Monday, May 28, 2012

Last Descent

Artificial ice climbing tower a.k.a. construction crane with a pump

Something terrible happened last week. On Friday we learned that a friend lost his life skiing down from Mt. McKinley. I do not want to talk about the accident, writing this text alone is hard enough. But I thought I'd return to a few happy memories with Ilkka.

He was always friendly, down-to-earth, and ready to help others. Just a few weeks ago he was helping me find skiing locations in Oulu. (Incidentally, that was on e-mail. I missed meeting him in person by a day as when I got to Oulu, as he had just left for the expedition. Now I wish I had been there a day earlier...)

You could also climb inside the construction crane

And he was a great skier and climber. One of the best in Finland; he was the first Finn to ski down from a 7000 meter peak, for instance. He was always in control, always knew what he was doing, always seemed to have more strength left than others.

And he was a constant source of climbing ideas and opportunities. When I visited him in Oulu in the early 2000s, we once went ice climbing on a dam wall in the city center of Oulu. The next winter he took me to an old construction crane they had acquired from somewhere, put up next to a river, and added a pump. It was wonderful for ice climbing. Who comes up with such brilliant ideas?

Not to mention other activities. This year he and his friends participated in the Ylläs 24 hour ski marathon. The idea was to ski as much vertical as you can within 24 hours. Ilkka's photography has also been wonderful to look at. And he loved the outdoors. I remember some business trip that he took when we were colleagues, where he stayed in a tent in a city park. Even got interviewed by some radio station. At the time I was grateful that he didn't mention our company name :-)

I am going to miss him.

Photo credits (c) by Jari Arkko


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  2. This is a beautiful but sad story about Ilkka's last climb. They made it to the top of Denali before the fateful descent. In this story, Ilkka is exactly like I remember him: