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Sarek National Park—Day Six September 3, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, camping, hiking, photography, travel.
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Finally! We get up into the talus fields and gullies!

Finally! We get up into the talus fields and gullies!

This was the different day of the hike—we were not trying to march a certain distance across the park, we were climbing to the top of a mountain. Its name is Låddebakte. I should say that I had a lot of trouble with names of places on this trip. There were Swedish versions of names and Sami (Lapp) versions. I would have thought that with Swedish being a simple Germanic language it would be easy at least in that version. That was not the case.

This mountain had a relatively easy name—just four syllables, compared with eight or nine syllables for some places—but here it was the vowel sound that got me.

When we talked about our goal that day, I kept hearing what sounded something like “Lodebakkte.” Then I looked at my map, and I could not find it. I saw something that looked like it should be pronounced “Lahdebakkte.” I didn’t realize that the letter å was pronounced like a short “o”  in English. You’d think I’d realize it was the same place.

The problem was, as is the case with many problems in life, a lack of focus. The name didn’t quite make sense to me, so I let it go off in a blur and didn’t figure out the problem or ask people about it. It wasn’t until I studied the map later that I figured it out.

By the way, the Sami people have a much more colorful way of describing places than the Europeans. We were very fortunate to have a Sami woman, Inge, in our group. She was a wonderful, good-natured person (also strong and agile!) who lived in the area (in Ritsem), and she had been given the gift of participation in this group trip by one of her sons. I noticed that she and Christian had a lot of conversations about place names. Although I do not understand Swedish, I could still figure that out. At one point I asked about place names. She told us that we were going toward “Idiot Mountain” and “The Mountain Where the Woman Killed her Child.” Hah! An honest description, no political correctness.

All right, enough about names. Now we climb the mountain.

We left our campsite and crossed four or five small streams, then climbed up into a narrow pass. The “normal route” in the valley climbed up to the valley of Snavvajavvre, and continued around the east end of a chain of lakes to descend into the famous Rapadalen valley at Skåkistugan. (You aren’t having any problem with these names, by any chance?)

We would climb over that narrow pass, descend into the outlet stream of this long narrow glacial lake, cross over, and climb the mountain—not on the “normal route.”

The red "X" marks our objective. We started from the easternmost of the blue "X"s, and returned to the same point.

The red “X” marks our objective. We started from the easternmost of the blue “X”s, and returned to the same point.

We got up high enough to see a lovely view of one of these classic “braided rivers.” If you have ever touched on the subject of geomorphology, you will understand that this is a standard feature of glacial landscapes. I am a lover of landscapes, and I had read about these places, but I had never been there before. It was wonderful.

I could look at this all day.

I could look at this all day.

We reached a very nice vantage point and looked toward the mountain we planned to climb. It was shrouded in cloud.

It looked iffy as to whether it would be worth going to the top.

It looked iffy as to whether it would be worth going to the top.

The place we stopped for a rest had a nice little monolith.

Perhaps the makers of Stonehenge placed this here.

Perhaps the makers of Stonehenge placed this here.

We passed big swathes of flowers as we proceeded through the valley.

Big swathes of color.

Big swathes of color.

For a nice contrast with the color and life of the valleys, we had the silent, powerful ice of the glaciers.

Two realms next to each other.

Two realms next to each other.

The weather was very unstable. That made it fun and interesting.



We saw a rainbow.

You may need to click to enlarge the image and see the rainbow.

You may need to click to enlarge the image and see the rainbow.

The mountain was basically a rubble heap of broken rock. I was more comfortable with this sort of difficulty than with the stream crossings, though it ended up being pretty tough. Some of the rocks were strangely slimy, so you had to pick your way pretty carefully.

Our summit is the high point along the distant ridge, not a dramatic Matterhorn-type mountain.

Our summit is the high point along the distant ridge, not a dramatic Matterhorn-type mountain.

