Thursday, 15 August 2013
Nordlandsruta: Lønstua to Kvisteindalstunet
I began the morning with a climb away from Kjemåbekken towards the saddle between Lønstinden and Steindalstinden, the sun was out, the air was still cool. The higher I climbed, the boulders increased in size and the areas of grass and gravel decreased dramatically. By the time I had reached the saddle, the cairns highlighted a route across a boulder field. Fortunately the boulders were dry so travel was somewhat easy, except for the occasional rock and roll as a boulder was dislodged.
I find boulder hoping fun and have had some interesting and memorable times rock hoping, but there becomes a point of time that it becomes plain hard and as I descended past Lønstindvatnet I had reached that point. The only consolation was the scenery continued to impress.
One rock, two rocks, three rocks … and with the sun reappearing the insects began to reappear from the dark cracks in the rocks, any breeze was a welcome addition to the experience, however, the wonderful views of the aquamarine in Søre Bjøllåvatnet provided sufficient "eye candy" to keep me happy as I descended towards Saltfjellstua.
The roar of Bjøllåga was evident as I approached the bridge and with eyes focussed on the bridge and the rapidly flowing river I stumbled, my left ankle would remember that for a while. I was inspired by the raw power of the river as it passed underneath the bridge. Climbing again I was eagerly looking forward to Saltfjellstua and lunch, its interesting how your walk revolves around meals, I guess I was beginning feel that I was not carrying enough food. A burger would have been nice.
Arriving at Saltfjellstua I located a picnic table and with the Norwegian flag flying overhead I assumed someone was home, they were, but as the say the "lights were on but no one was home" or more precisely the hut was unlocked and open but no one was around. I returned to the picnic table and enjoyed my homemade jerky, tortilla wraps, shortbread and Freia Solbærtoddy this black current nectar reminded me of my youth where the family purchased cordials from the local cordial distributor. I think I added just a dash of water to the blackcurrent cordial. The Freia Solbærtoddy is no different I enjoy it cold as much as I do warm.
After lunch I set off down hill and noted that the clouds were once again increasing, but I was happy as the sun had been shining as I crossed the high fjell, allowing me to fully appreciate the area, and contemplate a return visit. As I looked back I was fascinated by the waves in the clouds, ominous as they were I could not help but admire the continually changing patterns. Clouds were an enduring part of this trip, their presence, their changing shapes, their prediction of the future, their reduction of visibility and their capacity to dispense water all interacted with the sights and sounds of the area as I walked.
I descended towards Krukkistua, passing the fascinating Stienstua.
Which provided an ideal shelter and resting place if needed.
I reached Krukkistua and realised that there was a family group inside, the windows were open (mosquito netting windows were closed) and the fire was alight. As I passed I think someone noticed but, no matter, I sat on the bench outside with the mosquitos and ate my Rawbite bar, before continuing the descent to the bridge which we take me across Bjøllåga. It was evident that this valley had been populated for a long time and as I descended I passed many sawn off telegraph poles, some with T markers.
Walking along this trail two very different thoughts coalesced which were Knut Hamsun's Growth of the Soil, where Isak had taken on the role of maintaining the power lines, as well as Dire Straits song Telegraph Road. However I was surprised to read the following indicating Mark Knopflers inspiration for this song perhaps explaining why I also made the same connection as I wandered. I continued through the marshes ultimately approaching the Bjøllåga. As the gloom set in I reached the bridge, once on the other side I soon found a place to camp. Setting up the Moment I then settled in with my usual friends hanging out on the roof. I needed no encouragement to go to bed and was soon asleep, dreaming about the 200 metre climb to come in the morning. There was the normal showers overnight and the mist hung low in the valley in the morning, at least it would not be too hot as I climbed out of what is a beautiful valley.
The climb whilst steep at times was okay apart from the mist which provided some navigational challenges, I crossed another bridge
… and continued to climb. To be fair to the DNT folks there are a lot of bridges which need to be built and then maintained which is a major job and one that is done well in my view. I finally reached Raufjelldalskola which is described as an emergency shelter, a well appointed one at that.
More importantly it marked the crossing of the Arctic (Polar) circle.
So now the weather should get warmer and sunnier, right!
I was now in a wide valley between two ridges, somewhere in the region there was a saddle which indicated the start of the descent to Bolna, the E6 highway, the railway line, the river and then another climb. However, it was lunchtime, I chose a spot and as per normal turned on my phone to send and receive messages, a procedure I have used for every trip up north. This time the result was to be a little different. A message arrived that my son's partner had given birth to a baby boy, hmmm that means I am a grandfather … It sort of changed my thoughts and approach to the walk a little.
Well there was nothing for it but keep walking I suppose.
So I continued down a steep knee crunching descent to Bolna, meeting a young Czechoslovakian studying the signs at the bottom of the slope. We chatted he was touring Scandinavia in between jobs and intended to do an overnighter in the area I was leaving. I moved on, crossing the road and railway line before descending to the river.
The climb up the other side was steep with the usual, 150 metre vertical climb. By now it was getting late, but there was still some way to go, the trail levelled out and contoured around Nasafjellet finally reaching a gravel road. I followed the road before diving into the scrub for a steep descent to Sørrandalen, crossing the bridge I quickly found a flat spot and set up camp.
It was humid, misty, and calm, the mosquitos were active so having fetched water I retreated to the shelter for dinner at which point I decided it was time to check the amount of food remaining, and discovered to my dismay that I did not have enough snacks for the remainder of the walk. How did that happen I wondered, and continue to wonder. I assume that while packing I was distracted and did not pack enough, oh well I would need to be on rations during the next 3 days till my resupply point.
The following morning the now well practiced routine was repeated, that is; breakfast inside the tent, followed by packing everything up inside then stepping out in waterproofs to put everything into the pack.
The final step in the process was taking down the shelter and attaching it to the outside of the pack. I headed off with a climb towards Tromberget. Little did I know that this was to be a day of surprises. Whenever I plan a trip, I do look at the information available but often it is not in English so I only glance at it. As a consequence every trip turns into an adventure and there are always unexpected experiences along the way, some good and some not so. Today was to be a day of pleasant surprises. As I climbed through the open mist covered fjells, I was taken by the wide open spaces the rolling hills and plains.
It was ideal country for reindeer and I was soon watching herds moving away from me as I approached.
I was happily wandering along as moisture dripped from the sky and suddenly a large object caught my attention to my left, it was Auronasa, the logo for the Rana branch of the DNT I was immediately impressed by the peak and in better weather I would have happily got closer.
Soon I was descending to Čorraskoia another well appointed emergency shelter.
It was still dripping so the hut allowed me to relax and as always read the logbook. There had been very few people past here in summer and not many more in winter, this area, as beautiful as it is, is not well travelled it appears. I climbed away from Čorraskoia and as I passed over the next ridge I noticed 2 hikers walking towards me. What surprised me, however, was that they were both using umbrellas, the first time I had ever met hikers with umbrellas deployed. It was ideal conditions for umbrellas, there was no wind and there was a persistent dripping from the sky. We stopped and chatted, they were Swiss, the guy was completing the Norge på lange and his female partner had joined him for a short section. At this stage they were going from hut to hut and he asked about the Swedish huts further north and then we parted ways. I continued to descend to the lush valley.
While behind Auronasa was very much evident.
I reached Virvasshytta, a large and well equipped hut, and noted that the door was unlocked, whilst removing my wet footwear I was met by one of the guests. He and his partner had only just arrived and he encouraged me to come in, as it was lunchtime I need little encouragement. Even better was the hot coffee I was offered. We discussed the area, the weather forecast, not very promising sadly, they were also DNT trail maintainers and described their work and how much they enjoyed being able to get up to the mountains as much as they did.
However, all good things must come to an end. Putting on my waterproofs, and wet footwear I began the lonely climb away from the warm shelter past the trail to Bånesjaure (and the Swedish border) and into the clouds as the wind intensified and the rain fell. Once again I found myself pushing into a strong headwind across marshy plains with little shelter. I had considered stopping at a refuge, but one look inside the refuge and I decided that I was better outside in the rain. The previous evening whilst studying the map I had planned to camp on the banks of a high tarn. As I climbed towards the tarn the wind and rain further intensified, it was not pleasant. I was now on the look out for a flat, sheltered campsite and was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of sites of any sort. I zig zagged across the ground looking for shelter all the while climbing towards the windswept tarn. Things were not looking good and I was not really in the mood for too much more walking. I eventually found a well used campsite on a stream which flowed into the lake. It was not really sheltered but it would be okay, I thought.
It was a windy and wet night, with the wind blowing the across the lake and hitting the shelter diagonally. I had lowered the flysheet to almost ground level on the windward side and was pleased to find that no rain was coming inside, and there was plenty of room in the other vestibule for wet gear and cooking.
I went to sleep comfortably warm and dry, waking to a much calmer morning with occasional promises of blue sky.
It did begin to clear as I wandered past a series of small lakes and down the scenic Kvepsendalen, a lush green valley between the high fjells.
I passed by Kvepsendalskoia, another refuge hut and continued along a very pleasant section of trail watching the deer herds on each side and the views to Kallvatnet and the high fjells beyond.
Descending into the forest I arrived at the delightfully located Kvisteindalstunet, 2 hyttes, situated in a beech forest, which seemed like an ideal lunch spot before 2 long climbs to Sauvasshytta.
To be continued ...