tiistai 9. elokuuta 2016

Vätsäri - the best O-terrains in the world?

Decided to write this post in English due to some foreign readers who have shown interest in my trip up north. A three-day-hike in the heart of Vätsäri wilderness area was part of my 2,5 week excursion in Finnish Lapland that ended yesterday, and am only going to concentrate on these three days in this post.

Redmachine enjoying Vätsäri
 Many have asked me how I got the idea to head for Vätsäri. I cannot really recall how I came across with the idea of going for orienteering there for the very first time, but everything might have well started already some years ago after having read the imaginary schedule by Pellon Ponsi athletes of the well-known Finnish Huippuliiga. The landscape of Äälisselkä seemed truly magical for a guy from southern Finland. And now, after having visited the place for real, it still does.

There was some sort of excitement in the air the days preceding the hike. I had been looking extremely much forward to this opportunity while planning the trip the last weeks. Things like where to park, what route and how much to hike, where to orienteer, where to eat and sleep etc. had to be carefully planned in advance. Due to limited time resources and the location of the very best orienteering areas we were daily forced to combine quite a lot of hiking with our orienteering trainings.

Since the best terrains were situated 20km from the nearest road, it was obvious that at least 40km had to be hiked to reach these areas. We settled with a plan where we would spend our first day mostly hiking to reach the furthermost point of our trip. Besides our first O-training on the way, we hiked more or less non-stop to reach our destination before the sunset. (Note: In the beginning of August the sun does already set for two hours on these latitudes.)

Whereas the terrain of our first O-training was already a joy to run in, we were still expecting the best ones to come on the second day. And the trainings on the open higlands of Vätsäri the following day didn't let us down. Not even the slight drizzle could depress us during our trainings that day. My expectations were high, but both of the terrains were definitely able to stand up for them! In fact I was so excited while running in there that I was celebrating like having won a championship race by throwing my hands up in the air and shouting in joy. Few times I had to take a break to digest the wonderful views and natural beauty of the rugged landscape.

Breathtaking views
The fact that we had to work relatively much to reach these remote areas added to the experience, but even when trying to think as objectively as possible I can't help but to admit that these terrains were the best for orienteering purposes that I've ever run in. The biggest reasons are the good to excellent runnability, richness in contour details, excellent visibility, and magnificent views. Navigating between the small ponds and hilltops of bare rock was a unique experience.

The whole trip ended up being sort of a block of aerobic training with approximately 40km of hiking and 44km of orienteering within three days. We only had time to do four separate O-trainings in addition to hiking, but in terms of overall training load it surely was enough :) What weren't enough, though, were the number of days spent in the wilderness because I felt there was so much left to explore. That makes me wanna return!

Below is also a video compilation of our hike. Enjoy!

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