Archive for February, 2009

Day 59. Skalstugan to Innstua

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Distance 11km | Time 3hrs | Ascent 120m | Descent 260m

Day 59 Skiing through the forest near SkalstuganIt was a short day today so I did not rush the morning. After a large breakfast with plenty of orange juice to replenish my fluids. I decided to finish yesterdays blog before leaving.

The manager, Elizabeth, was especially generous an showed me round the main building. It had been built in the end of the 19th century by a Scottish magnate called Tom Nichol. He used it as a hunting lodge. The architecture in the public rooms was very similar to the architecture in hunting lodges I had visited in Scotland, especially the roof beams. These rooms were adorned in hunting artefacts and well looked after furniture.

When Tom Nichols died in 1901, none of his 5 children could be bothered with a hunting lodge in Sweden and preferred London high life so the place was auctioned in London.

It was bought by Wengerlund, a Swedish banking magnate. Eventually he bequeathed it to a foundation associated with the SEB, a major bank in Sweden. In time this foundation also aquired some 22,000 hectares in the area to form a large estate.

The lodge is now largely used by management of the above bank and Swedish notables and as such was well looked after. One of the estate cabins was in fact Holsjostugan. Although private, it had an emergency shelter attached to it which was always open.

In my short stay here I was very impressed by the good natured and happy staff and their hospitality which was extremely generous. The well liked and cheerful manager, Elizabeth, especially.

Day 59 The beautiful spruce forest on the border with Norway and sun drenched Norwegian mountains beyondIt was now 1200 and time to leave. Ignoring advice I took one of the lodges ski trails north for a couple of km through very beautiful forest. The trail wound through copses of birch and spruce and across open glades of glistening snow. This delightful trail went near the road at one point so I left it and waded through forest snow to gain the road.

It was only some 7 km to Norway now and the road was fast. Within an hour I had skied the flat section and made the fast descent to Sandvika. To the west and north of me spruce forests filled the valley and then the white sun drenched mountains of Norway rose beyond. I would ski in these mountains tomorrow.

The weather was fantastic. Windstill with a perfect blue sky. How it had changed since yesterday evening. I reveled in the sun and enjoyed the mood it put me in. A bit of sun after 14 days snow certainly lifts the spirits.

Day 59 Innstua cabin was nestled in the spruce forestFrom Sandvika it was a short ski along the road to the quaint self service cabin at Innstua. Curiously it was right beside this minor road. I had to clear snow from the door to get in. Once in I was surprised to see it had electricity. With the wall heaters and wood stove on it soon warmed up. Indeed it was very comfortable, but the larder was sparse.

In the evening I wrote the blog and phoned the couple who had a cabin for me tomorrow in Sveet and also had my new rucksack. It was not a long ski to Sveet tomorrow, only some 18km, but it had potential to be difficult with forest sections and no trails.

It had been a very good day. I loved the atmosphere and staff at Skalstugan and at last enjoyed some sun. In addition the cabin at Innstua was delightful and comfortable.

Day 58. Storlien to Skalstugan

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Distance 40km | Time 10.5hrs | Ascent 620m | Descent 680m

Day 58. On the windswept plateau between Storlien and Rensjon lakesAll breakfasts seem to start at 0800 and the breakfast in this hotel was no different. It was a bit too late for my liking as I would not really get away until 0900. Two hours after daybreak

It had been snowing all night in Storlien and the streets were deep in snow I skied back to the east end of town, and then where the road crossed the train line I headed north on a ski and scooter trail. Within a km the benign weather at Storlien was replaced by a bitter north wind which picked up the loose snow.

It skied up this deserted trail for a good 4 km until I came to a small shelter. It was open so I went in to get out of the strong wind and spindrift so I could put another wool vest on. I then continued east on the scooter trail, rather than cut across the windswept plateau covered in deep snow with navigation problems due to the poor sight.

The descent down to the isthmus which separated the north and south Rensjon lakes was wonderful. The wind died down and the sun came out. The stark bare plateau soon gave way to a taiga type forest of thin spruce trees of sharp appearance. These forests cover vast tracts of north west Sweden.

