Tours › 2008 › Nallo › 28/4–30/4

Monday 28/4 – Wednesday 30/4

Nearing the end

Monday 28/4

Night 1
Night 2
Night 3
Night 4
Night 5

For some reason I just could not sleep, so instead I used the involuntary waking hours to photograph the ethereal nightly light. Eventually fatigue had its way and I slept to the early morning, when the light was gone, replaced by a high blanket of cloud. Around breakfast time there was a light haze in the west and a light wind had picked up as well. I started the last baking project of the season while this haze began to lift, and by the time I was done the weather was nice enough – and calm again.

I then went out to the woodshed to dig out the stacks of firewood outside; all the recent and not-so-recent snow and wind had buried at least one of them. This action proceeded elegantly enough, and the warming sun did away with the need for anything but a T-shirt (well, and pants...), but suddenly I heard something which sounded very much like voices coming over the rooftop.

I went round the building to see if my mind was playing tricks on me, but instead I saw a rescue snowmobile some distance away; one of the local rescue crew was out on a reconnaissance tour, bringing what I assumed to be his wife or partner with him. We chatted for a while before they continued on towards Vistas and I returned to my shovelling, but shortly thereafter the rescue man came back without wife or sleigh – it turned out that they had dropped a ski somewhere, and since it was nowhere to be found around the cottages he decided it would be best to go get the wife'n'sleigh again and backtrack towards Sälka. This he did, and it did not take very long before the party passed me by again, making another attempt at Vistas. When I was content with my work I went back to the cottage and sat down on the bench to enjoy the sun, going on to have lunch there around noon.

View 12
Southwest View
Reaiddáčohkka 12
Reaiddáčohkka up close

It was still calm and really hot there up against the wall, and the snow was slowly melting all around. I decided to go out on a short round of the neighborhood, but just as I was about to put the skis on a Norwegian fellow with two dogs and a sled arrived from Vistas, so I spoke with him for a while; he was to take a lunch break and then go on to Sälka. It was after 13 when I started ascending the slope, and there was no need whatsoever for climbing skins – the wet snow provided a near-perfect grip. Nearing the crest I saw two more people approaching from the east, but they were still quite far away. Where I was, however, it was now really hot, and the unmercifully sizzling sun was causing an increasing number of avalanches – I heard a few upon Nállu and then witnessed a fairly large one upon peak 1750. I then went down the usual way, which was rather tricky as the soft snow resisted my turns.

Fjelds 1
In ascension
Peaks 11
Avalanches upon 1750
Vaktposten 7
Vaktposten pretty as always
Stuor Reaiddávággi 15
Bare crest

Once down on flatter ground I veered off towards the end of the line of marking sticks extending towards Reaiddáčohkka. The miniature avalanches on Nállu were now increasing in frequency and intensity, concentrating themselves around the steepest cliff section close to the spire, and since it is a cliff there were quite a few rocks among the falling snow as well. I skied on downwards in a light but blessedly cooling headwind, coming onto the main Vistas track just below the avalanche hotspot, and I remained there for some time to see if I could catch one "in the act". I quickly became aware of a peculiar sound, which I after a while identified as running water – obviously the extensive thawing was producing a multitude of minuscule waterfalls across the cliff face, and after some careful study I could even make out some of them. I returned to the cottage at an angle, and by the time I returned the two people I had observed earlier had arrived.

Avalanche 1
Miniature avalanche on Nállu
Stick 1
One of the sticks that help people find the cottage in bad weather
Nallo cottage 23
Cottage and peaks
Nállu 9
The Needle
Čeakčačohkka 8
Čeakčačohkka
Avalanche 2
A somewhat larger avalanche

The Norwegian was still present as well, and I sat down with the others outside for a long talk. At length the sled-man felt it was time to leave, even though his cuddly dogs seemed to think otherwise. The avalanches kept falling, sounding a lot worse than there actually were. Later on another two people came from the southwest – they had started in Singi in the morning and planned to buy some food in Sälka, but finding that the wardens were out on a day tour they did not have the patience to wait for their return, so instead they were now heading for Vistas and the smaller shop there. For the moment, though, they were in need of some sustenance, and as I had some blueberry soup I didn't need they requested to buy it. They left around 16:15, but I and the others remained outside for some time yet. Closer to dinnertime, however, some high veils were quickly stretching across the sky, and before I knew it it was overcast.

Snow 6
Shiny...
Snow 7
...mountainsides

After dinner another three skiers arrived from Singi, and these had waited in Sälka and would be spending the night. I had started feeling a strain in the skin of my face – especially the forehead – signalling that the sun was getting rather strong and that more sunscreen was needed. Later in the evening the clouds broke apart, which made for a phenomenally beautiful light-of-sunset, and it was a great joy just being outside. It did not last, though, for at bedtime it was back to overcast, but the cloud base remained high.

