Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ice climbing in Finland

The Korouoma gorge is the number one ice climbing destination in Finland and also a popular tourist attraction. The tallest and best known ice fall Ruskeavirta (the Brownstream) tops out at almost 60 meters. I just spent a long weekend there with my friends. I counted that about 70 tourists visited Ruskeavirta every day while we were there. Whether you climb ice or not the combinations of snowy, rugged landscape, easy access, and beautiful ice falls make Korouoma a place worth visiting.

A short backstory first.

I started ice climbing right after I got back from the US in 2012. I didn't know any climbers in Tampere, let alone where to climb. I had a couple friends to climb with at the gym, but I didn't enjoy the climbing itself. I was probably going through a reverse cultural shock, which was only made worse by being forced to climb indoors.

Then I met Antti at my volunteer job. He took me dry tooling. It was a rainy day in November. Though, I was very bad at dry tooling itself, I was relieved and grateful beyond words to have found climbers who also enjoyed being outside. Here is video of what climbing was like in Tampere in March 2013.

It is year 2013. Antti is showing me how it's done. No feet?

Ice climbing kept me motivated after getting back home and introduced me to the amazing group of climbers in Tampere who today are both my climbing partners and friends. Thank you ice climbing!

Did you know that Mika is an ice climbing machine? Kalliojärvi in 2013. Pic: Samu

I met Liisa in Helvetinjärvi for the first time in 2013. She led a line in the middle of the ice fall. I was looking at her, thinking that she is the most badass female climber I have ever met. Winter 2013 I also visited Korouoma for the first time. The -20 degree weather, brittle ice, and tall ice walls intimidated me. I remember thinking to myself that I will never lead ice. Toproping is cool. I'm cool toproping. Emma's epic TR sessions. T-roper 4ever.

Samu, Janne, Lauri, anyone? Please, put it up, please!

Type two fun in Korouoma. The Ruskeavirta seeps a little. Pic: Lauri

The Ruskeavirta in 2013. Ladies, the rappel beta is right here. Pic: Lauri

Back to 2015. You can imagine my excitement when Liisa sent me an invitation to go to Korouoma for a long weekend.

We left Tampere around 9pm Wednesday night and got to Posio around 8am Thursday morning. Posio is the closest place to get gas, coffee, and groceries. We went for breakfast in the Posio Neste gas station. Gas stations in the Scandinavia are very special. We also picked up the key for the hut Piippukota. Piippukota (the Pipehut) is located at the bottom of the Korouoma gorge, a 20 minute (1,2 km) downhill hike from the parking lot.

This is how we pack and transport gear: one sled. This is not light and fast people!

We were at Piippukota around 10:30am. We didn't sleep very much the night before so we decided to take a nap.

Piippukota is very versatile; It can be turned into a sauna. Fill the stove with wood and fire starters, wait for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Liisa and Piri doing hut chores.

I woke up before the others and hiked to the Ruskeavirta. In 2013 it looked intimidating and scary. Now it looked fun and inviting.
An hour later me, Liisa, and Lea went climbing to Mammutti. Yes, it is a Mammoth. Just add the letter "i". Climbing was what you can expect after a night of no sleep - terrifying.

Hiking to the base of the ice fall Mammutti.
The Mammutti is known for its turquoise colored ice. I'm known for doing this.
Place the screw with your left arm, as far to the side as you can, and preferably
 above your head. Pic: Liisa.

Later that night Piri and Henna smoked and fried and
 salted our salmon. Pic: Henna

Dinner is served! Salmon with dill potatoes and lemon creme fresh.

Piri took care of our breakfast: oats with nuts, dates, seeds, home made apple sauce, and cinnamon. Liisa provided the salmon and took care of the social media updates. I made burritos. Henna made pasta. Lea made ginger-coconut-plus-everything-else-we-had-left-last-day-stew. We had mint hot chocolate every night. Four bottles of mint liquor were consumed. We had Swedish pancakes every night. Except one night we had Lea's choco cake.

In addition we had four ropes and
almost 50 ice screws and
a matching number of draws.
We had two puffy jackets each and
100 fire starters.
We had about 15 Tupperware containers.
Except for Liisa. She had a lid and no mug.
We had the Dobble card game.
We had two Bialettis and
four packages of espresso grounds combined with
three liters of 2% milk and
5 liters or skim dried milk.
We had five different toothpaste.
We had 18 avocados.
We had whiskey and
Honestly, we had everything you could wish for.

Except for eggs. We forgot the eggs.

