I got up shortly before 7 after a night of very strong winds, so the tent couple were very glad to have chosen beds. Some of the wind remained in the morning, clouds covered all peaks otherwise within sight and it was raining. For a while it looked as though it was about to clear, with a few sunrays finding their way through and even a bit of blue, but the clouds soon snapped shut again.
The warden and the couple left at 08:45, heading for Vistas, where they were to be picked up by a helicopter. Despite his best discarding efforts, there were still a good 30 kg in the warden's rucksack, which he put on under some mild griping. The Germans were still about, and the two guys intended to sit tight for an hour or two, hoping for the cloud cover to break up, in which case they would mount Nállu before continuing down to Visttasvággi.
Already the day before, I had started to move away from the plan of going through Gaskkasvággi. The trek through Unna Reaiddávággi was tiring, and the plentiful snow in the higher regions raised concerns – both passing larger rock fields and finding suitable camp sites in case of slow progress might have proven difficult. There was also the issue of safety: so late in the season, especially with both the Tarfala, Vistas and Nallo cottages closed, there would probably not be any other people in the area. Finally, after reading up on Gaskkasvággi in a guide book I borrowed from the warden, I felt that I wanted to be able to take my time and really experience the valley. I had made a deal with myself the night before to let the weather be the last factor in the equation, and with the conditions being as they were, I ultimately resolved to cut a day off the schedule and proceed directly southward.
I left just after 9, by which time the rain had ceased and the clouds seemed a tad less dense. I walked in headwind, and there were moderately brief "showers" of snow coupled with gales now and then. The trail crossed the stream from Reaiddájávri at a marked ford, further up than where I had come down the day before; the location was well chosen, and getting across was a straightforward matter.
From listening to other travellers, I had gotten the impression that the route from the lake to the Sälka cottages would be one of stones, but I would rather say that it was stony – the base was heath, and the few actual rock fields there were were traversable enough. Going was easy, and it didn't feel like long before the terrain began to slant downwards. By then, when I had in effect started to exit the valley, the wind had subsided and grass began retaking the ground. I must say that the Sealggá massif had much more of an impact on me this time, when I approached it from afar – last time I passed directly beneath it, which made for a wholly different perspective.
I reached Sälka right after 11:30, and just caught the wardens on the way out. That left me completely alone on the site, and I paused for lunch in the same cottage I stayed in last time. Meanwhile, rain and wind continued to assail the outside. For a moment I considered staying, but then decided to continue to the Kuoperjĺkka shelter and reevaluate things there.
I set out again at a brisk pace, to raise my temperature – I had only the thermal underwear beneath the rain clothes, so as to minimize internal dampness. I met six other hikers in two groups, and a few reindeer. The wind was still blowing against my direction of motion, the rain was oscillating between almost none and almost heavy, and things were very wet.
When I came this way on the previous tour, I never found the place where the trail to the Hukejaure cottage branches off from Kungsleden, but this time I did. It was actually a clear footpath, and there was even a sign to mark the spot (although there was no writing on it, or perhaps the rough weather has rubbed it off), so I am left to wonder how on Tellus I managed to miss it last time.
At 14:30 I reached Kuoperjĺkka, which was of the larger kind; all shelters along Kungsleden I have visited so far have been, so perhaps it's standard. The sun could just be perceived through the clouds, but the rain seemed unwilling to fully let go. If the weather were to grow better, I was considering camping in the vicinity of the shelter. In any event, I intended to take a longer break; I sat down inside, observing the outside conditions and playing solitaire.
After a while, three guys arrived; they had started from Tarfala, gone through the pass into Guobirvággi and spent a cold and snowy night in a tent there. We talked for some time, discussing amongst other things what we were to do next – they had also originally held the intention of tenting again (in or near Siŋŋivággi, to position themselves for an ascent to the peak of Giebmegáisi), but were similarly discouraged by the weather. By a strange coincidence, one of them had also brought the exact same book as I had, save for the fact that his was a translation. We all had a sandwich each, and we were more and more inclined to go to the Singi cottages – to camp there, if naught else.
Since the weather showed no signs of improving much, I set out for Singi, while my newfound comrades waited a bit longer. Once again I walked briskly for the first kilometer or so, in light rain and a wind that had changed and was now coming from the northwest. Surprisingly, it wasn't long before the sky started to clear, little by little, and let the sun play on the mountainsides. The rain had also stopped, and the possibility of making use of the tent reappeared in my mind. I would, however, walk to the cottages in any case, if only to utilize their gas stoves.
About 3 km north of the cottages, the trail splits up into two parts: one that goes over an outrunner from Siŋŋičohkka, heading for Kebnekaise, and one that goes around the ridge to Singi. I stopped there to take some photographs, and when I started walking again I inadvertently took the wrong one, which I didn't notice until I passed through a reindeer fence that I knew I wasn't supposed to pass through. Instead of going back, however, I started cutting across the land in a southwestward direction. This made for no problems at all – until I reached the edge of a scarp. There is of course a reason that the trail goes around the ridge... I managed to pick my way down without too much difficulty, though, eventually coming onto the trail again at the Goržževuolli Sámi encampment. There I was assaulted by very hard winds coming at me at an angle, catching my rucksack and threatening to fell me.
I arrived at the cottages at 18:00, and was immediately greeted by the warden. I had by then scrapped the tent plans once more, due to the almost-storm, and the rest of the weather conditions were again about to deteriorate, so I accepted the offer of a warm bed indoors. The cottage contained two men already and was indeed warm, but the gas powered heater in the drying room was more or less out of working order, so I put the wettest stuff by the stove in the common room instead. It wasn't long before the three guys came, also having been temporarily fooled by the sky and the sun, but then reached the conclusion that a rigid structure was to prefer.
I went on to have dinner at 18:45, and the trio soon followed. They had bought a good number of double-ration freeze-dried packages, and had been warned by the salesman that the type called Nasi Goreng was pretty much inedible. This was apparently true, as the two guys in Nallo had already eaten one, and could testify as to its atrocity; they had not received any such warning and were instead stuck with six (!) such packages.
The weather kept changing, with the clouds accumulating and dispersing again and again, but the wind was unrelenting. Later in the evening, everything was grey and sullen. I lay resting in my bed while the others discussed equipment, Sarek, and equipment in Sarek. The two men then went to bed, whereas I and my three roommates stayed up reading our respective literature. I had my evening snack and then went out to the privy – which was when I first noticed that the ground was all white. There was now a mini-blizzard outside, and just getting to the privy and back was an adventure in itself, so neither I nor the other ones in the least regretted having gone inside for the night.