I slept like the proverbial log, and awoke to find my roommate gone – his stuff was gone too, so he had obviously made a very early start. The air in the room was chilly, but my sleeping bag kept me warm. I got up at 07:15 and changed memory cards in the camera; the one in use had only about 25 pictures left, which I knew would not cut it for the day, so I though I might just as well perform the switch right away.
It was rather cold outside, but calm, and the sky was mostly clear, even though a large cloud bank was approaching from the south. My former roommate was apparently not the only one who wanted to get going early, for a good deal of other people were milling around, preparing their respective departures. I made breakfast, and as I was eating one of the wardens came in with the weather report, which held no surprises. The cloud bank had taken position to the south and east and was still moving north, but visibility was very good anyway. Due to the perceived coldness, I opted to wear the micro fleece suit, and after readying myself I went to fetch water, only to find that someone had snuck away to do so just before me, so there was nothing to do but get on with the stage of the day.
I left the cottages at 09:15, heading down onto Alisjávri rather than following the marked trail on its western side. The snow was a bit tricky during the first part, where there is a mini delta in summer, but things were better once I was out on the lake proper, where there were also a number of tracks to follow. The clouds had travelled far enough to make the sky above and around overcast, but the leading edge of the bank could be clearly seen beyond Giron in the north. By that time the morning cold had lifted altogether, and I felt rather hot, so I switched gloves and took off the cap.
I saw another helicopter that came from the north, but this time it passed without hovering over a random fjeld, and shortly thereafter all seven dogsleds overtook me. The temperature situation was getting out of hand, though, so when I was nearing a small promontory that jutted out from the eastern shoreline, I made a stop at the almost bare ground to remove one layer of clothing. When I had passed onto Rádujávri, the route the tracks followed went over another promontory, where there was hardly any snow, so I broke off and stayed on the ice. Going was a bit tough on the open area ahead, where the wind had worked on the snow, but eventually I landed on the trail just before the Rádunjárga shelter.
A pair of skiers with a pair of dogs had taken a break there, but I deemed it too early to do the same, so I just went on. The skiers-with-dogs had soon had enough as well, and they passed me before long. Myself, I stopped at the last low rise before the reindeer fence that goes from Ribakluokta all the way to Ruovssokjohka close to the Norwegian border, and after admiring the view for a while and taking a few photos I went up the western slope a bit, where I found a suitable rock to make camp by before 11:45.
During my preparation of lunch (chicken and noodles hotpot), two people passed by from the south, and two from the north. It was entirely windless, and warmer than one might have imagined, so not much in the way of clothing was required, even as I sat immobile for over an hour. Another three people came from the north, and they stopped on the rise to pay heed to the views that had opened up for them, going over their maps and whatnot. Just as they had left, another pair came along and did the same, and I also saw a snowmobile on the other side of Miesákjávri. The mild weather continued, and there were even a few glimpses of sunlight here and there as the cloud cover disintegrated a wee bit; it had now gone rather far to the north, but its eastern edge was situated around Alip Vealevárri, in the direction of which the view was rather nice.
Not long after I had restarted my journey I had passed by Ribakbákti, which opened up the westward view, cloudy as it was. I noted another appearance of the chopper, but otherwise I saw no life signs until I was about to descend into Gárddenvággi, where I met a couple of guys coming up the slope; I presume that they had started in Abisko in the morning. The passage through Gárddenvággi was easy enough, and mostly downhill, but after the Kieron cabin the slant increased drastically and the snow grew very hard, so my thighs had to work quite extensively as I slowly glided down, lauding the steel edges of my skis.
By stark contrast, the snow turned rather soft once the trail entered the woodland, and down at the valley floor it was downright mushy. The air also felt very warm, and it looked as though the clouds in the direction of Norway were slowly lifting. I met a snowmobile right before arriving at the Abiskojaure cottages at 14:30, where the only visible occupant was a man chopping firewood; a note on the wardens' cottage said that they were on a day trip, so I just went inside the guest house.
The main building is an old barracks used in the construction of the ore railroad between Kiruna and Narvik, and so differs from STF's other cottages. It is divided into two sections, one of which was locked at the time, with a large kitchen/common room and several sleeping halls with 10-12 beds each. When I came in, there were two Finns and one Norwegian – who was in the process of eating – there, and another pair of skiers just arrived from Abisko; a steady fire was burning in the large heater, spreading a nice warmth throughout the building.
I spoke for a while with the Norwegian, who was on an impressive tour: he had started far to the north in his homeland, passed through a portion of Finland, back through Norway, then into Sweden, crossing the pure ice of Torneträsk (a very exhausting stage, apparently) and eventually landing on Kungsleden. He was to continue south during the coming weeks, at length returning to Norway around Sulidälbmá – and all this alone, tenting where there were no cottages. Speaking of which, he had originally intended to take the Padjelanta Trail through Padjelanta National Park, but he had just learnt – by chance – that the cottages there (which are not run by STF) are not manned in winter, and so there are no provisions to be procured along that route. Naturally, even though this fact obstructed his plans, he was glad to have come by this information before finding it out on site...
I was running out of oatmeal again, but also this time I found a left-behind bag in a kitchen cupboard, so no need to buy any. I switched clothes and had some dried reindeer meat while reading a bit and looking over the map. Outside, a light wind had started, and more people kept coming in. Two of these turned out to be the wardens, so I walked over to their cottage to wave my discount card at them, and to inquire about the best way to take to the Kĺrsavagge cottage, where I intended to go the following day. I also got hold of a comic book which I brought back to the common area, where I read for some time while the clouds dissipated overhead. I then prepared a dinner which I did not particularly enjoy, so I treated myself with a small dessert of sorts.
Even more people were arriving, including a large French group who got to stay in the other compartment, which the wardens unlocked for them. I continued to read and just rested, watching a powerful burst of snow pass by. I played some solitaire and received some peanuts from the Norwegian, before it started snowing again, this time for an extended period of time. During continued reading I watched two more skiers and two snowmobiles come, and then, at 20, the last pair arrived from Abisko, on regular skis and with light packs.
Another lady and I spoke some more with the Norwegian, sharing stories and experiences, which led to a display of recently taken pictures (ah, the digital revolution). The snowfall went on, and after another session of reading I had my evening snack. A bit later the weather had cleared again, with a loss of wind, and the special light of the North returned; I stayed up for a while drinking in the beauty of the evening before going to bed at 21:45.