Canoe camping for a week on Isteren i Norway

I had planned to do to a week-long trip in mid August, but I had been going back and forth a lot about where to go – hiking in Hardagervidda or canoeing in or near Femundsmarka.

Eventually I decided to do a week long paddling trip on Isteren, a lake near Femundsmarka National Park in Norway. My plan was to park at Glotbergen, in the southern end of the lake, and then paddle north and just see where I’d end up, without any specific goals.

Day 1 – Saturday

On Friday evening I packed everything after I got off from work. I packed all the gear in my backpack, and had a separate heavy duty drybag for my food. Since I was going canoe camping, I had a lot of heavier foods, like portion packed orange juice boxes, canned chicken etc.

Earlier that week I had also purchased a Bergans Ally canoe. A foldable canoe that fits in the trunk of a car, and is made of a frame of aluminum stays, covered with a durable rubber hull. I had made a test set-up in the backyard, but I hadn’t paddled it yet.

Glotbergen was a 700km drive from home, so I wanted to start early. I set my alarm clock to 03.45, and by 04.05 I was on my way. This would be my first longer canoe camping trip, and my first week long trip alone. I was excited.

I arrived at Glotbergen at 13.00, where I paid for parking and for a one week fishing permit. The drive up to Glotbergen was pretty dull, and I can’t wait for self driving cars to be the standard.

 

I assembled the canoe in 30 minutes. The first time I had tried it, it had taken over an hour. I loaded the canoe with the gear in the front, strapped it to the canoe, and set off. I was finally on my way.

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Water levels where low, and I soon hit a rock with the canoe. I could see traces of aluminum on the rock, which showed that I wasn’t the first one hitting the rock. This would be something I would see on rocks for the rest of the week.

Since I had been up very early, and hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, I decided to set up camp as soon as I found a nice spot. I paddled for 1,5km when I spotted a nice sandy beach, where I landed the canoe. There where traces of camp fires and make shift fire rings all over the place. For now there was a fire ban, but fortunately, that didn’t include camp stoves.

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I hiked away from the beach, and found a nice place to set up my tent. I carried my gear and the canoe there, at set up camp. The rain came soon after I had my tent up and I laid in the tent, listening to the sound of the raindrops hitting the fly. The rain soon stopped though and the clouds scattered, and the rest of the evening I tried fishing for a while, and just relaxed in camp. I went to bed early, happy to be out in the wild.

Day 2 – Sunday

When I woke up, the weather was worse than the day before. Skies where gray, and it was windy. The weather report showed winds of up to 7 mps, and of course it was head wind. My goal was to paddle to Steinsundsholmene, a group of small islands, a mere 3 km north of my camp, and after breakfast I set off.

Initially I had loved the portability and pack-ability of the canoe. The low water levels meant that most shores where covered with large sharp boulders, and the canoe had to be carried up on land so that the waves wouldn’t bash the canoe against the rocks. But now I learned about the downsides of this type of canoe. The softness of the hull makes it pretty slow in the water, and the light weight and construction makes it float very high up in the water. This makes it easy for the wind to grab a hold of it, to turn it around. Every gust tried to swing the canoe around, and I had to struggle like crazy just to keep is straight in the water. It was a really slow going, and I got in a pretty bad mood, and cursed my decision to buy it.

Eventually I gave up, took it to shore and decided to portage it north instead. But this proved to be difficult too, as the terrain of large boulders made it hard to pass with the canoe. I sat on a cape for a while, reviewing my options, and wondered why the hell I hadn’t gone hiking in Hardangervidda instead. I decided to put the canoe back in the water and just paddle like a maniac.

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I eventually reached the islands, and set up camp on a cape in the mainland. I wanted to hike up to the nearby mountaintop Bottölen the next day.

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The campsite was beautiful, and had a great place for my tent. I fished for a while, and soon a big Bass bit my little spinner. I’m not really a fisher man, so it was the biggest Bass I had ever caught (which doesn’t say much really). As soon as I got it close to shore it got off my hook though, and swam away.

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The winds had calmed down and the clouds had scettered, and by the evening the weather was really beautiful. I put the canoe back in the water and paddled around for a while. Paddling in calm waters is really nice and relaxing, and now I was glad to have chosen a canoe camping trip. I put my hammock up, and had a nice calm evening.

Day 3 – Monday

I had decided to stay two nights at my campsite, since it was a great location, and also because I wanted to do a day hike to the nearest mountain top – Bottölen. Bottölen is only 905 meters above sea level, but it’s still above the treeline.

After having breakfast I packed my backpack with food, water and cooking utensils, took my map, set a course on my compass and headed out. Just as I left three canoes full of people passed my camp.

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I bushwhacked through the forest in a steady uphill. The top was only a little more than 2km from camp, but it was still enough for me to break out a sweat. There was a small mire between my camp and the top, and I hiked south of it, to avoid getting my feet wet.

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Soon enough I reached the treeline, and despite the pretty low altitude, I had a nice view over the surrounding area. I kept hiking up, and eventually reached the top. The view was great, but I had to change my plans about dinner on the top. The winds blew too hard, so after a few photos and admiring the view, I started to hike back down, to make lunch at a more sheltered place. I had lunch at the mountain side, and then continued back to my camp.

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The rest of the day I just relaxed in camp, hung out in the hammock, fished and paddled around the area. Paddling the canoe in calm waters is really nice. The campsite was great, and I really enjoyed staying there.

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Day 4 – Tuesday

The next day I had decided to keep paddling north. I didn’t have any specific goal in mind, but more or less planned to paddle until I found a nice place and then stay there. There where almost no wind when I set out, and the lake was still as a black mirror. It was a really nice way to start the morning. I paddled slowly north, and really enjoyed the morning. After a while I stopped at a cove, heated up some water and washed my t-shirt and underwear in a zip-lock bag, before I continued again.

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I reached Nysandvika, where there were a lot of tents and canoes. I saw a family take down two HMG Ultamids. It was the first time I’ve seen anyone else use cottage gear in real life.

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I paddled around the cape and then came ashore at the northern side of Nysandvika. The cape had beautiful beaches with white sand, but the water was cold. I took a short break, had some coffee and then set off again.

I followed the shoreline up to the cove Langvika, where I stopped again at a small beach. There where a small hut nearby, and no place for a tent, so after reviewing the map a bit I continued. I had decided to explore the island just west of Langvika and check for descent camp sites.

