Sunday, 6 June 2010

Scandinavian Bloggers Meet Up: Vålådalen

I set off from Copenhagen to Stockholm to meet with 5 other Scandinavian bloggers, having never met them before this provided an interesting background to the beginning of what turned out to be a wonderfully wet experience in Vålådalen.I arrived in Stockholm and set off to buy some gas for my stove. Returning to Stockholm central station, where I was to meet Joe and Hendrik, I spent some time people watching and wondering how I could recognise Joe and Hendrik, fortunately having watched many of Hendrik's videos he was easily recognisable as was Joe. Depositing our bags in a locker we set off to the outdoor shops where Hendrik was keen to purchase a 120 litre Fjällräven pack for the trip whilst Joe was interested in the smaller 100 litre packs. Sadly we were unable to get the correct size and soon returned to the railway station to meet the Swedish bloggers, now this was the challenge we were to meet at The Ring, which is a popular meeting spot we discovered, however, it was the Inov 8 shoes which gave it away and we had soon met up with Martin and later Gustav, also in Inov8's.
Off to Olearys (there is an Irish pub or 2 in very town) for dinner where we were soon joined by Jörgen and now we were 6. After dinner and carbohydrate loading we wandered down to our home for the night the Night Train to Storlien. Finding our bunks we soon set about the task of fitting 6 hikers and gear into a confined area. We were awoken the next morning to the news that we were about an hour late, so we took our time with a leisurely breakfast (almost too leisurely for some) after which we alighted the train at Undersaker where we were met by Stefan's Taxi which then drove us to the start of the walk after a quick gear drop off of the gear not required for the trip which for Joe included his Neo Air.

A group photo was taken in the misty grey morning as three other heavily loaded walkers set off for their 3 day trip. The trail wandered through the forests, with the mist covered mountains as a backdrop, we soon settled into a pleasant pace with conversations on many topics taking place, perhaps interestingly for me at least, I never took the map out the whole trip but instead left it to Jörgen, Martin and Gustav to lead the way. This of course did lead to the occasional discussions between the trio on what was the best route. Soon we had reached a view point over Vålån and stopped for a break, Martin and Gustav introduced us to Runekager as light rain began to fall. There was also much viewing of others gear, there was Hendrik with his
Laufbursche huckePack, Joe with his Gossamer Gear Gorilla, Gustave with his Gossamer Gear Murmur, Jörgen with his Mariposa, Martin with his Granite Gear pack and me with my Aarn Mountain Magic 55, as well there was a range of walking poles including Gossamer Gear LT 4's, Mountain Kings from the UK, ski poles and Pacer Poles. The GG packs and LT4's were loaned to the group by Gossamer Gear (thanks). We headed off in a westerly direction and soon Jörgen said this is where we leave the trail and before long we found ourselves wading a river (no more dry feet or shoes) and not long afterwards a lunch spot was found, soon 2 bushbuddies, 1 evernew dx woodburner and 3 gas stoves including the Monatauk Gnat were out cooking lunch. It was a tranquil spot with views over the lake.

Eventually it was time to move and under Jörgen's expert navigation we headed towards the banks of Vålån which we would follow the remainder of the day.
It was a wonderful walk along the untracked eastern side of the river, occasionally we would find animal pads or follow the river bank or make our own trail through the old forest meanwhile there was always the sound of the river to keep us company.

Finally we reached a spot near a set a of rapids which seemed like a great spot for camping.

We looked for spots in the open forest and soon there were six different shelters (Trailstar, Gatewood Cape, Duomid, Hilleberg Rajd, Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn and Flysheet from a Terra Nova Photon). Soon I discovered the value of the trailstar there were not many flat spots but I was able to put the shelter up and then locate an ideal spot under it for the night, I slept very well as did everyone else and it was a late start the next day. After a leisurely breakfast in bed I wandered over to the fire where Jörgen was eating breakfast soon we were joined by the remainder of the group and we sat around talking, drinking coffee and just enjoying the surrounds.

It was another grey morning and whilst the cloud seemed a little higher the peaks were still covered in cloud. The plan for today was to continue to follow the river northwards until we met the trail connecting Vålåstugorna and Lunndörrsstugona and then follow the path west ultimately camping in Issjödalen. As we climbed we began to pass through drifts of snow as the forest thinned out, as well it was a little breezier and the rain/mist ensured that our wet weather gear was on at all times.

