…just till over there! - Trekking Round the Arctic Circle
Why, oh why again to Lapland?
This question can only be asked by someone, who was not (yet) touched by the charm of the Far North. Possible yes, but difficult to imagine for me.
Those, who are suckers for merely endless vastness without any streets, roads or other achievements of civilizing is in good hands here. The abundantly sung about credo „back to the roots“ will be happen right in front of your eyes.
A walking tour, i.e. to experience a landscape by own physical effort, means a complete different experience than to reach (travel) destinations by usage of comfortable aids (e.g. chairlift to the Alpine peak).
Only the fact to be on one’s own separates the wanderer in „the wilds“ from the common tourist. One learns to scale down his needs and to concentrate on the basics. One will be happy, if the sleeping bag remains dry and the pot is warm and well-filled. The total abstinence from all these things that affect us bugging and oppressing in a hundred different kinds every day (phone, TV, road traffic, …) clears your mind and gives all the feelings you get on such a journey an intensity that an all-inclusive pack-age holiday will never bear.
In this context I do not grow tired of quoting the German cameraman Dietrich B. Sasse, who said in the 1950ies: „Who once was wandering in Lapland, fell under its spell. The only way to break the spell is to return.” And Robert Crottet wrote: „I have travelled to nearly all countries of the world, but only here I found something like a little paradise“. [Crottet1, pg. 13].
But this time there is another good reason for choosing especially this travel destination. My dearest wish came true. Niklas, my 17-year-old son, will be with us. I’ll jump for joy to share truly my rage for this kind and destination of travelling with him and to let him experience the land beyond the northern polar circle with the peculiarities of the Arctic. Be it the phenomenon of the midnight sun or endless fields of boulders and trackless birch tree forests or mosquito pestilential swamps or eternal snow on the mountain tops. – I hope, the unique nature, Hamsun’s “To-tality of Nature“, will make his presence felt and channel his desires on the actually important things. Even if – or even then – one will go outside the envelope and will bring himself to continue walking – … just till over there!
Textbox on same page:
„Lapland donates everything and demands nothing.“ But that is incorrect. It is not true, that Lapland does not demand anything. On the contrary, it demands a lot, namely no less than a kind of suicide. One ought to put off that self brought from the so-called civilized countries and drown it in the Lake Inari (…). It didn’t take long when I discovered that I couldn’t teach them [the Laplanders] anything. With hardly recognizable irony they made it clear, that they were the teachers and that my whole intellectual luggage weighed much too light. When they did not know Shakespeare nor Goethe, Rembrandt or Bach, it was not important for them. All around them and within them, there was music, poetry, painting. They need not to be creative, because they were so close to creation. [Crottet2, pg. 22]
Day 12 | July, 27th:
Daytrip to Bårddejiegna
All is dry, everything is well. The daytrip to the glacier can take place. We allow ourselves a good deal of time – after all we are on our holidays – and start at half past eleven. For the first time since we came here I put on a knee cuff as a precaution as I’m expecting a total distance between 17 and 20 km including some ascents and descents. Up to now I haven’t had any problems with my operated meniscus. The knee-doctors had done an excellent job.
A light cloudy sky letting the sun shine through now and then provides a friendly-pleasant atmosphere. Starting on this side of the river – i.e. no bridge crossing – we follow the Gådkokjåhkkå in westerly direction firstly over mild slopes. There is a lonely, locked Sami hut nearby (Ren-vaktarstuga) we pass on the way to the glacier.
Little by little – over a distance of 6 km – we get from 900 to 1100 meters in height. Whilst this, some smaller creeks want to be skipped over. The mountain Lullihatjárro with its just 1586 m comes closer and closer. Directly behind in direction of march the glacier advances its ice-front till the middle of its flank.
About 3 km north of Lulllihatjárro the Gaskastjåhkkå climbs up to 1825 m. You can choose here, whether to pass him on the western side aiming to Lullihavágge or on the eastern side aiming to Gaskasvágge for reaching the crossing Sarvesvágge lateron. According to our originally planned route we would have come from the north through Lullihavágge for raising the base camp exactly on the place, where it actually is now.
