Abisko 2014 — high altitude valleys

Planning preamble

For various reasons we didn’t make it to Lapland last year, so we had been looking forward to this year’s trip for quite some time, pouring over the map, reading Claes Grundsten’s eminent guides, and making plans.

Our targets this year included the high altitude valleys Ballinvagge and Siellavagge. We planned to diverge on a day trip up to the ridge line that cradles the Ballinriehppi glacier. Then we would cut over to Siellavagge and descend along this valley to the southeast, connect with the trail towards Rautasjaure, but fork off south to cross the Aliseatnu river via the bridge and then hike west along its southern bank, following the waterway towards Alesjaure, and then back up to Abisko along Kungsleden. In case we didn’t need to cash in on our extra day (planned for contingencies) to reach Alesjaure and Kungsleden, we could possibly opt to go via Unna Allakas on the way back from Alesjaure. Let’s see how it all went… [Check out the map at the bottom of this post for an overview of our route.]

Day 1: Abisko — Ballinvagge

Just like two years ago, we took the train directly to Abisko Turist, dumped our duffel bag (with books for the train ride, a comprehensive hygiene kit and towels for the post-trek sauna, and a change of clothes) in the storage room at the mountain station, and took off along Kungsleden (‘the King’s trail’). Shortly after crossing the bridge over Nissonjohka, we started climbing diagonally up towards Ballinvagge. We were blessed with great weather. Little M picked up a good pace, bouncing up the slopes. M&M carried all of their personal gear in Alpkit Gourdon packs, 25 liter and 30 liter, which weighed in at 3 and 4 kg, respectively. Dad had a hard time keeping up, but was very happy that his pack was super comfortable despite carrying 7 days worth of food for 4 people (some 12 kg) + other gear, so that his total load landed around 20 kg. Volume-wise the Porter was maxed out, with the roll-top folded twice only. Mom’s load was probably around 10 kg, or so, including 2 kg of food. Her GoLite Jam dealt with this weight easily.

onourway

We’re off! Here we are right at the very start of Kungsleden (‘the King’s trail’), still down in the lush birch forest.

Once we emerged from the birch forest and the views opened up, we could see the modest ravine cut by Ballinjohka. We stuck to the slopes high above the stream, but at one point big M dumped his pack and headed down to the stream, armed with his ‘kåsa’ to quench his thirst.

upintoBallinvagge

On our way up into Ballinvagge. Big M carries a bag full of mushrooms, which he picked while hiking up through the birch forest. Ballinbogicohkka (1661) is visible in the center and the slopes of Coamohas (1743) to the right.

Ballinjohka

Ballinjohka with remaining snow, in mid-August, on its north-facing bank. Spot big M sampling the refreshing water down there.

After a few hours we had climbed the 700 meters from Abisko (at 300-something meters) and reached the point where Ballinvagge opens up and flattens out. There is a wide selection of good camp sites up here and we could choose freely — not a single tent in sight. In fact, since we left Kungsleden we had seen only two other parties. Solitude was to be a recurring and much appreciated theme for the next few days. We pitched the Trailstar and the Tarptent Double Rainbow and cooked dinner. On the menu: instant Thai chicken soup, spiffed up with dried shrimps, extra thai spices, noodles, and coconut milk. Not quite as good as our favorite Tom Kha Gai, but pretty good still. We soon retired to our shelters so that we could rise early tomorrow morning for the ‘summit bid’.

Ballinvagge_dinner

Enjoying a warm meal while the sun sets and the temperature drops. The cirque around Ballinriehppi is visible in the background, although most of the glacier is hidden from view by a sizable moraine ridge.

The night was cold and calm. A magnificent, yellow moon rose above the eastern slopes of Ballincohkka and hung low over the horizon. The high-pressure system looked stable, in agreement with the forecast, which predicted predominantly sunny skies at least for another day or so.

ninja

Big M enjoying the last light on the Ballin ridge. Hoping for equally nice weather tomorrow morning — we’re going for the pyramid in the background and then onwards along the ridge.

