Monday, June 21, 2010


Today is the longest day of the year but midsummer didn't seem quite the right term for this morning. It was grey, cool and drizzling as I cycled in to work and I arrived with wet socks and soggy butt. Delightful. Why is it called "midsummer" when most of summer comes well after it? Why not "mid-year"?

Soggy Kruununhaka (downtown Helsinki)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday climbing

I went climbing at Haukkakallio on Saturday with Tommi and Hannamari, some friends of friends who I had promised to give a day of unofficial 'guiding' to. Haukkakallio is great for beginners as it has a number of perfectly nice but reasonably easy routes to start on, and my 'instructees' put in a fine performance and got a good number of routes each. Another pleasant surprise was Anni and Toni turning up at around lunchtime, having gotten up a bit late for their plan-A crag further to the north. Apologies to Tommi and Hannamari for not getting any photos of them. My excuse is that I was too busy belaying!

Anni in the harness she borrowed from me because, being quite pregnant, hers no longer fits but still cranking hard on Spanalot 6a. Please feel free to make the obvious joke about how my donut consumption means my harnesses fit pregnant women.

Toni on one of the crag's new additions Jontikka 5+ (HVS 5b-ish?).

Yours truly about to plop unceremoniously off a new sports line Massikka 6b whilst trying to on-sight it. I'm wearing a pair of Scarpa Force shoes that I just received to review for UKClimbing. I climbed comfortably all day in them and they worked fine on the routes you see above - so not a bad start.

Tony on Jontikka 5+; just so his climbing mates can see he can still trad climb! ;-)

Dedicated readers of this blog (I love you!) might remember the missing pizza post from a couple of years ago. Basically in my continuing love/hate relationship with Finnish roadside food, I noted a petrol station café near Loviisa that had seemingly a menu of four things according to the hoarding sign on its outside: "Steaks, pizza, burgers, lunch". But when we went in they didn't actually do pizzas. The original picture I took is this:

Well, we dropped by the same place yesterday on the way home from the crag and I happened to notice the pizza listing is now missing. I wonder how many disappointed pizza fans had to point this out before someone got the can of yellow paint out?

But not wanting to be only snarky and negative, I heartily recommend their home-made donuts to all passing hungry travellers. Mine was great, and with at EUR 2.50 for the coffee and donut combi-package, a steal as well.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

6 year olds are hard to impress

A discussion with a six-year old:

6 Yr-old: "Do people eat other people?"
Me: "No, not any more but there used to be people who did - they are called cannibals."
6 Yr-old: "What do cannibals do?"
Me: "Well, they eat people."
6 Yr-old: "Yeah... but what else do they do?"

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

On Somalia and relatively cuddly pirates.

This week's bedtime reading - because this is just what a crazy guy I am - has been the most recent International Crisis Group report on Somalia, called "Somalia's Divided Islamists". It is, as ever, fascinating and once again reminds me that first thing to understand about Somali politics is that don't really understand Somali politics. Fortunately the Crisis Group has some people who really do and can thus help the rest of us.

Anyway - on a vaguely related note - this week's This American Life was on the theme of hostages. They open with an interview with commercial hostage negotiator and anti-kidnapping trainer. Ira asked him where in the world was the best place to get kidnapped if you really had to get kidnapped and held hostage. His advice was Somali pirates seem to be the least interested in hurting their hostages of all the various political and professional kidnapping rackets around the world. Perhaps they know that pirates these days are the fun-loving characters of a million nautically themed childrens books and want to conform to the stereotype. Expect eye-patches and comedy inflatable parrots next.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Climbing at Angelniemi

Angelniemi is a crag for all season - the most reliable ice around Salo in winter and some great sport climbing in summer. Anni, Tony and I went over from Helsinki and met Dave who was coming from the west.

I decided that if I want to get some good photos it time to get serious and try something a bit more technical so took a spare rope and jumars with me. I'm pretty happy with the results and, to be honest, jugging up and sliding down the rope a few times was good fun.

Dave on Lähetysseura ("The Mission") 7a+

Dave and Tony both put in cracking efforts to climb this very nice looking route up a fine red wall of granite.

Dave again on Lähetysseura, 7a+

Tony's turn, same route

Lähetysseura from below. 20 metres of powerful and balancy granite wall climbing.

Tony on Kaisanprojekti ("Kaisa's Project"), 6b

I fell off the crux of Kaisanprojekti last year and bashed my hip up, so both wanted to do it and was a bit scared of it at the same time. A long sling clip-sticked to the crux bolt sorted that out and I found a ridiculously tenuous stemming method to avoid laybacking the crux that I'm to pathetically weak to do. I got it on my third redpoint attempt including the use of the the "crouching tiger, hidden dragon flying kung fu move" higher that totally made my day.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Kallaveden Kierros - 'the Tour de Kallavesi'

Kallavesi sublime natural beauty, and Italian hand-built classic beauty

Kallavesi is a big lake in eastern Finland, and the Kallaveden Kierros that can be loosely translated as "Le Tour de Kallavesi" goes around. Or at least around a lot of it. It is a 200, 100 and 60 km sportive ride organised by the Kuopio Cycling Club. I got persuaded to join Aussie Simon who is now a resident of the fair city of Kuopio and his mate Juha, to make up a little team to try the 200.

8 am start for the 200 km class; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...

We rolled up to the start line to notice that we were the only people wearing shorts not full tights and almost the only riders without overshoes on as well. Obviously the foreigners were more optimistic about the weather than the locals, or perhaps we’re just harder? But of course it rained; so the first couple of hours riding I mainly remember as a being a shower of muddy water and grit off the tire of the guy in front. By the second feeding station at about 80 kms the front half of my feet were numb – not great. I took my shoes off, wrung out my socks, massaged my feet back to life – but deciding I didn’t want Simon to accuse me of being a ‘whinging pom’ – manned the 'eff up, and got back on bike.

The next 100 kms was much better, the rained stopped, the roads began to dry out and I felt pretty good riding. The last 20 kms were hard going and my riding partners could go up hills quicker than me, but I still doing OK on the flats. The scenery for most of the ride is a delightful – classic East Finnish lakescapes, you just need to get your head up and try and enjoy the view rather than getting fixed on the tire of the guy ahead of you. I started to try and spot as many birds as I could, an eagle and a number of curlews were the most interesting.

Simon and Juha waiting for the ferry at the southern-most point of the tour. Now only 80 kms north back to Kuopio to do!

Some English punter pretending he's having fun

Not doing such a good job of still pretending its fun

Over the big bridge - and enjoying the fine lakeland scenery

On the finish line, 203.28 kms

Overall, it wasn’t actually as hard as I thought it might be. By the end I was crawling up any hills, but it was more that my legs just wouldn’t do any more than it being actually painful. Perhaps lower gearing would have helped on that. So if anyone is looking for well organized sportive type ride to do in an unusual place, consider giving the Kallaveden Kierros a go.