Day 58 The spruce forest around Norder Rensjon lake is similar to Canadian and Siberian taiga forestTurning north I headed up Rensjon lake with only the occasional scooter bothering me. It was very quiet and peaceful. As I approached the north end an apparition I had been told about appeared. Here in the barren wilds of Sweden was a old hunting lodge built over 100 years ago. Most remarkable was the whole thing was painted pink!

I passed the lodge and met three locals on scooters. They told me the place I was heading, Holmsjostugan was private and locked. However they phoned Skalstugan and arranged a place for me to stay there. It was another 20 km and the time was 1430 already. It was a beautiful day and I would have their tracks and the crosses to follow if it got dark.

I set off up the hill of Ugglan. A sustained climb of 3 km to a junction. By now the sun had disappeared and the wind had begun anew. Indeed the scooter tracks were already filling with spindrift. By the time I reached the hill top 4 km north of Ugglan the wind was up to a force 6, it was snowing heavily and spindrift was everywhere. The scooter track had vanished and the going was difficult and deep.

As I descended being buffeted by the wind I thought the going would get easier. Far from it. The wind increased to a force 7 and the spindrift was everywhere. I could not ski but trudged through the deep snow. Eventually I came to a sign Holsjostugan Privat. So it was locked after all I thought. I didn’t go the half km to find out.

I decided to continue down to Skalstugan which I little hope of reaching but thought if I get down into the forest I could put up the tent more easily, especially if I made the spruce forest. Luckily there were the crosses to follow as the scooter marks had long vanished.

The next 4 km was perhaps the hardest of the trip so far. It was a force 8 now, spindrift was everywhere in swirling maelstroms even the hardy stunted birch trees looked like they were creaking. The snow was deep and difficult. Slowly step by step I edged towards the forest in the twilight of dusk. I reached it after a good hour and a half.

Once in the tall thin spruce the wind eased slightly and the scooter tracks although filled in with snow were visible again. The wind was however blowing vast amounts of accumulated snow off the trees so the air was still full of spindrift. I thought about camping here but it was only 5 km to Skalstugan.

The descent through the trees was still quite difficult as it was almost dark at 1800. Still within half an hour I had reached the lake. I now put my head torch on to cross it. Only 3 km to go. A very windy km across the lake. A simple km up a gentle knoll and a difficult to navigate km down to the Skalstugan through the forest without and tracks towards the lights of the lodge.

Eventually I arrived at 1930 and entered looking like a yeti. The guests and staff were surprised to hear I had come from Storlien through what they described as a storm, but was well short. It was not a hotel as such so I was ushered through to the staff quarters.

The staff could not have been more helpful. I was fed, watered, shown a characterful and rickety room, and the shower. I wrote half the blog then crawled into my sleeping bag and slept like a log.

It had been a long hard day. Perhaps the hardest yet since some of the days in the Setersheine in mid January. Still it was exciting to experience some real weather and come through it. Finally the hospitality of the staff at Skalstugan was quite extraordinary. Rural hospitality one could never find in urban places.

Day 57. Blahammaren to Storlien

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Distance 19km | Time 5hrs | Ascent 250m | Descent 790m

Day 57. The quiet birch forest between Blahammaren and StorlienAfter a very good breakfast everybody who had come from Sylarnafjallstation and the three Dutch all prepared to leave. It had been a jolly stay at Blahammaren lodge as everybody got well and socialized.

Outside it was different. There was still a bit of wind, quite heavy snow and very thick mist. It was difficult to see more than 30 metres. The others all left for the short journey east to Storulvan while I headed north to Storlien. Before I set of there were more phone calls about the liberated rucksack and where to deliver it.

Initially the route down the hill from Blahammaren lodge was impossibly thick with mist. It was also reasonably steep so the skiing was difficult. I snow ploughed to keep my speed down as I could not make out the lie of the land despite the copious red marker crosses.

As I descended the visibility improved and soon I could make out the darkness of the patches of birch copses below and the forest beyond that. After a couple of km of descent the route reached a small emergency shelter. As I had just started I did not go in but continued down.

The descent got a tad steeper but with the improving view I could go faster Soon I was entering the birch forest where the snow was a bit deeper and this slowed me down. I weaved in and out of clumps of trees as I descended and eventually this pleasant ski brought me down to the wide valley floor in the midst of a thick birch forest. Mercifully there was a trail through it but it was deep with new snow.

