The Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail is the most popular hiking trail going through Kaldoaivi wilderness. Kaldoaivi is the largest wilderness area in Finland. The 2924 sq.km wilderness area is located in Utsjoki, in Northern Lapland. The landscape varies from fell highlands to dense birch forests, with countless lakes and river valleys.
I made a 70km trail running adventure solo through Kaldoaivi wilderness from Sevettijärvi to Pulmanki in July 2021. Here is a detailed description and my experience of the Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki hiking trail with loads of pictures!
The Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail
The Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail starts from the Skolt Saami Heritage House. It’s a beautiful centre with changing exhibitions to explore the history and language of the Skolt Saami, as well as northern nature. There’s a free parking area and a dry toilet. Sevettijärvi is also reachable by bus, and local firms offer taxi services. If you are hungry, the restaurant Sevetin Baari offers really great food (e.g., reindeer burgers) and friendly service.
There are several open wilderness huts along the Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki trail. The trail is well marked, but there are no roads in the area. The southern part of the trail runs mostly through pine and birch forests, and the northern part through fell highlands. There are more mires and boggy areas in the north, but some wetland can be found in the south as well. The northern end of the trail is by Lake Pulmankijärvi around 20 km from Nuorgam.
I had planned to run an 80 km (50 miles) ultrarun on Norwegian trails, but I couldn’t access the country due to restrictions. I changed my plans in a short notice, and the Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail seemed to be close enough to the original idea of wilderness trails. I had never crossed a river before, which made me worry a bit, as there are several wading places along the trail. But since it was a marked trail, I thought river crossing could not be too hard.
Equipment for the running adventure
As the Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki trail goes through wilderness, there are no entry or exit points along the route. I had to run unsupported, which meant that I couldn’t go and hide any additional food or drink or gear along the trail beforehand, but I had to carry everything from the beginning in my backpack. I had made a trail running adventure in Nuuksio National Park in the summer and I knew I had to take a heavier backpack with a hip belt.
Since there are open wilderness huts after every ten kilometers, I decided I’ll survive with a small UL sleeping pad and a space blanket. It was going to be a cold, rainy and windy day, so I had a lot of warm clothes and a running rain jacket. And I ended up wearing all of them basically the whole time. I had also light sandals for river crossings and foldable trail running poles.
I packed a small gas, an UL kettle, a spoon and a mug, and matches for making a warm meal (a pack of trekking food and extra noodles) and a filter to fill my 3L hydration bag from a river. I had plenty of energy bars and gels, honey, chocolate, salt and salty snacks, and sports drinks powder. The rest of the stuff included a first aid kit, a map and a compass, an iPhone, a satellite communication device, and my camera equipment with a tripod.
First leg of the trail: from Sevettijärvi to Iisakkijärvi
My solo trail running journey through Kaldoaivi started around half past 6 in the morning. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day, as the morning sun was shining behind the light veil of clouds. The trail was easy to run, mostly made by four-wheelers. The pine forest was peaceful, and I felt great and energetic.
I met a hiker near the first river crossing, and we had a brief chat. The hiker said that the waters were low at the moment (great news for me!). I crossed a brook by hopping from a rock to the next and continued my journey. Soon I came to a crossroads where the trail turns to right to the Opukasjärvi lean-to shelter, and continues straight forward to Pulmankijärvi. There's still a sign to the Opukasjärvi open wilderness hut, but it was destroyed in a fire a few years ago.
First I crossed the river Äylijoki and soon after the river Näätämöjoki by wooden bridges. The trail was full of huge rocks and then it turned into a narrow sand trail. I don’t know what I was thinking to lose my focus on running, as I suddenly stumbled and fall flat to the ground. When you run with a backpack that weighs 8-10 kg, you just can’t react fast enough. Luckily it was just sand and not rocks, but I still hurt my right cheek. Next it was time for a boat trip!
