SarekIt is September twelve as we leave the car at Suovra to start an eleven day hiking tour in Stora Sjöfallet en Sarek. For Peter and me our first hike above the arctic circle. It is an breathtaking moment, a dream can begin. Our backpack’s weigh 30 kilo’s or more, packed with food and fuel for thirteen days.
Rainbow in Stora Sjöfallet
The peaks we are looking at are already white, clearly autumn. Or is winter a bit early? Immediately I’m impressed with this timeless landscape. With our backs turned at the last signs off civilization we slowly move upward through the woods, to the adventure ahead. Above the low tree line, the first rainfall begins. “No guarantees” that is the most frequently used quote on this trip. And it certainly applies too the weather! After a beautiful rainbow in the afternoon, we quickly have to pitch our tent in a sudden storm. Tense moments when Peter has to sit inside the tent to support the poles and prevent them from breaking. Oscar was a little late putting his jacket on and is now very cold. He immediately crawls in his sleeping bag when it is possible. When I start cooking, the sound off the Dragonfly-stove can hardly be heard above the tremendous noise of the storm. Peter gets three cans of beer out of his Macpack during dinner. That he carried this with him al the way up the mountain!? We enjoy the beer, wish there was more and fore a moment forget the horrible weather outside. The storm eventually lasts for fifteen hours, with gale force 9. With bad equipment you can get in some serious trouble out here, that is obvious.
Finally, after the storm the weather gets betterStora Sjöfallet & Sarek
The next morning we offer resistance against the unpleasant experience of getting up with this bad weather for a long time. There is little we can do with these high winds. When we do finally find the courage to get out, we see some beautiful lenticular clouds. At about eleven, the wind allows us to pack the tent and we move on. The terrain consists of boulders, boulders and more boulders. Exhausting and difficult with this snow. When you have an accident out here you really are in a world of problems, because it is not possible to use a cell phone here. And both ‘civilization’ and the emergency phone are a couple of days hiking away. The low temperatures and hard wind aren’t making things any easier as well. The thermometer that is hanging on my backpack indicates that it is 37F. At night, the temperature drops to about 14F. The advantage is that there are no mosquito’s with these conditions! Our pace in this terrain and with these incredibly heavy backpacks is slow, but just being in this overwhelming landscape compensates for that. At the end of the day we pitch the tent at foot of a nameless mountain. It is very hard to find a nice and level spot between the rocks. We are near a nice little lake and that is a nice opportunity to bath after such a hard day of sweating. Oscar goes first and jumps in. I don’t follow that example and just wash a little. And even that is no joke and very cold, the water also is no more than 37 degrees Fahrenheit. But afterward I feel very clean and quickly seek the comfort of my sleeping bag to get warm again.
When we are on the move again the next morning, the little colour of this extraordinary landscape often fades in a veil of clouds and rain. The stones in the creeks we have to cross are covered by a thin layer of ice. I wear my platypus in my softshell on my body, to prevent the water from freezing. But every zip I take is ice cold. “Is this our summer holiday?”. Rough conditions, but what a great landscape!
Without markings, visibility and a trail we have to make good use of our compass, altimeter and map to orientate. But we nicely arrive at the only location were we can cross the river. Pants out, surf shoes on and into the cold water. In the late afternoon, the visibility improves at bit. We’re tired and have had enough boulders for today. We pitch the tent at the top of the Alep Gássavárásj, an insignificant 3438 feet high ‘mountain’, right beside a huge rock. It is already freezing again. From here I have an impressive view over this huge and desolate plateau. A falcon is the only sign of live I see up here and the atmosphere is ominous. A few minutes later the wind starts blowing again. The next morning everything is covert with snow.
Sarek is the latest great wilderness of Europe, is what the myth tells us. ‘Known as the finest wilderness in Europe, this rarely visited area is a haven for wildlife and an endurance test for even experienced hikers’ is written in the Lonely Planet. Well, a huge wilderness it is indeed. There is a definitely a feeling of being all alone out here and we love it. The terrain is slippery, snow covered and difficult sometimes. When I fall for the third time, I get angry and blame the lack of energy. A couple of candy bars are the solution. After the crossing of the Nijákjågåsj we are on a path for the first time. But it is covered by snow and difficult to find. Fortunately we don’t really need it. In the vicinity of a closed Sami cabin we pitch the yellow tent in this white landscape.