I paddled to the westernmost side if the island, and found a great place for my tent. It was only 14.00, but I decided to stay there. Signs of previous campers where everywhere around that part of the island. This was great, and I decided that I would stay here for two nights. I had my camp, and my hammock up, and explored the rest of the island on foot.

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The island wasn’t large, but on western side there where good places for tents on both the northern and the southern end. There where fire rings on both sides, and flat grounds for tents. The rest of the island was covered in blueberry- and lingonberry bushes. It had been a great day of paddling with perfect weather, and the little over 5 km of paddling had been easy.

Day 5 – Wednesday

I had planned to keep my camp on the island, and then paddle north with just my food and cooking utensils this day. But I woke up to a windy cloudy day. I paddled almost 1 km north in the morning, just to try the waters, and had a hard time paddling back to the island. I decided to stay there instead, reading, watching Netflix and foraging.

I filled my foldable Kuksa with lingonberries and blueberries, and then went to the shore to do some fishing. I had tried to catch a fish now and then during the entire trip, but it’s not such a big interest of mine. But now I got one, after just a few throws. It was another bass, and the largest one I’ve seen. I was happy to have caught one, since I was really looking forward to spice up the diet with some fresh fish.

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I filed it on a rock and then fried it in tons of butter and olive oil, sprinkled with citrus pepper. It tasted great, and I had the cup of blueberries and lingonberries as desert.

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The rest of the day carried on in a slow manner. Rain came and went, and I spent most of the time reading the book “Idag ska vi inte dö” (We shall not die today), a documentary about the journalist Magnus Falkehed and photographer Niclas Hammarström who got kidnapped in Syria in 2013. The whole trip was just loosely planned, and I liked the calm serenity of camp life.

I went through my plans for the end of the trip. I was going to paddle back to my first campsite, 1 km from the parking lot on Thursday, and then paddle the last stretch on Friday morning. The weather report didn’t look too good though, as the winds for the rest of the week where supposed to be headwinds of 7-10 meters per second (15-22 mph).

Day 6 – Thursday

I woke up on Thursday morning, and just as the weather report had said, the wind blew hard. I knew I would have a hard day of paddling ahead of me. 7km in hard head wind. I had planned a route where I would paddle from island to island, cape to cape, to get protection from the winds and a chance for some rest. Just 30 seconds of rest in the open water could mean being pushed back really far.

I left the island and paddled alongside it, protected from the winds. But as soon as I left it for open waters the struggle was on. The waves had white foam on them, and I had to work really hard to get to the closest island. Waves where up to the gunwales of the canoe, but the waves weren’t the issue. The gusts where. I had to struggle hard to keep the canoe straight. No J-stroke could compensate the wind, that felt like it came from everywhere. I had to switch sides with the paddle all the time.

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I reached one of the closest islands, rested a while for it and looked towards Nysandvika, my next objective. The gusts felt like they where trying to knock me over.

I tried to paddle straight towards Nysandvika, but the wind pushed me more and more east, towards the shore. Eventually I reached Nysandvika, and landed on the northern shore. Today there was only one tent there, with two people and a canoe.

I carried my gear and the canoe over to the southern side. Waters where choppy, to say the least. I thought about calling it quits, stay there and then try to continue the next day. But the weather wasn’t going to improve, so I decided to just give it a go, and hope for the best.

I set off again, but the wind blew harder on this side of Nysandvika. I struggled a lot. On one section I could see the same rock next to me for more than 10 minutes while I paddled like crazy without going forward.

I reached Steinsundholmene where I had a short relive in the wind, before I continued. The closer I got to the beach near Sundholmen, where I would camp, the harder it was to paddle. The wind threw the canoe up against the rocky shore, and pinned it between two rocks, and the waves continued to bash it against the boulders. I kept going for little while more, but halv a km from the camp site I threw in the towel and portaged the last stretch. Winds would increase during the night, and the rain had been pouring down, so I set up the tent immediately, took out food that didn’t need any cooking and laid in my tent for the rest of the evening. There had been a lot of cursing this day, and I was really tired.

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The weather report showed a break in the winds between 04.00-07.00, where winds would go down to 1-2 meters per second. I set the alarm clock to 05.00, and prepared to go to sleep early.

Day 7 – Friday

Trying to go to sleep early didn’t work. I tossed and turned throughout the night. The winds got worse, and relentlessly shocked the tent. At around 02.00 it finally calmed down. I had dozed off for about one and a half hour, but now I couldn’t get back to sleep. Eventually I gave up. I always have trouble sleeping when I’ve set the alarm clock very early, and little after 04.00 I started to pack up my gear. The canoe had been upside down, but the winds had knocked it over, and the interior was filled with water and debris.

The weather was calm, with only a slight wind. Sun wouldn’t be up until 05.20, but it was still bright enough to paddle at 04.40, when I left the beach, and my last campsite. It was nice to paddle in calm waters, with silent J-strokes and the red stripes in the horizon, showing that the sun would soon be up.

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I paddled up to the parking lot, unpacked the canoe and disassembled it. A 5-point wash with wet wipes and a change of clothes, and I felt like a new man. 9 hours later I was back home.

I’ve had ups and downs this trip. It was nice to be out for a week, and not really have any plans but to just wing it. But I didn’t meet anyone for a week, and it got a bit lonely in the end.

In retrospect I don’t think I’ll do a canoe trip like this on such a large lake again. The nearby mountains and the open lake makes it very windy, and this canoe isn’t really meant for that. With the canoe a lot of nice desolate places nearby opens up too, so I can get a wilderness feel without having to drive 9 hours. Next year I’ll probably hike in the mountains instead, and do canoe trips on the smaller, narrower lakes closer to home.

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Tresticklan – first trip of 2018

For a few years now I’ve had a tradition to go on a hiking-/ camping trip the first week of the year.

This time I had planned to do a two-night trip, and I really wanted to go to Tresticklan National Park as I really like the place, and hadn’t been there since May 2016.

Tresticklan is a ~29km2 National Park in Dalsland, just at the border of Norway. Together with Lundsneset nature reserve on the Norwegian side you have 55km2 of protected lands. The area consists of rift valleys, with vast pine forests, small lakes and ponds and bogs.

