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 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.

Another change of plans

In an earlier post I wrote about the hiking plans for this summer, with a two-week hike in northern Sweden. The initial route was planned for me hiking solo the first week, and then my friend would join me for the second week.

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However plans have changed, since my friend was able to get away for two week. Our first plan was to hike Kungsleden together, according to my route. We found out though that during our second week Fjällräven Classic occured, which meant that we would meet thousands of hikers on our way to Abisko. It would not be as lonely and pristine as we’d like. That, and the fact that there probably would be fresh poop under virtually every rock on the path from Nikkaluokta to Abisko made us look elsewhere.

We had always talked about going to Sarek, which is part of the UNESCO world heritage site Laponia. Laponia is 9400 sq/km of protected lands in the arctic north, consisting of the national parks Muddus, Sarek, Padjelanta and Stora Sjöfallet, as well as the nature reserves Sjaunja and Stubba.

Kungsleden passes through the southern part of Sarek, but other than that there are no marked trails and very few bridges. There are some unmarked trail, but hiking in Sarek means finding your own route, and fording streams.

None of us have hiked in Sarek before, so I bought the book “På fjälltur; Sarek” by Claes Grundsten. There are several different routes described in the book.

None of them fitted us perfectly, as we wanted a circle hike for 10-12 days. But I used the book to make a route from parts of 11 different described routes.

Sarek1The plan is to drive to the parking lot next to the dam at Måhkkål, and hike the trail from there to the mountain hut Aktse. From Aktse we would hike up on the mountains north of Rapavalley. This way we get less mosquitoes and also (if the weather is good) get some nice views over Rapavalley.

We’ll then use a trail from the mountainside down to Rapavalley along Alep Vássjajågåsj, and follow that trail to Mikkastugan, where there’s a bridge. From there we follow Álggavágge down to Niejdariehpvágge. Then we’ll follow Sarvesvágge to the east before we round the mountain Noajdde. From there we’ll hike south west until we’ll find the trail to Pårek. Once on the trail, we’ll use that trail down to Kungsleden, hike Kungsleden back to Aktse and then back to the car at Måhkkål. From a rough calculation it should be somewhere around 180km. I am planning for exit routes and alternatives if we get delayed, hike slower than anticipated or otherwise need to leave faster for some reason.

The route is planned to get the most out of the trip. There is a mix of trails and off-trail hiking. We’ll see Rapavalley both from the mountains and down in the valley itself. While we’ll hike both high and low it still shouldn’t be too much elevation to handle.

My planned gear list for this trip

I really like planning trips like these. I think that the preparations is a major part of the fun of hiking. Studying maps and areal photos, planning routes, prepping food and looking through the gear. I can’t wait to get out again.