Saturday, 23 July 2011

Kvikkjokk to Vajsaluokta: the first 9 days

Travelling by train to Stockholm then night train to Murjek and bus to Kvikkjokk I arrived at the beginning of the walk in a little over 24 hours. My first appointment was to take a boat from Kvikkjokk for about 5 kms. upstream to the trail head. It was a warm sunny day (too warm) and the lush green growth accompanied with the warmth ensured the mosquitos were plentiful. 

The trail followed the valley and provided many view points of the surrounding snow covered peaks.

Within the first hour my feet were wet from a crossing a river and they stayed wet for most of the trip. Further up the valley after a short steep climb from Njunjesstugan the panorama of what lay ahead encouraged me to push on.

I camped near the lake the first night and the inner net inside the SL2 was tested and found to be successful and as Dondo has noted many of the mosquitos happily drifted to the top of the shelter. The next morning I awoke to sunshine, and increased humidity but I was aware of the impending change in the weather which was confirmed by the hut host at Tarrekaisestugan, who was happy to note that I was the first visitor for the season, even though I was just passing by.

As I climbed towards Vaimok, the clouds darkened and then it rained, which at least gave me some respite from the mosquitos. It continued to rain for most of the afternoon, and having only worn my windshirt I was pretty wet by the end of the day. But once the tent was up I soon settled in for the night (if you can call it night at this time of the year).

The next morning was overcast and with a light wind it was cool as I continued on towards Vaimokstugan, as I came over a rise at the end of the valley I was pleasantly surprised to see Vaimok was calm and with ice still floating on it, I sat there admiring the view recognising this is what I had come for. Descending to the shoreline I then rock hopped for what seemed like an eternity in misty rain on slippery rocks, something that is not to be recommended, especially with a fully loaded pack.

I had lunch sitting on the verandah of the locked stugan watching the mist rise from the lake.

The trail crosses a large waterfall and climbs vertically for about 180 metres, with a fully loaded pack I made slow progress. But the views back down to the lake were something special.

The weather had begun to clear by late afternoon and I chose a campsite and set about setting up camp, only to find a couple of pegs left by a previous user. I have never quite understood how people to can leave pegs behind. Admittedly these two pegs were to become useful later.

The following morning I continued the descent to Pieskehaurestugan, it was a pleasant descent, until I neared the bottom and found myself confronted by a deep fast flowing river with no bridge, though there were foundations for a suspension bridge. With the trail evident on the other side I assumed that I had to cross.

After crossing I continued along the trail to find an alternative route avoiding the crossing, which had not been obvious when coming from Vaimok. 

Lunch was at Pieskehaurestugan which was also locked, after which I crossed a bridge over the Varvvekjåhkå before climbing into a beautiful valley which was occasionally shrouded in mist, all along admiring the plants and the surrounding peaks.

Along the way I crossed a number of bridges, including this interesting design.

Whilst walking I had occasional encounters with Long tailed Skua (Fjällabb), before reaching the thunderous and rapidly flowing Varvvekjåhkå. Fortunately the bridge was intact and with a drop in the water level of over a metre in a very short distance, a river crossing was not an option.

Having survived the crossing, and just settling into my walking routine, I suddenly realised that there was a pair of very angry Gulls attacking me and while they did not actually touch me they swooped very close and persistently. Clearly they were nesting near by.

The remainder of the day can be best described as walking through a swamp, it was still very wet from the thaw. After a an evening camped on a slope watching the herds of reindeer grazing on the river flats I set off towards Staddajåkkå fjällstuga, where the alternative Nordkalottleden to Sulitjelma is met. Once through the pass adjacent to Jålle, the trail descend through grassland to Staddajåkkå. As I approached Staddajåkkå the thunderous sound of yet another waterfall could be heard, I reflected on the fact that the thunderous sound of water passing through gorges was one of the common themes which ran through the whole trip.

Stopping at Staddajåkkå for break I was intrigued by the shrill like sound of the Småspov (Whimbrel). Later in the day as rain began to fall I found a flat spot and set up the shelter, I was pleased that I was able to quickly set up the outer and get inside to complete the set up of the inner of the tent as the rain poured down.

