Hossa - paradise in Kainuu - attracts hundreds of trail runners to enjoy magnificent scenes of the national park

Published: 22.03.2023

Hossa - paradise in Kainuu - attracts hundreds of trail runners to enjoy magnificent scenes of the national park

The great Julma-Ölkky canyon lake (photo: Jukka Liuha, 2022)

“You won't find a bad fireplace here - there's always a postcard view in front of you when you sit down by the fire!" said Jukka Liuha, who currently works as the event director and route master of the Kainuu Trail race, to Mikko Keränen almost exactly 8 years ago by the evening campfire at the Ala-Valkeinen wilderness hut.

The organizers of the Lost In Kainuu Adventure Race had set out for a trip to get to know the possible adventure race’s terrain on the snowy March day in 2015. In the morning, the trip had started from the Hossa Visitor Centre via Iikoski and Kangaslampi to the Puukkojärvi wilderness hut. After lunch, the journey had continued around Jatkonvaara to Lake Pitkä-Hoilua and from there to the overnight place at Ala-Valkeinen.

Magical winter in Hossa (photo: Hannu Huttu)

I must say that also the winter landscapes of Hossa made an indelible effect at that time, Liuha recalls a trip eight years ago.

- Actually, my own history with Hossa started already in 2008, when I visited here for the first time on a mountain biking and hiking trip. The area of ​​Hossa had already interested me for several years, but I just hadn't found a suitable time for the trip.

On the 2008 trip, the Kokalmus lake and its lean-to shelter had been selected as the accommodation for the first night based on preliminary map research: Mostly, because it seemed that it was the easiest place to get to slightly different directions from there.

- Yes, it has stuck in my mind when we rode mountain bikes with my wife for the first time to the Kokalmus lean-to shelter - the landscape of the wilderness lake was amazing.

The landscape of Kokalmus fifteen years ago (photo: Jukka Liuha, August 2008). Nice to know: The 38, 55 and 78 kilometer runners of the Kainuu Trail race will arrive at the Kokalmus from the direction of the sunset shown in the picture.

The lake Kokalmus (photo: Jukka Liuha, August 2008)

During that weekend trip, we wanted to get to know the Lipposenniemi – Lounaja – Iso-Nimetön – Kukkuri direction and on the second day we headed to the landscapes of Pitkä-Hoilua – Iso-Valkeainen – Julma-Ölkky – Värikallio.

- The second day's MTB trip to Julma-Ölkky dragged on for so long after arriving at the Kokalmus and about 10 hours of biking and walking that it was found more reasonable to go indoors to the Kukkuri wilderness hut for the last night. Of course, the choice also meant that the day eventually stretched up to almost 12 hours, Liuha says with a wry smile.

- The trip has remained in my mind as one of the finest mountain biking and hiking trips; practically all the time you could see amazing landscapes and walk perfect needle paths on Hossa's ridges, pine forests and crystal-clear waters.

Classic needle path of Hossa at Syrjäharju ridge between the lakes Iso-Nimetön and Iso Syrjäjärvi (photo: Jukka Liuha, 2022)

Let's go back to Ala-Valkeinen's wilderness hut and the March evening of 2015.

- We spent the evening with Mikko Keränen and talked about the route skied during the day and the next day's upcoming stage, as well as some other various things. Mikko then suggested somewhere in between that wouldn't it be great to organize a Lost In Kainuu adventure in Hossa's scenery, since here is almost everything you need in adventure sports: There are perfect MTB routes, great kayaking waters, great running and orienteering places and some nice rugged places for rope tasks like zipline to encounter.

In practice, the Kainuu Trail also started from that evening party - in a way, Liuha explains.

- We managed to organize the Lost In Kainuu race in 2018 in Hossa, and during the organization of this race, I happened to talk with Timo Korhonen and Ari Juntunen, the entrepreneurs of the Hossa Visitor Centre, about different events that could be organized in Hossa. It must have been Timo who said that the trail running event in Hossa has not been officially organized yet. At that time, I already had some four years of experience in organizing trail running events, so that's when the idea of ​​the Kainuu Trail really started to rise; because it would be great to also organize a trail run in Hossa, where practically the entire Hossa area is full of wonderful and enjoyable needle paths for running.

About a year was spent planning a possible new trail running event, and in practice, in the fall of 2019, the time was right, Liuha recounts the events.

