Discover Splitboarding episode 4. – Couloir Mission

March 30, 2016 | 6:49 pm | 1 comment »

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photo : Teemu Lahtinen @laamaphoto

In this episode we get on to steeper terrain and climb a beautiful couloir in Senja, Norway. I explain the basics what you need you think and learn before stepping into more serious terrain and point out some tips and useful information. Also, new gear like crampons and axes are introduced as additional equipment for ascending and riding steeper terrain.

 

There are many things you need to think and learn before you can start climbing and riding steeper stuff.

  1. Number one is always safety. Get avalanche education and develop your backcountry skills before stepping into more serious terrain.
  2. Patience. Mountains are not going anywhere. Wait for the right and safe conditions. Do not rush. Mountains are fairly static, snowpack is not – it is constantly changing.
  3. Human factor. First of all, accidents happen usually because of bad decisions, not the conditions. Team up with people you can trust and have similar mind set towards riding and mountains. Group dynamics is very important and it strongly affects the decision making of the group.
  4. Fitness. Hiking steeper terrain in deep snow requires a lot of endurance, physically and mentally. Start from lines that you can handle and work your skills. Train and know your limits.
  5. Gear up. Additional gear like crampons and axes are good to have. They will make to climb and ride easier and safer and even possible; it only needs to be a short icy section that you could easily ride over but can’t climb without crampons or you want to have some extra grip that axe provides.  It sucks to turn back because of lack of right equipment. In the glaciers and more serious climbs you need to learn how to use ropes, harnesses, etc.

The gear that I use on steeper stuff :

Crampons : Black Diamond contact crampons or any similar that has straps and you can attach to your boots. beware of the ski/climbing boot clip attachment system.

Ice axes : Simond Fox carving choose a lighter ice axe for splitboarding and touring purposes, ice climbing is a whole another deal.

Ascending plates : Billy Goat plates. I find these very good since you can attach them to crampons if needed. You can climb ice and deep powder with this combo.

Avalanche backpack : Jones 30L for extra safety. If something does go wrong it is better to atleast try to stay on the surface when help is far away.

The story behind this couloir: I first saw it years ago when I came to Senja, Norway, for some spring surfing. It really stands out from the scenery.

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Ever since, I wanted to ride it in good conditions but it turned out to be difficult. It is located between the fjords so the weather and conditions change really fast. Then, it is facing south-southeast and warms up fast later in the season when the conditions and weather is more stable. So, if I want to ride it in powder conditions it has to happen during winter months. In December and January the sun does not yet rise above the horizon much and the day is too short. Basically, I was left with february or beginning of March right after a snowfall as my time window.

Finally, on 10th of February, 2016, the conditions seemed to be right but the weather was yet a question mark when we started hiking towards the couloir. It was cloudy and snowing but with some clear patches every now and then and the forecast was promising. We got to the exit and it was snowing hard and we could not even see the top half of the couloir. We dug a pit and assessed the snow. It looked deep and good but weather was still not looking promising. But suddenly, as we were assembling the boards, the sky cleared and we could see the whole beauty. It was on! We started hiking which turned out to be more like swimming. I was glad I had those plates with me. With their help, I was sinking only to my knee as my friend, Miikka Peteri, was sinking up to his waist without them. It took us way longer than we expected to make it to the top and we lost the best light while struggling in the deep powder. But the scenery and turns down were worth every sweaty step!

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 Behind the col you can see the waves breaking. I tried to go surfing the day after but was caught by a storm when paddling into the line up.

The couloir turned out to be the pinnacle of the The Discover Splitboarding series for me. I am still really happy that we managed to ride it in such conditions. Big thanks to Miikka Peteri @miikkapeteri who joined for the mission and huge thanks to Teemu Lahtinen for filming, directing and editing series and for all the good times.

If you want to ride in Senja, Norway, contact Senja Lodge for mountain guiding services and lodging.

Discover Splitboarding episode 1.

March 8, 2016 | 12:47 pm | 2 comments »

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In the beginning of this backcountry season me and Teemu Lahtinen did a four episode series for EpicTV. Discover Splitboarding is aimed for riders who are interested of splitboarding and stepping into the backcountry. Series starts with the very basics and progresses into more advanced riding, hiking and climbing so there will be some useful tips for more advanced riders as well.

First episode is about the splitboarding philosophy, why I got into it and how it changed my perspective and also about the very basics what you need to think when stepping into the backcountry. There are lot of things to learn when you start exploring the back country. Safety is the priority.

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When we started planning the series I needed to think what makes splitboarding so special to me. Why I choose splitboarding over chairlifts, snowmobiles and helicopters?

Expand – your terrain outside of the slopes and motorized runs into the wild. You are free to go where ever your legs take you.

Explore – the mountains and nature in a very immersive way: by your own feet and senses. It can change your whole perspective how you look at snowboarding. Quality replaces quantity.

