Tours › 2006 › Northern Kungsleden › Day 6

Sunday 16/4

Stage map 6

Stuor Reaiddávággi

Horizontal distance:10 km
Vertical distance:+180 m, -180 m, +120 m, -120(x2) m, +60 m, -60 m
Time:6 h 30 min
Lunch break:2 h
Dinner:Mincemeat with macaroni
Night accommodation:Cottage
Stage classification:Medium

I had some trouble falling asleep, but once I did I slept through the night and awoke rested. I got up at 07:15, finding the weather to be partially clear with good visibility, although Nállu was clouded at the moment. The temperature was a modest -5°C and a westerly wind was blowing. As I prepared breakfast, clouds were passing by overhead, but it seemed to be clearing otherwise.

Since the scrapped visits to Giebmegáisi and Unna Räita had put me "ahead of schedule" – food-wise, if naught else – I planned on staying for another day, and I bided my time watching what the weather intended to do, postponing a decision about my own actions for a while. It was clearing in the northward sector, and while I was still waiting the French departed for Sälka. There were some more clouds, but still generally fair, and after waiting some more I decided to make another try at Unna Räita – just there and back again, so I removed all extraneous items from my rucksack and converted it into a day trip pack. The dogsledder came in to make breakfast, and the other campers were just leaving for Sälka as well.

Stuor Reaiddávággi 3
Fjelds 1
Fjelds 2
Nallo cottage 1
...and east again

I left the cottage after 09:30, by which time it had grown more white to the north, but things looked pretty good to the east, and there was a bit of sunlight. The campers had stopped up on a crest, for whatever reason, so I passed them by; there were other tracks further ahead from those who had come and gone that way recently that I followed. The southwestern continuation of Stuor Reaiddávággi held a similar fog as the day before, but as I ascended into it I hoped that it would dissipate shortly under the warmth of the sun.

It didn't. Everything went white quickly, and it felt even more dense than before, with even fewer points of reference – apart from the ski tracks, of course. I kept my altitude as I turned around the outrunner, relying on the incline for direction; it was all white otherwise, and I had left the tracks behind. A bit further ahead I saw a group of four going in the opposite direction, a small distance away, but otherwise I was all alone in the silent whiteness. It was quite mild, and sometimes the sun could be perceived behind the veil.

Sun 8
The sun just showing...
Sun 9
...behind a peak
Nállu 4
Nállu partially concealed
Sun 10
A rare event

Suddenly, I came upon a set of tracks which looked about day-old, and started following those. Visibility had now improved, but what I saw infused me with doubt, and I whipped out the compass – I was heading due south! This meant that I had missed the entrance to Unna Reaiddávággi in the fog, and gradually veered off course until I came upon my own tracks from the day before. While I of course felt rather silly about this, in retrospect it was hardly surprising: the entrance in question is steep, and when one can't see the actual sides of the valley, the threshold bears little or no difference to the surrounding slopes. In summer there is a stream to go by, but in the winter whiteout it was darn near impossible to judge just where to climb.

Having come to this realization, I simply turned around and skied back along my (freshly made) tracks, after treating a chafe that had appeared on my right heel (successfully, I might add). It seemed even whiter then, and for some portions the track was the only distinguishable feature. Later on, I saw some figures with sleds moving west of me; most likely the camping quintet. When I got closer to the bend, I reemerged out of the cloud; the sky above the cottage had cleared, but there was a bit more clouds down in the valley itself. I stood on the same crest as before for quite some time, watching the shifting patterns of cloud and sun; the general perception I got was still that it was slowly clearing. Thinking that perhaps the effects of this were about to reach the southwest as well, I climbed back up for a bit to see if there was any change in the whiteness there. There wasn't, however, so I made another U turn and treated myself with a wonderful downhill run almost all the way to the cottage.

Fjelds 3
Returning to the visible world
Nállu 5
Clouds in the valley – not the sky
Dogsleds 1
When dogsleds collide

The dogsled driver was almost ready to leave when I got back; he intended to go to Lisa's cabin (which has a history of its own, that others are more fit to tell) down in Visttasvággi first, and continue to Nikkaluokta in case of bad weather. I talked for a while with the warden, who thought that she heard some other dogs far away, and, sure enough, a bit later another two teams came up the valley. As they were approaching, a couple from Sälka arrived and stopped for lunch. The "old" dogsledder held his team at bay, waiting for the others to pass, but suddenly the dogs made a yank and he lost his grip. We then got to witness an uncommon occurrence – a frontal collision between dogsleds. They managed to sort it out in quick fashion, though, and the newcomers could continue the last bit up to the cottage; they were apparently a family out for a longer tour, and they too stopped for lunch.

It had now cleared substantially, and I started climbing the slope directly west of the cottage – without the pack, of course. As I zigzagged my way up, the peak to the northwest revealed themselves more and more, and when I had reached as high as I wanted to go I just stood there surveying the astonishing vistas. It was now evident that the weather was all but clear above and around, whereas there were elongated clouds passing through the valleys; the two-forked one in Unna and Stuor Reaiddávággi was particularly thick, and even though it kept pouring out, no imminent end could be perceived. Thus, even if I had reached the Unna Räita cabin, I would have seen nada, and the views offered where I ended up instead I would not have passed up.

I remained in my elevated position for a while, watching the clouds pass – Vaktposten even made a brief appearance; too brief for me to have time to get a shot. Then, having satisfied my optical nerves for the time being, I set out down the slope. I tried to produce as pretty turns as I could, which meant a combination of fake telemark, fake slalom, and ploughing, which is the usual state of affairs with the kind of non-alpine equipment I had. The snow conditions were great for that sort of thing, though, and it was immensely enjoyable.

