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Käsivarsi Wilderness Area - Packrafting on Poroeno and Lätäseno Rivers

Packrafting in Käsivarsi Wilderness area - 150 kilometres in the most spectalura wilderness area in Finland.


How does it sound to hike 150 kilometres by a packraft and by feet in July in a record dry summer? Good! What about when your back has been baked in mountain biking just two weeks before the start of your trip, and especially when you've been waiting over a year for another adventure. Damn good!

After all, planning a trekking adventure always starts at the end of the previous trip and this was no exception. The spark was ignited a year earlier when we paddled on the Ivalo River. In the last preparations for the trip, I got the go-ahead for the trip from a doctor's, despite my back problems. Although the doctor advised me to take hiking poles with me. I was happy with this recommendation and here is an example of a +35kg backpack with poles.

Packraft packed

Our original itinerary was the following. At Lake Meekonjärvi, we inflate our packrafts and after the lake crossing, we start our river adventure on Poroeno and Lätäseno rivers. Overall, the route plan followed the following day trips with map:


Route plan:

  1. Day 1 Kilpisjärvi - Kuornanjoki walking about 20 km.

  2. Day 2 Kuonarjoki - Meekonjärvi 11 kilometres walking, Meekonjärvi - Poroeno 10 kilometres paddling, Porojärvi hut/Kekkonen's cabin

  3. Day 3 Porojärvi hut/Kekkonen's cabin - Tenomuotka hut by packraft 24 km

  4. Day 4 Tenomuotka hut- Hirvasvuopio rental hut by packraft 25 km

  5. Day 5 Hirvasvuopio rental hut - Isokurkkio deserted cottage by canoe 35 km

  6. Day 6 Isokurkkio hut - Markkina's by packraft less than 20 kilometres

  7. + Rest day or another omewhere in between



We had allocated a total of 8 days and 7 nights for the trip, allowing for a couple of rest days or time for any unplanned activities or challenges. On long hikes, as we all know, all sorts of things can happen. We already got a taste of this when we arrived at Kilpisjärvi. The weather and the weather forecasts for the coming days seemed quite wild. Rain was forecasted for almost every day and the forecated wind speed was about 10 metres per second and in gusts up to 18 metres per second. However, the wind direction seemed to be in our favor, which would make a difference at least for the lake crossings. Personally, I have never liked kayaking with wind speeds of over 7 metres per second, but the wind direction has allowed me to do so, and at my best I have kayaked close to the shore in gusts of over 20 metres per second. At the time of departure, temperatures were forecated to be around +5 degrees, which in itself is not a bad thing when hiking, but for the possibility of getting wet we didn't have our dry suits with us, which clearly would also have been necessary in July in the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area. Gladly, nowadays you can rent drysuits from me.

Despite the weather, the lack of dry suits and the direction of the wind, we decided to set off on to the trip. In hindsight, it could be said that we were some what reckless, as we had waited a long time for the trip and had no plan B except for the route, in case my back could not cope with the walk. In this case, we would have walked to Lake Termisjärvi and paddled along Rommaeno to Lätäseno river, but gladly we were not forced to take this route.

This time we had MRS Alligator 2S Pro XXL and MRS Microraft packraft with us. These have been our packs of choice for wilderness adventures in the past.

Before going into the details of the trip, you'll find the headings for more detailed day-by-day trips with the durations and you can find the planned route at the end of the story in downloadable GPX format.


Day 1 Kilpisjärvi - Kuornanjoki, 18 km and 8,5 hours

Before starting the hike, we visited the nature centre to check the classification of the rapids. I understand that these have been compiled by Harri Niva. At the same time, due to exceptional circumstances and border crossing restrictions, we decided not to walk across Norway on the way to Saarijärvi, due to the threat of fines for walkers crossing the border during Covid -19. As a result, we headed for Termisjärvi, from where we turned up on the eastern side of Muurivaara to Saarijärvi.

