Searching snow and Aurora Borealis 2/2

As I wrote earlier we spent a week up north in Lapland to enjoy snow and photograph Northern Lights. We did two snowshoe hikes in Luosto National park, one to the Pikku-Luosto and another one to hike up on top of Ukko-Luosto. The latter was not official winter route and we followed the signs for the summer hike.

The hike up to Ukko-Luosto was a bit more demanding than the first one as it was all uphill one way with few quite steep parts (at least with snowshoes, though without them would probably have sunk knee deep in the snow). The sunrise was beautiful though several clouds were rising in the horizon.

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Hike up to Ukko-Luosto to see the sunrise

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Sunrise from Ukko-Luosto

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Not even close to the top yet, but sun is already on its highest

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Sunset on Ukko-Luosto

After reaching over the tree line the weather started to get a bit snowy and after a while we couldn’t see either the top of the fell nor the bottom. At his stage we decided that it would be safer to just turn around and head back before we got snowed in or lost from the trail.

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Visibility getting bad closer to the top

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Turn-around point, better head back down

We also walked a trail in Pyhä National Park (25 km southeast from Luosto). The tourist information in the ski center gave a great map with all different trails and tips on which ones to take. The one we chose took also about 4 hours looping from the skicenter to Pyhäkuru (a pass between two peaks) and back. This trail was more crowded and people were able walk on the snowy path with normal shoes. Also whereas in Luosto we only saw two to three people during the whole hike here there were a quite lot of traffic with people walking and skiing on the marked trails. It was a really nice outing, the temperatures raised to -4 Celsius, however due to cloudy weather picture wise it was not the best hike.

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Snowshoeing! 🙂

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Pyhäkuru trail (pass between the two peaks)

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First peak of Pyhä Tunturi & ski center from the backside (south side)

After our second nights beautiful light show by mother nature we eagerly followed the weather forecasts for clear night skies and the Meteorological Institute web page for the magnetic disturbance level (=Aurora Borealis possibilities). I have to admit that I have dreamed of seeing proper (=big, firework type) northern lights my whole life but for some reason have always been in the wrong place.

This time we were extremely lucky one night as we were just about to give in (around mid-night) after taking pictures of the cloud formations on the horizon for quite a while in -32 Celsius temperature when suddenly the night sky just light alive. The lights danced across the whole sky, and not just the northern horizon, with green, white and purple ribbons. It took about 5 minutes for the spectacular main show before calming down.

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Full on show across the whole sky

Of course my camera + tripod malfunctioned due to the cold weather and urgency to take pictures. In the end I just sat on the ground and watched the show (though I did manage to get few shots after it calmed down a bit :)).

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“Calming down”

On our last night the sky was a bit cloudy and moon was really bright so we did not see as spectacular show as the two other nights. This time we walked up to Pyhä Tunturi ski slopes to the north side and got some pics of the moonlight and some lighter Aurora Borealis over the fells.

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Moonlight over the ski slopes

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Overall I loved the trip and snowshoeing was a great option instead of cross-country skiing or slalom (also was easier to stop for photos). Around Luosto there are several great ski tracks also which I would have loved to take, though they are accessible only with skis. Luosto National Park and ski center was definitely quieter than the one in Pyhä. Car was easy and convenient way to get around between these two towns and parks. However there are also public busses to the ski centers from larger cities such as Rovaniemi (railroad and airport) and if the accommodation is close to the ski center there might not even be need to rent a car.

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Searching snow and Aurora Borealis 1/2

After new year we decided to take a road trip up north to take snow pictures and hopefully see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Winter this year has been quite warm here in southern Finland so up north we would be guaranteed to see piles of snow. Our chosen destination was Pyhä-Luosto National Park close to Sodankylä in Finnish Lapland. Of course with our luck our trip was on the coldest week of the winter (at least so far), temperatures declining to -14 all the way to -33 Celsius (from 7 to -27 degrees Fahrenheit).

The drive from Helsinki through Oulu and Rovaniemi to Luosto (930 km) took us approx. 12 hours not including pit stops. In Rovaniemi we stopped for photo break on the Arctic Circle and to have a glance of Santa Claus’s Workshop.

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Santa Claus Village – Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi

From Luosto we had rented a nice cottage (through Pyhä-Luosto Matkailu) with two bedrooms, large common area, kitchen and of course sauna. The cabin was just outside of the National Park and few kilometers from the ski resort. We did not plan to ski, but brought snow shoes to take photo walks in the fells.

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Weather wise we were really lucky as it only snowed one day and was cloudy for two nights during the whole week. Second evening after sun set (approx. 1:30 pm, but it was dark by 3 pm) we drove to small town called Pelkosenniemi just to see how it looked. It also is hometown of a Finnish rock-musician Andy McKoy. We were just coming out of the local supermarket when we noticed the beautiful green ribbon across the sky… Northern Lights!!! They were really bright as we could see them in spite of the street lights. Quickly we drove to the other side of the river where there were no lights to get some pictures.

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Mobile picture taken just outside the supermarket at the town center

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Northern Lights @ Pelkosenniemi

On our way back we stopped at Luosto Lappland hotel and walked behind it to small lake which was perfect, dark place to see the light show mother nature provided us.

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@Ahvenlampi, Luosto

In the next days we did couple of snowshoe hikes in Luosto National Park and one in Pyhä National park (approx. 25km from Luosto). We had our own snowshoes with, but you can also rent them from the ski center (23€/day, 60€/week). There are several marked trails and maps. My favorite was a loop trail across Pikku-Luosto where we saw the sunrise (11:30 am) and sunset (1:15pm). This loop took us with all photo stops 4 hours (in the freezing -33 Celsius weather). Basically we spent the whole time it was light outside on the trail. Trail was clearly marked with blue tags and poles + other people also had walked on it so there was visible trail on the snow. Halfway there was a cafe at the Amethyst mine where they served freshly baked sweet rolls (pulla in Finnish) and you could warm up with cup of hot chocolate.

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Hiking on Pikku-Luosto

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Sunset @Pikku-Luosto

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Frosty pines

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View of Ukko-Luosto from top of Pikku-Luosto