Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cave Skiing



I like caves and skiing, of course, but it is rare that the two mix. But in Cervinia there's small cave that you can ski through. If you dare.

The cave can be found right next to the Rocce Nere 1 ski run, among a set of towering rock columns. You can get to this run via the Pancheron chair lift, and the exact location of the cave can be found this Google Maps link.

The cave is small, something that would be classified as cave only in cave-poor Finland. It is formed from a large rock that has cracked and created a opening 70-90 cm wide, with another big rock forming a roof. What makes this cave interesting is that you can ski through it. Depending on snow conditions it can be quite easy to enter, but the exit is more demanding. The exit is much lower than the entrance, and while the crack is straight and wide enough to be skied in, you'll begin your exit by dropping an almost vertical slope for about two meters. From there on the, the slope curves nicely, but as long as you are within the crack, there is a chance of colliding with the side walls. The left wall, in particular, curves slightly toward you before the final exit. And after exit there are rocks in the ground that need to be well covered by snow before you dare ski over them.

It isn't much of an issue, but I didn't want to hit any of the rocks at high speed, so I spent a long time pondering whether I'd dare ski down. In the end I gave up, and we continued skiing elsewhere with Jarmo. But later I returned, determine to ski through, and did.

We also visited the touristy ice cave at the top of the ski station on Klein Matternhorn. You take a lift couple of floors down, walk through an ice tunnel to enter a bigger area with various halls, sculptures, and even an ice slide. Unfortunately, as we were about to take a slide, the personnel came to close the cave for the day. Interestingly, the cave is constantly being formed and re-formed, and there's even a small excavator within an area of the cave that is being built. I'm not sure how they got the excavator in to the cave, how they will get it back out, and how they get fresh air in the cave while it works.

We also skied in many places outside the official slopes in Cervinia. More on that in later blog posts, but be aware of hitting bathtubs while out there! We run into one on our excursions. I wanted to turn it around and sit in it, but I was scared that it might start sliding down, so we left it alone.

I've been to Cervinia before, but had not stayed in the village. The village is surprisingly small, but big enough to have one food market and many small restaurants. The restaurant that we most liked was "Ymeletrob", a place that mixes a bar to a grill and to a fine-dining establishment. I recommend the salmon hamburger, in particular. Followed by chocolate fondue. Naturally.













Photos and videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko and Jarmo Ruuth. This blog is also available at the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shit! Helsinki Parks.



I am envious of Tero, because he managed to ski on horse shit. I still haven't managed that.

Helsinki city centre offers more than the usual things. When it has dumped snow, the city parks (or even the church steps) offer a good place for small ski runs.

We decided to tour the Helsinki city centre parks:
  • Sinebrychoff: One of the best, and most compact parks in Helsinki, on a sloping hill. However, full of people with their kids and pulkkas (sledges), so we decided to go elsewhere.
  • Kaivopuisto: The biggest, and next to the sea. The slopes on one side are mellow, and the other side is cliffs. Has anyone found a way to ski down the steeper side? Nevertheless, we try skiing on both sides a bit, and then decide to try the horse-drawn sledge that Jarmo had found. I sit on the sledge, but with his short blade skis Tero can hang on the back of the sledge, and ski. Also over the droppings that the horse decides to leave along the route. Very nice!
  • Observatory Hill: I'm not sure I've actually been here before, but this 30-meter high hill next to the harbour was actually the best for skiing. While there were some pulkka's, there was still plenty of powder left. The hill was steep enough to be skied, and compact enough to walked back up again. And again. And again... as Tero perfected his photoshoot. Good exercise!





Photos and videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko and Tero Kivinen. This blog is also available at TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Reminder about Påminne



