Woke up in the Arctic Circle, at Kiilopaa, Finland, to fine sunny day with an expected maximum temperature of about 20 degrees. Slightly warmer than what we were hoping for. Transferred our entire route planning gear to our tent in the restricted “Planning Area” and collected our “non waterproof paper” maps at just after 9am. Spent about an hour planning our course and marking up our maps based on a very conservative 60km straight-line distance.

During our visit to Scotland in the lead up to this event, we did a number of walks over the Scottish moors encountering lots of slow boggy ground. Expecting the Finland terrain to be similar we didn’t want to overset our course and were initially only going to work on about 50km. However after trialling a bit of the Rogaine practice map we upped our route distance to 60km as the ground was considerably firmer and in general very pleasant to traverse, a lot of it with a small amount of sponginess underfoot, unlike the bone jarring hardness we normally have.

Our course kept us to the flatter section of the map on the western side so a lot of the time we were doing a straight line compass bearing between controls.

The map only had the Magnetic North lines at 5km spacing, which was not very helpful for taking compass bearings using a plate compass.  While Evelyn was marking her map with distances between controls, I was drawing parallel North lines spaced at 1km. Based on about 2.5km per hour we worked out where we would be at 6pm, 12midnight and 6am hoping to be back at the HH by noon the next day if all went well. 

The start area was a pretty spot with a running creek flowing through it and very colourful with all the teams present.  A Finnish singer sang, what I presume was the Finnish National Anthem, and then we were off and “walking” to the first control trailing a large group.

The first few controls seemed to whiz by and apart from Evelyn getting a bit overly hot after climbing a fairly steep hill, we were finding everything going smoothly, hitting all the controls spot on.  The map was reasonably detailed and with 5m contours, showed up most of the features.  Most of the extensive track network was mapped and was very accurate. In general the control locations we visited were distinctive (like being at the top of a hill, the end of a steep ravine or on the edge of a lake) so if you got to the general location you found the control very quickly.

We travelled very light for this event, with only a water bottle each (about 600ml), so we were constantly re-filling from the numerous creeks and rivers.  Food wise we took four protein bars and a couple of Finnish bread rolls filled with jam and peanut butter each.  As it turned out this was insufficient, even though I ate a lot just before we started. I really missed the homemade pasty and baked potatoes we usually take along, but travelling restraints made preparation a little more awkward.

As 5pm approached we made it to Control 94 and were welcomed by Helena Wu and James Griffiths (our fellow South Aussies), which lifted our spirits, and it was good hear that their day was going according to plan.  Ours however, had a problem; we were about 2 hours ahead of our pre-planned schedule with nothing extra to get in the map section we were in.  Decided not to do any changes to our planning, as there was still plenty of time to stuff-up.  We think that we were gaining time, apart from not making any errors (un-usual for us), due to the lack of rest stops. When you stopped, especially near still water you were covered in mosquitoes, while you were moving it was OK.  So we ate on the go, had very quick pit stops and certainly didn’t spend time conferring on which way to go.

We were hoping that during the night it would get cooler, but as it didn’t get dark until around 11pm (and there was always a sunset or a sunrise glow on the horizon) we were in Tee shirts until around 12.30 am, when the first thermal was put on (mainly to cover my arms from the mozzies).

At 1am we had arrived at our pre-planned 6am point.  Earlier walking along a dirt road we had checked out the map for extra controls (apart from the ones we had put aside during the planning stage).  As the controls were generally 2 to 3.5km apart it was difficult add in extras, but with 5 hours up our sleeve we needed to do something useful.  Unfortunately what was available put us into some of the more difficult boggy areas (which is why they were not in our original plan).   Also we were starting to flag, with suggestions of heading back in as we were rationing the food bars and a hot shower and sauna were sounding good (but we were too far away for it to be feasible).

As we hadn’t done any planning on the new controls we found this section the most difficult.  In the last minute rush before the start I forgot to pack the Control Clue Description sheet (they hadn’t been printed on the back of the map), so we were winging it to a certain degree.  We were tiring rapidly and everything was taking longer to get to and at Control 40 we had our first “can’t find it” issue. However with other teams streaming through regularly, we soon relocated as we were very close and found it without losing too much time.  The boggy ground in this area was difficult and in getting out we headed slightly off course, ended up on the wrong track going slightly the wrong way we wanted.  Fortunately an unexpected creek crossing woke us up.

With dawn around 3.30am we had a short cold moment nearby a small mist covered lake, then stripping down to tee-shirts again around 4.30am.  After a small hiccup at Control 71 (we couldn’t find a good attack point off the adjacent track so head up to the nearby hill through high scrubby bushes where Evelyn took a bearing and lead us down again to the Control), we slowly made our way over some of the higher hills to C91 where we had spectacular views, and one of our hopeful extra controls C77, before making our way back to the Hash House about 10.23 in the morning with no energy left.

During our course we did see some reindeer, a small furry guineapig like creature (which we have discovered is a Lemming) and there were birds, but nowhere as many or as noisy as we usually encounter in Australia.

Finished in 174th place overall (out of 374 teams), 50th position in the Mixed Open (112 teams), 26th in the Mixed veterans (72 teams) and 9th in the Mixed Super Veterans (32 teams).  Straight line route distance of approximately 68km and actual travelled distance of approximately 84km.

Craig and Evelyn Colwell