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.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Death Star Skier

He spends his days in meaningless office tasks, like shifting papers around or destroying planets. But he also has a dream... of skiing.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko. The great art of Star Wars has provided the background theme in this blog article, which is used here in fair use and parody style. This blog is also available on the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Högberget Cave

I thought there are no caves in Finland, but there are some! This weekend's adventure was to visit the specially formed Högberget flow-erosion cave.

For a long time I thought there are no caves in Finland, and that there are only few exceptions. But there are many, though all of them are small. The Finnish Caves (Suomen Luolat) book lists 165 different caves.

My my this weekend's trip I wanted to visit three caves near where I live. But the day passed quickly, and before I noticed, darkness had set into to the already wet and cloudy day. But I wanted to visit at least the Högberget cave in Kirkkonummi, near the Peuramaa ski area. I work four kilometres away from this cave, but I had never heard of it. There are also no signs, markings, tourist materials, or even a path. Not many people visit this cave...

But we decided to make a visit. The cave has been formed during ice age, as water flowed through a crack in the rock. The form of the cave is pretty exceptional.

The best way to find the cave is with GPS coordinates: N 60° 6.418' E 24° 29.191' (WGS84). But the way to the place goes through rocks, slippery moss, snow (at least today), and cliffs, so it will be slow going. Take it easy! We spent about two hours on the trip, even if it is just 500 meters from the road. But the cave is worth a visit!

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Titlis in the Darkness

You have to take six lifts to get to the top. And we were late, because travel. But it turns out you can also stay late. By the time we started our final 2km vertical descent, it was already dark.

We skied as much as we could, and 5 kms of vertical for starting skiing at 2pm is not a bad achievement! But the day was turning to the end, and our late quick lunch at the top cafeteria was brought to an even more abrupt end when the ski patrol told us to get off the mountain. Well, we did. But it is a long way down, there were some photo opportunities along the way, and ... we missed the last run of a connecting lift. To ski all the way down, we had to traverse to the other side on the Trübsee Hopper, but given that we missed the closing time by about thirty seconds, Swiss accuracy requires that we were not to be let in any more.

Oh well, we could always ski there, this lift was almost horizontal. But it did take some time, and by the time we had hiked the few tens of meters up, it was dark. We had skied this path via Untertrübsee before, we knew where to go. But it was icy, narrow, and there was still a kilometre of vertical left. Fortunately, Tero had a flashlight. We skied in the darker and darker evening, me following Tero's light and occasionally taking a few photos. It was amazing to see the lights of the Engelberg village below us. 

But having headlights would have been better. This is an obvious addition to the skiing backpack, as we also noticed the next day.

We had run into two other Finns and Engelberg regulars, Panu and Jari, and spent the morning skiing with them at the Jochstock and Jochpass chair lifts. These lifts serve an 800-meter vertical, well-groomed, and nicely turning, hilly ski run. My legs were aching, however.

For the afternoon, we went back to the Titlis, using Rotair, the world's only rotating gondola lift. At the top we explored an ice cave that you can access from the lift station. The blue, incredibly smooth ice is beautiful. Recommended. It also costs nothing extra, unlike most other places that have similar caves.

But our next cave proved to be a harder one to access. I had earlier spotted caves along the cliffs surrounding the ski route from Gletscherlift to Stand. We planned to reach one of them by traversing the steep slopes at the bottom of the cliffs. We got near the opening of the cave, perhaps only 20 meters away. But as the other Jari started climbing higher, crossing the rocky part of the slope caused rocks to get loose and fall down. This was not safe for us or the skiers on the piste further down, so we had to turn back. With only a little more snow, the cave might have been reachable. But the slopes are quite steep. At the lower part where Tero waited for the first of us to go higher, he measured 34 degrees, and it must have been over 40 higher up.

I've been recently interested in caves, so I'd like to get a second chance at exploring the holes at the bottom of the cliffs. Maybe some day.

Finally, I wanted to recommend the Crystal hotel in town for their friendly service and the three different saunas at the top floor. That was where we met the other Finns, obviously :-)

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's a Cham!

Chamonix is open, and there's powder! And under all that light powder, there's ... rocks.

My skis will need care. And so do my boots, because they came apart as I was trying to put them on in the morning. I was able to put the parts together and the boot held temporarily, albeit the sharp edges were cutting into my feet.

