Monday, January 30, 2012


If you are a disgruntled Pirttimäki cross-country skier, please stop reading now. It wasn't us.

Four brave (read: stupid) riders met at Bemböle last Friday. For Hubert, this sub-24 was to be his last in Finland. For Robin, this weekend was a strange choice for his first experience of overnight bicycle riding and camping. Strange because of the temperature: a chilly -5 at the best of times.

The ride to Pirttimäki went very smoothly, especially when we realised that the asphalt on the road was a much easier surface than the bumpy snow on the cycle path. At Pirttimäki we got our first look at the forest paths that stretched 3 km to our camping place. The recently ploughed ski tracks were beautiful. Until four men and eight wheels started ripping them up. It was impossible to ride on the soft snow in between so we set our bike wheels in the tracks and started pushing, discovering a new form of hardcore exercise in the process. Despite Hubert realising, somewhat amusingly, that the ditch-side snow was soft enough to sink one's entire body into, we managed to make it to the cabin at Sulalampi unscathed only to find three cross-country skiers already there. Luckily, they took the hint and disappeared off to camp elsewhere and we all hope they didn't fall too hard from the new tracks made by our wheels.

Well, despite some inspired frozen wood chopping by Florian, some newspaper and some ethanol, this was the largest flame we could muster. We realised that some hot food from the gas stove and our 5 or more layers of clothes would have to be enough as the temperature dropped further and the smoke and fumes sent us fleeing from the cabin.

Brownish water with mysterious little blobs is the result of melting snow. However, it is possible to heat a can of beans directly on the gas stove.

Who knew?

On a brighter note we went for a walk to keep warm and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. If only the pictures did them justice.

In another crazy bid to keep moving, Florian and Hubert decided to put up their tents. This led to the inevitable: they decided to forgo the cabin (strangely no warmer inside than outside!) and rough it on a bed made of snow. Perhaps they might comment below whether this was actually a good idea. Well, we did survive the night, with varying amounts of sleep. (I strongly endorse sleeping in just underwear, by the way). But the cold encouraged us to get up and out earlier rather than later - someone could hear their own bed calling... 

The interesting thing about winter sub-24ing is that the evening ride happens in the dark. When you ride home the next morning, beautiful surprises might await you. Our nicest surprise was the fact that we managed to escape the ski tracks without bumping into any angry skiers. Oh, and the sunrise.

Honestly, I think that one night of -10 might be enough for me for one winter. But something different might be in store for the first weekend in March. How about a trip across the city to Rastila campsite? A modern cottage, sauna and ice-swimming. And a bar! That would be a different experience indeed...

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