I woke up at 5 feeling cold, so I donned the thermal underwear and stayed in the sleeping bag. The air had a distinct chill to it, and the wind was still at it. I looked out, hoping to actually see something, but was once again greeted by thick fog. It wasn't raining, although everything was all wet anyway due to the H2O-replete atmosphere. While I was lying there pondering things, I noticed a few drops from the ceiling right above my head. Probably condensation, and not much enough to worry about.
I got up at my usual time 06:45 and made breakfast, again in the vestibule. Whether from the stove's heat or not, the moistness was gone from the ceiling when I was finished, and I elected to stay inside for a while to see if the cloud would lift. I read in my book, played solitaire, continued to work on the crossword, and put a fresh battery batch and memory card in the camera, but there was no perceivable change in the surrounding haze.
At 09:30, I set out anyway; I couldn't well turn my back on the summit at that point. I used the rucksack's lid as a light pack, carrying the rain clothes, a little something to eat, the map and the compass, with the water flask hanging by the strap. I wore the micro fleece suit in addition to the thermal underwear beneath the wind dress and the skiing cap on top.
The route up Giebmegáisi consisted of stones of all sizes, but primarily such that have a tendency to roll when you step on them. Consequently, climbing the steep slope was rather taxing, especially due to the dampness (it had also started to rain very lightly) and low visibility. However, before long, I noticed that I could see further ahead than I could see back, and in just a little while I had ascended out of the cloud hovering in Kaffedalen. I also met a couple going down, who had spent the night in the Top cabin. They said that they had seen most of the valley in the morning, and went on to ask me if I had brought step brackets. When I replied in the negative, they offered to loan me theirs, since the peak glacier in their opinion would be more or less insurmountable without them. I graciously accepted (thanks, Gunnar!) and continued upwards.
Shortly thereafter, the New top cabin came into view, and from there the trail was a bit easier, until it reached a plateau that extends for a few hundred meters to the glacier. The peak was clearly visible at first, but small, drifting clouds soon concealed it. I sat waiting at the foot of the glacier for a while in what had then become a very light snowfall, before walking over to the marked top cairn. After a bit of searching I found the top book in which you can enter your name, but it was so swamped that it was very nearly falling apart.
The peak had grown a little more visible, so I put on the brackets and started the final ascent. I reckoned that it would actually have been possible to manage it even with just the boots, but the brackets made it very easy. At 11:00, I stood at the highest point within the borders of Sweden – 2103 meters above sea level. It is said that you can see an eleventh of the country from there, but there was none of that for obvious reasons. I remained at the summit for quite some time, sending SMS messages of proclamation to select people, and waiting for the drifting clouds to drift a bit further away. The wind was fairly light and I wasn't freezing at all. I was also a bit started to see a pair of sparrow-sized birds fluttering by.
While I was standing there, another pair came up to join me, consisting of a highly anxious girl and a very calm guy. They didn't use brackets, so my assessment was proven correct in short fashion. They had taken the Eastern trail up, and the girl said that she had cried during at least half the ascent; she obviously had issues with heights, and looked rather relieved to have truly reached the summit. They snapped a few shots, for evidence, and then prepared to go down again, but not before assisting me with some evidence of my own.
I stayed put a while longer, as the sky seemed to be clearing somewhat, producing better views in most directions. Feeling more or less satisfied at last, I started to go down the glacier, but when I had almost reached the plateau it appeared as though it suddenly cleared even more, giving considerably better sight primarily eastward. Not wanting to miss an opportunity within grasp, I quickly climbed back to the top, only to find more drifting clouds obscuring the view. Those clouds apparently had a predilection for the peak itself, and it was for that reason that visibility was higher just 50 or so meters below. I waited until the time was precisely noon, which seemed like a good mark, and then went down for real.
Naturally, the experience could have been a better one had there been better weather. It is also possible that conditions on and near the top were similar the day before, when I elected to remain down in the valley, seeing as how the situation at my camp site was near identical during both days. Fact is, however, that I didn't want to make the ascent at that time, and the wind and the rain were definitely much more intense then. As it all turned out, I did get to see a fair amount, and I did feel like being on the Summit of Sweden. So, all in all, it was enough for me to be content.
During the descent, I met three Danes and then a family with children going up, and was asked about the conditions above by both parties. The family had also met the same two persons I had met in the morning, having borrowed their second pair of step brackets, so they got the first pair from me as well. The couple from the top were cooking lunch at the Old top cabin, relaxing after the challenge – both physical and mental.