The most photogenic boat in finland

The route was generally in a good condition as we headed towards Termisjärvi before turning up north to the east side of Muurivaara. I heard the trail has improved since. The journey was relatively easy despite the heavy loads and we enjoyed the peace and quiet while holding back the rain and hail under the tarp.

Tarp

When we arrived at the Saarijärvi hut and started our well-deserved lunch break, we heard that many hikers had crossed the Norwegian border despite the internal border control. It didn't matter at this stage, but it did cause some wonder among the hikers. At the same time, the Saarijärvi hut area was also seeing a very noticeable increase in the popularity of hiking and there were, not excetering too much, an army of tents. Anyhow, the Käsivarsi Wilderness area can fit a lot of hikers.

Elevation in Käsivarsi
Elevation

From the Saarijärvi hut we continued on and started our ascent towards the highest point of the trip, which is illustrated in the elevation curve. The route plan also shows that the ascent curves pointed strongly


upwards on walking days and downwards when paddling. The nature and whether started their games, and we were not spared by a snowfall in July, as we climbed to over 1,000 metres.


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Käsivarsi Wilderness Area camping

Day 2. campsite before Guonjarvaggi valley - Jogasjärvi hut - Walking 13 km, packraftin 7 km in 8 hours


In the morning we set off in much better weather, although the temperature was only a couple of degrees above zero. On the other hand, a nice change from the summer heat. We knew the second day's walk would be much easier after reaching the highest point of the route on the first day.

Guonjarjoen valley

We stopped for a snack break at the Kuonjarjoe hut, which I had last visited in 2018 and spent the night at the hut. Even now I could have stayed in these landscapes for longer. Kuonjarjoki Hut was also quite crowded, like the area around Saarijärvi Hut, but we still managed to have a picnic break on the side of the hut before moving on to the last uphill sections and before descending to Meeko valley. The higher we climbed on the Calotte route towards Lake Meekon, the stronger the wind became. This didn't really reduce our excitement before the paddling would start.

Käsivarren erämaa


From the Lake Meekon Hut we headed to the shore and towards Lake Skadja. There were no route to the shore and the route we chose, turned out to be quite bushy. However, it was time to inflate our packrafts.


Day 3 Jogasjärvi hut- Rabatjärvi, 9 km, 2,5 hours

The day 3 from Jogasjärvi to Porojärvi started with some navigation challenges. Not taking a closer look for a suitable alternative route from our starting point at the Jogasjarvi hut, we set off along the southern side of Boazosuolu Island, which turned out to be a hundred-metre-long boulder rocky route. We came up next to the crackling boulder and started planning how to proceed this time. With the wind blowing from the west we could not return to the northern crossing point, the wind being simply too strong to go upwind on the packraft. However, we found a route to the northern bypass next to Rakkapiru, from where we could finally start paddling to Porojärvi. What a relief!

At last the wind direction seemed to be useful and at Porojärvi the headwind gave a good sprint to the paddling and we were able to make fast progress to Porojärvi deserted hut and from there very shortly afterwards to Kekkonen's cabin. At Kekkonen's cabin there were just a gap between the actual stone wall and the packraft. The water was simply so low that there were countless amount of rocks visible. However, we had finally reached the Poroeno river!

Helsport Fjellheimen 3 Pro Camp

From Poroeno to Rabatjärvi the paddling was much easier, even though there were constant bottom hits, but we didn't have to get out of our packrafts. At the same time, Poroeno river is a well-known fishing river, we had wondered how many fishermen there were on this wilderness river. We didn't have to wait long and found out that there were quite a few.


At Rabatjärvi, it was finally time do some fishing! The rapid next to Rabatjärvi seemed like a good fishing spot and there was a fishing group of four, on the east side of the rapids. Later I heard from a friend of mine, that there was also a smoking pot on the east side of the rapids and I heard that smoked grayling tastes good in the wilderness. I missed this this opportunity this time, the weather being so damn cold, the bugs were completely absent and the fish not in the mood to eat.