The river Silisjoki is crossed with a small ferryboat that is attached to a cable. I threw my stuff into the boat and jumped in the middle. The wind started blowing hard and it began dripping. The waterline was low, and the cable was high above me. I was hanging from the cable with my both arms, trying to keep it under my armpits. I was so sure that if I let go, I would be stuck in the middle of the river alone in the boat with a tiny plastic paddle in a storm, as the cable was so hard to move. Crossing the river was painfully slow, and it was really painful for my arms. I screamed to get energy for the last 5 meters that I needed to drag myself forward. It took all my willpower to fight the overwhelming idea that I can’t make it to the other side. But finally, I reached the shore with shaky hands and legs. I also injured my left arm and couldn’t properly lift it (it took 2 weeks to heel). I can’t describe my gratefulness for surviving the 20 minutes boat ride. To this day, I still don’t know if I did something wrong or is the cable ferryboat actually a river crossing from hell.
I arrived at the Iisakkijärvi open wilderness hut around 10:20 AM. There were three guys on a fishing trip. I took a break and ate an energy bar by the table outside. The first stretch took me around four hours.
From Iisakkijärvi to Huikkimajoki (Huikinvárjohka)
From the Iisakkijärvi hut the trail running journey continued on a four-wheeler trail. I saw a lot of reindeers, but they kept distance and started running away from me as soon as they noticed me. I tried to get at least one decent pic of a reindeer, but it just wasn’t my day.
Around noon, I met a nice woman with a dog, and we chatted for a while. They had walked from Sevettijärvi to Tsuomasjärvi and were heading back to Sevettijärvi. It had been raining the whole week and she had had enough. She admired my very light looking backpack and that I was going to reach Pulmankijärvi in just a day and wished me good luck for the journey. I wish I could have been able to thank her for our conversation later, as I got so much support for the tough adventure from that brief moment. Thank you.
Then there were more and more muddy ponds, water gathering into the deep ATV tracks. I saw the sign to Roussajärvi. And before I noticed, I was in the middle of an enchanted forest: such a dense mountain birch forest that it was almost dark in there. The trees were contorted and winding, huge bark wreaths hugging the trunks. There was also a small brook to cross, maybe 1-1.5 m wide, but the rocks in the stream offered a dry path to the other side.
Suddenly it was bright again. The trees seemed to have lost all their leaves to hungry worms, just the bare trunks were standing on the ground. It was a bit sad looking landscape, like a graveyard of trees. But the trail was nice to run again.
In the middle of the trail leg there was a wide easy bog marked on my map. Easy maybe, but it was basically a pond that grows grass. It was impossible to find enough rocks or tufts to step on to cross the pond. Now my shoes and socks were wet. I heard the wailing song of the Eurasian Golden Plover. Either the same bird followed me for several kilometers, or then there were several wailing singers keeping me company along the journey.
Near the end of this trail leg, I made the first wading in my life. I took my trail running shoes off and put on the sandals. I also packed my camera equipment into a dry sack. Water reached to my knees, and it was freezing cold. What surprised me was the power of the stream. I watched my every step carefully moving my feet in the river and had a good grip of the poles. If I had fallen, the worst thing would have been to get my clothes wet, but it was still quite exciting.
The Huikkimajoki open wilderness hut was just a couple of hundred of meters away, so I got lazy and walked there with my sandals on. The hut is like a secret place in the middle of the dead trees. I arrived at the empty and quiet hut around 2 PM. The trail leg from Iisakkijärvi to Huikkimajoki took me around 3 hours and fifteen minutes.
It was almost the halfway of my solo trail running adventure, and I was hungry. Drying my wet clothes and having lunch sounded like a plan. I looked at the fit guy walking in sunshine on the trekking food pack cover but couldn’t relate much.
Halfway Kaldoaivi wilderness: from Huikkimajoki to Tshaarajärvi (Čárajávri)
After around one hour lunch break, I continued my journey. My running adventure through Kaldoaivi wilderness was going as I had planned, and I felt great. The trail had been moderately easy this far (excluded the cable boat!). But from now on, there were so many bogs and wetland that my running pace dropped completely. I don’t know why I tried to avoid getting my shoes wet, because they were already wet, and I just ended up being longer in the cold mud. I guess it was the cold brown water and that you couldn’t know how deep it was in any given spot, from two centimeters up to your waist. I started to identify the bogs from a far: the deceptively beautiful pale green field that was most deep when it was between two hills and the ground was a bit lower compared to the hills. Nightmarish trail!
