This was the second expedition undertaken as part of our wilderness guide training. A 5 day skiing trip through Eastern Finland, in an area known as Kylmäluoma. This trip allowed us to practice our guiding and leadership skills, our cooking skills, our organisation skills, our personal camp skills and our kit. It also served as direct practice for the Bear Ski – A 9 day solo skiing trip undertaken in the far North of Finland in April.
After a 690km drive from Kuru to Kylmäluoma we arrived later than planned. The final stretch of single track road had been specially ploughed for us. As the road unfurled before us, the 1m high walls of snow to our sides made it feel more like we were navigating a river – meandering its course into the snowy depths of an unknown forest. The vans’ headlights were the only light around, offering enchanting glimpses into the pallid monochrome landscapes that enveloped us. Tree branches hung low from the weight of snow and it felt like we had stepped into a magical wilderness.
The trip to Russia was a whirlwind of temperatures, laughs, some dubious cooking, beautiful views and a smattering of wildlife. We spent 9 days trekking through the old growth taiga forests just outside of Paanajärvi National Park. Old growth means the woodland has not undergone any major unnatural changes (such as logging) for more than 100 to 150 years, contains young, mature, standing dead trees and provides a home for a diversity of flora and fauna. A taiga/boreal forest is made up of mostly pine, spruce, birch and aspens (as well as many others). It’s the largest biome in the world and can be found in the northern latitudes between roughly 50°N to 70°N.
This week we trained for our First Aid level 01, presented our Russian Trip plans to the rest of the group, went bird watching, did some orienteering, had a small toaster fire and went on a fishing trip to local island where we camped the night. Oh and there was also some hilarious nudity.
Tuesday night was one of the most memorable nights… We were having a nice relaxing sauna after a busy day training for our First Aid level 01 qualification. As usual we had a couple of swims during the sauna, hobbling back as quickly as possible on the sharp stones underfoot. We had wedged the door open with a broom to ensure we could get back in. On this particular trip back, I had a plan, so I picked up the pace (from a excruciatingly slow hobble to a slow amble) inching past the others at a snail pace, running in just before them and slamming the door behind me, locking them out – ‘Absolute classic trick’ I thought.
Started the week with a walk in a nearby forest to observe birds and plants. Got introduced to some more mushrooms – some edible and some deadly. One that I will definitely remember was the destroying angel, the name says it all, eat this mushroom and you’re probably going to die. Symptoms do not appear for 5 to 24 hours, when the toxins may already be absorbed and the damage (destruction of liver and kidney tissues) irreversible. As little as half a mushroom cap can be fatal if the victim is not treated quickly enough! On a lighter note we the also found many brittle gill (pictured below) and gypsy mushrooms – which are both edible, and very tasty.
We spent week 2 camping in the college forest, a short drive away. It was a great week and a good opportunity for the group to bond whilst still in our ‘Honey Moon’ period, as Mikko, our tutor put it. Throughout the week a range of skills we taught, including orienteering, fire making, whittling, fishing, proper use of an axe and also local plants and wildlife knowledge.
On Monday morning, the first thing we did was to organise all the equipment and pack it into the trailer of one of the vans. Again, much more to do than initially thought – we collecting the vans and trailers from the school garage, 2 of the guys collected the shopping lists from the others and did the food shop for everyone, only going 7 euros over for the whole group – their efficiency could be down to the fact that they were both German. Continue reading →