09 April 2016

Dogteam in a Canyon


A six dog team and crossing one of the biggest canyons in Finland. It doesn't sound like a good combination, but actually it was.

It all started three years ago. My husband took our sons for an overnight trip to Korouoma, which is a 30 km long ancient canyon in Southern Lapland. After spending a freezing cold  February night on an open shelter by the fire, the boys naturally wanted to make it a tradition. And so they did. They have gone there every winter.

Probably the best ice climbing place in Finland

This time my husband was fully booked in February and March, so they had to make the trip in the first of April. I was getting ready for a quiet night alone at home, when they suddenly said I'm coming with them to have my own adventure with my dog team. It was no joke.

They had it all planned: They would leave me and the dogs about 30 km before Posio on the roadside. There is a forest road I could probably follow and find my way to the south side of the canyon. They would drive to the north side, cross the canyon by skis and meet me at Piippukallio. There is a shelter where we could cook and sleep.

Shelter on top of cliff Piippukallio

It was an offer too tempting to refuse. I said yes, even though it meant packing in hurry with no list (!) and planning my route on the way. Just what I needed. Something new for a person who likes to make exact packing lists and always studies the map of the area in advance.

Soon we were driving with car and trailer to the north. When we reached my road, I saw to my relief there were some snow scooter tracks on it. It would have been a long evening to drive more than 15 km in deep snow, but now it was almost too easy. I stopped only one time to look at gps and made sure I was going the right way.

My team coming to Korouoma

In an hour I reached Piippukallio. The scenery made me sigh. The sun was shining. It was warm and quiet.I started making the camp. I tied the chains for from tree to tree, unharnessed the dogs and realiszd I had forgotten their jackets. What a luck the weather forecast was wrong! It said it would be raining all night, but there hardly not any clouds on the sky. 

Making fire

I gave the dogs their snacks and started sawing firewood. I noticed I had forgotten matches. How stupid can you be? I thought there is always some matches in places like this. I looked from the hut at shelter and found a box. It was a little damp but it worked. I got the fire going and then I started to hear voices. The three men were coming up the hill.

When the snow is too soft...

They had left their skis down. How they crawled in the snow with they heavy backpacks made me laugh. We had a very nice evening with good meal and lot of talking and stories. At bedtime it was not difficult to fall to sleep. At least I had not forgotten my sleeping bag!

Father and son cooking

In the morning we made a crazy plan to walk the dogs and to lower the sledge straight down and go together to the car. If I had known how steep it was I would have probably said no. But in the morning sunshine everything seemed possible, so I just said it sounds like a good challenge for our family.

Hmm... how to get down?

To begin descending my husband took the dogs with older son and I took the sledge with younger son. Somehow, little by little, we started going down. In different parts of the canyon we needed different tactics. In some places the most sensible dogs could walk free. In the steepest places it took three men to lift all the dogs safely down. In some places I lowered the sleigh with rope.

Slowly and carefully

It took us almost two hours and many steps up and down in the snow,  but in the end we all made it to the bottom of the canyon in one piece. There it was an other story to build and start the dog team. I'm happy my husband wanted to drive the first hundreds of meters. After that it was a pleasure ride for me and a hard uphill to ski for the men.

Our arsenal on the parking place

When I reached our car I left my gear there and drove my team back to take the backpacks from men. My team worked like dream and it was hard to decide which was more sunny: the weather or the expression on my face... Than you for a super nice adventure!

In this film you can get and idea how we managed it: 

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