 Day 2: Peak bagging, kind of…

Dad woke us up early and served up oatmeal with blueberry soup and superspackle, plus hot chocolate for M&M and coffee for mom and dad. We were on our way by 7:00 under bright blue skies. M&M counted lemmings, at least half a dozen, as we hiked the 3 km across the Ballinvagge floor over to the cirque. Lemmings are funny, cute little rodents with very colorful coats. Little M simply loves them!

We had started up the scree towards the peak when suddenly an adult White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) took off from its perch some 100 meters in front of us and swept past us down the valley. Wow! What a beautiful sight! It was so big! Its head was very pale, almost purely white. A few minutes later we came across the spot where it had been sitting, which was clearly marked by a huge dump (the term ‘droppings’ somehow does not seem to fit the picture). It looked like somebody had emptied a big bucket of white paint over the rocks.

At one point, we had a free line of sight through the valley that connects Ballinvagge with Siellavagge, and past Siellanjunni all the way over to Storsteinsfjellet (1872) and the Sealggajiekna glacier in Norway. Snow, snow, snow… Massive whiteness! Instant inspiration: maybe next year’s trip should be a circumambulation of the Storsteinsfjellet massif?

Ballinriehppe

Views from the unnamed peak 1646, which we reached after gaining some 600 meters in altitude across easy scree. We are high above the Ballinriehppe glacier, visible to the left. Tomorrow we will cut through the valley between the two peaks in the background (Ballinbogicohkka on the left and Coamohas on the right) and reach Siellavagge, which we will follow in a south-eastern direction, down towards Aliseatnu.

We sat down on the peak and celebrated our ‘climb’ with a few pieces of chocolate and a handful of nuts and a few swigs of water from the platy. We debated whether we should continue along the ridge line to complete the semi-circle around the cirque, or just hike over to the highest peak (1784), or simply call it a day and head back down. Committing to the full traverse would likely involve another 7 to 8 hours of walking/scrambling across the scree to the other end of the ridge, because we could not see any obvious bail routes when we scouted the ridge line through our binoculars. Given that dark clouds were rolling in from the east, we agreed that we should not attempt the full traverse. Little M and mom were both happy with what we had already achieved and were not particularly interested in any further exploration, especially considering the exposed nature of the continued ridge walk over to the next and highest peak of the cirque. Having settled that matter, we could allow ourselves some extra time on the peak to fully take in the great surroundings.

1646_nissonvagge

View from 1646 down into Nissonvagge and the lake at 1140 meters. As you can see, the incline gets progressively steeper as one moves into the cirque (i.e., towards us), and behind where big M is sitting there is a near vertical drop. Great exposure! 1646 is the outermost peak of a dual cirque, forming one arm of both the Gaskariehppi (behind the photographer to the right) and Ballinriehppi (behind the photographer to the left) cirques.

 

1646

Look at that inversion layer over the Abeskoeatnu valley floor! All those people down on Kungsleden have a gloomy day, but we are basking in the sun!

Lunch was prepped as soon as we were back down to our camp in Ballinvagge: instant soup with a couple of spoonfuls of couscous, along with a piece of cracker bread with hard cheese. Little M took a nap in the Tarptent, while big M made an attempt at fishing the slower-flowing waters of the small delta close to our camp site. We had scouted the stream for rising char, both the night before and this morning, but hadn’t seen any fish at all. Still, we figured it was worth a shot. Besides, it is always fun to work on perfecting your Tenkara cast. The fish — if they were there at all — totally ignored big M’s well-placed and ‘delicately presented’ (as fly-fishing nerds would have it) flies.

camp_Ballinvagge

View of our camp in Ballinvagge from the slopes of Ballincohkka.