I have been in Tresticklan and Lundsneset two times before, and if you like solitude this is the place for you. It’s far away from any larger towns. The closest town is Ed, 15 km south of Tresticklan, with just under 3000 inhabitants. Apart from the occasional airplane passing by, you don’t hear any man made sounds. Being far away from towns also means that there aren’t that many visitors, at least in my experience.

I had taken a few days off from work, left the youngest kids at my parents and in laws so that my wife wouldn’t be left alone with the young tornadoes but also get some lone time, and left home early on Thursday morning.

The weather changed between rain, sleet and snow, and it was a 6 hour drive to get there. I can’t say I enjoy having to drive so far alone, and I can’t wait for self driving cars to be common (and affordable).

I got up to Tresticklan around 14.00. There was a small uphill from the main road to the road leading to the parking lot. The uphill was covered in ice, and my car slid down on the main road again. But with enough gas, and having the left wheels a bit in the ditch, I could get enough grip to get up the hill. The road wasn’t plowed though, and I almost ended up in the ditch a couple of times, even though I drove carefully.

When I came to the parking lot my car was the only one there. It was cloudy and snowing, and there was quite a lot of snow on the ground. The temperature was just below freezing, so the snow was quite wet. I put on my rain gear before I left the parking lot.

I knew from my earlier trips that it’s hard to find campsites for tents here. The rift valleys makes it hard to find level ground, and when you do, the ground is often to shallow to peg a tent, with rocks just underneith.

I hiked the trail west towards Lundsneset, and then turned south on western end of the circle trail in the middle of the park. I had camped here during my last trip, but I couldn’t find the location in the snow. I lost track of the trail several times, since it was covered in snow, and wet snow had stuck to the trees, covering the trail markings.

It was getting dark fast, and eventually I felt that I couldn’t keep hiking any longer, and had to set up camp somewhere. I left the trail and hiked straight up a hill, and found what looked like a somewhat flat place, with lots of undergrowth. I tried to compress the snow and the undergrowth to make it somewhat level, and set up the tent. It wasn’t level by any means. I had to put my sleeping pad in the wrong (shorter) direction in the tent, and stow my backpack and clothes under one side of the sleeping pad to make it level enough not to roll off it.

There was a heavy snow fall with wet snow, and I started to make dinner. I’ve seen one of the people I follow on Instagram bring premade rice porridge on her trips, and I had to try it, and brought it with me this time. I was a bit tired since I had barely slept the night before, and made just rice porridge and glüewine for dinner.

I had brought a twig stove with me. There is a fire ban in the park, but I had asked the authorities about it before the trip, and a twig stove was ok. But you’re not allowed to break any branches from neither living nor dead trees, which left me with already fallen twigs laying on the ground. Since everything was covered in wet snow I didn’t even bother. I used my gas canister stove, but since I had brought cheap gas it didn’t work well in the cold, and I had to hold the canister in my hands to keep it warm enough to give a flame. Next time I’ll be smart enough to bring either Primus Winter gas or my Multifuel stove.

Bringing rice porridge is far from UL, but it was super delicious. After dinner I crawled into my sleeping bag and watched Bright on Netflix. I didn’t sleep well, as the sleeping pad still wasn’t level, and it was pretty uncomfortable. I also think I might have set up camp on, or near someone’s toilet. There was a slight smell of… poop. But I was too tired and it was too dark and snowy outside for me to wanna move camp.

Next morning I tried to find the source of the smell after I broke camp, but didn’t find it. I was prepared for a nasty surprise under my floor, but fortunately it was clean.

After breakfast I kept hiking south. In the southernmost part of the circle trail there is another trail that leads down to the southern end of Tresticklan. I hadn’t been in the southern parts before, and decided to go as far south as I could before 13.00, and then turn back. I had planned to get back home early on Saturday, and wanted the next camp to be pretty close to the parking lot.

It was a lot of snow here, and sometimes it was knee deep. It was hard to follow the “trail” and I lost track of it several times.

At around 12.30 I made lunch at the shore of the lake Stora Pylsan. I took my time, enjoyed the solitude, and then turned back north. The forest was beautiful, with snow covered trees, freshly formed ice on the lakes and the tranquility you get when no other humans are around. I walked around with a big smile on my face, and really enjoyed my time there.

When I came back to the circle trail I followed my foot steps back towards the trail to Lundsneset, and then back towards the parking lot. When I came to a section between the lakes Lilla- and Stora Tresticklan i left the trail and hiked up a hill. There I found a perfect campsite, and was able to make a perfect pitch of my tent (unlike the night before).

It had been getting colder during the day, and I put on my fleece, down jacket, wind jacket and my down booties. Boiling water was a pain, and my fingers got numb from trying to heat up the gas canister. Despite me having under my jacket to keep it warm. I was however able to make dinner eventually. I also boiled water to keep in a bottle wrapped in socks as a radiator in my sleeping bag.

I went to bed and slept quite well during the night. As so often, I woke up around 4-5 o’clock, feeling cold. I put on my fleece jacket and went back to sleep. I think the temperatures dropped down to around -7 to -8°C during the night.

When I woke up I really had to struggle mentally to make myself leave the comfortable warm sleeping bag and get outside in the cold. I did it gradually, and boiled coffee while still in the sleeping bag. I had brought Growers Cup coffee, which tastes really good, and can be reused. I had brought one, and the refilled it with regular coffee during the trip.

I left camp around 9.30, and hiked through the forest in beautiful weather. I could see the sky for the first time this trip, and the air was really crisp and cold.

I walked the last stretch back to the car, and at the parking lot I met three peoplewith a dog, that was going to do a short day hike. My footsteps had been the only once I’d seen in the park, which means that during my time there I’d had 55km2 of beautiful forest all to myself. I really wish I could get back here more and I would have loved to stay here a couple of more nights.

It was a great start of the year, and I hope it only gets better.

Sarek in August; Part 7

Day 8

We woke up early, and by 08.30 we were almost done packing. This days planned route was over the plains, hiking north of the mountain Njunjes and then camp near Gidátjårro, just above the timber line. After a rough calculation I figured it would be something like 15km.

