Mountains, Marshes and Mosquitoes – Arctic Sarek 2015 (part 6)

by backpackingbongos

Part one.

Part two.

Part three.

Part four.

Part five.

 

Day Six – 27th August

Day 6

It felt rather novel laying in the Hilleberg Enan listening to the sound of wind and rain. I felt warm and snug and it was an effort to remove myself from a warm down filled cocoon. We had pitched in an exposed spot the night before, the tents shrugging off the stiff breeze. We both emerged into a world transformed from the past five days. The blue skies had been replaced by sodden grey clouds sitting heavily on the surrounding peaks. Although much of the views were now hidden the change in weather gave more drama to the landscape.

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Rather than dropping down to the reindeer herders hut to pick up the path we simply climbed over a saddle behind a low rounded peak. On the horizon we could see the line of metal posts that we had followed on the route out. It gave us something to aim for whilst the clouds teased us with their presence, often reducing the view ahead.

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I was glad that we had previously done this route in good weather as it would have been tough not knowing the terrain, the highest parts were totally clagged in. We remembered to leave the line of posts at the correct place, just after a large snow bank blocked our descent route. The rain had made it slick and icy and we detoured around a significant portion of it. The way ahead was indistinct, we lost the sketchy path, doing our best to aim for the same spot where we had crossed the river a few days before.

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We managed to arrive at the exact spot, getting over the now faster flowing water with no difficulties. The next test was to cross further trackless ground to find the snow bridge over the next much wilder river. I was pleased that we navigated well, finding it on the first attempt. Once again it was slippery, patches of ice hidden amongst the snow. From a distance the snow looked like it was covered with blood but I think that it must have been some sort of algae.

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Once past the snow bridge we picked up the good path that took us all the way back to Parek. We passed a solo backpacker who was not too keen on stopping for a chat.

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After such an exposed walk it was good to see the Parek bog below us once again, although I was not that enthusiastic about having to walk it again the following day.

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We found a great little camping spot at the top of the tree line at around the 800 metre contour. Whilst pitching we were passed by a young German trio heading up into the mountains. With it being late afternoon and the weather closing in I’m not sure that they made a wise choice. Any camping spot up there would be exposed and the weather was forecast to get worse. We attempted to sit and cook outside but spots of rain saw us retiring early to our tents.

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It hammered it down all night and the wind blew in big gusts (according to Chrissie) but I managed to sleep through the worst of it.

 

Day seven – 28th August

Day 7

It was wet and windy the following morning, not the most ideal conditions in which to break camp. One of the nice things about the Enan tent is that it is easy to separate the inner from the outer and pack it away dry whilst undercover. Chrissie had to come to the rescue when a big gust of wind meant that I got my fly sheet tangled on the local vegetation. It was clear that it was going to be a damp sort of day.

As we descended through the forest the path was running with water, vegetation dripping on us we brushed past. There are numerous small streams unmarked on the map, most of which we had not even noticed a few days before. So much rain has fallen that even these meant wet feet when crossing, one proving tricky. My mind turned to the upcoming large river crossing between two lakes, it turned out that Chrissie was also thinking the same thing, although neither of us initially voiced this.

The first bit of fun came at a marshy section prior to the main river. On the way out this had been crossed by a wooden platform which was now detached and floating on a large flooded area. There was no way that we were able to get across. Luckily a detour around the edge of the marsh and a bash through some trees got us to the river itself.

It was huge! The wide and placid river we had crossed a few days before had burst its banks, the wooden triangles showing the way across now hidden. There was no way of knowing how deep it was without giving it a go. On the positive side it flows between two lakes so there was not much of a current, at the very worst we would have to swim!

Chrissie was very unhappy about the situation and was convinced we would both die. Although I was nervous about the whole thing I pretended that it was nothing to worry about. Hopefully that rubbed off. Anyway it’s not like we had much of an alternative!

A few minutes later we were stripped down to our underpants, wearing boots and waterproof tops and big rucksacks. With the rain pouring down we must have been a bit of a sight. The crossing took what felt like an eternity, the rocks being slippery and the cold water coming up to our waists most of the way across.

You have not lived until you have emerged from a freezing cold river, soaked from the waist down whilst heavy rain falls from a cloudy sky. Here are a couple of photos showing what we managed to cross. Can anyone tell which brand of trousers Chrissie is wearing in the photo below?

Trousers

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Rain fell for the rest of the morning as we crossed long sections of bog, thankfully protected by duckboards. The weather matched the mood of the landscape.

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Our goal for the day was the campsite where we spent the first night of the trip. This would then leave us with only a few kilometres the following day, so that we did not have to rush for the early afternoon bus. This time we were the first to arrive and had the pick of the best spots, although that still meant pitching on bare earth, the best way to get a filthy tent. It was another evening where the weather drove us inside early, some of the showers proving to be particularly enthusiastic.

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It was around dusk when the ‘fun’ started. Our tents got invaded throughout the night by an army of Arctic Voles. They were brazen little things, waltzing into an open porch in plain view. I actually had to smack one to make it run away! The end result by morning was a pair of stressed backpackers with chewed tents. Luckily they did not feel the need to chew the flysheets, they were more interested in joining us in our inner tents. I ended up with one small hole in my inner whilst Chrissie ended up with two much larger holes. One must have joined her during the night as she found a chewed bag inside the tent at the opposite side to the holes they had made.

 

Day eight – 29th August

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We were both a little battle weary by the time we packed our soaking wet tents into soaking wet packs, put on soaking wet waterproofs and set off down the trail to Kvikkjokk. The few kilometres passed quickly and we were back at the STF hostel with a couple of hours to spare. We picked up the bag of clean clothes we had stored there and paid about £5 each to use the shower. After wearing the same clothes for eight days it was nice to have something clean to wear.

