Day 114. Gaisavuolesjohka cabin to Ifjord

Posted by: James on April 24, 2009

Distance 36km | Time 9hrs | Ascent 440m | Descent 640m

Day 114. Looking down Mohkkejavri lake over the ice I just skied overIt was so much easier to get up in a warm cabin as opposed to a cramped tent and I sprung out of bed at 0500. It had already been light for a few hours.

By the time I had breakfast, tidied the cabin, packed away my tent and other previously damp, but now dry items, it was 0700 and I was off.

As fortune would have it the wind had swung round to the south again and would be behind me again. It was about a force 4 so it would help. Otherwise it was below zero so the snow was firm. There was no blue sky really but it was quite bright.

Initially I skied down an almost unnoticeable decline through the remainder of the birch forest. I saw a red fox here. It was keeping a good 100 metres in front of me, turning round frequently to make sure I was not gaining on it. It kept this up for a km obviously unaware of the danger a human could potentially have.

I then followed the river for 2 km until it suddenly emerged from under the ice and veered into a hydro tunnel. Just beyond the tunnel was the gravel track. It was bare in a few places but generally covered in snow. Initially I followed it diligently but then realized there was no point, especially as it undulated so much. Besides there was a good line of frozen lakes to follow.

The first of these lakes was Mohkkejavri. It was a long narrow lake. Although it was dammed and the water level varied the ice looked safe. The surface was firm and icy and I started to fly along. With the wind behind me it was fast.

I passed a dam and kept well to the east of it, as this is probably where the water was removed and there was more likely to be currents affecting the ice quality here.

I also passed to the east of 3 islands before the lake tapered into a narrow bay and then river. I could see large parts of the river were ice free so I hugged the slopes on the side as I went along this section.

Although I was at just 200 metres altitude there was very little tree life here. Just the odd birch copse in sheltered side valleys. It must simply be too hard here even for the very rugged mountain birch.

The open river widened out to two more narrow lakes, which were smaller Mohkkejavri lake but connected to them. They were covered in thick ice so I skied along them. With the wind helping me I made good progress towards the dark crags of Vadasbakti hill.

Day 114. The empty landscape around Store Masvatn lake was typical of todays routeJust after these crags there was a short cut over a gentle spur which would cut off 2 sides of a triangle along the side of Store Masvatn lake. I took it and was surprised how gentle the climb up was. The descent down the other side was long and easy and I made good time here.

At the saddle I got some phone reception. In the wind and light snow shower I managed to send an email with a mailshot I had prepared earlier. It seemed odd to be able to initiate this technology from such a remote place. I had not seen anyone for 3 days now.

After the long and easy descent I arrived at Loavddajavri lake. It was only 3 km long but difficult to ski. Previously a lot of the snow on top of the ice had melted forming wet slush. This had now frozen over with a 2 cm layer of ice. Occasionally I broke through which gave me a fright as it was still wet underneath for 15 cm until the original surface of the thick ice.

The weather now was deteriorating with more frequent and wetter snow showers. The terrain was suddenly becoming very gnarly and steep also with small cliffs and deep ravines scattered throughout.

I had real problems negotiating a continuous 10 metre band of cliff which stretch across the whole hillside. Eventually I found a route down and the reached Tredjevatnet lake.

Just before this lake was an open stream to cross. It was only shin deep at 25 cm and 5 metres wide so no danger but wet feet if I waded it. Luckily I found a snow bridge and sped across it with fingers crossed. It held. I could have crossed at the lake but this stream had caused a large area of open water on the lake and the ice would have been doubtful for quite a distance into the lake.

On the other side of this stream was an forest or hydro road. It was rough gravel and covered in firm snow. It did provide an easy route up through a final birch forest to a saddle. I was surprised to see other ski tracks here and fresh ones at that. I had a Man Friday moment.

I followed his tracks through the wet snow of the forest and up to the saddle. The snow had turned to sleet now and it was getting heavier. Luckily the snow was quite frozen from before and this mild onslaught had not affected its firmness yet.

At the saddle I left the Man Fridays ski tracks and the gravel track underneath and cut across the moorland and birch forest to reach a small lake. On the other side of this lake was the main road to Ifjord. It lay in the valley just 3 km down this road.

It was only here at 100 metres altitude and below that I was affected by the lack of snow again. I had not noticed it all day as there had been enough. The bare area I encountered at the end of my long day a couple of days ago must have been due to a meteorological quirk.

As I reached Ifjord I smelt the sea again. Here beside the tiny hamlet was a bay with seaweed. I reached the junction and walked the 200 metres to the utilitarian café, motel and cabins. As it was sleeting a lot now I took a room which meant easier access to showers and café food. The place was not up to much and was quite tired. The owner however was extremely helpful and pleased to see me.

After hamburgers he explained the route north. Then we phoned Vidar in Merhamn. He knew everything and explained the route to Merhamn at his end. It seemed I could ski the whole way with a night in a heated shelter and a night in a tent.

Vidar also had used bicycles to sell or rent to me. I am thinking the Nordkinn to Kirkenes stage of some 350 km is best done on a bicycle as skiing would be too fragmented and take too long. It is after all just a palate refresher between the starter course of the ski and the main course of the paddle.

I also managed to show and wash some clothes for the next leg to Merhamn. I just have enough food left over to be able to eek out the 3 days it should take. Hopefully the weather will be kind to me.

It had been an positive day in terms of getting north. However it was not particularly enjoyable as skiing on ice is never that pleasant. I was lucky with the wind and suppose I am quite surprised it went as easily as it did. The terrain was certainly getting difficult at the end, but luckily I just had a short bit of it.

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