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There’s something special about snow covered mountains

After an hours hike, we took a break. By then we had hiked approximately 4km. We took aim at Bastoajvve, a mountain just north of Skierffe, and hiked across the plains. Our goal was to cross the stream Ábbmojåhkå before it became too wide and fast flowing. As we came closer, the ground became more and more wet, and eventually my feet were soaked.

We came to Ábbmojåhkå just before 11.00, and I found a place that looked shallow, and the currents didn’t look so bad. I started to ford Ábbmojåhkå, but the water was deeper and the currents more powerful than I thought. When I was halfway over the water was up on the upper half of my thighs, and the currents was about to knock me over several times. Fredrik just shook his head, and decided not to go over there, but proceeded up Ábbmojåḧkå to find a better place to cross instead. After crossing the stream we were back in Sarek.

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Fording Ábbmojåhkå (Photocredit Fredrik Storm)
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It’s getting deeper (Photocredit Fredrik Storm)

We continued up to Njunjes, and ate lunch on the mountainside after we passed a locked Sámi hut as we exited Sarek again.

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Ábbmojåhkå

After we’d lunch, we continued to go, and after a while a herd of around 60 reindeer came in front of us on the ridge line above us. They started to walk towards us, and when they were 10-20 meters away, they split up in a half circle and passed us on both sides and closed the circle behind us. It was a cool feeling to be in the middle of the herd as it passed us. I thought I was filming but I had accidentally double clicked my phone so I ended up with one second when they were closing in, and just filmed as they had already passed us.

We continued upwards towards Njunjes, and since we had hiked faster than we anticipated we decided to continue all the way to the car.

We walked straight up on the top Doaresoajvve, and even though it’s not a large top, it still offered some great views.

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Not the highest peak, but still great views
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Fredrik on Doaresoajvve

The hike up on the north western side was a piece of cake. The way down on the east side, however, was much steeper. There was also snow that we needed to get through to get down. I kicked in footsteps into the snow, but ended up with my ass down and slid straight towards the sharp stones below. I managed to get down without damage. However, the snow was covered with reindeer poop. When I looked up I saw a two meter long ass-shaped poop-brown track that went down towards the rocks. I had reindeer poop over my pants, backpack and hiking poles. I heard Fredrik saying a silent “Hell no” to himself, and he looked for another way down.

After the steep passage with the snow we had some easy walking again. We were soon to cross Kungsleden, and could see a group of hikers having a break on the trail.

We crossed Kungsleden and continued east. After a while we turned north to reach the trail that was just below the timber line in Ultevis fjällurskogs naturreservat. We reached the trail and thought that it would be an easy quick hike back to the car. It wasn’t. In the end it felt like a death march, and we were both tired and sore. We regretted that we hadn’t stopped on Doaresjoajvve instead of forcing our selfs like this. But once you’ve set your mind into going home, and eating real food, it’s hard to change it.

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Down below timer line for the first time in a week

When we finally reached the car at around 18.30, we filled up on water, and changed clothes. I was able to get somewhat clean with water and wet wipes. When I draw our route on my Fjällkartan app it turned out that we had hiked approximately 40km.

We drove to Jokkmokk and bought chicken- and gyros rolls. I’m sure they weren’t the best ones out there, but right then they tasted like heaven.

We kept driving for a few hours, and around 22.00 we just settled for the first open space we could find. A gravel spot in a clear cut. It was the worst camp site ever, and we would have been flooded if it had rained. It was a bad end to a good trip. First hiking like we were escaping death, and then end up camping on in a gravel pit.

The next day we drove to Bollnäs and enjoyed the hospitality of Fredriks grandmother, before driving the last ~700km back home the day after that.

Final thoughts

I had a really great trip, and I definitely have to come back to Sarek again. Was I disappointed that we didn’t go the route we had planned? Yeah, maybe a little. It was nice to do more of a camping than hiking type of trip. And I really needed to learn how to take breaks, since I often push myself hard while hiking. But I did get a little bored with camp life after a while. And I would have liked to see more of the inner Sarek.

In the end I’m pleased with the trip and I had a great time. I’m also glad that I finally got the quilt to work without having cold drafts, and it was nice to try the HMG Ultamid in harsh conditions.

I hope this trip report has been interesting, and I’ll post a post-hike gear review later on.

Sarek in August; Part 6

Day 7

I slept relatively well all night long, despite the hard winds outside the tent. I woke up every now and then, and noticed that there was less and less air left in the sleeping mat. I thought it might be a small hole in it, but was too tired to get up and check for it. In the end it had leaked so much air that I had to check it. When I looked at the valve, I saw that the inflate valve was open, and remembered that the straps for the quilt had stuck when I put it on the sleeping mat. The check valve was the only thing that had prevented the air from leaking too quickly. I inflated it again, closed the valve and went back to sleep. It kept the air for the rest of the night.

We got up before 08.00, and at 09.30 we left the campsite after restoring the camp site and dismantling the stone walls we built around our tents as wind blocks.

We hiked back over Alep Válak and passed the Sámi hut again. A large herd of reindeer were grazing near the hut, but slowly moved south when we where closing in. As soon as we came below Alep Válak, the wind died down. The weather also improved, even though we saw dark clouds beyond the mountains.

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Hiking in the outskirts of Sarek
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Me in the outskirts of Sarek (Photocredit Fredrik Storm)

We hiked on the slopes of the mountain Tjålle, on the eastern side of the stream that marks the border to Sarek. We had now exited Sarek, and from what I can gather, the lands we where in now were neither a national park nor a nature reserve.

We planned to round Tjålle, and look for a camp site between Tjålle and Skämmabákte, but with a view over the lake Sitojaure.

The sun was shining occasionally, but when we sat down for lunch, on the southern side of Tjålle, it started to rain heavily. We took out our rain clothes and ate in the rain. It continued to rain while we walked, but eventually the clouds disappeared and the sun warmed us again. The weather in the mountains does change quickly, and it feels like you can have all four seasons of the year in just a few hours.

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We had lunch here, but despite the seemingly blue skies it started to rain

We had a beautiful easy hike, on soft green grounds that was pierced by several streams of different sizes.

We talked about the route we would take on our way back to the car, and decided to camp one night more after this, and then go home. We would then drive for a few hours and pitch our tents, to avoid having to drive 12-13 hours the following day to reach Fredrik’s grandmother in Bollnäs.

