Archive for April, 2009

Day 116. Bekkarfjord to Hopseidet

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Distance 45km | Time 10.5hrs | Ascent 780m | Descent 800m

Day 116. The view west down Bekkarfjord and to the remote Svaerholt peninsula beyondI slept well in the Jennsens cabin and got up reasonably early at 0700. It was overcast but very warm. The temperature was plus 6. The bare patches outside were growing and were generally saturated with water.

After breakfast I tried some of the king crab legs. Pedder and his son had caught about 30 of them. The legs were boiled and cut open with scissors. Inside the meat was the same colour, taste and consistency as crab sticks. I got into conversation with Pedder as the weather deteriorated into showers and didn’t leave until 1030.

Day 116. Once on the peninsulas plateau there was masses of snowI initially followed the road for 10 km to gain height up onto the plateau again. It was the easiest way if I was to avoid the melting snow in the birch woods and lower slopes. There were some tremendous views here down Bekkarfjord inlet itself to the main Porsanger fjord, and then on the other side of that the remote Svaerholt peninsula. This wild peninsula was very steep sided and rose steeply to a snow covered plateau at about 400 metres altitude.

At Orretvatnet I was over 200 metres and left the road here. This was on the instructions of Vidar, who had sent me maps, as to follow the best route to Mehamn.

I skied past Orretvatnet lakes and down into Nikolasdalen, which was easily crossed. There were some scooter tracks here and I followed then as they climbed up the south and then east side of Gavdnjavarri mountain. To the south was the forested valley of Langfjorddalen which went down to a small roadless hamlet with a few houses.

Day 116. There was a line of old telephone posts to follow across the plateauOnce I was round the east side of Gavdnjavarri and had climbed to a pass the whole of the plateau opened before me. It was at about 400 metres altitude and everything was plastered in snow. This was a return to winter proper. Below me on the north side of the pass was a line of posts. Vidar recommended I follow these posts for some 20 km across the plateau. They were the remnants of an old telephone line from at least 50 years ago. The wire had long gone.

The next 20 km were a were a very good and quite fast ski. The weather was very changeable but on the whole it was overcast but there were a couple of very heavy snow showers where all visibility disappeared except for the telephone posts. Contrary to the soggy morning I now felt I was crossing Hardangervidda in February.

Day 116. There were some threatening signs in the west as I started to descend Smielvdalen valley to HopseidetThe ski route went on and on undulating over gentle ridges and then descending into shallow valleys. I had to work most of the time as I opted to keep my skins on and this cut down the glide I got considerably. Eventually after 20 km and a couple of snow showers the route started to reach the northern end of this block of land where it dropped of steeply to fjords. There was only one way down and that was down Smielvdalen valley and this was the way the road took also.

I had been skiing parallel to the road, but a few km to the east of it. It was easy to head west across the plateau to reach the exposed windswept road which must see some wild weather. Smielvdalen valley was about 4 km long and it dropped quite steeply down to Eidsfjorden.

There were masses of reindeer tracks and droppings here. They must have just migrated from the interior down here and over the isthmus onto Nordkinn peninsula. This is contrary to what is expected. Reindeer are severely bothered by flies. One type lays eggs in its nasal passages and throat which hatch maggots which eat these regions. There are few flies in the high mountains of central Scandinavia and also on these windswept peninsulas which is why they are preferred.

These reindeer are domestic ones now and are herded out to this peninsula by their Lapp owners. It is a tricky operation as the reindeer are uncomfortable about being herded down to the sea down a narrow valley. Recently a herd of them bolted up the steep slopes and got into trouble. Many lost their grip and slid on the steep snow and were killed.

Once at the sea by Eidsfjorden the road then heads east along the fjord and beneath the cliffs the reindeer came to grief on, until it gets to a narrow isthmus some 300 metres wide and long. This connects the Nordkinn peninsula to the north to the mainland, otherwise it would be and island. Once the reindeer have crossed this they have reached their summer pastures.

It was my goal for the day also and there was a hamlet here called Hopseidet. Once I crossed it I doubled back to the west to a abandoned workman’s hut I spotted earlier. It was open but was bare. It saved me putting up the tent up. I got in just in time as a sleet storm and high winds came blasting down the fjord from the west. After I unpacked and spread out on the floor I looked out of the window and it was miserable outside.

After sorting myself out I managed to lie on the floor and write the blog, all be it uncomfortably. The small waves were crashing onto the boulders along the shore with spray lifting. There were some little auks bobbing in the waves braving the elements to gather for pairing and nesting soon. To them this weather was probably pleasant.

