New week, new trail companion. The usual gang of R+V and yours truly was broken up this year as R+V decided to take a road trip to the USA in July. So for this year’s longer trek, it ended up being me and Miss C only, as we aimed for Padjelanta and the Padjelanta trail for 6 days.
The new equipment for this trek, ignoring the Anjan 2 I used in Abisko, as a Thermarest NeoAir. I felt guilty when I bought it as it is my… er… 4th camping mattress, which seems to be at least 2 too many, but hell: sleeping well is important, and after hearing both R of the regulars and Miss T from the Abisko trip sing its praises I bought one on a sale. And damn, good stuff it is! Not only is an inflatable mattress more comfortable, it is also much more forgiving where you actually lay down; this trek we slept on places that would have been downright uncomfortable with a thin mattress, but now worked very well.
Day One: Getting There
Sweden’s a big country. You get reminded every time you go for a trek. With the exception of the Kiruna and Abisko mountains, which are easy to get to. In this case, we flew to Gällivare from Stockholm 08:00, and then took a 3:30 hour bus trip straight out into nowhere, to eventually end up in Ritsem at 17:20 in the afternoon.
To then get into Padjelanta from Ritsem you go by boat for an hour or so; after which you’re on your own. Or not actually: not only are there trail stations along the way, Padjelanta is also popular, as it is remote, beautiful but fairly easy to walk in. So as long as you stay on the trail, you’re likely to meet people every day.
It started to rain as we crossed the lake to Vajsaloukta, and it continued on and off for a couple of hours as we ascended up the birch forest towards the valley to the southwest. Climbing in a humid forest without any wind in the rain is going to get you drenched; if nothing else from the inside. And yes: we were.
The rain stopped as we reached the valley floor and we eventually found a fairly decent spot for the tent and called it a day after approx 8 – 10 km.
Day Two: Drenched
I’ll sum up the entirety of day two for you: rain. Any questions on that?
I packed the inner tent separately in the morning. That’s a tip for all of you who have an inner tent that is easy to detach from the outer wall: if it is raining hard and you think it might do so for a while, you can take down the inner tent and pack it in a separate, water proof bag before taking down the outer tent. It should help keeping the inner tent dry.
This is more or less where I decided that I would probably sell my brand new Hilleberg Anjan 2. It is a beautiful tent with awesome weight, and splendid ventilation, but it is quite frankly too short for me. I don’t want to worry about my sleeping bag getting wet from condensation, and this trip I did. (In fact: the foot end of the bag was wet every morning. Not much, and not enough to penetrate its protective shell, but enough for me to worry it might.) Damn shame!
By lunch we were thoroughly drenched as we stopped by the Kutjare station. In fact we elected to pay the day fee for getting in and warming up and drying out a bit. Which we did. Thank you STF!
We pressed on towards the large jåkks ahead and the three hanging bridges crossing them, as we knew we’d find good places to camp there. Also, this is where I realized that my beloved Kayland boots where in fact singing on the last verse. They have a membrane to keep water out, which have worked great so far, but all *tex materials have a limited lifetime, and just as my nice Haglöfs boots before these, they now are no longer water proof. Big deal you say, just let them dry out! But that’s the problem: boots like these aren’t made to dry out quickly, they’re made to be comfortable, and if you do get them drenched, they’ll most probably stay wet the entire trek.
After this day of in the wet, I’m now officially looking for a new pair of boots. Lundhags? Yeeeesss…. Probably.
We arrived at the bridges to find the best camping spot fairly packed with tents. Packed? Well… there where 4 other tents, which makes it crowded for being the Swedish mountains. But by now the shill of a day in the rain had started to get at Miss C, and by the time we had the tent up her hands was so cold they started to stiffen up. Not a nice experience.
Day Three: Pressing On
The rain let up during the night, and in the morning the tent was dry. From this point I won’t mention the rain anymore: it rained every day, but not very much and we managed to keep the tent and all of our clothes and equipment dry, with the exception of my boots of course, so it wasn’t too bad.
I actually don’t remember much of day 3. We pressed on and passed Låddejåhkå at lunchtime and then spent the afternoon and evening ascending up into the mountain pass between Låddejåhkå and Arasloukta.
We spent the night in the middle of the pass, at approx 900 m. This was the one spot we picked that didn’t really work out, but it was cold and windy when we decided to stop and we really wanted to get the tent up in order to get out of the wind and warm up a bit. The ground wasn’t entirely flat though, but tipping slightly towards Miss C. Combined with a bit of wind during the night I didn’t sleep too well.
Day Four: A Detour
At this point we were a half-day ahead of schedule. We had planned to stay one day at Arasloukta for a day-trip up one of the nearby mountaintops. But not only did we arrive half a day earlier than planned, the weather wasn’t the best for getting up above 1000 meters: the clouds were just a bit too low. Also, embarrassingly enough: both of us had forgotten to bring a compass. So with the risk of ending up in the clouds with limited visibility and no compass we made a detour instead: before the bridge north of Arasloukta we left the trail and turned west, aiming for a spike-like cape jutting out in Virihaure south of Allak.
It was fairly easy to get to. We aimed for Ajajavrre on the way, which was a good move: we got to see the beach (yes, a real beach, with sand) along the north rim of the lake. Not only was it nice, it also cut an hour or so as you can speed up a fair bit on the beach compared to the normal mountain thicket and undergrowth.
The cape itself is spectacular. We were clouded over, but it was still spectacular. Mighty Virihaure on all sides, and a dramatic backdrop of Norwegian mountains. If you’re in the vicinity I can only recommend a day-trip. It’s awesome.
Day Five: Still Clouded Over
Like day three, this was mostly a day just pressing on. We walked back from the night camp to the trail, which took about 3 hours, and then turned south, passing Arasloukta in the early afternoon.
We struck camp in the “lake district” between Arasoukta and Staloloukta. A very nice spot, very nice views and not a lot of people around. We were still half a day before schedule, but figured we’d just stroll down to Staloloukta the day after and relax until the helicopter arrived to fly us out.
Which we did.
Day Six: Over and Out
Flying out with helicopter? Oh yes. The entire Padjelanta trail is, depending on your speed, some 8 – 10 days long. And many, us included, opt to fly out from Staloloukta to either Ritsem (where we started from) or to Kvikkjokk (at the other end of the trail). There are regular flights twice a day and costs about 850 SEK (roughly $125).
(Obviously you can also fly in to Padjelanta and walk out.)
Helicopters are strange. Flying in them is strange. It’s like a free style cable car: you’re lifted up and then you dangle around a bit. Only in a helicopter there’s no cable to stick with. And also it is quite a lot noisier. But it’s fun! And seeing the mountains you trek in from above does give you another perspective: you know they’re big from the start, but getting up and getting a view over them bring it home in a much more visceral way. I heartily recommend it.
(In fact, if it were just a bit less expensive I’d probably go on a helicopter trip just for the fun of it: no need to trek for a week, just fly me babe!)
After which it was late lunch in Kvikkjokk. And another long and boring bus ride; this time to the night train and the way down south.
Padjelanta is huge and there’s a lot to see, not even counting the south half which we didn’t touch at all this trek. It’s a very beautiful and easy to trek part of the Swedish mountains. And also: my grandfather used to trek there a lot. He passed way before I got to know him, and certainly long before I became a trekker myself, but in some little way I felt that there here was something that connected us, no matter the gulf between us.
(Yes, we’ve got pretty pictures! Except for the first 2 days which frankly rained away.)