 Day 3: Ballinvagge — Aliseatnu/Vierrojohka junction

That night it rained a bit, but it stopped in the early morning hours. We packed up quickly and got moving around 7:00. By 9 o’clock we had reached Siellavagge and stopped for breakfast (our standard oatmeal fare), which we reinforced with a tortilla + salami (thus making it brunch, right?). We hiked upstream along Siellajohka in the southeastern direction, traversing along wet, grassy slopes high above the stream. As you approach the watershed, the terrain changes character completely and turns into endless talus fields. We were grateful for our light packs and trail runners, which enable the precise footwork that is key to speedy travel in this type of environment. Of course, our trekking poles are very useful too.

siellavagge_west

Siellavagge, looking towards the northwest.

 

siellavagge

Siellavagge lakes, close to the watershed.

Siellavagge ends with a number of steep shelves. There is no trail here (in fact, there’s not much of a trail anywhere in Ballinvagge or Siellavagge), so finding our way down to the trail along Aliseatnu posed a fun challenge. Big M has a real talent for route finding and we made good choices all along, including the crossing of Alip Hongganjira right under its beautiful waterfall. This way we managed to stay clear of the thickets of willow that block the way down between Alip Hongganjira and Lulip Hongganjira.

downtowards_alisaetnu

Wow, big space, big nature! Looking out over the Aliseatnu valley from the edge of Siellavagge. Now where do we go from here?

There are a number of conspicuous bands of dolomite in the walls here that shine yellow among all the dark rock. The calcium and magnesium rich soils make for a very varied flora and lush vegetation in general, including lots of blueberries. We stuffed ourselves on our way down the slopes and painted our smiles purple. When we had made it down and found the marked trail that would lead us eastbound to the (only) bridge across Aliseatnu, it started raining rather heavily. The trail runs through dense willow brush, which often reached as high as dad’s chest. And the ground was very muddy and water-logged. Given the heavy rain, the only redeeming features of this section were the many beautiful flowers. We managed to time a quick lunch with a rare break in the otherwise persistent rain. Then the rain picked up again and from then on it rained continuously for 14 hours. We slogged on through the jungle of birch and willow and high herbs, e.g. fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). We had to cover some 4 km on these south-facing slopes through dense vegetation that can be described as arctic rainforest. Wet, wet, wet! A machete would have come in handy.

Finally, we made it to the bridge, crossed it, and climbed the hills, now following Vierrojohka, on the south side of Aliseatnu for another half hour before we got up on the moraine plateau and pitched our shelters around 20:00. By this time we were soaking wet. Not to worry, M&M have the routine down on how to shed the wet layers, change into their dry merino baselayers, and get into their sleeping bags while keeping things dry. It sure was nice to get out of the rain. Dad served us hot soup, cracker bread, hot chocolate, and many pieces of chocolate bar. A unanimous decision was made to skip brushing our teeth that night. We collapsed into a solid sleep right away. It had been a long day, we had covered around 22 km, most of it off-trail.

Day 4: Vierrojohka – Alesjaure

It rained all night, and around 03:00 a strong wind picked up too. By 05:00, the rain stopped and mom & dad got out to start drying our wet clothes in the wind. Some we had already dried inside our sleeping bags, on our bellies, during the night.

dryingout

Early morning after the deluge. Time to dry things out in the brisk wind. The prominent peaks in the background are Siellacohkka (center) and Honga (right). Siellavagge runs between these peaks.

We took our time that morning, M&M slept in, we let the wind take care of our wet gear, we had a leisurely breakfast, all the while observing the menacing clouds roll by. We finally packed up and hiked onwards when it looked like it would start drizzling again. But the weather soon improved and we really enjoyed the rest of the day. We walked along a system of moraine ridges, following the Aleseatnu waterway that includes a number of lakes. We met only one other party hiking in the other direction, so we had the blueberries and cloudberries all to ourselves. We stuffed our faces!

blueberries

Grazing away on blueberries. All of our rest stops involved picking berries. The peak in the background is Miesakcohkka.

Cloudberries were less widespread than blueberries, but in a few places the supply was particularly rich. We stocked up on vitamins and anti-oxidants for sure.

cloudberries

A good year for the cloudberries. Yummy!

 

cloudberries_in_hand

Gotta get your vitamins!!!

On this stretch we found several piles of scat that we could not identify positively, but they were presumably from either wolverine or arctic fox. We have to read up and learn more!

