Posts tagged ‘Swedish Lapland’

October 17, 2014

Into the wild – alone in Sarek and Padjelanta part five

by backpackingbongos

Day nine – 1st September 2014

Day 9

Yet another day dawned clear and crisp, the sun soon drying the heavy condensation on my shelter. My destination for the morning was the security of the well-worn Padjelanta / Nordkalottleden trail. This would then give me an easy and navigation free walk back to the large lake of Akkajaure and the ferry back to Ritsem.

First I had to get off the mountain on which I was camped. With the poor detail and scale on my map I was unsure of the terrain and admit that I had spent part of the previous night worrying about the descent. It turned out to be relatively straight forward, easy to bypass any rocky sections.

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After a few days of rough ground underfoot it was good to be on a proper trail again, even the wooden duck boards were welcome. It’s good to stride out when previously you had to watch every step.

I arrived at the accommodation huts in Arasluokta desperate for a drink of something sweet and fizzy and some extra chocolate to boost my rations. The whole place was deserted and the huts locked, I deposited my considerable pile of rubbish and empty gas canister in the trash room and continued on my way.

The trail bypasses the main settlement, rising high above it and giving superb views across Virihaure, big enough to make you feel that you are on the coast.

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The weather during the rest of the day slowly changed, cloud building with a few spots of rain. The trail was almost deserted though, I passed only five people that afternoon.

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On the way to Laddejakka the path climbed onto a moorland plateau, the colours of Autumn really beginning to shine. A couple of weeks later and I can imagine that the whole of Lapland would have been spectacular.

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Descending to the north I could see the huts of Laddejakka nestling in the trees at the bottom of the valley. They had been my destination for the night but suddenly the thought of being indoors and amongst people was not very appealing. I had been on my own for far too long.

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Therefore instead I found a spot to pitch a few hundred metres before the bridge over the river. It was a real challenge to find anywhere to be honest, the vegetation was of the tent shredding variety. I was thankful to find a patch of bare earth.

That evening there was an unusual sound on the fly of the Wickiup, the soft pitter patter of drizzle. Outside it turned cold and grey, murk eventually masking the hills in the distance.

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Day Ten – 2nd September 2014

Day 10

The drizzle persisted throughout the night and into the next morning. After days of sunshine it was difficult to motivate myself to get going. However once up and outside the conditions were much better than they sounded under silnylon. Tents always exaggerate the sound of rain.

I passed the huts but did not stop to pop my head through the door. It all looked fairly quiet anyway apart from a tent pitched next to a sign saying that there is a fee for pitching.

It is a long and steep climb up the hillside above, here I passed the only person I would see for several hours. I was genuinely surprised at how quiet the Padjelanta trail was. It was only the 2nd September but it was clear that the season had definitely finished. When researching for the trip I discovered that many of the huts would shut at the end of that week. Even the boat to Ritsem would soon stop running until the following summer. The seasons are very short in the far north. I was of course very happy to have what is usually a busy trail all to myself.

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With drizzle on and off for much of the day the previously welcome duckboards became lethally slippery in the wet. I think they are called duckboards because you have to waddle to prevent an ankle breaking slip. I often found myself walking off to one side, their only value being for the many Lemmings that run underneath them.

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The bridge over the Vuojatadno is an imposing structure, I always enjoy the walk over the suspension bridges you get in the wilds of Sweden. The clanking and swaying are always slightly unnerving but in a good way.

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Soon after crossing the bridge I came across a rather strange sight considering I was more than a days walk from the nearest road. There was a caravan with a small generator chugging away next to it. An extravagantly moustached chap leant out of the window to spit as I passed and I tried to engage in conversation. He simply shut the window!

It was evident that they were replacing the bridge over the outflow from Sallohaure. A new half constructed metal suspension bridge standing next to the old wooden one which looks like it needs retiring.

The path to Kutjaure was a bit of a plod but the views back towards Sarek were magnificent, the tops of the peaks just touching the base of the clouds.

