Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Breithorn, 4164m

Third time's a charm! I finally managed to ski down from Breithorn. Two failed attempts... and what a  wonderful third one, with a high speed ski run down. So much fun to pass the climbers on a long trek, me going at 80 km/h while screaming from the top of my lungs as I passed them :-)

My first attempt was some years ago, interrupted by broken crampons and a hasty guide. My second attempt was getting to the top on a guiding group, but without skis. The purpose was to get to visit to the top, see how I'd do with the altitude, learn the route, and scout the skiing opportunities.

But again, for some reason the guide was in a hurry. Was there a reason we could only stop once on the way up? I would have wanted to take some photos & rest some more. And on the way down, we were almost running. Not sure I understood the point, it was still early I think so there was no safety issue. Maybe the guide was eager to get back home.

Anyway, the third time was perfect!

It wasn't possible to hire a guide for skiing this peak, so I was alone. But, I now had experience of the route and some understanding of the potential crevassed areas, and had skis, so felt confident that I could do this safely. I hadn't packed my own skins to the trip, but fortunately, I found a shop, Yosemite, that rented skins in Zermatt.

My plan was to skin up until the going got too tough, and then put on the crampons and walk the rest. It turned out that this was unnecessary; the path was steep at places, but quite workable even for skinning up.

I got to the top, and knew the recommended route down. Nevertheless, I had not seen anyone ski from Breithorn on the many days that I've been either on it or nearby, so I was a bit anxious about the route. I decided to ski down a bit more boring route on the upper part, near the short-cut steep walk-up path. Since I was near the walk path, I knew the crevasses situation was better, and this was also slightly less steep than the direct route down. On the upper part the hard snow cover was coming apart a bit as I skied it, so this was also a better route in terms of not sending snow down when there are climbers still coming up.

Once I reached the main walk path, I was able to cross to the other side of the rock outcrops, pass the crevasses, and then I was able to ski again, and was able to get some speed.

It was a great run, good snow, sunshine and an airy feeling. Happy I did this!

Our guiding group had two very friendly Japanse climbers. Here's one of them after the climb:

I also visited the ice cave at the top of the Klein Matterhorn:

At the end of the day, I was so tired that I found the long gondola ride down from the mountain very useful:

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

The Unnatural Wakeup

Today I had an unnatural 0700 wakeup so that I could enjoy Nuuksio morning and caves with Janne before taking off to a trip later.

After the excursion in Nuuksio, I was heading to Washington DC for couple days of meetings. In celebratory mood, given that our Internet administrative change had been finally executed! This was a project that took three years and had been in the making for a more than a decade.

Photos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mätikkä Cave Destruction

We had a disturbing visit to a cave today. Somebody had not only blocked access to this cave, but also smeared vaseline all over the cave, spread broken glass, and so on. Sigh.

The Mätikkä cave in Masku, southern Finland, is an interesting cave that begins under a cliff, continues in a system of cracks, and has a number of exits, including one on the top of the cliff. We first learned about this cave from the Retkipaikka article.

We had read about the disturbances, but had not realised how bad they were. The place was not just disturbed with garbage, access was completely blocked, and significant parts of the cave were smeared with vaseline and some other substances (maybe horseshit, or some other brown substance) and broken glass was spread around.

Signs were also posted around the cave, claiming that access is prohibited to protect insects, butterflies and other nature the in the cave. Well, I'm not entirely sure that smearing the cave with vaseline will help the nature a lot.

It would seem to me that it is a crime to spread oil products into nature. And everyman's right grants access to the nature in Finland, so signs and blockage seems to be against that too. The cave also has a potential cave painting, making it crime to disturb such a historic site. See also the note at the geocaching site, I wonder if a police report has been filed about the situation?

Broken glass:

Vaseline inside the cave:

Tunnels within the cave:

There is a possible, unconfirmed cave painting in the second chamber:

Although nobody really knows what the painting might convey, if it is a painting. I wanted to be helpful and highlight in this computer drawing what it shows:

Although it could also be showing this:

Photos and videos (c) by 2016 Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko. Cartoon characters with satire fair use from 1 and 2. This blog is also available at the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sauna in Shenzhen

As a saunablogger, I had to report that I've been to sauna in a new city: Shenzhen, China. The sauna was in the Pavillion hotel. Not a great sauna, but I'm glad I went anyway. Turning on the temp setting made the experience better.

And I'm also glad I didn't push the white buttons in the sauna, as the watering system *did* work automatically, not by button press. The buttons were for alarms...