Evening 1
Evening 2
Evening 3
Evening 4
Evening 5

Tuesday 29/4

The night never reached freezing temperatures, so things were pretty slushy even from the start – a start that also included a fair bit of clouds and wind. On the morning visit to the water hole I found that the lid of the casing had broken apart owing to swelling wood, and I made a makeshift repair, writing a note asking for a replacement for next winter. After 9 all guests had left, and then the clouds started to dissipate, only to be followed by a dense, high veil that dimmed the sun. There was also a bit of wind, but it was still rather warm. Close to noontime the Vistas shoppers came back, now headed for Tjäktja and then Norway, and we sat down together on a relocated bench outside for lunch.

Small avalanches had now started to appear on Nállu, and there were also a few upon Reaiddáčohkka. As we sat there the wind increased somewhat but then the veil started to give way instead. After the others had left the avalanches really started showing their force, reaching further and further down the slope. I went through the store of old guestbooks, sorting them by time and also glancing them over to see if anything familiar or noteworthy stood out.

After a summery afternoon snack a single skier came from the direction of Sälka, and his speed and grace down that slope indicated that he was using randonnée skis. This turned out to be the case, and the skier himself turned out to be a Swedish-speaking Swiss – and what was more, it also turned out that he had passed by Sĺmmarlappa last September, so this was not the first time our paths crossed. The number of waterfalls on the cliff face of Nállu had now grown radically, and many of them could be seen with the naked eye from the cottage.

Avalanche 3
The Nállu avalanches...
Avalanche 4
...growing in size
Window 1
A look out
Waterfalls 1
Actual waterfalls!
Tracks 1
Shiny tracks

After 18 I saw two new people descending The Slope, and three more were following behind on a more arcing course. These were a family who had started in Alesjaure that morning, and the mother had fallen and hurt her ankle "in the first slope", but had obviously managed to get at least this far anyway. I saw to it that they were settled properly, and then the Swiss guy came over to discuss his plans for the morrow – originally he had wanted to try out the Yo-yo Trail to Tarfala, but after seeing the great spread of avalanches around the cottage as well as on the way here he was now having second thoughts. I offered what insights I had, which was not too much in regard to the passes themselves since no one had come that way all winter. I then prepared some more popcorn and consumed them while reading, during which a persistent celestial veil finally took its tendrils elsewhere, leaving a fair and warm evening behind.


Wednesday 30/4

Morning 1

This time the surface had frozen, but it was clear that it would not remain in that state for many minutes longer – there was not a cloud in the sky and it was entirely windless. The Swiss had now decided to go back to Singi and reevaluate things there; he would either press on to Kebnekaise or aim for the South Peak via Dürling's route the next day. The warm weather had also had an effect on the back of the house where the gas canisters stood, causing some of them to topple or lean at precarious angles, and I did my best to secure them. I then discovered that the handle of the bucket used to bring up water was on the verge of breaking, but I hoped that it would hold these last few days so that a new one could be brought up for the start of the next winter season.

The family embarked upon a serious attempt to reach Sälka at 09:45, the injured woman taking the lead without burden. I performed a quick check of the eastern room in which they and the Swiss had resided, and then locked it up; any subsequent guests could well make do with the western one which would remain open after I left anyway, allowing me to clean the other room in good time. Having done so I went out for what was obviously going to be the last outing, planning on making a circuit of the area.

I followed the track towards Vistas, quickly getting rather warm in the still air. After a bit I went up the lefthand slope to the spot where the unfortunate reindeer had been dumped, finding the snow to be very soft. The animal itself was still there and not too gruesome, but it was clear that some animal or other had eaten from its injured leg. From there I kept my altitude as I proceeded around Nállu, coming into the line of a very pleasant light tailwind in the bend. A bit further on I encountered a rock tongue which turned out not to be passable anywhere on skis, so I carried them across and then skied on to a weakly defined crest just below the Needle itself, from where I had a good view of the lower valley, and I also saw two people coming up from Vistas.

I went down to the bottom of the valley on a nice snowfield and proceeded up a little ways on the other side, soon entering the shadow of Reaiddáčohkka where the crust of the snow was hard and carried very nicely; here there was also an appreciable headwind blowing, but that only felt good under the circumstances. I crisscrossed my way between some rocks and then gained some more altitude below peak 1333. About this time I heard a helicopter closing in, and as I was coming within visual range of the cottage I saw that it was a police vehicle – and that it seemed to have the cottage as its target. I also made out some patches of color beside the front door which I did not recognize as part of the structure, and by the time the helicopter was landing I had guessed at the truth.

