Björkliden to Kilipsjärvi: Part 1. Björkliden to Gaskashytta

The trip was the culmination of 12 months of planning after unexpected changes in 2009. I had decided to change the direction for transport reasons to a South to North trip along the Nordkalottleden. I travelled by XJ 2000 from Copenhagen to Stockholm Central and then the night train to Narvik, alighting at Björkliden RS at 11 am on Saturday morning.

There were many hikers on board the night train and most of them alighted at Abisko (both stations) and were presumably heading south along the Kungsleden.
It was a beautiful sunny morning and shorts and short sleeve shirts seemed to be the way to go. Having crossed the railway tracks I headed west along the north side of the line with views of Torneträsk further north. It was then I realised that “I am actually here and hiking along the Nordkalottleden.” it was a great feeling. The trail meanders between the railway line and road to Narvik, climbing a little and providing some views to the north, it was also evident that the sky was rapidly darkening.
So before long it was on with the windshirt and decisions on whether the Montane Featherlight pants should be worn. After about 2 hours I stopped besides Báktájøhkaluobbalat as the rain began to fall. It was here I cooked lunch and donned the Oz Pullover. After lunch I soon crossed the road and headed north in the increasing wind and rain, which was when I began to realise why I should have packed the Rab Demand and not the Haglöffs top. Aside from the rain and wind it was an undulating walk through low shrubs and trees and with a full pack it seemed like slow going.
I continued on finally reaching the bridge across Njuoraeatnu.

I began to realise that I would not reach my intended destination Lappjordhytta a locked DNT hut in Norway, instead I decided to stay at Pånostugan as the rain continued to fall. I reached Pånostugan quickly realising that I was wet through from the rain, especially on the top of half of my body and this was the second time that I had ended up wet when wearing the OZ pullover (when will I ever learn?)

Having arrived at the hut I set about hanging out damp clothes and deciding a fire in the stove would help to dry the wet gear. Fortunately there was some matches and I discovered how easily birch bark lights and I had a fire going in the stove and the clothes were drying. Much to my surprise, and to a couple from Narvik, who arrived to find me comfortably ensconced in the hut, when they had hoped for a quiet night. The rain had cleared by now and we had a chat about gear, the area and food. I appreciated their chocolate chip cookies. Given a long day tomorrow I retired for the night and was soon asleep.
I awoke to an overcast and windy morning and having eaten breakfast I was quickly packed and out the door. Whilst the couple slept on. There was to be a lot of climbing for the day having started at 380 m, I would climb through a pass at 950 m before descending to a yet to be determined camp.

Soon I was crossing into Norway from Sweden and would stay in Norway for the most of the trip.

With Lappjordhytta perched on a cliff top in the distance, I began the climb all the time admiring the scenery to the left and right and behind, with stunning views to the south.

After a little while I had reached the hytta and took time to enjoy the view and note appropriate campsites should I ever return to this area.

Soon I was climbing again with the wind behind me, something I began to appreciate more and more as the day progressed. Quickly I was out of the trees and climbing in the open slopes of Ganaśbaḱti, it surprised me to see small patches of flowers out in such adverse conditions.

As I climbed I encountered my first small herd of reindeer and soon after snow drifts, a pattern that would continue for many days to come. The mist began to to encroach as I climbed and it was not long before I had the first wind driven snowfall, the wind was strong up here and could easily blow me off balance as I climbed. I was however, very glad that the wind was generally coming from behind. Overall the1 trail is well marked but as I climbed higher with snow still on the ground some of the rock cairns (marked with a red T) were difficult to find. The remainder of the day was very windy and foggy at times and as I descended (or was blown) down the Luirevaggi valley, surrounded by snow capped peaks, I appreciated the ruggedness and beauty that surrounded me. The valley was mostly covered in shallow soft snow which made for slow going at times especially over the talus strewn landscape. As I descended I passed a Sami village, and finally I found a slightly sheltered place for lunch next to a small waterfall.

After lunch I continued down the valley only to be introduced to the Longtail Skua, now these seabirds nest on the tundra and unknown to me they are a little aggressive, so I suddenly found myself taking evasive action, though they never really approached more than 2 metres away. I soon learnt to recognise their call and keep an eye out for the white breast of the bird as they sat on a rock looking for unsuspecting hikers. They eat fish and live on lemmings in the tundra.