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I had no plans to stay at the STF hut at Kutjaure but went inside to check the ferry times with the hut host. He was a rather gruff chap who confirmed the times with me. I then asked if the hut marked further along the trail was unlocked and if I was ok to sleep there. His reply was that it is unlocked but it is for emergencies and not for sleeping. I nearly said something about staying there and not sleeping but thought better of it. I said my thanks and left.

I followed what I thought was the trail but half an hour later whilst splashing through bog I finally admitted to myself that I had lost it. My GPS confirmed that I was nearly a kilometre too far to the west. I cursed my lack of attention and spent a while crossing high vegetation to get back on track. All the while the wind was picking up and the skies darkening.

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After a long climb and on the edge of a plateau I came across a patch of flat grass. With heavy rain looking imminent I decided to stop and pitch for the night. I was glad that I had found somewhere comfortable and with great views for my final night in the wilds.

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Day eleven – 3rd September 2014

Day 11

Heavy rain came in the night, persistent with a strong wind. With no inner in the Wickiup I felt exposed to the elements and found a pool of water developing in a depression in the ground close to my head. Thankfully it was mild and I slept well, enjoying the sound of the rain.

Morning brought no relief from the weather, I was also just below the cloud base, banks of mist drifting past on the strong wind. There was no time to wait for the weather to clear as I had a ferry to catch in the early afternoon. To miss it would mean missing the only bus of the day from Ritsem to Gallivare the following morning. I felt a bit of pressure for the first time since starting out on the hike.

The high level walk along a string of lakes was not very enjoyable, the views non-existent, wind driven rain soaking me through. I was grateful to see the refuge hut appear through the mist. I opened it to find a Swedish couple sheltering from the rain. They made some room for me and shared the coffee they had just made. They were surprised to meet a person from the UK in the hills, most being from Germany. They even joked that there are more German language guidebooks on Lapland than Swedish ones.

I left them and continued my soggy march, it was a case of head down and get on with it. It took two hours at full throttle to get down into the shelter of the birch forest. There sitting on a soggy log under a dripping tree I managed my first call home since the start of the trek. It was good to hear my wife’s voice.

I arrived at the STF hut at Vajsaluokta with over an hour to spare before the ferry departed. The hut host welcomed me in like a long lost friend, gave me a drink and let me wait in the warm and dry kitchen. After wearing the same clothes for ten days I was very aware of my aroma as my body interacted with the warm air!

As the boat came into view the host walked down to the small pier with me so that she could welcome new visitors. I tried to board when it had been tied up but was met by a hostile skipper who told me to go away as they would not be sailing that night. The weather was too bad and he was cancelling the boat. I tried to ask some questions about what to do and he shouted at me to go away. With a sinking feeling in my stomach I followed his instructions and walked back to the hut with the host. She said that the boat had never been cancelled in the years she had been there. I started to panic that I would miss the only bus the following day.

The skipper later came up to the hut and apologised for his rudeness, he said that the weather was so bad on the lake there was a risk to the boat. He had been unable to land at Anonjalmme and had left several people waiting at the pier. He thought that it was unlikely he would be able to leave that evening and planned to go early the next morning. Apparently it was several years to the day when there had been a ‘tragedy’ with the same boat.

A couple of hours later I walked down to the lake and was surprised at how calm it was in this spot.

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I settled down for a night in the hut, unpacked and cooked my dinner. Then suddenly after dark and just as I was about to go to bed I was told that the boat was leaving in five minutes. I stuffed everything in my rucksack and legged it down to the boat by head torch. The engine was already running and the boat left as soon as I was onboard.

There then followed a surreal forty minute crossing in the dark, no lights inside or outside the boat. The skipper would flash a powerful torch every now and then to warn other boats. Finally as we neared Ritsem I was called onto the deck to hold the torch and direct the boat towards the darkened pier. I was pretty relieved to get onto dry land!

