What Lies Ahead: Piritas Valley Expedition

While it has been calm last two months as far as adventuring goes, it is just the calm before the storm. Currently, I am preparing for what will be the most serious adventure I have yet to undertake. Below you will find some insight as to what’s coming up next.

Piritas Valley Trip Overview

Objective:  The primary objective of this expedition will be to travel to and climb in the seldom visited Piritas Valley, located in Northern Patagonia, Argentina. Ideally, my partner and I would like to establish a new rock climbing route on the central pillar of the 2,800 ft (850 m) tall, tri-summited, granite wall that makes up the Piritas Range.

The Piritas Range Photo by Dave Anderson

The Piritas Range
Photo by Dave Anderson

Our secondary objective will be to travel south, to the Chalten Massif, located in the heart of Patagonia, with the goal of attempting to climb some of the already established moderate alpine climbing routes.

History:  So far, there are only five recorded expeditions into the Piritas range in which seven routes we established. Only one of those seven climbs the central pillar. The first climbing expedition into the Piritas Valley was done by two Argentine climbers in 2006, at which time they climbed the one and only route on the central pillar.

Duration:  Approximately 75 days

Jan 5th, Travel from Finland to Río Gallegos, Argentina

March 20th, Return to Finland from an overnight layover in Madrid, Spain

Basic Outline of Expedition:

Day 01-02 Fly from Finland to Río Gallegos, Argentina.

Day 03: Travel north from Río Gallegos to Bariloche, Argentina, via an 18 hour bus ride.

Days 04-20: Climb in the Frey climbing area (near Bariloche).

Day 21: Travel to the town of Lago Puelo, the nearest town to the Piritas Valley.

Day 22: Take a Ferry across lake Lago Puelo to the entrance of Lago Puelo National Park.

Day 23-25: Travel with gauchos, via horseback, up the Rio Turbino (Turbino River) until we reach the confluence where the four smaller rivers join together to make the Rio Turbino.

Day 25-28: Bushwack our way up one of the smaller valleys until we reach the Piritas range, where we will establish our basecamp.

Day 29-50: Attempt to climb in the Piritas Range as much as possible. Attempt to establish a new route and repeat previous climbs.

Day 51-52: Break down and descend from base camp to the confluence.

Day 53-54: Raft down the Rio Turbino and back to Lago Puelo.

Day 55-56: Rest, recover, and travel south, once again, to the El Chalten area.

Day 57-73: Climb as much as possible in the El Chalten region.

Day 73-75: Travel Home.

Team: The team will consist of Tess Ferguson and myself.

Expedition coverage:  Words, photos, videos, and dispatches from the field can be found at the following locations;







American Alpine Club – Tess and I are both extremely grateful to be two of the recipients of the 2015 Mountaineering Fellowship Grant, awarded to encourage “American climbers age 25 years and younger to go into remote areas and seek out climbs more difficult than they might ordinarily be able to do.” Yup, that sounds like us.

Knoms – Thank you for providing us with a trip’s worth of delicious, sustainable, healthy energy. Your bars, fruit straps, and nibs are sure power us through when the going gets tough.

One for the Finns: A Mamus’ (foreigners) Guide to Orienteering

Here in Finland, orienteering season is in full swing, and Jukola, the world’s most important orienteering event, is just two days away! Don’t think you are ready for the challenge of one of Finland’s favorite sports (yes, it’s a sport)? Never fear! Below is a 7-step process to help you on your journey to orienteering madness.

Step 1: Choose an Outfit


decisions, decisions…

Choosing the right outfit can be hard. Choosing the right outfit for orienteering can be damn near impossible. Try to pick something ridiculous, yet sporty. Be sure it contains at least 70% spandex. If you end up wearing tights (and you most likely should) be sure to not wear shorts over top of them (this includes you too, boys).

Step 2: Your Compass


Like every good Scout, you will want to be prepared when you go into the woods: go ahead and get yourself a compass. Be sure it is bulky, oversize, heavy, and does not have metric units of measurement on any of its scales, so that way you can test how accurately you can envision what a centimeter looks like.

Step 3: Your Shoes

Fancy orienteering shoes? Psssht, no way! Hop on in that forest with any old athletic shoes you find. Never mind that it just rained and you have a lot of muddy hills, technical kangas, and downed trees to run over. Spikes are only good for the track. Better to invest your money in more sweatbands instead of proper footwear.

Step 4: Your Map

Which way is north?

Which way is north?

Your map is going to be your closest and only partner once you start your run. Think of it as an arranged marriage; do your best not to spoil the fun by trying to learn things about your map ahead of time, things like scales, boundaries, map legends, or any of that other non-sense. Not sure what that ambiguous brown rectangle is? Don’t worry about it, you will find out soon enough! It is better to leave the learning for the journey itself.

Step 5: Electronic Timers

Be sure spend some extra money and rent one of these “finger sticks”. This will allow you to clock in at each checkpoint and see your result online. That is, unless you don’t know which website to look on (you won’t be told), and even if you do know this, best of luck navigating it in Finnish.

Step 6: The Run

When making strategies on how to get from one control to the other, always keep in mind the old saying “Finland is flat”. No need to pay attention to those pesky contour lines, just go ahead and follow the direct route. Never mind those lakes, slippery hillsides, or mosquito-infested swamps that might be in your way; you have your tennis shoes on, you’ll be fine! Also, try to find as many control points as you can, even if they are not on your course. Tag into these ones, too, so you can brag about how good of a control point spotter you are.

What do you mean this control isn't on my map?!

