Day 86. Saltoluokta to Teusajaure

Posted by: James on March 27, 2009

Distance 48km | Time 11hrs | Ascent 300m | Descent 220m

Day 86. Following scooter tracks down the north shore of Langas lakeSaltoluokta lodge was a bit of a disappointment. The staff were very nice but did not know much about the vicinity. It had a reputation for good food but dinner was very poor. Dinner was mixture of nouvelle cuisine and cremated moose. I think the STF, Swedish Trekking Club, who own the place have lost the plot a bit here. It is an historic old rustic mountain lodge not the boutique hotel it is trying to be, complete with pretentious ice statues of love hearts outside the porch! Tacky and naff.

A rich Italian red wine was suggested to compliment the moose. It was so overcooked none of the Swedes at my table ate it. I was hungry though. Overcooked moose has the texture of dry liver and the tenderness of a suede walking boot. My recommendation to compliment the dinner would have been a pint of diesel with overtones of dubbin and a hint of sock.

No one at the hotel knew much about the routes and the managers forte seemed to be catering rather than the outdoors. He followed the party line and told me to take the scooter across the lake and thereafter bus to Vakkotavare from where I could ski to Teusajaure cabin. I knew this area better than he did having skied north and south along these lakes over the last 25 years and knew his adamant stance was not the best alternative.

Day 86. The road through the pines from Vietas to Satihaure lakeAs this “boutique hotel” only served breakfast at 0800 I got a packed one at 0630 and set off at 0700. I followed the marked route a km west from the lodge then straight across the lake. On the north side instead of continuing to follow the stakes east for 2 km to Kebnats as requested, I went north west along the shore for 11 km towards Vietas. The manager had denied anybody went here but there were good scooter, dogsled and ski tracks here, pretty much hugging the shoreline.

It was a very pleasant ski in the morning sun. The anticipated break in the good weather did not seem to be arriving and it looked another beautiful day. The craggy mountains each side of the lake were catching the sun and the pines on the north shore were a bright green in the light.

Just before Vietas I reached the small bay where tiny helicopters operate from in the summer. There is a scattering of cabins also here. The tracks all headed up into the forest beside the road now to avoid the area where hydroelectric water is discharged into the lake. A km through the forest is the leisure hamlet, cafĂ©, pub, shop and petrol station at Vietas. I didn’t stop here as it was just 1000 but I had done 14 km. In hindsight I would have been better continuing to here yesterday for unpretentious food and a shorter day today.

From Vietas there is a small road which goes north beside the river for 6 km to Satihaure lake. This road is not cleared, but is a scooter track and easy to ski along in the winter. No scooters passed me and I was lost in thoughts as I skied up through the pines in the hot sun. Craggy mountains towered over this valley on each side. Just before the lake there was a large collection of fences and corals which was for reindeer herding.

An older Swede who was sitting at my table yesterday came zooming up to me. He had stayed for late breakfast and had not left until 0900. He had 8 huskies pulling a sledge on which he was standing. We chatted, moaned about Saltoluokta lodge and admired the day for 5 minutes. He had his snow break full on and the dogs as the dogs were straining. They were yelping with eagerness to get going and quivering with excitement. He would do about 70 to 80 km a day at 10 km per hour. He was out for a weeks tour along the entire Kungsleden from Hemavan to Abisko.

The ski along the side of Satihaure lake was extraordinary in that there was hardly any snow. It must have been in a severe rain shadow. Luckily it was only a couple of km but I had to walk half of it. Without a sledge this was no problem. Perhaps it was the effect of the wind on this open expanse.

Day 86. Looking west up Gagirjaure lake to the mountains each side of Teusajaure cabinI passed this open area and then went into the birch woods again where the snow had settled. There was a short ski now beside a frozen channel between Satihaure lake and Gagirjaure lake. When I reached the latter the tracks descended onto its frozen surface and turned north west again.

It was a very easy ski along the lake in the sunny windstill day. To the north was a long line of sheer cliff rising some 500 vertical metres. Small cascades of water had frozen into huge buttresses of ice like giant melted candle wax. An ice climbers dream. Even on the south side were steep crags but not cliffs. There had obviously been a powerful river of ice scraping down here in the glacial periods.

Day 86. Kouperatjokka mountain rises above the birch forestAt the west end of Gagirjaure lake there was a marked route through the birch forest for 7 km to Teusajaure lake. This valley was something of a hidden world. I think very few people came here. The snow was covered in moose track and there was evidence of them eating birch buds everywhere. There were also hare, fox, weasel and ptarmigan tracks around.

There was also a few fresh wolverine tracks. The steep craggy mountains on each side of the valley were a good 1000 metres higher than the deep valley floor and these would offer superb places for the wolverine to find a lair It would be impossible for Lapps to drive scooters up from the valley floor in pursuit of these cunning animals. They are not allowed to hunt wolverine but occasionally do, discreetly hiding them once done. The wolverine is the number one enemy of the reindeer herder and has been for 1000’s of years. It is in the Lapps cultural DNA to eradicate these animals.

Day 86. Looking west down Teusajaure lake in the evening sunBy the time I got to Teusajaure lake I was tiring. Luckily the weather was benign and I had an easy ski up some 10 km of lake to reach the cabin. Had I had the wind against me I would have struggled. Teusajaure lake is also in a deep valley with craggy mountains on each side of it. The sun was going down ahead of me producing a warm glow, but unmemorable sunset. Behind me though the higher mountains were turning bright yellow in the evening sun above the dark shaded valleys.

I reached the cabin at 1800. I was the only guest. The very nice hut warden came down to explain things. I lit the fire, unpacked and settled down for supper. Latter she came down for a chat. She had been in these mountains for some 40 years as a walker skier and now warden. She knew the Swedish mountains and its people and villages well. It was fascinating talking to her. By the time she left I was too tired and it was too late to be bothered with the blog.

Some people consider the northern Kungsleden between Abisko and Kvikkjokk to be among the worlds great treks. Its chances would be greatly improved of making the top 100 if it did not have the nonsense of the ugly Vakkotavare cabin location and then the bus journey down the industrial hydroelectric complexes at Suorva and Stora Sjofallet to Vietas or Kebnats. Perhaps the route I took today could be a better alternative, certainly in the winter.

It had been a very good day. It was longer than I anticipated so I was lucky the weather was kind or I would have been camping. It was minus 22 so I am glad I made the cabin.

One Response to “Day 86. Saltoluokta to Teusajaure”

  1. Wayne Nicholson Says:

    Would love to do a trip like this. So quiet and peaceful.