Fieldwork at Kilpisjärvi: working on Halti

So after my first four weeks in Kilpisjärvi, I returned to the area with Miska and another colleague to do some work on the Halti massif. 

A panorama from near the top of Halti:

 

Halti is special because it is the highest mountain in Finland, reaching 1’365 m (well, actually the highest point of Halti that is in Finland is at 1’324 m a.s.l. – it is a bit confusing…). Access from Kilpisjärvi is a 50 km hike, or a 2 hour drive through Norway – we took the faster route and drove along the stunning Lyngen fjord before heading inland, gaining altitude rapidly on a gravel road. (Halti is also the name of a Finnish company that produces lots of outdoor gear).

Halti, viewed from the north

On top of Halti

 

The area is pretty exposed (no trees in sight), and can be really cold (I think our average temperature there was probably not more than 5 °C – in the middle of summer) – but there were a fair number of hikers arriving and leaving each day. We set up our camp at Guolasjärvi, a fairly large reservoir at the foot of Halti (770 m a.s.l. – so high enough that we didn’t need to walk too far to start working). I was glad that we borrowed some snow-suits (usually used when riding on snow-mobiles in winter) from the research station – because they made life much more pleasant (i.e. warm) around the camp site.

Our little camp site – behind us in one of the walls of the Guolasjärvi reservoir.

 

Hard at work mapping plants. Guolasjärvi and our campsite are in the background

 

While there is fairly extensive vegetation at the foot of the mountain (including some rather mirey area), as you climb Halti’s the rocky slopes the plant life thins out very quickly. As a result, I spent more time than usual looking at the mosses, lichens and rocks at this site. We passed through some areas of dunite (rocks that have such high concentrations of some minerals that they can be toxic to many plants) – and I was fascinated by the complex textures and patterns in these rocks.

 

A 360° photograph half-way up the north-eastern slopes of Halti:

 

We had really good weather at Halti, and as a result managed to finish our work quickly there. We then headed back to the Kilpisjärvi research station to make some additional measurements at the site we’d worked at in July. A couple of long days in the field on Saana… and then we drove down to Rovaniemi to catch the overnight train back to Helsinki. And so ended my summer 2011 fieldwork – an excellent experience!

 

Lycopodium annotinum

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