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Published: August 5th 2018
Crossing the Border From Sweden to Finland
Both EU and Schengen countries, absolutely no border formalities.
For better or worse, the heatwave gripping much of Scandinavia abated just the day before my summit attempt of Halti Mountain in Finland. The mountain's summit is actually in Norway but the highest point in Finland is just short of the summit. Norway recently tried to redraw its border to give Finland the entire mountain but was denied by a constitutional technicality
Of course, with the heat dissipating came the rain. A lot of rain. One minute I was basking in the sun at Pihtsusjärvi hut, the wind whipping up from the hot south, the next minute the wind shifted from the north, as in the North Pole, definitely not hot. I managed to tag objective numero dos
of the Scandinavia Peak Bagging Trilogy in ~3 hours from the hut and another 2½ return, pretty pedestrian but the terrain was tough - the summit block was a massive pile of rubble, choss, talus, and scree made really slick and snotty under the torrential downpour.
$US ≈ €0.85 (Finland is on the euro)
My 6 days in Finland were all spent on the trek to Halti:
Monday 7/30 Day 1: Packed up from camping in Karesuando, Sweden (ridiculous 200 SEK or ~$US23)
Crossing the Border Again
Early part of the hike passes thru a small section of Norway.
and walked across the border with a Swedish hiker I met on the bus from Kiruna who was also trekking to Halti but doing it in half the time I had allotted. We got to the border town of Karesuvanto, Finland and waited for the 14:30 bus to Kilpisjärvi while attempting to hitch from the "town" which consisted of the gas station/restaurant/Kwiki-Mart and a souvenir shop. After about an hour a Finnish couple in an RV asked us (and another woman from the bus who stayed at the Karesuando hostel) if we wanted a lift to Kilpisjärvi which we happily took as it was only 11:00. We got dropped off at the visitors center where I rearranged my gear and left a bag with items I would not need on the trek, e.g., soap, shampoo, clean clothes... basically anything hygienic with the exception of my toothbrush. I took off ~14:30 and arrived at Saarijärvi hut 18:15. The hut slept 6 and it ended up being full by the morning as people rocked up at all hours seeing as it never gets dark this time of year so hiking can continue well after sunset at around 23:00 or midnight. Lots of
mosquitoes in the hut too, my least favorite of the 3 huts I stayed in. Bad night sleeping.
Day 2: The hut heated up really fast in the morning (sunrise is ~03:00) and the second day would be a scorcher, the hottest of the 6 days by far. Even though I was up at 0'dark thirty (well, never really gets dark), I still managed to get a late start and left the hut ~09:50. The goal was to get to Meekonjärvi which was 20 kms away and about the halfway point from Saarijärvi to Halti Mt. I got to the next hut at Kuonjarjoki at 13:10 and took an hour long pit stop to refuel, re-hydrate, and relax. I noted how much nicer this hut was than Saarijärvi so made plans to stay here my last night of the trek. Easy further ~10 kms to Meekonjärvi hut, got there at 16:40 with the intention of sleeping in the hut as one of my tent poles had split in Sweden but was usable with the field emergency splint. But the small hut (also sleeping 6) was so infernally hot that it was going to be impossible to sleep so I
Camping at Meekonjärvi
Must have been around 21:00, sun still shining bright. Good thing I brought my eye shades.
set up my tent, without the fly as there was barely a cloud in sight, and slept pretty well.
Day 3: Was able to get a bit of an earlier start and left Meekonjärvi at 08:35 but changed the plan and decided I would stay at Pihtsusjärvi hut 2 nights and do Halti Mt as a day trip so I would not have to schlep my overnight gear another 9 kms to Halti hut. Got to Pihtsusjärvi hut at 12:45 and contemplated going for the summit but another trekker told me the day before it would be too hard. He was wrong and I waited til the next day when it poured. There was a pretty serious thunder and lightning storm all around the summit that evening so maybe it was prudent to have waited.
Day 4: The weather was not good and I did not want to be out there by myself so I waited for a Finnish couple and their young son who were also going for the summit. We left the hut ~12:10, normally way too late but time is irrelevant during the summer here. The father and son were keen on fishing along the
Halti "Summit" Marker
Actual summit about a minute walk away. No views whatsoever.
way so I left them in the dust (mud, actually) after about an hour and trudged on, topping out at the summit marker at 15:15. Hit the Norway marker just in case they end up giving the entire mountain to Finland and left right after. Got back to the hut at 18:00 where a newly arrived trekker had set up a fire in the wood stove (these huts are all used in winter by skiers) so my clothes and gear dried out very quickly. Slept like a rock.
Day 5: The weather was marginally better, not raining just misty, so I packed up and left Pihtsusjärvi at 08:25. Took a short break at Meekonjärvi from where it was easy terrain to Kuonjarjoki hut and I got there at 13:40, plenty early to score mattress space. Lots of trekkers passed in and out as it's very common to stop in a hut for a long lunch break in the middle of the 20 km stretches between huts.
Day 6: After another great night's sleep I was up at 05:00. Wasn't too hungry so just made a cup of Trader Joe's instant coffee, packed up, and hit the trail at
While Waiting for the Norway Bus
This reindeer behemoth passed right in front of me.
05:40 for the 20 km trek back to Kilpisjärvi. Stopped where it all began at Saarijärvi hut at 07:50 to cook my last dehydrated breakfast that I brought from home, chatted with other trekkers I had met en route, and left after about half an hour. Arrived at the visitors center at 11:45 and after promptly changing into clean clothes asked where I could find the closest lunch buffet. It was at Haltinmaa Inn, a few minutes walk up the road where the buffet went for €16.80. It was adequate but nothing like the much better and cheaper buffets in Sweden. After lunch I hung out in the visitors center (free WiFi) til they closed at 17:00 then waited out front for the bus to Tromsø, Norway where I had reserved a room for 2 nights. The bus left the visitors center ~17:35 and stopped for 20 minutes at the hiking center (better looking buffet €16). Fare from Kilpisjärvi to Tromsø is €32.90 payable on the bus by credit card.
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