It was by then past 10.30pm and Ritsem was in darkness. I got a lift up to the STF huts and the reception was unlocked and I was booked into my own private room for the dorm rate, £10 also knocked off for helping the boat get in safely.

My trek was over, ending in less than relaxing circumstances. What was to me a big trekking adventure had been completed and I was thankfully still in one piece.

A trip of a lifetime. Until next time.

October 10, 2014

Into the wild – alone in Sarek and Padjelanta part four

by backpackingbongos

Day seven – 30th August 2014

Day 7

When I stuck my head out in the middle of the night the sky was bright with a million stars but sadly no Northern Lights. Although nearly September and sunset being at 9.00pm it was still not getting truly dark. Sunrise was also very early. It was weird to think that by the end of November the sun would set and not rise for a few weeks.

Words can’t properly describe the weather for that and the following day. The sky was blue, the air was crisp, visibility endless, the sun warm and the breeze was cool. It was technically my day off as I had built-in a couple of days slack into the schedule. With weather that good I decided that I would climb a big mountain.

Before setting off I had an alfresco breakfast, sitting with my top off and feeling the strong northern sun on my back was something I had not expected when visiting the Arctic.

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Daktejagasi had been reduced to a trickle of crystal clear water and I took the opportunity to fill up my water bottles. When it is hot and sunny I often dip my cap in streams to keep cool. In this instance the cold made me gasp.

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My objective for the day was the 1572 metre peak of Alatjahkka which was just beginning to peek its bald head above the intervening hills. With my 1:100,000 map giving virtually no details apart from contours I was unsure whether it would be easy to climb. This gave a feeling of uncertainty especially as there was a glacier marked on the map.

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I followed gentle contours up to the summit of an unnamed 1228 metre peak. The views as can be expected were glorious. Taking centre stage were the mountains of Sarek, rocky pyramids pointing into the clear blue sky. The intervening ground was a high plateau of lakes at around the 900 metre contour. An area perhaps worthy of leisurely exploration in the future. I tried to imagine what it would be like up there in the middle of winter in total darkness whilst Arctic storms blasted the plateaus. I could not believe my luck with the weather.

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I got my first proper look at Alatjahkka, a large dome of rock. From a distance it looked like it would be possible to climb up the middle of the glacier that was marked on the map. On the ground it appeared that the central section of the glacier had melted. I’m not sure if this is due to a general warming trend or simply due to the exceptionally dry and hot summer in Lapland this year.

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Approaching the glacial moraines I found a rare patch of grass so set about pitching my shelter. Once again it was difficult to peg properly and I even managed to damage a Tornado peg whilst bashing it in with a rock (credit to the peg as the first rock broke before it did). A couple of hefty boulders had to be deployed on a couple of the pegs. A trickle of clear water was collected from nearby so I then sat and had a hot lunch whilst pouring over the map.

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I had packed a silnylon day pack which I filled with spare clothes / torch etc and set off towards the foot of the glacier. I gave a large area of wet sand a detour as it wobbled alarmingly when I stepped on it. I had read that quicksand can often be found at the foot of glaciers. It was not a good place to get stuck!

I followed the stream that was emerging from the glacier, the water was dirty looking being full of sediment. I was glad that I was not reliant on it for my water supply.

The glacier itself was a thing of beauty and I walked right up to its edge, the ice a blue colour as it reflected the sky. There was the sound of water underneath it, cracks and fissures visible on its surface. It would have been fun to walk across but that would have been a stupid thing to do with no glacier experience and on my own.

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Instead I scrabbled up bare rock, boulders and gravel. Where I was walking should have been covered in tonnes of ice, instead it was as dry as a desert. The previous weight of the glacier has ground some rock into beautiful patterns and crushed others into dust. It was a rugged and ugly landscape.

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Once above the glacier I passed a deep blue lake, sheets of white ice still floating on its surface, a glacier running up the slopes beyond. A strange sight under the hot sun.

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The climb to the summit was steep and loose and I took my time to zig zag my way up. I found it difficult to tear my eyes away from the view.