I still changed my shoes soon after leaving the Huikkimajoki hut to cross the second river by wading. It was a small one, but still got the adrenaline rush from walking in a strong stream in ice-cold water. Half an hour later, I tried to jump over a bog and made my first stylish faceplant to cold brown water and got also my hiking tights wet. And less than half an hour later, I needed to cross wide rivers.
The river Silisjoki is crossed twice on the Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail. The crossing point is located at the Y-shaped meander where the river Silisjoki and the river Gisttatbeljohka come together. There was a marked spot for a ferryboat but there was no boat. I couldn't decide if I was more anxious or relieved because of the missing boat. I walked back and forth on the riverbank trying to find the safest place to cross the river. Upstream was no-go, but downstream the river was too wide to see far enough. Eventually, I thought that the best place is probably the marked spot – with or without the boat. I rolled up my tights and started wading. The stream felt quite strong, and some of the rocks at the bottom were loose. Waterline was above my knee. I couldn’t go straight line to the other side, and the last two meters looked so deep, that I had to wade a bit further against the stream. But I made it, with one misstep but didn’t fall. It was a tad scary, and I was really relieved that I didn’t have to do it again. Except the second river was waiting – and it was twice as wide as the first one.
I tried to gather all my courage for the wading. But what a surprise: the waterline was so low that the wading place was like a bridge made of flat rocks! There was no difficult wading, just hopping from a rock to a rock. When I finally reached the other side and sat down, I had tears in my eyes. It was a bit tough, running alone across wilderness and doing scary things. But then I smiled again, at least it wasn’t raining!
After the river, the trail was nice and dry. Except when it was boggy again. The landscape was mostly treeless fell highland. The widest wetland and a small stream were between a nameless lake and some pond. I still tried to avoid the cold muddy water, but it was at least 10-20 cm deep everywhere.
After a while, the trail began ascending towards a nameless fell. It looked like a dry hill, but it was full of jiggly hanging bogs. I walked and jumped around trying to find solid ground and protect my wet feet from becoming more wet. The turf was covered with cloudberries, but they were still mostly red and raw. But I had a few delicious orange sweets!
The trail was dry again on the top of the fell, and it run through a reindeer fence. The sun was shining but the wind was blowing quite hard, and I didn’t feel like taking a break for photographing myself. I had many layers of sports tops and wool shirts and two running jackets, but the high wind made the low summer temperature freezing. So, I rushed forward. And as soon as I had descended enough, I was wading in hanging bogs again.
At 7 PM, I was sitting on the stairs of the Tshaarajärvi open wilderness hut. The Huikkimajoki-Tshaarajärvi stretch of the trail had been slow, it took me 4 hours.
The grey clouds covered the sky and it started raining. The trees swayed in the breeze. I walked to the lake to fill my hydration pack. There was a wooden white painted rowing boat on the shore. Or what was remained of it.
The hut was empty. I decided to make a kettle of sports drink and take a break, if the sudden storm would settle in the meanwhile. I sat on the bench and looked out of the window. It was one of the most ‘wilderness’ feelings I had ever experienced. I hadn’t seen anyone for a long time, and since the weather was awful, I didn’t expect to see many hikers anytime soon either. The hut was dry and warm compared to being outside, and I really wanted to make a fire, change dry socks, and stay in the hut forever. I played with the idea of buying a tiny wilderness hut from the middle of nowhere and living a simple life far away from civilization. But today I wanted to run to Pulmankijärvi. If the weather got extremely bad, I could maybe stay in the last wilderness hut and run the last stretch in the morning. I had extra noodles and snacks.
From Tshaarajärvi to Tsuomasjärvi (Čuomasjávri)
At 7:30 PM I was back in the stormy weather surrounded by the dead trees.
The trail from Tshaarajärvi went through mostly dry and treeless fell highlands. It had been a cold day and it was getting even colder. The trail started ascending to Čároaivi fell. There was a brief moment of sun that lightened the beautiful rugged fell scenery, but by the time I reached the top, it was gone. The weather had been changing throughout the day, from sunshine to rain. Most of the time it had been moist and dripping. I wanted to capture the scenery from Čároaivi fell, but it was almost impossible to take pictures because of the hard wind. The temperature had been around 5°C but the strong wind made the temperature feel like below zero degrees.
