When I eased myself out of bed for the morning forecast a look outside told that present conditions were of the snowy and windy kind. I showed a few fair-weather pictures to the group, as they had yet to see anything of the grandeur of Nallo, and then went out to clear the paths, which took some doing. By the time the group was leaving the clouds had lifted enough to reveal Reaiddáčohkka west and Nállu, and as the forenoon progressed everything else crept out as well, but a persistent haze blurred the contours. The sextet and the latecomers had chosen to stay, and the former soon went up the slope. I stayed inside talking with the remaining two, observing another two people with sleds passing at a distance, heading for Sälka. Immediately thereafter three others followed in their tracks, but these descended to the cottage for a break.
After lunch had come and gone the haze had gotten appreciably more translucent, but now a westerly wind was picking up instead. A bit later I saw two people coming down the same way the group had yesterday, and after some watching I concluded that they were the randonnée couple; having descended almost all the way they went up again for another run. The two people in the cottage soon found themselves outside the cottage too, heading out for a quick round of the neighborhood. The six returned some time later, and then a group of three girls came from Sälka; they brought some mail for me and after some deliberation they decided to stay the night. Around that time I also noticed two people digging in the snow close to the privy, and upon inspection they turned out to be a French couple whose English left a lot to be desired, but I gathered that they would pitch a tent there. Around dinner it started to clear, and the French people came in to prepare food after all.
I had received word earlier that "a group" of school kids would be arriving today, but the message said nothing about how many they would be – and as the cottage was already half full I was a bit anxious. Around 19 the first of this group started filing in, and just as I had feared they said that the entire party consisted of 23 people – that's not something you're glad to hear when your cottage has only 20 beds, nine of which are taken. There was still some uncertainty about just how many that would show up, however, because the snowmobile transport up to Vistas had met with trouble, and it was only the first half of the group which was now approaching; they had no news on the status of the second one.
The weather took a turn for the worse again, and finally when the time was well after 21 the remaining people started appearing. Thus started a frantic attempt to accommodate everyone with as little trouble as possible – four of the kids volunteered to sleep out in the woodshed, which has large unused areas perfectly suited for such situations, and three of the four leaders would spend the night in a tent, which left 16 people inside to share ten beds. Once everyone had found his or her place and gotten something to eat things started shaping up, but it took quite some time before everything had quieted down so that I – and the other guests – could go to sleep.
The morning was rather cloudy, but patches of blue were also to be seen; a light westerly wind was blowing and there was snow in the air. An extensive shovelling project followed to restore easy access to the water hole – the path was now getting rather deep. The school group would be staying for another night, but everyone else was leaving, and it was several hours before they had all done so. As for the group, they would be doing shorter tours in the area, trying their hand at digging snow caves and the like, but not surprisingly it would be some time yet before they were ready to go out. Weather conditions had now improved noticeably, and I went out myself at 10:15, climbing the slope in a headwind that was not actually chilling. I made four separate runs back to back – the snow was pretty good and it felt nice being "on the move" again. When I returned to the cottage the group was just heading out, aiming for the northwestern ravine. Myself, I went inside to have lunch.
Two people then came in from Vistas, and I immediately recognized the leader of the first student group of the season – there were no less than 22 more coming behind, but since they had been told of the already strained situation in Nallo they planned on going on to Sälka after a break, so no new crowd record (thankfully). Having finished eating and chatting, I went out again at 13:00, just catching the first five of the approaching party.
This time I followed the tracks of the group to the ravine, where I found my own way up to the crest. Down the valley behind me I saw several more subgroups closing in, and soon I also spotted the resident group at the top of the ravine. I continued upwards at a steep angle – somewhat too steep at times, as the fresh snow had a tendency to let itself loose – ascending to the eastern crest of the ridge. Below me the kids were moving again, most heading to the start of The Slope, but some aimed for the closest glacier. There were still quite a bit of clouds about, but visibility was mostly unhampered save for the highest peaks, and there was no wind. Well, at least not when going up, but once I started off downhill a most significant headwind slowed my progress.
The run was still a very good one, however, and once at the start of the ravine I continued to the part where the previous group had come down, finding also that run worthy of praise. I then went up the usual way and chose an intermediate route down, where the snow was even better. During all this the kids were coming down the slope with varying proficiency and success, and back down at the cottage the last of the other group were just preparing to leave.