However, I did not find it unpleasant and the expansive views of the valleys made up for the discomfort, soon after disturbing a couple of reindeer we reached the trail and began skirting Trondfjällen before descending into the Luunndörrssån valley. Just as my feet were beginning to dry we came to the inevitable ford and so my feet were soon wet again, a state which they would remain for the rest of the trip. It was also where the "Inov8 boys" allowed themselves to be photographed together, the photographer was not wearing Inov8s.
Crossing the Lunndörrssån on a suspension bridge we soon found ourselves climbing past some lakes before arriving at Lunndörrstugorna, the wind had increased and with the mist, the shelter was a pleasant escape from the cold outside. This was a lunch stop and Gustav was proud of the fact that he had got his bushbuddy burning and water boiled, he was less happy when he spilt the water, this was not to be the last time. After a long lunch we walked past the locked sauna and climbed away from Lunndörrstugorna, it was still misty and cool and it took me a little while to warm up again, soon we were in the surreal treeless landscape below Stor-Gröngumpen with views to the north of the pyramids as described by
Gustav in his tour of 2009. It was approaching 6 pm as we descended towards Issjön (Ice lake) and the breeze ensured that we did not stand around chatting as we passed the Kings hunting lodge. We continued to descend in search of sheltered campsite finally arriving at Grönvallen, it was evident that we were going to get very wet feet the next morning so we back tracked to a field and set up camp. The ground was very wet and the mosquitos were already out and warming up for the summer. It was pleasant night spent discussing a range of things, including gear, food, cooking etc.

The morning brought with it the occasion patches of blue sky, indicating that as we were leaving the weather would improve. Breakfast taken slowly with Joe demonstrating his capabilities of making muffins.

It was to be a short day today and after packing we headed past the cottages of Grönvallen and commenced walking through water along the trail for the next half kilometre before passing by Stor Vargtjärnen with its panoramic views of Middagsvalen resplendent with its radio tower on top, by now the sun was breaking through which made for a pleasant walk across Vargtjärnflåtet soon it was lunchtime.
After lunch reality began to appear with houses, dogs cars and bitumen roads and with in an hour after the final group photos we were back at Vålågårdens camping and the only things left to do was have a sauna, shower, enjoy the sunshine and dry out gear and have a beer or 2.

Words cannot really describe the wonders of the trip, both from a scenery perspective as well as from an educational perspective. The trip demonstrated to me that there is always something to learn or at least different perspectives on old ideas to consider.

My gear

Trailstar: excellent shelter, plenty of space and allows for the solo walker to locate a flat comfortable spot even if the ground is uneven, it is possible to sit up in it and also provides the opportunity to look outside without the need to open a door. My go to shelter.

Aarn Mountain Magic 55l, I used smaller front pockets so it could be better described as a 40 litre pack, with its water proof liner it is ideal in the conditions we experienced as everything was kept dry inside. Once the straps are adjusted for fit then the pack moves with you and is very comfortable, the front balance pockets are ideal for storing the days needs along with camera, tripod etc. The main sack has a dry bag, which can be unvelcroed and the trailstar was stored in an Exped drybag, inside the main bag. However, the trailstar would have fitted into the small front mesh pocket at the rear. If I had been using the normal balance pockets then the tarp could have been carried in one of those (the balance pockets also have removable dry bags).

Rab Demand Pullon: I wore this most of the time and was very impressed, it breathes superbly (too well for at times I felt the cooling inside the jacket) it has a roomy hood and excellent zip and Napoleon pocket, this will be jacket of choice in my upcoming trip to Lapland.

Hendrik offered me the use of the Monatauk Gnat (currently the worlds lightest gas stove) the stove works well and certainly packs small, I used the accompanying carrying case which according to Hendrik almost weighs the same as the stove, unfortunately I do not have any fuel consumption figures as I had to buy my gas in Stockholm and then gave the bottle to Martin as I was unable to carry it on the plane. No doubt there will be many more posts and photographs from other members of the group, so keep an eye on the following blogs.
Hiking in Finland
The bearablelightness
Thunder in the Night
A special thanks goes to Hendrik for instigating the idea and to Martin, Jörgen and Gustav for logistics of an excellent trip. Thanks