Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Vajosuo Beer Ride

This post can also be seen on 45North Chronicles.

Four years ago, some members of the MTB-Turku group got an idea. Vajosuo, one of the bogs of National Park of Kurjenrahka in Southern Finland, is a great place for challenging mountain bike rides with its duckboards and technical trails, and many shelters provides a good stage for overnight trips. What about taking a few beers and some sausages there and have a good time, in late November, when it’s dark, wet and cold? The Vajosuo beer ride was born!

Finally this year, it was the first time for me to experience this already legendary group ride. You see, the certain MTB-Turku guys who usually participate are passionate mountain bikers with a great attitude. It’s about having a good experience in the great outdoors. That’s the thing that also drives me.

In 2010, this group ride faced true winter conditions with snow and temperatures closer to -20°C. This year, like in 2011, it was the more common grey misery of November with +6°C temperature. I received the new 45North Wölvhammer boots and Hüsker Dü tires just in time for the ride. This year has been one of the wettest in recent memory in Finland, so a serious water resistance test was to come for the Wölvhammer boots.

The other guys were to ride about three hour loop in the pitch-dark of the late Saturday evening. I started riding from my home, about 42 km from Vajosuo, and decided to join the guys at the lean-to of Vajosuo. My rig packed:

Riding in the darkness:

My route to Vajosuo was mainly gravel roads. The riding started really well. The Hüsker Dü tires were rolling like a dream! They are light compared to other fatbike tires on the market. The weight reduction was really notable while riding. Soon I arrived at the destination: Vajosuo shelter. 

Soon the other seven guys arrived with their disc brakes screaming. Juha started the campfire. 

Most of us prefers Dark Kukko, a great tasting Finnish beer. 

And traditional Finnish grilled sausage!

The mood was fantastic with the campfire. 

After the food and beers, we visited the bird watching tower, one of the traditions of the Vajosuo beer ride.

A little over 2AM it was time to sleep. I and a couple of others slept under the sky, and the rest of us in the shelter.

I slept fairly well at times, but also woke a couple of times, when it drizzled straight to my face. It was nice and warm inside my bivi and sleeping bags. In the morning, the usual chores with good coffee and proper food. Several hours of riding was to come. 

We were on the move around nine o’clock, riding towards the Vajosuo bog.

The Wölvhammer boots were truly outstanding. My feet were warm and dry all the time, despite the very wet conditions. 

Our return route had a couple of really sketchy sections. 

Look at those roots! Another nice surprise with the Hüsker Dü tires here. They not only roll well, they have pretty good grip too.

The duckboards were extremely slippery. I walked most of them to play safe. 

The last part of our route was slightly easier, and ended back at the beautiful lake Savojärvi. 

I thanked the guys for a great ride, and continued alone back home.

The return route was slightly longer, around 48 kilometres. I had one chocolate and one muesli bar left, and one expedition meal. The wind was picking up, and it was mostly head- and sidewind, so I decided to stop at the parking place of Vajosuo and make the meal. 

I felt good after eating, and rode fairly comfortably to home in the strong wind and drizzling rain.

It was getting dark again when I was coming closer to home.

In the end I missed a turn, and did an extra loop. Good training for the near future!

The Vajosuo beer ride was truly a blast. The technical trails, slippery duckboards and demanding late fall conditions are certainly not for beginners. This is a hardcore and extreme group ride for true purists. The Wölvhammer boots are in a league of their own. They are really versatile, because they work so well in extremely wet conditions. Also the Hüsker Dü tires are phenomenal all-round tires. They really transform fatbike to another level with the fast rolling characteristics and grip. 

I am looking forward to the snow and freezing temperatures to return to put the Wölvhammer boots for even more demanding use! Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November S24O

At long last, it was time for a fatbikepacking overnighter. Peter asked if I was interested for a short S24O on Friday-Saturday night. Timing and weather (subzero in the evening and early night, a possibility of slight rain in the morning) looked good, and we decided to head to the Wilderness of Marttila, a short distance from my home. Also, I had swapped the wheels of my 9:Zero:7, and it was back to fat again. We would both ride our fatbikes.

We have been there a handful times before. Back then, the route from my home to Marttila has been always a boring tarmac road section. I knew that it's possible to ride there on small gravel roads too. This time I planned the route with Google Maps.

We started around 19.30 (7.30PM). I had a printed map in front of me.

The route was indeed nice with small twisting gravel roads. 

Actually it was so fun that there was even a short section without a road at all, just a narrow ridge along a field.

Our plan was to camp at the lean-to of Onnenperänrahka. On the trail:

Peter riding the boardwalks, which were icy and slippery, and in bad shape:

The evening was nice, temperature dropped to -6°C.

Destination reached:

My rig:

Peter's new Salsa Mukluk:

We started a campfire and warmed delicious ham-cheese sandwiches:

Some of the wood was wet, so the fire needed some help from Peter:

A hot tea was very nice before sleeping:

A campfire feels so nice in the dark and cold of November:

My sleeping system for the night:

It was nice to crawl in to the warm sleeping bag and the only sound was our campfire. So calming.

I slept really well. This time I had a 3-season sleeping bag, Marmot Wave III. Alpkit Numo sleeping pad further extended the comfort.

The usual morning chores with good coffee and future plans with Peter.

Peter with a warm down jacket. Cold is not an issue for us.

A view from the lean-to:

The campsite:

Packed and ready to go:

The weather forecast was pretty much correct. Temperature was above zero in the morning and occasional rain. The boardwalks were insanely slippery!

But Peter, as usual, rode on them. I didn't. :)

What's that? Bear poop?

We took a slightly different route on return trip. The trail was hardly visible.

Trails were really wet and soft, but our fatbikes were fantastic on them.

Our little adventure was reinforced with a nice dose of misery. Hard wind, rain and icy, slippery gravel roads. I liked it, it's a nice feeling to experience also bad conditions. Of course, this would have been perfect with lots of snow and blizzard conditions.

Thanks Peter for a very nice overnighter. It had all the nice elements. Check out Peter's report too.

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