Day 4 presented few difficulties. We had to ford 4 streams, only one of which (Godujohka) was strong and deep enough to be exciting, even a little bit scary to little M. She crossed at the same time as dad, him walking immediately downstream and providing some support.

towards_alesjaure

It’s just us out here. And the occasional raindeer.

We arrived at the Alesjaure huts in the evening after another long day of some 25 km, mostly following a weak trail. M&M got to buy a bag of almond potato chips, which we savored together with a cup of tea, while cooking our dinner. It really felt like our adventure was over already, now that we had reached ‘civilization’. Since everything had worked perfectly according to our plans, we now had an extra day to spend, given our presumption that the transport back to Abisko along Kungsleden would be uneventful. We drafted plans for the upcoming days over dinner. Who’s up for a detour over to Unna Allakas? Or perhaps we should use our extra day for some more peak bagging near Abisko? Or perhaps we should hike up to Cuonjajavri for some safe-bet fishing? We decided that it all depends on the weather. M&M decided that Unna Allakas was out, and we further rationalized this decision with the expectation that this section is probably best hiked in the other direction, considering the scenery. Also, Unna Allakas might serve as the starting point for next year’s tentative trip around Storsteinsfjellet, so we could save it for later.

Days 5+6+7: Alesjaure – Abiskojaure – Abisko

After several days of more remote adventure, this section along Kungsleden felt a bit pedestrian, as it were. Again, we had a lot of rain, but could still enjoy the great scenery. We had a cozy lunch while hunkering down and huddling together on the lee side of a small boulder; thanks to the wind, the boulder offered good rain protection even though it was not overhanging. At the Abiskojaure huts we indulged in luxury and had a sauna, followed by a swim in the lake. So refreshing!

From Abiskojaure, we continued along Kungsleden back to Abisko. Given the rather cold, rainy and cloudy weather, M&M opted out of fishing at Cuonjajavri and voted instead for a return to Abisko and a hike up to the top of Njulla (1164 m) the next day. Fair enough, on day 7 we hiked up to Njulla in hard wind and intermittent rain, passing by the ‘Skystation’ at the top of the ski lift. Visibility was not great, but every now and then the clouds opened up a little bit and we got some nice views over Dourtnosjavri and the Abeskoeatnu valley.

On our way back down through the birch forest, M&M picked another big bag full of Orange birch boletes (Leccinum versipelle; ‘tegelröd björksopp’ in Swedish), which we fried up with shallots and butter later that night. A true delicacy!

njulla

By the summit cairn on Njulla. Cold, windy, cloudy. We didn’t stay very long up here! A small part of Dourtnosjavri is visible in the background.

Seven fantastic days in the Abisko area was over. The map below shows our route through the Abisko ‘alps’, as the range is sometimes called (although these mountains don’t look much like the central European alps). We can highly recommend this route through Ballinvagge, Siellavagge, and along the southern side of the Aleseatnu waterway. We met very few people over 4 days and traveled off-trail for the most part (except for the two-lane highway a.k.a. Kungsleden, of course). The scenery is superb along this route.

map_edit

Our route. The black line indicates our approximate route. Black circles indicate where we camped.

The take home message this year was that it is greatly rewarding to hike up into the high altitude valleys and to climb a few peaks. Now we are psyched to try an even higher route next year. M&M certainly are able to take on greater challenges; the question really is if mom and dad will be able to keep up with them.

Summing things up, we can also conclude that our selection of gear is near-perfect for our needs. Gear list? We’ll save that for a separate post.

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A day-hike in the Gorges du Verdon

In September 2011, we rented a house in Provence where we did several great day-hikes, including one down into the Gorges du Verdon and back up to the rim. We started from Point Sublime, which is at the junction of the GR4 and GR49 trails (which offer inspiration for future through-hikes). It was a very hot and sunny day in mid-September. It felt like full-blown summertime, but in the shade it was pleasantly cool and fall made its presence known through the bright red and fiery orange leaves on some trees. This late in the season we didn’t have to fight the crowds. In fact, we met very few people on the trail.

point_sublime


Here we are at Point Sublime, the starting point and return of our day trip down into the Verdon Gorge and back up.