We stopped for lunch close to the gully you see in the top photo. I had brought my full backpack, stove, and fuel. I had known before we started that we’d have a one-day trip to the top of a mountain, so I had brought along a lightweight daypack. But on the morning of our outing, I learned that a few people would need to bring stoves, so that we could join together for our customary hot soup. For some reason I felt unable to leave the heavy carrying to others, so I brought my pack and my stove. I cursed myself for doing that as we climbed the steep talus fields.

Christian had a pattern of moving the group along fairly quickly but also stopping frequently for rest breaks. My personal preference would have been to move more slowly and stop less frequently. This is simply because I get chilled quickly when we stop, have to put on a layer, and then take it off again when we get moving. Other people don’t drop and fall so quickly in temperature as I do, so this is a personal quirk. But I was so happy to be in  this group that this slight discomfort meant very little to me.

After our lunch break of the usual hot soup, Wasa bread, and anonymous paste spread on the crackers, we proceeded indomitably again toward the summit. We would conquer this mountain!

The reason Christian thought it important for us to come here was to see down into the famous Rapadalen valley, described as one of the most beautiful valleys in Europe. In fact, I think it can’t really be compared to European valleys, only to Arctic valleys. It has little in common even with valleys of the Alps, having been shaped by the intensive, violent movements of giant glaciers.

We finally reached the western lip of the mountain, where we could see down into this incredible valley.


It's like a kind of fluid script that the rivers are writing in the valley.

It’s like a kind of fluid script that the rivers are writing in the valley.

We reached the summit cairn. Hurray!

We have conquered the mountain!

We have conquered the mountain!

The Rapadalen is really beyond description.

The Rapadalen is really beyond description.

I looked downriver toward a mountain that looked like a giant fortress.

Guardian of the river valley.

Guardian of the river valley.

The landscape was so complicated, so intricate, I could have gazed at it forever.

River, lake, peaks.

River, lake, peaks.  Shadows.

No fear of heights!

No fear of heights!

Our descent of the mountain turned out to be quite long and difficult. Christian had said we would go by way of the most frequently used ridge route, but some of us—about half of the group, including me—saw what looked like an easier route off to the side and went down that way. We didn’t clearly communicate with each other about what we were doing, and I don’t think it was anyone’s fault. I found myself scrambling down an endless talus field that had a lot of slippery rock, and I became very tired. Yet I think the way our part of the group went actually turned out easier than the way the other half went. I moved at a slow pace, and every now and then Ulf, who was moving at about the same pace, said, “Let’s rest for a while.” At first I continued on without stopping but after doing this for a bit I recognized his wisdom.

I had a sudden fear of getting separated from the rest of my half-group as I went down, and I called out, “We need to stay together!” I think they already understood that, and a couple of guys asked me if I would like them to help me with “my luggage.” Their command of English was nearly perfect, but I had to laugh at this slightly odd usage of the word “luggage.” To them it meant my backpack with its stove and so on, but to me it means a suitcase that you would carry through the airport. I pictured myself rolling a suitcase through this steep talus field, and the humor of that helped me to get down to the lake at the bottom.

You see the endless talus field in the foreground. There was no moment that wasn't effortful!

You see the endless talus field in the foreground. No moment wasn’t effortful!

Finally we got down to the lake, and there we finally managed to connect with the other half of our group. They had descended via a very difficult route. I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was around 8:00 in the evening before we connected. I tried to ease the experience for my companions by telling them about times I have been caught out after dark on hikes. In this place north of the Arctic Circle, the sun would dip below the horizon, but it would never get really dark.

Once the two halves of the group reconnected, we still had quite a long and challenging walk back to the campsite. I was, I would have to say, exhausted by the time we got back. I didn’t even bother trying to rockhop the small streams at the end—I just trudged my way through. But it was very much worth it.

Low angle of light where we waited for the rest of the group.

Low angle of light where we waited for the rest of the group.


