Abisko 2012, part 3

We started the day by hiking the 15 km leg of Kungsleden from Abiskojaure back to the STF mountain station in Abisko to resupply. After a quick selection of dried food and various goodies, we set out again towards Cuonjavaggi, another 18 km away. We weren’t really up for a 30+ km hike in a single day, so we stopped for the night when we found a nice site on a small esker ridge (i.e. well-drained) close to the first jåkk (i.e. convenient access to water) we crossed after emerging from the birch forest. On our way up through the birch forest we had picked a bag full of orange birch boletes (Leccinum versipelle). The kids set about cleaning their “catch”. We sorely missed butter and shallots! Next time we have to remember to bring both of these near-essential ingredients. After all, one great motivation for selecting light gear is to allow ourselves some luxury here and there (and still carry light packs). Nonetheless, it was fun to supplement our diet with some fresh mushrooms.

M & M hard at work cleaning their catch of Leccinum mushrooms. Cuonjacohkka is to the left in the background, Nissoncorru to the right. Both soon to be engulfed by the approaching rain clouds.

We timed dinner well. As soon as we were done, it started raining and the rain continued all night long. The next morning it started to clear up a bit, and as we progressed up into Cuonjavaggi the weather turned really, really nice. Bright blue skies and a warming sun! Up here on the fell, we made several sightings of the Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) and frequently heard their characteristic calls. Once we reached Cuonjavaggi, we chose a nice spot for our camp on a well-drained little hill close to a big esker ridge that runs across the valley floor at the tip of Cuonjajavri. We cooked a quick lunch (soup + cracker bread + salami) and pitched the tarptent + Trailstar.

And then it was time for some fly fishing! We had noticed that the fish in Cuonjajavri were rising to feed and we were curious to see how our tenkara set-up would work on an alpine lake (950 m altitude). We rigged the Yamame rod with a traditional furled line and a dark Sakasa kebari fly. In the sunny, late afternoon, the surface of the lake was perfectly still and we could easily see the small arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus alpinus) swimming close to the shore in search of insects. It didn’t take long before we had landed our first fish. All in all, we caught 8 fish. Most of them were small and we released the 3 smallest ones. The rest nicely complemented our dinner consisting of another home-made and dried dish: southern-indian chick-peas in coconut milk + couscous. Again, since we didn’t have any butter (big regrets!), we had to poach the char (we did have a fishing license, in case ambiguity leads you to think otherwise:). Grilling was out, because up here in Cuonjavaggi, far above the tree line, we simply couldn’t find enough twigs to make a fire (besides, there’s always the leave-no-trace issue to consider).

Catching arctic char on a tenkara rod in Cuonjajavri!

Boy, this was so much fun! Tenkara is perfect for kids and novices (ie dad) in general. Light enough to carry along even if fishing is not your main objective and very easy to rig. We are learning fast. With a tenkara rod, it is quite easy to cast with precision, and you have an impressive level of control of the fly once it’s on the water too, not only when fishing lakes, but also on fast-moving streams. Now we’re psyched to get more practice!

The collapsed Tenkara USA Yamame rod rigged with a TenkaraBum hi-vis level line, tippet and fly. The entire rig is wound up on the spool and threaded over the rod, which makes for a very convenient way of carrying the rod between spots.

After dinner we went for a short hike further up the valley. We enjoyed the warm sun, but soon realized that it would turn quite cold as soon as the sun dropped behind the peaks in the west. We put on all our layers, made some hot blueberry soup, and stayed up a while longer to take in the great colors on the surrounding peaks as the sun set. Then we snuggled into our sleeping bags, cinched the hoods tight against the cold, and soon drifted off to complete silence. No wind.

After-dinner hike further into Cuonjavaggi. The peak to the left is Cuonjacohkka (c:a 1500 m).

Dad woke us up early so that we could attempt to bag the nearest peak on Nissoncorru before the weather changed. Already at 5:30 we noticed a foreboding band of clouds over the Norwegian coast. Time to pack up and move. We stashed our packs and aimed for the gentle slope of the northwestern ridge line of Nissoncorru.

