A day trip into the valley Vistasdalen

Day 45 – a ski tour into the valley Vistasdalen

Today Annika and I made a shorter ski tour into the valley Vistasdalen. Some sun, some clouds and a beautiful views on the snowy mountain scenery. 6 km into the valley, 7 km back, partly on snow mobile and ski trails, partly cross country on soft and loose snow through small birch forests, over bog, lakes and small frozen rivers. Four barking dogs, a snow grouse, a lonely cabin and many, many moose tracks.

 

From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise Fjällstation

August 23: Day one of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

It’s hardly imaginable that it was only two weeks ago, that Annika and me started our tour through the mountains of Swedish Lapland.

On Saturday, August 22 I shouldered my packed backpack and travelled from Skelleftehamn to Nikkaluokta, this time not by car but by bus and train: The bus to Skellefteå, the bus to Luleå, the train to Kiruna, the bus to Nikkaluokta. The journey took the whole day – hardly surprising, it’s more than 550 kilometres and travelling in Northern Sweden takes time.

The most popular way through the Swedish mountains is the kungsleden, the “King’s trail”. It’s not only possible to sleep in cabins, you even can buy food in some of them to keep your package small. We however preferred another route on the Norwegian side. There’re cabins, too, but you cannot buy food. That’s why we started with quite heavy backpacks that included food for more than a week. (It included my camera, three lenses and a tripod as well, but that’s another story …)

Sunday morning was a sunny morning and already very warm. Our destination today: The Kebnekaise Fjällstation, 19 km away. We started our trip right behind the cabins of Nikkaluokta and soon we left “civilisation” and were out in the beautiful Lappish nature.

But we were not alone. Some other hikers were on their way but most of all there were a lot of helicopters flying there and back. Soon we gave up counting them, they were too many. We were glad that the aerial traffic calmed down after a while.

Our first stop was the beginning of the lake Láddjujávri, quite popular for two reasons: Here you can take a boat over the lake to shorten your trip to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation and you can eat a reindeer burger at “Lap Dånalds”. We neither took the boat (too lazy) or a burger (too early), but we ate waffles with cloudberry jam. Tasty!

The day was really warm: 24 °C. You even may call it hot when you carry 20 kilos on your back. Beads of sweat ran down and before we ordered our waffles, I took a bath in the fresh and cool water of the lake.

After a quite long and relaxed rest we continued our tour. The path is extremely well marked and changes between rocky and wet parts. Almost all wet and muddy passages are bridged with spångar – wooden walkways – but there are exceptions …

After 6 km walk we came to the other pier. Time for a rest, some water and food and another bath. This part of the lake was much colder and the bath was merely a dip into the icy water.

What a nice resting place: Warm, quite and not too many mosquitoes. It was hard to get up and to continue, both because of the great weather and our heavy backpacks that felt quite uncomfortable on the very first day of our hiking trip. But finally we managed to pick ourselves up and continued.

After a while the first chain bridge came into view: The bridge over the Darfáljohka. That meant, it was less than two kilometres to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation where we would stay over night. But before that I saw the first patch of snow. As a snow lover I just had to take a picture of it even though I knew it wouldn’t be the last snow on our journey.

Finally we arrived at the mountain lodge which is quite huge. The Kebnekaise is the highest Swedish mountain and so the lodge is used by many people: Hikers, climbers, mountaineers, and fly-in tourists – remember the helicopters?

Annika invited me to dinner – thank you, Annika! – but sadly it was a bit disappointing. The restaurant changed the menu without letting us know in advance and the cod was so soaked in butter that it hardly had any own taste left. Anyway the starters were great!

But anyway – a really nice first day of our tour.

Kungsleden ski tour: From Nikkaluokta to Singi

It was 2005 when I was asked by C. from Switzerland, if I wanted to join him on a ski tour on the Kungsleden – the King’s trail. That’s how I came to my first ski tour in the mountains of Swedish Lapland. More tours followed, but sometimes it was hard to find a tour mate. Same thing this year; that’s why I decided to do my first ski tour on my own.

Kungsleden would be ideal for that, since there’s infrastructure as mountain huts and I won’t be alone. Good to know, since even twisting an ankle could be a serious problem in winter if no one’s around. I wanted to start 19 February, the day, when the huts open.

After a long trip I reached Nikkaluokta (many thanks to A. for the lift from Kiruna!) on the evening of the 17th I had one spare day in one of the cosy cabins of family Sarri. This place can be very cold and I had a look at the digital thermometer in the cabin: -44.8 °C minimum since the last reset – brr, that had been a cold day!

I climbed the small church hill and looked west. That’s were I’ll go the next day.

From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise Fjällstation

19 February · 19 km · Link to map

Time: 7:40, temperature -17 °C, weather: cloudy. Time to start the tour. I mount my skis, put the belt of the pulka (a sled for transportation) round my hips and after some gliding steps I see the first mark of the winter way to Kebnekaise.

