Finland 2015 Photos

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Full Member
Sep 8, 2012

Earlier this month I undertook my second expedition to the Kittila Municipality of Finland, camping just outside of the town of the same name. It was a year of testing kit and testing myself. This won't be an extended trip report per-say, but more a few things that I noticed and wanted to note down. Also, excuse the blurring of some pictures, particularly those of the night sky. I'm still learning photography and didn't realise I could only really get away with a 30 second shutter speed so as not to get the rotation of the night sky. Mine were mostly 40 second shots, and it galls the hell outta me that I did that. I won't be so afraid to bump up the ISO next time. I'd appreciate constructive criticism of the shots though, so I can get better.

After a fairly awful (but decidedly better than last year) 12 hours in Helsinki Airport, we finally arrived in Kittila. As is usually the case, our plane was loaded with skiers heading North to the Levi ski resort. Getting out toboggans ready out front brought a few wide eyes, but the few people that asked us what we were doing we're surprisingly impressed rather than judgemental. My favourite moment at these times is when you step off the plane. There's nothing quite like that cold air hitting your lungs, and the feeling that your body is revving up like an engine, getting the furnace going.

We'd met up with our Dutch brothers Remko and Lennart in Helsinki, and it had taken all of 30 seconds to realise we were all going to get on like a house on fire. These are guys who know what they're doing, can knuckle down, yet have the good humour to lighten moods and improve morale.

Happy Campers by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Let's Go! by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

George (above) had come into town a day earlier than us because of difficulty when booking flights. He'd been dropped off my the landlady of a B&B in town and was raring to go. Never seen someone look more at home in their environment.

Chuffed by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Bogart the Boggan by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Last year I'd made do with a DeadSled, a hunting sled imported from America, to pull my kit. Whilst being very lightweight, and with the 1-2mm plastic doing surprisingly on the few kilometres of gritted roads we had to walk down, the sled had no real base, even with the weight of kit bags, so was prone to roll and slide on the slightest incline. Also, the pulling strap was designed to wrapped around the head of your kill, and the plastic provided a non-slip base to mkae it easier to move. I challenge you to find a "head" on your bags :p. In short, the whole system did not work for a trip of this kind. Thanks to the help of some team mates, I was able to procure and fabricate my own togboggan. At only 3mm thickness it was a cinch to roll up, robust enough for the gritted roads, and stayed flat on all surfaces. Undoubtedly it made the trip a whole lot smoother.

Leaving the airport by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

We made our expedition much earlier this year, mostly to catch the colder temperatures that we missed out on last year. It worked. At the point of leaving the airport we were down to -10, a solid 5 degrees lower than last time. It would only drop lower, and my temperature records would be consistently smashed as I looked at thermometers and said "Oooo, its gotten colder!"
A downside to this earlier departure meant that our trip was plagued by few daylight hours, and as the picture above shows, even at around 1ish in the afternoon, the light was quickly leaving us.

Somewhere ahead by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

There's something about this rise that captures me. I took pictures of it last year, when both arriving and leaving. Like last year, we took a right turn off the main Kittila road, heading West. As with most towns along Route 79, the houses are clustered close, as if scared to remove themselves from the lifeline of the road, so it only takes a short walk before you leave the houses behind and the forest takes over. This rise represents that divide

We finally reached -32.1 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

At -11 I was already well out of my comfort zone, but feeling fantastic. It would later drop to -32.1 (the .1 is important!) and I'd forget the take a picture of the thermometer. It was a peculiar feeling to be at -30-odd and then back up to temperatures like this one. At -10 I was peeling off layers, and the fact I could use my hands for minutes at a time without gloves was a nicely clear indicator of how much heat my body was pumping out, as if it was keeping revved up in anticipation of a temperature drop.
An important lesson for me on the trip was how I could act under such conditions. A prime example was my sleeping system. For the trip I'd borrowed a Wiggy's Antarctica from Gray of this parish. My previous Arctic bag, the Snugpak Antarctica, I hadn't gotten along with, so I'd sold mine on, and taken Gray up on his offer. It was an amazing bag, but massive. Huge. Gigantic. It fit inside my bivi bag, but only just, and not without squeezing the insulation into weird and wonderful ways. As such, I woke at -32 on the second night very cold and very annoyed. It made little sense to me that I should be cold in such a bag. Yet despite being confused and angry, I was happy that I could sit there and consider "How do I better my situation?" Moreover, I've been through some serious mental difficulties over the past year, and I half expected that such a situation would break me. I'd had a sense of trepidation about sleeping and operating in those temperatures because I was scared I might not be able to handle it. So I was pleased (later-on) that my mind forgot about any other problems I may have had and dealt with the situation at hand. That in those temperatures I could focus and realise what was important to consider, and what could wait till another time.
Not that it would have made much difference, considering the -60 degree Fahrenheit rating on the sleeping bag, but it was a big step to consider that I may have to remove the bivi bag. As soon as I did, I was immediately warmer. The same situation arose throughout the trip. If I wasn't adding more layers, I was taking them off. I actively sought to dry out kit, considered where might be most warm for drying my gloves, what should I do to warm toes. If anything, the trip was training me in my personal admin, and in a way that locked down any other thoughts I may have had that would detract from the experience.

Side of the Road by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Skidoo Trail by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Frost Ring 1 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Frost Ring 2 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

On the first night we hit around -25. I'm a very light sleeper, so the sound of Mad Dave rustling and getting up nearby woke me up. Both him and Riam took the task over the first few nights of making rounds in the night to check people were warm and happy. His rising got me up as well, and I stepped out of my tent to see a frost ring around the Moon. This is also known as a 22-Degree halo. It is caused by the refraction of light in hexagonal ice crystals in thin clouds. While this can happen at any time, colder temperatures increase the probability at there is much more chance of the ice forming in the clouds. This, coupled with the mysterious monochrome light I was woke to, made it incredibly memorable and beautiful.