The next morning I continued north along the banks of Stálojåhkå ultimately rejoining the Padjelantaleden near to Staloluoktastugorna.  Staloluoktastugorna is a wonderful stugen and apart from all the expected amenities it also includes a sauna. I was fascinated when reading the guest book on where people were coming from or going to especially those travelling by helicopter, I realised that I was no longer in the wilderness but in a tourist area. This feeling was to reamin for the rest of the Padjelantaleden.

But there are always surprises and for me it was the Sami church which stands above Staloluoktastugorna, looking a little like a space ship on the outside.

Its origins were clearly evident on the inside, it was an amazing building.

It was a magic place with its stained glass windows, spaceship look on the outside and its mixture of wood, hides and grass matting on the inside.

It was my plan to continue on to Arasluokta for an overnight in a hut which would allow me to do some laundry, and just chill a bit. What I had not considered was the wonderful walk between Staloluoktastugen and Arasluokta there were many perfect campsites, but when it is laundry day then ... I arrived at Arasluoktastugorna and found a cabin and quickly set about getting the chores done. Later in the day I accompanied a swedish couple to a traditional sami smokehouse and purchased freshly smoked fish and smoked dried reindeer meat. The fish was cooked on the cabin stove that night and was perfect, the reindeer meat was a delicacy that I savoured for several days after.

The next morning was clear and sunny and as I climbed away from Arasluokta the views of the peaks across Virihaure was fantastic, these views were to remain with me the whole day as I crossed another plateau before descending to Låddejåkkestugan.

The plateau not only contained some fine views and enjoyable walking but also had its own geological formations. The varying types of rocks and the general geological structures is another theme that was intertwined with the trip.

I stopped at Låddejåkkestugan  for a rest, and I was the only one there soon however I met many south bound walkers. They were a mixture of less experienced walkers and some who were walking from the northernmost point in Norway to the southern most point. Later I met a couple with 2 dogs who were walking north to south as well as east to west in Norway, they had already been out 3 months. This put my trip into perspective.

After a short sharp climb from Låddejåkkestugan you find yourself on an 800 metre high plateau which provides wonderful views to the west and north. I met many walkers heading south on this section, some who chatted, some who did not, but I was just happy with the wonderful weather and the views. 

It was during this time I decided it was time to show that I was there, mud stained Montane Terra's and all.

Eventually I found campsite overlooking Vastenjaure and the path north to Akkajaure, it was a warm evening but with a slight breeze the mosquitos were kept at bay and I was entertained by the steady flow of helicopters flying up and down the valley, taking fisherman out fishing, rounding up reindeer, or taking sami to their summer houses, it was busy.

Strange things happen; when I set up the shelter there was a gentle breeze from the south, but by midnight I was out changing the alignment of the shelter from North/South to East/West as the wind had changed direction and had increased in strength significantly. The bonus was that I got to see the awesome sunrise/sunset. I have no idea on which it was.

Th next morning I descended to the trail and crossed Vuojatädno, on what has to be one of the biggest suspension bridges I have seen.

I crossed the plains to the STF Kutjaurestugan where I spent time talking to the cabin hosts. The STF cabin hosts wherever I went on the trail the were always friendly, helpful, informative and genuinely interested in hearing about what I was doing. After lunch I began the climb up to Guossjájávrre  in search of a campsite for the night, whilst following the trail I met a lighweight hiker from Germany carrying a large GoLite Gust and using a Tarptent Contrail, he had started in Hellmobotn in Norway and was heading to Sulitjelma. We chatted for a while about gear and the lack of lightweight hikers in this part of the world before we went our own ways. I soon found a spot to camp overlooking Guossjájávrre.

The following morning I descended to Akkajaure and then followed the trail along shoreline through many cottages to the STF stugen Vaisaluokta, where the cabin host supplied cool lemonade which was greatly appreciated.  Incidentally, this was the first area where I had a mobile phone signal since leaving Kvikkjokk.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent following the trail along Akkajaure towards Norway, more about that in the next instalment.