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|Updated the facilities in Vindelfjällen to match the nature reserve's new official site.|
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Who am I?
Well, my name is Kalle Brisland and I am a Swedish person of male gender, currently 1,205,930,022 seconds of age. I live in Östersund in Jämtland county, which is one of but two cities in Sweden wherefrom one can see fjelds (the other is Kiruna). These fjelds are Oviksfjällen, and I spent much of my childhood winters there. Outdoor activities have always been an integral part of my life, which is often the case when one lives in these parts.
As for the fjelds per se, there is just something incredibly alluring about them – whenever I lay eyes upon them I feel their pull, and I endeavor to submit to that attraction as often as possible. A long list of reasons why people choose to subject themselves to what sometimes amounts to hardships and risk has been filled over the years, including such notions as primordial state, peace of mind, escapism and introversion. I myself cannot put my finger on a single motive, but I do get a powerful feeling of serenity and belonging when I stand before a grand vista of Nature unspoilt as far as eye can see.
The hallmark of this is the profound silence that one can find in the fjelds, far from the clamor and constant buzz of modern civilization; to sit down and let the true world – the true home of Man – descend upon oneself is quite simply awe-inspiring, eliminating the need for deities of any kind to reach spiritual fulfillment. It puts things in their right perspective – Man cannot make himself bigger than he is in the fjelds, while at the same time it may dawn upon him that he is an inseparable and irreplaceable part of Nature. There, he can just be.
To return from the philosophical mists, I am a member of both STF and SFK, I do work as a cottage warden for the former for parts of the year, and am one of two editors of the journal of the latter. Further on the outdoor side I am an avid telemarker and also maintain the website of Östersund Telemark Club. Other than that I have the mindset of a scientist, and I follow the progress in as many fields as I can, but my main interests lie in physics and technology. An unsurprising consequence thereof is that I feel perfectly at home around computers and the Internet, which the presence of this site may indicate, and I can give Sheldon Cooper a run for his money when it comes to Star Trek trivia. Besides this I am also into such varied subjects as music, linguistics, and, as evidenced here, photography. In short I have never been able to concentrate on just one field, and resist being placed into any one particular slot – for why should I limit myself?
On going solo
There is a widespread notion that doing solo tours in the fjelds is very risky, even to the point of imminent death. Official material sure does nothing to allay such fears, and some people can even get downright angry at those of us who choose to go alone anyway – especially if the trip takes place in a region such as Sarek. The main argument is of course that if some ill should befall you, comrades can assist you and/or get help, whereas a broken leg is potentially fatal if it happens far from any frequented trail when there is no one else around.
There is no point in denying this since it is a matter of simple logic, but the actual risk that something like that should happen is many times smaller than other possible hazards in our daily lives – you could get hit by a car crossing the street, get beaten up and robbed on a night out, or slip in the bathtub and crack your skull, but these are risks that most people willingly subject themselves to without flinching. I myself can recall but a single fjeld accident resulting in grave injury or death where the victim was by himself, but there have been several of both kinds fairly recently where the victim was part of a group. Should worst come to worst and you, say, fall off a cliff, you'll be just as dead even if you have an entire court with you to watch it happen. Having company does not in itself make you immune to casualty, and statistics simply do not back up the position that it makes for significantly safer travel either (even with Oscar Wilde in mind).
It might even be so that being in a group can worsen things. For example, you might think that bringing anything resembling a first aid kit is unnecessary because surely someone else in the group has one, only to find out that everyone else had been thinking the same thing so that you are left with nothing when someone gets a gash on a sharp rock. Or you might think that you don't have to know how to perform a safe ford because surely the other members of the group do, only to discover that no one had the necessary knowledge to find a suitable fording location after someone has already fallen victim to a swift current. It could also be a matter of subconscious conviction – that you on some level feel secure because of your companions, and are therefore more liable to take unnecessary risks. When you are alone you have only yourself to count on, which should serve to make you more alert and vigilant, and as long as you know your own abilities and limits you have a very clear idea of what you can safely enter into.
Please understand that the above paragraph is not meant to portray travelling in groups as inherently inferior to going solo or anything of the sort – I am just attempting to balance the scales a little, from a realistic perspective. My point is that it is not the number of people in your group that makes the real difference – it is your knowledge, attitude, and reason. As a real-life example, I offer the story of a man who spent an evening lecturing in a not too friendly tone about how dangerous and reckless it is to travel through the fjelds alone in winter, only to get lost in the forest the next day, finally giving in and calling the fjeld rescue service to request help. He and his companions had decided to follow a snowmobile track rather than the marked trail, and they had brought neither map nor compass, so when they found themselves utterly lost as a result of such basic mistakes it of course did not matter one jot that they were more than one!
As for why one chooses to go alone in the first place, there can be many reasons. For one, it bestows a feeling of sufficiency – that you and your equipment can face any challenge and come out on top, and of completeness – that you are one with the environment on an almost personal plane. Another thing is independence – that you need have no consideration for others, and only take into account what you want, and what you know, not having to make allowances for other wishes and levels of experience, regardless of in whose favor such differences manifest themselves. On a more fundamental level, it may be a wish to create a situation where your thoughts have no restraints, but an endless source of tranquil stimuli, with only Nature itself as your partner. Then again it could be no stranger than not having succeeded in enticing anyone to accompany you, so what are you gonna do?
Notes on format
First of all, this site is evidently presented in English, and the simple reason is that many who are (or could become) interested in the fjelds and the data about them offered herein have no knowledge of Swedish, whereas virtually all Swedes know English. While my spoken English is probably best classified as ”Mid-Atlantic”, I tend to favor American spelling where applicable when writing – but not always. I also absolutely will not include punctuation within quotation marks unless it belongs there, regardless of what obsolete typographic convention has to say on the matter. Dates are written in an order recognized by the vast majority of the countries of the world, and that the USA, influential as it may be, is one of a handful of nations that stubbornly refuse to conform is, quite frankly, not my problem. I use SI units too, see!
The words fjeld station and cottage have been used to translate fjällstation and fjällstuga as used by STF, and anything resembling the latter is also referred to as a ”cottage”. Cabin is reserved for simpler structures allowing for overnight stays, whereas a hut or shelter is even more basic. See the Facilities section for more information. An official marked path is called a trail, and a caretaker of a cottage site carries the title of warden.
All names of Sámi origin are spelt in accordance with the latest maps available to me at the time of writing, excepting names of societal entities, e.g. Jokkmokk town and municipality (Jåhkåmåhkke Dálvvadis), names given to sites and facilities, e.g. Sälka cottages (Sealggá), and finally deeply ingrained names of regions and the like, e.g. Kebnekaise area (Giebmegáisi). When the map offers two versions of the same name the correct Sámi one has always been chosen for consistency, and if no Sámi form is offered the one that actually appears on the map is used, even if the ”true” form is known or can be deduced (e.g. Rapadalen rather than Ráhpavágge). For the same reason names of objects that are not included at all on the map are usually avoided, even if they are readily identifiable. Finally, if an object has both a true Swedish name and a Sámi name the more recognizable one has been selected (hence Sylarna rather than Bieljehke).
Under the hood