Day 4 Rabatjärvi - Tenomuotka desert hut, 21 km in 4.5 hours

At last it was beginning to look as if we were in for some decent paddling ahead of us, if only the water conditions would allow us to do so. Time to put on the helmets and enjoy! For the fourth day's adventure, we would be hitting the already well-known rapids of Runkkakoski, Ruunuvuopio and finally the rapids of Tenomuotka. We had originally planned to check all of these rapids from shore, but it might be better to assess the situation one rapid at a time.


Packrafting in FInland
Helmet on

When we left Rabatjärvi, we had planned to fish the Poroharju area, but after continuous bottom hits, we were not in the mood to fish and were mainly waiting for Runkkakoski to arrive. Perhaps it was because we had agreed to take a lunch break before going to the rapid. However, this was not the case once we reached the rapid. We left the packraft parked in a small stream just before the rapid, but the spot turned out to be too close to the main stream and it was no longer possible to check it from shore. It was another lesson to be learned and a nice adventure in the upbeat atmosphere of Runkkakoski. In hindsight, Runkkakoski provided some of the best flows on this trip as we snaked our way from one side of the rapids to the other, making our way downstream .After the rapid it was time for a well-deserved lunch.


While having lunch we checked out how to paddle the Ruunuvuopio rapid, as it offered several options. We decided to take the easternmost route. However, I had major problems, what I had experienced earlier in the trip getting through Ruunuvuopio, as the water level was simply too low and my weight too high. Not a good combination.


The last rapid of the day, Tenomuotka, approached us soon after Ruunuvuopio rapid. The Tenomuotka rapids are about two kilometres long. The first part of the rapid was easy, but the closer we got to the Tenomuotka hut, the harder it was to find a suitable line.


The Tenomuotka hut sits on top of a ridge and below the ridge is a most excellent camping spot where we pitched our tent. At thehut we met a man who called himself Daltton, who was spending his second week at the hut, after spending his first week at the hut with friends. Also brought here by a helicopter. .

Tenomuotka
Tenomuotka rapid

Tenomuotka rapids
Tenomuotka rapids

Tenomuotka hut
Tenomuotka hut

At the end of the day, we also ordered a weather forecast for the next three days using Garmin's Inreach service, and it looked like we were in for some good weather.


Day 5 Tenomuotka - Toriseno, 20 km in 6 hours

It was at this Z-turn that we had written in our map notes that the current is pushing against rocks. Our notes were correct and the current did indeed push against the rock face. A very potential crash site, where many people have gone over, but we were saved from a swimming trip this time by the lack of the water and the stability of the packraft.

By day 5, we had known one of the highlights of the route to be Pirunportti. After reaching Pirunportti, we decided to explore a bit before making our decisiong whether to paddle thourgh this rapid. We found a line on the east side of Pirunportti, well before the rapids. I was feeling trained enough and Pirunportti being quite narrow, that it was better to move on to carrying the Packrafts. Pirunportti is a rapid that can be paddled but not this time.

Carrying a packraft


MRS Packraft in finland
Pirunportti

After Pirunportti we decided to start paddling for real, but the water conditions didn't allow it yet. The situation regarding the water level would get easier when the Rommaeno river would join the Poroeno river and the river would turn into the Lätäseno. The Lätäseno river, finally offered the experiences we had decided to paddle here, and for which I paddle in the first place.


It didn't take too long to reach the Munnikurkkio rapids, one of the most challenging rapids of the trip. We had already decided to skip Munnikurkkio rapids when planning the trip, although a closer inspection of the rapids revealed a line to paddle. Our decision was helped by the challenge of the trip so far, and we didn't feel we had enough energy for any further challenges. So we got out of the packrafts before the rapid and passed it by foot.