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There was a cairn marking the summit that showed that others climb the mountain. I was absolutely elated especially as climbing a mountain was not part of my orignal plan. 1572 metres is not very tall compared to other mountain ranges but I was around two hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. The clarity of the air meant that the views were pretty much limitless. There was not a single man-made structure to be seen (apart from the cairn). Mountains spread as far as the eye could see, those to the west in Norway looked just as inviting as those in Sarek to the east.

I sat in the shelter of the cairn to have a snack and then realised that I had left my bag of food on my sleeping bag. I have to say that my stomach was a little disappointed after the physical effort of getting up there.

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I reversed my route feeling confident that it was safe as long as I took my time and was careful. Once the sun disappeared below the horizon the temperatures on the high plateau where I had camped dipped very quickly.

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Day eight – 31st August 2014

Day 8

I woke in the middle of the night for a call of nature. Sticking my head out of the Wickiup I saw a bright arc of white light in the sky above me. It was not moving and the horizon was blocked by the mountain I had climbed. It was like a sprinkling of stardust in the sky but separate from the stars themselves. A possibility that I had a brief glimpse of the Northern Lights?

It was the coldest night of the trip but not quite enough to give a frost on the shelter. I lay in my sleeping bag and waited for the sun to warm me up. It was another morning of incredible clarity in the air and after burning the day before I smothered my ears and face in factor fifty. The sun was strong enough to wander around camp barefoot and without a top and I relished another alfresco breakfast.

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The descent to the large lake called Alajavrre was easier than I had imagined and I was soon walking along its northern shore. Its waters looked very inviting for a dip and it was tempting to strip off and dive in. However a hand dipped into its crystal clear waters persuaded me otherwise. It was easy to forget I was in the Arctic.

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There is a locked Sami hut at the western end of the lake complete with a brightly painted outdoor loo which was also sadly locked. I can’t blame the owners though after witnessing the filthy habits of trekkers at other huts.

Over a small rise and an infant river was picked up. On the map it looked like it would be simple to follow its banks all the way to the huts at Aras. However there is marsh and dwarf willow marked on the map so I decided to keep to high ground. Instead I made a beeline to the small summit of Unna Liemak at 984 metres.

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I contoured its northern slopes which gave good views back to the lower slopes of the peak I had climbed the day before.

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I was now in a very different landscape from Sarek. Gone were the long dramatic valleys and soaring peaks. Instead I was in a land of rolling hills, lakes and high plateaus. Reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands I felt much more at home.

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With the weather remaining so good I decided to have one more high camp before joining the Padjelanta trail. I therefore decided to climb Stour Djidder and camp near its summit.

One thing you do not expect in Lapland is for streams to be dried up. It ended up taking ages to find a spot that was flat and dry with no tough vegetation and close to running water. Being above the massive lake of Virihaure it felt like I was wild camping on the west coast of Scotland. The similarity from my camp spot was striking.

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The sunset that evening was spectacular. Sadly it was the last one of the trip. The weather was about to take a turn for the worse.

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September 10, 2012

Above the Arctic Circle – trekking in Swedish Lapland pt2

by backpackingbongos

Day 3 – 16 Kilometres

I woke to the dispiriting sound of rain falling on my tent flysheet.  It was obvious that the blue skies of the previous evening had disappeared.  There is only one thing you can do when you wake to rain whilst wild camping, turn over and go back to sleep.  An hour later there was still the pitter patter sound and I stuck my head out of the tent.  It was only a light drizzle falling, as usual the weather sounds much worse when you are cocooned in nylon.

Low cloud was just beginning to dissipate from the high tops as I started to pack.  There was a distinct chill in the air, the temperature several degrees lower than the day before.  The landscape appeared bigger and less welcoming under a mantle of grey.  I set off along the narrow path hoping that the rain bands sweeping further up the valley would not come my way.

Passing to the south of Njuikkostakbakti I got a different perspective of its giant black cliffs, a really impressive piece of mountain architecture.