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The plains were beautiful, and easy to walk on (Photocredit Fredrik Storm)

This meant that the trips would be shorter than the 10-12 days we had planned, but when we did not go the planned route I also had difficulty keeping my motivation up for more days. I missed talking to my family, and really missed my kids. Since they left for Greece this day, I knew I had to settle with seeing them on FaceTime.

We found a nice flat place overlooking Sitojaure and close to a larger stream, and camped there. The time was only 14.00, so it was early for us. Even though it wasn’t as windy as in our last camp site, we still had quite a bit of wind in the beginning. We secured the tents with rocks on the pegs, although we did not feel the need to build a massive wall around the tents as we had the night before.

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A nice camp site outside of Sarek

Throughout the day we had seen and heard a lot of grouses near us. In the afternoon one of them sat close to our camp and chirped endlessly.

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Our camp (Photocredit Fredrik Storm)

It was Saturday evening. The last time we saw anybody else was on Tuesday evening, with the people that set up their tents on the other side of Nammásjjåhkå. It’s really desolate here. At least in the places we chose to hike in.

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Making a more luxurious dinner than usual; Flying Jacob

We planned the route for the next day, and estimated that it would be a 15km hike in fairly easy-going terrain. I was glad that it would be a bit longer than our previous days, since I’m starting to get a little bored of staying in the camp so much. I like to hike, and would like to go all day just to camp, eat, read an hour and then sleep. I did like to have a change of pace, hike slower and take more breaks, but eventually I felt like hiking more. I like to hike long days, and go to bed with a tired sore body.

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Planning the last leg of the trip

I read a lot, lying or sitting, inside or outside the tent. The wind had blown quite hard earlier when we had set up our tents, but it had died down during the evening. The lack of wind caused mosquitoes and flies to emerge. Some of them came in under the fly, while many of them sat on the outside of the fly. The weather had been fantastic this day, but every time we looked over the border into Sarek, it looked like it was the end of days over there, with almost pitch black clouds covering the area.

Sarek in August; Part 5

Day 6

We made breakfast and broke camp with no hurry at all. Fredrik was faster than me this morning, and looked a bit restless while I packed. I had been having problems with headaches during the night, and therefore lay down for a long time in the morning until the pain meds kicked in.

We filled up our water bottles and started hiking north, towards Alep Válak. We had planned to pitch our tents with a view of the lake Sitojaure. It was only a short hike from our previous camp site, about two to three km.

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View from Alep Válak, with the stream Sijddoädno in the middle of the photo

It didn’t take long to go there. The ground was flat, albeit littered with boulders and pierced by melting water from snow and glaciers on Rådnik and Dágarlåbddå. On our way towards our new camp site we passed a locked hut that the Sámi use when they’re tending to their reindeer herds. We were hiking just along the eastern border of Sarek.

Around 12.00 we arrived and found a good place to set up the tents. The view was amazing with Sitojaure some 500 meters below us, but we were both aware that the location was anything but ideal when it came to wind. The valley with Sitojaure goes in a north-west to south-east direction, and in the north-western end of the lake there is another valley in the north-south direction. We had a lot of open areas and not much wind protection.

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Great view, and (in the beginning) nice weather
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I built a wind cover from the surrounding rocks

It blew really heavily, but our camp site was filled with large rocks, and we anchored the tents well, and also built wind guards around the perimeter to reduce the amount of wind that would enter under the fly, and also relieve some stress from the anchor points.

The weather had been great in the morning. Sunny and much warmer than the day before. Once we had set up the tents, dark clouds came towards us, and soon the whole sky was covered with gray rain clouds. A slight drizzle fell over us.

We had lunch in our tents, and then went out and looked more at the view. Fredrik had found a small stream a few hundred meters from the camp site. A  patch of snow, still unmelted, formed a little stream of water that we could fill our bottles from.

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Dinner with a view

It rained on and off during the day. Hard wind-driven rain. We laid in our tents and read, and this day was the first one that I cooked inside my tent. I have used the floor over the entire surface to reduce condensation earlier. But with the wind on this location, condensation was no problem, so I only put polycro under the sleeping mat.

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We had a rainbow between the rains

During the night, the wind blew even worse. I went to bed at around 20.30, prepared for another sleepless night, but actually slept pretty well. I used the down jacket as a pillow instead of the inflatable pillow, and it worked better and was much more comfortable. It was in a dry bag that was a bit open to be able shape it better.

I felt a little worried about the tent, and if it would hold up, but I decided to break those thoughts. If it was to happen then I would solve the situation then. And I’ve seen videos of Ultamids standing up in severe snowstorms in Alaska, and this was nothing compared to that. I slept relatively well all night.

I made a short video to show how the tents held up in the wind.

 

Sarek in August; Part 4

 Day 4

I slept very bad all night. It took a long time for me to fall asleep, and when I finally did, I slept shallow and woke up a lot. It was raining all night. When it was time to get up, it had stopped raining, but the wind blew quite hard. We had camped just east of the top Suokitjåhkkå, and had now planned to round it on the north side, below the top Niehter. We had a calm morning, chilled and took our time to get ready. Eventually we  broke camp and started walking. Two tents were set up on the other side Nammásjjåhkå, and we had seen four people near them the night before, but now we saw no one there.

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A herd of reindeers passing our campsite

The day began with boulders, but fortunately they were neither wet nor at a 45° angle so they were easier to walk on than the ones we had the day before.

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Passing between Suokitjåhkkå and Niehter

When we rounded the top Suokitjåhkkå we reached a plain west of it. The ground was easy to walk on, even though there were a lot of rocks spread out. We stopped to have lunch here, with a great view of the snow covered tops of Gådoktjåhkkå and Bielloriehppe.

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Fredrik, on the plains west of Suokitjåhkkå
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A nice view while making dinner
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Me, enjoying the views of inner Sarek
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Gådoktjåhkkås top covered in clouds

We had planned to go north between Niehter and Rådnik down to the lake Niehterjávrre. On the map it looked like it would be nice to camp there, with a lot of flat ground.

As we kept hiking the boulders got worse, and eventually we ended up in a seemingly endless ocean of rocks. We didn’t move fast at all. When we finally passed the highest point between Niehter and Rådnik and saw the lakes below, we realized that it would not be possible to pitch any tent there there. As far as the eye could see, there was only rocks. We saw on the map that the last of the three lakes below had an outlet that led down to a plain. This was the same plain as we seen from the camp site at Skierffe. We took aim at the far end of the last lake and kept walked. It was a desolate landscape, and we walked quietly some 30 meters apart. Each of us buried in our own thoughts.

