Day 54-57: Solo again… and into the peat

We sleep long on the camping in Haltdalen. It is near noon when we finally walk the main road back to the town center and buy some more fresh food in the local supermarket. The weather has finally improved significantly over the last couple of days, and it is now warm and sunny. We have to walk 10km on the quiet asphalt road towards Aunegrenda today before picking up waymarked DNT-trails again. We sweat like horses while climbing out of the town. When we finally reach a pass near the Sveslia farm and take a break, I am horrified to see my watch/altimeter has stopped working. Apparently I have been sweating so hard moisture has attacked the electronics inside. As I do not carry a GPS, my altimeter is an important tool on off-trail sections during bad visibility. Along with my leaking drybag about which I’ve started mailing with Sea to Summit yesterday it is a very annoying gear failure.

A common sight on the roads of Central Norway

A common sight on the roads of Central Norway

Once we have reached Aunegrenda, we easily find the trailhead of the DNT-path towards Graesli. Besides the regular red markings, this path is also marked in blue as it is part of the so-called Karolinerleden, a historic path based on the route the Swedish army of about 40000 soldiers and led by King Karl XII followed during their invasion of Norway in 1718. After a difficult campaign and the death of the King, the Swedes retreated back across the border via Haltdalen. When crossing the exact plateau we are now going to walk on New Year’s Eve 1718-1719, a fierce blizzard began and thousands died.

The path upstream along the Syndre Tverraa stream offers the first real peat. Because of our late start, the sun is already low above the horizon with splendid light when we cross the plateau via the Tverratjønnan lakes. We descend a bit down to the Styggebekktjønnan lakes to camp. In the meantime my altimeter is showing some signs of life again. The display is still very weak and hard to read, but improves throughout the next few days as the inside dries again – I can eventually continue using it.

Along the Tverratjønnan lakes early in the evening

Along the Tverratjønnan lakes early in the evening

Neadalen as seen from the bivouac spot near Styggbekktjønnan

Neadalen as seen from the bivouac spot near Styggbekktjønnan

Bivouac near Styggbekktjønnan

Bivouac near Styggbekktjønnan

It has become overcast again by the following morning. The terrain becomes very wet as we descend along the Nauttjønna lake and towards the Hyllingvollen cabin, with often ankle-deep peat. The trail is walked very little and waymarking through the swamps is minimal. We lose sight of the suggested route a few times. Once near the cabin we have a good break while swarmed by mosquitos. An old jeep track and a gravel road lead us further down the valley to the small town of Gressli.

Descending to Gressli

Descending to Gressli

Elien has to take a bus to Trondheim here. She is flying back the day after tomorrow from Oslo and will spend some time citytripping. I will obviously continue walking north for over two months. It’s a pretty hard goodbye in the bus shelter along the road. Eventually we separate – but thinking about everything except the trail ahead I immediately get lost somewhere in the fields above the town. Finally I find the DNT-trail and climb steeply towards the Graeslihytta on very wet terrain. I walk fast to organize my thoughts. After nearly 5 weeks with company it will take me some time to adapt to the solo hiking again. It will be more than three weeks before my friend Fre will come to join me at the arctic circle.

Crossing into Skarvan og Roltdalen National Park, Fongen (1441m) to the right

Crossing into Skarvan og Roltdalen National Park, Fongen (1441m) to the right

I am now entering the Skarvan og Roltdalen national park, the largest untouched piece of land in the Trøndelag provinces. It soon gets all too clear what the crossing of this area will be all about: pine forest, endless peat bogs, and mosquitos. I continue walking for a few more hours until I reach the Fongaa stream at the foot of the Fongen mountain, the highest peak in the National Park. I’ve covered 27km today and it’s clear my body has to adapt to this higher daily mileage again. I am physically spent. The weather is warm and calm and the mosquitos become unbearable in the evening. I go to sleep early.

Skarvan of Roltdalen = Mosquito Nirvana

Skarvan of Roltdalen = Mosquito Nirvana

The wind fortunately picks up during the night and grounds all the bugs when I pack the following morning. The weather is splendid with a lot of sun and temperatures which reach the lower twenties during the day. I wade the Fongaa river and traverse the peaty slopes of Litjfongen with nice views through the Roltdalen valley until I reach the Ramaa river, which I also have to wade. The views keep improving while I traverse towards the Bardsgardsknippen shoulder. A short descent, a bridge across the Rotla river and a final wet stretch through the pine forest guide my towards the large, staffed DNT-cabin of Schulzhytta.

The Roltdalen valley as seen while traversing towards Schulzhytta

The Roltdalen valley as seen while traversing towards Schulzhytta

The warden is a friendly lady who cannot stop making jokes about the spacecake she has been baking earlier that morning – spacecake which I will need to make it Norge pa Langs! She wraps me several pieces in Aluminum foil – I don’t know what she really added but I feel pretty good for the rest of the day. After a shower I pick up the trail towards Bjorneggen, which is still 7 DNT-hours away. Still I would like to make it there because of the the very bad weather predicted for tomorrow. The path remains very, very wet while I walk upstream along the Rotla river, which I wade again near Rishaugen. Once at the other bank the path starts to climb through birch forest and crosses the treeline near the Knollen (772m) hill. The path immediately improves significantly and becomes very pleasant with splendid views on all the highest summits of the area, like Storskarven (1172m), Ramfjellet (1216m) and Fongen (1441m).

