I got up early to have time for final preparations, and also to have a safety margin in case of bus problems. The pre-dawn world was quite cold (-25°C) and covered in mist, even though the light had begun to grow beyond it; it was rather apparent that the coming day would be fair.
I had no problems with the bus, but upon arriving at the train station one emerged – the ticket machine was out of order. I had already reserved and paid for my ticket online, and had selected to pick up the physical piece of paper in said machine, so the situation at hand wasn't very appealing. With a quarter to go to departure, I called the railway company's customer service and explained the situation, and the operator made some entries in his system and told me to just tell the conductor what I had told him, and have the reservation code (which I needed to retrieve the ticket from the machine anyway) ready. As it turned out, however, no one ever came to check my ticket, or absence thereof, during the whole 2-hour journey west...
As the train progressed along its fixed route, the mist gradually dissipated; the first glints of sun on the snow appeared in Järpen, and by the time we were approaching Åre the sky was perfectly clear. The ride with the designated fjeld taxi from Enafors to Storulvån fjeld station also offered breathtakingly clear views of Sylarna and some other massifs. Having been dropped off, I went inside to request a DNT key; the receptionist was a bit unsure how to handle such a request, but eventually figured it out. When I also attempted to purchase an STF fjeld discount card, though, he admitted that he didn't in fact know how to handle that, but since I would be visiting two other stations during the tour, and would save the card for later anyway, I suggested he simply forget about it for now. I went on to have a snack, and then readied myself to commence the actual trip.
I set out a bit before 10:45, in brilliant sunshine from a clear sky, -12°C and virtually no wind. Since this starting time is pretty late, considering, and I had an unusually long stage ahead of me, I set a good pace. This had the effect that I revoked my choice of cap after a few kilometers, and opted for the thinner one instead. Later on, there was a light wind, which together with the low air temperature made a distinct impression on my exposed face, and froze my beard – nothing to worry about, though. The trail was well utilized, and the terrain mostly flat, so I reached the old settlement Tjallingen just before noon, where I took a short break; it was entirely calm, and relatively warm in the sun.
I broke off the winter trail where it crossed Tjallingån and aimed for the open valley between Västra Bunnerstöten and Tjallingklumpen, called Tjallingdalen. Snow conditions were excellent, and I detected old tracks from both a snowmobile, several skiers, and a skier pulling a sled, so I wasn't the only one who had come this way (surprise, surprise). The terrain grew more hilly and the trees more sparse as I proceeded up the very moderate slope, and just before the woodland came to a complete end I found myself a suitable hill, and made camp at 12:45.
The land was more uneven from there on, and in the shadow of Tjallingklumpen the snow was much harder, which made for partially difficult going. I even toppled a couple of times – with 20+ kg on the back, correcting even a small offset in balance is not that easy, especially not when gliding on near-ice. I had had thoughts about passing north of Sjtäntja, descending into Stor-Stensdalen and coming to the Stensdalen cottages from the northwest, instead of from the southwest through Lill-Stensdalen, but ultimately decided against it.
Once back in the sun, both the snow and the land were more favorable, and it felt rather warm; there was no wind either. Unfortunately, I broke my glasses when wiping them clean with a gloved finger – the nose piece fell off, and anyone who has ever attempted to locate a small plastic item in ankle-deep powder snow can guess at the result of my search. The glasses remained fully usable, though, so it was only a little annoying. Now, in spite of the mild weather, that particular portion of the stage was actually the most demanding for some reason – not physically, since there were no appreciable heights to scale, or suchlike, but time just seemed to drag out; it felt like I was getting nowhere. As a consequence, I was pretty exhausted by the time I reached the Sjtäntja shelter – and then I still had 8 km to go!
Fortunately (well, I certainly knew it beforehand), the main part of those 8 km were downhill, following another well-utilized marked trail. It wasn't just about gliding the rest of the way, however, even though I got a few nice runs, so I still had to exert myself somewhat. Especially the last bit down in the forest was arduous, and I was very happy to finally spot the buildings at my goal when the time was nearing 17. The warden was the same as last year, and he was a bit surprised to see me come from the west, since he had received word from the Gåsen warden that there would be no arrivals from that direction.
I was the only guest for the night, but there had been a few the night before, so one of the rooms in the older cottage was still fairly warm despite falling temperatures outside. I started a fire in the heater and immediately began making dinner, while the warden went to fire up the sauna – he was happy to do so even though I would be the sole user, and the prospect of being that user certainly felt good after this day. I went on to do some fairly extensive stretching while keeping the fire burning – it had gotten pretty warm inside – and then the warden came by to tell me that the sauna would be suitably hot in half an hour.
So, half an hour later I went down to the small sauna building and flung myself into the heat. It was a purely wonderful experience, and served to invigorate me both physically and mentally, after a tough start on the tour. Most appropriate. I will also say this: there is nothing which fully compares to doing the nude run to the icy stream between imposing mountainsides bathed in moonlight on a starry night.
After the (extensive) sauna session, I spent the rest of the evening reading and eventually had my usual snack. On my last visit to the privy, I noted that it had started snowing lightly, and the wind which had been growing throughout the evening was now somewhat keen. The outside temperature was also on the rise, and had just passed the -10°C mark. I put some more logs on the fire, and then went to bed just before 21:30.