Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Nothing remarkable

Different kind of post. Nothing to report, car works. Nice dry warmish parking spot at the airport this evening, too.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Secret cave search: Bastuberg and Tallbacka

The book "Suomen Luolat" gives a hint of a cave in Kirkkonummi, near someone's yard, with fuzzy coordinates that could be off by kilometres.

Today I went looking for this cave.

Earlier this year, we were looking for a cave to the west from the famous Högberget cave. The established theory of the Högberget cave is that it is a glacial water cave. My theory is that this cave is an ancient beach cave, fitting the description of similar caves in Sweden, all found at the ancient sea level. If true, the search for any other caves is best conducted by following the same altitude contours as in Högberget. Jarmo and I ended up, most likely, finding the "Skevabackgrotta" cave to the west of Högberget.

This time, the fuzzy coordinates in the book point to east of Högberget. I wanted to test my theory about beach caves again, so I set out to follow the same contours in the Tallbacka and Bastuberg areas.

The going was difficult, however.... the area has houses, and I don't want to go too close to them. Particularly when the dogs seemed to sense my presence :-) Sadly, the houses in Tallbacka are exactly on the right altitude, so maybe there is some truth to the claim that the cave might be in someone's yard. But I did not see anything too obvious when looking further away to the houses.

I did find a couple of smaller holes that would just or just enable a small person to stay in.

At Bastuberg I found a tunnel under a boulder that I would classify as a small cave, on the Finnish scale of caves :-) maybe two meters, crawlable through. Definitely enough for me to be completely in. And some animal had been digging for deeper hole further into the ground.

I also find a very small roof under a boulder that I think a small person might fit in entirely.

Anyway, a nice three hour hike through the woods in nice weather. I don't think I found the cave hinted by the book, probably I should go ask the residents in Tallbacka if they've heard of a cave somewhere.

The coordinates of the massive (2 meter) boulder cave are N 60.11690 E 24.49023. The coordinates of the small roof cave is N 60.11588 E 24.48973. And the coordinates of the three small cracks, boulders, and holes in cliff wall in Tallbacka are N 60.11858 E 24.50871 and N 60.11836 E 24.50874 and N 60.11690 E 24.50498. And there's also an ancient burial site between Tallbacka and Bastuberg is at N 60.11583 E 24.49535.

The boulder cave:

The small roof cave in Bastuberget:

The burial place:

Other views:

The hole in the cliff face in Tallbacken:

The small roof crack in Tallbacken:

The small boulder cave in Tallbacken:

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Autti & Blomberg

On Thursday I attended the short film screening of Antti Autti's new film "Get Closer".

The film is about Antti's snowboarding excursion in Norway, camping in a remote but mellow valley when the higher mountains were off limits due to snow safety reasons. A bit less extreme mountains therefore, but what a wonderful film! Very nice feeling, at least for me bringing me back to happy times when skiing is relaxed, fun, and playful. Nicely done! The film should be viewable by all in November.

And we got a pipo (hat) from Haglöfs, Antti's sponsor. Great!

It was also fun to meet Blomi (Jan-Erik Blomberg), a Finnish skier who has been around many place. He was telling stories about the travel agency, Elämysmatkat, that he guides some trips for. Great program they have, from Japan to the less travelled parts of Alps, and North America.

However, to my shock I learned from him that Jimmy Pettersen has skied way more than I have :-)

Here are Misters Autti and Blomberg giving a lecture:

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Crisis! Crisis!

Crisis! Blomi tells me that Jimmy Petterson -- who "has spent most of the last 40 years as a ski bum" -- has collected skiing 76 countries. Me, sadly, only 58... and some of those aren't even on snow, but sand, grass, or ash.

But no need to despair. This just calls for a slight adjustment of my travel schedule!

Although I have to wonder where on earth I can find those 18 more countries to ski at, beyond the white dots that I've already been at in the above map. And Georgia and Thailand that I'm already headed to. The obvious other ones are:

  • Iceland
  • Belarus, Ukraine
  • Mongolia
  • Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Cyprus
  • Uzbekistan
  • Mexico (but requires very high altitude mountaineering expeditions)
  • Peru (but skiing no longer allowed)
  • Algeria
  • Israel
  • Namibia (on sand dunes)
  • uh... what else?

That is not 18 countries yet. What am I missing? There are obviously also places like Iran, Syria, Pakistan or Afghanistan, but they are currently not at a state where any kind of tourism is possible.

Graphics (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Berghof Hintertux Wellnesshotel

On my recent trip to Austria, I stayed for a few days in Hintertux at the Berghof Hintertux Wellnesshotel. Hintertux is already by itself an amazing environment with the green hills and towering mountains and glaciers. But the Berghof turned out to be perhaps the best sauna & spa hotel that I've been to!

