Saturday, 30 July 2011

Vajsaluokta to Gautelishytta: along the Norwegian border

After a pleasant time at Vajsaluokta, I headed west towards the Norwegian border, with some apprehension as it was a forested section and the weather continued to be warm and humid, with lush green foliage the insects were active. However, like all other sections there was always something to occupy my interest, such as the flowers, trees, rocks and the occasional Dalripa (Ptarmigan) family.

There was also lovely open plains, often with boardwalks and it was at the verge of one of these plains that I developed the skill of putting on the headnet and having an afternoon siesta, something I can thoroughly recommended.

The photo below is taken looking back towards Ahkká and its accompanying glacier, I continue to be amazed by the number of glaciers that are seen high up in the mountains, sadly they are retreating but I feel privileged to have seen them.

I continued westward towards Hellmobotn, intending to camp in the vicinity of Njallávrre, as I approached the area I noticed that 3 people were standing well off the track, looking like they were waiting for a bus, well it wasn't a bus but instead a helicopter came up the valley stopped picked them up and flew off. It took some of the wilderness feeling away, but once they were gone, it was peaceful beside the lake.

Later in the evening I noticed 3 canoes heading down stream towards Ritsem, I wondered how far they went as I never saw or heard them again.

The following morning I set off with Roysvatn in Norway, as my intended destination. The first challenge was to cross the crystal clear river, the colours were magnificent.

The trail along here was less evident in places and I was very pleased when I found the sign below. Later I found out that part of the problem is that I was still in Sweden, well away from any huts so no one takes responsibility for marking the trail to a Norwegian hut.

I found this to be one of the most physically demanding days, the distance to be covered was about 24 kms, but after the initial climb to the saddle providing views Jiegnajávrásj and the peaks behind

The remainder of the day consisted of climbing to the top of a small ridge, then dropping back down to the river only to climb the next ridge whilst always trying to keep an eye out for the infrequent (for my eyes at least) cairns. There were, however, many rewarding views in all directions including Ahkká.

With lovely warm sunshine and a light breeze it was a demanding but enjoyable walk. After crossing several deep snow patches I finally reached Roysvatn in the evening, soon after three other walkers arrived coming in the opposite direction, 2 Dutch walkers were staying in the hytte, whilst the third walker from France who was walking the entire Nordkalottleden having started in Kautokeino in early June was using a Golite SL 1. He was as surprised to see an SL2 as I was an SL 1. We spent a lot of time discussing the merits of both, he had already decided that an SL 2 for such a trip, particularly in wet weather, may be a better option than an SL 1. Furthermore he felt that a single inner nest similar to mine was the ideal option. Also of interest was that he had been using GoLite Tumalo trousers for the 4 weeks and considered them to be perfect having withstood a lot of hard treatment in the marshes along the way.

After dinner we both settled down in our respective shelters and I was taken by the lovely pink colours on the snow capped peaks.

French to the rescue.

There was, however, a problem, the stitching on the instep of both boots was coming away and given that I had only covered 200 of the proposed 400 kms, I was a little concerned to say the least. Fortunately my french colleague, had a needle and thread so with some careful but not elegant sewing I was able to sew the rand back onto the Roclite 370's. I did have to repeat my sewing efforts a couple of more times but the boots held together. I recalled reading comments by Roman Dial indicating that he seam sealed the stitching on his shoes, which is something I will do in the future.

After repairing my boots I set off for what would be the longest day in both in time and distance. Initially I headed down the valley past the mist covered Svanjávre. At the bottom of the valley the trail crosses the Svártljåhåke on a bridge, now I always thought that bridges were intended to keep your feet dry. A look at the photo below indicates the problem with this bridge, you have to wade out to the ladder to get to the bridge. 

But at least the other side was dry : ) 

Once on the other side I wandered along the grassy plains and the sandy beaches complete with reindeer hoof imprints.

It was noticeable however, that the weather was deteriorating and as I begun the climb around the sides of Noadetjåhkkå, the sound of thunder could be heard. 

The approaching thunder and accompanying darkening skies encouraged me to push on, but fortunately the heavier rain stayed to the east, though, the light showers encouraged me to put on the Rab Demand pull on. I noted that when wearing the Demand, I felt cooler than when wearing a windshirt, something I have experienced before, especially if there is any breeze at all. I soon crossed the border into Norway as I headed to the next river crossing.

