Hell’s Kitchen Open in Sarek

My winter hikes have thus far included day trips and  weekend long treks.

Over the years the urge to learn about the skills necessary for ski hikes has grown exponentially and this winter I took my first step toward it.

Anne told you guys about the Introduction to arctic ski hiking, the very same intro I got last January in Tampere. In March I took part in the Harsh Open Fells hosted voyage for 10 people to Sarek, Northern Sweden.

Me – someone who didn’t even own fell skis or a sleeping bags fit for arctic conditions.

So how did I prepare?

Harsh Open Fells is an interesting firm in the sense that in addition to a safe and guided trek, they rent gear! I opted for the whole ski set, boots and sleeping bags and all. Lap’s sledges and tents along with burners came with the price. So all I had to worry about was clothing, personal belongings, food, the actual skiing and attitude.

I overpack. What if, just in case and for safety stuff up the wazoo. Only this time they gave me a proper list! And even though I was sure it wasn’t enough, I was happily proven wrong.

My basic physique is fine, so I know I’d be too.

The requirements were reasonable fitness and a sense for adventure.

The mind is crazy and willing enough but what does “reasonable fitness” mean in this instance? So I decided to hire a personal trainer. Sanna of Innostumo created a training program.

On route

Our expedition met up in Oulu where we took a car toward Sarek. Our guide Jaakko Heikka had informed us masterfully and we had formed our tent groups beforehand.

I’d like to thank all the ladies accompanying me!

Our daily program was dictated by the following factors:

  • morning briefing 8:00
  • on the move 9:00
  • set up camp at around 17:00
  • evening briefing 20:00

Each tent assembly agreed their own routines, like wake-up-calls, breakfast, dinner and evening activities. Morning and evening briefing meant the one kept by Jaakko via radio. It included the forecast for the following day and the potential challenges we’d face.

After liftoff we skifor 50 minutes and had a ten minute leg. We’d have 7 to 8 legs per day plus lunch. We didn’t cook our meals but instead had them at the ready in a thermos or they were the “just add water” sort.

Each tent group got their turn to lead the expedition. You could hear the “slow down” cries every now and then since the point was to find a steady pace the whole expedition can follow.

The view was breathtaking, there was no traffic and the whole skiing experience became a mindfulness exercise.

During the trip we came across a moose, a fox and a willow grouse. Judging by the tracks there was also a badger nearby.

One night we had to resort to an emergency accommodation

We built a snow cave and an igloo. We could saw necessary building blocks from the snow, which came as a surprise. The snow cave was burrowed in an uphill with ventilation holes to ensure breathing room. This was my first time and I loved it!

Clothing and food

When it comes to clothing, I’d like to talk about a few items I found extremely useful. A good break jacket, quilted skirt, break slippers and special steam absorbent socks to prevent moisture from the inside!

Nutrition-wise we focused on rice and noodles and couscous-base products. Separating the ingredients into separate bags helps.

A week hike but scratches the surface of what this hobby is but it gives you a pretty good idea.

The weather was spot on on the trip. We got to see several beautiful Northern lights and the temperature was -26 Celsius at best.

So what does the title have to do with this?

We had a Helsport tunnel tent and as burners we had two petrol ones with three cartridges. For the first few days one of them just wouldn’t function. Jaakko deduced that it’s a fault in the fuel pump and/or the sealant.

Hence the name Hell’s Kitchen.

Oh and by the way, the next purchase might be my very own fell skis and proper sleeping bags.

A much more thorough travel experience was covered by my tent buddy Tytti from Erähiilloksilla blog. In Finnish.



Northern light photos by Tytti Alastalo.

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