Tours › 2008 › Nallo › 31/3–6/4

Monday 31/3 – Sunday 6/4

Windy Week, take one

Monday 31/3

When I got up it was snowing heavily and visibility was pretty much nonexistent. After reporting the weather report to the guests I fired up the heater in the western room, which was empty, and prepared to wash some clothes. The others left at 09:30, at which time one could actually see parts of the route. I finished the washing procedure, which took quite some time, and hung up the wet stuff to dry; the temperature in the room was now approaching 40°C, so drying shouldn't be a problem. Then three people arrived from Vistas, telling that an STF group of 17 people was on their tail, but they didn't know whether those would be staying or not. They themselves would only take a break before continuing to Sälka, however.

As I sat down to eat lunch myself it was back to whiteness outside, and just as I had finished the group emerged from this whiteness. They turned out to be "only" 16, including the leader (who was the same one who led the KE Adventure Travel group I encountered in Tjäktja last year, and they would in fact not be staying; they all filed into the eastern room as the western one was much too warm for comfort still. Outside the fresh snow was turning to slush, but at least the clouds were lifting somewhat. Having had time to eat and breathe out properly – and dry some stuff in the conveniently suitable western room – the group prepared to return to Vistas, after which I went out myself to cut some firewood to replace what I had used to bring about this convenience.

During this another group of eight Finns with sleds came from Sälka, and they contented themselves with pausing beside the woodshed, even though the wind was now rather keen and snow was all around. I retrieved the wood casing of the water hole from the white masses and then returned inside, listening to the radio while the wind kept at it. The evening saw more snow and the wind was also on the increase, jointly producing quite a bit of sound in the chimneys. I had a few calm hours before I lay down for the fifth empty night of the season, never bothering to turn on the heater as it was still rather mild.

Tuesday 1/4

When I awoke, however, I turned it on; while the weather was mostly unchanged the wind had drawn out much of the warmth during the night. After breakfast I went out to clear the paths to the privy and the water hole, the latter of which I dug out thoroughly. A short period of weak light and less clouds was immediately followed by more wind and snow, so I saw fit to start another baking session which proceeded excellently. Afterwards some weak sunlight was showing here and there, and I waited for a while to see if it would grow, but when the whiteness returned in full force instead I acquiesced and ate indoors.

After lunch two people came from Vistas along a different route than what is common; they brought both some mail for me and word that a group of twelve was approaching. That group soon showed up, in the form of a college program from Stockholm. They paused for a while outside with the intention of continuing to Sälka shortly, and while they stood there a woman with a dog and a sled came from the other direction. The weather was now really gloomy and wet, and the group only made it as far as the first hill before deciding that Nallo would actually do very nicely for the night. Once they were settled I had an afternoon snack, talking some with the dog owner, and then I spotted two people coming down south of the northwestern ravine – they had started in Alesjaure and had not had a very pleasurable passage of the Šielmmávággi pass, which was hardly surprising, but before that they had had good weather.

Following the ingestion of dinner another two came from Vistas, one of whom had worked as a warden in Nallo 24 years ago, so she was happy to see the place again; later on she came for a visit in the warden's room, which has seen major changes since the 1980s. After taking care of the invoicing with the leader of the college group the students who would be in charge of tomorrow's stage came in to discuss the optimal route; they were aiming for Tjäktja the closest way. I then wrote a letter in answer to the one I had received earlier in the day, and now the clouds were finally starting to lift. I also investigated which of all the present guests might make it back to civilization first, and bestowed this letter as well as the monthly statistics to STF upon them, before having my evening snack and listening to the late weather, which as usual marked the end of the day.

Wednesday 2/4

Skiers 1
View 8

The night was partially rather windy, and around breakfast the air was still far from still, but the clouds were quickly giving way to blue sky. Everyone departed after one another while the clearing process went on, and soon I could celebrate the return of the morning sun. The hole in the snow around the water hole casing had withstood the recent bad weather, but the path hadn't (of course), so I set about renewing it. I then had to do a fair bit of cleaning in the room occupied by the group, who apparently had not quite grasped their responsibilities. I put a new set of batteries in the camera and then left for what I thought would be a shorter day tour after 10:15; a persistent northern cloud was sending out outrunners, and I expected having to chase the sun.

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Stuor Reaiddávággi 8
The cloud bank approaching

I talked for a bit with the two men sitting on the bench enjoying the sun, and then I dumped my pack and went for another run in the slope. Halfway up I stopped to make a visual inspection of the 1884 avalanche with my binoculars, finding that not only were there ski tracks in the avalanche cone itself, but the number of tracks above and below it was the same, so I concluded that while the skiers may have set it off, they had not been swept away by it. Looking in the other direction I could see the rapid approach of the dark southern bank, and there were also some other, closer clouds coming in from the southeast. The descent was pretty good, but the feeling in my legs made it clear that going up again would be nothing but foolish.