I had been warned by my french colleague the previous day that the trail and summer bridge across Noaidejávri shown on the map was not correct and that there was an extra 3 km’s to walk before the bridge was met. However, there were stunning views of the surrounding lakes before ultimately descending to the summer bridge. Now I am normally confident when crossing bridges of all types, but this Norwegian summer bridge left a lot to be desired, it was well weathered, the hand cables were connected to every second or third upright, the ladder to bridge was missing rungs, I was glad to get to the other side, in one piece and dry.

The new trail then took me over a low ridge and down to the next challenge. There is about a 50 m gap between 2 isthmuses on Bovrojávri, it was unclear from the map how to cross until I got there. Upon arriving I discovered that I had to row boat to the other side.

The aluminum row boats firstly needed to be dragged down to the waters edge and I was surprised how heavy they were. Once the boat was in the water I then loaded my gear in preparation to row to the other side. Problem. I have never rowed a boat before, initially I tried to row using both oars but found myself drifting into the lower lake, after a minor panic I decided that a kayak paddling technique would be more effective, it was. Once across the other side, then I had to paddle back with the other boat in tow and then return so that there were boats on both sides. I still cannot row a boat, but my kayak paddling technique did improve.

Once across the other side a two kilometer walk took me to a campsite adjacent to Pauro hytte, it was 10 pm by this time, it was not long before I was asleep.

Waking the next morning to a breezy but sunny day, I set off along the banks of Bovrojávri admiring the ice covered lake as I walked. 

The trail ultimately climbed away from the lake and the saddle provided wonderful views to the east, north and south. I also marvelled at how the flowers could grow in large rock faces.

Descending to Baugevatnet, where another interesting bridge was crossed I continued westward again along the shore line, here much of the lake was covered in ice crystals which made a chiming sound as the wind caused ripples to form on the lake. 

Finally I climbed away from the lake and entered a rocky landscape with views to the west, as I climbed to the higher sections of the valley small lakes surrounded by snow and rocks required careful navigation to ensure that I did not end up in the water. As I continued along the valley the high tension powerline from the hydro electricity scheme became evident as did the increasingly dark clouds. 

The trail descends towards Siiddasjávri following the powerline, it was during this time that a severe thunderstorm hit, I took shelter behind a large rock, underneath the powerline, I felt this was possibly not the safest place to be, but was glad of the protection from the strong winds and rain.

After the storm had passed I descended towards Sitashyytene and set up camp as another large thunderstorm arrived with torrential rain.

 The next morning was calm and there was mist on the lake, indicating a nice day. The first section of the walk was a 14 km road walk, which was a blessing and a curse. It made for easy fast walking, but also after a while became a bit boring. As the mist begun to lift the calm waters of  Siiddasjávri provided a wonderful back drop to the walk.

Reaching the point where the track climbed steeply up to another plateau and with dry boots I took the opportunity to have lunch and resew my boots after which I climbed the steep and rocky path to the top of the plateau, glad of the red painted stone cairns that were evenly spaced along the way. Once on the plateau the trail crosses from Norway to Sweden and then back again.  

There was as always many fascinating geological features and I was fascinated by this large rock sitting on three much smaller stones. 

Ultimately I reached Skoaddejávri and sat there entranced by the still lake, the reflections and the beauty of the area, I needed no encouragement to set up camp for the night. This was perhaps the most scenic spot for the whole trip.

The following morning it was foggy with visibility limited to about 100 metres, it was also much cooler, so again I was glad for the well marked cairns as I crossed the barren plateau before descending to the road again to skirt the sides of Gautelisvatnet. There were many reindeer grazing here and they did not seem too perturbed by me passing by. 

Returning to a well marked trail on the north side of Gautelisvatnet I continued on to Gautelishytta, a wonderful hytta with views across Gautelisvatnet to the peaks on the other side. It was here I met two members from the Narvik and Omegn Turisforening (DNT) they were cleaning as well as digging foundations for a new cabin. I quickly appreciated the challenges that went into building here with digging by hand and removing large rocks so that the foundations could be established. I was also impressed with their willingness to chat about the area and was as chat about what I was doing. A very pleasant evening was spent and I left the next morning feeling very refreshed.