How to use the open wilderness huts in Finland? Exploring the Pallas-Yllästunturi national park

One day can be a good example of how unpredictable and quickly changing the weather can be in the Lappish fells. In an instant it can change from a freezing rainy fog to bright sunshine, and forenoon and afternoon can be totally different.

I started my day in an early forenoon of October as I climbed up the hillside in a rainy fog. I could only see a few meters onward and the freezing drizzle made me cold in no time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time in the silence and taking some pictures. As I reached the wilderness hut I got inside to warm up and get dry.

In Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park there is a 60 km route from the village of Hetta to the nature center in Pallas fell. The trail is quite popular especially during the summer and early autumn. It is also possible to reach the trail and the fells of the national park as a day trip. I made this trip starting from Vuontisjärvi and climbed up to the fell and to the wilderness hut called Montellin Maja.

The wilderness hut Montellin Maja looming ahead. The route from Vuontisjärvi up to the cabin is not long but it is really steep so it will challenge your strength.

Open wilderness huts are for hikers and skiers to have a rest or one overnight stay. They are usually located in roadless backwoods of Northern and Eastern Finland.

Open wilderness huts are free to use for shelter and for 1-2 night stays, when you are hiking in the wilderness. Just remember a few important rules and you too can enjoy them!

Open wilderness huts are free to use, but you can not reserve one for yourself. So keep in mind that you can not plan a hike thinking that you will only use these open cabins. In case there are other hikers arriving after you, you must let them in and make room for them. This can mean that you have to sleep outdoors. This is why you must always have an alternative shelter (for example a tent) with you. This, of course, is also a safety issue – you might get lost or be too tired to walk to the next hut, so it is good to have some kind of shelter with you.

Remember also:

  • Always leave the hut in same or better condition than it was when you arrived.
  • In general, keep everything tidy and be mindful for others.
  • Before you leave, make some fire wood ready for the next hiker.

Read more about the Finnish wilderness huts here. You can also find there information about every open wilderness hut in Finland, where they are and how they are equipped!

There is also a possibility to reserve specific reservable or rental huts. These can be found in some hiking areas and national parks, and there is usually some kind of a fee. Also about this you will find information from the link above.

After my break in Montellin Maja, the weather started to clear up. It was supposed to be clear the whole day according to the weather cast, but you’ll never know. Anyway, I was glad to finally see what the surroundings actually looked like!

The trail from Montellin Maja to Pallas is about 15 km long and will pass the highest point of Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark in Taivaskero. On the afternoon the sky got clear and I got to enjoy the sunshine!

For the evening I headed up to the Punaisen Hiekan Autiotupa which is another wilderness hut, located by the lake Pallasjärvi. The name literally means “hut of the red sand”: the sand of the beach really has a rusty red color. This place also has the perfect view towards the fells of Pallastunturi. I can imagine how spectacular the view would look during a northern light storm in winter! Actually I was curious if I’d see some auroras that night, but then the sky went cloudy again.

 

What happens in a reindeer round-up?

Reindeer wander freely in the nature of Northern Finland. However, they are semi-domesticated animals: every reindeer has an owner. But how do the owners know where their reindeer are, how many of them may have disappeared and how many new fawns have been born?

That’s why regular reindeer round-ups are needed.

There are special kinds of reindeer round-up fences all over Lapland. In Finnish they are called “erotusaita” meaning litterally separation fence.

Above: Large numbers of reindeer are gathered to these fences from the surrounding areas a few times a year. In the actual round-up they are being separated to different kinds of smaller groups, according to their destination or owner.

Before the round-up the reindeer are being watched to see which fawn follows which mother. This is how the owners find all their new fawns.

Above: The most hectic and crucial place is a round fence called kirnu. Kirnu is usually situated in the middle of several other fences and there are doors in every direction. Here the actual separation takes place.

This is how it goes:

  1. The reindeer waiting in the big fence are taken into the kirnu in small groups.
  2. In the kirnu the reindeer owners capture, recognize, document and sort every reindeer. New fawns get their earmarks.
  3. The vet monitors all this and vaccinates the animals.
  4. One by one, every reindeer is being sent out of the kirnu. The bookkeeper writes down all the information.

It’s interesting to see what’s going on in kirnu, that’s why there’s often a curious audience.

Above: How do the owners recognize their animals? Every owner has a registered earmark, so reindeer owners can recognize every reindeer only by taking a look at their ears. During the round-up every new fawn gets its ears marked.

Above: In the kirnu reindeer are also marked with spray tags and fur marks to easily keep count of all the animals also after they have been liberated back to the nature.

Above: One by one every reindeer gets sent out of the kirnu. There’s always a bookkeeper registering each reindeer according to what the reindeer owners in kirnu report to him or her. This person keeps count on how many reindeer each owner has, and whether these animals are male, female or fawn.

Above: Reindeer on the left side have already been counted, marked and documented in the kirnu. The ones on the right are still waiting for their turn.

The amount of reindeer in reindeer round-ups vary quite a lot. In the Northern parts of Lapland there can be as many as 3000-5000 reindeer in the big fence at once. However, in the South it’s common to have anything between 150-1000 reindeer in the fence. The pictures of this article were taken in a round-up that had about 300 reindeer.

When the round-up is done, all the animals get to return to the nature. The owners now have an up-to-date knowledge on how many reindeer they own and that all their animals are in good shape.

If you ever get to participate to a reindeer round-up, consider yourself lucky! Only reindeer-owners get to know when and where the next round-up is going to be, and they often get the information only a day before. So if you’re in Lapland already and it’s either September, October, November or December, you can contact the local tourist information to check if they knew any upcoming round-ups nearby.

Every man’s best friend, Siberian Jay – Meeting the soul-bird in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

When you walk through the nature in northern parts of Finland, especially in Lapland, you will most likely end up meeting a new friend during your lunch or coffee break.

Siberian Jays are known for being fearless and tame, and they will often land close to you immediately when you pause and dig up your lunch or snack. For hundreds of years these birds have been companions to hunters and rangers in the woods. In the Finnish folklore Siberian Jay was called a ‘soul-bird’ and when a ranger died his spirit was believed to move to one of these birds.

Siberian Jay is a member of the crow family but is much smaller compared to the actual crow. Their colour is grayish brown with beautiful bright rust-coloured markings on their rumps, the edges of their tails and wings. This bird lives mostly in the northern boreal forests of spruce and pine, the so called taiga area.

I’ve never met a Siberian Jay as close as I did on my latest trip to Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark in western Lapland. These little fellows were so tame and eager to get a piece of my food that they even landed on my hand. I felt gratitude to meet the soul-bird so close.

I spotted Siberian Jays almost everywhere in the woods and forest parts of Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark. But these pictures are from an easy 3 km trail called Saivionkierros, which is located near Ylläs and Äkäslompolo village in Kolari. If you are interested in this or other hiking trails around the Ylläs area you can find more information via this link.

If you meet one of these birds on your travels in Lapland you can offer them a small piece of white bread, but remember that salt and salty foods are not healthy or good for them.