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Enter Winter

Dec 3rd, 2012 | Comments

Winter has been making its flamboyant entrance in the capital area for the last few days, creating some trouble again in Helsinki downtown, and on the roads and sea, with snow being blown all around in the high wind, and eventually covering everything under a calming white blanket, tens of centimeters thick.

These long awaited scenic changes, followed by a temperature drop towards the weekend, put a night out on the menu to get the winter activities kickstarted, and together with Mikko and Karsten, we headed out for an overnighter in Nuuksio national park on Saturday. Entering Nuuksio, and heading towards Holma-Saarijärvi lean-to to spend an evening around the campfire, views were not quite like just a week ago when I was hiking with my daughter in the same surroundings:

Heading out from Siikajärvi after eight in the evening, breaking trail, headlights were hardly needed under the ambient light diffused from the early descending moon. Duckboards were still evil, hiding under the snow and inviting a twisted ankle - same hide and seek went on with muddy potholes not quite frozen solid yet. We crossed some fresh footprints on the way but luckily didn’t see anyone, and we had the lean-to at Holma-Saarijärvi all to ourselves - we didn’t bring a tent but shovels and a plan to dig ourselves in the snow if needed.

Arriving to the camp the temperature was around -10 °C (based on a keyring thermometer), so quite pleasant still for hanging around in the camp. Cleaning up after previous visitors and chopping some fresh firewood we toasted to winter with some Gammel Dansk Bitter Dram, and had a festive dinner (sausages of course) with the usual around the fire discussions on anything and everything, and strolling around the camp and gazing the clearing sky spotted by stars.

Karsten could not stay overnight, so we had plenty of space with Mikko in the 4-person lean-to. Forecast had promised the temperature should drop down to around -15 °C during the night, and the clearing sky suggested the same shift in temperature. Tucked in our sleeping bags later at night we call it the day, to wake up to a bright morning some 8 hours later. I usually sleep well in the outdoors and this night was no different, although I did slide off the slippery NeoAir (stacked on top of a thick Karrimat I use in the winter) few times and woke up when cold started to creep in on the lean-to floor) - quick look on the keyring testified the temperature had indeed dropped a bit, down to around -16 °C in the wee hours of the night.

In the morning I stayed in the camp while Mikko rushed off for family errands, and prepared some delicious (not really) Trek'n Eat vanilla rice pudding by the fire, followed by some minty hot chocolate, while light snow started to fall again.

Packing up and cleaning the campsite, I hiked down to Haukkalampi, and back around towards Siikajärvi where I had my car parked, breaking trail and taking photos mostly in solitude (crisscrossing around 8 kilometers I met only 3 other hikers). I brought the newly acquired Olympus E-M5 with me, paired with Yashica ML 50 f1.9 (an old solid mechanical lens from past decades which I bought a year ago when trying out the E-PM1) - all the photos shown here were shot with this combo. E-M5 is weather sealed and I did not worry much about the lens either, just kept brushing off the snow while the kit hung from my neck or around the shoulder, ready to shoot.

On this trip I was also looking forward to try out a new pair of winter gloves I found half the price during the summer on a closeout sale of Camu store in Tampere - Rab Latok. Until then I had been looking to find a winter-spec’d version of something not quite unlike Marmot XT gloves (which I’ve grown fond of while alpine climbing, padding or cycling in cool (but not cold) weather - hard wearing, relatively inexpensive and superior grip) for foul-weather activities such as ice climbing, kiting and winter cycling.

These are the previous version with red-starred palm, Rab seems to have updated the model briefly for this year. Based on the dry testing and the real use this weekend, they appear to be the ticket - warm enough while keeping the dexterity I need (i.e. fiddling with camera and other gadgets and gear). Durability remains to be proven, but they appear to be rugged overall - let’s see how they will hold up during the upcoming season with various sports.

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