Soon I came across one of the first significant river crossings and was pleased to see that I could keep my feet dry as I crossed, then as I sat for a rest beside the river the sun appeared briefly and with a watchful eye out for a Skua I relaxed in a sheltered spot. I was soon on my way again it was getting late and it appeared it would rain again I looked out for a campsite beside the fast flowing Salvasskardet, and after passing a narrow gorge a flat spot was found and camp set up for the night.

With the wind still blowing insects were not a problem, but it was soon raining so I retired to the tent after a long and eventful day. This was to be my first night in a tent in Lapland with the midnight sun, but I hardly noticed the extra light as the sky was clouded over.

I awoke to another grey day, with much less wind along with the occasional mosquito. Today was intended to be a shorter day and it would take me through the small village of Innset also I would be in the forest most of the day.
I quickly found the access trail used by the quad motor bikes travelling to the Sami village and headed down stream towards Innset admiring the rugged valleys and surrounding snow capped peaks. It was also evident that the weather was improving with the occasional hint of blue sky. Passing across the large dam wall of Altevatn through the village of Innset, I noted the offer by the Husky Farm to come and collect hikers and provide them with accommodation for the night. I also noted that there is now a hytta in Innset named Altevasshytta (which was not shown on my maps). At the end of a gravel road out of Innset there is the familiar red “T” markings which take you towards the Koeivatnet a lake fed fast flowing stream passing through a small rocky gorge where the bridge is located. Well the bridge was interesting, would you cross this bridge?

I chose to walk about half a kilometre south and wade the thigh high fast flowing river. My boots, were no longer dry. After wading the river I picked up the trail now as it sidled around Lifjellet. Here there was no wind, some mud, more mosquitos and many boardwalks. It was on one of those water covered board walks that I slipped, resulting in a sore knee which slowed me down for a couple of days as well I had a slightly bent alloy Pacerpole. I never did like board walks.
So with many small streams and forest sections it was slow progress towards Gaskashytta. But with clearing views to the south across Altevatn there was always variation to be seen. Soon as I rounded Lifjelletangen the roar of the powerful Luodnavaggi river flowing rapidly towards Altevatn could be heard, the map indicated there was a bridge (I hoped so).

Sure enough there was one of the many suspension bridges I would meet, so I quickly crossed and headed to the hytta before looking for a campsite.

I decided to cross Strömskardet to the east of the hytta before looking for a campsite, only to be presented with a 3 metre wide chasm and a rapidly flowing river below. Hmmm …

So down stream I headed, for about a kilometre and then found a crossing only about a metre deep and 50 metres wide. After sidling along the river bank and surprising some reindeer I found a nice campsite with views to the south and settled down for the night. Mind you the sound of the repetitive call of the Cuckoo, did make make me wonder about my sanity as well as how many more interesting river crossings there would be in the coming days.

This entry was posted in Nordkalotten Trail, Norway, Olympus E-P2, Sweden. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Björkliden to Kilipsjärvi: Part 1. Björkliden to Gaskashytta

  1. All that wading across rivers, have thought about a pair of these: http://blogpackinglight.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/whats-this/ not cheap (understatement of the year!) but only weigh 300g

  2. Thanks Robin, what I thought about and will write about later is moving away from lined boots (I should have known better) to shoes that get wet and dry and "camp footwear"Stay tuned

  3. Martin Rye says:

    Big rivers and big country. Some walk you planned there. Cant wait for more.

  4. Mark says:

    Its a fab walk, I did it in 2008. Essentially Troms Border Trail plus Innset to Abisko. It was so good I would do it again.Quite easy to reach from UK. Fly to Tromso and bus to Kilipisjarvi and then head down. I exited at Abisko (met my Swedish wife in Stockholm).Best bit Isdalen!

  5. Joe Newton says:

    Brilliant Roger! The area looks simply stunning. I'm very jealous. I'd been planning to walk the whole Nordkalloten trail, but North to South, for months so I'm living it vicariously through you! It will be interesting to hear your thought on gear later too.

  6. Gavin Macfie says:

    Re river crossings – I've had a few opportunities now to dabble with a trail shoes and goretex socks approach. I remove socks for the crossing and cross in shoes only. Once on the other side I put my socks and goretex socks on inside the wet shoes, thus maintaining dry feet and avoiding the weight penalty of carrying sandals (or lightweight waders!).