The weather is clear. All the mountains show their impressive splendor. Everywhere around we can see dark mountain flanks decorated with snowfields. The landscape has changed completely. The soft overgrown waves in the Earth’s crust were yielded nacked rock. We are currently right below one of the steep slopes of Boarektjåhkkå (1805 m). This one has collected a vast deposit of scree at its foot. It seems one can follow erosion here live and in color. In the bottom of the valley more and more parts of scree mix with bigger rocks lying around unmotivated. There are virtually no plants to be seen.
We come to realize that map and reality do not match (any longer). The ice-front of the glacier on our map does currently not exist in the shown dimensions. Since the printing of the map (2009) the glacier has been melted away for estimated 3 km (!). Currently we walk on the bottom of the valley, which is – as a geological aspect – freshly freed from ice and experience „up close“, what it looks like beneath a glacier.
Gravel, scree, finely crushed crumbs of stones as far as the eye can reach. Plenty of small bumps and depressions remind of a sector of the front in World War I. The only thing missing is the barb wire. A desolation, which is unbeatable. It is deathly quiet. Not a single breeze blows. The only noise comes from beneath the interspersed snowfields and remaining sheets of ice, where snowmelt is murmuring softly.
Since the birth of the mountains millions of years ago erosion has done its best. The glaciers of the last ice age have made only a small contribution to the planation. The biggest erosion was made by wind and weather during the incredible long periods of time, which passed by since the formation of Scandinavia. Only the youngest of several mountain ranges arisen one after the other, does exist nowadays, known as „Caledonian Mountains“. Anything else has vanished. Weathered and levelled. It is estimated that the height of the removed rock crust was 10 kilometers – and this is a rather reserved estimate. Probably, there was even more.
Who is walking in Scandinavia on rocks polished by the ice, does it inmidst ancient, eroded mountains. In this region airliners fly, where once the summits had been.
Nevertheless, despite all roughness there is life even here. Jens discovers a mountain fox, the fjällräven, on a snowfield 200 m ahead. In his summer coat, he gallops over the snow, pauses once looking in our direction and vanishes between the numerous rocks lying around here.
We re-orient. Bårddejiegna possesses 5 fingers. From our base camp one can see the most northern and thickest one and its neighbour. These are surrounded by almost vertical flanks Lullihatjåhkkå (1940 m), Tvil-lingryggen (1846 m) and Balgattjåhkkå (2002 m). In the meantaime we nearly reached the foothills of Balgattjåhkkå, without having walked over snow or ice. That far the glacier has melted.
We must have already passed the place, where according to the map a moderate ascent along the eastern edge of the charted glacier should be possible as we oriented towards the real glacier. We planned to ascent along the edge of the ice and look for the solitary „Pårtetjåkkå Observatorium“ on the mountain’s ridge. Now we are far beyond this place and reached nearly the end of the valley. Perhaps we can find another way up onto the ridge that connects the surrounding summits. Then we could go up there in easterly direction back to the tent. In this case we would inevitably pass the observatory.
The relative gently rising Balgattjåhkkå lends itself as ascent. But will one have reached the ridge, a snowbridge about 30 – 50 m wide, breaks the stony back and falls away sharply to the flank facing us. It is probably the same on the other side. The width of the snow- resp. ice ridge cannot be more than 2 meters. This seems highly dangerous and not calculable.
We dally over the middle „finger“. It seems to be feasible here to get up via the northern slope. It will become damned steep in the final section, but mostly it will go over scree. Thus, we will give it a try.
We manage the first half without any problems. Where once was the glacier its debris like legacy let us unspectacularly gasping up 400-500 meters in height in self-chosen serpentines until we stand in front of the steeply rising final slope. For studying these last 300-400 meters in height you need to put your head significantly back.
Bloody hell – but giving up now?
In between, i.e. at two-thirds of this Jacob’s Ladder, there are some sustainded snowfields, which could possibly be helpful. Jens precedes and with his sturdy hiking shoes he makes steps into the snow Niklas and I use as a staircase. Things are going slowly getting up. The very last piece of way leads us again over rocks and large-sized scree.
As in earlier times in Norway on the narrow Besseggen Ridge we were forced to lend a hand permanently – it was too steep.
We do not climb in a vertical line but go off-centered for avoiding the man below getting in closer contact with a rock set off by the ones above him. Once, Niklas pushes a big stone in my direction, but fortunately its kinetic energy is not sufficient to let it leave its position definitely.
