Nordic Skating along the Poet’s Way

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Eilen pääsin pitkästä aikaa mukaan Suomen retkiluistelijoiden retkelle. Lokakuussa leikattu olkapää on pitänyt pois jäiltä pitkän aikaa. Olen saanut vain kateellisena katsella komeita kuvia, joita seuran jäsenet retkistä laittavat sosiaaliseen mediaan tai seuran retkiraportteihin. Onneksi siis vihdoin sain tilaisuuden hypätä mukaan retkelle. (Ja lisättäköön tähän, että seuran retkille siis pääsevät mukaan jäsenet, jotka ovat käyneet tulokaskurssin ja -retken. Suosittelen noita kaikille luistelijoille.)

Starting Point: Virrat

This skating trip was arranged with a charter bus. We started at 7:00 from Tampere and arrived to Virrat (about 120 km north of Tampere) just a little bit before 9:00. We were about 45 skaters and the idea was to split in three groups depending on one’s physical condition and skating speed. One group would head to the next municipality of Ruovesi (53 km), the middle group would proceed to Murole Canal (76 km) and the bravest of the brave would skate all the way to Tampere (120 km). I was pondering between the options of skating to Ruovesi or Murole, but I chose the former and shorter. This was a wise decision after a long period of not-skating.

When we jumped out of the bus at Virrat, the -10 degrees celsius felt quite cold in thin windproof clothing I had. But after we started skating, I soon felt like I had too much clothes on. Partly this was due to ice conditions: it had snowed the day before and part of the snow had melted on the ice making the ice a bit hard to skate. The first kilometres were quite hard and watching my Polar heart rate sensor made me think that it is going to be a very long day. But luckily it turned out that there was also better ice conditions along the route.

Ice Conditions in Virrat. Quite good, but a bit sticky.

On the Road (or Lake?)

It was almost certain that this route had some sounds and other narrow places where we would have to take our skates off. The first one was after 2,5 km of skating as the sound of Toltaa was open (as was the next one as well). But in total, due to hot summer of 2018 and very few rain periods, I have to say that there were fewer places without ice than I thought. The water level in the lake Iso Tarjannevesi is almost at all time low, so the current (taking the water to Tampere and from there to Baltic Sea through Pori) this year proved to be really weak, and thus, many places which are normally with open water were now covered with ice.

A Break at Romppaansalmi Sound. The depth here is about 60 meters and there is an old legend claiming that a treasure has been hidden here. According to this story, one has to be totally silent when lifting up the treasure or it will fall back to the bottom. As far as I know, no-one has ever succeeded in this treasure hunt. So the silent nature of the Finnish people must be a myth…

As our group was the ‘slowest one’, we had plenty of time looking around and having breaks for drinking water and tea and eating our sandwiches. So in this sense, skating was really enjoyable and as the sun was visible all day, I felt like I had got tanned after all day on ice. (Which reflects the sun quite well, too)

Red Face of the Author on One of the Breaks. At this point the reason for red face cannot be the sun but bad physical condition…

After the first three walks around open water areas, we had a nice 10 km skating until Pusunvuolle sound at Visuvesi. Visuvesi is one of the many Finnish villages built around the forest industry—a sawmill and a plywood factory in this case—but which has suffered after the industry has closed the factories. Luckily for Visuvesi, there have been many active persons around and nowadays there’s also new activity in the old factory premises.

The Open Water at Pusunvuolle Sound. A 100 meters of walking and skating continues.

After Visuvesi there was only one sound before we would reach the large ridges of Tarjannevesi. As we knew that the main sound of Kilvensalmi which the steamboat traffic takes in the summer would be open, we decided to use the small sound of Syväsalmi instead. (The Finnish name of the sound is quite ironic and reveals something about the Finnish sense of humour. The name of the sound, Syväsalmi, means literally Deep Sound, and there’s only about 80 cm of water even in the summer. But this sound was a good choice as we could skate all the sound without walking a meter.

Through Syväsalmi Sound to Tarjannevesi.

When we reached Tarjannevesi, we found out that here the ice was the best on this trip. Also the tailwind made the skating easy and the 8 km of skating to the island that we had decided to be our lunch break point took only 35 minutes.

Lunch Break at Mustasaari Island.

“After the lunch and break, even the ice feels smoother” is a saying among skaters and it prooved to be correct once again. Having enjoyed tea, sandwich, bananas and sun we started skating again. Our group decided to avoid Syvinkisalmi sound (as it is normally free of ice and the cliffs are not nice to climb with equipment) and go around Salonsaari island from the eastern side. It was a good choice as we didn’t have to walk at all, but we heard from other two groups afterwards, that even at Syvinkisalmi the distance of walking was really small.