It’s the only mark for a long time, the winter way to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation is not marked, neither on the map nor in real. But it’s easy to find the way, since many snowmobiles take this way and you only have to follow their tracks. Soon I’m at the place where the trail crosses the stream Čievrragorsa. In summer I used the chain bridge, In winter the snowmobile goes right over the frozen and snow covered stream. I can hear the sound of water running underneath the ice – a strange feeling.

After some kilometers I come to the lake Láddjujávri. Here you can eat waffles with cloudberries or burgers at “Lap Dånalds” and even take the boat over the lake to shorten your trip a bit. Well – in summer …

Hardly imaginable that I took a bath here six month ago on a hot summer day, when I was here with Annika. Not it’s winter, all is closed down, the boats lie on land and are covered with snow and I’m completely alone. Anyway it’s not too cold and I take a first rest on my tour. Without waffles, without a refreshing bath, but with the same beautiful view as in summer, since the sky starts to clear up and one mountain top after the other starts to get free from clouds, fogs and haze.

When I continue my tour over the ice of the frozen lake I soon can see the same mountain range as I did in summer. And it’s as beautiful as in summer, too.

After some kilometres the trail leaves the lake and continues through scattered birch forests and over frozen swamps, some of them covered with ice. The weather is fine and sky is of a clear blue with some clouds.

Another rest, this time on top of a rock, with hot tea, chocolate, and a bit of salami. What a beautiful day! I could sit here for hours, but I shouldn’t. I have to reach the huts of the Kebnekaise Fjällstation. I do reach them, but before that I have to work. The trail ascends and I have to make wide V-steps with my skis to be able to pull the pulka uphills. Finally I arrive. This mountain resort is quite huge, since Kebnekaise is the highest mountain in Sweden and very popular among hikers, skiers, and climbers. Anyway it is not opened yet beside of the cabin Jägarn (“the hunter”). Here I’ll stay overnight before I’ll continue to the Singistugorna the next day. Twice I climb on the small hill with the radio mast, first after sundown, then at half past six – where I see the first polar light of the tour.

From Kebnekaise Fjällstation to the Singistugorna

20 February · 14 km · Link to map

When I wake up sky is blue again and -17 °C. I take a short breakfast with muesli and prepare for leaving. That means: packing all things – doing the dishes – cleaning the kitchen and my bed room – checking that I have everything with me – putting on skis and pulka belt. Meanwhile the sky is overcast and it has started snowing. Weather can change quickly in the mountains.

After I have walked some kilometres it clears up a bit, just so much, that you can see some mountain tops shining through the hazy fog.

When I enter the narrow passage of the valley the mountain tops hide again, which is a pity. The mountains here are so beautiful.

There is not much snow in the mountains this winter. Parts of the marked winter way lead over stony passages with no snow at all. I have to go round these passages to avoid ruining my skis and pulka. Mostly I follow the snowmobile tracks, hoping that the locals know the best way.

This way leads over the frozen river, but sometimes it’s hard to see, since the snow under the overcast whitish-grey sky don’t show any contours. Wind increases, snow falls as well and the snow starts to drift in the increasing wind. In the narrow valley between the mountains Siŋŋičohhka and Liddubákti more snow lies on the ground which makes it easier to ski but worse to see.

That’s when you are really glad about the winter way marks: Red crosses set on long poles. Sadly plastic crosses are used nowadays. They are ugly, in my opinion harder to see and many of them are broken. But I’m glad to have them anyway. They do not only show you the way, they help you even in guessing whether it’s going up or down, which you cannot see, if visibility and sight are poor.

I always have compass and a good map with me on such tours. Anyway, if you cannot see any landmark these tools are of limited help if you do not count steps or know how fast you are on your skis. That’s when a GPS can be very handy. When I make another rest, longing for the mountain huts Singistugorna, the GPS revealed, that it’s only 970 meter to go. Easy!

Well, not really. The valley opens, wind increases and there are many rocks and snow-free parts on my way. I decide to circumnavigate a steeper passage and ski a bit to the right. To my big amazement I don’t go down but keep on level. Suddenly I feel part of the ground collapsing a bit and realise that I stand on the rim of a soft snow drift, about two meter high. It was absolutely impossible to see it. I’m lucky, that I didn’t fell down! I go back and circumnavigate my circumnavigation until I’m on the marked trail again. There I can see the cabins shining through the drifting and blowing snow. It takes some time to find a good way down to Singi but finally I arrive. Here the wind seems to be even stronger and the snow falls even more intense.

Stugvärd J. shows me my room, light fires in the ovens of the kitchen and my bed room and allows me to take my pulka inside since I’m the only guest. After doing some work he leaves and heads to his own cabin against hard wind and snow.

According to the forecast wind will increase even more and snow fall round 20 cm are expected. I’m glad, that I have time and plan to stay at least one other day in the Singistugorna, perhaps two.

The next article: Singi – from blizzard to clear sky >>