1. Jeff G. - September 3, 2014

Jenny — those pictures are incredible. I especially like the view from the top of the mountain looking down on the “spaghetti” of rivers. Just amazing scenery. Thank you for sharing.

Jenny - September 3, 2014

Glad you enjoyed it! I think I’m going to have to go back Far North again.

norman medford - September 4, 2014

i’m enjoying this series – both pictures and word!

2. Jenny - September 4, 2014

Thank you, Norman!

3. patholscher - September 5, 2014


4. Jarrett Morgan - September 7, 2014

I am enjoying the series write up and all of your wonderful pictures. It seems like an amazing national park and I am completely jealous.

Jenny - September 7, 2014

I’m glad you’re enjoying it1

5. Gary Howell - September 8, 2014

Great pictures .. somewhow already used my comment (wow !!)

6. Brian Reed - September 8, 2014

“The weather was very unstable. That made it fun and interesting.” A normal person would find that statement mystifying 😉 Why are glacial rivers braided like that?

Jenny - September 9, 2014

It is because they carry a big load of sediment that remains suspended in the water. The direction of the flow is easily changed in floods due to the weak, unstable banks. Silt and debris of different sizes tend to build up in certain patterns, making the individual strands curve in shapes. But unlike a major meandering pattern (like on the Mississippi), it is changing constantly from year to year. The river water tends to be shallow in proportion to the width, though certainly deep enough to cause trouble at crossing points! Braided rivers can form in non-glacial areas too when silt and sediment form for other reasons, but glaciers are about the best mechanism for constantly grinding and shaving off pieces of debris.

7. Brian Reed - September 8, 2014

I love the wacky Sami place names. I wonder what causes names to remain meaningful to locals in some regions while in others they are frozen into archaic obscurity? I took a road trip in England recently through areas where I’d guess most names originated in my native tongue but probably sounded old fashioned to Chaucer. Thinking of the places I drove through I don’t know what most of them mean at all. I mean Milton or Oxford make sense if I think for a second, but Leighton-Buzzard or Linslade? Maybe it is the conservative effect of writing and record keeping vs. an oral culture.

Jenny - September 9, 2014

If you like strange English place names, spend some time in the Lake District, where you’ll find Striding Edge (a ridge), the Cat Bells, Nitting Haws, and all kinds of other such. Some you can figure out and others you can’t, but there must be a book on the subject. In other parts of the world, sometimes we don’t know what they mean simply because we don’t speak the language (Sami or Native American, for instance). The situation of names in Lapland is complicated because some of the Sami names for important features have been “Swedified,” so to speak—given typical suffixes that mean “river,” “valley,” and so on. The map I have sometimes shows the Swedish and the Sami version next to each other. I’m sure I’ve been inconsistent in picking one or the other to use. Probably I gravitated to the Swedish version because it looks simpler to me and is easier for me to type. For instance Rapadalen versus Rahpavuobme.

Brian Reed - September 9, 2014

Ha, the Striding Edge was my original intended destination! Then my wife’s knees acted up and we headed for flatter walking in Cornwall. We did enjoy some tramping around Wastwater previously. British mountain walking is strangely wilder and more domestic at the same time to me than American hiking. You have to be handier with a map for the unmarked and often ungraded tracks. At the same time it’s all a denuded sheep farm with no chance of the forest ever growing back. It’s gorgeous but I always wonder what it must have been like in its primeval state.

I have a friend who married a Swede and emigrated there. He said he had trouble getting people to understand his attempts at Swedish pronunciation at first. Then he tried speaking with what felt like the most wacky impression of Swedish Chef from the Muppets that he could pull off. This worked much better.

8. MIKE DESIMONE - September 10, 2014

Absolutely outstanding scenery- almost beyond description for those of us who have never ventured that far north! The clouds give mountainous scenery an extra dimension I’ve always thought.

I’ve climbed up at Parc la Malbe and Parc Grand Jardin in Quebec. It’s somewhat arctic looking up there but not quite like that. Highly recommend. Unique in their own way.

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