Sunday 12 June 2011

Expedition to Saana

As you will have seen in so many of the posts, there is a spectacular mountain not far away. Called 'Saana' is is easily visible from the KAIRA site (assuming it's not shrouded in fog, mist and cloud).

The Biological Research Station (where the team are staying) is located at the foot of this impressive feature. So on Friday, on my way back from the site to the accommodation, I decided to stop off and have a look. As it turned out, I ended up climbing all the way to the top!

From the main road, there are several places where one can start. The paths are narrow and quite wet in places, owing to all the melting snow. The path I took, wound its way through the birch trees, across several dips, with the occasional rise here and there. Through this part there were numerous sections where the ground was so marshy, that boards had been placed to allow hikers to get across without sinking deep into the ground.

It turned out that the path I took was the Luontupolku (= nature trail) which was going out further north. Although that could be interesting, and there was the option of walking all the way around to Saanajärvi, it was the mountain that was the challenge of the day. So, I turned southwards and began the steady climb up the north face... well, okay, north slope!

As the rise continued, there came the point where one breaks through the tree line. It is amazing how abruptly this happens. And, sometime later, the gradient begins to pick up and the going gets a little tougher.

To be honest, on this side of Saana, it is never difficult and the walk was very pleasant.

Soon enough, I came across some of the mountain lakes. These are natural dips in the slope of the mountain, were huge volumes of snow collect during the winter, not to mention the melt water from higher up. There was still a lot of snow about and although it seemed quite warm, that was mostly from the exercise and staying still for a moment would give a quick reminder of real temperature. Given that the reports from the institute were that it was very warm, I was very grateful for being in a cooler part of the world.

As one approaches the summit, the lakes become more and more icy. The highest one (shown here) did have some water in it, but it was still mostly snow and ice. Although I have seen photographs of Saana where it appears clear of any white, I wonder if there remains ice in some of these hollows throughout the year?

The trek continued upwards, but by now, the gradient was easing and in places the terrain flattened out. The top of Saana is not a single peak, but several smaller rises on a wide plateau. After passing the last ice-lake, I went by the radio mast and hut and on towards the summit.
The photo here shows the top. As might be expected, there was a cairn of stones piled up by all the visitors over the years. I added one little stone to the top (a new record height?) before taking this picture. Note the radio mast in the background.

Owing to the fact that I was taking my time and that I'd not gone the direct route, I think that it would have been possible to do this a lot faster. In the end, it took me about two-and-a-half hours to get to the top. I spent some time at the top, admiring the view and trying to work out directions and bearings before finally heading back down (I took a slightly different path back, crossing several of the mountain streams along the way.)

I've got a couple more photographs to post up, but I'll save those for later in the week. However, all-in-all it was a fun little excursion in a very beautiful part of the world. It certainly gave me a good perspective of the geography and a better understanding of the maps of the area and where and what the features are.

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