The lunch at the hostel was good, setting us up for the long bus journey to Murjek, followed by the train to Luleå.

I have to say that I am totally smitten with the north, three journeys to Swedish Lapland and I am already planning the fourth. Where to go next is the question? The possibilities are endless.

If the demand is high enough I might do a short gear shakedown post, what worked and what didn’t, that sort of thing. On the other hand I might not.

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31 Responses to “Mountains, Marshes and Mosquitoes – Arctic Sarek 2015 (part 6)”

  1. A trip of two halves then, tremendous adventure though. I can see I need a trip up there. Now what to tell the family when I bog off and leave them to their own devices (although my son would love the trip – he’s well into his walking and backpacking now)

    • Andy could you not just slip out the back door late at night? Or say you are going to the shops and come back two weeks later saying that you could not find the fresh dill?

  2. That river looked so different when we first got to it that I initially didn’t recognise it as the crossing place! And you did convince me that there was nothing to worry about……talk about from one extreme to the other, though! 😀

  3. I think you need to go somewhere with lots of bears – take your mind off the mosquitoes. Great story James and the usual cracking images.

    • Funnily enough there are meant to be a few bears in the areas that we visited Warren. A real shame that we did not see them from a distance. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. Great read I was truly entertained 🙂 You could have a go for another breathtaking hike in Norway but more people around I would say.
    I put some links out here:
    Trollheimen, in Norway, http://www.trollshop.net/trolls/trollheimen/
    Innerdalen lies in Trollheimen: http://www.visitnorway.com/uk/product/?pid=238800
    Hanna
    PS At the right time of year, there are wooden bridges over the rivers, Chrissie 🙂 I do prefer wood instead of snow 🙂

    • Thanks for the links Hanna. Norway is definitely on my very long list of places to visit. Too many places and not enough time!

  5. Superb photos as ever James, accompanied by thoughtful words. I enjoyed reading all 6 parts. As a result of all this, the postscript is, as you’ve no doubt heard, me an ‘er have already booked our trip for next summer to take in the first, 7 day section of the Kungsleden. Roll on next August.

    • Thanks Geoff, good to hear that you enjoyed all 6 parts, took a while to get all that lot typed up. Good to hear that you are going up there next year with Chrissie. Hope that you are not doing it between 5th and 12 August as that is when the Fjällräven Classic is taking place, 2000ft walkers on that section of trail then!

  6. Excellent set of posts and photos, certainly there are so many options up north and you, like me, have barely touched the surface. I would suggest that west of Akkajaure is worth a look and if you really want a challenge take a look at the Nordlandsrutta (http://www.traildino.com/trace/continents-Europe/countries-Norway/trails-Nordlandsruta) it would seem to me that the Enan worked well in all the conditions you experienced. Is there a down side to the Enan?

    • Now that looks like a great trail Roger, something to have on the back burner. Have been thinking about one of the wilderness areas in the far north of Finland for an early September trip. I have a big plan bubbling away for a 500 mile walk next summer but still in the negotiation stage at work, so keeping it under my hat for now!

      Have really enjoyed using the Enan. If you like the Akto then you would love it. If you hate the Akto then you would hate it! Think of it as a very light 3 season Akto. Not had it in very strong winds yet but it coped well with heavy rain. One of the downsides is the dark colour, it gets warm inside very quick. I would not like to use it in the UK in mid winter when you could be in it for 16 hrs, this is due to the size but for the rest of the year it is superb. I’m a 2 skin tent fan though, not really into tarps etc……..

  7. That river crossing looks a bit dodgey! How are you finding the Enan? I’ve always used an Akto, but I have got seriously interested in the Enan.

  8. What a great trip! And quite a challenge! Thank you for your detailed write-up.

  9. Fantastic trip James, superb write up and excellent photos.

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed that, James. Well written and fabulous photos too.
    🙂

  11. Wow, not been reading much on the old blog-front, so caught up on your trip, in one sitting. Great trip by the sound of it. Photos support this also. Not sure about the mosquitoes though nor the river crossing at the end!! Will look at Chrissie’s version of it shortly ….
    John

  12. Great site, thanks for entertaining reads!

    I walked the part of Kungsleden bordering Sarek, 2 weeks earlier, and had my last coffee break before Kvikkjokk at the bridge where you had your last tent spot. Rodents were insane. I saw none whilst I was sitting down, but literally two steps after I had hoisted my pack, they swarmed from every hole in the river bank and checked for cracker crumbs. Bit scary.

    I assume that this site just gets so much traffic that voles and mice are conditioned to hikers. Same thing was happening in Saltoluokta and in other heavily used campgrounds. Really annoying as they keep you awake, even if your tent stays intact (mine did fortunately).

    • Hi Jk, good to hear that you enjoyed the site 🙂

      I wish that we had noticed the rodents before we had pitched. If the weather had been nicer we probably would have packed up and moved on! Next time that I visit the area I will make sure that I stick to little used spots away from the main trail!

      • Yep, too bad though that the stretch between Kvikkjokk and Pårte hut was really crappy with regards to tent spots. Of course if you get off the track you might find a nice spot, but generally it’s hard to find a patch of ground not covered by either rocks or bushes in this particular area.

        Same applies for areas around Pårte hut; there are small spots before and after the hut but they were all taken when I was passing through so I ended up paying for tent fee. Guess what – surprisingly little rodents, as the hut warden had a dog that apparently patrolled the small peninsula. Money well spent, even if the hut had no sauna…but it had a Swedish-language copy of “The Phantom” in the toilet stall!

      • A dog in my tent would have done the trick!

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