Sun shines on Påminne, the southernmost ski area in Finland. The hill was in bright sunshine under a blue sky, even if the parking lot, the beginning of the lifts, and the rest of Finland was under cloudy skies.
Påminne is about 80 kilometres from Helsinki. Not next door, and I would not even have heard of this place if I hadn't driven past in the summer while visiting the nearby Bilnäsin and Fiskarsin historical industry villages. Those are very interesting tourist destinations, by the way. Very nice rapids and old buildings, although only Fiskars has a museums and restaurants.
In the summer, Påminne has a downhill car run and and in indoor sports arena. Even if the ski area is far away from Helsinki and far in the south, it was a big positive surprise for me. I was expecting something along the lines of my small home hill, but I found 85 meters of vertical difference and 6-7 different ski runs! Påminne should be kept in mind when considering a workday evening outing, instead of the Talma, Nuuksio or Vihti that people normally go to.
The skiing was interesting. The ski run next to the main lifts has a big jumps. The next couple of runs on both sides are relatively steep runs over varying paths down the hill. The newest ski run starts from the right, going almost backwards first. It continues from the right and turns towards the cafeteria in the end.
There are cliffs, rocks, and forest between the ski runs, leaving some space for freeskiing. I particularly liked the area to the right of the jump run, and the area to the left of the newest run. Both have some cliffs, so be careful in finding the right route. But there are some skiable steep parts, and no one else seemed to be skiing them so I found some fresh snow. Well, I got some hits on my skis from the rocky surface underneath. But the winter is progressing and there's more snow in the coming months, I hope!
There was also forest around the ski hill. On the left side there was an open, steep face before the forest begins, but I didn't dare to ski through, as the steep face would have required more snow. On the right side there is a thick forest, but it is not steep at all. I managed to ski down, however, without pushing myself too much. Although I once again fell down in the forest once, having both my skis get stuck under tree trunks.
Overall, Påminne should be kept in mind, as it is a worth small hill to ski in southern Finland!








Photos and video (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko. This blog is also available at the TGR website. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kekestetö



It was a cold night in HEL, -29 degrees at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. I felt like I needed to go south to find better skiing weather.

And I had a destination in mind, something that I had been tracking for several years but never succeeded in going yet. Kekestetö, Hungary. Kekestetö is the country's highest mountain and the biggest ski area, but that is not saying much yet. At at altitude of 1014 meters in central Europe the ski season is short and dependent on weather. Every time I wanted to go, the snow had melted away.

But in January 2016 the stars were finally aligned right. I was able to travel, and the mountain was covered in snow. The slope is neither long or steep, and only half of it was maintained. But Kekestö is still a complete ski area, with a children's practice area, the main slope, a restaurant, and an after ski bar.

About the after ski: The "He-Do Bar" provides the entertainment venue for the slopes. A round ret hut offers small snacks and drinks. A red oasis in the dark and cold night.

Did I mention the off-piste yet? The possibilities are almost limitless, if you can believe me! You only need snow, and granted, it is rare here. I skied in the forest near the slopes, but the entire mountain is covered with forest. If I had not been alone, I would have skied from through the whole mountain. Snow cover was thin for my better skis, but with older skis the even the snow cover we had would have been enough to ski all the way to the bottom of the mountain.

Granted, there were occasional tree trunks and rooks... I even fell down once due to hitting a rock. And the forest was at times too thick. Still, it was quite skiable.

If you are skiing in the forest between the main slope and the abandoned/closed other shorter slope, some hiking is needed to start the skiing from near the TV tower at the top of the mountain. A better option may be to sneak past the side of the men's bathroom, as the forest starts right behind it.

For added fun, ski the forest in the darkness. The ski area is open on some days late to the evening as well, so you'll be able to find back to the civilisation by following the lights. But be careful about tree branches in the forest!










Photos and videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko. This blog has also been published in TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Pile of Rocks



Imagine rocks thrown together, all sizes all the way up to house-sized boulders. Korkberget doesn't get more than a brief mention in "Caves of Finland". But it is one of the biggest caves in our area, and quite a maze.

We gathered a crew of experienced and eager cavers (mostly consisting of 11 to 13 year olds) and headed out to explore.

The caves are near the waterline, under a big boulder field fallen from a cliff that stands above.

The boulder field caves feel different. Not carved into smooth shapes by water, not cracked open by forces of nature. They just are, and there is space between them. If there's enough big rocks, there will be spaces underneath, and you can crawl around.

The real experts in the caving society's say that Korkberget is 50 meters long. Not sure about that, but it would take a long time to explore all the side paths. And while the main part of the cave is big, many of the paths around it are tiny, or shall I say claustrophobic? Before finding the big cave, the first opening that we found was a hole straight down between layers of boulders. I climbed in, and found myself maybe five meters down, close to the water level. Looking up, I saw the rest of the team look down. Feeling strange, like looking up from six feet under...

