Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Along the Nordkalottleden Part 3: Jerta to Kilipsjärvi

After a windy night, it was quieter in the morning (however morning is defined when it is never dark) Whilst it was light inside the tent, I was not completely sure if the fog had lifted, I looked outside and it had but only a 100 metres or so.
Now into my usual routine cooking breakfast packing up and extracting myself from the tent and set about finishing the packing. It was apparent that the weather was improving and as I descended to Skaktardalen.
The Skaktardalen is a wonderful valley with a broad shallow river which according to the Norwegian guy I met was great for fishing, it would have also been a great pack rafting river in my view. Reaching the river I noticed a tent to my left and the couple inside were just beginning breakfast, I waved they waved but we never spoke. When I read the logbook in Pältsastugan it was apparent to me that they were hiking to Abisko along the Nordkalottleden.

Crossing the river I began to climb around the flank of stuora Nanna, by now the sun had come out and with a light breeze it made for pleasant hiking. Also in the back of my mind was an awareness that my sleeping bag was a little damp from the previous night so after a while I decided it was time to stop, dry out the gear and just plain relax. Which I did. I also noticed at this time what appeared to be a pair of Rough Legged Buzzards high up on the cliffs enjoying the warm air.

After a while of sitting I began to realise that there were a number of tents along the Skaktardalen, there did not seem to be much movement so I wondered if they were fishing, relaxing or avoiding bugs, though I doubt it was the latter, it really was a nice day.

I finally decided that the sleeping bag was dry enough and continued to sidle stuora Nanna finally descending to two unnamed lakes which drained to Skaktardalen. As I descended there was the inevitable heath, black mud and mosquitos, but again not enough to really trouble me. I was also taken by the 2 hunting birds, possibly Merlin who were soaring above the cliffs. Climbing away from the lakes I headed North East towards Dærthytta, a spot for lunch was found and I sat for a while just enjoying the sun whilst drying boots and socks. After lunch with a descent to Cievččasjávri brought mosquitos which were quick to rise from their shady spots among the rocks and I was quick to keep moving. They did not detract from the walk and I was forever looking around to see what I could inclduing a Sami village to the west. Ultimately I arrived at Dærtahytta, though my goal was further north.

After a break I headed north only to be confronted by a dead end valley and the only way out was up with a climb of about 100 metres across talus. I finally reached the top and noticed that at 950 metres there was still ice on the lakes. I continued across the rock strewn land scape till I found a campsite on the Øvre Dividal nasjonalpark boundary at about 1100 m.

Whilst having dinner I had a surprise guest, a Lemming, it did not seem too concerned by me, but should have been grateful that I was there while the Longtailed Skua searched for food. It was a pleasant evening and relaxing outside the tent was the reward for an enjoyable days hiking.

It was a little greyer the next morning, and I continued my onward trek north and given that I had had no telephone signal for 5 days I was hopeful that today may provide the reassuring option of sending a message to say I am ok. There was little climbing to do and I was soon at the top of the saddle before the long descent to Rostahytta. Soon I came across what was the most elaborate stone cairn I had seen so out came the camera.

I continued the descent past some lakes and was impressed by the sedimentary rocks with their many layers.

The gradual descent through grassy plains with wildflowers blooming finally led me to Rostahytta, my lunch stop.

I sat there enjoying the sunshine while taking in the views to the north and south, while doing so a Norwegian couple arrived with 2 dogs, they were intending to stay in the hytta and were happy to describe their hiking experiences in Nepal to me. I was also impressed by the size of the woodstack, that is some sauna they must have.

After a long lunch break I headed upstream along the Nordakalottleden. Soon you pass the trail though Isdalen, I have no idea why the trail continues along the valley, the trip through Isdalen looks much more interesting. The remainder of the day was spent walking along what is best described as a quad motor bike trail. Ultimately I found a place to stop and as long as the breeze blew there would be few bugs. The breeze did stop later and the bugs appeared.
The next morning it was calm, mild and very humid. So aside from the mosquitos it was not very pleasant and as soon as there was a climb you were sweating, but it was not raining. So I was wandering along as I do, when out to the left I noticed this peak and I said “WOW” it was Pältsan standing at 1442m. I found a spot to sit, take photos and admire it and the surrounding mountains beginning to realise that this would possibly be the last real peaks I would see on the trip.

After a break I set off towards Pältsastugen for lunch as I approached the stugan I met 3 Finnish hikers who were intending to climb Pältsan, apparently there is a log book at the top. I continued on my way never knowing whether they climbed it or not.
Arriving at Pältsa stugan I was met by the warden, he was very helpful in advising me of all the local beauty spots as well as showing me the two visitor books. The Nordakalottleden Book contained entries of those specifically hiking the trail. I was to be the first heading North (for 2010) with one other couple heading south. I sat around for quite a while with one excursion to the nearby waterfalls. It would have been easy to be seduced by the comforts of the hut, but I decided to move on.

So after a very relaxing time in the hut I decided to move on to a camp up high near the border of Sweden, Norway and Finland. It was a long climb from the stugan under darkening skies, two hikers passed me going south with big packs on, I assumed they were staying at Pältsastugen. After a long climb I reached the saddle as the rain began to fall. The landscape in front of me was a rock and grass covered landscape interspersed with lakes and snow drifts. As I descended towards the first lake I noticed a hiker heading towards me, he was a New Zealander who had been attempting to hike the whole trail only to be stopped by flooded rivers north of Kilipsjärvi.

We chatted for a while during which he suggested I should stay at Kuokkmajärvi a hut on the Finnish side of the border. We went our separate ways, however, he did note my smaller pack, his was the bombproof 90 litre Macpac Cascade. I continued across the barren landscape as it became increasingly dull (at 4 pm).

I finally descended towards Treriksröset (three borders). It was close to 8 pm by the time I arrived and I had the place to myself, it was some what humid and the insects were active. From here it was a short walk to Kuokkmajärvi, I met up with 3 Finnish ladies who were waiting for the remainder of their group to arrive. They advised me that there was a few mosquitos in the hut, upon inspection I decided a tent was a better option.

So with a 3 km walk in the morning the trip was all but complete. I enjoyed a late dinner and then retired for the night with the mosquitos in evidence but not in plague proportions, that was in the forest I was told.

There was a minor panic in the morning when I realised that the boat operated on Finnish time which was 1 hour ahead of my clock, but not to despair I still had plenty of time and sat beside Yinan Kilipsjärvi waiting for the boat to depart.
Alighting from the boat I walked up to Retkeilykeskus, and tested their showers, as well as the all you can eat buffet and their reindeer hamburgers.

Later in the day the bus to Tromsø arrived. There was one surprise left, the bus trip, it was perhaps the most scenic bus trip I have ever been on.