Friday, 20 July 2012

Along the Kalottiretti: Kilpisjärvi to Kopmajoki

Mark has already provided his version of the trip so it is now left to me to provide the alternative story. 



As we climbed away from Kilpisjärvi I looked back towards the three borders remembering back 2 years ago when I had completed my trip from Bjorkliden to Kilpisjärvi. The weather seemed similar but it appeared to be brighter in Sweden and Norway than it was in Finland as we climbed towards Čáhkáljávn the cloud was low and the surrounding peaks were covered in mist.





However, the views across Čoahppejávri provided a taste of what was to come.

View across Čoahppejávri

As Mark has already indicated the trail was rocky and with a full load on I was feeling every rock, we passed through deer fences, over deer fences, along boardwalks through streams (I did not need to go back for the camera though) and with a cool breeze we did not hesitate anywhere too long. However, it was apparent that Mark was doing his best not to look at me.
   
Mark and Kilpisjärvi


We ultimately descended to Saarijärvi and spent some time looking for not one but two campsites, something that was repeated the following evening. Interestingly, when you walk alone you just look for a place to put your shelter, which is usually not a problem but when there are two shelters some time can be spent looking for two adjacent places that are flat, well drained etc. This early in the season the ground can be, and was very damp, so site selection was more problematic.
After dinner and the revelations of the variations in Jetboil pots we both wandered around taking photos and enjoying the serenity of the area, always wondering whether the older couple had arrived at the hut, they had.

Saarijärvi

The following morning, after a restless nights sleep, I was dismayed to find that it was still overcast, but with Mark bouncing around taking photos I was soon packed and ready for the endless day. It was endless because we had not decided how far we were going, as Mark knew he would have to retrace his steps so every step forward meant a step back the next day, I suppose you can call this pointless forward movement.

We climbed up around the flanks of Guonjarvárri ultimately reaching the snow covered trail which provided the first navigational challenge of the trip, a look at the map and what we could see of the route ahead in the mist gave us an indication of an alternative to crossing the snow. We climbed and then swung to west to reach where the trail should be, and now without snow on the ground, the path was obvious and we continued on, before beginning the descent along Guonjarvággi to Kuonjarjoki. Being on the north side of the saddle ensured that there was more snow and we looked for, and sometimes found, old footprints across the snow and we followed these in the general direction down the hill. With the sounds of water cascading under the snow we were acutely aware of the potential to disappear though the snow to the water below, fortunately that was not the case. The trail crossed the river before continuing its descent to the hut. By now it did appear that the weather was improving, but it was still misty.

Kuonjarjoki

The hut was full to overflowing and with gigantic gas canisters accompanying equally gigantic Trangia Storm cookers it seemed obvious to move on. We continued along what was a very pleasant trail and the cloud was gradually lifting to reveal blue skies and clear views. Prior to crossing a river we met the aptly named helicopter crew as they were climbing away from the river. I did wonder how long it had taken them to cross the river as we walked straight in and out the other side. After sufficient walking and shoe drying time it was lunchtime and whilst relaxing in the sun it would have been easy to to fall asleep.
We continued after lunch and as we descended in the warm sunshine we passed more hikers heading up hill with large packs on, I wondered if the weight of there pack was more or less than mine, they were certainly bigger.
 I was taken by Salvaara where there is a monument to a former Finnish President, I am not sure if any head of state in Australia would get such a fitting monument.

Salvaara Carvarri

We descended to what was to be the first of several waterfalls in the coming days. The falls on Biertejohka provided a powerful reminder of the continuing thaw in the country and the possible risks of crossing rivers in flood in this part of the country. Fortunately the bridge with Meekonvaara in the background made for a easy crossing.

Bridge across Biertejohka with Meekonvaara in background The sound of the falls and the rush of the water encouraged us to linger and enjoy the view as well as the sunshine.
 Biertejohka falls

Descending from the falls we passed the huts at Meekonjärvi, these locked huts looked like an idyllic way to spend time in this area, and were away from the mosquitos which we were soon to encounter.

Towards Mekonjarvi

It was soon after this we began looking for campsites and to be honest it was a struggle hindered by the passing of a rain storm, but crossing the bridge over Vuomakasjoki we soon found two spots on the banks of the river and with sufficient breeze to keep the mosquitos to a few incursions.

Otlet from Vuomakasjarvi

We settled down for dinner and unbeknownst to me at this time I was in the process of destroying my Jetboil, something I had an inkling of when I unscrewed the gas bottle at the end of dinner.
We awoke in the morning to mist and rain, and soon I discovered my predicament, no stove. Mark offered his stove which a very much appreciated but it did leave him hiking stoveless and at the mercy of the huts for cooking. Mark immediately picked up speed as he had seen a female walker, with accompanying dog, going in the same direction as he was and with Rufus not on this trip he was keen to find out about where the walker and dog had been.

Meanwhile I headed into the mist around the north side of Vuomakasjärvi, and the further I walked, the louder the roar of water became. I soon climbed away from Vuomakasjärvi and was rewarded with the fantastic view of Pihtusköngäs.

Pihtsusköngäs

It was a wonderful sight even in the light rain and mist, I immediately realised that this was something special.  But there was more, as I walked along the sides of the gorge, I could see the waterfalls ahead.

Pihtsusköngäs3

Today I had the area to myself, but no doubt on a clear day many walkers would pause to admire the views and listen to the water as it crashed to the valley floor.

Pihtsusköngäs4

From the top of the falls I could see the mist rising indicating the power of the waterfall, even in the drizzly weather I was happy to be able to witness such a sight.

I soon entered the tranquil surrounds of Pitsusjärvi (lake) passing by the quiet sea plane landing area, we had seen planes yesterday, but the cloud was too low today. On a clear day it would have been possible to look up to Halti, but for now it was mist and rain.  I decided it was lunchtime as I arrived at Pihtsusjärvi, and settled down on a seat at the front of the hut out of the wind and rain but with a few mosquitos for friends to eat lunch.

Pihtsusjärvi

However, there was a finnish hiker/fisherman in the hut, his english was non existent much like my finnish so we had an attempt at a sign language discussion he was concerned I was sitting outside while he had a fire going inside, but I was happy. I think he felt that I thought I was not allowed in as he showed me the hut rules, in english. Anyway this cryptic conversation continued and I did gather he had caught 6 fish and was quite happy with that. He was also concerned that I took the correct path along the Kalottiretti and even as I was leaving he came outside to yet again point me in the right direction. He was a typical friendly outdoors person you meet in these kinds of places.

Leaving Pihtsusjärvi I climbed into the mist on the much less used trail firstly on grass and then rocks, snow and water higher up. Fortunately the mist was high enough to just enable me to see the infrequent cairns as I climbed to the saddle. Again as yesterday sections of the trail and the markers were snow covered and in the sparse flat landscape it was difficult to determine when you were at the top of the saddle and when the descent began. Ultimately though I descended to the twin lakes of Čáhppes, it was an icy crossing of these lakes and the outlet Goapmajhoka.

Cahppesjävrrit

I needed no encouragement to keep walking through the snow drifts to allow my feet to regain some warmth. The further down the valley the air was warmer, and I finally reached Kopmajoki, which seemed like the ideal spot to spend the night.

Kopmajoki Huts

Note the red and white pole, marking the helicopter landing spot, there is also a sign indicating no camping on what is normally the flattest spot around. The weather was somewhat brighter as I settled down for the night.

<Looking out Kopmajoki