It had been a good day. I was surprised at just how wild and wintery the plateau on this peninsula still was, while at sea level winter had lost its grip. It had been a long day, but reasonably easy with the pleasant skiing conditions and my fitness level.

Day 115. Ifjord to Bekkarfjord

Saturday, April 25th, 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.

Day 114. Gaisavuolesjohka cabin to Ifjord

Friday, April 24th, 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.

Day 113. Gaisavuolesjohka camp to Gaisavuolesjohka cabin

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Distance 2km | Time 0.5hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 50m

The wind did indeed get up a bit in the night and I heard it slicing through the tops of the trees I was camped amongst. There was also a fair amount of snow. I was well camped however and felt warm and secure. As usual after a big day I was troubled by cramps in my inner forward thigh muscles. If I moved in the night the cramp would set in and certainly wake me up.

I woke at 0600 and had a look at the map again after sleeping on a new plan. I would now ski north for about 4 km to a gravel road. Then I would nearly follow this gravel road some 30 km until I came to the main road. I could then follow the asphalt for 5 km to Ifjord. I did not want to walk across open moorland and stones for fear of breaking a metal rod at the front of the ski boot which is essential to attach it to the ski.

Despite knowing I had 40 km to do to the cabin at Ifjord Camping I could just not bring myself to get up. I had already arranged a cabin at Ifjord and for tomorrow night, but the owner said he would leave it open in case I arrived today. As it was now getting dark well after 2200 I could still leave at 1000 and make it.

With the sound of snow on the tent getting heavier and the wind remaining blustery I remained in my bag lying snug in the snow. 0800 came and went 0900 came and went and eventually just after 1000 I managed to emerge.

It was not a great day. Wet snow was falling, being driven by a northerly breeze. It would be coming directly into my face. With reluctance and a bit of procrastinating I at last had every thing in the rucksack and set of at 1130.

As I skied through the forest, which was firm under ski, I flushed a herd of some 20 reindeer sheltering in the woods. There was also a few ptarmigan here. I had to thread a path through the trees to avoid the odd bare patch but by and large there was plently of good snow.

I had barely skied two km when I crossed the main river in this valley called the Gaisavuolesjohka and then came face to face with a totally unexpected cabin. I went up to investigate. It was open, it was tidy and cleanish, it had a stove but no wood, there was sufficient wood around to collect with saw and axe, the weather was still miserable and I had 40 odd km to go and it was midday. It did not take me long to decide to stay.

Within an hour I had collected and prepared enough wood until tomorrow morning. It was a small cabin and it heated up quite quickly. Luckily the saw was not too blunt. Soon I had snow melting in the big pots on the stove and I was ensconced. It was still snowing heavily outside and all afternoon I never once regretted stopping.

The cabin was probably owned by the state as a hunting cabin. People could buy a hunting license for small game in the local council and then use this cabin as a base. There are many such cabins in Norway. Like many this one was not marked on the map.

In the warmth of the stove I wrote the blog as the snow continued to fall outside. By 1900 I was up to date and could look forward to an evening of relaxation and an early night. With this cabin as a platform I could launch an early bid to get to Ifjord and the campsite café before it closed at 2000 tomorrow.

It was a very easy day and fitting that my shortest record distance should follow a day after my longest record distance. I probably only have the day to Ifjord and the 4 days up the Nordkinn peninsula to the village of Mehamn. Merhamn would be my base to launch my final day to Kinnarodden, the most northerly piece of mainland in Europe. Whether I will have skis or walking boots on remains to be seen.

Day 112. Luostejohka to Gaisavuolesjohka camp

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Distance 63km | Time 13hrs | Ascent 930m | Descent 1020m

Day 112. Setting of from Luostejohka cabin across the remote Rastigaisa Massif on FinnmarksviddaDespite the dankness in the cabin I slept well and woke at 0500. I got up soon afterwards and had a double portion of dehydrated chicken curry for breakfast. It was going to be a long day and cereals would not have done the trick given a choice.

It was slightly overcast, quite warm around zero, and with a slight south west wind blowing. I thought I would have problems with slippery skis and would have to apply more red wax but surprisingly they were perfect.

I set off at 0700. On the map there was a old turf shelter or gamme marked and just beyond a shed. Both were well over 40 km so it was going to be a long day. It was very likely neither existed so I was expecting to camp.