The path along the eastern shore of the long lake of Alisjavri was a joy to walk.  Often it would only reveal itself a few metres ahead as it wound its way across the rough landscape.  One minute it would pass through thickets of vegetation and boggy stream crossings, the next there would be rough boulder fields.  The scenery was simply outstanding, with parts of this walk having a Cairngorm like character.  It was in part familiar yet at the same time completely alien.  The scale of the place made it feel like you were not moving, it seemed to take an age to progress along the lake.  Using a map with a scale of 1:100,000 did not help matters in this respect.

On this side of the lake many fingers of land extend towards the water, making the shore appear much more complex than on the map.  The path would constantly climb up and down in an attempt to keep on a fairly straight course.  On one such rocky rise I caught my first glimpse of the STF huts at Alesjaure, right at the head of the lake.  They were on my original route and would be buzzing with activity despite their remote location.  From where I stood they may as well have been a million miles away, this part of Swedish Lapland was all mine.

The path then vanished into a boggy section, failing to materialise on the other side.  Thankfully the vegetation was short and progress was easy and I headed directly towards the Sami settlement of Alisjavri.

I passed the huge reindeer enclosure, the earth churned from countless hooves from when they are rounded up.  The settlement itself consisted of numerous wooden huts, complete with outhouse.  It was eerily deserted, the huts locked and shuttered, just a feint scent of wood smoke in the air.

I walked through the settlement picking up a narrow path above the highest hut.  Once again the path provided easy walking as I slowly gained height, aiming for a lake nestled in a low pass through the mountains.

The sun finally managed to put in an appearance, the temperature quickly rising.  This initially lifted my spirits but had an unfortunate side effect.  The mosquitos once again started to buzz around me and I was aware that they were starting to feast on me through my base layer.  Although I was now dripping with sweat I pulled on my pertex windshirt which provided an effective barrier.  The bites from the previous day were beginning to become sore and itchy and I did not want to add to them.  Despite the buzzing in my ear I could not help lingering, the views to the south as I came around the corner demanding my attention.

I passed the first people I had seen all day, three young lads sitting having a break in the sun.  I tried to engage them in conversation (being British I chose the weather as a topic) but it was a bit of a non-starter.  The ground became increasingly squelchy and the path less well defined.  The shelter marked on my map turned out to be an old Sami hut which looked like it had seen better days.  Still, I bet on a wet and windy day it would provide a welcome lunch spot.

The ground started to drop away slowly, the long empty valley of Visttasvaggi beginning to reveal itself, enclosed by towering peaks.  It was another stunning scene, the scale of which I have totally failed to capture in a photograph.  For that I highly recommend you walk to and stand at the head of the valley.  You will not be disappointed!

Just before the last steep descent into Visttasvaggi I passed another group of young people who really did not appear to be enjoying themselves.  Two of them were dressed in jeans and what could only be described as skater shoes, canvas with a flat sole.  Out of the four only one returned my greeting.  They were a bit of a strange sight in the middle of Swedish Lapland, nearly three days from a road.

I could hear the water long before I could see it, the path doubling back on itself, finally revealing a hidden gorge which is crossed by a suspension bridge.  A waterfall plunged into a deep blue pool, clear water then carving its way through the rocky depths.

I scrambled down towards the water, finding a comfy perch where I could make coffee and cook couscous for lunch.  I took off my shoes and socks and dipped my toes into the river.  Toes were as far it got, the water was simply too cold to put my whole foot in.  Ten minutes later the three lads who I had passed earlier crossed the bridge and came and sat down right next to me.  What was really odd was the fact that they still managed to shrug off my attempts at conversation.  They proceeded to get a huge Trangia stove out of an enormous pack and cooked lunch between them.  I found the whole sit down next to a stranger and then ignore them rather uncomfortable to be honest.  I quickly packed, said goodbye and left them to it.