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Coming up on the highest point between Niehter and Rådnik (photocredit Fredrik Storm)
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Looking down towards the plains where we hoped to find a good camp site (Photocredit Fredrik Storm)
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The endless boulders took its toll on our feet and ankles

I was beginning to feel bad in my stomach, and started to feel dizzy too. I hoped it would be something I ate, but I was worried that I might have gotten some bad water. I’ve never used a filter in the mountains, and I don’t know anyone who does. But traces (and poop) from reindeers were everywhere, and I was worried I might have drunk poop water.

At the far end of the last lake water flowed down a slope, and below there were extensive fields with possible tent sites. We continued north and found a suitable place, west of the mountain Tjålle. There was a lot of snow left in the mountain above us, so much of the ground was saturated and carved down by melting water. But we found a good place to put up our tents.

My stomach was acting out for a while, but finally calmed down. I laid down and read for a while and then went to sleep. I had a hard time getting used to the light, and that it never gets really dark. It was difficult to fall asleep, and I slept shallow this night too and woke up a lot.

It never gets really dark. At 22.00 it is still bright as day. When I wake up at 4, it’s already just as bright. Somewhere between 01.00-02.00 it’s somewhat dusky, but never really dark. You don’t need a headlamp if you wake up and have to pee.

I have to admit that I was not really prepared for how the constant absence of darkness would affect my sleep. But the constant light gives an almost surreal feeling that messes with the sleep rhythm.

Day 5

This day we stayed in the same place as before. I had washed my underwear and socks in a zip lock bag the night before and hung them up in the tent. The idea was that they should dry during the day. The weather was bad for almost all day, with heavy rain that came and went on a regular basis. I laid in the tent and read almost all day, and so did Fredrik in his tent.

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Drying my newly washed clothes

When I went to bed, I had trouble falling asleep. I tossed and turned, had a headache and a sore throat. Suddenly my sleeping mat made a sound, like it got punctured.

I got off it and saw that it was much softer than before, and assumed that it was a puncture. I blew it up to check the leak, but discovered that it was the lamination in one of the baffles that had burst, and now a large channel of two was formed. Fortunately it wasn’t in the middle, so I was still able to use the sleeping mat, although it was more uncomfortable than before. I was a bit disappointed since I hadn’t even had the sleeping mat for 3 years. I’ve always been careful about it and haven’t filled it up too much.

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Our campsite for night four and five

I’ve slept bad since we came to Sarek. I think the light makes it difficult for me to sleep, and sleep deprivation leads to migraines that make it even harder to sleep.

At least I slept somewhat ok this the night, even though I fell in and out of sleep all the time. It blew hard during the night, and there was a lot of wind coming in under the fly. It had been really cold during the whole day and night, and almost felt like it was approaching freezing.

Sarek in August; Part 3

Day 3

We woke up quite early. Just like the day before, both of us woke up at 04.30 because it was already bright as day. But I fell back to sleep. We finally got up before 08.00, made breakfast and packed up. We had decided to follow some of our original route, and go west along the Rapa Valley, south of the mountain Gierdogiesjtjåhkkå. We went down from Skierffe and came to an vast plateau at about 1000m altitude. The ground was flat and easy to walk on, and there were possible camp sites everywhere. We saw that the plains stretched far away in the north, and decided that we would hike there on our way back to the car in the end of the trip.

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My sleep and shelter setup: HMG Ultamid 2 with a polycro groundsheet, Exped Synmat 7 UL with a Cumulus Quilt 350

After walking in the hiking paradise in the plains in the morning, the rest of the day turned out to be the opposite. The guidebook I read before we went showed that we could hike the route we took, and keep going along the 1000m altitude line. But we found out the hard way that this meant hiking through brushy terrain on slippery rocks and boulders at a 45° angle.

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It started with brushes, but got more rocky and steeper the farther we went (photocredit Fredrik Storm)

I fell pretty bad once when stones shifted under my feet, and I my leg got stuck down to my thigh, with more rocks falling on it. But I got loose with only a few scratches. A while later I slipped and fell on a rock, and accidentally smacked myself hard in the temple with one of my hiking poles. I had to sit and rest for a while after that one.

We were both tired, and traversing this kind of terrain took a lot of effort. You had to weigh every step to make sure that the stones wouldn’t move. We took a lot of breaks.

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Looking back towards Skierffe (photocredit Fredrik Storm)

The weather had been very nice in the morning, but gradually became worse. In the end the rain came, and it rained on and off the rest of the day. The rain didn’t make the traverse any easier, since the rocks just got more slippery.

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Fredrik looking back at the Rapa valley delta, with the mountain Tjahkelij in the background

Eventually we reached the stream Nammásjjåhkå. From where we were standing there was no way we could pass. There was a tall waterfall, and steep cliffs down towards the water. We first tried to hike higher up, and see if we could pass above the waterfall, but the cliffs where to steep for us to be able to get further up. We looked further down, and saw that it was possible to pass at the end of the waterfall, just below the timber line.

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Fredrik looking over the edge to find somewhere to pass Nammásjjåhkå

It was a steep way down to the water, but we slided down on our butts, and managed to get down to the stream. As I crossed it, I almost slipped on the slippery stones, and decided not to try to balance but went straight through the water instead. I wore my quick drying trail runners to be able to do just that and not worry about them being wet.

We took a short break after we had forded the stream, and reviewed our plan for how we would proceed.

The mountain side was still quite steep, but it would be flatter on a higher altitude, so we decided to hike in a diagonal line upwards to reach the flatter grounds.

It went slowly uphill, and the terrain was difficult and brushy. We eventually reached a somewhat flat area where we stopped. The sun started to shine and warmed us, and it made wonders for our morale. The sky turned blue, and beneath us in Rapa valley we saw clouds forming. We did however realized that they would rise and we would be surrounded by fog, so we continued hiking as far as we could before the fog reached us. When it finally reached us we just rested until it was gone.

