Are you finished?

It has been dark for a few hours when we hear some noises outside. Ten to nine, a skier. “Are you finished?”, he asks. Are you finished? The words hit me like waking up roughly from a deep sleep. Why, are you finished? “Ehm, excuse me?” is the only thing I can utter. “Are you finished?”, he asks again. The words don’t make sense. “Ehm, yes?”. What a strange question. I ask him his nationality. “Finland.” It makes sense now: “Are you FINNISH?”

His pulk is broken. A fellow skier repaired it provisionally. He doesn’t trust the repair and wants to head back to civilization as soon as possible. He arrived late because he travelled two day-routes in one day. He doesn’t think it’s too late to arrive, for he met someone who arrived at half pas eleven at a cabin.

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We’re in Finland in the Urho Kekkonen national park. Our Finnish roommate wants to go to Lankojärvi, just like we do. Today it’s snowing and the route we’re taking has not been preceded by a snowmobile. We move slowly through this thick, white blanket of snow. At 1/3 of the route we stop for lunch. Too slow, we’re going to arrive in the dark. Via another mountain pass we head to Tuiskukuru, a cabin closer by. We run into our Finnish roommate once more, he will continue to Lankojärvi.

The detour to Tuiskukuru is well worth it. An empty landscape until the pass, from there snowy, statue-like shrubs guide the way into the other valley. The shrubs transform into trees that, covered in snow, taken on peculiar forms. It is a surrealistic world and we’re the only people here.

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A state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
– Kundera

P3160418Tuiskukuru

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Earlier in the week we’re heading to Sarvioja in a howling wind. Only summer routes are shown on the map and that path goes to the left here somewhere. No idea where exactly. It is snowing and the wind is blowing forcefully. I should put on an extra coat and my mittens. My thumbs ache from the cold. Still continuing, a bit further we’ll be out of this wind.

Last night we admired the northern lights near Porttikoski: a cabin in the forest next to the river. Idyllic. Much unlike this place, cold and stormy. Where’s that stupid path? The location on the map is way too steep for skis and a pulk.

During this winter hike in Finland we meet one Finn and a lot of Czechs. Czech… They have a word for this plowing. Litost, untranslatable. Kundera describes it as “a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.” Such a dramatic word, I don’t know any equivalent in Dutch.

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“How are you doing?”, I ask. – “Fine, it’s just arduous.” We stop. Thicker coat, mittens and discussion. What options do we have? Option one is going back. That is not an option. Option two, betting to reach the planned hut. Not the best choice: there is quite a chance to not make it to the hut or even to be unable to climb this steep terrain. The third option is to continue into the next valley. There we can reach three places to sleep: an open wilderness hut, a turf hut and Luirojärvi. Luirojärvi is the furthest away and only reachable in the dark. We head for the turf hut and might reach it during dusk.

The coat and mittens are wonderfully warm. Soon my thumbs don’t ache anymore and feeling slowly returns to them. The end of the mountain pass is near. Litost, a dramatic word. It means something like feeling miserable and then becoming aware of it. According to Kundera it will be followed by revenge. Revenge on the thing that caused the misery, that is not caused by yourself of course.

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We continue skiing. At the end of the mountain pass we’re out of the wind and exactly there the sun appears again. We start our decent, the skiing is less tiring. The world looks a lot happier. Kundera can keep his revenge. We take the moment and have a break behind some trees. Hot tea, a biscuit and the sun in Finnish Lapland. Enjoying, a word the Czech will know as well?

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Turf hut Raappana is located in the forest on a peninsula. We arrive during sundown, where we could barely distinguish the stove pipe from the bare trees. The chimney is the only point of recognition of this tiny burrow under the thick layer of snow. We’re happy that someone already dug out the door.

The area inside is two meters by two meters. We’re out of the wind and dinner is simmering on our gas stove. Dinner, tea, then we slip into a comatose sleep. “Are you finished?” – “Yes we are.”

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Photographs

Click here to see all photographs.

Bibliography

Karttakeskus ulkoilukartta
Saariselkä Sokosti
1 : 50 000

Practicalities

We finish our tour in Kiilopää. Buses drive from Kiilopää to the airport irregularly! The website of the airport states that buses drive only when an aircraft departs or arrives. This is not 100% correct. Buses drive only when an aircraft from a Scandinavian airline depart or arrive. We flew with a Dutch airline, no bus came and we’ve managed to get a taxi at the latest moment. Quite an experience: flying in a cab over frozen roads with 130 km/h.

Our home built pulk uses ropes instead of rods. Rods may break, ropes are durable and easy to repair. The disadvantage of ropes is that the pulk tries to overtake you while descending. To counter that we used the idea of an automatic brake from Ivo. The brake worked remarkably well. Even on the most steep parts where we couldn’t ski, the pulk braked long before hitting me.

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