S'Cold by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

I've always wanted a picture of ice in my beard, I got it :D

Aurora 1 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Aurora 2 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

These are in no way comparable to some other pictures of aurora that I've seen on this forum, and the slightly longer exposure have cause the damned stars to blur, but I'm happy I can show what was there, despite the amazingly bright moonlight. I was stood in -30, on the trail in my softie suit, holding handwarmers to my camera to offset the cold shutting down the batteries. The northern lights only really appeared as brighter sections of sky, like light clouds, but there was something in the eye that told you they were there, and where you should point the camera. To look at what I had captured on my camera made me a very happy man.

Swedish Candle 1 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Swedish Candle 1 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Intrepid by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Snowball Soup by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

It's awesome to consider that at -30 your fire can be 4 foot wide, and you won't feel anything stood a single foot away. At -10 your fire can be 2 foot wide, and you'll be stood 4 foot away holding your coat open to the warmth.

Bushcraft TV by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Storytime by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Moon 1 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Moon 2 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Moon 3 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

We had alot of moonlight on the trip, which i feel detracted from the scene at times. I wish I could have seen the night sky out there without any of its light blinding out the details. That said, it did sometimes makes the pictures as well.

Pose by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Sky 1 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Sky 2 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Sky 3 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Intrigued by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Aurora 3 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Aurora 4 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Aurora 5 by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

My second encounter with the lights was much more tricky, and Riam and I spent almost an hour walking very slowly back to camp on the last night, eyes searching for cloud that wasn't cloud. As you can see, the light, wispy clouds did cause problems for spotting the aurora, but once again the eye could seek it out. These were much more orange that before, but it was a welcome change, and I am eternally grateful to Riam that he helped me find them.

Orion by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

Coming Home by Matthew Mutch, on Flickr

On the way home we experienced some fairly bad turbulence, especially when coming into land in Manchester. I have a fear of flying. I don't know why, but I hate getting on the plane. This resulted in some fairly incessant ribbing from the team during our various flights, but when push came to shove and I really freaked out, they were considerate and supportive. Coukdn't ask for more :)

As for the team and the place, the support was amazing, and once we got down to it, everyone pitched in. Camping somewhere like the Arctic makes you remove the extraneous stuff from your head and your relationships with others. It invigorates you, and you see the same invigoration in others. We talk of a buddy system out there, but it happens without any concious thought. You keep watch over others, constantly check mood and physical state because you expect the same in return. Water goes into their flask before yours, and firewood is distributed to those who need it. There's no requirement to do this, and no prompting. You just realise that you're all in this together, and everything is a small gift. Comradeship becomes second nature. And later, as everyone is sat around the fire, knowing they are surrounded by snow capped trees and bone jarringly cold temperatures, you become amazed at your present situation, realizing that you are laughing and joking in the place where everybody thought you would just be shivering. Biltong and hot chocolate is passed around and you occasionally meet the wide eyes of someone who has just realised the same thing. I've never been more proud that when watching people thrive and grow as people in the environment you'd expect them to retreat from. It was a pleasure to camp with this team, and share this experience.


Jan 17, 2013
North of the southern wall.
good n cold photos....;)

some Q's
-How much extra did you get charged for all your gear?
-Did you buy wood en route or are you allowed to chop the odd tree down in amongst the millions in that part of the world?


Full Member
Sep 8, 2012
Thanks for the comments :)

We had to pay 40 euros extra for an extra 23kg bag. That meant we had two bags each, plus our hand luggage.
As for wood, there was a fair bit of dead standing around, so we made do with that. It was more than enough for a main fire plus stoves
Jan 19, 2013
-Did you buy wood en route or are you allowed to chop the odd tree down in amongst the millions in that part of the world?

The woods back here tend to be overloaded with usable firewood.
Storms cut some, some die standing and forest management leaves loads.
Anything thinner than 3" is left to rot and be fertilizer for the rest.

And nice pics n'narrative.
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Full Member
May 23, 2014
Great thread pheastos, really enjoyed reading

I have no experience with these long tobogans, we always use 'platforms on skis' (don't know the correct term). Thank you for the report, love reading these kinds of posts. More to come?

I like the look of these flexible toboggens...i'v only ever used a solid pulk before. these plastic sheet ones seem much more forgiving
I did very nearly buy a "dead sled" a couple of weeks ago. Until I posted on here and it got shot down in flames lol


BCUK Welfare Officer
Dec 7, 2003
West Sussex
My favourite part of the world. My friends have a cabin in äkäslompolo. I usually take the over night train from Helsinki which is a great experience. Some fantastic photos.

You guys have wetted my appetite for our next Forest Knights trip there in June.


Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jun 15, 2010
NE Scotland
I'm in the North East of Scotland and I thought my skies were clear and starry, but there is something exceptionally clear when it gets that cold and at those latitudes. Nice to see the Aurora I've only seen it once myself for a very short period and very faint but it's still something'll remember.

I enjoyed those pictures thanks for posting.

Andy BB

Full Member
Apr 19, 2010
The woods back here tend to be overloaded with usable firewood.
Storms cut some, some die standing and forest management leaves loads.
Anything thinner than 3" is left to rot and be fertilizer for the rest.

And nice pics n'narrative.

Ah - usable firewood! Not like the Nordmark then:) (When we were there last even the dead standing was waterlogged!)

Without wishing to hijack the thread - where exactly in Finland are you referring to, KFF?

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