The next morning, the Mountain Tracker is covered by a layer of fresh snow. The winter seems to catch up with us here in Ruohtesvágge. When we start walking again, we see nothing but snow and clouds. Despite that, we make good progress today, mostly because there is no difference in height. And we have the wind in our back for a change. We needed this break, because we’re not nearly as far as we should be. At Smalia is the only bridge in this area, over the raging Smájllájåhkå river. And here also is the emergency phone. On the fifth day the snowfall stops and we can see Rapadalen for the first time. In this wide, U-shaped valley live the biggest moose in Europe. And we can finally see some trees again. The beautiful autumn colors are a welcome change after al the days of colorless snow and rocks. A group of reindeer seems to inspect our camping site and quickly disappears into the woods. The next day we have some serious climbing, at Spökstenen. Carefully we climb over the snow covered rocks and try not to see the abyss right of us. When we’re at the top, the sky opens up a bit and we see the sun for the first time in many days. When Oscar checks the surroundings with his binoculars, he spots some tents. It turns out that a group of Swedish mountain guides in trainings have their camp up here. They are just as surprised to people here as we are. One of them tells us the name of the climb we made this morning. A Sami woman was raped in Norway and when se got here, see threw the child that was conceived from the mountain and jumped after it herself. Ever since, her ghost is haunting passing hikers….
Super camping site
Rapadalen in autumn is excellent! With a great view, good food, a fire and some whisky we can really relax for the first time. No wind, snow or cold! Lovely. After breakfast we continue our journey to Aktse through the gorge. The dense vegetation is quite a change, but the snow is back again. “Guys, look moose!” We see two moose at a really short distance. What a huge, impressive animals! Soon after we discover a good camping site and decide to stay here. Every two days we are on cooking duty. Today it’s Peters turn for dinner. We usually start with some nuts and soup. Then a good and tasty meal and dessert afterward. In the evening, we have another storm. By now I’m used to the noise of the tent shaking in the wind and quickly fall a sleep. When the sun comes over the mountains the next morning and warms our yellow shelter, the storm has faded. It is a beautiful, sunny, warm (50F) and calm morning. What a contrast with last night! The warm autumn shades of the deep yellow colored birches look stunning in the low morning light. When we just started walking again with our soaked shoes, we meet a Norwegian nature photographer. We ask him about the route to Aktse. He tells us there is a ‘trail’, but the difficult rock terrain near the Skierffe could be a problem. “I heard it takes some people eight hours, others just two”, he says. Well, that is not what we want to hear! But that’s tomorrow, today we have to try to get to the Nammatj.
Autumn colours at the lake
Boulders and boats
“Hey, what’s that?!” Os say’s when he points at the riverside. What he sees moving is a ferret. When we try to see his hiding place, he takes of with a big fish in his mouth. We walk for another hour and then pitch the tent on the river bank. Strange to be on this sandy ground, after al those nights sleeping on rocks. “Just like Africa” Peter says. “Sure, especially the temperatures remind me of it…ha ha ha!!” Well, perhaps we can blame the whisky. A golden eagle that flies over attracts my attention. The full moon that slowly becomes visible enhances the mysterious ambience here that night. When we crawl out of our warm sleeping bags the next morning, it is sunny again. Through the dense vegetation and without a trail, we head toward the boulders at the Skierffe. When we get there, we see what the Norwegian mend. What a HUGE rocks, that totally deprive us of the view at a possible route. We decide to take our chances and go straight through the boulders. It’s a challenge, but with hardly any climbing in the wrong direction, it appears that it only took us 52 minutes. We read that the boats at Aktse would still go till the twentieth of September. It is September twenty, but the last boat left yesterday and Aktse seems desolated… “Shit, now what?” Suddenly we see a sign: ‘rowing boats’. A short while later, the three of us and our backpacks get on a boat that can be loaded to a maximum of 496 lbs. We are almost 220 lbs to heavy and the waves are big on the first part. Fortunately we’re wearing lifejackets when Oscar and Peter start the rowing trip. We’re still wet from the waves, when we reach the other shore after an hour. We don’t have to pitch the tent this time, because there is a little cabin we can use.
After a cold night, we start walking on the ‘Kungsleden’. We have to get used to this wide and well marked ‘Kings trail’. It is a big change. We don’t really like it, but our walking pace is much higher. Quickly we exchange the autumn colors of the woods for the grey tones above the tree line. After days in the level valley, this climb is exhausting. During a brake, we immediately have pull on our Gore-Tex because of extremely bad weather. I was hoping to have the third snow free day, but no such luck. “No guarantees”, how could I forget… In the Rittak cabin, we stop for a lunch break. We gladly light the wood stove in the cabin to get a bit warmer. When we finally reach Pårte, we stay in an empty mountain hut of the STF. We’re all really beat after 16 mi of walking. We only see two beds, but are with three persons. Bad luck for Peter, he not only has to cook tonight, but also has to sleep on the ground. We start the last day with some pancakes from Oscar and then head toward Kvikkjokk. We have had enough of this wide, boring and boulder filled trail. We just want a campsite with hot shower and go out for dinner tonight. When we reach Kvikkjokk after 10 mi, this small town also is almost abandoned. Unfortunately no pizza and beer tonight, but we do find a shower and the water is very hot!
In Sander's hiking guide ‘Trekking in Zweden’ from the Adventure series of Dominicus, you can find this and other beautiful hiking trips in Sweden. 12 daytrips and 15 multy-day trips are described. With popular hikes as Kungsleden or hikes in Jämtland, but also less know area’s as Sarek and Padjelanta.
for more information.