The Perfect Winter Warrior Weekend to Repovesi National Park

Do you live in Southern Finland and want to spend a weekend outdoors? Here’s how Katja and I managed to execute a thrilling girls weekend in Repovesi National Park last weekend. Our goal was to go to Olhava and practice aid climbing, jumaring, and setting up a portaledge (a kind of a hammock for sleeping). A mini-bigwall practice for beginners!

We were the only people in the park so our shenanigans on the wall didn’t bother anyone. Having the cliffs all to ourselves for two days was cool. It was magical to wake up to a beautiful winter morning high off the ground.

Katja’s first night and well, first everything in a portaledge.

About equipment: We packed way too much trad gear, as always. For sleeping we both had winter sleeping bags, thermarests and a pillows. Oh yesssss, a pillow.

The plan was to climb Ruotsalaisten reitti, set up the portaledge below the horizontal crack, and climb to the top next morning. Most of the climbs in Olhava start from the lake. We carefully tested the thin ice with a pole when we traveled to the island below the climbs.  To get to the base of our planned route you have to take a couple steps on the ice again. As I was starting the climb I suddenly fell ass-deep into the Olhava lake. Sigh. Clearly our triple set of cams was too much.

We had Lauri’s gear sling for racking, so nice!
katja valmistautuu
This is what too much gear looks like.

I stripped my clothes and put on the only dry pair of pants I had: pyjama pants and Arc’teryx puffy pants.  We did’t want to risk getting our ropes and Katja wet too so we switched to the Salama route which begins safely from a bridge.

Why did we want to sleep in a portaledge? First, it would be pretty embarrassing to climb ten pitches somewhere and then freak out about sleeping in a portaledge. It could happen. Second, it’s something I’ve tried to do for two years. I’ve practiced setting it up more times than I care to admit and I’ve carried it to the base of a climb and bailed.

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Little foot steps everywhere and my swimming pool!
We rigged two anchors: one for anchoring us, the haul line and the portaledge and another one for jumaring.
wanna be jorgeson
Just like Jorgeson on the Dawn Wall.

I have a couple take homes about the portaledge set up. This all sound obvious to me right now but it wasn’t last Saturday so lets share it. We had the Metolius Bomb Shelter with a rainfly (which we didn’t end up using). BEFORE hauling and rigging the portaledge on a blank wall in the dark make sure the fly and the portaledge are packed properly after last use and that you’ve set up the portaledge many times (ten times is good says the internet) enough to master it perfectly.

It’s annoying to try to find the attachment points if they’re hidden somewhere inside the bags. I had practiced the set up several times by myself and from a hanging position too but I was still surprised how complicated the rigging was. At first we felt like we lack the power to put the poles and spreader together but really the key to success was body position and technique. I guess there is a difference between setting up a portaledge from the first bolt in a climbing gym and doing it 20 meters of the ground in the dark in the winter.

Grigri made ascending and descending the jumar line fast which was important when we had to pee. Which brings to mind the challenges of the peeing. If you wish not to read about girls peeing, please stop reading here. Bye bye!

Our camp seen from the lake.

We could not figure out how to pee in the portaledge.  Not with out a risk of peeing on a classic route, on the ropes and portaledge, or in our sleeping bags… which technically weren’t our sleeping bags.

I’ve peed in awkward positions hanging from the wall before so it’s not like I don’t know how to do it. But what if for whatever reason I can’t pee where I’m at? My girl friends in Oregon told me to use a wide mouth Nalgene as a peeing bottle and my boyfriend at the time suggested getting a peeing fennel because he knew female mountain guides use them. But I was too embarrassed to experiment with the bottle and the fennel. Let alone share it in my blog.


After getting back home I wanted get to the bottom of the problem and conducted a little research with the help of… my boyfriend. Lucky guy! The problem is the lack of control and inability to aim. I googled reviews of pee fennels and bags, read stories of female backpackers and climbers and chatted with my friends. As a result I ordered two Pibellas, one for me and one for Katja. We will begin out trials soon and report our results here. I can’t wait to try to pee like a guy! 🙂

Have a great weekend!