition to a nearby hill called Riikagardevárri. The ahkioman followed us and showed us a good route to Pättikkä from his 1:50 000 map. He probably wanted to be sure that we would disappear.
When we had admired the landscape and discussed about possible routes to the road, we went back to the hut to pack the rest of our stuff and eat some lunch. At four we were ready to start the last skiing part of our hike. The first kilometres were quite hard but we made our way through the bushes. It was our turn to make a trail for the ahkioman, whose tracks we had followed the past days. Finally, after crossing river Aatsajoki, we reached the snowmobile track, that the ahkioman had showed from his map. Skiing along the track was almost too easy, and soon we saw the first car lights from the road. This was the end of the wilderness part of our hike, though we still had to spend the very last night next to the road, listening to the trucks coming from Norway.
The "Last Day" of our polar expedition started already at the previous day, since we still had been awake in the night in order to spend minimal possible time in our sleeping bags. Or, nearly all "kotimainen" members of our group said, that there was quite warm outside (? –10 to –15 °C) and didn't even need a tent. I, exchange student, had not so "optimized" winter equipment and that was why I had been afraid (little bit) of sleeping outside autiotupa and why I had wanted to be "alive" and "moving" as long as possible…
No nyt, we cleaned our teeth and then discussed (or, I was giving "lecture" about) Czech traditional food and desserts. Later I decided to go "sleeping" (= start freezing in our tent), somebody was already trying to sleep, the rest tried to make pancakes. Although outside was quite warm, I didn't sleep so comfortably, fully according to myproposals. My sleeping bag is not really new and is not so warm, as when I bought it… But I folded my inflatable mat to halves and used backpack as mat for my legs, took 3 warm socks, two long johns, two fleece jackets and down jacket also… It was not really cold, but out of about 5-6 hours planned I slept approx. 2 and the rest I've been shivering and moving myself to produce some heat. And also there were only 2 persons in our tent (for 3 pers.), so this also caused some heat loses.
I went out according to plan at 06:00. After packing all my stuff we immediately started putting down the tent. I still had in my mind that bus comes at 07:00 so everything was going quite well and on time (as usually in Finland :-) ). But what a (fuck) surprise, I know I have sometimes bad memory… At 06:55 it was told to me, that bus should come not around 07:00, but 08:00. OK, I slowed down all the morning activities and after finishing them I started to look like a penguin – put my hands in the pockets and walked there and back with pengun-like motion, moving all my fingers and trying again to start my metabolism and produce some heat.
But then – perrrrrrrrkele! The main manager, Aili, called the bus driver and told us the hottest news. Bus is already delayed on its journey to Norway and estimate arrival is around 09:00. (Here it should be mentioned, that we saw the bus already going to Norway couple of minutes after getting up.) Somebody started to play heating up games in snow (what a contrast!), I decided to catch a last chance to improve my skiing technique on forest skis and started to ski, 10 minutes direction to Aatsa, 10 minutes back to "camp". Truly the reason was to move little bit my feet and also to put some thermal insulation between my (= soopa's) rubber boots and cold snow.
I skied couple of loops, then played a guessing game with others and suddenly somebody said, why not to go to "bus station" (traffic sign with bus picture), it is quarter to nine. So we started to move towards the road, near which we camped this night. It was no big deal, really short distance, 50 m, maybe less. And—suddenly—youpeeeeeeeeeeeee, as we reached the road, some bus came and surprisingly it was SOOPA bussi! Our driver stopped the XXL-vehicle (I think for more than 60 persons) almost on the spot, we quickly put our belongings to the cargo space and got on pretty warm bus!
One thing which was obvious just after getting on the bus was specific composition of the "air" inside, but we quickly adapted to that (and also took part in making the "air" more "delicious" :-D ). But this issue was also solved by our prospective manager Aili and just after picking up the last group, whole bus was detoxicated in Hotel Olos and its showers, sauna and swimming pool.
And of course, the really specific vaellus diet (sometimes up to 14× italian pasta in 7 days) could affect human metabolism – glucose processing, brain, liver, intestine functions… The first aid was also provided in the Olos Hotel and let's say: the last dinner of 2010:Kaamosvaellus consisted of borsch-soup, baked potatoes in cream/cheese sauce, chicken curry, rice, baked veggies; green - greek - pasta salads, bread, water, somebody had an extra beer and of course coffee, tea, hot chocolate and cappuccino mousse witch chocolate pieces as the dessert.
After finishing our last kaamos-dinner, I really thought I couldn't move into the bus and soopa would leave me there. But finally I managed to stand up walk the distance to the bus and toppled down to the bus seat, where I fell asleep for couple of hours and I think that Tuomas sitting next to me did the same. Maybe he ate (sure he ate) smaller portion, because he is really sporty guy and can't have any weight extra, but I think he also slept. What to do other in the bus.
As we started approaching Oulu, I (we?) woke up, discussed little bit (about the food, of course). Then suddenly I noticed familiar 3 supermarkets and cemetery across the street and bus stopped at Oulun bus station. I got off the bus, took all my stuff and went back home to cheerfully prepare for beginning of the new semester…
Martin, written already home