Monday, January 28, 2013

Skiers of the Northern seas

The bitterly cold temperatures easing off this week, a date was set for the first Sub24 of the year. And what a trip! Enjoying the perfect ice conditions Helsinki is experiencing this winter, 5 fearless skiers started skiing on the sea ice from Munkkiniemmi in pitch darkness. Destination: South.

Passing by Seurasaari, Jorge (Spain), Olivier (Switzerland), Robin (England), Florian (France) and Lauri (Finland) crossed the small channel between Kaskisaari and Mustasaari, peeking at Kimi Räikkönen’s mansion on the way. Gaining confidence after the first bridge crossing (the currents making the ice much thinner under it), the 5 skiers continued towards Keilaniemi, glancing at the headquarters of big Finnish corporations in the distance.

Our skiers, still pondering their options on the best route for ski commuting, managed the crossing of the biggest bridge of Länsiväylä rather nicely, though taking the skis off due to extremely thin ice. Olivier, “daredevil and ice master” of the trip would be the only one to trust the ice on that spot.

Leaving Lauttasaari on the east, our skiers silently vanished into the night lighted up only by an eery moonlight, on the vast horizons of the sea ice.

Few kilometers later, a landing was made on the island of Mäntysaari, a striking location for their camp, a stone’s throw away from the city but yet isolated. This outing would proved to be the shortest Sub24 by far but definitely one of the wildest! Brilliantly arranged through Olivier’s connections, a sauna was waiting for them, a great reward for their skiing efforts (8 km).

Starting the fire at the first attempt, liters of snow were quickly collected to provide for löyly and drinking water. Waiting for the sauna to warm up, Robin, Jorge and Olivier went to set up their tent, Lauri and Florian counting on the sauna to provide shelter for the night. A quick dinner would see the failure of Olivier’s fuel stove, soon forgotten by the warmth offered by the sauna.


Rolling in the snow or just chilling out between sauna takes, our skiers couldn't help but letting their mind wander, thinking they cannot be better ways to spend a Friday evening: physical activity, nice company with alike-minded, dinner outdoors and sauna on an empty island…

The night would see people being quite comfortable given the temperatures (-5°C at best), the sauna being really cozy despite the temperature difference between the beginning and the end of the night.

Just before dawn breakfast is arranged. Robin, having other commitments, made its way back to the city right before a red sun suddenly peaked in the horizon: promise of a good day!

Down with the breakfast, bags packed, the 4 remaining skiers oriented their skis towards south, island hopping. Breathtaking landscape would appear infront of their eyes, the thin line of the horizon only broken by a few inlets here and there. Coming close to them one could appreciate a special feeling, the movements of the water under the ice, pushing a bit further this trip on the adventure side. Luckily all were equipped with ice screws to drag themselves out of the water should the worst happen… A lot of experience would be gathered by studying the features of the ice and talking with fellow outdoor enthusiasts (mainly long distance skaters), fine connoisseurs of all forms of ice.

Continuing south hoping to find the open sea, the latter would finally be discovered on the shores of Rysäkari, some 5.5 km away from the coast of Lauttasaari. At this distance the skyline of Helsinki proved not to be visible anymore, reinforcing the feeling of isolation.

The way back to the city would see funny encounters, from snowboarders/skiers/skaters with kites, to a stunning ice sailing boat, even a helicopter landing on the ice a few yards away from our group of skiers! Good occasion for our adventurers to practice their Finnish skills and  learn more about their surroundings.

This first proper Sub24 of the year will definitely leave striking memories to its participants for all the experience gathered. It all fitted perfectly: the ice, the sauna, the light, the weather, and of course, the good spirit of the Sub24 crew and the wonderful organisation by Olivier!

Thanks again for the good times!

A map of the complete journey can be found below:

1 comment:

  1. Very nice photos indeed.
    I also enjoyed reading the perfect english language that describes with perfectly selected words the overall conditions of the trip. (Oh yes, I know, I am not an english language expert, but I was pleased to read this text).
    Thanks for sharing this.