11th August 2016
12km + 2km off route
I awake to the sound of persistent rain. Looking nervously round the tent I find it is on the whole dry, except for a few drips that have come through the air mesh near my feet. The last time I used the tent was with Jonas in the garden and Milo, the cat, had jumped up on the tent. There were no visible holes and I thought I had got away lightly. Last night however I had discovered two very small pricks near the apex of the main pole. I had taped these over and they appeared to be nicely sealed. I now wonder whether there are more but will need the tent to be fully dry out before I can check. In any case, given the tent is around 20 years old its doing well.
Given the ‘bracing dampness’ in the air I roll over, doze for a bit, and get my nose into a good book. “Cold” by Sir Ranulph Fiennes is maybe not the right choice for this trip. It makes my feeble worries about a little rain seem trivial. I turn page after page, favouring the tales of Norwegian glacier mapping over the reality of the cold wind and rain outside. In the back of my mind is a hope that the rain will die out and I can at least walk in the dry. The pitter patter on the tent canvas remains as consistent and solid as ever. I decide that the time has come to brave the elements and by the time I’ve packed away and had breakfast I’m not setting off until 11am.
As I step out of my tent the summit of Skierfe is barely visible through the cloud. It is obvious that if I make it to the top, the view will not be clear. Still I’m torn between going or staying. This was to be one of the planned trip highlights. If I do attempt the peak, today will require a total of 6 or 7 hours of trudging in the rain. If not, its just 2 or 3. Being wet and cold for that long could turn a highlight into a definite low light. I make the final decision. I’ll leave it. I’m disappointed that I will miss what is supposed to be one of the worlds most beautiful views in the world. The view is unlikely to be there so it’s the right choice.
Trudging up over the mountain the wind and rain remain persistent. The cold turns the rain in parts to sleet and I can feel my base and mid layer clothes gradually getting damp. The wind chills the dampness and I walk harder to warm up. My boots thankfully stay dry and warm. The trail is pleasant enough but a little monotonous as the view is obliterated by the thick cloud covering the countryside. Dropping into the woods feels good as the lack of wind chill allows the underlying dampness to turn back into warmth.
As I approach lake Sitojaure I contemplate whether to row the 4km across. This distance only took around 30-mins yesterday and even with wind and on my own should be feasible in around an hour or so. If there is someone else to join me I could consider it to be an option. However being already cold and wet, it would be foolhardy to attempt on my own. Arriving at the lakeside there is the scheduled motor boat waiting to leave. The pilot says that nobody is rowing today as the lake is choppy. Once again I feel a sense of disappointment as I step into the boat. I know for safety and comfort it’s the right thing. By the time we land on the other side the lack of movement and high wind chill mean that I am frozen to the core.
The warmth of the STF cabin is welcome and I cook up a hearty plate of food. The drying rooms are so full that nothing appears to be drying too quickly. Still, warm and wet is better than cold and wet. If the weather does indeed clear up I’ll head off once I’m warm, dry and fed. This is the benefit of being ahead of schedule.
Three hours later to my amazement the sun has broken through and the clouds have dissipated to reveal patches of blue sky. The grey world I had trudged through earlier has emerged colourful and bright.
Looking to the west of the trail are a series of mountains. Each has a snow covered top which was not there yesterday.
I’m packed up, warm, still a little damp and most importantly ready to head out. My goal is to clear the tree line and from there to potter on until I feel tired. As I head out I’m optimistic that my body warmth combined with a good stiff breeze will dry my clothes quicker than the still air of the hut drying room. I am not disappointed and an hour in to my trek I am whipping off my waterproofs which are largely dry.
I put around 6km under my belt and jump into a small depression in the valley that contains a small pool. Throwing up my tent I hold it aloft as the breeze and the setting sun dry the fabric.
Draping my sleeping bag and roll mat out over the tent it feels good to be pitching camp. Despite the cool arctic air drifting over the neighbouring mountains I feel warm and dry, or at least on-the-way-to-dry.
Having had my main meal at lunch time I cook up some of John and Janna’s chia seed fruit mix for supper. As John said, it’s a little slimy and the berries are a delicious diversion. In true British fashion I round supper off with a nice cup of earl grey tea.