Nine saunas alltogether, from infrared to regular Finnish saunas to panoramasaunas... and do you know what is a "textilesauna"? Turns out that given the Austrian style of mixed-but-naked sauna rules, they also had a couple of saunas for the children or those who did not want to be naked in the sauna-areas. Those saunas are called textilesaunas, as you were swimsuits in them.

Interesting cultural differences. In Finland public saunas are usually not mixed, and when they are they are what the Austrians would call textilesaunas. There are some exceptions of course in Finland as well, but suits on or separate saunas is the general approach.

Pictures from Berghof's pools & saunas:

Meals at the hotel were also excellent:

I did not visit this as it was closed, but in Hintertux there is also the highest thermal bath of Europe. Here is their pool:

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. Photos taken with permission, when the facility was closed and when there were no other guests.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Pata's photo advice

Today I was Pata Degerman's travel and adventure photography lecture at Helsinki's Partioaitta. Cool lecture, he's a great speaker, and had many stories and good advice.

Pata is a well-known climber and explorer in Finland. He's been to the north artic region tens of times and seven times in Antartica.

I was surprised to find out that Pata has been around photographing many volcanoes, including some great shots of the early times of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

His photography lecture covered many things, a lot of the tech, like waterproof protection sacks for the cameras, charging batteries with solar, equipment handling in cold, and so on. He also talked about the art side, of course. Some of the points I picked up:

  • "If the sky is grey, don't photograph it" :-)
  • "Move closer" :-) he demonstrated this technique with his many polar bear and wolf pictures...
  • The rule of the thirds; place the object of interest in one of the intersections in the 3x3 matrix on a camera screen.
  • Eyes... focus on the eyes, get the sun reflecting from eyes, and get the special coloured eyes if you can find them.
  • For photographing people with hoods, bring colour and light to their faces with a reflector.
  • Try to use the golden hour sunlight around dawn and sunset.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Manyparts changed. Car works.

Intake manifold sealants changed, valve sealants changed, fuel injection relay changed, crankshaft position sensor cable changed, idle speed controller cleaned, and winter tires put in, 510€. Runs, at least at the moment.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Temporary replacement car

Temporary replacement car, because Volvo is still giving trouble. Specifically, it is giving the trouble that in the repair shop it is not giving the trouble that left me on the road. They are going to replace manyparts in case it helps.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rådhuset metro station

What a wonderful metro station in Stockholm. Even if these are fake, they are nice...

All urban exploration articles can be found from theurbanexplorer.net. Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Banff Mountain Movie Festival 2018

Banff mountain film screening @ Stockholm.

I missed the Helsinki screening that I usually go to, due to a business trip. Fortunately, the next week I was in Stockholm for work and was able to visit on the screenings there.

Great pieces, all of the movies that I saw. I remember best the movie "Johanna", which is about a Finnish free diver who likes to swim under the ice without scuba gear... And the movie "Into Twin Galaxies", which is about dragging kayaks under the ice field in Greenland.

And here is my landing picture to Arlanda that morning:

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Amaranten Sauna

In the 1990s I used to spend a lot of time at the Amaranten hotel in Stockholm. It has been a long time... but now I visited it again. It is still quite a decent hotel, nice rooms. However, the sauna ... leaves something to be desired.

The Amaranten is today called Clarion Hotel Amaranten.

On a scale of 0 to 10, this sauna is maybe a 1 or 2.

It was so mild that one couldn't really get sweaty at all. The floor was covered on the other side with maybe 5-7 cm of water. 

There was a bucket of water to throw to the heater, but it was outside the sauna door, partially filled with stearin (!), and the tool to throw water was a plastic drinking cup.

Pool had been covered and panelled over.

Yuck. I think I'll stay in other hotels from now on, the saunas as such a central requirement for me.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. All sauna and pool photos have been taken with permission, after closing times, and/or when there are no other customers.

More multi-flash practice in caves

The Finnish Caving Association was having a course on basic caving. I've been on that course... but it seemed like a fun thing to do and a nice visit to Turku. And I ended up doing more practice with cave photography using multiple flashes and radio triggers.

My previous attempt was not entirely successful, the back light not being very visible. I think I got the idea now, having increased the flash level on the back flash -- even on a small area and with just half a meter distance, I used 1/4 or 1/2 flash output on a Nikon SB-910, and the front/side flash was set at 1/8 on a Nikon SB-25.  For bigger spaces I may actually need more powerful equipment.