The weather was now still and overcast. Thick snow lay on the branches of the birch and it was a very tranquil scene. I slowly skiied along this trail sinking in to the soft snow. After a km I came to a suspension footbridge over a large frozen river. After crossing it I had to either wax my skis or put skins on for the long shallow climb in loose snow. I went for the skins.

The climb was relatively easy and the scenery very pleasant. There was the odd very thin pointed spruce tree and a smattering of pines which added life to the dull leafless birch trees. Near the top of the climb by Rundvalen I met another skier. He was local and told me he had once seen a wolverine on this hill.

From Rundvalen it was a nice descent through the thickening spruce and pine forest to the village of Storvallen. The spruce were very thin and needle shaped as this allows them to shed snow easily so they are not damaged.

Just before Storvallen I had a simple fall and landed on my bum. This meant the rucksack hit the ground first and I broke the buckle on the waist band Not a big problem as I could tie it, but this will become an irritation.

I passed the youth hostel to enquire about accommodation in Storlien and got some good information about the route north as well. Storlien was another 6 km through an area of leisure cabins and forest.

Again there is little complimentary I can say about Storlien. A border town with a alpine ski development and as mass of ugly buildings. It was pretty down market as a resort. In addition it was full of Norwegians on snow scooters.

I checked into a pub with rooms and had a great shower and tasty meal. Half way through Andre and Morten texted me to say they were camping in the town. We soon met up for a beer in the pub. Andre was also doing Norge Paa Langs and I skied with them a good week ago for a day. We laughed about the route gone and discussed the route to come. We would no doubt meet again soon

Day 56. Sylarnafjallstation to Blahammaren

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Distance 19km | Time 4hrs | Ascent 500m | Descent 410m

Day 56. Sylan mountains finally cleared after I had left themI had a very slow start. It was a reasonably short day and the usually accurate Norwegian weather forecast said it would clear up around midday for a short while. So after breakfast at 0830 I lounged around during which time the spindrift was still flying around outside.

I eventually left at 1000 when the wind had ceased, but there was no sign of it clearing up. My skis had far too much wax on and kept balling up so I had to scrape a lot of the wax off. After that they were a dream with a good glide on the downhill section and sticky enough to grip the snow for the gentle uphill climbs.

I was not the first to leave for Blahammaren lodge so there was already a good trail. I glanced behind me from time to time but the clouds still covered the mountains. Before long I was at a junction where one route headed down to Storulvans fjallstation and a roadhead, while the other started to climb its undulating course to Blahammaren lodge.

It was a long sustained climb for 3 km up the slopes of Enkalen during which time I caught up with 2 of the 3 parties ahead of me. There was the odd bit of blue sky and occasional sunny spot but most things were still enshrouded in mist.

There was a wonderful run down the north side of Enkalen to a small hut used for emergencies and lunch breaks. There was already the first group lunching in here and I squeezed in also. Soon the 3 nice Swedes who invited me for dinner last night arrived. They were only 15 minutes behind and said the skies had cleared. It was exactly as the forecast had predicted.

Day 56. Small mountains to the east of Blahammaren lodgeI went out and right enough the whole landscape was basking in sun. I had not realized the lack of sun in the last 10 days except yesterday as I had been in woods, lanes and farming country. Now back in the mountains again I needed it. I took some photos and set off for the final 8 km.

I was the first now so had to break trail in the variable snow; sometimes deep, sometimes compact. It was hot work in the still air and sun and I soon had to stop to take off my jacket. It was marvellous to ski in the mountains in the sun again.

Much of the final 6 km was up a gentle slope. The skis were just gripping to the snow enough to stop me using excess energy in my arms and poles to stop me sliding back. Up and up I went with the Sylan massif clear behind me and sunny slopes around me.

Eventually I cleared a rise and there was Blahammaren lodge about a km in front. I ploughed through the easy snow and reached the lodge just after 1400. An easy short day. Already the weather was closing in again as the forecast predicted

Day 56. Looking north from Blahammaren lodge to the landscape north of StorlienBlahammaren lodge was run by the Swedish Trekking Association for lack of a better translation. It should have been quite down to earth and simple but had built up a reputation for good food. The atmosphere was however down to earth and simple with a cosy lounge.

