Day 61. Sveet to Gaundalen

Posted by: James on March 2, 2009

Distance 39km | Time 11hrs | Ascent 960m | Descent 860m

Day 61. At last out of the gnarly terrain and onto SeterfjelletI was up at 0530, but breakfast, repacking my new Pod rucksack and tidying the cabin took almost an hour and a half and I didn’t leave until 0700.

I was disappointed that it was snowing and hoped the forecasters had not made a mistake. If I was to make Gaundal today I needed good visibility so I could ski fast across the tops of the bare mountains. I had already phoned Stienar Gaundal at his farm to see if he had a cabin and he gave me instructions as to the best route at his end given the conditions.

I skied the 4 km along the deserted road to Vera and then turned of up a track. Surprisingly it was partly cleared, and then I found an old scooter track which went up the hillside through the forest roughly where I wanted to go. I did not look at the map until I reached the bare hilltop. I was roughly where I wanted to be on Reinsmyrhogda. I could now simply ski north east across the mountain ridge.

Wrong! I skied north east for a short km and came to a ravine separating me from the rounded top of Klumpan. I skied west to make a detour to the end of the ravine and ended up going nearly a km before I could drop down into it. Getting up the steep tree clad north side was very hard graft. It took a good hour and I completely used up my breakfast.

Once up I had another 2 km of difficult terrain in deep snow as I weaved past other ravines and negotiated numerous knolls covered in steep drifts and cornices. It was very taxing and slow work. In retrospect I should had headed east to detour the first ravine rather than west. At least the snow had stopped and the sun was trying to break through. However, I had wasted precious hours and energy on this section.

I tried to warn Andre who was half a day behind me and would inevitably follow my tracks but the only mobile signal was Swedish and it was erratic so the text never went. He had a sledge so would be cursing it and me later in the day.

Day 61. The Swedish Skjaekerfjella mountains from SeterfjelletOnce away from this gnarly terrain the deep snow vanished as I climbed up onto the ridge of rounded tops which stretched north east. I made good time and enjoyed great views. The Skjaekerfjella mountains on each side seemed almost luminous white under the dark grey skies.

Day 61. The Norwegian Skjaekerfjella mountains from StaggafjelletI skied along this ridge to Nordre Seterfjellet and then traversed down to Staggadalen by its watershed with Lakadalen. Steinar Gaundal advised me to then follow Staggadalen keeping to the treeless west side and avoiding the forest on the east.

As I reached the watershed time was getting on. It was already 1430 and I had a long way to go. I was resigned to camp. Suddenly a snow scooter came towards me out of the blue. It was Steinar himself coming to check on me and help me with some tracks to the days final destination. We chatted a bit and he told me if I followed his tracks I would do the 16 km in 3 hours. What service and luck.

I took the ski skins off and started to blast down the track. Steinar had long disappeared. It was a very gentle and easy descent to the confluence of Staggaelva and Fiskloysa streams. The forest on the east side looked fiendishly difficult had I chosen that way. This side was largely bare and the snow was harder, especially after the scooter had passed over it.

Day 61. Looking south up Staggadalen from StaggafjelletI was getting tired now as this mornings squandered efforts came home to roost. With the small breakfast and no lunch my blood sugar was dropping. There was one last trick up the days sleeve which was Staggafjellet, a 100 metre climb up a ridge.

The scooter tracks made this much easier. It was about 1700 and the sun had set but it was still light. The mountains which had been luminous white all day now turned a remarkable deep blue. From the top of Staggafjellet I could make out the homestead of Gaundal.

Day 61. Gaundal farm with the Skjaekerfjella mountains beyondThe descent down to the valley was wonderful. Steinar had driven the scooter to give a long slow run for me. Soon I was wizzing towards the forest below. It was a beautiful forest of old majestic pines each with its own space A capercaille flew from one of the trees. After crossing a frozen marshy delta where birch trees lined the natural levees on each side of the river I arrived at the homestead where Steinar came out to meet me.

The cabin he had for me was perfect with inside toilet and fridge. I chatted with Steinar for a while and mentioned I was hungry. He dissapeared and returned with 10 eggs, a loaf of bread, margarine, a litre of milk and to cap the lot a kilo of roasted moose fillet. I was delighted.

After he left I fell upon this feast like the famished man with no manners I was. The dried food in my pack would be postponed for a less happy occasion. I then tidied up my stuff and when up to visit him and his mother in the main house.

Gaundal homestead was a remarkable place. The family had been associated with the place since the 16 century. Initially for animal skins and meat and now for some sheep farming but mainly tourism. It was 26 km to the nearest road in Norway. In the winter these 26 km were covered by snow scooter. In the summer Steinar used a small plane.

The whole farm was some 7500 hectares. On it were lakes to fish and some hunting. Tourists came in Easter to ice fish and in the summer to fish and sometimes hunt.

Steinar had built his own 13 kw hydro plant some 4 km away and erected poles and cables to the house, sheep barn, hen house and the few cabins for rent

The was a lot of wolverine in this area. There was also some bears. Between them they took about 10 sheep a summer. There was not a lot of lynx here as the terrain was not gnarly enough apparently. There was a lot of elg and grouse also. Steinar was a wildlife officer and also informed me there was the odd Arctic fox passing through occasionally.

I also met Mrs Gaundal. She was 87 and still feisty. Remarkably she had brought up 7 children on this remote outpost. Like most Norwegian farms the place was well cared for and maintained and the cabin I was in was one of the best on the trip so far.

It had been a hard day, mostly due the mornings floundering about in steep, knee deep snow. However after that it just got better and better. The scooter tracks for the last 16 km were a godsend. It would have taken 7 to 10 without them instead of 3. It was also fascinating to end up at such a unique place with such generous hosts. The rucksack was by and large an improvement and I could have gone further today given daylight and food.

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