Shenzhen views:

Door to the sauna:

Hot pot stomach for dinner:

Photos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko

The Finnair A350 Experience

I've been accidentally flying the Finnair A350 on short routes, without knowing I'd be on it and expecting the usual A320s. But this week I was on the A350 for the first time on long-haul flight, Helsinki-Hong Kong-Helsinki.

I was on business class. My company uses the cheapest possible tickets, but I had some points that I could use to upgrade. This made it possible for me to sleep well. And work the next day.

Overall experience was quite positive: plane was on time and no major problems, feels very modern and high tech, very quiet. I particularly like the lights, the cabin colour scheme.

The entertainment system was easy to use, fast, and had a good large screen.

But I also had a few gripes:
  • The seatbelt airbag is fairly bulky on your lap.
  • To be honest, I felt a bit more cramped in the A350 seat than in the A330 seat. Though in the end it was very nice to sleep in both, so maybe that's just the initial feeling from the new herringbone arrangement.
  • Bathroom lighting was broken or configured differently; it didn't light up to become brighter when the door becomes locked.
  • Cabin personnel seemed quite busy. It always took a long time for them to visit our aisle so that I could ask for food when I woke up and so on. This might have been affected by the fact that I was on the second cabin compartment, which is shorter than the first business class compartment. The stewardesses were busy serving the larger first compartment.
  • On my shorter flights seat power was off, though it was unclear if this was actual breakage of if the cabin personnel did not yet have the adequate training to turn it on. It kinda sounded like the latter.
But overall, 1st world problems, small problems. Nice plane!

Photos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Anti-Gravity Lift Towers

The Swiss are clever innovators. The latest example of this that I saw were the lift towers in Saas Fee. Floating in mid-air, not standing on ground like regular towers. Anti-gravity in action!

In the summer the ski area closes at noon, so after a nice morning of summer skiing in rain and fog, I was left with a free afternoon. It turns out that that at the top station there's an ice cave. I did not expect much, these tunnels seem present in almost all glacier resorts.

But I was surprised. And maybe a bit shaken. Not just by the beauty of the ice carvings, but also of the spooky nature of the place. Buttons that you are tempted to press but shouldn't, flowers decorations that feel like they're from somebody's funeral, dark chapels with shadowy figures on the walls, and exits that lead nowhere. Nicely done, now I can't sleep!

The chapel:

The flowers:

More from the chapel:

The crevasse:

Colours in the ice cave:

Photo and video credits (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko. This blog is also available in TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Soleil à Saint-Sauveur

It is late May, and Saint-Sauveur is one of the only two open ski areas in the east. And I've already been to the other one, Killington. And what's more, all the ski crazies are here!

It was a long weekend drive to Canada from Boston where my meetings were. But in this case it was worth it. The sun was shining, and the skiing was good.

Two ski runs remained open. The main slope was fully open, and had a nice bumps run on the lower part. In the morning the bumps were suitably small and soft for me, and I was happy to be able to ski the full run through them in one go. That doesn't happen often. By afternoon, the bumps had grown big enough that I no longer was able to ski them. Or maybe my legs were tired.

The other run was "Nordic", one of the side runs. I enjoyed the profile better here than on the main run, particularly the lower part, even if that part was already closed off. You could still ski it down, but you had to walk 50 meters to the lift.

But more important than the specific slopes were the people who were there. For the second weekend in row I met Patrick Corcoran ("Mad Pat Ski") who like me is a skiing nut, traveling around the world and skiing through summers. And not only him, it seemed that on this late May weekend, all the people crazy about skiing gathered here. There weren't more than a couple of dozen skiers on the hill, but they all were dedicated skiers! And they all seemed to know each other.

Saint-Sauveur ended up continuing after this weekend, but we couldn't predict the weather at the time; we all considered our season-ending ski day. When the weather turned into hard rain in the late afternoon, that just inspired people to go to the slope and keep skiing it. It was fun crowd to ski with!

I stayed at Manoir Saint-Sauveur, a nearby resort with spas and saunas. It had been too long without sauna on this trip, so the facilities were much appreciated!

After our day on the slopes, Patrick took me to museum of skiing in Saint-Sauveur, which was also interesting.

Looking forward to meeting these people on some other mountains in the future!

Romantic flamingos in the bar:

Groundhogs observing my grass skiing:

Saint-Sauveur ski area across the lake (photo by Patrick Corcoran):

Ski art at the ski museum:

Bar during the day:

Patrick and Greg:

Patrick and me (photo by Patrick):

One of the crazy skiers, crossing a pond:

Colourful buildings nearby:

View from the hill:

Photos and Videos (c) 2016 by Jari Arkko and Patrick Corcoran. This blog is also available at TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.