Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A skiing expedition

Long awaited report, but finally here it is!
You might as well grab a cup of your favourite drink as it is a pretty long one.

Friday, 6 pm. All is peaceful in this quiet evening. Four skiers, representing Switzerland, Spain, France, Ukraine and Israel, set out in the crisp weather at sunset from Munkkiniemmi, carrying 4 backpacks and 2 pulkkas. Direction: South and the island of Mäntysaari already visited in the Sub24 edition of January.

Following the known route across Seurasaarenselkä still lit by the late sun, our skiers silently made their way under two bridges to the Baltic sea proper, and after 2 hours anchored in the darkness on the familiar island. To their surprise an igloo of a respecting size was found next to the sauna, where they set their camp for the night. Jumping on the occasion Florian and Andrey took the chance of sleeping in it, well protected from the wind by the high snow walls. A tent would be Jorge and Olivier’s choice of accommodation.

After arrival, camp routines would soon follow: adding layers of clothes (five in my case), setting up tents, lightning outdoor candles, starting the fire in the sauna, collecting buckets of snow to provide for drinking water and löyly, eating, taking sauna.

After a warm night (despite the thermometer dropping to -15°C), the early sun would wake us all, the stunning light revealing the true beauty of the surroundings. Cold always makes every action slower, but after a warm breakfast and some map checks, all were ready to go. Andrey would go back to Helsinki through Lauttasaasi, while Jorge, Olivier and Florian would continue their journey South-west, towards the island of Skorvö30 km away in the municipality of Kirkkonummi.

The 3 remaining skiers, enjoying a perfect spring day, began their jaunt on the sea across sastrugis, studying the features of the ice (old, new, black, packed…), jumping from one island to another in search of signalization marine posts. After a couple of hours skiing, a landing was made on the island of Gåsgrund, part of the Espoo archipelago, served by a regular ferry service on summer. Similarly as Rysäkari last January, the open sea was found on the Southern part of the island, while the Northern shores were still trapped in ice. The lunch break on the island would prove to be really relaxing, on a great spot for a picnic, under the midday sun, with fantastic views! 

Spring being on its way, despite the freezing temperatures of the past two weeks, the ice was weakening: direct sunlight on dark spots (new ice not covered with snow, or snow covered with debris such as branches, dirt...) accelerates the melting, and sea currents do their share to diminish the ice sheet layer from under. Sometimes one could hear the sound of the ice breaking, water flowing under the skis and ice sheet oscillating along with the waves. Scary!  Great caution needed to be taken to find the suitable path on the ice and avoid places where it would be too weak: sounds and narrow straights particularly.

Pushing south, our skiers would find themselves in late afternoon in an area of packed ice, formed in a corridor of constant winds. At some point the ice became so rough the pulkkas were capsizing every minute, and while the sun was setting, still a few kilometers to the final destination, it was no time for route mistakes. The sun now below the horizon, skis in hand, the three skiers turned to walkers for a while, to ease their progress on the tormented ice.

In the twilight, the last push being made on flat ice on skis, here finally stood the coveted island of Skorvö. Locating the sauna and the lighted mökki, Olivier would open by mistake the door of the sauna instead of the mökki’s. The man sitting in the sauna, by no means surprised by our sudden break-in in complete darkness, would simply say: “take off your clothes and come in”. It didn’t take long to agree and within a few minutes all were enjoying one of the best saunas, so rewarding after 30 km of skiing dragging a pulkka across the sea of the Gulf of Finland.

Chatting with our guest, we discovered he had made a similarly trip than us that day, following the coast more closely than we did. A warm dinner in the mökki afterwards, it was time for sleep, this time on the terrace under the stars. After a  few makkaras for breakfast and making some tea for the road, we would all leave this lovely island, not forgetting to enjoy the view from the island’s hilltop.

Progressing towards Espoonlahti, final destination of the trip, we noticed the tracks of two moose encountered yesterday at dusk, and had lunch next to an old tower (dating back to 1935) at the entrance of the large bay of Espoonlahti.. Few kilometers more on skis and all were in Espoo, the second largest city in Finland, back to civilization.

Overall, a 50 km ski trip of what can be considered so far the best winter trip of Sub24 Helsinki!

The  complete route of the trip can be found below:

Stay tuned for more adventures, most likely on 2 wheels next time.


  1. I don't envy the -15C nights, but I do envy everything else!

  2. You guys went to the North Pole?? haha
    What a tremendously stunning pictures. I wish I joined the trip..... But yeah, just like Charles said up there, I don't envy the -15C either.

  3. Nice trip, guys, I'm almost jealous of it. Sauna and only 15C below, where can I sign for such mild temperature!

    Beautiful pics and lots of storyteller talent.

    Greeting from Fairbanks

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.