Freedom and Wonder of Fell Running in Lapland

Rolling fell trails on the course. Photo: Matt Mitchell

Text: Matt Mitchell

Fell running is a unique experience, even for runners. There is a sense of freedom and wonder amongst the rolling hills, with their deceptively broad and sweeping contours.

My first trail ultra marathon was on the Pallas-Hetta trail a few years ago, and it stole my heart. I’d never seen rolling, wild terrain like this before. Coming from Canada, I grew up with the Rocky mountains in my back yard, and while epic and memorable they are, I have a very different running in fells versus mountains.

I finally returned in 2018 to run the same Pallas-Hetta 55km route, excited to take in the experience (and the views) once again.

Photo: Matt Mitchell


The weather this Spring / Summer across Finland has been peculiar, unique even, and race weekend was no different. Friday, and the start of the 134km and 30km were unseasonably hot, reaching 29 degrees C. This lead to many DNFs due to dehydration. Saturday was a different story, much cooler and thunderstorms threatening.

At the start, you could feel the pressure in the air and storm clouds close enough to be a consideration for runners. It was quite warm, humid and muggy, despite being only around 21 degrees.

Perhaps the biggest difference for me was the lack of mosquitos. There were so few, I wasn’t sure I was in Lapland . The trail was extremely dry, parts that are typically swampy to your ankles, were barely damp, if not bone dry. These conditions made the track fast (at least for some runners like Ansio who blazed a course record by 9 minutes, besting the next closest 55km competitor by 30mins.) For me, the focus was hydration. I drank 50% more water than normal and felt ok throughout.

The trail was more technical than I remembered, rocky and undulating with short and long climbs. For a few kilometres after the checkpoint at 24km, the track became more run-able and it was easier to find a rhythm. I felt stronger throughout this mid-section of the course and chatted with many runners, all in good spirits, though some battling stomach/hydration issues, including those runners working through the 134km race

The views took over after that and during the later climbs made the experience invigorating while exhausting me…

In the end, the last 5k on the road was challenging, but I luckily caught up with some buddies in the final stages and we finished together, capping off a great day of running. NUTS put a great event, with an awesome vibe, and if you’re still wondering if the trip to Lapland was worth it, you crazy! See you next year! (Maybe for the long one!)

Matt Mitchell (839) finishing with friends. Photo: Juha Saastamoinen /

NUTS Ylläs Pallas official website

Overall race report on the event website