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Sarek National Park—Introduction August 6, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, camping, hiking, photography, travel.
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A half-sky of rain in Sarek.

A half-sky of rain in Sarek: human beings dwarfed by beautiful immensity.

This is an overview of my recent trip to Sarek National Park in Swedish Lapland. I will follow up with reports on my day-to-day experiences.

I spent July 26 to August 3 in haunted regions of rugged mountains north of the Arctic Circle. The landscape shows suspicious signs of the powerful violence of glaciers grinding down the valleys, spilling big piles of geological rubble, weaving strands of shining rivers, and shaving off the sides of sharp mountains.

This was one of those experiences that settles deep inside and leaves a mark that will never go away.

I had the great fortune to spend these days with a wonderful group. It was 15 people, of whom 13 were Swedes. They were friendly and helpful. We laughed together—isn’t that the best thing people can do in the face of challenges?

It wasn’t an easy trip. For me, the stream crossings were difficult and at times even frightening. We toiled through dark, mucky bogs that tried to suction our boots off. We teetered along through big talus fields, stepping from one awkwardly tilted rock to another. We squeezed through dense tangles of willow, fought off mosquitoes and midges, and sought traces of faint paths that expired at critical junctions.

Here I present a few photos to give a feel for the trip. In the following posts I’ll give details of the experiences of an eccentric American who found herself caught up in a compelling adventure.

First, I’ll throw in the same map I used when I announced I was doing this trip, to help you see where we are talking about:

We are north of 66'66". Pretty interesting for someone who lives at 35'  latitude.

We are north of 66 degrees latitude. Pretty interesting for someone who lives at 35 degrees.

Bridge we crossed at the start of our trip. We were still in Padjelanta National Park. Sarek has only two bridges.

Bridge we crossed at the start of our trip. We were still in Padjelanta National Park here. Sarek has only two bridges.

In the valley of Vuojatadno, below the Ahkka massif.

In the valley of Vuojatadno, below the Ahkka massif.

Ripening cloudberry.

Ripening cloudberry.

Our second campsite.

Our second campsite.

The second night we camped close to the Sjnjuvtjudisjåhka river. We would have to cross it the next morning. I’m sure you notice the name is nearly impossible. It comes from the Sami (Lapland people’s) language and I only know it because I looked at the map.

Trying to cross this river, I lost my balance and got swept downstream a short distance before finding a handy rock to hang onto. Our trip leader, Christian, rockhopped over and gave me a hand to help me get out of my bad situation.

The water is milky with glacial silt. This is just downstream of where I got swept off my feet.

The water is milky with glacial silt. This is just downstream of where I got swept off my feet.

This river marks the boundary between Padjelanta and Sarek. So now we were going into “the belly of the beast.”

Sami hut.

Sami hut.

Flowers in the foreground, snow in the background.

Flowers in the foreground, snow in the background.

While we were sitting around having dinner at our third campsite, near the mountain of Nijak, a great herd of reindeer crossed the river below us. One person in our group counted more than a hundred.

They kept streaming out of a side valley and across the river. It lasted for ten or fifteen minutes.

They kept streaming out of a side valley and across the river. It lasted for ten or fifteen minutes.

The next morning, swathes of silvery clouds swarmed across the mountains.

Was I still dreaming?

Was I still dreaming?

We proceeded up the Ruohtesvagge valley into the very heart of Sarek. Right at a crossroads of giant valleys crowned by glaciers, we made camp at a site that has the only emergency telephone centrally located in the park. It was quite civilized, with an emergency shelter, an outhouse, and a place for people to gather. It even had one of the park’s two bridges.

Our dining room.

Our dining room.

A person looks at what is impossible to describe.

A person looks at what is impossible to describe.

The next day featured a couple of stream crossings. The second was difficult for me—I would say the next hardest to the one where I lost my footing.

I spend a lot of time in streams, but I didn't like this.

I spend a lot of time in streams, but I didn’t feel comfortable with this.

We left the Rahpajahka valley and followed a spidery network of game paths that have evolved into vague human paths, and camped at a place called Pielastugan. The next day, rather than continuing our traverse of the park, we did a day trip to the top of a mountain called Låddebakte, 1537 meters in elevation. Christian’s idea was to give us a view of the famous Rapadalen valley with its braided watercourses and deep green forests where moose and bears live. The weather was a bit iffy (see top photo), but we made it to the summit. Here I am partway up, with our summit in the background, at that moment shrouded in clouds.

I am happy to be here.

I am happy to be here.

It seemed that much of the day we had to deal with big talus fields that were tough to negotiate. I scientifically determined that fifty percent of the rocks were safe to step on and the other half were slick and treacherous.

Toiling across the talus field.

Toiling across the talus field.

It turned out to be a very long, hard day, but it was definitely worth it.

Our fearless leader, Christian Heimroth.

Our fearless leader, Christian Heimroth.

Lots of big glaciers around.

Across the valley.

Across the valley.

When we finally reached the top of Låddebakte, we had the much-prized views that Christian had wanted us to see.

Very complicated here in the Rapadalen, what with silt, forests, and winding strands of river.

Very complicated here in the Rapadalen, what with silt, forests, and winding strands of river.

I’ll leave you for now and return soon with Day One in Sarek in more detail.

Reindeer calf and mother.

Reindeer calf and mother.

 

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Comments»

1. Dana Koogler - August 7, 2014

Jenny, glad to see your first blog entry in a spell. Looks like you are having a good time there! Happy for you my friend!

2. Pat H - August 7, 2014

Wow! Fantastic scenery!

3. Andrew Sisson - August 7, 2014

Hi Jenny, Welcome home. Looks like an Epic adventure. Can’t wait to read more about this adventure.

4. Chris Sass - August 10, 2014

Wonderful pictures! It sounds like an amazing trip. I’m looking forward to reading and hearing more about it.

5. Brian Reed - August 10, 2014

Been waiting to hear about this one. That place looks so BIG! Surprising to think of such a vast area of Europe being uninhabited. I wonder how did you get the idea to go there? Are those reindeer being herded by anyone, or are they totally wild?

Jenny - August 10, 2014

In an odd sort of way, you are connected to the idea for this trip. Remember the PowerPoint presentation you put me on to about twinflower, the favorite flower of Carl Linnaeus? I got the wild idea to go to Lapland, where Linnaeus went on an expedition, and follow in his footsteps. For several reasons this eventually morphed into a plan simply to go to Lapland. I liked the idea of doing the trip with an “adventure group.” I found out that Sarek is the wildest of several parks in the area. It has no maintained trails. I found a company that specialized in such trips. I am glad I went with the group. It would have been just about impossible to do it on my own, even with map and compass. Plus, I had a very enjoyable time getting to know my companions, who are all experienced hikers.

The reindeer are herded by the Sami people.

Brian Reed - August 15, 2014

Funny, the legendary twinflower of the Bunion was the first thing I thought of when you said you were headed for Lappland.

6. Gary Howell - August 11, 2014

Quite an adventure !! I’m glad you enjoyed it..

Gary


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