Clouds were appearing here and there, so we all went inside. I observed another pair with sleds coming from Tjäktja, but they kept their altitude and headed straight for Sälka. When dinner arrangements were over I really started feeling the strain from the day's adventure, so I mostly just relaxed and listened to the radio. A light snowfall had started and so had an easterly wind, and out of this three men came from Vistas rather late. We talked for a bit while they prepared to prepare a very fancy dinner, with beef tenderloin, mushrooms, mashed potatoes with cream, bearnaise sauce and red wine. This they had the audacity of forcing upon me as well, and I graciously found myself in the situation. It claimed the rest of the evening, but when I returned to my room the weather had not changed in any meaningful way, except possibly that the cloud cover was slightly lower.

Thursday 3/4

Reindeer 1

It had still not changed in the morning, and I took my time getting up, not intending to do much at all today. The trio were not in any hurry either, and did not leave until 10:30. I started making a new crossword of the classic type (available here, in Swedish) and then shovelled the water path; the clouds had lifted somewhat, but no drastic change was in evidence. Three Swedes and a Dutch couple soon arrived from Vistas, the latter on telemark equipment, and then it was time for lunch.

I spoke some with the Dutch afterwards, and as it turned out the man was initially supposed to have joined the trio from the first day, but an ill-timed affliction had thwarted his participation. Later in the afternoon Anders, Jesper and a third fellow I did not recognize came from Vistas carrying provisions for the summer wardens, and this gave me the opportunity to get rid of some things as well. The weather was back to white and snowy, but that did not stop the Dutch man from trying out my personal slope. I was feeling a bit tired myself, so I lay down to rest, which ended with my falling asleep and not waking until it was almost time for dinner. I spent the evening talking to both domestic and foreign visitors, and outside the wind had decreased somewhat but visibility was still low. I went to bed at the usual time, and with that I had completed exactly half of the period.

Friday 4/4

Morning 1

In the morning it was overcast and it was snowing lightly, but visibility was good in most directions. While the Swedes left I went to restore the water path to working condition, which in some parts involved digging rather deep to reach a firm layer. The weather was now about to clear and the Dutchman wasted no time but immediately set off up the slope. I returned inside just long enough to switch off the heat and to change into the appropriate gear, and then I joined him.

I met him coming down just below the steeper section of the slope, and we went up together. Behind us the sun broke through the clouds more and more, and when we reached the crest we found ourselves in the light. The first run (second for my companion) was positively awesome; snow conditions were just perfect. We immediately went up again, and coming down I chose a slightly different route, where the snow was even better. After that my companion went back to the cottage to have something to eat, but I kept at it, and now the sky had shed its cloud content entirely. On the fifth ascent I noted that I had acquired a tail, so I sat down at the crest to wait for it... uh, him to catch up. We spent some time up there talking and photographing, and then it was time for yet another fantastic run – the best yet, as it happened. This time it was my turn to go all the way down while my companion had another go.

Sun 1
Arrival of the sun
Nallo cottage 13
Clouds dispersing
Companion 1
A joint effort
Stuor Reaiddávággi 9
Clouds dispersed
Reaiddáčohkka 8
Sun atop Reaiddáčohkka
Tracks 1
Šielmmáčohkka 4
Šielmmáčohkka peek
Šielmmávággi 3
Šielmmávággi peek
Čeakčačohkka 7
Čeakčačohkka straight on
Tracks 2
Upper region
Slope 1
Proof of the day's work
Path 1
Proof of the morning's work
Companion 2
The Dutchman at the upper crest
Companion 3
The Dutchman at the lower crest
Companion 4
The Dutchman in the slope

I prepared to have lunch on the bench outside, and just as I went out to do so the sun appeared from behind Reaiddáčohkka. Something else that appeared was the Dutchman, and he, his companion and I sat down together. We quickly had to move, however, as the sudden appearance of the sun caused violent dripping from the roof, which turned into pouring fast enough. When we had found a suitable position, however, it was just swell; the sun was truly warming, and there was no trace of wind whatsoever, but a few clouds had begun congregating around most of the peaks. The others left at 13:00, and I decided to go for one last run in the slope before the approaching clouds would remove all contrast.

I just had time to do this, and the last hundred meters were not enjoyable at all due to obnoxiously adhesive snow, but the slope itself still offered excellent skiing. The clouds descended very far and eventually started giving off some light snow, so I pretty much just relaxed during the rest of the afternoon. The evening was spent in a similar fashion, and the Dutch people were all the living souls I saw that day. When I climbed into bed it was still snowing, and there was some wind as well, so unfortunately no one would see the multitude of ski tracks in the slope before they were erased.

Snow 1
Wind-sculpted snow
Slope 2
The end result
Clouds 1
Mind your head

Saturday 5/4

It wasn't actually windy in the morning, but now and then a keen gale hit, and the clouds were all around. Once again I had to clear the paths to both the privy and the water hole, but it was pretty much a hopeless venture as the wind was on the increase. Earlier I had received word that a group of 13 or 14 people would be coming from Vistas today, so I fired up the heater in the western room in preparation just before lunch. Just after lunch a pair came from Vistas, but they did not belong to the group, and there were others on the way as well. Thus they got to have the warm room and instead I fired up the stove in the other one as well. Another three people came and then I had to go out to dig out the water hole again (the path was all gone, though), but the weather appeared to be on the verge of improving. Then the group came, numbering 13, and I saw them in properly. I spoke with some of the others while not too surprisingly the weather took a turn for the worse; the easterly wind was not pleasant in any way.