I took it easy inside while the kids were either doing things in the snow out "on the yard", or going for more runs in the slope. The sun made a few brief visits, but it never really got significantly better. A single man then came from Sälka, followed by a single girl who turned out to be Marie, the Sälka intern Britt-Marie had told me about. Shortly thereafter another four people came down the steeper section of the slope from Tjäktja (having started in Alesjaure), and I spoke with all of these for some time before dinner. In the evening the weather improved, but large chunks of clouds still drifted in various places. I spent some time with the "regular" guests while the group kept to their own in the other room; everyone but the three in the tent would sleep inside the cottage tonight, which meant precisely two persons per bed. Evening procedures went much more smoothly this time, and everyone was in bed or close to being so at 22.
I slept really well until 6, after which I simply refused to move for 45 minutes. Outside it was back to low clouds and snow, and later in the morning the wind increased as well. The group managed to depart at 09:30, which was not bad at all considering they had 20 sets of... everything in a room meant for ten. I shovelled the water path again and then showed Marie my quarters, sending some of my buns with her back to Sälka. Now only the man remained, and though he had earlier had his eyes on Tjäktja the current conditions made him decide upon Vistas instead. I did a thorough sweep of the group's room, finding that one of the kids had spilled some instant soup on a mattress, and then covered it up, so I removed it from the bed and put it up to dry before removing the cloth cover. It was after 11:30 when the other man finally left, and now it was quite bad outdoors, with very limited visibility and strong gusty winds.
In the afternoon things got worse still, and fine grains of snow were finding their way into the vestibule. I spent the time by playing solitaire, listening to the radio, and reading in my book. A period of extensive snowdrift and whiteness was followed by somewhat improved visibility but also greater wind speeds, and I had to dig out the short path to the privy again. After dinner more of the surrounding landscape was emerging, but the wind mostly held sway. I made some popcorn to cheer myself up, reading and listening to the radio until it was time for bed.
In the morning the wind was not as strong anymore – at least not on average, but every now and then a hard gale shook the building. The snowdrifts had now been packed densely enough to reduce further drifting, so the privy path required no extensive care. After a calm breakfast I put on several layers of clothing and went out to dig out the water hole, not bothering with the path anymore as it would now be more hopeless than ever. In order for the digging itself not to be in vain as well I started building a protective wall around the hole, which kept me occupied for an hour or so, during which there was even a wee bit of sun.
I then went out to the storage building to dispose of the dirty mattress cover, and upon doing so I discovered that one of the back doors had swung partially open, resulting in quite a large snowdrift inside. I set about removing this and hacking away the ice on the door frame, and when I was done everything looked much better than it had in a long time, and the door fit said frame much better too, so I expected no further surprises of the same kind.
Returning to the cottage I saw movement down the valley, and presently six snowmobiles pulled in in front of the building. The group consisted entirely of STF personnel, seven in total, including both caretakers of the area, Tobbe from Kvikkjokk and Siv from the STF office in Nattavaara – my closest boss, if you will. They came inside to talk and have a little something to eat, bringing some more summer provisions for another successor and a magazine and postcard for me, accepting a consignment of mine in return. Upon their departure I observed their progress up the first slope towards Sälka through the window, and it took a fair bit of time before they had managed to get all the snowmobiles up; at least one seemed to be thoroughly stuck for a while. There was another brief glimpse of the sun and visibility was still pretty good, but the wind had not changed.
With lunch over that wind increased further, and I now judged that its strength was around 15 m/s, with even stronger gales at times. It should therefore come as no surprise that I spent the afternoon with my book, and after dinner I switched to the fresh magazine. Outside things were bad indeed, but it was not that cold – not even taking the wind into account, as one should. I went to bed by myself after 22, wondering when I would see people next.
The following morning brought no change in the wind, but visually things weren't too bad. The "water fort" had done its job well, and now the wind had hardened the crust enough that getting over there was fairly straightforward. Once there I strengthened said fort and increased its height, seeing glimpses of the sun every now and then. As the firewood supply in the western room was a bit scant I set about producing some more, and went to check on the newly delivered stuff while I was out there; the backside of the outbuilding now sported an impressive array of icicles depicted below. As lunchtime was approaching the wind decreased somewhat but so did visibility. Suddenly I spotted a snowmobile coming up the valley; there were two persons on it and it continued straight past the cottage.