Right from the very start, the scenery is awesome. Through the eons, the Verdon River has carved its way down into the limestone mass to create a deep canyon that winds its way for some 25 km through these ancient coral reefs.

the_gorge


Peering down into the Couloir Samson of the Verdon Gorge from the rim at Point Sublime, grappling with the stark contrast between its sunlit faces and darker depths. The canyon runs several hundreds of meters deep (quite impressive by European standards).

The trail was very easy to follow and made for an easy walk. We stopped occasionally to take a good look at …

vultures


Wow! Look at those big ones!

…what exactly? Vultures! Le Vautour Fauve (Gyps fulvus; ‘Griffon vulture’ in English) to be more precise. These giants of the air were soaring the thermals high above us. With a wing-span of up to 2.8 m wide they are truly impressive!

vautour


Welcome back mighty giants! Nice to see you!

From the trail we had great views of the gorge and the turquoise river, while we worked our way downwards along the switchbacks. Our hiking poles were useful in relieving some stress on the knees.

On the way down.


On the way down.

Once we had made it all the way down, it sure felt good to cool off in the river, then stretch out on the pebble beach, rest our feet and knees, and replenish our energy stores before the return hike up to the rim.

swimming


M testing the strength of the Verdon’s current before swimming across.

Lunch was served up. On the menu: levain (sourdough bread), saucisson (salami), fresh fruits, water and coffee. What else could you ask for? A piece of chocolate? OK, I guess we had one or two of those too.

lunch


Goodness.

The hike back up to the rim wasn’t too tiring, but we did work up a thirst in the afternoon heat. Little M got to ride on dad’s shoulders for a very short while, when it looked like the end point was miles and miles away along a steep and never-ending dusty trail that wasn’t any fun at all. But, what do you know: Point Sublime appeared magically beyond the next outcrop, and we could soon quench our thirst with the water we had stashed at the finish line. High spirits soon returned and we savored the last views of the gorge and surrounding mountains in the golden, late-afternoon sun, before taking off back home. 

On the way back to our rented house in Tourettes, we stopped for some additional refreshments at a cafe in a quaint old village (plenty of those in this part of the world).

cafe


Deux express, s’il vous plait.

refreshments


…and some sirop de peche blanche, spiked with sparkling mineral water!

A longer trip through this area is definitely on our wish list for the future. Here’s some inspiration!

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.

Abisko 2012, part 2

From the Kårsavagge hut, we forded Gorsajohka and started the climb up across the Njunesgeahci range that separates Kårsavagge (Gorsavaggi) from Abisko valley. The trip involves a 470 m gain in altitude and then a 600 m drop down to the lake, Abeskojavri. Grundsten’s excellent guide book “På fjälltur: Abisko Kebnekaise” has it listed as “strenuous, grade 7-8” (out of 10), but we found it truly enjoyable. By carrying light packs, we probably shaved several grade points from that scale.

On our way up, looking down into Gorsavaggi, with Gorsajohka barely visible way down there on the valley floor.

We stopped 2 or 3 times on the way up for a quick breather and a snack of nuts or chocolate (Milka Triolade being the kids’ current favorite). Since the weather remained unpredictable, we wanted to move fast across the pass and avoid being caught in fog up there, where it supposedly can be quite tricky to orient across the talus fields. Elsa, the host at the Kårsavagge hut, had originally recommended that one shouldn’t attempt the hike if the mountain tops (1201 and 1150, unnamed on the map) are not visible from the hut, but then gave us a supportive “go!” despite the peaks being shrouded by light clouds. A good call, as it turned out, because we enjoyed great scenery for the most part. Still, we got to experience how dramatically fast the weather can change up there: within a minute, a fast moving cloud engulfed us and reduced visibility to 10 meters or so; after another minute, the cloud was gone again.

The Trailing Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens; “Krypljung” in Swedish) grows high up around the summit.