The path between Schulzhytta and Bjørneggen before the Rotla wading near Rishaugen

The path between Schulzhytta and Bjørneggen before the Rotla wading near Rishaugen

Climbing to Knollen (772m) after the first Rotla wading

Climbing to Knollen (772m) after the first Rotla wading

After fording the Rotla one last time I climb further up towards the northern end of the Finnkoisjøen. This large lake is dammed by some large moraine ridges which crests I can walk for several kilometers. The path has become a real highway. Meanwhile the wind is getting stronger and stronger – I get blown off the path several times and large waves batter the shores of the lake. I take a break in sheltering gully near the inflow of the Lødølja stream. The trail continues to climb and when I reach the ridge (930m) west of the Vestre Damtjønna lake, which offers a splendid panorama across the entire area, the wind nearly blows me out of my clothes. I quickly continue traversing chaotic terrain until I reach the old mine buildings of Litlfjell Gruve.

The second crossing of the Rotla northeast of Knollen, Ramfjellet (1216m) in the back

The second crossing of the Rotla northeast of Knollen, Ramfjellet (1216m) in the back

The moraine highway along the Finnkoisjøen lake

The moraine highway along the Finnkoisjøen lake

The old mine buildings of Litlfjell Gruva

The old mine buildings of Litlfjell Gruva

The weather has become unstable and a shower races by with a splendid rainbow. A dirt track offers a relaxed stroll further down to the farm buildings of Bjørneggen. One of the farm buildings has been bought by DNT and now is a pitoresque cabin with over 20 beds, electricity and a hot shower. It’s a perfect opportunity to recharge all my electronic devices and I spend the night inside together with 2 Swedish couples.

Descending a dirt track to Bjørneggen

Descending a dirt track to Bjørneggen

The weather forecast predicts a real downpour for the next afternoon and evening. I wake up a bit before 7 o’clock and get going soon after. I want to make it to Storlien, across the Swedish border, before it starts to rain. Ideally I could also reach one of the small cabins a bit north of the town to spend the wet evening. I’m in a hurry and because of that I do not take to DNT-trail through the peat bogs towards the Søndre Kluksdal farm, but make a little detour (in kilometers, not in time) on gravel roads. I have breakfast while walking.

Once in Kluksdal the path towards Storlien climbs through pine forest, then birch forest and eventually tundra terrain towards the Sandrya hill (766m). The trail is very well maintained with planking on the wet sections. It feels like the DNT wants to impress hikers coming from across the Swedish border. I cross the border near a small cabin south of the Litlkluken peak (941m). The planking immediately disappears and my feet get wet again. It is getting overcast and the wind picks up, clearly it won’t be long before it starts to rain. It’s still a long descent before I eventually reach the main road from Trondheim to Ostersund near the village.

Near the Swedish border with Storkluken (1110m) in the back

Near the Swedish border with Storkluken (1110m) in the back

Snow grouse during the descent towards Storlien, which can be seen in the back

Snow grouse during the descent towards Storlien, which can be seen in the back

I don’t know where the supermarket could be, but that should not be a problem. A stream of cars with Norwegian plates show me the way. All inhabitants of the Trondheim area go shopping for alcohol, candy and cigarettes in Storlien because of the lower taxes in Sweden. After 2km along the main road I reach the huge supermarket, where I can find everything except the things I need – I am condemned to eating Tortellini for 6 successive days. I shop as fast as I can, the alcohol-thirsty crowds drive me nuts. While I pack on the parking and eat some of the fresh food (fruit, bread, cheese and yoghurt) I have just bought it starts to rain.

I walk back to the village and climb away from the craziness of a border town. While the rain intensifies I lose sight of the trail I try to follow towards the Skurdalssjön lake. After some bushwhacking I find it back near the pond just northeast of the Skurdalshöjden (842m) peak and quickly rush down to the lake, where I find the vindskyd cabin I had hoped for. Satisfied I get the stove going to dry my clothes and start reading in my book. Nothing suggests this will eventually become the most dramatic evening of my entire trip. But I’ll make that a separate blog entry…

Descending towards Skurdalssjön in intensifying rain

Descending towards Skurdalssjön in intensifying rain

Stages:
25/07/2012: Haltdalen – Styggbekktjønnen (22km, +750/-190, 5h30)
26/07/2012: Styggbekktjønnen – Fongaa river (27km, +810/-1040, 6h35)
27/07/2012: Fongaa river – Bjørneggen (26km, +650/-660, 6h50)
28/07/2012: Bjørneggen – Skurdalssjön (28km, +640/-530, 6h25)

Map Haltdalen - Storlien

Map Haltdalen – Storlien

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