Now and then a rock prepares for beginning to slide, but regularly remains in the small scree.
Then we are finally on top, directly next to a fat stonepile, which marks the highest point in this environment. The effort was worth it. The view is clear, not only on the nearest mountains. In the distance we can identify the high peaks of Sarektjåhkkå, such as Nord-, Syd- and Stortoppen, which are the highest Sarek summits, although there is a blanket of clouds above our heads.
The panoramic view is fantastic. We enjoy it for a good while before we are going to start the way back. However, not without putting an additional stone on top of the fat stonepile.
We look forward with eager anticipation to the observatory we must pass by walking along the edges of the glacier’s „fingers“. We were in luck with the timing: while reaching the summit a wide blanket of clouds has been deployed, but it was high enough to allow looking into the far below the clouds. Now, they fall steadily and appear as fog at higher altitudes. Soon the view isn’t borderless any longer, but is limited after one or two dozens of meters.
The observatory was raised by Axel Hamberg, who studies the Sarek over 4 decades – as already mentioned above. Thus, he was the proverbial expert in this affair. In this observatory scientific examinations of the Sarek mountains had been done. It was built in the early years of the 2oth century – precisely in 1911. The material must had been carried on the backs of the researchers. In total, Hamberg had raised 5 of these observatories in the Sarek mountains. Axel Hamberg developed these tin sheds by himself. The climatic and geological conditions in the Lap mountains as well as the flora had been analyzed here.
Besides that, in 1922 Axel Hamberg wrote the first Sarek guide titled „Sarek-fjällen“, which was published by the STF.
In brief, we do not find the observatory. Jens supposes the „Kjöttbullar-kneaders“ are kidding us. We probably moved to close to the cliff edge and the fog went one step further. Well, it wasn’t meant to be.
The distance left between the observatory and the expected röstis for supper is about 10 km and 900 meters in height. Here it goes!
Even on top of the ridge there is no solid rock, but also only brash and crumbly debris. The shoes are wet from snow we strode through gener-ously – and little by little the feet get cold. We step out quickly hoping the feet will get warm again.
We follow the elongated ridge. Even being in the mist that is actually no problem, because it doesn’t keep on falling from a certain height. Thus, the view improves with any further meter descending. Soon we can look far to the south again. Before Boarektjåhkkå a swamp- and lake area over and over again interrupted from forests spreads in green and blue colors around the settlement Parek. The view is open till Kvikkjokk, which is the starting or terminal point of the middle part of Kungsleden and has road connection.
In march direction the complete high plain Ijvvárlahko raises behind our base camp and in this moment we have an overview of the possible routes we can choose the day after tomorrow for bypassing the bloody bush vegetation.
The last 600 meters in height upwards are very simple as at least two thirds of them are made by sliding over snow fields. This is mere fun! We do not drop any proper snow field for this action. Being down in the valley we again stroll slowly over soft and well passable soil. Jens and Niklas are ahead during the last 2-3 km. I follow at a slower pace, but therefore I have the leisure to discover all the reindeer antlers in the surroundings bleached by wind and weather. I do, what I have to do and tidy up the fjäll. Another 4 small antlers will complete the collection.
This spectacular trip lasted nearly 9 hours. We covered a distance of more than 24 km and more than 2000 meters in height. That is justifica-tion enough for being allowed to be exhausted.
Jens and I take a quick bath for rinsing the sweat. I take this opportunity and the friendly weather to pull shirt, trousers and underwear through the water. It’s useless, I know – the stuff is still stinking as if one has mopped a puma cage. The lassitude helps to strengthen the indifference towards the mosquitos. Oh, let them bite…
Back at the tent Jens handles the outdoor-kitchen in a virtuous manner again, knipling simultaneously on 2 cookers in 3 pots röstis for all. Parallel to that I fan the flame and together with my son we roast a quarter of a salami as an addition to the röstis We dine at the open fire and enjoy the meal we really deserve. Entirely full and satisfied we lay down, bracing up only for guzzling hot tea into the superior body orifice.
There is nothing more to do. Jens tries to read in his book in the fading daylight, while Niklas is already residing in the arms of Morpheus.
After some tea induced tinkle stunts it is deadly quiet inside the tent.