Archive for September 6th, 2015

September 6, 2015

Mountains, Marshes and Mosquitoes – Arctic Sarek 2015 (part 2)

by backpackingbongos

You can read part one here.

Day 2 – 23rd August

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We were late setting off walking, the travelling from the previous couple of days having taken its toll. Thankfully we found out that the mosquitoes were even more reluctant than us to get up in the mornings. There was always less of them first thing, although the midges were often keen to compete.

The one added bonus of our established campsite was a surprisingly clean privy, essential due to the volume of traffic the Kungsleden gets. I’m always happy for an extra bit of comfort when out in the hills.

Leaving the campsite the Kungsleden goes through another open area giving good views north to the Sarek mountains. I began looking out for a path on my left that would lead to Boarek (Parek). I did not want to miss it and spend the rest of the day crashing through deep bog and vegetation. I needn’t have worried as it was clearly signposted.

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At the junction of paths we came across a very heavily laden German hiker for the first time. We were to cross paths several times through the day during rest and lunch breaks. The first two times that we met the conversation was awkward and very stilted. For some reason it was really hard to communicate. It finally transpired that he thought that Chrissie and I were Swedish and he was doing his best to communicate with us in what he thought was our native tongue. We also thought that he was Swedish. There was even a brilliant moment when he was trying to learn from me the correct Swedish pronunciation of places on the map. I thought that he was trying to teach me! It turned out his English was absolutely perfect.

The path during the day was well-defined, I’m thankful that it was as it passed through thick forest, boulder fields, moorland and bog. The wettest areas were crossed by duckboard, a narrow strip of wood stretching into the distance.

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The path is marked on the map as running close to the lake Stuor Dahta, a section that I was looking forward to. On the ground it actually climbed a distance from it, obviously taking an easier line. I have to say that with the heat and humidity I was glad of an easy route through the forest.

The mosquitoes were in good health due to the heat of the day. It was a bad move wearing a black merino baselayer. They seem especially attracted to black and the open weave is perfect to bite through to get a good meal of my blood. This section was also popular with some very large horseflies that would doggedly follow us for miles. Occasionally we would manage to persuade them to bother the other person. They were so big that they sounded like bumble bees when they were flying.

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The route finally came out on a plateau at around the 700 metre contour. It is a beautiful place, mostly free from the densely packed birch trees that you get at lower altitudes. It is dotted with numerous lakes and large areas of marsh which were just beginning to take on an autumnal hue. The mountains of southern Sarek blocked the way ahead, rising to 2000 metres. The following day we would be crossing their shoulders, topping out at 1200 metres. I was looking forward to gaining more height to hopefully escape the heat and biting insects.

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We had planned to pass the Sami settlement of Parek and climb above the treeline to find a camp on the slope of the mountains. However we were struggling in the heat and decided that we would stop short and pitch next to a crystal clear lake, the mountains reflected in its surface.

The ground was less than ideal, both lumpy and rocky, but we both eventually found a spot each on which to pitch our Enans. Chrissie was close to the lake, whilst I found a spot slightly higher and with just a hint of a breeze. I was literally melting, my top crusted white with all the salt that I had sweated out. I therefore asked Chrissie to avert her gaze whilst I went skinny dipping in the lake. I managed to get my shoulders under the water and then immediately dashed out. As fitting of the Arctic the water was very cold.

Being pitched by 4pm we had plenty of time to enjoy our campsite. The whole experience however was marred somewhat by mosquitoes aiming for any exposed bit of skin. Although baking hot I once again had to resort to my windproof and head net.

I was urging the sun to hurry up and drop below the horizon so that it would become cool enough to get inside the sanctuary of my tent. Chrissie ended up deciding that it would be preferable to cook inside hers rather than being eaten. The sunset when it finally came was rather lovely.

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It was another night where I did not need any clothing other than the clean baselayer that I carry to sleep in. For the first few hours I lay half out of my sleeping bag, the outer door of the tent open to let some air in. I lay in bed watching the mosquitoes frantically trying to get to me through the mesh of the inner.