10th August 2016
16km + 8km off route
Being above the tree line meant that the sunrise caught the tent nice and early. I popped my snood over my head to cover my eyes and shield out the light. When I finally woke and took off the snood the brightness took me by surprise. Sunlight was streaming out of a clear blue sky directly across the valley and into my tent. A beautiful sight and a great start to the day.
The trek today was only around 13km. Most of that traced the contours around the mountain and dropped through the forest to the edge of a lake. The walking felt easy and I kept up a steady pace.
There were many more people on the trail today. As I head further north this is a theme I expect to continue. I exchanged the customary “Hey” with most walkers and mentioned about the stream crossing they would need to tackle at the end of the day. A pair of girls said they were actually going the same way as me. It turned out they had stayed at the cabin in the woods and had been just ahead of me for the latter part of the previous day.
I enquired of them how they intended to cross lake Laitaure which we were approaching. The motor boat only runs at 9:15am and 5:15pm at a cost of 200SEK per adult. I didn’t fancy lounging about for the afternoon and felt the need to save the pennies where I could.
The other option is to row the 4km across the lake. In theory there is supposed to be at least one boat on each side of the lake at any time. I had heard from other hikers that there were 3 boats on our side which meant someone had not been honest with their boating ventures! The two girls, who I later found were called Jenny and Anna, were up for rowing. Arriving at the lake first I set about cooking some couscous and chicken from John and Janna which I had left soaking for 30-mins or so. It was delicious – although I suspect the chicken would benefit from a good overnight soak!
There were indeed three boats by the lake. Jenny and Anna arrived and the consensus was not to take two across so we hopped in and set off. We had chosen a boat where two people could row and Jenny and I took the first leg. The scenery was outstanding. The sun shone out of a brilliant blue sky. The water was calm and a beautiful pale green which I suspect is a result of glacial melt water. Half way across we were making good time and Anna took the oars to give Jenny a break. Arriving at the distant shore I instantly felt guilty that we had not taken a second boat in tow as there were 6 people with bags waiting to cross. They left a few bags and set off to do the three journeys.
Up at the Aktse STF lodge I celebrated my 200 SEK boat saving with a can of coca-cola and a packet of Gott & Blandat sweets. They tasted for the most part like wine gums apart from one which started off tasting like liquorice and end up tasting like salted fish. I’m fairly adventurous with trying new foods but had to pick these out, ditch them and chalk this one up to experience!
The next decision was where to camp. After much deliberation I decided to press on to the top of the woods, have some tea and decide then based on how I feel. Having done so I chatted with a couple of people and discovered it was due to rain tomorrow. I was really keen to make it to the top of Skierfe which looks down over the Rappadallan valley delta.
One guy thought if it was going to rain tomorrow it was definitely worth making it up there this evening. I decided this was a good plan – it was not.
The journey to the top of Skierfe is around 5km and has maybe 350m of ascent. At a fast pace I reckon it should take 1hr 15mins each way. Putting around 30mins of the trail under my belt I ditched the rucksack under a large obvious rock, prepared myself with with hat, gloves, sustenance and camera, and set off towards the top at a brisk pace. I had been watching rain fall in the valley behind the Rappadallen and it seemed to be exiting the western end and heading north.
The wind in my face was however coming from the north. If the rain continued moving in that direction then I would be fine. I looked behind me and two valleys away another wall of rain was edging its way closer. I made a mental note of the time and nervously pressed on upward. If either of the rain clouds moved any closer I’d have to abort my bid for the top. Cresting the penultimate rise I suddenly felt a pang of fear as I saw where the trail dropped a little, turned a corner and headed up to the viewpoint. The ridge seemed to be the only barrier between myself and the rain. All the distant mountains with their glaciers were shrouded in grey streaks of falling rain. I hoped to have been closer but this was going to be at least another 30 mins to get there, let alone the time to get back.
It was clear that if the rain nudged this way slightly I would be cut off. So here I was maybe 30-45mins from my bag, alone except for a couple of distant tents, and suddenly feeling extremely vulnerable. I pulled out my map, knowing what I had to do but not wanting to accept defeat. Two drops of rain fell on the map. There we go that’s the answer I need, and off I headed back for my bag.
As I had left my bag I had looked back to memorise exactly where it was. Three clear stones were my markers. In my haste to get up however I had not done the same with my route. This is a well trodden way, but does not have the red painted markers of the Kungsleden. Instead are small cairns which people have built for you to follow. I followed the path until it reached a rock field and headed to what I thought was a cairn. It wasn’t. Cresting the ridge I raced down across the Boulder field in what I believe was the right direction. Once more feeling vulnerable and alone I looked at the map and worked out I had gone too high in the boulder field so dropped some height and eventually stumbled across the path.
Another 20-mins later I was back at my bag breathing a sigh of relief. That was one stupid decision I had made. I knew things can change quickly in the mountain but had thought I could second guess where the weather was heading. At least I had the guts to make the decision to turn back when I did.
I shouldered my pack but could not face climbing to higher ground so I wandered back down the trail until I found a patch of heather just about large enough to fit my tent.
Tent up. Clothes changed. In to my sleeping bag.
As if on cue it then starts raining.
Lying in my sleeping bag I can feel it’s much colder tonight at this altitude. I will wait and see what the weather does tomorrow. If I do head up in the morning, it’ll be with my full pack this time.