- We set out to produce the event through my employer, Kainuu Orienteering Week association, and the main idea was that we would get one new element and event for the Kainuu Orienteering Week program, with which this traditional and historical orienteering and holiday week for the whole family would be launched every year.

According to Liuha, the entire autumn of 2019, from the beginning of August until the middle of October, was spent planning the routes and running routes of the new event and drawing those on the map. Around mid-October, it was time to walk through the entire 78-kilometer route with a GPS device. The route had to be recorded with the most accurate GPS track possible for the evaluation of the running routes by ITRA (International Trail Running Association).

Checking the routes of the new trail running event and crossing the Julma-Ölkky’s cable bridge on October 23, 2019 (photo: Jukka Liuha)

- The name of the event was thought about until November-December: The very first name proposal was probably Hossa Trail, but we wanted to bring the perspective of the tourism marketing of the Kainuu area into the name of the event, so we finally decided on the name "Kainuu Trail Hossa National Park (Finland)".

The first Kainuu Trail was supposed to be organized on Saturday 27 June 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic changed the plans and naturally we had to postpone the event to the following year, which was set for Saturday 3 July 2021.

- 420 participants signed up for the first year's competition, which completely surprised me. We had budgeted for the event with a maximum of 200 participants, so it was a big thing that so many participants signed up for the first event, Liuha says excitedly.

Feelings at the start of the 21 kilometer distance of the first Kainuu Trail (photo: Jukka Liuha, 2021)

Liuha says that, according to the feedback received from the participants, the first event was a great success and, for example, no major changes were wanted to the running routes.

- The runners of the longest distances (38, 55 and 78 km) wanted a couple of 1-1.5 kilometer road sections removed, from which we were able to move the first 1.5 kilometer road section (between Hossa Visitor Centre - Iikoski) to the nice needle path next to it for next year's event. In addition, the participants hoped for one additional drink station before the last 4-kilometer section (on Huosiharju), which we were also able to offer for the 2022 event.

Last year, 317 runners signed up for the trail run, which, according to Liuha, was quite a good "prevention victory" considering that the corona situation was still challenging, especially at the beginning of the year, throughout Finland.

- We received a lot of positive feedback from last summer's event and also some corrective feedback, but we didn't get any major development needs for next summer's event. As an organizer, we were also quite satisfied with last year's event. We invested a lot in high-quality (as clear as possible) route marking, which according to our experience is one of the most important things in trail running. Of course, I have a few development ideas in mind, which we plan to try out at next summer's event, but we'll see them later in the summer, Liuha says enigmatically.

About 260 runners have now signed up for next summer's Kainuu Trail, of which exactly 197 are currently on the registered list on the Kainuu Trail website.

- A larger group of 60 runners is coming to us from southern Finland, which is not yet on our list of registered participants, Liuha elaborates.

According to Liuha, the current registration situation predicts the number of participants for next summer's event of approximately four hundred runners.

- We will be very satisfied if we can exceed that number of 400 runners again this year. In fact, last fall we agreed together with Metsähallitus that only a maximum of 600 runners can participate in this year's event. This decision was made in good cooperation, so that, if necessary, the stress on the Hossa area's paths and nature can be limited. I personally don't think there will be that many participants, but it's good for us to know the level of the maximum number of participants for the coming years.

- I can once again promise all Kainuu Trail’s participants that in this summer's event too, you will be able to experience Hossa's best landscapes and trail running paths, as well as the silence of the wilderness area and its mystical fine atmosphere in its entirety.

In the Kainuu Trail trail run, you can enjoy the silence and scenery of the wilderness (photo: Jukka Liuha, 2022)

The 3rd Kainuu Trail Hossa National Park (Finland) on July 1, 2023 is a trail running event organized by Kainuu Orienteering Week association. Kainuu Trail is organized every year on the 26th week’s Saturday in Hossa National Park. The running distances and categories are:

  • 78 km Julma-Ölkky (open men/women)
  • 55 km Värikallio (open men/women)
  • 38 km Kokalmus (open men/women)
  • 21 km Jatkonvaara (open men/women)
  • 10 km Huosius (open men/women)
  • 10 km Huosius (12-17-years-old boys/girls)

Over the Julma-Ölkky canyon lake in 2022 Kainuu Trail (photo: Hannu Huttu)

Read more: kainuutrail.fi

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