During the Polar Night to Hannukuru: Skiing, Sauna, Full Moon, and Northern Lights in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Northern Lights in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park
Northern Lights and Full Moon at Hannukuru

After a very busy December the idea came up, to find some relaxing days in the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park – or more precisely – to visit the Hannukuru area for a decent sauna turn in the middle of the wonderful nature, and in the middle of the polar night. The plan was to take our (borrowed) forest skiers to go to Hannukuru for a relaxing sauna evening, and to return back home the same way. Fortunately (I have to say), a heavy snowfall made us stuck in the beautiful Hannukuru valley, where we experienced a most wonderful night under the clear full moon sky – topped with some northern lights, just after the snowfall ended.


First day: From Hetta to Sioskuru

Fire wood storage in Sioskuru
Northern lights in the background of the Sioskuru open wilderness hut
Northern lights in the background of the Sioskuru open wilderness hut (analog photo)

The past few days were rather cold with temperatures below -30°C, and since the weather forecast predicted the same for the upcoming days, it was most obvious that we should be well prepared for our skiing trip. We stuffed our pulk with lot’s of warm cloths and food, to make sure that the low temperatures wouldn’t become a problem during the trip to Hannukuru. Knowing that the weather can change quickly and the clear days might be gone, I also packed some reading for my work, to not get bored if stuck in a hut. Although, this is anyway difficult to happen, since there is always something to do, like chopping wood etc. Nevertheless, we left Hetta around noon on the 25th and arrived in Sioskuru, where we spend our first night, in the late afternoon – which during the polar night means: in the middle of the darkness. As much as I wanted to take pictures of the beautiful scenery on the way there, the low temperatures kept me from stopping and using my camera, as with unpacking the necessary tripod and other equipment, I would have gotten too cold. Also, the first day turned out to be rather exhausting: After the Pyhäkero autiotupa we found no tracks or traces in the deep snow, which was especially demanding when skiing up the first canyon. Occasional holes in-between the deep snow, revealing the bed of the not yet entirely frozen brook, didn’t make it easier to carry the pulk up the fell. However, getting close to Sioskuru, the snow became harder, because strong winds had compressed the top layer of the snow.


To Hannukuru with the moon in our backs

Reindeer & Moon
Reindeer under the rising moon
After passing Rouvikuru it got colder and the snow conditions changed
Cold night in the moon light
Frozen trees under the rising moon, in the afternoon

It took us some time to warm up the Sioskuru open wilderness hut (which had about -10°C inside when we arrived), but then we finally could enjoy our semi-delicious makkara. Almost as always it was quite windy at Sioskuru at our arrival, but to our surprise the wind stopped during the night and we had a calm – but still very chilly (around -30°C) morning the next day. Despite the cold, the absence of wind made skiing much more pleasant, and the wonderful and slowly rising moon contributed as well to a wonderful skiing trip. The way to Hannukuru then turned out to be much easier than expected, because most of the distance the top layer of the snow was pretty hard. Only after Rouvikuru, when entering the valley where Hannukuru is located, deeper snow returned. Also we experienced a sudden temperature change there: After passing through the Rouvikuru canyon the temperatures dropped even more for a few degrees, making it really freezing and thus our breaks much shorter (but in the absence of wind also more bearable). The still available light from the setting sun somewhere in the South allowed us to take a few pictures without a tripod, but only with high ASA settings. Nevertheless we were happy when we finally arrived at Hannukuru and had heated up the oven of the autiotupa (= open wilderness hut).


Snowfall, full moon and northern lights in Hannukuru

Day during Polar Night
Twilight around noon: After the snow fall the sky cleared up again
Hannukuru Sauna
Sauna building in Hannukuru
Full Moon and Northern Lights
Full moon and northern lights at Hannukuru
Full Moon
A wonderful and not too cold full moon night