Escape – the crowds and the rush. Freeriding is getting popular and easy access spots are tracked fast. Choose your own mountain or leave the resort boundaries behind fast with just a little hike to find untracked terrain with no hassle.

Empower – Choose your own lines. Feel empowered by climbing and riding mountains yourself.

There are lot of things to learn when you start exploring the mountains. Safety is priority. So start from your comfort zone and start pushing it’s boundaries slowly but always in control. Taking big steps too fast will only make you feel like fish out of water – scared, out of place and breath. Mountains and backcountry are very good teachers of patience; we can not force the conditions. The mountains will let us in when it is time. Once you learn more about moving in the backcountry, snow safety and choosing the right routes and lines you will feel more comfortable stepping into bigger terrain.

The first episode is filmed around the Pyhä Ski Resort which is a perfect example of a place where is good to start splitboarding and learning ways of the backcountry. You can start by riding in the resort and exploring little further. Progress by stepping out the boundaries and advance into doing your own missions into the near by fjells which are part of a national park and only accessed by foot. The terrain is variable with open faces, little couloirs, good treeriding and even pillow fields. The area is not too big to make you feel overwhelmed but big enough to experience great backcountry riding and wild nature with reasonable hikes.

This season conditions have been great in Pyhä. Lot of new terrain has become rideable because of a good snow year and favorable winds. We have found ourselves returning again and again for riding, exploring new spots and even filming in terrain untypical for Finland – the land with no mountains.

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Mountain sanctuary

May 9, 2013 | 7:35 pm | No comments »

part 1 – Road  North

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Tamok valley – Feels like home

After a winter of traveling with airplanes, trains, rentals, taxis and other transports on different continents it’s so comfortable to pack my own car and my second home, caravan, and just drive north. My intention is park the caravan at bottom of Tamok valley which has started to feel like home away from home – a spiritual home, and spend the rest of the winter and little more enjoying the endless possibilities of the northern playground. Our plan was to film for Antti Autti’s new project for several weeks and play it by the conditions.

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Snowing snowing equals pow pow. Photo: Teemu Lahtinen

 

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Face shot? photo: Teemu Lahtinen

Troms commune is situated well above the arctic circle in northern Norway and it has 666 peaks reaching over 1000meters and thousands of kilometers of coast line. I wonder if devil himself will show up for shred if you ride all the peaks! Tamok is situated nicely in the middle of everything in the county, just inland from Lyngen peninsula. It has more dry climate than the coast and the snowpack is between coastal and continental. The snow is usually more stable in Tamok than elsewhere in the commune. 30 kilometer long valley has lot to offer and makes the perfect base for missions of any kind and level. Valley itself is still undeveloped and there is only about 70 inhabitants on the whole stretch. It makes a perfect getaway from crowds. Just friends and mountains, what more could you ask?

Northern Norway is a paradise when the conditions come together but can be harsh too. The arctic location and sea makes weather variable and sometimes difficult. Mountains are magnificent and lose to none in comparison but the weather and the snow can change fast. The northern climate does not produce so much snow as Alaska for example but good years come not too far. This has been one of them.

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Forest couloirs are good option when the visibility restricts alpine terrain. Photo: Aadne Olsrud

Perfect snow

I parked my caravan in Tamok in the end of March and there was tons of snow already then, the most I have ever seen here in seven years, and more was to come. We planned a helishoot with special permits for the beginning of the trip with a help from the “king of the valley”, Aadne Olsrud and Jarkko Henttonen who have basically founded freeriding in Tamok. The snow was awesome and more was falling constantly. We basically got the check out some mountains and the snowpack with the heli and then the weather would close again and bring more snow. Soon it was waist deep and the tree riding felt like I was back in Japan! It was dry, light and deep and stayed so for a long time. Clouds were protecting the perfect snow. Definitely the best snow of the season and. It was inspirational to ride such snow so close to home.

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Slasher in the tree line. Photo: Teemu Lahtinen

 

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Trees, pillows and ollie. Photo: Teemu Lahtinen

Waiting game

With the persistant low pressures circling the valley we were mostly stuck on the bottom and the bird stayed parked next to the caravans. That would have been completely ok to shred the trees and pillows with this snow but big plans and paralyzed helicopter started to create some pressure and frustration after a while. Every now and then we got brief weather windows and got to test and ride some awesome snow but as soon as the cameras came out the clouds rolled in. It started to be the story of the season for me, like the cameras and the weather didn’t make friends this year. But the riding was still awesome and the time spent with friends in the valley is priceless so I couldn’t complain at all. It’s hard to be mad at the weather and it’s better to make the best out it anyway and we did. We rode pillows and discovered new spots in the lower elevations and got creative with the heli too. And the weather has to clear sooner or later, right?

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Buttering through the trees. Photo: Aadne Olsrud

 

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If the night is clear in March the norhtern lights are almost guaranteed.

 

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Antti Autti on Blåbaerfjellet

Check sites for more info:

Tamok Friends FB site for recent events and conditions

Olsrud Adventure FB site. Accommodation, services and more

 

 

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