Day 115. Ifjord to Bekkarfjord

Posted by: James on April 25, 2009

Distance 23km | Time 7hrs | Ascent 530m | Descent 510m

Day 115. The plateau on Ifordfjellet had a few bare patchesI did not sleep well at all in the stuffy basement room and struggled to get up at 0730 for breakfast. I did though and it was a good spread. After breakfast I chatted with Haldane for ages about many topics especially Finnmark politics and the new Finnmarks law. He was very knowledgeable. It seemed the new law disproportionately favoured the small number of reindeer owners over other Lapps who did not own reindeer, and also Norwegians.

But the time we had finished talking it was 1030. I still had to pack and get going. Eventually by 1130 I was ready. It was disturbingly hot at around 12 degrees.

Only klister wax could cope with these conditions. It is terrible stuff to work with and use. It is an extremely sticky chemical paste which is applied to the bottom of the ski. So sticky is it, that it sticks to wet snow. However without spirits it is impossible to get off. So if the temperature drops then the colder snow will adhere to it so well that it just balls up under ones ski and it is like skiing on sandpaper. I avoid klister by using short ski skins. Others use cloth sports tape.

Initially I followed the scooter tracks up through the birch forest. It went from just opposite the tourist center. I had to stop after just a few hundred metres to remove hat, gloves and jacket. Even then I was still sweating going up the hot incline.

It was a very nice ascent with a gentle enough climb so my short skins gripped, and also in pleasant surroundings in the birch woods. After an hour I had climbed above the birch and was on the edge of a higher plateau. I left the scooter track here as the snow was firm and headed north across the plateau.

Although only at around 250 metres it felt like I was in the same environment found as at about 1500 metres in the Jotunheimen mountains much further south. Beneath the snow were rocks and short heather and numerous ground hugging bushes which produced berries. If I walked about these berries burst staining the snow crimson.

I made my own route north keeping as high as possible. It was completely calm and wind still but was becoming quite overcast. I crossed numerous small lakes and the west end of Giksjavri lake. A bit further to the west and I would have been in very gnarly terrain. The snow was pretty good here but there were numerous bare patches.

After Giksjavri lake I climbed up a steep hill to cross a watershed near Suolojavri lake. This was located at the top of the plateau and I got some good views from here. It was still warm and without wind so I found a bare patch and had lunch.

Day 115. The sun breaking through the overcast sky in MartadalenThe descent from the saddle to Suolojavri lake was short and easy. After crossing the lake I reached the top of Martadalen valley. This valley was plastered in snow and was open and smooth. I was difficult to believe I was only 250 metres above sea level. It felt more like 1500 metres again.

The ski down Martadalen was fantastic. I had removed my short skins but there was just enough descent so I glided long with each step. As I went down a scooter came up. It stopped for a chat. The man was Pedder from Bekkarfjord and his son. They were going up to do some fishing on their 20 year old scooter. He lived at Elvebakken farm in Bekkarfjord and kindly asked if I wanted to stay there in a cabin instead of the waiting room for inclement weather drivers. I said yes so he rang his daughter to tell her to warm the cabin up.

Day 115. About to ski down Martadalen to BekkarfjordWe then parted and I carried on down the lovely Martadalen. The incline was not quite enough so I could freewheel but I could ski quickly. Soon Pedders scooter tracks I was following reached the birch trees and veered west round the small Martadalsvatnet tarn. Then there was an steeper descent where I had to snowplough strongly to stop myself running off out of control through the remainder of the birch woods.

Day 115. The sea water fjord and agricultural hamlet of BekkarfjordDown in the valley was black water without any snow on it. It was the salty sea water of Bekkarfjord. Surrounding it were fields, many already ploughed with their furrows appearing from under the melting snow.

Pedders scooter tracks naturally went right to his house. He had 5 kids and the eldest daughter showed me the cabin. It was great. I still had to walk to the waiting room a get an envelope with maps to Mehamn with the route marked which Vidar of Mehamn had left for me.

The walk to the waiting room took me along the agricultural fringe of the fjord. It was great to be near the sea again. The familiar noise of two squabbling herring gulls and the excited crescendo of plovers were soon to very common place on my forthcoming kayak trip, but it was nice to hear them after 4 months of winter clad mountains.

Bekkarfjord seemed quite and idyllic place. Some 5 farms were spread out beside the placid inlet. The odd piece of ice floated on the surface but otherwise it was calm and black.

At the waiting room were the maps as promised. They were perfect and I could use them to go the final 70 km to Mehamn. I was surprised at Vidars efficiency. It was out of the ordinary.

Back at the farm cabin I wrote the blog before being invited in for supper of fish which Pedder and his son had just caught. It was mostly arctic char, fried in butter from his own milk cows. Indeed his cows and the two others farms in this hamlet account for the most northerly dairy herd in the world.

After dinner, when the youngest two had been put to bed, Pedder and his eldest son went out to try and catch some king crabs. These crabs are invading the Norwegian coast having migrated round from Russia. The crabs were imported to northern Russia from Kamchatka. I was tired and decided to crash in the cabin.

It had been a good day. I was now convinced I would be able to reach Kinnarodden on skis as there was still easily enough snow. It was also wonderful to be invited into a cabin and family meal. The hospitality of northern Norway continues to impress.

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