We didn’t see much traffic on this route: we passed two women with heavy packs on the way up and met another two guys, again with heavy packs, on the summit of the pass.

Here we are, close to the highest point of the hike. The green line demarks the Abisko National Park boundary.

On our way down towards Abeskojavri from the Njunesgeahci pass with Giron rising dramatically as a 1000 m high wall across the valley.

Once we were down below the summit, we found a nice sheltered spot where we had lunch while enjoying the great views down towards Abeskojavri (at 490 m) and across to Giron (1551 m). Hot soup, tortillas with salami, and coffee or hot chocolate was on the menu, and, of course, another piece of Triolade for dessert. After lunch we continued down. There’s not much of a trail, but the hiking is very easy and relatively dry. On this side of the pass, the geographic handrails are obvious and would make the descent safe even in a whiteout: down to the lake and then south (to the right) along the shore. We made it to the Abiskojaure huts in the early afternoon. The sun came out and we had a relaxing time down by the shore of Abeskojavri, taking care of our feet and stretching. Mom did her yoga thing.

Foot massage and general pampering on the Abiskojaure beach.

Yogi on the beach.

We cooked a proper meal for dinner: red lentils with sausage and couscous. We had brought our home-made dried food. The procedure is simple: bring water to a boil, add it directly to the zip-lock bag with the dried food, give it a good stir, zip it up and wrap it up inside the 4 mm evazote mat (which we find multiple other uses for: as a ground cover under the Trailstar and a sitting pad during breaks along the trail; it goes on the outside of dad’s backpack), and then wait for some 15-30 minutes. Done! Minimal fuel consumption.

We were down and out by 21:30 after a really good and fulfilling day with great first-time experiences: fording a wide “jåkk” (stream) and crossing a 1000 m high pass.

A highly recommended trip!

Abisko 2012, part 1

We went hiking in the Abisko area this year. A comfortable 24 hour train ride took us from the very south of Sweden to the very north. Abisko is a super-convenient portal to awesome wilderness. The train station is right by the Abisko National Park entrance. The friendly staff at the STF mountain station lets you store supplies in the baggage room. We stashed two big duffel bags with books and games (from the train journey), food, gas, and some backup clothing before we took off in the early afternoon on day 1. A low-hanging cloud cover prevented any views of the surrounding peaks and delivered a constant drizzle. We enjoyed our hike up into Kårsavagge nonetheless. There are so many flowers in the lush undergrowth of the birch forest and also in the open areas!

Orchids grow on open, wet, limestone-rich ground. This one is a Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea; “Brudsporre” in Swedish).

We didn’t put on our rain pants, since our nylon pants dried quickly from the inside, except during the last part of the hike when we moved beyond the tree line and slogged across some wet marshy ground, forded a rain-swollen creek, and wacked through wet brush, which pretty much soaked us. After some 14 km of hiking and a modest 300 m altitude gain, we arrived at the Kårsavagge hut, which provided us with the convenience of an outhouse. Sixteen people were holing up in the 10-man hut, so our intention to camp was viewed favorably by the temporary residents and the warden/host. Then the rain started to really hammer down. We pitched the tent and the tarp in a hurry and got a chance to practice the art of entering the tent/tarp and shedding the wet layers while keeping our sleeping bags dry. This operation is quite easy in the Trailstar with its huge interior, while the Tarptent Double rainbow requires a bit more finesse. Dad served up some hot chocolate or blueberry soup of our choice and then we collapsed in our sleeping bags, warm and happy with today’s achievements.

Look, the sun is coming out over there!

The rain continued through the night and around 2 am the wind picked up too. We worried a bit about the tent pegs that were driven into a rather shallow layer of glacial silt, but they held nicely. Still, we made a note to bring Y-beam stakes, instead of the Easton pegs, next time. The silnylon stretched a bit from the long exposure to rain, but the pitches were still tight enough to resist any flapping in the wind. The next morning the rain stopped and the clouds started to lift from the valley floor. We even caught a few glimpses of the sun, wow!