And there were narrow paths going in two directions. One through a very narrow crack, one that I didn't even try to pass through but maybe somebody could. Another one towards the cliff, seemingly ending in a meter or two. Except that it didn't. If you crawl through you will see that it turns up to at least two rooms big enough for a person to turn around in, or even stand. And then it seemed to stop, but there were so many holes that I am not sure if I didn't miss a continuation somewhere.

And then thing being five meters below in a tight pile of rocks was that the smaller rocks sometimes moved. This was not building up my confidence, though I suppose the big boulders have been where they are for thousands of years.

While I explored the hole, Jarmo found the main cave. It is possible to enter the main cave from the hole, I think, by crawling under one of the rocks near the surface. Although I chose to exit and then re-enter, as the crawling space would have been quite tight and had sharp edges. The smaller cave explorers had already gone in.

The main cave has a big space - lets call it the dining room because we ate there. Adjoining to the dining room there is a small pool room. The heating isn't all that great in this apartment, though, so the pool was in solid state currently. There are a couple of nice balconies overlooking the lake as well.

Going further back, there are a couple of different exits from the cave, and some more rooms. Janne found a small crawlable tunnel on the back side, leading towards the water level. A small room at the end of this tunnel was big enough for two people, and again there were many small openings but we didn't think it was possible to continue further.

The cliff tower above the boulder field, including a major overhang, a small "arch" cave, and somebody's hastily constructed little hut. Water flows from the cliff, and had created frozen ice. The cliff, and perhaps later in the winter, the ice looks very climbable, though I'm not sure if it is allowed in this area.

I do wonder about the cave though. I'd never thought I'd have to ask about this on a Finnish cave, but has anybody created a map of the cave? It feels like one is needed to ensure that all parts have been found and visited :-)

The cave is at the coordinates N 60°9' 43.332'' E 24° 27' 10.733'', and there's about a mile to walk from the road. You can leave the car on the Kirkkotie, though there is space only for one or two cars near the trailhead.
















Pictures and videos (c) 2015 by Jari Arkko and Jarmo Ruuth. This blog is also available at the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Cave with a view



There are usually no great views from caves, at least not of the sunset. Except at Rokokallio.

This cave consists of a crack on a rocky hill. You enter the crack from the top, but the crack ends on a cliff, opening up a small window overlooking the forests below. I happened to be in the cave just at the right time for a sunset, and the view was great!

I often have difficulty in getting up early. With the darkest time of the year, I did not manage to get to the cave before it started being dark. But on the positive side, I have found that dusk and night make for far more interesting visual experiences than plain daylight.

But back to the cave. The caves in Finland are small, but this one is quite interesting. The crack itself is not long, maybe 10  meters. But it runs on multiple levels, and as you descend you'll discover new cracks further down. On this trip I was alone, so I didn't want to venture too far into the tightest places, missing at least one level at the bottom.

As a crack there are openings above as well, and this is how I first discovered the cave. I noticed a crack that I didn't want to walk into.

Entrance is through the side nearest to the cliff, and is relatively easy. You have to climb a little bit to get down and back up, however. Parts of the crack have a roof, or have rocks that are hanging between the walls.

Beautiful green moss covers the upper walls. The bottom of the cave is dry and free of dirt, so it is fun to explore.

The area has multiple caves, however, and I only explored this one particular crack. Several roof slabs can be found underneath the cliff. It would be interesting to know if there's a path from the crack cave to the bottom. You can at least see light through, but at the lowest levels the crack gets very narrow.







This is the entrance:


The Rokokallio area is well marked. Park your car at the northern parking lot on the Lustikullantie. A good map is visible here. The coordinates that I used for the cave are N 60°29'23.0" E 24°28'35.0" (WGS84). For more information about the cave, read this article.


For some after-caving, I recommend the Kuusijärvi smoke saunas. For 10€ you get to visit a real smoke sauna, and dip into the lake before it gets too solid. It was my first time in cold water, and the first time in a public smoke sauna. Recommended! The sign on the pier prohibited sunbathing, however. It didn't say anything about moonbathing, however.



Photos and videos (c) 2015 by Jari Arkko. This blog is also available in English from TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.