After the Munnikurkkio rapid, the small lower gorge was again pleasant to paddle and we arrived at the crossing point of Toriseno and Lätäseno, where we pitched our tent with the campfire already blazing from the fishermen who had arrived to the camping spot, rowing upstream from Hirvasvuopio in a rowing boat.

Käsivarren erämaa

Day 6 – Rest day at Toriseno river

The best of camping. Every longer hiking trip deserves one full day of rest. We enjoyed a day of fishing and walking along the Toriseno river looking for suitable fishing spots. The Toriseno river's water was extremely low, as one would expect, and not really suitable for fishing. The fish had not changed their mood either, and we had no fish to feed on. In any case, we enjoyed the beautiful evening sunshine and warming weather. If you don't count the fact that we woke up from our nap when a helicopter flew over us and landed nearby.

Saitsijoki

Vaellussuihku, leirisuihku, erämaasuihku, peseytyminen vaelluksella

Toriseno
Campsite at Toriseno river

Toriseno

Day 7, Toriseno - Isokurkkio hut, 40 km in 8,5 hours

According to the original plan, this day was already known in advance to be the longest day of the trip. However, we had spent the last couple of nights at a campsite earlier than originally planned, which was a good decision, as the marshy landscapes of the Isokurkkio hut, did not invite us in the end.

Next up was the longest paddling day of our lives so far in kilometres, 40 kilometres. The paddling so far had been more or less full of challenges than successes, but the Lätäseno river was starting to look a little more like a traditional river than a narrow, shallow, waterless river. The paddling went surprisingly well and very smoothly in terms of timing.

After passing Hirvasvuopio's huts, we finally had some good time to paddle, instead of getting tangled up in the strong headwinds. Next to the swamp, after Hirvasvuopio, I finally caught a fish. We enjoyed the grayling at the Saitsikoski rapids fireplace. Saitsikoski rapid is well know fishing spot of salmons.



The paddling was definitely the lightest of the trip, finally when the lightness was needed. We paddled for the first four hours, reaching Pinniskoski rapid, about 16 kilometres from Toriseno. We reached the Saitsikoski ficeplace again after three hours and also after 16 kilometres .At this point, we had effectively paddled for seven hours and 32 kilometres before the final eight kilometre e towards our destination, the Isokurkkio hut.

The last eight kilometres from Saitsikoski rapid to Isokurkkio hut included quite a lot of rapids and the last eight kilometres were covered in just over an hour. We arrived at Isokurkkkio hut at 22.00 and it was time for our only night in a hut with another packrafter who had paddled upstream from Markkina to Isokurkkkio, walking past the bigger rapids. He was on his way to Pinniskoski. Our trip was starting to look easy compared to this option, but gotta give some points for his route choice.

Isokurkkio hut
Isokurkkio hut

Day 8 Isokurkkio hut - Markkina, 19.5 km in 4 hours

We woke up early in the morning to catch the bus from Markkina back to Kilpisjärvi. This also influenced our decision not to see what the Isokurkkio rapids looked like and we passed the rapids along well taken paths. On the south side of Isokurkkio rapids we saw the only sauna tent place of the trip. These are more traditional in Ivalojoki - river, where there is a pile of rocks that needs to be heated for 3-4 hours, put two tarps on top and enjoy the authentic wilderness sauna.


The last day of paddling doesn't have too many rapids, which led us to enjoy Vähäkurkkio rapid even more. After Vähäkurkkio rapid, the river shore is covered in bushes and there are fewer rest stops along the way. We decided to have lunch at Markkina before catching the bus back to Kilpisjärvi.

The trip as a recap, paddling Poroeno and Lätäseno rivers in a record dry summer in mid-July may not have offered the best conditions for us, but it did offer a complete escape from the daily grind. I would take this break from everyday life any day, despite the helicopters buzzing around, the fish not eating and the lack of water in the rapids.


Until next adventures!


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J-T

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