Panorama 2
Panorama of the environment of the Nallo cottage
Fjelds 4
Northwestern fjelds
Šielmmáčohkka 1
Panorama 3
Wider panorama from higher up the slope, centering on Nállu itself

When I got down at 12:45, I took off the skis and dug myself a seat in a snow heap beside the cottage, where the wind was kept at a minimum, and sat down for an extended lunch break in the sun. It was almost painfully beautiful then, even though clouds kept pouring out of the connecting valleys, dissipating in the heat generated by the basin-like structure of the cottage site. I took my time eating and then leaned back, letting all the earthly troubles fade away, and just existing.

I also heard some rumbling from the mountainsides, as though from several smaller avalanches, which is surely what it was given the weather change, but I never actually saw one. The two other lunchers departed for Vistas, and the dogsled family prepared to leave as well, which was not an entirely uncomplicated affair. After a good deal of fiddling, however, they managed to get going properly, and I was left alone save for the warden.

Čeakčačohkka 1
A peak of the Čeakčačohkka massif revealing itself
Dogs 2
Resting dogs
Sun 11
Sun and pouring cloud
Stuor Reaiddávággi 4
Down Stuor Reaiddávággi
Dogsleds 2
Dogsleds leaving

Feeling sufficiently refreshed, I "broke camp" and went for another run in the western slope. As I was climbing, I noticed a pair of snowmobiles coming down in a wide circle, eventually landing at the cottage, where they stopped. I proceeded a bit further up this time, and although there were a few more clouds than before, views remained great. I then skied down, carefully producing an 8 pattern; the snow was a bit tougher in the higher regions, but it went pretty well.

Down at the cottage, it was revealed that the snowmobile drivers were from the county administration, patrolling the restricted area for illegal snowmobile traffic. They chatted a bit with the warden and myself, bringing news about three people in transit from the Tjäktja cottage, whom they had met in the worst whiteness up in the pass to Šielmmávággi and Alisvággi beyond. They were also bringing two of that group's rucksacks, which they left outside the cottage before going off towards Sälka.

I went for another run, in the northern slope this time (i.e. the southern slope of Nállu). This was the warden's "personal route", and I followed the remnants of her old tracks up to a collection of stones, where the slant was more than enough. Again, I remained standing for some time before starting the descent, looking at Čeakčačohkka fighting against the drifting cloud. Finally, I turned my skis downwards and let go; the snow was trickier here, but I got down without too much problems.

Tracks 1
Quite nice tracks, eh?
Čeakčačohkka 2
Čeakčačohkka rising above the cloud
Nallo cottage 2
Looking down on the cottage
Slope 1
Fairly steep, come to think of it

Just after 16, this concluded the day's skiing, and I went to fetch water in the little cave built over the hole in the ice. I then brought my discarded pack inside, and prepared to change clothes. Then I saw the previously announced trio high up in the northwestern slope, but they took their sweet time getting down. They did arrive eventually, however, and they had all been struck breathless by the journey; despite the thick fog they had struggled through, they had had full visibility at the highest point in the pass, and since they hadn't been to Nallo before the vistas that opened up to them there – as well as when they emerged into Stuor Reaiddávággi itself – had caught them somewhat off guard, in a positive sense. They also said that the environment of the cottage minded them of Nepal rather than Sweden, which I can relate to.

Water hole 1
The water hole igloo
Fjelds 5
Nallo cottage 3
The cottage with Reaiddáčohkka in the background

It was clearing in the northwest – the cloud streaming from that direction was apparently coming to an end at last – and the wind had increased somewhat. We switched off the gas powered heaters that had been burning inside all day, and made a small fire in the firewood heater instead; it was rather warm inside by then, and not much was needed. The newcomers arranged their personal after ski with whiskey, nuts and crackers, and invited me to accompany them. We talked together for a while, and then the warden came and joined in the discussion.

A bit later, as I was preparing dinner, the western regions had been almost entirely wrapped in cloud, and a thin mist was making its way up the valley. The trio had their own dinner, complete with red wine and dessert, while I read. The wind was a bit biting and it felt cold outside, but the clouds to the west soon lifted, revealing the surrounding landscape in full at last. The western sky held a few clouds, but the eastern half was empty; it was a really beautiful evening.

Mist 1
An evening mist...
Mist 2
...came creeping in, ...
Mist 3
...temporarily obscuring the fjelds...
Mist 4
...before dissipating entirely, ...
Panorama 4
...producing the day's first perfectly clear surround view
Evening 2

The warden came in later on to extract some funds from the new guests, and stayed for the rest of the evening. We talked about this and that, but one story in particular bears repeating. Apparently, some days past, a group of dogsleds had been travelling from Alesjaure to Vistas, when one of the drivers lost control of her sled and fell, dislocating her shoulder. The leader of the group then parked his own sled and went over to help her, but slipped on an ice patch – and dislocated his shoulder! They did manage to finish the journey, however, sleds and all, and could call for help at Vistas. A day later, the lead fellow was back on his sled, with his arm in a bandage; the hospital people had told him not to drive a car, but they didn't say anything about dogsleds...

I went on reading, having my evening snack meanwhile. It had grown almost entirely overcast, but visibility remained in full, and the wind had decreased. As the day was coming to a close, a few small clouds had started to form around the various peaks, and I settled down to sleep at 22:15.



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