Therefore it did surprise us when two men came in from Sälka at 16:15, having started a very demanding stage at 09:30; in other words, it had taken them more or less twice the usual time to cover the distance, and they had known nothing but whiteness, hard headwind and deep powder snow all the way. I had dinner, and then the group paid up, which took some time since they did it one by one. I also talked some with the others, learning that one of the wind-defying men was also a warden. I then was offered a bit of food and dessert by the group, and I talked for a while with them. Outside the wind was roaring, but visibility had improved a bit. I listened to the radio and read in my book, going to bed after 22 as the last one.

Before midnight I was woken up by what sounded like a severe attack of coughing in the group's room followed by forceful crying, and soon people began to move. After a while the sound subdued and I thought that perhaps whatever it was had passed, but just as I prepared to go back to sleep the leader of the group knocked on my door to tell me that that was not the case. What had happened was that one of the youngsters had apparently fallen out of her bed and was now lying on the floor shaking – and what was worse, could not be contacted. Those who knew her suspected a migraine attack, but as none of us had any experience with anything like that or knew how to handle it, we decided to raise the police and ask for medical advice.

It took quite some time before anything useful came out of the much interrupted conversation, and when it came it took the shape of a series of questions from a physician meant to eliminate more dire possibilities. Our "patient" could now at least communicate by hand squeezing, but other than that she could bear no interference of any kind. After another long wait another set of questions followed, and by that time she had recovered enough to speak faintly. Shortly thereafter we received the doctor's decision: observe and wait until morning, and this was also what the object of all the fuss wished. As the worst thus seemed to have passed we could all go back to bed around 01:30, but I remained up for a while to write down the course of events for a future report (no, not this one).

Sunday 6/4

Morning 2
View 9

The following morning was mostly clear and calm, which gladdened the guests immensely. As for the migraine victim, she was feeling close to normal, and the whole group would be leaving for Sälka as planned, only slightly delayed. The sun now had the strength to climb above the ridge of Reaiddáčohkka major, and it was rather a beautiful morning. The trio chose to stay for another night and like pretty much everyone else aimed for Unna Räita, and the two men also departed in that direction later. As for me, I dug a new water path while a high layer of cloud slowly came in from the southeast, followed by some light haze around the eastern peaks; it then spread across the valley, but it never got any denser so it was not really anything to worry about.

Nallo cottage 14
Reindeer 2

I set out on a little tour of my own at 11:15, climbing the slope in a weak wind. I could see people approaching from both the south and the east, and now the clouds were breaking apart, taking the haze with them – except for the southeastern sector. I removed the climbing skins on the crest and continued on across the lake to the Šielmmávággi slope, which I proceeded to ascend zigzag fashion. It had actually gotten better lately, as the recent snow and wind had levelled it out somewhat. I sat down at the same rock as last time I went up to check at 12:15, having my midday meal under a sun temporarily weakened by another haze. This haze soon lifted as well, and it was rather fair as I went back to the crest. Going down the last slope was, however, pretty arduous at times since the snow was much deeper and more densely packed than necessary.

Vaktposten 4
Šielmmáčohkka 5
Tracks 3
Lake crossing
Panorama 7
Panorama eastwards from the Šielmmávággi slope
Tracks 4
Stuor Reaiddávággi 10
Towards Sälka

I returned around 13:15 to find a good deal of people about, two of whom were the new Vistas wardens Anna and Per (and their huge bear of a dog, who most suitably was called Nallo). The two men then came back, having turned around at the watershed in Unna Reaiddávággi, but the others had pressed on to the cabin. As for the other guests, they comprised three pairs. One I recognized as wardens I had met in both Singi and Kaitumjaure, and one of the others as it happened also had a dog named Nallo, so for the moment I had Nallo and Nallo in Nallo. I talked a bit with my Vistas colleagues while the other warden couple went up in my tracks, followed by the other dog owners (they first tried leaving their Nallo behind, but soon discovered that that would not stand).

Anna and Per then departed in a chilling easterly wind, followed by the two men from the day before, and I spoke some with one of the third pair before going inside myself. Then the Unna Räita trio returned, and since one of them had issues with dogs they moved to the other room; dogs are only allowed in one compartment, so Nallo could not be moved himself. Another three people also came from Vistas, and they had already known the canine namesake of the cottage and so had no problem with sharing a room with him.

Panorama 8

After dinner the wind had died down and even though it was cloudy both to the east and to the west the sky was clear right above. In the evening a new haziness started spreading from down the valley, in conjunction with which a new pair arrived. This one consisted of one Belgian and one German, and they had spent the previous night in Lisa's cabin down in Visttasvággi. The clouds had now descended and the wind had picked up again, but there was no snow – yet...



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