Prior to retiring, Chris and I had agreed to leave together at around 9 the next morning. A little bit more about Chris’s gear, he was not using a Hilleberg tent but a Tatonka look alike (Narvik) also he was using a Fjällräven Kajka, and what attracted my attention was the wooden stays as a frame, I did suggest that he could always use them for firewood if he got desperate.
So we set off together the next morning along the trail as it contoured around Caihnavarri, it was still windy and there was the occasional shower as we climbed. We turned southwards into the head wind it was very much head down and keep climbing. However, at the least the sun was shining and ahead lay the glacier fed river and Caihnavaggehytta in the distance. Caihnavaggehytta sits adjacent to a glacial fed lake and is located 1000 metres above sea level. I had decided to stay there for the night whilst Chris intended to push on. He had hoped that he could convince me to change my mind but with improving weather I wanted a day to enjoy the high pass which lay ahead.
After chatting to a solo hiker who had camped nearby the night before we unlocked and entered one of the 3 huts and sat down to eat lunch. Chris was immediately intrigued by my tube of Vegemite, he was well aware of the song “Down Under” by Men at Work and in particular the words “Vegemite sandwich” but never knew what it meant. Now he did, and what’s more he even liked the taste, which was more of a surprise. Chris intended to search for Vegemite when he returned to Berlin at the end of his 4 week trek. After lunch we said our goodbyes and I watched as he ascended up onto tho the rock covered slope, he was soon gone.
I spent the afternoon taking it easy, reading, relaxing watching the changing moods of the clouds and and colours of the lake.
I wandered around, looking at the scenery, including the following sign which is common around DNT huts, I will leave the reader to conjure up all the possible variations around the theme.
The next morning I set off and was soon confronted with fields of rocks, boulders and even bigger boulders. The pleasing thing is that in most cases the larger the boulder the less likely it was to move and thus providing a stable platform for the lunge to the next boulder. As I climbed there were plenty of boulders and then there were more boulders and ...
But it always pays to turn around a take a look back, as no matter how hard the climbing is, you soon realise that you have come a long way on all these boulders. The hytte is out of sight below the rocks to the right.
I was soon over the top of the 1200 metre pass and began the long descent to Gautelisvatnat a place I had visited three years ago. Only this time it was sunny and I could see for ever it seemed. I was soon confronted by one of the most picturesque sights I had ever seen. the rock islands sitting in a crystal blue Gautelisvatnet it was just magical and none of my photos really do it justice.
Finally I joined the Nordkalotteleden and descended to Gautelishytte, seeing my first reindeer for the trip as I descended.
As I approached Gautelishytte I noted that there were people there and much to my surprise when I spoke with them one of the persons had been there in 2011, now the new hut with sauna along with 2 double rooms was completed and they were doing some finishing touches. We chatted as they had lunch which consisted of prawn sandwiches washed down by a range of drinks, I suspect that there was not going to be much work done in the afternoon. It was a pleasure to chat with the foursome about DNT, their work and the surroundings, it is such friendliness that keeps me coming back. Whilst the the option of alcohol and prawns on fresh bread was appealing I decided to push on, climbing away from the hytte.
Under clear blue skies the views were stunning wherever I looked.
It was in this section that I met 2 swedish hikers, the older of the two was carrying an ice axe which was some what surprising to me. They had come up from the STF hut Hukejuarestugan via Ivarsten which gave me an idea for a diversion from my originally intended route. Soon I was crossing one of those interesting suspension bridges, after which I began to seek out a campsite for the night.
Under a clear blue skies I found a location with views across Luohttijávri to Salka and with a slight breeze blowing there were very few mosquitos. A very relaxing evening was spent enjoying the sunshine and the views.
I awoke in the morning to the sound of howling from across the lake I am uncertain as to whether it was dogs, wolves or other such animals, there was perhaps 4 or 5 in the pack and given the isolation of area I assume they did not see many humans. Once I had packed I set off along the trail well aware of the navigational challenges from my last trip in this area. I headed with care to Ivarsten, the corner stone between Norway and Sweden. The stone is massive and I suspect that Ivar must have been pretty strong to shift it into the correct location. Or did the stones location determine the border? The date 1763 was engraved into the stone along with the Swedish and Norwegian crowns.
From Ivarsten, there is a reasonably well cairned trail to to the STF hut at Hakejuare and I arrived there to find all the doors wide open with no one visible, I did not stop to enquire as I intended to continue further into the Čuhčajavri valley.
It was soon obvious that I was in Sweden as a helicopter flew low overhead depositing fisherman at an isolated alpine lake. This section of the Nordkalloteleden was as I remembered it from my last visit. That is, there is a decent into a valley and the further you walk the less obvious the trail becomes. However in a narrow valley navigation is not difficult and as the evening approached I located a campsite adjacent to Gaskkamus Čuhčajavri. The location provided excellent views along the valley to Kebnekaise and Rabots Glacier.