Panorama 14
Panorama over the surroundings of the Nallo cottage
Nállu 10
The cliff of Nállu almost dry
Glacier 1
One of the Reaiddáčohkka glaciers
Nállu 11
Passing the spire
Panorama 15
Panorama over eastern Stuor Reaiddávággi
Reaiddáčohkka 13
Western Reaiddáčohkka
Reindeer 5
Reindeer finding ample food
Avalanches 2
Quite a few avalanches
Čeakčačohkka 9
Čeakčačohkka proper
Sun 1
Warm!

Since I was now close to home again I turned down the slope and headed back, where as expected I found the father of the family who relayed the similarly expected news that his wife's injury had proven worse than feared, and that she could not in fact reach Sälka under her own power. He had therefore skied back and called for help but half an hour ago, and the exceedingly quick response time – as these things go – together with the fact that it was a helicopter that came and not snowmobiles was wholly due to this helicopter's being on an exercise around Kebnekaise at the time.

The pick-up was to be made just below the first slope, and we all went over there, on the ground and in the air. Loading of woman and gear went quickly and easily enough – she could limp without apparent difficulty so the situation was not in any way an emergency, even though at a later time I heard that her ankle had been found to be broken, requiring a hospital operation. No weakling, in other words. When the chopper had taken off the remaining four resumed their journey to Sälka (and beyond), and I crossed the end of the ravine and started up the western slope.

Helicopter 4
Helicopter 5

The snow was awesome for climbing, which took very little effort as I aimed for the moraine ridge above. Back out in the midday sun it was now almost intolerably hot, so I kept as little clothes on as possible. Having reached the start of the low ridge I continued straight up onto its crest, stopping at a flat section about amidships at noon. Before sitting down to eat I went around photographing the extraordinary views; the gleaming snow made for a very nice effect, and there was absolutely nothing to obscure anything, anywhere. When I did sit down against a rock I spotted two people coming from the south, and around the same time the two I had seen earlier down the eastern arm of Stuor Reaiddávággi were just reaching the cottage.

Ravine 1
Passing the ravine
Vaktposten 8
Skiers beneath Vaktposten
Fjelds 2
Look, a fjeld!
Čeakčačohkka 10
Still overhanging
Panorama 16
270° panorama from my lunch site, spanning the length of Stuor Reaiddávággi (the Nallo cottage can just be seen to the left of the center)

The warmth could now easily challenge a day of the high summer, and I remained seated for an hour and a half, drawing in the full brilliance and serenity of the scene. Meanwhile the two people down at the cottage had set off again, and the other two coming from the other direction skied over to the line of stones marking the start of the last slope, where I lost track of them. There was a slight wind when I finally got up again, continuing up alongside the rest of the ridge to the crest beneath the overhang of Čeakčačohkka. From there I skied over to a slightly lower crest – or, skiing may not be the right word to use since the snow had taken on a character of knee-deep slush.

The descent from there was, however, quite good, but all of a sudden the crust broke and I found myself firmly stuck up to my thighs. I had kept a careful watch on the snow ahead of me all the time, so I was fully expecting this when it happend, but it was still some time before I had managed to unstick my buried skis and poles and was on my way again. I maintained an oblique heading to the crest of The Slope, from where I made the winter's last run down this homely hill, and fittingly enough it was most excellent.

Fjelds 3
Unna Avrrik, Stuor Avrrik and Sáŋarčohkka in the distance
Bird 2
A lone bird in the immediate vicinity
Niibbáš & Pyramiden 1
Niibbáš and Pyramiden
Avalanches 3
Even more avalanches on 1750
Nallo cottage 24

My return to the cottage occurred after 14, soon after which I spotted the two people up among the stones again – they were just packing up, but instead of coming down they headed back towards Sälka. I put out my ski boots and socks in the sun to dry and then went in to have a wash. The Nállu avalanches were now coming at regular intervals, booming impressively every time; as the image here on the side indicates it was a bit thrilling to watch the snow masses tumbling down the slope, but always stopping short of becoming a danger to the cottage. I returned outside for an afternoon snack, turning up the volume of the radio to compensate for the increased distance.

I then started on the cleaning checklist in the eastern room, doing most things not involving actual floor care, and when I was done I moved on to the western room before it was time for dinner. Having eaten I continued working, and I also started packing the box I was to send home with leftover food, clothes and suchlike. Then the police called, and I could hear that the new batteries/solar panel had made a difference, for the siren was even more penetrating than before – and that had not in any way been subdued either. The message delivered told that one of the local rescue men would be coming with a group the following Monday, so I was asked not to do anything about the water hole or its casing, which suited me fine.

The evening was an incredible one, even by Nallo standards, and I had made such good progress already that it felt rather good in regard to closing procedures. I therefore felt justified in finishing the last of my popcorn and just relaxing for a few hours, going to bed somewhat later than usual to the much noticeable sound of the transient waterfalls of Nállu.

Evening 6
Evening 7
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