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Clouds forming in Rapa valley and rising to our position. Mountains from left to right: Skierffe, Tjahkelij and Nammásj

We found a nice plateau to set up camp, but it was too far from a water source. We continued to a new plateau near one of the side streams to Nammásjjåhkå. While we were setting up the tents, we saw dark rain clouds approaching fast from Rapa valley. We quickly set up the tents and anchored them with the surrounding rocks. Just when the tents were up the rain came. It rained heavily so we took refuge to our tents. I was to tired to clear out a space to cook dinner in the tent, and just ate three sausages and a protein bar instead, after changing from my cold wet clothes to my dry sleeping clothes. After “dinner” I crawled in under the quilt and read for a while. The rain was still falling outside.

Just after 19:00 it stopped raining and we went out. Five reindeers were standing just ten meters from the tents. While we were out, a couple of guys came from the other side Nammásjjåhkå. They crossed the stream and continued westward. We saw four more people coming on the other side, but they camped there instead of crossing. Both groups were hiking at a higher altitude than we had done during the day, and the ground was flatter there. We assumed that we should have the same thing, as it seemed to be an easier route than ours.

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Camp site 3. We had nice views here too

Just after 22:00 a loud noise was heard. I looked under the edge of the shelter and saw that a large herd of reindeer was passing just outside. It was a cool sight, but I was too tired (lazy) to crawl out of my sleeping bag to go out and take photos of them. 

Sarek in August; Part 2

Day 2

I woke up a few times early in the morning as it was already bright as day outside. I was using my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2, and a thin layer of white, semi transparent Dyneema composite fabric doesn’t do much to block the sunlight. When I looked at my clock, it was only 04.30. I went back to sleep, and we got up at around 09.00 instead. We made breakfast, broke camp and went up to the STF cottage to pay for our stay. A couple of hikers had pointed us to the right cabin. The lady who smoked when we arrived sat on the stairs of the nearby cabin, looking at us.

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My Ultamid 2 and Fredriks Bergans Trollhetta 4 in the background
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My gear: In the bottom of the pack I have an Exped Schnozzle bag (the yellow one) with my sleep gear. After that two large Pack pods with food. Above those I have toiletries (neon bag) and electronics (zip lock bag). Tent (white bag) and extra clothes + down jacked (red one) next to each other and at the top I have a small Pack pod with my stove set and food for the day. All packed in a HMG Southwest 4400

When we got hold of the hut warden, he told us that it was prohibited to camp where we had pitched the tents. The ground, and the hut near it, did not belong to STF, but to the Swedish Nature Conservation Association. We did not have to pay because we did not camp on STF’s land. However, it felt a little embarrassing to have camped where we weren’t allowed to. But since the woman in the hut didn’t say anything, perhaps it didn’t matter. She had heard us talking about paying and looking for hut warden, both during the evening and during the morning, so I suppose she understood that it was a misunderstanding.

Our goal for the day was to get to Skierffe. A mountain with an almost 700 meter vertical wall right down the Rapadalen.

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Me, on our way towards Skierffe (photocredit Fredrik Storm)

We got up through the woods, which gradually changed from spruce to birch forests, and then disappeared completely as we reached above the timber line. 

Fredrik and I have a different hiking philosophies, where I am a lightweight hiker who like to march on at a fairly good pace, and hardly even want to stay for lunch. Fredrik packs quite heavily, likes to stop more often, and wants to spend more time chilling and just enjoying the moment, instead of trying to get a lot of km behind him.

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The snow covered mountains of Sarek

 

It was important to me to get back home in time, since my wife took the kids to visit her relatives in Greece and I was to pick them up at the airport when they got back. I realized that we would probably not be able to do our planned hike without having to stress it in the end, so we agreed to skip the plan and instead just go where ever we felt like for the day, take a lot of breaks and not care about the mileage. The only goal was to be back at the car at least 10 days later. It was a bit of a change of philosophy for me, but still felt nice. However, it meant that I had packed way too much food. But it still felt ok, although it meant carrying some unnecessary weight.

When we were coming close to the top of Skierffe we ​​decided to start looking for a camp site, even though the clock was only around 14.00. We passed the trail and continued towards the western side of Skierffe. There we found a really good camp site, with flat ground for both of our tents, and a lot of stones to anchor them. We could have saved weight sharing tents, but both Fredrik and I prefer to have our own space.

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One of our best camp sites ever

The camp site had a very nice view over Sareks snow covered peaks. The wind blew hard when we were setting up camp, so we anchored the tents well. I wanted to go to the top of Skierffe, but Fredrik preferred to stay in camp so I went by myself. When I got up at the top there was a young family there with their child in a child carrier.

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The river delta in Rapa valley

The view from Skierffe was amazing. It was uphill almost all the way up to the cliff. Then came the long cliff all the way down to Rapa Valley. It was a majestic view, and well worth the effort to get there.

I walked back to the camp and after a while we made dinner.

We went looking for water, and found a little stream a couple of hundred meters away from the camp. Fredrik went to bed quite early, but I laid on the CCF mat and read for a couple of hours. When the wind stopped, it was almost completely quiet around us. It is not often you get that silence when you live in a town. Traffic, sirens, lawnmowers, people talking, airplanes. There’s always noise, and it was refreshing to hear nothing like that.

I went to bed around 21.00, but went out for a while after 22:00 to check out the sunset. By then it had already disappeared behind the mountains, though it was still bright outside.

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The sun had just disappeared behind the mountains


I went to bed and sleep pretty well. The new way of attaching the quilt has worked very well, and I have not had any drafts, even though I tossed and turned a lot and it was cold in the morning.

Sarek in August; Part 1

General info

Sarek is a national park in Lapland, in northern Sweden, and is one of the oldest parks in Europe. It’s part of Laponia, which consists of 9400 sq/km of protected land, in the national parks Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet, Padjelanta and Stubba, as well as the nature reserves Stubba and Sjaunja.

Sarek is a popular place to hike, but since there are no marked trails, nor any cabins it might not be the place for beginners. There are some bridges inside Sarek, but most streams and rivers has to be forded.

Trip report

Day 1

I went on this hike together with my friend Fredrik, whom I hiked together with in Norway last year. We left Växjö on Saturday morning and drove up to Bollnäs, where we spent the night at his grand mothers place. We left there early on Sunday morning and drove the last ~1000km up to Sarek. We where planing to enter Sarek from the south, and use a free parking lot about 10km south of Kvikkjokk.