The Nikon flashes that I have are around GN 30, whereas the flash we used in the bigger caves in Austria had a GN of over 100.

Looking forward to trying this technique out even further. But it is not easy, the technology is just a tiny part of the issue. Figuring out what makes artistic sense, where is a suitable place to take a reasonable photo, coordinating everything so that there's someone who is exactly at the right place, has the right expression that supports the photo setup, and so on is hard!

I was also inspired by two other things on this trip, first off, fed up with garbage on the cave sites, I decided to bring all that I could find back to a trash can and do it on all my future caving trips as well. And secondly, we got to witness Dare Talvitie's new book's (Valkea Liekki) release event. Looking forward to reading it!

Here is Ralf and Jukka holding lectures:

Here are some of the pictures taking with the multiple flash setup:

And here we are practising chimney technique on the crack next to the cave. And Ralf levitating.

This article has also appeared at TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. And all caving-related articles are of course found at planetcaver.net! Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Garbage caving

*Every* cave that I go to in Finland seems to have at least one beer can. Lets clean them up!

Join me in bringing the junk out. I started out by taking stuff out of the Luolavuoren luola or the Cave  Mountain Cave in Turku, as we were visiting it on a caving course.

It isn't that complicated. Bring a small bag on every trip to a cave, and bring out the trash you see.

Besides the ugly garbage, I was inspired in part to do this by the example set by the Swedish Plogga effort which was talked about at the Banff mountain film festival that I visited in Stockholm last week. Why not clean up garbage and other broken things when you see them? It is up to all of us.

This article has also appeared at TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. And all caving articles can of course be found at planetcaver.net! Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

I guess I'll have my call here

I guess I will have my conference call from here, until the tow truck arrives.

Made it 800m from home no problems, and then... I have electricity but engine doesn't run. 

And people stopping to tell me that this is a bad place to park. I know.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

I'm not starting -day

"I'm not starting" -day.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Largest indoor ski hall... somewhere between North Korea and Siberia

I'm stuck at a meeting in northern China, somewhere between North Korea and Siberia. Abandoned concrete housing projects fill the rainy horizon in this city that no one seems to have heard of. But this does not mean that the locals cannot have nice things. Or me. World's largest indoor ski hall, for instance?

This really is the last place one would think such a construction happens. But it is true, arguably the world's best and nicest indoor ski hall is in Harbin, China. The ski hall is also the largest in the world, as certified by the Guinness World of Records certificate.

The Wanda Ski Park, a stylish multi-level and multi-piste ski hall that rises above a huge mall and the darkness of the city's evening, painting the scenery with light emanating from the video screens covering the hall's walls.

The setup of the ski hall is a basic design of a huge, rising structure. It is so big that there are three slopes side by side, with the intermediate-level skier's slope dropping off more slowly than the other two and then turning back to bring the skiers to the starting point. Nice design, catering for different steepness-levels!

There are altogether 6 ski lifts, two efficient chairlifts and four magic carpets. In addition to the three main slopes there is a beginning area that is at the bottom and slopes only moderately.

The design and attention to detail is very good. Most other ski halls have unrealistic mountain scenery or colourful advertisements on walls. At Wanda Ski Park the overall design is white, with tasteful mountain scenery and light-coloured advertisements. The resulting feel is incredibly good, making the place feel even larger than it is.

When I first looked down from the top, I thought they had painted a picture of a castle at the bottom end. But the castle is actually a large, real building housing a cafeteria and a number of ice sliding tracks.

I realise people may not believe me, but I didn't know about the skiing until a day before my trip to the meeting started. I was in the meeting to make sure 5G specifications are in sync with a particular piece of security technology. A small thing, but for some reason it has been tough going... how can agreeing that two specs need to be in sync take 10 months and counting? Fortunately, in the end I found people from other implementation teams who obviously also struggled with the same detailed questions. What counts is that the code actually works.

I had some trouble finding a time slot to visit this place, as the meeting filled the days and my evenings were mostly filled conference calls in the European time zone. But I finally managed to find time one evening for a visit.

And when the week was over, it turned out that my flights were about to be delayed so much that I would have been stranded at Beijing airport. I opted for moving my flights a day ahead instead. This would mean that I'd be stuck a long day on non-aisle tourist class seats at row 50, on a day that would be my birthday. But, the plus side was that I'd have an extra day in Harbin. I spent it walking the city's temples, visit a "cave" bookstore, two visits to the sauna and pool. And yes, even more skiing!

More pictures from the slopes:

Beginner area and the castle:


This article has also appeared in TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. And all skiing articles can be found from planetskier.net!

Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.