Even though the radio forecasts had been predicting clouds, wind and snow for several days, this day was the fairest one yet: no clouds, no wind, and all snow already on the ground. I made breakfast, went to the reception to pay the bill, and then set out alone.
The trail to Gåsen goes over two rises, before reaching the vale of Gåsån and the last ascent. I had a little bit of trouble climing the first of these rises – not due to the inclination, but due to the hardness of the snow. Despite the warm days, the nights were still cold, and the sun needed the forenoon to work on the white stuff; early in the day, the crust was a tad on the hard side for the scales underneath my skis to get a good grip. Also, the trail doesn't go straight up, but cuts across the slope, so I had to zigzag a bit. It wasn't really such a huge problem, though; just not as smooth as things had been up until then.
Some time before 11, I was at the Hulke shelter which is located precisely halfway, in the vale between the first and the second rise. I continued up the slope a little ways, and made food camp beside a snowy rock off the trail. There I prepared lunch (freeze-dried), and just savored the tranquility, silence, and peacefulness that the fjelds can offer. During the break, a man passed by on the trail at great speed; he had no rucksack and was clad very lightly, so I assume that he may have been an exercising elite cross-country skier.
Climbing the second rise was easier, as the snow had had time to change at least slightly. It had started to get hot, but I kept the anorak on as I knew I would be needing it when gliding down to Gåsån. I did so beside the trail, where the snow was untouched, so I had space to do turns and really make the most of the descent.
Down at the bottom, however, I took it off – the last few kilometers are straight uphill. While pausing, drinking water and eating some chocolate, I noticed (with difficulty) a bird in winter colors. It was kind enough to hop onto a patch of bare ground beside a signpost, allowing me to get a couple of shots of it.
I then set about scaling the lower part of Gåsen, which by that time was a straightforward matter. I was at the cottages some time after 14 and was greeted by the warden and his dog, who had seen me go down that last ridge, and apparently a dogsled had followed right behind and then turned off towards the west, but I hadn't noticed it at all. A couple of other travellers also arrived at the same time – a woman from Vålåvalen, and a man from Storulvån. The three of us spent some time together inside, having a snack and conversing about various subjects (but mostly fjeld-related such).
Then, since it was such a beautiful day, and still the middle of the afternoon, we decided to mount Gåsen. The man had brought skins (to put under the skis to prevent slipping), but the remaining two of us relied on just our skis – we actually had the very same model. As it turned out (and as I had already found out), that model has a lot going for it – all three of us went straight up, side by side, and the skinless ones had no particular trouble keeping up with the skinned one.
It was warm enough that my male companion and I traversed the last distance bare-chested, with no feelings of coldness whatsoever. At 17 we stood at the top, still scantily clad, and had a magnificent view of a significant portion of the fjelds of Jämtland and Härjedalen, as well as bits and pieces of Norway. There is supposed to be a box of some kind at the summit, containing a booklet in which scalers can enter their names, but we didn't find it; it was probably buried under meters of snow.
The descent was fun as always, albeit a little tricky due to the compactness of the snow. On our way down, we met an elder couple who had been arriving at the cottages when we started our ascent; their skis were of much older make, and their scales thereby much more worn down, so they were climbing serpentine fashion. I managed to stand on my legs almost all the way down, and only fell once on the last slope above the cottages.
Our little group stuck together for the rest of the evening, first just taking it easy out in the sun, cooling off (I noticed that there was a significantly greater amount of snow around the cottage than last time, or at least that the wind had stacked it higher against the walls), and then having dinner inside. We covered a multitude of subjects, ranging from past experiences and future plans, via the recent dismantling of the defense institutions in Östersund, to Sarek and Sámi. The other two were southerners, so I was also told that I do not know how lucky I am to live so close to this wilderness we all love – or that perhaps I do...