Camping or hiking

I begun my interest in the outdoors with hiking. I had traditional heavy weight gear, and though I enjoyed the outdoors there was too much discomfort with it. I learned about Ultralight backpacking and gradually reduced my base weight, one item at the time and I did quite a few hiking trips. I found a perfect balance between camp comfort and hiking comfort. This last year, and the trips this year too, has mostly been camping trips though. Trips with heavy gear, focused on comfort, and that’s been really nice too.

I’ve been less inclined to leave my wife with all the kids at home, even though she’s ok with it. And I do love to bring C with me (the only one in the family except me who enjoys the outdoors), but I really miss hiking. The trip with Brian last November was very much needed. Camp comfort and munching on a big fat load of good food is nice, but as a remedy for the soul, hiking does the trick better. I like the monotony of hiking from dawn to dusk, barely stopping to eat, but just snacking on route. Pushing myself, clearing my head and emptying my brain of thoughts. It’s a meditative state and a form of mindfulness I guess. I’ve gone back to watching UL hiking videos on YouTube, and I long to get back into hiking, and I miss the mountains.

I hope I’ll go to Hardangervidda this year, and I’d really like to hike the Arctic Circle Trail soon. We’ll see what the future has in store.

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.