Being in an actual bed was obviously beneficial, for I slept like a baby until 07:15. It was raining and the clouds were very low, and from both my roommate and the warden I learnt that during the night there had been very heavy rainfall and hard winds, but I had slept through it all. After breakfast the warden also brought the latest weather forecast, which was pretty promising. By the time I had started packing the rain had stopped, and the clouds began to pull apart somewhat, letting some more light through; it was also comfortably cool outside. I spoke some more with my roommate, who was also ready to depart, and then with a guy who was going into Sarek via Basstavágge, relating my knowledge of the fords involved. There were quite a bit of mosquitos around, so my other Sarek acquaintance and I saw fit to get going around 09:15.
I had chosen to wear the rain trousers since the first portion of the northbound trail goes through woodland, and with the recent rains there was bound to be quite a bit of wet undergrowth; I had only the thermal underwear shirt on my upper body, though. Refuting the popular notion regarding men's multitasking abilities, my companion and I managed full well to maintain a fluid conversation while putting one foot in front of the other, and soon we were clear of the forest. The clouds were still in the process of lifting and the absence of trees allowed for a pleasant breeze. I did, however, feel a distinct pain in my left Achilles tendon; it had started in a mild form after lunch the day before, but now it was much worse, even though it grew better the more I walked.
Up there on the open expanse of Ávtsusjvágge we saw a sharply defined region of rain further ahead, and there was also another band of precipitation far off to the southeast; right where we were, however, it was fairly good still. Since the trail is very well trodden and the terrain offers virtually no resistance in those parts I slipped into a quick pace, and after a while the other half of our hiking duo felt that he didn't want to keep up – not out of a lack of strength or stamina, but because he was planning on camping somewhere along the way well before reaching Saltoluokta as his reserved train ticket wasn't valid for several days yet, and he saw no reason to rush things and spend most of the day inside a tent. Therefore we parted ways when we were drawing near to Ávtsusjjåhkå and I went on ahead.
This stream has given rise to a special formation, namely a trench wide and deep enough to be considered a valley of its own, inside the greater valley of Ávtsusjvágge, and it is a sight worth seeing. Around then I felt some moisture from the rain that still hung in front of me, but the actual rain cloud was passing across the valley to the northwest, heading southwest. I came across two swiftly flowing brooks across which neither planks nor bridges had been placed, but the presence of large stones in the water and leaping, respectively, took care of that. A somewhat keen wind was now blowing and my hands started feeling a bit cold, and then another rain cloud passed by to the northwest, this time causing a light drizzle where I was but I didn't consider it enough to adjust my clothing.
Some time later, however, the qualification of "light" was withdrawn, and I utilized the trick of letting the covered rucksack catch the worst of it, facing away from the rain and bending over my walking stick. When it all shrank back again I restarted, but now it looked decidedly worse ahead and some very low clouds were drifting in the eastern part of the valley below Njalásjbákte. When I caught sight of the Autsutjvagge shelter the drizzle turned into actual rain, and I increased the length and frequency of my steps – if I had held out that long I couldn't give in and put on the rain jacket when the shelter was so close, right? Close to the little building I met a couple who had just left it, and I almost ran the last 100 meters as the rain intensified further, reaching the safety of the shelter at noontime.
Inside I found two pairs, one younger of what I judged was Polish origin and one older from this country. I had my lunch and idly chatted with the latter two, while the rain struck the roof hard. The foreigners soon left and the rest of us continued talking, and just after the remaining two had left too my Sitojaure roommate came in accompanied by someone he had "picked up" along the way. The rain had now abated drastically, and as I was finished anyway I set out again.
Once outside I perceived that the clouds had lifted to a great extent, but in the northeast things still looked bad. After just a short distance what was left of the rainfall ended as well, but as if to compensate my heel ache had returned. I met one lone fellow, then a couple, and later a lone woman with a dog, and all the while the sky was clearing, starting from the northwest, and a rather strong wind had also picked up from that direction. The trail passed some boggy portions, and after meeting another two wanderers I caught up with the Swedes from the shelter, who were having a break shortly before the terrain started sloping downwards into Sjöfallsdalen.
It was now pretty fair and sunny, and it was steadily getting better still; Lulep Gierkav was in the clear and parts of the Nieras massif on the other side of the valley were emerging from the mist. I went on by myself, meeting two young women just above the branch point from which a path leads to Bietsávrre, and since the weather was now really nice I stopped to change clothing – and my heel also felt a bit better. The strong wind persisted up on the open land, but once I entered the forest it was much calmer – and warmer. The broad trail made walking easy as ever even though the trees were densely crowded, and I almost tripped over the suddenly appearing buildings of Saltoluokta fjeld station at 15:30.
Upon visiting the reception desk I found out that all rooms were occupied or booked, and I was offered either a mattress in a conference room or a place in one of the tent huts that had been erected outside. I didn't feel like going back to outdoor accommodation now that I had "left it behind" already, and after checking out the conference room I proclaimed that I would take it – there were actually a couple of cots there, so it wasn't even necessary to sleep on the floor. As I was bringing my stuff over the shelter-men arrived too, but they elected to tent nearby. I then went to the much longed-for sauna, wherein I found some people with whom I soon found myself in a discussion about fjelding in general and STF in particular. In the meantime the sky had received a reinforcement of clouds from the east, and now it was mostly overcast; there were a few blue patches still but to the west the clouds were already low, and the wind had increased further.
I was still the only occupant in the conference room, and I had some biscuits and reindeer meat to fight off feelings of hunger – dinner was still a few hours away. I walked over to the main building and had a good look around, and when the boat from Kebnats had brought its passenger load over I found Leif among the newcomers – he is a warden colleague I attended the course with, and whom I also ran into during the Kebnekaise sojourn. He had walked from Abisko via Unna Allakas and Hukejaure to Sitasjaure/Ritsem and was now looking forward to a classy finish. A delightful dinner then commenced, in the following form:
- Hors d'œuvre: beets and chèvre crème
- Main course: broiled arctic char (from Láŋas), potatoes and citrus pesto
- Dessert: pastry tartelette with strawberries
Following this the reception staff had managed to locate a suitable charger for my phone, but even with direct power input it refused to come alive; I left it in what would have been charge mode over the night anyway, hoping that it might come around yet. As expected and forecast it had started to rain, so I scuttled over to the building which houses the conference rooms, finding that another guest had appeared in "mine". I took to solving crosswords, feeling a decisive drowsiness setting in, and then Leif (who had taken up residence in the other conference room) sought me out for a talk. When the rain had petered out and the sky seemed less threatening I went outside for an evening stroll, making a stopover in the main building to read a bit on my way back. I then had a light snack and readied myself for the night; my new roommate had already gone to bed, but he soon got a visit from two German ladies, and they talked some things over before we all turned in at 22.