Day three – 26th August 2014
It took a while to get used to the roar of the nearby river during the night. At times I thought that it was the wind and found myself tensing up ready for it to hit the tent.
With the knowledge that I had two easy days it front of me I felt relaxed when I woke up, aware that there was no sense of urgency and need to rush. Sticking my head out of my shelter the first thing that I saw were a couple of reindeer on the bank above, their antlers silhouetted against the sky. I truly felt that I was somewhere special and far away from home.
The walk to the old Sami hut at Kisuriskatan was along a narrow but well defined path, this inspired confidence in me as I moved further away from civilisation and towards my first taste of wilderness. The reality is that this route into Sarek is one of the main highways, it gets a lot of foot traffic during the brief summer. This is probably due to it being the easiest way into the centre of the National Park. Despite this I would not see anyone else until the end of the day.
The Sami hut was a traditional affair, made out of wood and turf, the roof now mostly open to the elements. It would however make a reasonable lunch shelter during bad weather. Unfortunately previous visitors had felt the need to leave a couple of bags of lentils and mouldy onions, neither doing well whilst exposed to the elements. A lazy attempt to lighten a pack rather than an act of altruism.
Passing through a marshy section the path began to climb a little, the ground becoming stony. A herd of reindeer were close by watching me wearily, occasionally running away before deciding that I meant no harm and coming back again. I removed my pack and sat in the sun for a while and watched them. They are not the worlds most exotic animal and are in effect livestock, but added with the scenery I did have one of those National Geographic moments.
The day was dominated by the impressive mountain of Nijak which is 1922 metres tall, from some angles appearing as an impossible pyramid. From others it resembles Bowfell in the Lake District. Ahkka which I had passed the day before was still a huge presence behind me. The view of it was constantly changing and it is more of a mountain range rather than a singular peak.
Thankfully there were no challenging river crossings that day, my boots were kept on and I hopped across every one with totally dry feet. Even the main Nijakjagasj would have been possible to cross dry-shod if I had needed to.
As I started to look for a place to pitch I spotted the first people of the day, a couple had bagged a lovely spot above the river for their tent. I continued on for a while, for me wilderness etiquette means that you should not pitch near others unless invited. I soon found a wide open area of short-cropped vegetation surrounded by incredible views. The dry crispy ground did not hold my pegs very well and I had to resort to some hefty rocks on a couple of them.
I spent the evening watching several people climb up along the stream called Nijakvagge to the south of Nijak. I could not work out if they were camping but they spent an eternity milling about below the cliffs. Perhaps they had climbed to watch the sunset which was catching the surrounding mountains on fire. The setting sun was hidden from me but the colours were warm as the temperature dipped. A cold breeze was noticeable in my shelter without a solid inner. I was glad of my bivy that night.
Day four – 27th August 2014
I had been eyeing up the 1004 metre peak of Ruohtesvarasj on my map before leaving home. It sits on the watershed of two impressive valleys, rising one hundred metres above them. Laziness that morning meant that I continued on the path around it.
I had not expected the hut marked on the map next to a trio of lakes to be unlocked. It looked like that at some point the lock that held the hefty bar across the door had been broken. The location would put just about every bothy in the UK to shame, it is very special. However what I found inside was rather depressing. The space to the left of the door in the porch was piled high with rubbish. Much of this was empty packets of freeze dried food (Real Turmat being the most popular). It was a stinking fetid mess, obvious that passing folk thought that it was ok to add to the pile. Two metal barrels outside were also full and rusty fish cans lay discarded next to them. The mess inside I would estimate would fill ten black bin bags. With no motorised transport inside the National Park I don’t know who these people expect will clear up after them.
Seriously, who thinks that it is ok to walk a few days into the wilds and then dump their rubbish? I’m sure the same people would be horrified by anyone dropping litter, but tucking it out of the way in a hut is ok if no one spots them doing it? Strangely the sleeping section in the hut was swept and spotless.
Talking about litter I have another quick rant to get out of my system before we continue on our journey through Sarek. Throughout my walk along the paths of Sweden I came across various bits of tissue paper blowing in the wind (usually behind a boulder that I had chosen as a spot to sit down out of the wind). I did not examine all those bits of paper very closely but they were always clean and there were no sign of faeces nearby. I will therefore lay the blame squarely on the opposite sex. Just give yourself a shake after having a pee, if you feel the need to wipe then take the paper with you. Thanks.
I had a good old internal grumble as I headed away from the hut, feeling much better by the time it was out of sight. Seeing a large glacier curve its way down between two dark rocky peaks soon had me smiling again.
Being at an altitude of 900 metres meant that the vegetation was short and crispy, perfect for backpacking.
A section of marsh and the sound of a river signalled that I was approaching the glacial river of Smajllajahka, one which I was worried would be difficult to cross. The dry weather meant that I got across the marshy area without getting covered in muck. I was then faced with a huge gravel plain, the river split into several braids. There were three main channels to cross, the water milky with glacial sediment which meant that I could not see the riverbed. The first was crossed dry-shod with a combination of rock hopping and a bit of faffing. The second would have meant a boot full of water so they were removed and I changed into my Inov8 Recolite 190’s. I can tell you this, water in glacier fed rivers is cold. I may have made some funny noises whilst crossing.
After crossing the third channel I was very glad that it was sunny whilst I sat on a boulder to both dry and warm my insulted toes.
Although I had seen a few people since arriving in Sarek they had all been from a distance. Therefore I was quite pleased to see four figures approach me, even a misanthrope can be up for a chat after being alone for a few days. I was therefore rather disappointed when the family passed me with barely a grunt and without making eye contact. Maybe I need to conceal the wild-eyed look.
It is not very often when backpacking that you find ‘the’ pitch. I found it where the Mihkajahka meets the Smajllajahka, a more perfect spot I cannot imagine. Flat, dry, grassy, close to water and a view that makes you pinch yourself every few minutes. It had taken me four very easy days to get there, but with a light pack most fit backpackers could probably make the fifty kilometres in two. The Sarek superhighway makes getting into the centre of the park pretty easy. I still can’t get my head around why the place was not teeming with tents.
I think that a few photos can speak louder than my words can.
Unfortunately the going would not be quite as easy the following day.