Early morning in Cuonjavaggi. Nasty looking clouds over the Norwegian coastal range.

Up and up we went until we were satisfied with the views that the gain in altitude offered. We actually stopped far below the summit, but were happy that we had climbed higher than ever before (we were probably at some 1200-1300 m). The menacing clouds moved in pretty fast from the west. After a short break and some munchies, we headed back down again.

On our way down from our vantage point on the slopes of Nissoncorru. The summit across the valley is at 1372 m.

Leaving Cuonjavaggi, we traced our steps back down to Baddosdievva, a sacred place to the ancient sami people, and then forked off to the southwest towards the Nissongorsa canyon. In places, the canyon is 60 m deep and quite narrow. We followed the canyon downstream towards Abeskoeatnu. Closer to the river, the birch forest showed signs of the flood that struck in early July, when Abeskojavri reputedly rose 2 meters after heavy rains. Down here, it was sometimes hard to distinguish the trail from the many dried-out rivulets that had formed during the flood, especially since there were masses of debris. After a few kilometers, we merged onto Kungsleden and headed back to the Abisko mountain station, passing by the magnificent “marble quarry”.

Abeskoeatnu cuts through a band of dolomite. Spot M & mom in the background for a size reference!

Back down, we pitched our shelters on the assigned camp ground near the STF mountain station and then enjoyed a really long and good session in the sauna, followed by dinner, and then we called it an early night. Tomorrow we go back home. What a fantastic trip we’ve had! We are already making new plans for next year’s adventures. How about weaving together the following routes from Grundsten’s guide book: 7 (Ballinvaggi-Siellavaggi), 14 (the Mårma pass), 20 (Unna Reidavaggi), 19 (the last section to Tarfala and then down to Kebnekaise mountain station), and 25 (Laddjuvaggi out to Nikkaluokta)? That would be quite a challenge, but should be doable in a few years time.

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5 thoughts on “Abisko 2012, part 3

  1. Sounds like an excellent trip you had. I also like the plans you have for the future. I am already thinking of returning to the area! Its a shame that the Grundsten’s guide book to the area is not available in English.

    • Yes, it is too bad that not all titles in his series of guide books have been translated yet. However, his guide book “Kungsleden: The Royal Trail Through Arctic Sweden” is available. Unfortunately, the translation doesn’t do the Swedish version justice. Grundsten has a wonderful language, which gives you a fantastic reading experience and makes the books much more than just guide books. Once we pick up a book and start reading it is hard to put it down, pure poetry. We find that this doesn’t quite come through in the English version. Several of his coffee table books have been translated, and one might perhaps expect that the translator has worked harder on these, making sure that the text matches the amazing photos — but I haven’t read these in English and don’t know if this is true.

  2. Pingback: Outdoor cooking: favorites from Abisko | outtherekids

  3. Hi, Thank you for sharing your experience. It is so helpful. We are planning hike near the area this August and considering whether to do this one to Cuonjavaggi like you did in Part 3 or to do Låktatjåkkostugan to Karsavagge. If you have to compare your hike from Abisko to Cuonjavaggi vs to Karsavagge, which one do you prefer? Thanks so much again!

    • Hi ts,
      Tough choice, both are great! The two hikes have quite different character, I would say. Cuonjavaggi is wide and open and the hike up into the valley offers great views to the west, while Kårsavagge is more narrow (‘Kårsa’ means canyon in the sami language, I believe) and lush (lower altitude). I take it you will hike down into Kårsavagge from Låktatjåkka, so you will probably experience the barren high-altitude scenery of Lapland while you’re up on the plateau. Arguably, you’ll enjoy greater variation on the Låktatjåkka-Kårsavagge trip. If you do opt for Låktatjåkka-Kårsavagge, then I can highly recommend crossing the Njunesgeahci range into the Abisko valley instead of hiking straight out towards Abisko from Kårsavagge.
      Have a great time in the Abisko area!

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