Here comes the report of my second trip to Sarek National Park in northern Sweden this August. Last year I fell in love with this region and there was no doubt that I had to return. This time I concentrated on the south-western part of the park, an incredible world of water, dense vegetation, open mountain plateaus and untamed valleys!
Arctic Circle Train
“… The new predicted departure time is 18:40 ...” I had a quick look on my mobile, just to be sure. It showed 18:41. While I was starting to wonder about the algorithm used by SJ, the largest Swedish train operator, I had a look at the other waiting passengers. Almost all of them seemed to have similar intentions like me: Their huge backpacks revealed them. It was also not difficult to get in contact with the guy next to me, obviously German. Although I haven’t been too happy about the weight of my backpack before, this suddenly changed. Compared with the 35 kg he was carrying, into the bargain using a backpack with a more or less broken hip belt, the roughly 18 kg on my back started to feel almost comfortable.
“… The new predicted departure time is 18:45 ...” However, no one seemed to get nervous. Probably because no one else had booked a helicopter flight scheduled five minutes after the arrival of the bus in Kvikkjokk, which in turn was tightly connected to the train we were waiting for. As far as I understood, the reason for this delay was announced to be a damaged overhead cable. However this happened on a perfectly sunny day like this…
Finally, we left the Stockholm area with a delay of two and a half hours. I had hoped for a better start of this adventure… Once in the train, I learned to know my cabin mates: Fredrik and Dave, his American fellow. They were on their way to a mountain marathon. Taking it easy, Fredrik’s motto was: “How hard can it be?!” Luckily their luggage was on the ultralight side, since there was not much space in the cabin. Before going to sleep, the best you could do was staying in the corridor. I realized that many people in the sleeping car were from Germany, however mostly heading to Kungsleden further north in Abisko.
Far before midnight everyone was going to bed already. Almost everyone. Fredrik and Dave obviously got lost in the dining car. When they returned finally, especially Dave seemed to be pretty drunk and had problems to make his way up to the upper bed. “How hard can it be?!”, Fredrik asked.
After a better night than expected under these circumstances, I tested the shower the next morning. I was prepared for the worst… And got surprised! It was really spacious and definitely usable. After breakfast I went back to our cabin, which meant a walk through the whole train. 15 minutes left to the place where I had to leave. Murjek, a small village in the middle of nowhere. When I arrived at the cabin, I realized that I didn’t take my access card with me… Damn! Where were Fredrik and Dave now? I ran all the way back to the dining car. Luckily they were there, I must have missed them. Fredrik offered to accompany me to the cabin, and finally I was ready to leave the train exactly when it stopped in Murjek. Sorry Fredrik, your cold coffee was my fault!
It all went well now. The train had made up the lost time completely. The connecting bus was already there, and I could leave all the stress behind. Only one more time I had to hurry. But the bus was early and it was no problem to make it in time to the helicopter base near Kvikkjokk. Two other passengers were already waiting. Only two! I jumped into the helicopter and we got started. This is how travel connections have to work out!
Although I am not necessarily a supporter of the extensive use of helicopters, this time it gave me the advantage of improved logistics. In other words: I substituted the multiday trek into the national park with a more lightweight backpack and used the saved days to spend more time in some of the most beautiful places in the western part of Sarek. We were flying over the beautiful Kvikkjokk delta and via Vallespiken, a ridge we were passing just a few meters above ground, and Tjuoldavagge, a densely vegetated valley, we reached the park boundary close to the huts at Tarraluoppal. Only 15 minutes. But an unforgettable experience! Interestingly the reindeers were hiding on the snowfields. Because of the mosquitos, the pilot told us…
Mosquitos? In the end of August? No problem, I was prepared. And last year, at the same time, it hasn’t been an issue, anyway.
How wrong I was! After a still relaxing stop at the huts I continued north, and the rest of the day turned into a torture. Despite extensive use of my mosquito repellent, these beasts still found some spots to bite. I ended up hitting my left and right shoulder over and over again, trying to catch some of them. It was not nice anymore!
I was a little bit unsure how to pass an incredibly long reindeer fence, which was crossing my intended route perpendicularly. Finding a suitable spot to creep underneath turned out to be not very difficult. Finally, I found a very nice campsite just above Tjagnarisjavrasj, a small lake in the transitional region between Padjelanta and Sarek.
The following days couldn’t have been any better. When you prepare for Sarek, you have to prepare for rain. What would you do if
heavy rain hits you in the center of the park, at least two or three long days away from the next exit?! But I couldn’t spot any cloud. Not for the next five days! Instead, temperature rose to 27
degree. Incredible! Luckily I had not forgotten my sunscreen as it happened last year… Interestingly, also the mosquitoes got less frequent as soon as I entered the mountains of
Sarvesvagge turned out to be a stunning valley surrounded by eye-catching mountains. I couldn’t resist taking hundreds of photos a day. The Sarvesjahka stream makes his way through fine, dark-colored sandbanks, where the traces of deer and, possibly, moose reveal their presence. In the middle of the valley, the former peaceful water mirroring the mountains turns into a torrent which would be probably too dangerous even for the most experienced kayakers. Sarvesjahka has formed an impressive canyon here, making it theoretically possible to jump from one side of the river to the other.
While it has been a relatively easy walk on mostly grass up to now, later everything got a bit more difficult. If you don’t know what “bushwhacking” is about, after your first visit to Sarek you will definitely know it! Central Sarvesvagge turned out to be covered by more than head-high bushes, and unfortunately the river had decided to make walking at the edge of the riverbed largely impossible. Finally, I was happy to leave the valley instead of heading towards the even more strenuous lower part, despite its beauty.
Naite (Noajdde) & Luohttolahko
The next day, my destination was the top of Naite mountain. An ascent of roughly 1000 meters. But following Noajdevagge it was not too hard to climb it from its backside. After an extremely late summer this year, at some places there was still enough snow left in the valley to walk on it. Great, since this was much easier than on the steep hillsides. When I arrived on Luohttolahko, a stony mountain plateau with fantastic views in all directions to the surrounding mountain ranges, I decided to put up my tent at an especially breathtaking spot: Directly in front of the Parte massif… From there, I continued carrying only a light bag to the place which is known as one of the best viewpoints in the heart of Sarek. On top of Naite, I enjoyed the 360 degree panorama four hours long…
I was not surprised to meet other Germans here. Depending on the route, you can also be totally on your own in Sarek, however I met at least one other party each day. Of the in total 17 people during the week within the boundaries of Sarek, guess how many were from Germany? :)
Everything worked out perfectly so far. It was time for a bad day. A day where things can go terribly wrong… But this could wait until the next day…