This article is part of the series
“2020-02: Ski tour Jämtland I”.
Wednesday, 19 February – tenting in the kalfjäll
The night in the mountain cabin Vålåstugan was stormy, but in the morning the wind has calmed down. We leave Vålåstugan behind and head southeast.
Our way leads to Helags, the highest mountain in Jämtland. The Helags Mountain Station is about 23 km away, but we don’t have to go the whole way today since want to camp. The way leads up and there are less and less birch trees. Soon we are above the timberline in the kalfjäll – the bare mountains.
We take a break at Ljungan, one of Jämtlands emergency huts. For once it is not windy but it’s cozy to sit inside anyway.
Now we are already halfway to Helags. We decide to continue since the weather is supposed to get worse tomorrow. It would be nice to have just a short distance to the mountain station tomorrow. Ljungan lies in the valley of the river of the same name. Now we have to ski up again. We continue skiing the whole afternoon. On the one side I consider it quite exhausting, on the other side it’s so beautiful watching the light changing in the setting sun. White – yellow – orange – “peach” – purple and finally white again, but a cold one.
It’s already dark when we have found our campground for tonight. It is hardly protected again wind and storm but according to the weather forecast this night is supposed to be relatively calm.
If people ask me why I love winter tenting although it can be uncomfortable and sometimes even troublesome, have a look at the next photo. Can you imagine standing there? With an itching nose in the cold but the down parka keeps you warm? Looking at the milky way and zillions of stars? Hearing nothing than the crunch of snow underfoot and your own breath? Feeling how you calm down and find a deep satisfaction inside? That’s why I love winter tenting!
Thursday, 20 February – visiting Helags Fjällstation
Two o’clock. Suddenly we are all awake. It has got stormy again and tent was shaken by some stormy gusts. Is another storm approaching? No, soon it calms down again.
The next morning it is cloudy but calm. Through some gaps we can see the colours of the sunrise.
Some of the daily morning routines: melting snow – dissolving milk powder for the muesli – having breakfast – packing our things – dismantling the tent – putting on skis and the harnesses for the pulkas. It always takes a while, but we are not in a hurry, Helags is less than 7 km away. We leave at 9:40, ski to the winter trail that we left yesterday evening and follow the waymarks.
The wooden red crosses are our friends! Sometimes it seems quite boring following these waymarks, especially if you can see dozens of them standing in a straight line. But there’s a reason, that the distance between the red crosses is quite small. The weather can by very rough in the mountains and the visibility very poor. And the weather in the mountains can change very fast.
And so it happens to us. Within short the wind increases more and more. First it’s easy to continue but soon we are skiing in full storm. You hardly see more than the next red cross while the storm tries to knock you over. I manage to take some last snapshots with my smartphone.
Then I have to stop taking pictures because it would be too dangerous. We could loose each other or I could loose a mitten and get frostbite. There is hardly anything to see anyway because the visibility is extremely poor. I can spot a Arne, who is in the lead, my skis and sometimes the next red cross, that’s all. It’s very demanding to ski in storm, both physically and mentally and I’m really glad when we finally arrive at Helags. How long it took? I don’t know. I loose any sense of time in this kind of weather.
There are people at the Helags Fjällstation. Some craftsmen fixing things and two women working for the STF preparing Helags for the opening in eight days. After a bit of confusion we are shown the way to the emergency shelter, where we push the pulkas and ourselves inside. Arrived and protected from the storm.
We are safe and sound but disappointed. The cabin has eight beds and even electricity but no possibility to cook. I talk to one of the STF people who reacts with a mixture of confusion and ignorance. The only answer I get: it’s pre season and everything is closed. I tell them, that the mountain cabins as Lunndörren and Vålåstugan do provide everything even off-season but I get the same answer again. Quite disappointing.
Two other skiers have arrived. They manage to persuade one of the women to open another cabin with a kitchen until tomorrow. But the chaos continues. First Arne is locked in while using the indoor toilet in the main building and all STF people have left by snowmobile. Then they arrive again and want to lock the cabin with the kitchen already now, while we’re using it.
I never felt more unwelcome in Sweden since I moved here ten years ago. Actually we wanted to take a day off at Helags but it’s clear that this is not the place to be. We will leave tomorrow morning.
Friday, 21 February – finding shelter in Hulke
The next morning the storm has calmed down a bit and it promises to be a sunny day.
The kitchen is still open. Jonas fetches snow to melt on the electric(!) stove.
The utedass, the outdoor toilet is more than 100 m away from our cabin and lacks waymarks. I wouldn’t have dared to use it in full storm. But now I do. Things to bring: A warm jacket and a head lamp.
Although the storm subsided, it is still windy and the blown snow glistens in the sun.
Our departure is delayed a bit: A mitten I accidentally have dropped is blown away 20 metres. Jonas can fetch it before it is blown away even further. I pull on the glove and we can start.
The Helags massif is incredible beautiful and only reluctantly I break up. I would have loved a resting day but as I mentioned above not here.
Easily we continue. We have the wind behind us. First we slide down, then we have to cross the saddle between the mountains Miesehketjahke and Soenehketjärra.
From there we can spot the emergency hut Hulke. We only have to slide down the mountain saddle and we are there. Quickly we decide to stay here for the night because again hard winds are excepted for the night.
Most emergency huts have signs that restrict overnight stays to emergency situations. Not Hulke, so we feel safe to use it. Of course the firewood stays untouched. It is provided to save lives, not to increase comfort. We use our camping stove to cook and our warm clothes and sleeping bags to stay warm.
It doesn’t take long and it’s stormy again. I have to go to the utedass. After I have finished I open the door of the utedass from the inside. It is blown open so violently that the handle pulls me out of the building before I realise what happened. Jonas happens the same with the hut. From now on we open the doors only a bit and squeeze ourselves through the gap. And I wear ski goggles outside. My Nikon cameras dislike this weather and I only make some snapshots with my smartphone.
We sit on our inflated camping mats on top of the wooden benches. Mukluk boots warm our feet, warm jackets our body. After dinner we lie down. Jonas and I on a bench, Arne on the floor between us. Storm squalls howl in the stovepipe and make the hut vibrate. Will the stormy weather stop one day or will it continue forever?
Continue with part 3 >