Lake Keimiöjärvi in Winter – Ski Tour in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Lake Keimiöjärvi in Winter – Ski Tour in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

The sunset gilded the sky, against which Keimiötunturi fell stood behind the lake. The orange glow was reflected from the window of the wilderness hut of Keimiöjärvi. The wintry Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park looked like a fairytale in the silence.

Winter is amazing season to go on an adventure to Keimiötunturi fell area. The popular and well-maintained Keimiö ski trail runs around Keimiötunturi fell in the winter, leading to Lake Keimiöjärvi. On a Keimiö ski tour, you may see beautiful snow-covered trees, blazing northern lights and wonderful landscapes of Pallastunturi fells.

Keimiötunturi and the nearby Sammaltunturi and Lommoltunturi fells are also popular with those looking for slopes with powder snow. There have been several avalanches at Keimiötunturi, and apparently Lommoltunturi had also just had an avalanche around the time of my trip. All Pallas-Yllästunturi fells had a significantly increased avalanche risk, category 3 of the Finnish Meteorological Institute's avalanche forecast.

In winter, you can do many kinds of ski tours in the Lake Keimiöjärvi and Keimiötunturi fell area. Huts suitable for overnight stays include Lake Keimiöjärvi open wilderness hut and reservation cabin and Mustakero open wilderness hut.

Keimiöjärvi open wilderness hut

There is a wilderness hut on the east shore of Lake Keimiöjärvi and a reservation hut on the west shore. Keimiöjärvi open wilderness hut is a small cabin for four people. Between the two wide wooden beds there is a table, a small platform in front of the window, and next to the door a stove and a wooden chest for firewood. There are a couple of pots, a coffee pot and a frying pan on the shelf.

There is a woodshed and a dry toilet in the yard of the Keimiöjärvi hut. In winter, the snow may blow so briskly that you have to shovel the passageways to get to the buildings. Based on the guest book, the Keimiöjärvi hut is visited daily in the winter, and people also often spend the night at the hut.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Lake Keimiöjärvi is located in the middle of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, east of Keimiötunturi. In the area of the national park and its surroundings, there are more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) of maintained tracks and more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of routes suitable for winter hiking. The most popular summer hiking route is the Hetta-Pallas hiking trail.

The nature of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park includes swamps, dense forests, groves and open fell landscapes. The area of Pallastunturi is mainly open fell highland. In winter, the wind hardens the surface of the snow in the fells, so you can easily go on your own routes on the peaks and slopes with skis and snowshoes.

The north side of Keimiötunturi and Keimiöjärvi belong to the remote zone and special zone of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, while the south side belongs to the recreation zone. In these areas, you may camp and make fires only in marked and maintained places. Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is a litter-free destination. At the Sammaltunturi fell measuring station next to Keimiötunturi, air purity is studied: the cleanest air in the world.

Keimiö ski parking area and starting point

The Lake Keimiöjärvi winter route starts from the parking area on Jerisjärventie road in the Koivarova area (address: Jerisjärventie 640), where the road is wide. The area had been plowed, even though the snow had been falling briskly just a couple of hours ago. Next to the parking area is a map and information board of Pallas-Yllästunturi, as well as instructions.

Keimiö skiing is a 20-kilometer (12.4 miles) loop route that goes around Keimiötunturi via Lake Keimiöjärvi and Mustavaara's Lappish hut to the slopes of Sammaltunturi fell and the west side of Keimiötunturi back to Lake Jerisjärvi. The Keimiöjärvi wilderness hut can be reached along the well-maintained ski trail. You can check the real-time maintenance of the tracks on Infogis Muonio map.

Keimiöjärvi ski tour with a pulk sled

When I left the Koivarova parking lot in the evening, I planned to ski to the more remote Mustakero wilderness hut. I felt energetic, even though I had already been to the top of Särkitunturi fell in a blizzard earlier that day, and I had been on a pulk-sled skiing adventure for several days in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

The evening would continue with Aurora Borealis photography, leisurely skiing in the Sammaltunturi and Lommotunturi fells. Then I would have a well-deserved pancake dinner, sleep well, go to Mustakero fell in the morning to take pictures of the crown-snow trees in the sunrise, and finally I would ski down to the car, and head back home. Well, nothing went as planned, except that I was back in my car more or less on schedule.

The beginning looked promising. Even though I knew that the Keimiö ski track had not been maintained, there were two visible ski tracks, and there was only ten centimeters of snow. Soon I reached the reindeer fence gate, which was quite a job to open and close with skis on my feet and a pulk-sled behind me.