I got back to the tent, which was still in the middle of a cloud, at 13:00 and went inside to have lunch. During that time, two persons with a dog passed by going up, and later on the couple came down and met one person going in the other direction just outside the tent. After lunch, I packed up my things and then struck the tent. Since it was very wet, and because I had very little spacious food left, I fastened the tent on the rucksack's (reattached) top, pinning the sleeping mat underneath the lid instead. At 14:15, I started to climb Vierranvárri.
The ascent was about as taxing as the one in the morning, but "only" a third as long. Pretty much everyone who had reached the top of Vierranvárri seemed to have recorded their achievement by building a cairn, for they were literally everywhere. Descending to the pass between Vierranvárri and Duolbagorni was even more demanding, as the path once again was nothing but rolling stones and I had a 16 kg rucksack to worry about this time as well. Knees and thighs got quite a workout there.
In the pass, before the descent into Kitteldalen, I met a couple going up, and was most surprised (and a little alarmed) to see that the girl was wearing sandals! Right thereafter, I came out of the cloud and could see the valley ahead. The trail veered off a little to the right, cutting across the slope, but I walked nearly straight downwards, where there was a snow field to aid the passage. The consistency of the snow was rather loose, and the angle was steep, so it was still far from simple.
A bit down the valley, the trail crosses Giebmejohka. There is supposed to be a bridge there, but only the foundations were present. I found the water too deep, wide and swift to cross there and then, so I continued downwards beside the stream, looking for a better spot. There were several maybes, but the sheer force of the gushing water was too intimidating for me to want to risk the attempt.
After a while, the stream entered a gorge with near-vertical cliff faces, so I had to climb the sharply inclined slope of Duolbagorni to be able to continue. This was far from easy, as it consisted of much loose stones and grit, interspersed with sparse ground vegetation of different kinds. If my thighs and knees had been tested before, they were now subjected to a direct assault. It is a good thing that the physical nature of my work has bestowed rather powerful leg muscles on me, for such were certainly needed this day.
At last I managed to get down to the stream again, but I had to walk a bit further downstream to where it had split up into several courses before I eventually succeeded in fording about ten or so smaller brooks, instead of a single large one. I then cut across the terrain upwards again, and was finally back on the Western trail. About halfway between that point and the intersection with the Eastern trail, I caught up with the couple that had shared the summit with me. They had managed to get across the stream at the missing bridge, and had been watching me on my cumbersome detour.
A few hundred meters before my goal, I met a group of three and was once again questioned about the top and the road there. Then, at 17:00, under some protest from quadriceps, I arrived at Kebnekaise fjeld station. Immediately after putting down the rucksack, I made a scary discovery: the weight of the tent had pulled so much on the lid that the zipper of the top pocket had opened, exposing – amongst other things – the little pouch containing the used batteries and used memory card for the camera. The prospect of going back, possibly all the way to Kaffedalen, looking for it was not one that put particularly nice thoughts into my head, and I was therefore hugely relieved to ascertain that all the contents of the pocket were still present, albeit precariously close to falling out. So, most of this report very nearly didn't get made...
I was allocated a kip in a room containing 14 beds, divided into fours curtained compartments, in the old part of the main building, on top of the original stone structure. The girls from Sälka ended up being my roommates anew; they had arrived the day before and had apparently rested this day. After settling in and winding down a bit, I had a sauna and a shower (much needed), and then entered the restaurant at 18:45.
They serve a three course buffet every day, which costs 220 SEK. That may seem a little high, but I certainly felt that I had earned it. The dinner consisted of:
- Hors d'œuvre: various salads, herring and broccoli soup
- Main course: salmon, potatoes and hollandaise
- Dessert: lingonberry pie with custard
- Also included: different kinds of bread from the in-house bakery, lingonberry beverage and coffee/tea/hot chocolate
As usual, I consumed amounts bordering on being malignant, and didn't finish until about 20:15.
I spent the rest of the evening resting and stretching my harassed muscles, which felt very much unfit for another stage. Later, I got down to the common room and sat reading in front of the fireplace for a while, before having just a biscuit, full as I was, and turning in at 22:15. Not that sleep came soon, however, despite my fatigue, for there were some middle-aged women in the adjacent compartment who kept on babbling in loud voices, even though the rest of the room was quite clearly trying to slumber. Very disrespectful.