I will leave you with a moody view of Rabots Glacier.
The final part of this report, will describe the best way to visit Kebnekaise, pointless ups and downs, and popularity.
Gear reflection: Clothing
Over the years I have gradually refined my clothing set up, and have selected brands that are both lightweight and long lasting.
Montane Terra Pack Pants, for a few years now I have been a Montane Terra pants user as well a user of the famed BPL Thoroughfare Pants, which disappeared from the market quite a while ago.The BPL pants were appealing for their light weight and drying capabilities and in my mind were ideal for summer. Sadly mine are beginning to show their age and I began to look for alternatives. Jörgen felt that that Patagonia Houdini pants were a good option, however I was less convinced. I was attracted to the Montane Terra Pack Pants when I first read about them, and after using them on this trip has further convinced me of their suitability as summer hiking trousers. I was never too hot in them, they were roomy and dried quickly. I wore them for the entire 10 days and they showed no signs of wear. They were easily washed when I returned and now look as good as new. If you are in the market for a new pair of hiking pants then these may be right for you. The weight of my pair of pants in XL size are 282 gms.
Mont-Bell Tachyon, for the second year in a row I have taken the Tachyon Anorak north, and on both occasions it has been ideal, this trip was drier than the last one, but was as windy as last year. In all conditions the tachyon performed admirably and when the hood was needed it was ideal especially when accompanied with an OR Sun Runner hat. I cannot see myself swapping this 60 gm (in size XL) wind shirt for any other.
Mont-Bell Ex Light Down Jacket, for this trip I decided to try this jacket and combine it with the Patagonia Capilene 4 Hoody, great idea but did not work the way I intended. I quickly realised that the hoody was not ideal as an outer fleece and I was always worrying about getting the Down damp. However, it must be said that I was never cold nor did the down get wet. Upon returning home, I recognised that I could use the down jacket and combine it with a Rab Xenon, for example, and the combined weight would be less than that of a fleece and the Xenon. I intend to experiment with this set up in the future as in my view it will provide more flexibility and warmth in a range of conditions.
Montane Further Faster Neo Jacket, with the demise of my Rab Demand I was looking for an alternative jacket and after my experiences last year when the weather was wet and then wetter I decided that a more robust jacket would be a good idea. Having heard good things about the Polartec NeoShell fabric I decided to give it a try. This year was drier than last but it did rain and I did wear the jacket on a number of occasions where I was able to test it breathabiility out when climbing. (For reference underneath the jacket I wore a long sleeve Patagnoia Caplilne 2 shirt). At no time did I feel that I was overheating in the jacket and the toughest tests occurred when ascending and descending Kebnekaise in the fog and the wind, and the rain. The increasing strength of the rain and the walking into the wind as I descended thoroughly tested the jacket and the hood. I always felt comfortable in the jacket (albeit a little cool at times) the hood arrangement was effective and even in the heavy wind blown rain, I stayed dry underneath. The pockets are easily accessible with a pack on and are large enough to easily fit gloves, hats etc. I was surprised however, that the pockets were lined with a fabric other than mesh. The real test of the jacket though will be in the long term and a 10 day trip is too shorter time to give a definitive judgement on this 460 gm (in XL) jacket. I do though wish they had not elasticated the rear waist and allowed a looser fit. I intend to test this jacket over the coming year, or so, and report back at that time.
Woolpower liner socks, it was one of my readers (Karl) who put me onto Woolpower liner socks, and I am glad he did. I like the fit of these thin merino socks, furthermore they are tough and dry reasonably quickly. Even when damp they are still warm and all in all they are a merino sock that is worth considering.
Whilst speaking of socks, I have been interested in “Compression Socks” which are intended to alleviate the build up of lactic acid in the muscles as you run, thus speeding up the recovery time of the muscles. Now, with increasing age, and reducing fitness I have often found that the calf muscles have tightened up as the day progresses and even with stretching they remain tight. I had tried compression socks but was less than happy with the foot part of the sock. Recently I came across Plussocks Compression Power Calves, I can hear some people laughing at the name whilst others will question the usefulness of these “compression calves”. I did not wear them everyday but only used them when doing significant amounts of climbing or descending, in particular early on in the trip and around Kebnekaise. What was the result? My calves were less stiff (and sore) the day after hard climbing and descending, this result may or may not be a result of the compression calves. However, I also noticed that in the cold wet descent from Kebnekaise these socks (sic) helped to keep my lower legs warm especially when crossing cold fast flowing glacial run offs below the cirque. I intend to use them again especially when I expect to do a lot of climbing and descending. YMMV.
Footnote, all gear I used on this trip was purchased with my own money and I have no connection with any manufacturer or supplier of the gear. I choose what I think is suitable for me and I pay for it accordingly.