The ultimate Hetta-Pallas guide, part 5: Safety and cellphone coverage

What makes a fell dangerous? What about using a cellphone up there?

Properly used, a fell hike is a fine addiction, even though it can contradict “Lapland madness”. For seasoned trekkers the following steps are a given.

When embarking on your first (or tenth) Hetta-Pallas hike, keep in mind the following risks.

The weather can change in a heartbeat

Hetta-Vuontispirtti-233.jpg

The worst advisory is a thick fog or a blizzard because both impair visibility significantly and it’s difficult to keep track of where you are on the map. There are plenty of guide posts on the trail but the feel of endlessness on a hike is never good for morale.

Summer hikers, bring waterproof clothes along or at least an emergency accommodation because I’ve been on the trail in both June and July and on both occasions there was heavy snow. During winter a tent is almost a must.

A thunderstorm emerges quickly and you have no business on a fell when it does. Lightning hits the highest point and on a fell that’s you. So be cautious when you hear thunder.

Heat can cause dehydration unless you remember to drink your water. Your appetite can also decrease because the constant sunshine.

10 kilometers in the fells is completely different than the same amount around Jyväsjärvi lake – so assess your strength.

Even though the ascents in Hetta-Pallas are moderate and the distances between huts short, underestimate your strength instead.

Jog a little before the hike if at all possible. Run up and down stairs to train your thighs and knees. This way you’ll catch possible physical impairments beforehand. It’s also a good idea to just walk around with a rucksack, no matter how crazy your neighbors might think you are. 15 kilograms of extra weight makes it a nice challenge.

If you hiked the Hetta-Pallas trail as a young girl, keep in mind that nostalgia is a tricky thing. If you didn’t maintain your fitness levels, you’ll feel it.

In July of 2017 they rescued a group who were too cold to go on. It had been snowing hard so a helicopter ride was out of the question. They were taken to safety on a quad bike. All’s well that ends well. In an interview, a representative of the rescue department said that people should always remember to take their age into consideration as well as their physical capabilities. My suggestion to prevent situations like this would be to take the trail in smaller portions. I’ll touch more on this later in this post.

The fact that you pre-ordered your return ticket shouldn’t come before your personal safety. Always, always remember to rest and don’t be afraid to call it quits if the situation calls for it.

This trail is suitable for anyone who’s in moderate or below moderate physical condition and even if you get a little winded every now and then, with tenacity and perseverance you’ll prevail!

Small things but important ones:

Run in your hiking boots way, way before the actual hike. And do a test run with all your gear.

Drink enough clean water and eat significantly more than you normally would.

Snacks. Remember snacks!

Tell your travel buddies about your potential allergies and medical conditions.

It helps to know CPR. It also helps if you have a first aid kit. The most common necessity is a band-aid for blisters on your feet. But like i said, it helps if you know what to do with a sprained ankle or a stomach flu.

Caution and proactive action are the best way to ensure a safe hike but you can never learn too many useful skills.

Let people know where you’re going

Tell folks at home about the route you plan to take.

Write in guest journals where you’re coming from and where you’re going. This gives a major advantage to the rescue team, should it ever come to that. It’s a good habit to learn.

If you’re hiking in a group, go through the whole trail beforehand on the map so everyone knows what’s coming.

Don’t hesitate to call it quits if necessary

If you arrive at the Tappuri hut or Hut Montell and realize you’re not going to make it all the way to Pallas for whatever reason, consider walking towards the main road. It’s only six kilometers from Hut Montell to Vuontispirtti, could you manage that?

When you get to the main road, call a cab.

Suitable “early exits” on the Hetta-Pallas trail are:

  • From Pyhäkero to Mustavaara info sign. The road is closed with a beam but you can call the Visitor Center about it but in an emergency, call 112.
  • From Tappuri hut to Ketomella village.
  • Between Tappuri and Pahakuru to Hietajärvi.
  • From Hut Montell to Vuontispirtti.

Always check the distance and where you are on the map. In every intersection they have guide posts, thankfully.

Even though the Hetta-Pallas trail is wide and allows rescue operations in many placed, be cautious.

If you realize you’re not going to make it, don’t be afraid to abort the hike, even if it ruins your friend’s day or even if it takes a toll on your pride.

Cellphone coverage

The coverage is actually pretty decent all-around, especially in both ends. But never depend on it: your battery might die or you might drop the entire thing by accident.

The most problematic areas are in the middle section between the larger fells. Batteries tend to last 24 hours these days and on the edge of cell coverage, they drain faster than usual. So make good use of airplane mode or even turn your phone off when you’re not using it. Oh, and take battery banks along.

The smartest way to go is to take a regular, non-smartphone along and keep it turned off in a waterproof container for an emergency. And remember, you can call 112 even without a SIM card.

In an emergency: If you don’t see your carriers bars on the phone, don’t worry. Just call 112 with the 112 app or by just calling them. The phone will connect to any available network.

Should this fail for whatever reason, boot your device and before giving the PIN code, call 112.

Should this fail for whatever reason, get to higher ground.

Weather conditions can weaken the signal as well. Rain, blizzard and thunder bring along a whole new set of issues. Different makes and models also differ when it comes to antennas.

Phones bought from abroad might work identically, worse or not at all, depending on what frequencies they support. Usually European bought phones work here in Finland just fine, though. Remember to test them out before the hike!

I feel like, thanks to my career in cellphone technologies, I could talk about this until the cows come home but maybe I covered the most crucial parts. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!

The ultimate Hetta-Pallas guide answers your questions about the most popular and the oldest hiking trail in Finland. This is the fifth installment. Click the texts below to go to the other blog posts. If the post is already published, you’ll see a link. You can also ask additional information in the comment section below or by sending us a message on Facebook!

Installments:

  1. Preparations and bookings/services
  2. Huts along the trail
  3. Hut etiquette
  4. National Park rules and regulations
  5. Terrain difficulty, trail safety and cellphone coverage
  6. Trash-free hiking, economic use of gas and firewood
  7. History and culture

Writer Anne Sulander has been volunteering in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in 2016 and 2017. She has also hiked the trail several times. If you find an factual error in the text or if you have any questions, comment below!

 

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