Koukkaus idemmäksi teki kuitenkin sen, että kohti Korpulanvuolletta mennessä länteen kääntynyt tuuli teki etenemisestä melko vaivalloista. Onneksi maali alkoi olla jo aika lähellä. Korpulanvuollekin oli poikkeuksellisesti jäätynyt, yhtä perinteistä sulakohtaa lukuun ottamatta. Vuolteessa tuli myös todettua, että kalliomaalaukset, joita laivalta aina selostin matkustajille, alkavat olla todella vaisut: mielikuvitusta saa käyttää, jos aikoo vanhan naisen, kahvipannun ja kissan nähdä… Restauroinnin paikka olisi siis Korpulassa kuten Kirnusalmessakin. Kunhan ihan Espanjan malliin ei restauroida. Kalliomaalaukset ovat kuitenkin mielenkiintoinen nähtävä juttu esimerkiksi laivaliikenteen matkustajille, joten “tarttis tehrä jotain”.

Loppupätkä Ruovedelle olikin sitten kohtuullisen helppoa luisteltavaa muuten, mutta maalin lähestyessä jalka alkoi painaa. Mielellä on voimakas vaikutus. Sen verran oli pakko kuitenkin poiketa reitiltä, että oli käytävä katsastamassa, missä kunnossa höyrylaiva Näsijärvi II:n ‘bensa-asema’ eli halkotankkauslaituri Kivistöllä oli. Oikein hyvässä oli, mutta veden vähyys vähän huolestuttaa tulevaa kesää ajatellen.

Fillling Station of Steamboats Waiting for Summer.

Arriving to Ruovesi by ice was the first time for me: I have seen the scenery hundreds of times aboard a steamboat, but never has the sight of this village been such a welcomed one as on this trip. 52 km of skating had some effect without previous practice… Our bus was waiting at the harbour, so I changed some dry clothes on, ate rest of my provisions and stepped in to the bus. With bus we then drove to Murole canal to pick up the other group. There we encountered also the group that was heading to Tampere. I have to say that a standing ovation would have been a proper way of greeting these skaters: such hard was their task as the wind direction (which was supposed to be tailwind all the way) had changed to headwind and the ice was even rougher on the lake Näsijärvi side of the canal. I heard later that this group had reached its goal Tampere at about 9pm after 120 km of skating!

Reaching Ruovesi Harbour.

Conclusion and some thoughts about media reporting about ice conditions

Kaiken kaikkiaan olin retkestä oikein iloinen: pitkän tauon jälkeen oli hienoa olla taas mukana porukoissa. Retkiluistelijat ovat mukavaa jengiä: juttu luistaa ja samalla oppii koko ajan lisää lajista, jäästä ja paikallistuntemusta. Tämä reissu oli itselleni myös erityinen, kun tuota Virrat-Tampere -väliä on tullut sahattua satoja kertoja laivalla, mutta ei ikinä luistimilla. Nimi Runoilijan tie on muuten ollut käytössä laivakaudesta 1934 lähtien, kun perinteistä laivareittiä alettiin markkinoida myös matkailijoille (ks. lisää täältä, sivu 165–>).

Yksi sellainen seikka, johon olen kiinnittänyt huomiota retki- ja rataluisteluun liittyen, on jäästä kertominen mediassa. On toki ymmärrettävää, että varoitetaan ihmisiä käyttämään järkeään jäihin liittyen ja kerrotaan riskeistä – kaikilla jäätuntemusta (ja sekin on paikkakohtaista) ei ole ja on syytäkin kunnioittaa jäätä. Enemmän saisi kuitenkin olla ohjeistusta yleiskieltojen sijaan. Esimerkiksi tästä Aamulehden artikkelista* (12.2.2019) päätellen jäille ei olisi ollut mitään asiaa enää ja samalla esimerkiksi Tyllilöiden luistinrata on ollut koko ajan toiminnassa ja on edelleen (2.3.2019) – täysin turvallisesti. Harmittaa yrittäjän puolesta, kun suuren yleisön mielikuvaan noilla uutisoinneilla on varsin iso vaikutus. Itseltänikin on kysytty jopa merkatulla radalla luisteltaessa, onko jää turvallista. Yleispätevää vastausta siihen ei tietenkään voi antaa, mutta esimerkiksi rata kyllä suljetaan, mikäli se ei ole turvallinen – niin paljon radalla suoritetaan mittauksia.

Of course, I have to admit, that it is difficult to tell which place is safe and which not, but overgeneralization is not the key to good ice reporting on news. One cannot say that all the ice cover on all the lakes is weak even if it really is on some of them. And I have to add that by this I am not encouraging anyone to do stupid things: the ice has to be respected, it has to be measured all time when on ice and one should always have the basic safety equipment on. And the most important of all, one should never skate alone. (Even if you are a LFC fan). I would only like to see more news based on reason than on creating fear and more advice instead of forbiddance when reporting about ice conditions on lakes. But even after this, I have to say that if you are interested in Nordic skating, Tampere is the place to be as there are many options and rental equipment and teaching available for a beginner in the Nordic skater.

The Route on Google Maps

Check also my other posts and videos of Nordic skating:
Skating along the Poet’s Way – part II
Nordic Skating in Hell
Nordic skating season opened – finally!
Starting a day by skating

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