In the afternoon the wind abated significantly and some blue started showing overhead. Two Germans came from Vistas and shortly thereafter the snowmobile returned, now only carrying one – it was a Sámi man who had given another man a ride from Vistas. I soon learnt that that man was one of the visiting neighbors who had passed some days before; his partner and dogs were heading towards Nikkaluokta, but since they had left their snowmobile in the vicinity of Singi he needed to reach it somehow, which the impromptu taxi service took care of.
Then two Swedes came in, and they would think things over over lunch before deciding what to do with the rest of the day. Another pair of skiers were also descending the steeper western slope, with quite a few falls as they went. When they finally reached the cottage they turned out to be Marie the intern and her father, and they would at least be staying – all the others had resolved to go on and were just about to leave. Now the wind was back in force but the clouds continued to dissolve. Marie found a jigsaw puzzle and set about laying the easier parts (there were large areas of sky and water), which I helped out with for a while before making dinner.
Afterwards the wind had died down almost completely and it was pretty fair outside, with only a few clouds hanging about the peaks. I finished the magazine and then disposed of the ashes from the western room, which now almost filled the intended bucket. More puzzling followed, coupled with a fair bit of conversation, while a dense haze came into being to the west. Later in the evening more clouds had seen fit to return together with a gusty wind, and it was also noticeably colder. I listened to another hockey game on the radio, but since it was still tied at the end of the three main periods I chose sleep over the continuation, thinking that I could just as well learn the end result on the morning news.
Also the following morning was hazy, and the gusty wind remained. The water fort had done its job superbly, so no action on my part was needed in that regard. Before long the haze started to lift, the clouds above and beyond it broke apart, and the wind lessened as well. Marie and her father would be going to Vistas, and that was my plan too now that the weather seemed to allow for such ventures, and I was the first to leave upon this journey around 09:30.
There was no one present when I returned, and none seemed to have been present during the day either save the dogsleds; I don't understand why people don't choose to go to a place like Nallo when the weather is as good as it was. The inside of the cottage was rather warm so I turned off the heat and then prepared for a sound wash. High clouds were coming in, mostly taking up position in the western hemisphere of the firmament. I had dinner and dessert, after which a denser front approached from the west. I passed the time with puzzle, book, radio and cards before settling down for the night – alone again.
On a nightly sortie I found the sky to be showing most of the stars, and there was a very pretty pre-dawn light on the western peaks. I arose at 06:15 next time, and now some high clouds had found their way over, but there was also a bit of sun. After having breakfast I lit the heater in the western room and then started another clothes-washing session, while the clouds went on their merry way; it was rather comfortable outside even when the sun was not shining.
When I was done and had hung everything up to dry I went out and sat down on the bench before going over to the woodshed to cut some more firewood, and just as I started I observed a dogsled coming down beside the northwestern ravine. That can only be classified as unusual; I sure had not seen anything of the sort before, and from the looks of it it was not that easy for either the single driver or the dogs, but they reached the cottage safely eventually. I went back to greet the new arrival, and we had only exchanged a few words when another figure appeared from the southwest – it was Britt-Marie who had taken the opportunity to make a visit, and we all sat down on the bench to have lunch together.
It was very warm in the sun at first, but then out of nowhere came a substantial westerly wind, and suddenly it was not that comfortable sitting there anymore. Britt-Marie soon left anyway, as did the dogsledder, but between those two occurrences three skiers arrived from Vistas. While the newcomers went inside to eat I returned to the woodshed to pick up where I had left off, and when I entered the cottage again the others had decided to stay for the night. Another trio then came and despite the sauna-like state of the western room they put themselves there, going out for a short walk around the neighborhood while the worst of the heat dissipated.
Later in the afternoon a fresh set of clouds came in, veiling the sun and slowly stretching their way across the sky, but the wind had shrunk back. I lay down to rest for a while, falling asleep and not bothering to get up again until yet another group of three arrived from Vistas. They wanted to take the Yo-yo Trail to Tarfala the next day – they had in fact attempted to do so last year, but the exceptionally bad weather then had foiled those plans – so we talked a bit about that.
After dinner came the usual payment rounds, and I got "stuck" for quite some time in the western room, talking about a wide range of things with the middle trio. Outside it had started to snow lightly but visibility was still mostly unhampered; the familiar haze had returned, but it only dimmed things rather than occluding them. I went to bed at 22, switching off the heat for the night.