I arrived at Kiruna airport and having collected my HMG Porter I waited for bus 91 which would take me to Katterjåkk, a town close to the border with Norway. My first surprise was the need to pay in cash, in the past the buses had accepted cards. Not this year. Before alighting from the bus I was chatting with a Swedish hiker who was using the Calazo Map App on his mobile phone, I was quite impressed by the capability of zooming in on the 1:100 000 map and the better detail that it provided, something to consider for the next trip. The map below gives an outline of the route, Abisko is on the right, with Nikkaloukta at the bottom, total distance was about 150 km..
For the uninitiated, including me, some definitions thanks to Lars at The Ironism a ‘jåkk’ or ‘jokk’ as a river or stream, ‘vaggi’ is a valley and ‘javri’ a lake
In a little over 2 hours I was alighting from the bus and a quick visit to the Coop Konsum in Katterjåkk to collect the last remaining gas canisters which had preordered through their Facebook page, I was on my way, well almost. I had to do the usual fitting of hand luggage (carried in a SeatoSummit day pack) into the Porter. Then I was ascending under a sunny sky with temps in the mid 20’s and with a fully loaded pack it was bit of a shock to the system. As I climbed I was in my own world and then suddenly someone said “Hej” I looked up and saw the 3 hikers who had alighted from the bus at the same time as I had, I said “Hi “and then wandered on. Passing 2 day walkers with dogs I soon reached Katterjuare a lake some 250 meters higher than my starting point. The climb had been steady and warm but as I climbed the vistas opened to the north and south became increasingly impressive and after a couple of hours Katterjuare came into view and with the blue skies reflected in the lake it was wonderful sight. Soon I was passing the sign reminding me of the tenuous situation during the Second World War with Norway occupied and Sweden being neutral. So the soldiers from each side were able to look across Katterjuare at each other.
After crossing a river and taking a detour into the Hoiganvaggi valley (I really should look at the compass occasionally) I arrived at Stuor Kärpal. I noticed a set of walking poles at the door so being the social type I opened the door only to frighten the hell out a german hiker who had arrived late and was sound asleep. I apologised and sat outside, relaxing.
Whilst the hiker, Christoffer as I was later learn, went about his chores I headed upwards, the weather, as expected, was deteriorating and I knew it would be a while before any campsites would present themselves. I steadily climbed up above the 1000 metre mark with the increasing amount of rocks. I have always loved rock hoping especially when they are dry and my Innov-8 295’s ensured that I rarely slipped even with a fully loaded pack. The trail was well cairned in most parts and presented few navigational challenges, finding a spot out of the wind near a lake I had lunch, quickly realising the Rema Tortilla Wraps are not that robust. I was preparing to leave when I was met by Christoffer and a swiss lady who I wrongly assumed was hiking with him. She had walked solo through the Hoiganvaggi valley and was heading towards the STF hut of Unna Allakass before returning to Abisko her original starting point.
We ended up as a threesome as we made our way south, ultimately reaching the lake known as Valffojavrrit, the challenge was the fast flowing river connecting two sections of the lake. There were other detours but we had missed them in the light rain. After some hesitation I decided well I was wet anyway so I headed into the river, the current looked worse than it was and with judicious use of trekking poles I was soon across the river. Meanwhile the other two did the usual boots off, socks off, sandals on routine, they had watched me somewhat aghast when I just walked into the water, as I always do. Admittedly they could see the merits of my method, but were unwilling to try it when wearing leather boots. Continuing along the shoreline we reached a small refuge hut, Valfojåkke, where the swiss lady and I decided to camp for the night. Whilst Chris decided to head further and suggested that him and I would meet tomorrow as we were heading in the same direction. It was a wet and somewhat windy night and after spending some time chatting with a solo swedish hiker who had been out for 3 weeks and was now on his way home, I headed to bed. Interestingly he like several others I saw were using gas burners in their Trangias, I wondered if the trangia Metho burner was heading to retirement.
The following morning I said goodbye to the swiss lady as she was not in a hurry. I headed towards Unna Allakass, again passing a Hilleberg tent, near a stream. I continued to climb, passing an old sled, to a ridge which provided views to the north and south.
The views to the valley to the north, with its rugged rocky bluffs and the wave like folds in the adjacent plains were particularly impressive.
Soon I was descending, passing a number of tents on the high ground above Skangalanjavri, then it was down to the STF hut, Unna Allakass. I stopped there for a break, chatting with the hut warden as a well as a hiker who had come from Cunojavrrehytta in Norway, the direction I was heading. I headed towards Cunojavrrehytta in the sunshine and found a spot to sit and admire the lake as I ate lunch. Soon after I was relaxing on the verandah of Cunojavrrehytta and as a Norwegian returned from fishing (without success) he offered me coffee and cake, we then sat and chatted about what I was doing and his plans. He was carrying a large 90 litre Bergen pack and indicated it was very comfortable, though with only 10 km to the nearest car park it was not hard to carry. Whilst in the warm sunshine I felt it was easy to do nothing but felt compelled to move on and find a campsite.
I crossed the outflow of Čunojávri and then walked what was perhaps the most boring part of the whole trip, a flood plain or swamp area that was dry and flat, however, in front of me was the vista of the peaks and valleys that I would need tp negotiate tomorrow. I kept looking for the bridge that I would need to cross but it was a long time before it came into view. The trail passed through low heath with cairns spaced at regular intervals and the occasional river crossing it seemed to go for ever. I finally arrived at the impressive suspension bridge which I nicknamed the “Pagoda Bridge”. Crossing it was an interesting experience as I am not accustomed to walking up to the centre of a suspension bridge.
Having crossed the bridge it was obvious there were many camping options and having located a spot the Stratospire was soon erected and dinner being prepared. Whilst this was happening Chris arrived apparently unbeknown to me I had past him earlier in the day.
I spent some time taking photos of the glacier on Storstiensfjellet. However with a storm approaching, I was soon in the tent grateful for the protection from the heavy downpours that lashed the tent for the next hour or so, as the rain stopped I was soon asleep.
Gear reflection: Sleeping Gear
I can hear you asking how well do you sleep in 24 hour daylight, the simple answer is well. For this trip, the biggest difference was using a part solid inner for the Stratospire 1, there is no doubt that the solid walls reduced the cross drafts and as a result made the tent feel warmer.
Along with the Stratospire I used the following
AsTucas Sestrals Quilt with Climashield Apex 167, I cannot speak highly enough of this quilt, it is warm and roomy. For this trip it was perhaps a little too warm but as the night cooled I was soon ensconced in it.
Klymit X Pillow, I have now used this pillow for 15 nights and I can honestly say it is the best pillow I have used and with a weight of 55 grams I cannot see me leaving it at home. In my opinion its comfort comes from the x pattern which allows your head to sit in the centre of the pillow while the inflated quarter sections support your neck. Equally important, is that the ear is not squashed by the pillow as it is located at the centre of the X and thus has less pressure on it.
Neo Air X therm again the r value of the X therm is enough to indicate that it is a little overkill for summer, but the 70 denier fabric and the comfort ensures that I get a good nights sleep. In fact using this combination has probably given my most restful sleeps for quite a while. In the future I may consider using an Xlite in summer
Laufbursche Eva Foam, underneath the XTherm I placed a shortened section of foam, partly because of the “What if?” situation and in part because I use it during the day for sitting on especially on wet or rocky ground. I have found that the Laufbursche mat is robust and is less likely to be damaged under trees etc. than some other brands.
In part 2 I will describe the rocks, the best view ever, prawn sandwiches, the welcoming party in Sweden and of course more glaciers.