The speed at which the weather changed surprised me.  It literally felt that one minute it was blue skies and sunshine and the next it was grey and drizzly.  I pulled on my waterproof and soon passed the jeans wearing group who had crossed the bridge whilst I was having lunch.  They appeared to be struggling a bit under their large packs, stopping to rest every couple of hundred metres or so.

The upper reaches of Visttasvaggi was simply extraordinary, a real timeless almost primeval landscape.  I half expected to see some prehistoric animals grazing alongside the river.  The path passed through areas of birch and thickets, open boggy areas crossed by the now familiar wooden walkways.  However far from the Kungsleden these were poorly maintained, sections missing and others rotting.

The valley simply got better and better, the peaks to my right rising almost to two thousand metres, vast walls of rock dominating.  It was hard to keep my eyes on the trail ahead of me to avoid tripping over.  The word awesome is probably vastly overused and I wish that I had a better alternative.

After crossing a large boulder field the valley opened out and I noticed that the vegetation under foot was much more tent friendly.  Looking at my map it became apparent that this would probably be my last chance to camp before reaching the STF Vistas hut.  I estimated that it would probably still be three hours away and it was already nearly six.  The sky to the north was darkening so I found the least prickly spot and pitched the Scarp1.  The mosquitos in the warm, humid and still air quickly sent me scurrying inside to unpack, the familiar sound of rain on flysheet soon following.  It was an enviable location for a wild camp and I can only just refrain myself from using the word awesome again.

I would love to say that I lay in my tent with the door open, staring up at the surrounding peaks.  The sad reality is that my doors were firmly sealed against numerous winged invaders.  Removing my baselayer I was in my own personal hell, my back and shoulders covered in numerous yellow and raised bites from the day before.  The temptation to strip the skin from my body through scratching hard to resist.

An hour later and I heard footsteps pass the tent, I peered out and watched the jeans clad group pass, looking damp in the drizzle.  I made dinner by boiling water and adding to an expensive bag of freeze-dried gloop.  Amazing that I was camping somewhere so beautiful yet I felt strangely dejected.

Day 4 – 18 kilometres

Drizzly rain continued through the night.  Just after dawn there was a huge crack like a gunshot followed by a crash, perhaps a rockfall or a chunk of glacier being overcome by gravity.  A grouse like bird chuckled and three winged creatures flew low over my tent, startling me.  I suddenly felt tiny, all alone in the vast landscape and my mind drifted towards bears.  When researching my trip I had read that there are meant to be bears in Visttasvaggi.  Any encounter is probably an impossibility but the thought of them played on my mind until I drifted off back to sleep.

The mountains were shrouded in mist when I finally got up, my waterproof providing armour from a few hardy mosquitos.  I was passed by a couple of backpackers who had camped half an hour back up the valley.  Yet again one of them was dressed in rather damp looking jeans, just the thought of denim related chaffing made me wince.

The rain soon stopped although the clouds on the hills were still boiling and churning away, occasionally revealing a glacier.

The going through the valley was surprisingly tough and I was glad that I had not attempted to get to the hut the previous evening.  The narrow twisting trail wound its way though boulder fields, open bog and thick areas of birch.  There were constant small ups and downs, roots and slippery mud making the walking slow and tiring.  The further down the valley I got the more the birch forest dominated until it ended up a muggy tangle of vegetation.  The atmosphere was thick and humid and the mosquitos hungry.

My initial glimpse of the peak Nallu lifted my spirits.  Firstly because it meant that the Vistas hut was near and secondly because it is just so damn impressive.  A tower of rock that would dominate the rest of the day.

The STF hut at Vistas provides a small amount of civilisation in the wild Visttasvaggi valley, thirty four kilometres from the road head at Nikkaluokta.  It would be a long walk through the endless mosquito infested birch forests to get here from that direction.  I had planned to buy some supplies as it has a small shop.  I started out with enough food to last five to six days but wanted to stock up with biscuits and noodles.  Unfortunately the warden had gone out for the day and the shop was locked.  They had left a few items in the porch along with an honesty box.  I enjoyed a sugar fix with a can of coke on the front steps but there was no food light enough to carry.  After quickly exploring the accommodation on offer (pretty good considering the remote location) and using the rubbish bin I shouldered my pack and headed towards the river.