Piri mastering the Swedish pancakes with crispy edges <3.

Friday me and Liisa headed to the Ruskeavirta fall and Lea, Piri, and Henna went to the Mammutti fall. I had scouted a line in the middle the day before but at the base I started second guessing my choice. Maybe I just climb from the right which is supposedly the easiest line to the top, I thought to myself. I had already toproped Ruskeavirta several times in 2013. Liisa had not, so she obviously went first.

Liisa went for the middle and cruised it. I was inspired by her and decided to stick to my original plan and climb the same line. I stitched the steepest section up and sent.

We had enough gear to climb in one long pitch so we didn't belay mid route. 60 meter rope makes it to the top but you need at least a single 70 to make the rappel.

We smiled and laughed a lot. Thank you Liisa, you are an inspiring climber. I could not ask for a better climbing partner and a friend!

The Ruskeavirta fall is beautiful. Which line should we climb? Pic: Liisa
Liisa is done with the hardest part.
Me climbing the same line. Pic: Liisa
My biceps are in flames. Piri, how are yours doing? Pic: Liisa
Me getting our ropes stuck. Pic: Liisa
Ruskeavirta from the trail. Sent! Pic: Liisa

Meanwhile Henna was rope gunning at the Mammutti.

Henna aka the black panther roping up. Pic: Lea
The snow ploughing competition. I was the only one
 competing. Pic: Lea
Liisa taking pics of the hairy snow.
Henna is also intrigued by the snow.

That same night we got visitors from Germany! Richard and Marco had come to Finland to ice climb. There options were Finland and Norway. Let me just repeat one more time: They came to Finland!

Our lady gang plus two German tourists. Pic: Lea

Then off to the ice fall Jaskajokunen (the Charliebrown fall). It is Saturday. First we checked the outdoor air quality. For an asthmatic like me it is an important piece of information.

The fuzz looks like Piri's hair. It is confirmed, the air is clean.
The Jaskajokunen (the Charliebrown fall)
Liisa climbing the steep line in the middle.
Henna cruised to the top with six screws. Where did all my ten screws just go?

The hut life is very cozy. Drinking water comes from the river, boiling is recommended. It is dark in the hut so you pretty much always need a headlamp. The sealing is full of things you can hang your ice gear from. Everything was dry by the next morning so we never had to climb with wet or frozen gear. We got lucky with the weather window: the temps never dropped below -5C. It rained one night. This kind of weather is pretty rare in Korouoma in February.

First hang stuff. Then prepare sauna and make mint hot chocolate. Pic: Lea
Heat up the tortilla.
Eat German chocolate and try not to look red and greasy. Pic: Lea

Sunday, which was our last full day of climbing, we all went to the Ruskeavirta. We all climbed the easier line to the right. We also tried to communicate to tourists that they should not come close unless they have a helmet.

The audience.
Henna rope gunning Ruskeavirta. Pic: Liisa
Henna has a strong head. Me and Liisa are happy for her jealous. Pic: Liisa
Lea seconding Henna. Pic: Liisa
Next the pink team. Literally. The cold air makes the face red. Pic: Liisa
Piri is being photographed from every angle. Pic: Liisa
The view from the top is beautiful and peaceful.
There is nothing better than hanging out at the top and enjoying the silence.
Until my dear friend Piri shows up. It is time for...

Hello! I am here to inspect your property!
Hello! We are the koala-pigs. We only appear when the camera is on
front facing mode.

Liisa climbed a variation to the easy line. She went straight up the steeper section first, but the ice was seeping so much that she ended up going where it was the driest. There was only a tiny dry section on the whole wall. Even the middle, which had been perfectly dry two nights before, had turned into a waterfall.

Liisa scouted one more line while she was rappelling and went for it.

This line is called a "harkittu riski" which translates to a calculated risk. PG13

Monday I woke up to a familiar sensation, burning biceps and numb fingers. I decided it was time to stop climbing and start recovering. Liisa, Piri, Lea, and Henna went climbing the Jaskajokunen before we started heading home. I went sledding the approach trail and took pics of the ladies climbing.

Piri is taking the sharp end. Pic: Liisa
The Jaskajokunen again
Piri (right) is leading her first ice climb. No big!

Lovely Lea belaying Piri.
The fuzzy and hairy snow.

This trip was what climbing is at its best. Thank you ladies! After getting home we went straight back to indoor climbing mode. Next week I'm off to the Red. See you in April!

Welcome to the Tampere climbing gym. Pic: Kalle Laakso

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