It was a very good fore, or snow condition, and my skis were gliding well over the top of it. It did not take long to get into a good rhythm as I went into an open shallow valley on the north side of Vapma mountain. Indeed everything as far as the eye could see was smooth and gentle. There were no steep sections anywhere.

The sun was out and I was wary about getting my lips more sunburnt. I was for once skiing towards the sun. It was very quiet and remote up here. It was a very isolated place. Perhaps a bit smaller that Hardangervidda in southern Norway but far more desolate, and I am sure with equally vicious weather sometimes.

I crossed Borseelva river as high as possible having been warned to stay up high and avoid the canyon it descended into. After Borseelva there was a gentle climb between featureless rounded hills to an extensive plain. I could not see due to the snow cover on this flat plain but the map showed it was covered in hundreds of small tarns.

Day 112. The wind started to whip up the spindrift across the shelterless Finnmarksvidda plateauAfter skiing across this plain for nearly 15 km I came to a large boulder. I stopped here for lunch in the lee of this single rock. The wind was increasing and must have been a good force 5. It was directly behind me. Although I did nor give the wind much credit it must have assisted me enormously.

To the south east of the boulder was Rastigaisa, 1067m. The highest hill on this plateau and the only feature I could see on the rolling plateau. Even Rastigaisa was quite rounded except for its summit.

I now had another frozen river and valley to cross. It was the Stuorrajakka. It was difficult to make out were the river was so gentle were the slopes. The climb up the rounded mountains on the east side was also very gentle.

The wind was starting to increase more. It was a good force 6 if not 7. Spindrift was flowing over the surface, hurtling to a cornice or some other lee where it would come to rest. It this terrain that would be many kilometres. The spindrift was flowing in the same direction I was going which was north east. I had to ski the uphill sections now but on the gentle declines and flat sections I was virtually being blown along. In one hour I went nearly 8 km until I was just south of the Vuonjaljavri lake.

With the increasing wind came a slight worsening of the weather. Behind me and to the north the skies were slowly but surely darkening. The blue sky of the morning had long since disappeared. I was slightly worried. There was nowhere up here to hide from a storm except in a deep snow drift and there were few of them.

From the Vuonjaljavri lake I half skied and was half blown up another shallow incline. Reindeer herds fled when they saw me coming. After crossing the watershed of this shallow incline I entered another drainage area, that of the Vazzejohka stream. Some 2 km down it was the gamme, or traditional Lapp turf shelter. There was no sign of it at all so I continued down the south side of this valley to the shed marked on the map. There was no sign of that either. I would have to camp after all as I expected.

The problem was it was too exposed to camp here. Despite having already done some 50 km I would still have to do another 10 and cross yet another gentle saddle, my fifth of the day. The wind was still directly behind me and would give me a fair bit of assistance.

I set of north east up a line of tarns slowly climbing up to Fasttesjarvi lake. There were a few drifts at the start of this valley if I had needed to dig a hole. However that was not necessary as with one and a half hours I was on the lake and almost being blown along it. From the map I could see that at the east end of the lake there was a kind of gentle escarpment and the plateau dropped of from about 500 metres down to 250 metres.

When I reach the east end of the lake I got quite a surprise. The lower plateau was indeed down there and it was quite accessible. However it was also two thirds bare of snow. It was predominantly a black landscape with some snow patches. I don’t think the snow here had melted, I think it never arrived. This would affect my plans to reach Ifjord.

There were many small herds of reindeer here taking advantage of the exposed lichen they thrive on. I could see a small birch wood below me and a route of snow down to it. It was quite a steep descent but within half an hour I was down in the trees.

Day 112. Camped in some shelter in Gaisavuolesjohka valleyBeing in the lee of the hill and also being in the birch wood meant I had great protection. The force 6 wind I had experienced all afternoon was probably still raging up there but here in the forest there was a gentle breeze if that. I found a quiet place to pitch the tent and levelled of the snow and made a small depression for me to lie in, before putting up the tent.

The tent was solid here. I used trees as anchors for the guy ropes in addition to skis for the main anchors. Then I heaped snow onto the storm flats and crawled inside. If a storm came I would be snug. I melted water and by 2100 had eaten and drunk enough. I did not bother to even attempt the blog. I did have a look at the large scale map I had of northern Norway and it seemed like I had done the lions share of this section to Ifjord today. I slept soon as ptarmigan chuckled in the woods nearby.

It had been a magnificent day. A very impressive distance much of which should be attributed to the wind. None the less I was getting supremely fit with legs of steel. I was also lucky I was was not caught out on the main plateau with violent weather. It would have been an unforgiving environment.