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Loaded, and ready to go

We arrived at the parking lot at the bridge over Sitoälven, just before 20:00 on Sunday evening.  There were many cars in the parking lot. Much more than we thought there would be. But this place seemed to be a popular starting ground.

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Sitoälven

We parked and switched to our hiking clothes. The sign showed that it was 16 km to Aktse Mountain hut from the parking lot. We planned to hike just for a little while, and then set up the tents a bit from the parking lot, as soon as we found a good spot. The forest was too dense to find anywhere to set up camp, and the mosquito swarmed around us as soon as we took a break, so we kept on walking at a fast pace.

After a while we arrived at a small pier, where you could rent boat rides to Aktse Mountain hut. After the pier there was a bog. We were looking for the trail but did not find it. After a while we found the foot bridges through the bog, and saw that it was 6 km left to Aktse. The clock was now ~22.00.

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View from the pier, looking towards Sarek

We decided to go on. However, it went much slower, and the trail went through dense forests and marshes. We found an descent place, but when I read the map, I thought we where only about 0.5km to the cottage and so we went on. It turned out to be 3km left instead, as I had miscalculated our position.

We arrived at Aktse sometime between 24.00-01.00 at night and pitched our tents. We saw a sign that we should contact the hut warden, but since it was late, we decided not the wake up the warden, but do it the day after instead. The price to camp near the cabin was 200SEK.

A woman came out from one of the nearest huts, looked at us and took a smoke. We wondered if it might be the hut warden, but since she didn’t contact us we thought that it probably was someone renting one of the STF cabins. We went to bed immediately after we had pitched our tents. I used my Sea to Summit nano bug net, but I wouldn’t have had to. My shelter did a good job keeping the mosquitoes out. I didn’t really like the bug net, and didn’t use it any more on the entire hike.

Jotunheimen, Thursday

Day one

Day two

Day three

Day four

As I wrote in the last post the night was awful. Neither one of us slept good. I was up one time during to check the guy lines and despite the wind the skies were clear and the stars were beautiful. I didn’t stay outside long though considering how cold and windy it was. By morning the wind was still strong, but not as strong as it had been during the night.

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Fredriks Luxe Outdoor Sil Hexpeak getting hammered by the wind

We had breakfast and then packed up and left our campsite. Fredrik was thankful that he had used two hiking poles for the tent, considering that the wind had bent his pole when it blew a lot less than during this night. We hiked up the ridge and enjoyed the view. We’ve hiked Besseggen once before, in 2010. That time it was fog the entire day and we didn’t see much of the view. This time though we had mostly good weather and could see for miles.

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View from the ridge

We knew from the start that this was a popular trail. And even now, in low season it was crowded. The views from this trail is spectacular, but you can’t expect to have any privacy. I’m kind of a loner and prefer solitude while hiking and this is not something you get on Besseggen.

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Clouds were moving in

We were happy that the weather turned out good and that we got a chance to see the views instead of just fog, like in 2010. Clouds rolled in though, but apart from some drizzle it didn’t rain much, and we had mostly good weather.

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View over Gjende

Eventually we came down to the lake Bessvatnet. There is a ridge here with Bessvatnet on one side at the same elevation, and on the other side there is a drop of about 400 meters down to the lake Gjende.

We stayed here and had lunch. The place was pretty crowded, and on the narrow ridge leading up to the top om Besseggen we saw a lot of people.

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Lots of people about to ascend the top of Besseggen

We started hiking, and immediately I felt that something was wrong with my stomach. I’m lactos intolerant, abut most of the times small amounts of lactos isn’t an issue. This time though the lactos in the mashed potatos might have been to much. There was nothing to do about it since the pathway was narrow, and had lots of people coming both up and down. The path is steep at times, and you have to do actual climbing to get up. Many people send their backpacks with the boat between Gjendesheim and Memurubu and just carry day packs. By now the wind blew hard again. Fortunately it blew in our backs, pushing us against the mountain while climbing up. We saw a guy with jeans, a leather jacket and vans passing us on a flatter passage with his hands in his pockets and a bored look on his face. The climb was sort of an adventure for us, but I guess you don’t need any mountaineering equipment to make it.

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Overlooking Gjende and Bessvatnet

When we got closer to the top the clouds rolled in and we were covered in fog. There was still a lot of people, but it was more distance between them and you couldn’t see that far any longer because of the fog. The area was very flat though. I realized that I couldn’t keep walking any more because of my stomach, and took the opportunity of the fog to “release the beast”. I walked of the trail, found a pretty large boulder and got to it. While I sat there I heard voices closing in on me. At the same time I saw the sun, and saw that the fog was disappearing at an alarming pace. Despite the boulder I wasn’t that sheltered since the area on top of Besseggen is very flat. I was very quick to finish my business.

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Looking down at Gjendesheim at the shores of Gjende. You can see people on the cliff to the left

We carried on, but after a while my stomach started acting out again. This time there was no fog around so I just had to keep hiking.

Eventually the trail started to descent towards Gjendesheim, and around 15.30 we got down to the hut.

The hike had been strenuous and we were both tired. We rested for a while in the hut, used the bathrooms and then walked to the parking lot. On the way to the parking lot there was a sound of rain on our clothes. But it turned out to be countless flies. Hundreds of them. They covered our packs, jackets and pants. It felt like something from the movie The Mummy.

When we got to the parking lot the plan had first been to pitch our tents and then drive back to Sweden the next day. But since we got back so early we decided to drive back right away.

I drove to Oslo where we changed drivers and Fredrik drove the last stretch to Gothenburg. We got there at around 23.30. I still had 2,5-3h to drive though, and was envious of Fredrik that could go to bed. I was really tired, especially since I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. Fredrik offered me his couch, but I wanted to get back home. I bought the largest coffee Mc Donalds had to offer and stayed awake without issues.

The trip had been great. The views were spectacular and the weather was mostly good. All of our gear worked out the way it should. I feel that I’m starting to get close to having the perfect gear for me, and it makes hiking that much more enjoyable. I can’t wait to get back to the mountains again. I’ll go to Jotunheimen on my own sometime to. I really like hiking with others, but I also like hiking on my own.

This was the last post from the hike. I’ll write about my packlist and my thoughts of the gear I used in a future post.