Amazingly, the guys at my ski repair shop, Skiservice, not only fixed my skies but found a spare inner boots. At 40€ that's incredible value, and without having to re-modify my outer boots to fit my feet again. This is even more amazing because the most expert shop that I found in Chamonix told me that they couldn't fix the boots. But I guess the extreme ski equipment capitol of the world is Pitäjänmäki, not Chamonix :-)

But back to skiing. This weekend Chamonix opened for the first time, with a couple of runs in Le Grand Montet and one run in Les Houches. In practice I was able to ski a bit more. In both places you could ski all the way down if you were willing to take some closed runs. At Les Houches a special bus served skiers from the lower base to the open area at Maisonneuve chair lift. But taking those closed runs can be a bit dangerous, as sometimes there are surprises. Obviously there will be rocks, but I also almost run into an deep, open ditch across the slope. And I almost fell down at a tunnel going under the road, as the middle section of the tunnel did not have snow, and it was hard to see in the darkness and with sunglasses on; fortunately braking two meters before the start of the rocks was enough.

The skiing was great though. At Les Houches the winding, well-groomed ski run was fun to cruise. At Le Grand Montet, the Bochard gondola took us above the clouds into sunshine and 50-70 cm of fresh powder. But as noted, there were a lot of rocks underneath.

I also want to mention a couple of restaurants. First, my favourite on-piste restaurant, La Ferme, was the only open (!) restaurant in Les Houches. Recommended! Secondly, Le Cap Horn is probably the best restaurant in downtown Chamonix. I can recommend their salmon or their soufflé dessert (set alight on your plate, with a shot). I also liked the furry chairs at the restaurant.

Videos and photos (c) 2015 by Jari Arkko. This blog is also available at the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

First snow, first descent

Sunday morning and the first snow! Well, a bit of white here and there. But a time to open the season in my local hill in Grani!

The rest of the hill was maybe more dirt and mud than snow. But my skis were sliding well.

I also happened to have a memory card failure on my GoPro, so the video is short. Not all of the material I had could be rescued.

Photos and videos (c) 2015 by Janne Arkko and Jari Arkko. This blog is also available at the TGR site, and at Relaa (in Finnish).

Saturday, November 7, 2015


My sorry life, episode two.

It was Jim who brought up an indoor ski hill. Japan is the indoor ski capital of the world, but it had not occurred to me that I might go skiing. And it had not even occurred to me that I would have an evening off on my last day in Japan. How far have I slipped from my native self, to not even think about skiing? To not think about what to do on free time? My brain must have fried.

But it turned out that skiing was closer than I had imagined. A twenty minute taxi ride took me to SNOVA新横浜 (Snova Shin-Yokohama), Yokohama's tiny indoor ski hill. A local ski hill that may not have seen foreigners before, or at least the staff was surprised to see me. I didn't speak a word of Japanese, they didn't speak a word of English. With a boarder girl as a translator, the staff finally understood that I was here to ski. (What else would I do at an indoor ski hill?)

Snova Shin Yokohama is small, smaller than almost anything that I had seen before. But it still had snow. And ice. I wasn't sure if I had neglected skiing for too long, as the skiing was difficult. It seemed like the breaking area was far too small, and as if I had no control on the descent. But the slope was very icy, and my skis undoubtedly unsharp and too soft for my weight. After skiing this small hill for two hours, the situation seemed to improve, particularly after the tiny snow cat refreshed the slope.

Snova Shin Yokohama has a slope, shared with some big jumps, and a half pipe. I got to ski the half pipe during slope maintance, and once again felt like I need more practice. Funny that I should be in trouble at ski hill boasting ten meter vertical difference and a magic carpet lift :-)

The other funny thing was the Japanese attention to detail and cleanliness. As you exit from the ski area, you are asked to first wash your board or skis with water, then dry them and your boots and gloves with hot air.

In the end, I had a very nice evening at the local ski hill. And some exercise, enough to start sweating in the cold.

There are a number of other indoor ski slopes in Japan, but this one was closest to where I was working at in Yokohama. The world's largest indoor ski hall, SSAWS, was in Japan as well, but it was dismantled and replaced by an IKEA store. What a fate!

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