Soon I saw Golmmesoaivi fell (379m) on the right side. Running was more or less going up and down at this point. The terrain became rocky, and the trail descended to a boulder field that looked like a boulder river. It was quite easy to cross. I saw the black shape of Tšuomasvarri fell (Čuomasvárri, 435m) rising towards the sky in front of me. I was near the Norwegian border
Then the trail run between various lakes. I saw a hut on the right side and thought it was the open wilderness hut, but it turned out to be a privately owned hut. I crossed a stream falling from Lake Gaskkamus Čuomasjávri to Lake Vuolimus Čuomasjávri by walking on two swaying ancient planks. The wind was blowing so hard that it bended the trees 90 degrees.
Around 500 m later I arrived at the Tsuomasjärvi open wilderness hut, a bit after 10 PM. The Tsaarajärvi-Tsuomasjärvi stretch took me 2.5 hours. This trail stretch was one of my favorites to run, maybe because the trail was mostly dry and fast.
I opened the door to the small vestibule and could see that there were people in the hut, although it was dark inside. I thought they were already sleeping so I tried to be really quiet. I sat down on the floor next to the door to rest a little. I ate a chocolate bar to get energy, even though I wasn’t hungry at all. It almost made me laugh aloud when I remembered planning to climb Tšuomasvarri fell on my way ‘if the weather was nice and it wasn’t too late’.
With my pace, I still had around 3 hours to go to reach Pulmankijärvi. I don’t know if I had stayed in the hut if it had been empty. At this point, I felt quite tired, and the horrible weather was not tempting at all. But I decided to go for the final leg of the trail. It was almost half past 10 in the evening.
Last stretch of the trail running adventure: from Tsuomasjärvi to Pulmankijärvi
Right behind the Tsuomasjärvi hut the trail runs through a pale green grass field. In other words, wetland. There are a couple of streams, but the wetland is so outgrown that you can’t spot where they are. I tried to follow the footprints that some large rubber boots had left to the mud. It still felt unpleasant when the cold muddy water went inside my shoes. And that you could never know how deep your foot would sink at each step.
Then the trail ascended quite steeply up to a hill again and went next to a nameless lake. A small brook near the lake was easy to cross by hopping on rocks. The clouds revealed the evening sun that colored the sky orange in the horizon. It was a bit dark, although at this time of year the sun didn’t set at all in Lapland. I had a headlamp but didn’t need it.
From the nameless lake the trail starts ascending to the western side of Mivttecohkka fell. When I had climbed around one third of the slope, a met a hiking couple and stopped for a chat. Actually, we talked quite a long time, as they were interested in ultrarunning and wanted to know more about my experiences on the trail. Walking in the night didn’t bother them, and they planned to hike even to Tsaarajärvi as I told them it was empty. They told me the trail stretch from Pulmankijärvi had been boggy and they had their hiking shoes completely wet. This is the spot I made a wrong decision about my route to Pulmankijärvi.
I had studied the trail before my adventure, and many writings said that the northern end of the trail was really boggy and wet. I had also found some blog post that recommended going around the northern bogs by taking an alternative 8 km route, which was even drawn to a map. Since I had become quite allergic to the bogs, I decided to turn left from Mivttecohkka fell and pass by Lake Luossajávri from the southern side. It was 11:40 PM.
The ground downhill towards the lake was easy to run-walk-scramble, and I had an energy boost when I thought that it wasn’t that long distance anymore and if it was a dry trail, I’d be home sleeping in no time. But as soon as I reached the southern end of the lake, I saw a pale green wetland again. And it was deep. I spent a lot of time trying to go across it, going back and forth, just to realize there was no dry trail available. Finally, I just decided to run as fast as I could a straight line that seemed to have the most grass growing. The ground on this kind of bog usually sinks relatively slowly under your weight, so if you manage to jump to the next grass turf fast enough, you may get cross the bog without sinking too deep.
And I survived the bog, sinking only up to my knees at most. But it was a terrifying experience and I’d rather not have experienced it alone in wilderness at night. But I still think that if the map says it’s an easy bog, it should not be deadly, and that soothes my mind. However, the bog experience and the following five kilometers next to the lake and a river had my mind too occupied to take my camera out of the backpack any time soon.