In a few minutes I arrived at an open area, where the wind and snow had in some places made the tracks invisible. The blue spots on the tree trunks were sometimes difficult to notice. The sky started to clear, but the wind was blowing hard.

While studying the map, I had thought that the route to Lake Keimiöjärvi would be mostly uphill, but there were steady ups and downs along the way. A long stretch of the route was a fairly straight and wide groove in the forest. Not the most beautiful, but minimal risk of getting lost. In the middle of the forest, the drifts also remained moderate.

The long straight line ended at the shore of Lake Keimiöjärvi. The ski track and all the tracks that had ever been in the snow disappeared completely. In front, a soft knee-deep drift was waiting. According to the map, the track ran through the middle of the lake, but I went around the eastern shore of the lake, where there seemed to be slightly less snow.

In some places, I could see some light tracks, so other people had also skied there. Behind me rose Keimiötunturi fell, in front flowed an unfrozen stream. I assumed there was a bridge under the snow, but I still hurriedly pushed my way to the other side.

After the stream, I went through the deepest drift of the whole tour. The constantly blowing wind got snow accumulating in huge drifts in open places, where both the skis and the pulk-sled disappeared. At a point like this, you can understand how even an experienced hiker's strength can wane and despair strike, even if you are already close to the warmth of the hut.

According to the map, Keimiöjärvi open wilderness hut was on the shore behind a hill. Going along the beach was impossible because of the deep snow, so I started to go around through the forest. There would probably be less snow in the shelters of the trees.

To my surprise, there was a hint of other tracks in the snow. The track continued forward, with gentle ski marks on the surface. Fresher tracks curved up the hill and straight towards the hut.

There had been two cars in the parking lot, from which I concluded that there might be skiers at Keimiöjärvi. Judging by the tracks, some could be at Keimiöjärvi, some at Mustakero. I decided to visit Keimiöjärvi hut first. If I was too tired to continue the journey, I could set up a tent if necessary.

I dragged the pulk up the hill, and at the same time Keimiöjärvi's little hut peeked out from among the trees. Only a couple of hours had passed since the parking lot but skiing in the deep snow and long days adventuring with a bit of a cold took their toll. I still had to wade in deep drifts to get to the buildings.

The door was locked, there were traces of snow on the floor of the empty cabin. The fireplace was cold. At that very moment I didn’t care about going any further, I’d stay in the hut for the night.

First, I took a bucket of clean snow from the beach, because the snow around the hut was stained with yellowish splashes. A narrow path of hard snow led to the beach. Then I shoveled my way into the dry toilet, digging a hole into the drift.

The sunset gilded the sky, against which Keimiötunturi fell stood behind the lake. The orange glow was reflected from the window of the wilderness hut of Keimiöjärvi. The wintry Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park looked like a fairytale in the silence.

The stove worked somehow poorly and warmed up slowly. No way it could have heatened a frying pan. I became so tired that I decided to forget the pancakes and just grilled some reindeer sausages. It was so cold in the hut that I put two sleeping bags on top of each other at night.

I went outside for a moment to admire the moonlight and the starry sky. The wind was still at least ten meters per second. Faint northern lights were also visible, as on almost every clear night during that week. I tried to find a spot for my tripod to photograph the northern lights but ended up in deep snow every time. It was clearly time to give up and sleep the few hours I had left.

The dawn doesn't really reach Keimiöjärvi wilderness hut, because the cabin is in the middle of a dense forest, and the lake is surrounded by fells. The wind that continued during the night had covered the paths again and also covered my own tracks in the open places. I decided not to go to Mustakero, because even if the snow was hard at the top of the fell, it was a long way to the top. By the way, there aren't even those crown-snow covered trees at the end of March, when the sun has been shining and the wind has been blowing.

I cleaned the hut, carved a few chips into the wood chest and packed my stuff. I skied the same route back to the Jerisjärventie road parking lot. Because of the new snow drifts, the return trip took almost as long as the trip to the hut. On the open shore of Lake Keimiöjärvi, I pushed and pulled my pulk-sled in the drifts once again, and the long straight groove felt like a long straight groove.

The sun was shining brightly in the blue sky. The wind was finally still. I stopped to be in the moment. In the complete silence, only the chirping of small birds could be heard, rejoicing in the arrival of spring.

Even though I didn't get to see the fell landscapes from Sammaltunturi and didn't get my pancakes, I was happy about the small ski tour adventure and the peace of the forest in the wonderful Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. There must be some magic in Muonio, because here you can feel the smile in the bottom of your stomach.

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