A swaying suspension bridge crossed the now considerable river giving grand views back the way I had come, cloud beginning to lift from the mountain tops.

I passed the three lads from the day before who were taking down a rather large tent, this time I received a friendly wave.  I was now on a different trail that would eventually lead back to the Kungsleden nineteen kilometres away.  It was these nineteen kilometres that I was looking forward to the most on the entire trip.

A narrow path took me across flat open ground before starting a steady climb into Stuor Reaiddavaggi.  The view back down the valley was vast, the birch forest along the flat valley floor seemingly endless.

With a bit of height the true wonders of Stuor Reaiddavaggi began to reveal itself, the leading cast already hogging the limelight and taking centre stage.

A final glance back towards the Vistas hut, a familiar landscape was being left behind.

I was now entering a tolkienesque world of jagged peaks puncturing the sky, waterfalls, rocks and glaciers.  I wish that I had brought my iPod as Sigur Ros would have been a perfect soundtrack to accompany the visual feast.

The further I climbed into the valley the more the peak of Nallu began to dominate.  It is only 1585 metres high, much lower than many of the surrounding peaks.  What it lacks in stature it makes up in its rocky architecture, a jagged spire pointing into the sky.  It sort of reminded me of a Lapland version of Suilven as that spire is in fact the end of a ridge, from other viewpoints it is more of a whaleback mountain.  My camera barely got put back in its protective case for the rest of the afternoon.

Just past a long boggy section where electric green moss contrasted vividly with the many greys on offer, I found a dry spot to sit and eat a late lunch.  The three young lads had been tailing me for a couple of hours.  Once again they sat down next to me, this time engaging in some pleasant conversation.  They were from Germany and I think that they had just been a bit shy rather than standoffish.  I was by now a familiar figure who could be talked to!  They said that the jeans wearing group the day before had reached the hut totally exhausted just before dark.  They had a bus to catch meaning that they would need to walk the entire thirty four kilometres to the road in one day.  The chance of them staying on schedule were looking very slim.  The three German lads were hoping for some clear weather the following day as they planned to climb Nallu.  I crossed my fingers that they would get it, a great sounding expedition.

Continuing up the valley my surroundings got much starker, vegetation having to fight with bare rock which was starting to dominate.  The boulder fields were tiring and I was glad that I had decided not to trek in trailshoes.

A glacier hung high on the other side of the valley, most of it hidden in the clouds.  I heard a crack and looked up just in time to see a couple of large rocks bounce down the cliffs below.  I was walking through a constantly moving landscape.

The STF hut of Nallo soon came into view, sitting amongst a lunar landscape.  At over 900 metres the temperature had dropped significantly and although tired the cold kept me moving.

The hut sits on the other side of the river, with many braided channels at the crossing point.  It was wide but the easiest route was marked by cairns meaning that I got across with dry feet.  I left my pack outside the hut and went into the almost overwhelming heat inside.  It felt overly busy inside its dark confines, its occupants preparing their evening meals.  After four days on the trail without a wash or changing my clothes I was aware that I stank.  I found the warden and asked about good places nearby to camp as I decided I did not fancy staying the night.  She was exceptionally helpful and pointed me further up the valley.  She said that the nine people already in the hut was an August record for a night there.  With the weather dry I was glad to escape back to my own company for the night.

I climbed for ten minutes up the hill and found a relatively flat spot above the river.  There was a cold wind blowing but the view from my tent was exceptional, worth a bit of buffeting.  I managed a ‘Jetboil bath’ in my tent, a soapy j-cloth around my body with warm water.  It removed some of the stink building up.  The same clothes went back on though.  Unlike the night before I enjoyed the evening immensely, laying in my sleeping bag with the door open, drinking in the view.  Spirits were high and I was looking forward to the following day and the highest section of the trip.