There was no trail. There were a lot of wet spots. The next kilometers were scrambling in thick and high bushes, or alternatively hopping on huge 1-2 m wide and high turf tufts that were surrounded by moats. It took a long time to reach the river Luossajohka but hearing the mighty sound from the stream was like music to my ears as it meant I had probably survived the hardest part of the last trail leg. But it wasn’t much easier to follow the river, since there was no trail, just dense vegetation and forest and uneven terrain. And endless wet areas. I saw some beautiful white reindeers, but they ran away. It was quite dark in the forest. I felt nauseous but couldn’t spot if it was more physical or mental.
I used my iPhone for navigating the unmarked route. The alternative route description had said that there is a four-wheeler trail and a bridge over the river Luossajohka, but then again, it had also said that there are no bogs. I had decided to find some shelter and eat noodles and sleep if there was no bridge, as the idea of going back to the main trail scrambling the many kilometers and sinking to the bog again was a big no.
But there was a bridge! And there was also a woman sitting on some wooden planks next to the bridge cooking a meal with a stove. It was so weird to meet people at this point at night, but I was really happy that I could talk with someone and that there was a bridge. We shared experiences of the terrain and trails nearby, and she was like “whoa, tough chick!” when I told I’m fastpacking the trail in one day. I got a confidence boost that I’ll make it to Pulmankijärvi. Thank you!
From the bridge on there were also two visible trails, a four-wheeler trail and a narrow hiking trail going on the eastern side of it. Sometimes they merged, or the four-wheelers had been using the hiking trail, leaving deep tracks to the ground, full of water of course, as it had been raining many days. And just before Buollanvarri fell, the alternative trail joined the marked Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki trail. Around here my sports watch battery run out, after recording a bit under 65 km. I had only around 5 km to go.
I climbed up to Buollanvarri fell, the last uphill. When I got on the top, it was so windy that it almost blew me down. But I started to feel relief. Now it was only 3 km downhill an easy and dry trail, and I run it smiling.
70 km trail running solo adventure done
After crossing a shaky hanging bridge over the river Pulmankijoki, there was still a short gravel road to walk. It was 3 AM when I finally reached the wooden sign that says ‘Sevettijärvi 69 km’. Tahhh-dahhh! Time for some 70 km trail running adventure finisher selfies! That was probably the happiest moment of that day. I had made a running adventure fastpacking through Kaldoaivi wilderness and managed the Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail in one day.
My sports watch recorded time 19:30 of which time moving 10:43 and based on my mobile pics I estimated that it took around one hour to the trailhead. Mostly on move, so it was approximately 11:45 hours running-walking-scrambling, which matches the sports watch 6km / hour pace on move. That leaves 8:45 hours for cooking, eating, standing in a boat or changing shoes, chatting with people, visiting toilet, reading a map, and photographing and enjoying the views. Afterwards, I have estimated that the alternative route added 1-1.5 hours extra to the journey. The total ascend and descend were around 1100 m, a bit more ascending when you go the trail from the south to the north.
Next time, I think I’ll do a slow fishing trip and hike the Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail in rubber boots!
Some selected links:
Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail Info
- Destination: Kaldoaivi wilderness area, Utsjoki, Northern Lapland, Finland
- Distance: 60-70 km
- Difficulty: advanced due to river crossing and roadless wilderness
- When to go: from June to September for a summer and autumn adventure
- Duration: running 1-2 days, hiking 3-7 days
- Where to stay: camping in tent or open wilderness huts
- Mobile network coverage: some brief coverage on top of the fells (also depends on your operator)
Equipment for Sevettijärvi-Pulmanki Trail running adventure
Trail running shoes
Running clothes (trousers/tights + running shirt + jacket + merino tube scarfs / beanie + gloves + socks)
Windproof and water-resistant outerwear (at least a rain jacket)
Change clothes (merino wool shirt, light thermo fleece, warm socks)
Trekking poles (helpful e.g., for river crossing and climbing the hills)
Backpack suitable for running (20-25L) + hydration pack (3L)
Food according to needs (water sources along the trail, no services)
Trekking stove, small gas, matches in a small dry pack (cooking is also possible in the huts)
UL kettle, mug, spoon
UL sleeping pad + space blanket
First aid kit
Map + compass
(Camera + tripod + satellite communication device)