Experience the magic of Finnish mountains
Finland is not famous for its mountains, but in the very north-west corner of the country – around 69 degrees north of the equator – lies a wilderness area with several peaks reaching above 1000 metres. It is called the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, with "käsivarsi" meaning "arm" in Finnish. The name comes from the shape of Finland in that area; if you look at the map it really does look like an arm.
In the area, you can find snow spots that never melt, waterfalls, crystal clear lakes and rivers, reindeer herds, arctic animals and rare arctic flora that can survive the freezing 8 months of winter and burst into life during the short summer. The area is known for the roughest weather conditions in Finland year round with temperatures regularly dropping below -30 °C during the winter.
Highest peaks with permanent snow
The highest whole mountain (with the mountain peak located in Finland) is called Ridnitšohkka, or Ritničohkka in the Northern Sami language. It is 1317 metres high and around 50 kilometres away from the nearest road. It has the most extensive area of permanent snow in Finland, although in recent years the area has diminished.
Next to Ridnitšohkka you will find Halti, or Háldičohkka in Northern Sami. It is the highest point in Finland (1324 metres on the Finnish side), but the actual peak of the mountain is in Norway, approximately 40 metres higher. Reaching Halti requires a hike of several days from the nearest road – and some wilderness experience.
The terrain in the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area is rocky. Most of the year it is covered in ice and snow – and it remains frozen underneath the surface until late in the summer. There is a special word in the Finnish language, routa, which means frozen terrain. You might not see it with your bare eyes, but you will notice it once you start digging the ground (to make foundations for a building, for instance).
The ice on the mountain lakes usually melts during June, but it might take even longer. The rivers and lakes remain cold through the summer and swimming requires some courage. During this visit at the end of June, the peaks of Ridnitšohkka and Halti were covered with fresh new snow after a cold night.
Growing conditions in the north are tough. There is not much protection from the wind and nutrition is scarce. The growing period is short and even in the middle of summer temperatures can drop below zero. The species that survive in the north are capable of utilizing the limited amount of light and water efficiently and cope with the large amount of snow and ice. That is why the area is home to many popular herbs that have traditionally been believed to heal different kinds of diseases. Some of these herbs, such as angelica archangelica and achillea millefolium you can find in our Nordic mountain and wilderness inspired liqueur shot Valhalla.
Thousands of reindeer
A staggering 36% of Finnish land is designated as reindeer husbandry area. Most of it is located north of the Arctic Circle. The Käsivarsi area forms its own reindeer herding cooperative carrying the same name that governs all the issues related to reindeer herding in the area. It is one of biggest reindeer cooperatives in Finland with around 10,000 reindeer pasturing in the wilderness. The biggest reindeer herds, called tokka in Finnish, might include hundreds of reindeer.
The streams and rivers in the north are usually crystal clear and it is safe to drink straight from them. The taste of the water is clear and neutral - and it is always cold! During the early summer when the snow melts, waterfalls and rivers are swelling. On a hot summer the streams might eventually dry out - and again the plants will have to survive with what they have.
A collection of Nordic drinks to get you in a mountain mood
As we are the Nordic Spirits, some of our drinks are - of course - inspired by the northern wilderness. Here are some products to try if you want to be inspired: