Thursday, 8 August 2013

Nordlandsruta: Sulitjelma to Lønstua

On the banks of Kjelvatnet
I spent an hour or so in the local Coop, buying food, ice cream and soft drink and then contemplating my options. One was to return to Låmihytta and head south from there or to head out of Sulitjelma via the road to Balvatnet and hope that some one would offer me a ride. I chose the second alternative and which took me past the Sulitjema mining museum which contained a fascinating display both indoors and outdoors. Eight kilometres later, after a long climb, that had me taking rests to admire the scenery I turned off the road and headed to Kjelvatnet. Sitting on the banks of Kjelvatnet I enjoyed the peace watching the fish jumping.



After a second lunch I began the climb that would take me back up to the tops. On the way up I met an older couple out for an afternoon walk, the lady asked how old I was, then she stated that she was 82 and had both knees replaced. Suddenly I felt my soreness was nothing and moved on. Every time I past an obstacle I would think "nah they won't come this far", they did. I am hoping that at their age I can still muster the capability to cross streams on slippery birch poles, climb sharp inclines and generally still enjoy the outdoors.
Ultimately I found a campsite and with the breeze it was mostly mosquito free, though I did think once the wind drops I am in trouble. Yep, you guessed it, the wind dropped and I retreated to the inner sanctum.
I awoke to a somewhat clear morning and advised the mossies on the outer that it was time to leave and I set off to rejoin the main trail before heading south passing the side trail to Calalveshytte then climbing up to Nedre Doarrovatnet. The clouds had cleared and there was some excellent views to the north west across Kjelvatnet.

High above Kjelvatnet
towards Nuorttasávllo

Nuorttasávllo

Ultimately I arrived at the bridge across the outflow of Nedre Doarrovatnet and decided it was time for a break.

  Bridge at Nedre Doarrovatnet
Whilst sitting there two guys (father and son) and a small child appeared, all were wearing backpacks, a quick chat indicated that they had been staying in a small hut and were now heading back to the car. The child was around 4 y.o. Suddenly I did not feel so tired.
The afternoon continued the pattern, more climbing than descent, the occasional slip on damp undergrowth or rocks, one of which resulted in some blood and loss of skin.

There was also extensive views down the valley and with the warmth increasing every breath of air was welcome. Finally, I turned towards Coaŕvihytta, arriving to be met by a large working group who were renovating the roof, we chatted and then I decided to continue. By now it was getting windy and cloudy and as I set off towards Balvatnet, I was quickly donning my tachyon and ensuring that all zips were closed. Gradually it clouded over and it was apparent that rain was coming.

A reasonably sheltered flat campsite appeared and I quickly setup the tent, fetched water and proceeded to cook dinner, my desire for eating outdoors was quickly destroyed as the rain began to fall. Meals and rain seemed to go together often on this trip.


Stormy weather

I sat in the tent eating dinner and occasionally looking out the vents. The vents on the Moment DW are ideally located for checking out the surrounds, in my experience they stayed closed even when the wind gusts were strong.

Meanwhile back in the tent, the sun appeared on Nuorttasávllo, dinner was quickly put down and I grabbed the camera.


Nuorttasávllo 3

After photos and dinner I lay back down and realised the the shelter provided respite from the weather for others also.


Mosquito

I had slept well and awoke to the sound of rain, fortunately after breakfast the rain stopped and I quickly packed up as a pair of swans who flew overhead. I was to see them again on the banks of Balvatnet.


Balvatnet Swans

Yep it was soon raining with the wind and rain in my face I headed off cursing that I had not packed my Icebreaker buff (don't ask why). The trail was a slippery, scrubby, muddy and wet, but I did think that in good weather it would be a very pleasant and picturesque walk. Though it is always possible to find enjoyment in the outdoors from the environment around you, there is much to see whether it be plants, waterfalls in the distance, different coloured rocks even the varying textures of the bogs which can help you avoid the worst of those sinking feelings.

I enjoyed the views of the lake, the mist covered mountains, the fast flowing river crossings. The trail, in general, was well marked though it did appear that the trail builders would get to a marsh or bog and say "your on your own" as the next marker was well off in the distance beyond the water and mud.

Ultimately I arrived at the junction to the Balvatnet Hytte, and chose this point for lunch, sheltering beside a large boulder. The wind blew and the rain fell as I sat eating lunch and admired the impressive work of the reindeer herders who had built a fence that went steeply up the side of Salfjell to a point where even the reindeer wouldn't go any further. Whilst the materials could have been dropped in by helicopter, the erection of the over 2 metre high fence was a manual job and would take considerable effort in the terrain, not to mention the climatic conditions.
I passed through several slip rail gates, as I entered the valley, some were easier to open than others and formed an important part of keeping the reindeer herds in their allotted grazing areas.

Deer slip rails Skaitidalen

I had now entered north south valley known as Skaitidalen, in the conditions it was like a wind tunnel with the wind gusting from the south bring with it showers and mist.

Skaitidalen
Heading south down Skaitidalen, I suddenly realised that the river was now flowing south whereas earlier it was flowing north, clearly I and crossed a low saddle between the two watersheds.


Skaitidalen South

I met two Swedish hikers heading north, this was their first trip where they were using a tent having formerly always used huts, they were enjoying the experience and were looking forward to the remainder of the walk. Soon I was passing Argaladhytta and was back in the forest with its accompanying high (wet) undergrowth. I began looking for a campsite and after a little gardening I found a spot and quickly set up the tent, collected water and was able to eat dinner outside with only a few stray mosquitos. I slept well despite the rain overnight which had stopped by morning.

After a quick breakfast, I was really appreciating the Quaker Apple and Blueberry instant oats from Sulitjelma, I began to pack. Whilst packing I looked at my Highgear Altitech(mine is the original version) and quickly realised that there had been a large drop in the barometric pressure overnight, this did not auger well, especially with wind and mist on the mountains.

Almost on command, as I began to slip and slide down the valley through waist high undergrowth, across wet rocks, swollen streams the rain poured and poured and… I was hoping that with the drop in pressure that it was only a matter of time before the barometer would rise, hmmm. I met a Norwegian couple heading north who had been out for a couple of weeks they were going from hut to hut we discussed the current conditions and what lay ahead, with the deluge continuing the chat was short. By now it was wet both from above and below, staying dry was some what problematic. I knew however, that I would soon reach Trygvebu hytte which would provide some shelter for lunch, but as you would expect, the rain stopped as I approached the very impressive hytte complete with mains electricity.
As I was the only one there I spread out the wet outer garments and relaxed, made coffee and ate lunch and a few more snacks, my energy resources were low, it would have been easy to stay but now with rain apparently clearing there was walking to be done.


Coffee time Trygvebu

I donned my waterproofs, for the undergrowth not the rain and headed off, and took the trail signposted to Graddis Fjellstue. Firstly, descending through a field of long grass then across a river before climbing steeply and was it steep. A few steps had me breathing hard, the challenge was not only the steep climb but locating the trail under the often chest high undergrowth which hid a slippery muddy path. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that there was a road some 100 metres vertically above the river. After many stops and much questioning of sanity I finally reached the road which took me through the almost deserted village of Fredheim, with its large caravan area which was obviously popular at some time of the year but not now.

Fredheim

As I wandered along the road I soon realised that I could have avoided the steep slope by following the another trail which connected to a road which then joined the one I was now on, you can imagine my reaction. By now the sun was out and waterproofs were being removed for what became a road walk then climb across a pleasant grassy plain. I met a reindeer herd as I climbed, they seemed intent on meeting me before finally turning away. The walk was pleasant, as I descended once again to cross the road before the descent to Graddis. When I was finally able to see the fjellstue, I was stunned to see how far below it was from my current location, it was then that it dawned on me that this route was one of up and down, and up always seemed more common than down. A steep drop through a somewhat dry forest ultimately delivered me to the fjellstue precinct, but I was moving on.
After a short road walk I turned to climb around the sides of Rundhaugen, and I was somewhat surprised to see this sign.

Fire ban

Essentially indicating that there was no fires during the hiking season.
By now a campsite was my priority and after a little while I found a location with views to Satertind, and set about the routine of setting up camp, cooking dinner and diving into the tent as the raindrops began to fall, oh well dinner in bed again.

Satertind

It did clear later and I spent time taking photos and enjoying the scenery while watching vehicles travel along route 95 far below me.

After a pleasant but damp night I packed up and climbed further across the rocky plateau on wet sloping rock faces before descending to Lønsdal. The climb was straight forward and the markings good. As I descended through the forest and marshes, I disturbed a duck and duckling, it was fascinating to watch the mother collect her other ducklings and then quickly swim down stream away from me, soon they were out of sight and I continued on. It is these little surprises that make each walk an enjoyable experience because you never know what you may encounter. This trip was no different. I encountered a beach at Viskisvatna which seemed ideal for relaxing on.

Relaxing beside Viskisvatna

and admired the still waters and the backdrop provided by the mist shrouded Viskisfjellet.

Viskisvatna Rock

Once again there was a steep descent to the valley floor, with the E6 motorway and the main railway line between Bodo and Trondheim below. I watched fascinated as a large goods train crawled slowly up from the Bodo side, stopped as it waited for the north bound passenger train before continuing on its journey south. I was later to catch a south bound train on the same line, but more about that later. Soon I was at the bottom, crossing a rather mobile suspension bridge which had just been crossed by a family so I could not indicate my trepidation as I commenced the crossing as the bridge swayed rhythmically to my every step. Pacer Poles in one hand and hanging on to the cable with the other, I crossed as quick as I dare. The trail markers suddenly ran out at the road and a quick check of the gps map pointed towards Lønstua and my lunch spot. The sun was out, the breeze was light and the mosquitos were active. But sitting in the sun eating lunch in warm conditions was very pleasant.

After lunch I set off up the hill to the walkers tunnel near the Lønsdal railway station and passed under the railway line and continued to climb in the warm sunshine towards the high pass below Lønstinden. I had been very much looking forward to this part of the walk as much of the route was around a 1000 metres and was hoping the weather would be clear, it seemed that the weather gods were on my side. I climbed past Kjemåvatnet meeting a family from the Czech Republic who were out for a short walk having spent two weeks hiking in northern Norway.

As evening approached I began to look for a "sheltered" campsite in the treeless landscape. I finally found a spot that was flat and somewhat sheltered and I began to setup camp. Quickly realising that it was perhaps a little more exposed than I preferred, but too late, eating dinner in the lee of an embankment I was grateful there were no bugs. After a few days on the trail it is amazing what tastes good, by now I had developed a taste for Real Turmat meals, and always looked forward to Instant Custard and dried Apricots afterwards. Rounding off the meal was Starbucks Via and then with little further adieu it was bed time.


Camp below Lønstinden
It was breezy during the night with the wind passing through the netting inner and ensuring that there was no condensation, as well my shoes and socks were dry in the morning a pleasant surprise. I was comfortably warm in bed and the wind had dropped by morning.

To be continued…