Soon the nice Swedish family with twins arrived, then the nice Swedes who invited me for dinner and finally the good fun Dutch trio from Storerikvollen. It made for a sociable time. I could easily have continued to Storlien but a bit of social banter would not go amiss and I would have plenty of long days alone in the next sections.

After a god chat with the other groups I went for a shower. Then the dinner It was a 3 course affair with plenty of salad and vitamins. I sat with the Dutch and we had a very nice dinner. They were all very likable with very interesting jobs.

Everybody headed off quite early which suited me fine as I could go and write the blog and wrestle unsuccessfully with the phone to try and send emails Since entering Sweden the network has been erratic at best. By the evening the weather had deteriorated to a good blizzard.

It had been a great day. The view appeared at last. The 19 km was across good snow in the sun and the evening was spent in good company in a lodge with a nice atmosphere.

In addition I heard from Ovind that he finally had the rucksack but could not get it to Teveltunet in time. In some ways this was a mixed blessing as Teveltunet was a detour where I would lose many meters height to be climbed the next day.

Day 55. Nedalshytta to Sylarnafjallstation

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Distance 18km | Time 6.5hrs | Ascent 670m | Descent 400m

Day 55. The obscured view to Sylan from EkorrdorrenThe 3 Dutch and myself all got up at the same time around 0700. I had porridge for breakfast. After packing and cleaning up we all left at the same time of 0830. Me for Sylarnafjallstation and them for Storerikvollen cabin. We would probably meet tomorrow night in Blahammarensfjellstation which would be nice as they were a good crack.

My journey took me through the deep snow of the upper forest initially and then onto the bare mountainside soon after. The visibility was poor and more than once I thought about turning back and going to Storerikvollen cabin with the Dutch.

The reason I was coming this longer and much higher way for 3 days was for the view and proximity to Sylan. But if there was no view due to the weather it was a waste of extra effort, but not time as the easy way would probably take 3 days also.

The route was well marked with stakes across the plateau as I headed in the snow towards the unseen massif of Sylan. The snow was soft and the going was quite slow as I sunk in over my ankles with each step. It took a good 2 hours of trudging across this to reach the Swedish border. It was a very abstract border on this white plateau.

I continued to climb very slowly with the wind and snow behind me and mist cloaking the mountains. Occasionally it cleared enough so I could get an obscured glimpse of the crags and snow fields on each side of the steepening valley. The wind was getting up a bit now and must have been a good force 4 when I entered Ekorrdorren, the deep valley to the south of the Sylan massif.

There was a small shelter here, not really for overnighting unless one was caught in bad weather. I had lunch in the shelter and then prepared to climb the mountainside to the north. On the map it looked very steep but in reality it was not that bad. The wind would be directly into my face though so I battened down the balaclava and jacket hood.

On the climb up the wind got stronger and stronger as I neared the pass. It must have been a force seven at the top. Due to the snowfalls of the last week there were huge amounts of spindrift swirling around. At times it was a maelstrom of white and I could barely see my skis. I slowly climbed up through this almost thankful for the markers. The markers here were not the subtle and unobtrusive markers of Norway, but permanent, intrusive, red crosses which were over the top and unsightly and unnecessary. It was the cradle to grave, multiple airbag approach.

The snow surface since the shelter was however good and firm. I was no longer sinking into it and could make better time. Soon I reached the pass and snatched the odd view of some foothills and the base of the peaks, but nothing spectacular.

The descent down the north side of the pass was gentle and pleasant. As I descended the wind diminished back to a force 4 and the spindrift did not chill my cheeks and freeze on my eyelashes any more. After an easy 4 km of this the dark shapes of Sylarnafjallstation formed out of the greyness. It was a massive complex of buildings.

Inside it was much more spacious, comfortable and organized than I thought. I got a dorm room to myself initially until 3 Swedes joined later. I had a nice shower, dried cloths in the drying room and even had a sauna. In the evening a pizza and an early night. Hopefully I would get some view tomorrow as I headed north past the remainder of the massif.

It had not been a great day. The weather had seen to that. Still it was nice to experience the weather also and feel some of its raw power. It could have been a lot worse as it was for the poor Karoliner army 300 years ago.