Winter camping has always had an unpleasant undertone and more than once I’ve woken up in a cold lean-to or a frosty tent thinking “wow, this is one rude awakening but I suppose it comes with the territory.”
But last week my eyes were opened after attending the Harsh Open Fells introduction course conducted by none other than Wilderness Jack. I had never realized how comfortable winter camping can be with the right equipment.
I’ve been thrilled about dragging a loan Lap’s sledge around on army skis and cooking dinner with a poorly functioning gas stove, so you can imagine my excitement.
The entry fee covered proper winter gear: a Halti Grönlanti tent, Paris Lap’s sledge and a gas cooker.
All of the equipment were tested at the harbor after a theory class, we set up the tents and fired the cookers up, packed everything and went on our way.
My tent buddy was Mikko, a fellow wilderness guide student who was equally excited everything. The severe lack of snow didn’t slow us down one bit. Mikko knows his way around a tent which somehow made me more confident on my own skills.
There was as little snow on Päijänne Lake as on my last time there, with the Outdoor Sisters. But I had the technique down to a tee and even though a pair of hiking skates would be better suited for conditions like these, slow and steady wins the race. I’m going to have to learn how to do this in proper snow one of these days, should Middle Finland ever experience such a thing.
Like Jack said:
Experiences are crafted from circumstances.
Another excellent pro tip heard on this trek was merino wool doesn’t smell, it’s the person wearing it. The night in a warm tent with the ice booming underneath was, in a word, hysterical.
We melted snow for drinking and/or cooking water and did everything as if we were actually in harsh open fells: we had hearty meals, left the comfort of the tent for short periods of time (to take a look at the night sky and say hi to others) and gobble excessive amounts of chocolate.
In the morning we calculated how long it would take for Mikko and me to disassemble the tent and pack the sledges. This was because we wanted to spend as much time in the warm as possible.
The result was 15 minutes, give or take. This is what happens when wilderness guides go on a field trip.
The ice was more or less snow-free on our way back as well but it seemed shorter for some reason. I could’ve stayed on Lake Päijänne for an extra few days.
P.S. Yes, it’s a clickbait title, referring to how the harness on one of Jack’s skis broke. And Mikko dared me to use it.