Over night, the weather changed dramatically: The severe cold suddenly was gone and snow releasing clouds replaced the formerly clear sky. I was surprised about the amount of fallen snow, since I didn’t expect 10 to 15 cm of fresh snow: not in this cold (it was still around -15 to -20) and not in this short time. Thus, we decided to stay in the autiotupa for another night, because the sight for skiing would have been very limited and also hiding the beautiful landscape. During that day a park ranger visited the hut on his weekly routine tour and informed us, that for the next day even heavier snow fall was expected and further recommended us, to rather spent some time in the sauna than heading back, and to postpone the return trip for another day when the weather should clear up again. Of course we happily followed his advice and enjoyed a calm and relaxing night while keeping up Finnish traditions. And indeed, already during the afternoon of the next day the weather cleared up, and we took advantage of the situation by taking a short walk for capturing some images during the day (twi-)light. The colors in the daytime of a polar night are really stunning, and I almost felt sad when the darkness returned. Although, indeed not for long: This particular night, the clear sky revealed the beauty of the full moon, lightning up the landscape with a very special light and filling it with an indescribably breathtaking atmosphere. We couldn’t just sit in the hut that night, but went for a short skiing trip towards Pahakuru autiotupa. This magical night even got topped with some wonderful northern lights (although not very strong ones, but still to our very delight!).


From Hannukuru to Sioskuru and back to Hetta

Day time close to Hannukuru
Around noon on the way back, close to Pahakuru
Between Hannukuru and Sioskuru
Close to Rouvikuru: A short break to once again enjoy the view towards Pallastunturi and Hannukuru

Unfortunately, every adventure has its end, and since the weather remained fine again, we decided to head back to Sioskuru in the next morning. Now almost all the way long the fresh snow had covered the hard packed snow layer, but still it wasn’t very demanding to make it back to Sioskuru. In the late evening however, way after our arrival, the weather changed once more and heavy snowfall set in again. When we left the autiotupa early in the next morning (when it was still dark), a severe snowstorm made it difficult to find the way from one marker to the next. However, since we took this trail already a few times before, we knew how to find our way back home safely. What I learned during that day is, in future to check the equipment every morning before leaving: Searching for your Leatherman in the fully stuffed pulk and repair the binding of your skiers in the middle of a snowstorm isn’t the easiest thing to do ;-) Anyhow, after all the amazing experiences we made during this trip, there was nothing that could have ruined my joy (not even the most respect-less and impolite group of hikers I ever met in an open wilderness hut)!


Picture Gallery


update 1st of March, 2013:

Analog Photo Gallery

I also had an analog camera with me, of which I have developed most of the pictures in the meantime. Attached you find a small selection of some of these images.


analog photography; skiing to hannukuru during polar night; scans

4 Replies to “During the Polar Night to Hannukuru: Skiing, Sauna, Full Moon, and Northern Lights in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park”

  1. Sounds like a fantastic trip, and AMAZING photos, this really inspires me to come back to Pallas-Yllästunturi in mid winter (January probably). We just visited the area for the first time during Easter (see http://blog.hanneketravels.net/2014/04/pallas-to-hetta-4-days-of-skiing-in-finland.html ) which was great, but would love to return when there are less people, better snow conditions, and most of all: that beautiful polar night-light :) we experienced that in Riisitunturi last January ( http://blog.hanneketravels.net/2014/01/tykky-at-riisitunturi-national-park.html) – but that was a longggg drive from Tromsø.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, I really enjoy your blog :)

    1. Thank you very much, Hanneke!

      Certainly in winter there are less people, however, there are also no established tracks by then. In my opinion, that’s actually much better, since you can put your own tracks into the snow and the nature looks even more pristine!

      Hopefully next winter there will be more days with such wonderful conditions. In this winter there were only very few weeks here with these magic circumstances. So if you should try this route again in winter time, I wish you good luck!

      Oh, and avoid those days, when this company: http://adventureclinic.com is having their trip – which usually is around new year: They are known to leave a mess in the huts and disturb other hikers.

  2. Now this is what I’d call the perfect trip in perfect conditions for Lapland. And the pictures you shot are truly amazing! Those are the kind of shots I’m hoping to make for my video! It’s good to read your blog for inspiration! :)

    1. Thanks Leander for your compliments! Indeed we were lucky with having such an amazing weather. After two weeks of clouds there was just a bit more than a week with (almost) clear sky, only interrupted by 1,5 days bringing even more, wonderful snow.
      Hope you will have the same luck when you want to film in Lapland; at least I can try to show you some beautiful places in the surroundings!

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