  7. Dave Hanlon says:

    Things are shaping up nicely. Can't wait for some more. For the record; I wouldn't have used that bridge either. Had heard stories about the mapped bridges in this area before. You should consider yourself lucky there was a bridge at all 🙂

  8. Thanks for the comments, I intend to tray and answer the many questions appearing in the last few blogs in one blog entry in the coming days, though some will appear as I complete the write up.I have never really worried about wet feet, hiking in Tasmania did that to me. Though I was less than happy with the boots, in a gear write up I will explain more. But the gtx socks and trail runners are an option. Bridges (or lack of) were only a problem in the beginning and there had been a rapid thaw in May and thus flooding, one of the missing bridges I found about half a km down stream.Mark, sadly I did not go through Isdalen as the Nordkalottleden has been rerouted, not sure why. The Isdalen did look spectacular.

  9. Hendrik says:

    Legendary, Roger. EPIC, as I like to say =) It looks and sounds fantastic, the photos (you took the E-P2 I see) are very good, better than the Ricoh, if I may say so. Looking forward to read and see the rest. Please mention how many people you met on the trail (or how many people signed the guest books in the huts), that would interest me as well!

  10. Jouni says:

    Greetings from the Swedish/Finnish border! I'm trying to become a lightpacker myself now after reading everyone's blogs – i ordered an Aarn Mountain Magic 55 yesterday, i really like the concept. I think it was on Fjäderlätt that i read you have modified yours to cut off 300 grams? Could you please elaborate on this, i'm very interested.

  11. Hi Jouni, thanks for your questionThe Aarn Mountain Magic 55 comes with a 37 litre rear sack and 2 by 9 litre front pockets giving a total of 55 litres. However, I also have a Aarn Marathon Magic 33, which has 2 by 1.5 litre balance pockets. For the trip to Vålådalen I did not need 55l litres so I chose to use the smaller balance pockets of the Marathon Magic. giving me a volume of 40 litres. This of course will not provide the same balance as when the correct pockets are used but I was still able to pack about 1.5 kg into the front pockets which helped to offset the weight (about 7 kg) in the main sac. This arrangement reduces the pack weight by about 300 grams.When I was in Lapland I used the normal balance pockets which provide the volume of 55 litres. Reducing the weight on that pack would entail replacing the elastic, the cord locks and where ever possible the shortening the straps. I also believe that there is some excess in the attachments to the straps such as in the shoulder strap which I would also remove. I would also encourage you to consider the dry bags. they are excellent, but could be replaced by plastic bags.So for a big load it maybe possible to save 300 gms but more importantly (in my view) the Aarn Pack reduces the stress on many parts of your body thereby feeling "better".Whereabouts on the border do you live?

  12. Hendrik, in the coming days you will see reports of other hikers, but as I did not have a key to the huts I cannot comment on who was there.Yes I am still learning with the EP 2 but I am also happy with quality.

  13. Jouni says:

    Ah, okay thanks for the info. Replacing the liners with plastic bags sounds a bit too extreme for me, i just want a system that works every time safely and easily. By getting this pack i'm already halving the weight of my backpack so i'm quite happy :)I'm trying to gather gear that i can use both outdoors and every day, and i think the MM 55 will be a great solution for that, because of the versatility of being able to remove the balance pockets. Any experience going shopping etc with yours? And i live here: http://maps.google.se/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=sv&geocode=&q=pajala&sll=61.606396,21.225586&sspn=22.067005,86.572266&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Pajala,+Norrbottens+L%C3%A4n&z=7

  14. Mark says:

    Just read Hendrick's comments about how many on the trail. When I did it in 2008 I say very few people, mostly at the beginning (I started from the North) near Gappohytta. I actually think I say fewer people on Troms then I did crossing Sarek from Sweden to Norway last August (2010). I stayed only one night in a hut which is the Norwegian one Nielsen has a picture of at Lappjordhytta – it was very comfortable and charming. I got the magic DNT key in Tromso before I set out (costs 10 kr, I am member of the STF as cheaper than DNT and besides I can understand their publications as I have learnt Swedish). Shared that hut with nice German couple who were new to the Scandinavian hot experience – they were surprised to find no shower and ho hot water!!!.Look forward to your next instalement Nielsen. Brings back happy memories of a great route.

  15. Hi Jouni, thanks for your comments, no I have not been shopping with my pack but having travelled to Lapland via public transport I certainly have had to manoeuvre around people in train carriages with the front pockets fully loaded. I have had some strange looks at times but it probably not the pack, just me ; ) . I agree with you that the ability to remove the front pockets for smaller loads is a great option. Thanks for the location.Mark, thanks for the tip about STF and DNT keys this will be useful for the next section of the walk. I was very impressed with the STF hut Pältsa and the advice provided by the warden. As for hikers on the trail I passed a total of 4 who were on the trail and 5 others who were looking for fishing or climbing options.

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