Archive for October 5th, 2014

October 5, 2014

Into the wild – alone in Sarek and Padjelanta part three

by backpackingbongos

Day five – 28th August 2014

Day 5

There was the real temptation to stay put for a few days and return the way I had come. Campsites that good are few and far between and it would have been nice to climb some of the surrounding mountains. However with my pack beginning to reduce to something resembling a manageable weight I decided that I would continue onwards and see what else Sarek has to offer.

There is a hut with an emergency telephone close to the bridge over the Mihkajahka, although not designed for overnight stays it would be very welcome in bad weather. There is even a rather smelly toilet next door. Sadly despite a sign asking people to carry their rubbish out there were a few empty freeze-dried meal packets and gas bottles on the shelves. A real shame.

My route to the west looked much simpler on the map than it does on the ground (the beauty of a 1:100,000 map) and I quickly lost the path. Animal tracks tempted me to descend too far and I ended up floundering through bog, boulder and dwarf willow. A few hungry mosquitos added to the general cursing for an hour or so until I got back on track again.

Although not named as such I was at the headwaters of the famous Rapa valley and the scenery was sublime. I think that Sarek trip number three will involve a full traverse of this challenging valley.

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The trail when I found it was often faint and would disappear from time to time, especially through the areas of dwarf willow and bog. After the well trodden Ruohtesvagge I felt that I was getting into something resembling true wilderness.

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The Guohpervagge was the second river of the trip that involved an Arctic foot spar. The glacial river was narrower this time which meant that the current was a little stronger. In wet conditions it would probably be prudent to walk upstream to where the maps shows it braids into channels.

The path then changes direction, passing a couple of huts on the other side of the river which are possibly used by the Sami reindeer herders? As the watershed was reached the ground became much rockier and I had to pick my way carefully over moss covered boulders. It would be very hard going in the wet.

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On the map it is difficult to work out the exact position of the watershed. On the ground it was much easier, once water started flowing in a different direction I had crossed it. I had reached the Alggavagge valley which I would follow to the lake at its foot and exit Sarek National Park. I had been told that in the lower reaches decent camp sites could be difficult to find and that the dwarf willow could be a challenge. I soon came across a flat and very lush area of grass that was screaming out at me to pitch my shelter. There was even a bank giving protection from the wind. Although it had been another short day I succumbed, reasoning that it would only take me a couple of hours in the morning to get back on track.

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Day six – 29th August 2014

Day 6

It had clouded over during the night and it had felt like rain was in the air, I was therefore pleased to wake to a cloudy but dry morning. For once I got up early, keen to make up the distance from a lazy afternoon in camp.

I was keen to see a lemming so it was a bit sad that the first I would see had recently died on the path. I don’t really know anything about lemmings apart from a 1990’s video game where they jump off a cliff. The are cuter and furrier than I thought they would be.

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I made quick progress down the upper reaches of the valley. Even though the path was narrow it took me across the easiest ground as it wound its way through both pleasant grass and troublesome vegetation. The valley is much narrower than Ruohtesvagge, the peaks towering above. The long grass in the marshes had began to turn yellow which contrasted with the black rock of the mountains. Once again pictures are better than words.

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As I approached the eastern end of the lake Alggajavrre I started to contour up the hill in search of an easier way through the increasingly dense dwarf willow. I ended up picking up another narrow path that led me easily through the worst of it. it was a section that I had been dreading so was glad to get through without too much cursing. I was around eighty metres above the lake and eventually reached easy ground on a level with the Sami chapel, the path heading directly for it.

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This simple stone structure from the outside could have been a bothy lifted directly from the Scottish mountains. It initially looked like there had been a fire as the area around the window, door and ground was all blackened. Closer inspection showed that it was actually a tar like substance which had melted off of the roof. It was obviously not designed for weeks of summer weather where the temperature had often reached 30 celsius.

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Inside it was a very basic but charming chapel. I sat and chatted for a while with a solo German hiker who was also fulfilling a long time ambition to experience the wilds of Sarek.

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I rested and continued chatting for a good half hour, the surrounds of the chapel were a good place to linger. The sun had finally come out again and a cool gentle breeze blew patterns through the long golden grasses. It was all very idyllic.

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High up the Gainajjagasj would have been too difficult to cross. Therefore I descended to attempt it where it splits into channels before entering the Mielladno. It was the third and final time that I would need to remove my boots for a river crossing on the trip. The water was just as cold as on the previous two occasions.

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The Mielladno is a sizable river and there is a bridge marked on the map just to the north of where the Gainajjagasj enters it. I was therefore rather concerned to discover it was not there. In fact there was no sign that it had ever existed. After a bit of searching I finally found it about a kilometre downstream. I have to say that it is rather sloppy map making on Calazo’s behalf. It was clearly evident that the bridge has not just appeared in the last couple of years either, so no real excuse to get that wrong. The bridge itself was in a very sorry state, rusted and with a great heap of it now sitting on the bank of the river. Much of the hand rail was now missing, bits of string replacing it. It was a nervous backpacker who crossed the creaking and wobbly thing. I probably would have taken heed of the notice at either end if my Swedish was up to scratch.

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Crossing the river meant that I had now exited Sarek National Park and entered Padjelanta National Park. I was looking forward to seeing how they contrasted with each other.

The next section of the route was the one that had me most worried during the planning stage. I was now leaving the security of the long Sarek valleys and was about to head west across a high lake studded plateau. Thankfully my visions of being blasted by wind and rain whilst trying to navigate on a 1:100,000 map in thick mist did not happen. My climb that evening up to the 900 metre contour was in warm afternoon sunshine.

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As evening approached I began to worry that I would not find a suitable place to pitch my shelter. The ground was either bog, thick prickly vegetation or rock. I was therefore pleased to find a small patch of passable ground. My pegs just about held my shelter up as there was only a thin layer of dry crispy moss over gravel. In such an exposed spot I hoped that the wind would not pick up during the night.

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I went to bed a very happy man. I felt that it had been the best day of the trip so far. I had covered a reasonable distance and passed though a potentially tricky area with ease. Camped high with an uninterrupted view of the northern horizon I set my alarm for the middle of the night, I felt optimistic that I might see the northern lights. Before going to sleep I had a good look at my map, perhaps I would have an opportunity to climb a mountain the following day if the weather remained good?