What do you mean this control isn’t on my map?!

Step 7: Getting Lost

At some point, you will come to the realization that you have no idea where you are supposed to go. Never fear, that is what everyone else is for! My recommendation is to follow anyone who looks “faster” than you. The other option is just to follow the cutest butt around. Either way, things are looking up! Whoever you choose to follow, be sure not to make your following obvious. Stop and look at your map frequently, or adjust your compass so you seem like you know what you’re doing. Be careful not to get too close and overtake them, or fall too far behind and lose them. If you can maintain the proper positioning between you and your leader, you will be out of the woods and on your way to sauna faster than you can say, “suunnistus!”

Follow the leader, just like everyone else

Following the leader, just like everyone else.

So what’s with the mullet?

For me, the mullet started in the spring of 2013 as an expedition haircut for my attempted ski across Finnish Lapland (see a trend here?). The original idea was only to get a fun haircut to help keep moral high when spending 45 days in the deep freeze. It was only through this first-hand experience that I came to truly understand that the mullet is THE ultimate expedition haircut.

Besides offering suave looks in the front and a festive vibe in the rear, the mullet provides great physical benefits as well. Most everyone will agree that short hair, especially for a guy, is far easier to feed and care for in the wilderness than long hair. Also, short hair feels better under a helmet and/or beanie. The problem? Short hair is not very warm.

Now enters the mullet. With its long hair in the back, the mullet fulfills the essential task of keeping one’s neck warm. It truly does offer the best of both worlds. Let’s face it; with the mullet, you can really have it all.

So, for this trip I, of course, dawned a mullet, on the eve of my departure. While still young in its formation and accomplishments, it has a promising future.

The mullet, reborn

The mullet, reborn

Tomorrow Kiia-Riikka, “Le Mullet”, and I will set sail. Gear is packed and the kayak is strapped to the roof of the car. Water levels are quite high, flooding in some regions of Finland, which has us moderately worried. Thankfully, the high water levels will have little effect on the lakes, and will mostly only change the water flow speed of the rivers. The first half of the trip is almost all lakes with small sections of river. This will offer us plenty of opportunities to play it cautiously, get out of our boat and scout these river sections before committing to them. If we have to, we can portage around them.


Our ride, on our ride.

The forecast is calling for an end to the floods in the next 10 days, so we are hoping for a post-flood run down the Oulujoki (Oulu River) for the second half of our trip. But, we have many kilometers to cover before this, and right now we need to focus on the task at hand: getting started.

We hare hoping to reach the town of Kuhmo by the 20th. If possible (and it may not be) I will post a quick update at that time  – providing the local library will let two smelly, wet, out-of-towners use their computers.

Until then!


Water Traverse Finland

If you were to come into my humble home right now and take a look at the bookshelves, scattered amongst the more proper written works, you would find notebook after notebook of mine, filled with ideas and plans for obscure quests and romantic adventures.  Many of these half-baked pursuits are nothing more than pipe-dreams, most of which may never come to fruition.  Every once in a while though, an opportunity comes along where I get the chance to make one of these dreams come true.  A week from today my friend, Kiia-Riikka, and I will depart on one of these off-the-wall adventures.  Opportunity has arrived.  This time, we will be attempting to complete the first recorded kayak crossing of Finland.

While we have a modest amount of experience on the water, paddling is certainly not our forte.  For me, that is just fine.  It feels good to mix it up every once in a while and I am very much looking forward to exploring a new landscape, traveling over a new medium, learning new skill sets, and experiencing the trials and challenges that come with being out of one’s normal environment.

Below is a brief look at what our expedition will entail.

W.T.F Trip Overview:

Our purposed route, in blue.

Our purposed route, in blue.

Objective:  To tandem kayak across Finland via a continuous waterway that stretches from the Russian border east of Kuhmo all the way to Oulu and the Gulf of Bothnia in the west.

History:  So far, there are only two recorded water traverses of Finland.  The first traverse was done in the ‘80s by a lone man via a rowboat.  The second traverse, which occurred in the ‘90s, was completed in identical style. Both expeditions followed a very similar route to the one which we have chosen.

Duration:  Approximately 20 days

May 15, 2015- Travel from Oulu to start point (approx. 8km north of the city of Viiksimo, Finland)

June 6, 2015- Arrive in Oulu and the west coast of Finland

Basic Outline of Expedition:

Day 01: Get to the drop off point in the afternoon and spend the night close to the starting point.

Day 02: Paddle east from the drop off point to the far (eastern) side Lake Iso-Tahkonen. This marks the border boundary zone and is as close to the Russian/Finland border as we are allowed to travel.  After reaching this point we will start our westward travels

Days 03-11: Travel along lakes and rivers to the city of Kajaani, on the eastern side of the massive Oulujarvi (Lake Oulu).

Days 12-16: Make our way westward across the notoriously windy Oulujarvi.

Day 17-21: Paddle the Oulujoki (Oulu River) west to the city of Oulu and the west coast of Finland.

Team:  The team will consist of Kiia-Riikka Niemi and myself, Alan Goldbetter.

Teams who eat donuts together, stay together.

Teams who eat donuts together, stay together.

Expedition coverage:  Words, photos, videos, and dispatches from the field can be found at the following locations;







Tentsile– Thanks for hooking us up with one of these for our trip! This is absolutely the best possible shelter for this adventure.  Now we won’t have to sleep on the soggy ground of the river banks!

Pohjolan Kanootti– Thank you for providing us with one of your fine kayaks to use for this amazing journey!