Day 58-63: Skjækerfjella, and beyond…

Despite what happened in the evening I sleep well in the cabin along the Skurdalssjön. By the following morning I feel my body has already fully recovered from the severe carbon monoxide intoxication. I only makes the entire situation feel even more unreal.

Over 30mm of rain has fallen during the night, but in the morning the weather is dry again. I leave a bit before nine o’clock, but fog immediately rushes in and I make a long stop right at the Swedish/Norwegian border. A woman is training her dogs for the hunting season, a difficult endeavor in this kind of conditions. After half an hour the weather clears again and I continue walking on the DNT-trail along the Swedish-Norwegian border. The water level of all creeks is very high and I have to wade the outflow of the Skurdalssjön on a concrete dam.

Along the Swedish/Norwegian border

Along the Swedish/Norwegian border

The terrain remains pretty easy for most of the walk with panoramic views deep into Sweden on the higher sections. The weather also becomes better with nice sunny spells. My good mood dampens though when I rip of the toe fender of one of my shoes on a sharp rock. It is still 100km towards Snasa, where I have a new pair of trailrunners waiting. I’m not quite sure I will make it there.

I leave the trail during the descent towards the large Fjergen lake. Instead of making a detour on the trails along the Angeltjønnhytta and Ferslia cabins, I’ll tackle a 20km off-trail section through the Koltjønndalen and through the Kjølhaugen range to hike towards Sandvika. The terrain immediately becomes more challenging. I have to traverse a series of E-W-oriented ravines and steep rock bands west of the Hallsjøen lake, which makes for a lot of altitude meters and steep terrain. After I have finally crossed the Synnerelva stream, I frontally climb up slopes at the other side, involving some serious bushwhacking. I finally reach the tundra level above the treeline, which will allow me to easily traverse above the Koltjønndalen high on its eastern slopes.

Near the Fergen lake

Near the Fergen lake

The remainder of the day is a highly enjoyable stroll with splendid views into the valley, which floor consists of pine forest and endless bogs. Happy I decided to hike higher on the hill! Every now and then I have to traverse a small ravine, formed by creeks crosscutting the slope. The Kjølhaugen summit (1248m), with large snowfields still lingering near the summit, stands proud at the northern end of the valley. I call it a day on the pass between the Koltjønndalen and the Skalsvatnet lake in Sweden and enjoy a nice summer evening. I try to sew my shoe and a hole in the crotch of my pants.

The Koltjønndalen valley, with Kjølhaugen in the back, as seen during the traverse

The Koltjønndalen valley, with Kjølhaugen in the back, as seen during the traverse

Bivouac on the pass between Koltjønndalen and the Skalsvatnet lake

Bivouac on the pass between Koltjønndalen and the Skalsvatnet lake

It starts to rain during the night, however, and this rain persists throughout the morning. Around noon it becomes dry again, and by 1 o’clock I start hiking. I climb towards the Skardtjønna lake, located in the saddle (800m) between the Kjølhaugen (1248m) and Storsjøhøgda (1045m) peaks. The cloudbase lowers, making orientation a bit more difficult. At the other side of the pass the terrain becomes pretty complex with the outflow of the lake rushing through a series of shallow ravines. I have to wade it twice to avoid a section of steep rock slabs on the slopes of Storsjøhøgda. After a break I veer north, and after some more nasty terrain I find back the DNT-trail connecting Ferslia with Sandvika.

Crossing the pass between the Kjølhaugen (1248m) and Storsjøhøgda (1045m) peaks

Crossing the pass between the Kjølhaugen (1248m) and Storsjøhøgda (1045m) peaks

The quality of the DNT-trails in this part of Norway does not necessarily mean easy walking, though. There hardly is a trace to follow, and waymarking is often poor. I am surprised to find two other hikers near a small cabin (‘Koksteinen’ on the map) along the creek between Storsjøen and Kraksjøen. They have a break while making a fire to dry their shoes. Both guys are from Austria, and just like me they are hiking up to Snasa. The only difference: they will use another 8 days to do so, I only have food left for less than 4 days. By the way, they are the first other hikers I meet on the trail since Haltdalen (about 120km ago). What I do not know is that it will take another 260km before the next ones will show up! After I chat I continue walking.

Traversing back towards the DNT-path

Traversing back towards the DNT-path

While traversing the western slopes of Merraskardfjellet through thick brush, I suddenly spot 2 young moose sprinting down the hill. After about 20 seconds they have disappeared into the birch forest, but I’m quick enough to take 2 pictures. They will be the only moose I will see during my entire journey.

The young moose near Koksteinen

The young moose near Koksteinen

The young moose near Koksteinen

The young moose near Koksteinen

The terrain only gets worse during the rest of the day. A steep descent down the Merraskardet guides me down towards the deep swamps of Hansmyra. I take a long break before climbing up the Hegglifjellet and descending through pine forest and endless swamps towards the town of Sandvika, along road 72 on the Swedish/Norwegian border. The DNT has a cabin in Sandvika, the Innstua. It is already well past seven in the evening when I get there, and I decide to sleep inside.

The Hansmyra swamps which I have just crossed

The Hansmyra swamps which I have just crossed

The trail on the descent to Sandvika

The trail on the descent to Sandvika

The following morning brings nice weather. After a few kilometers along an asphalt road, the trail towards the Veresvatnet lake plunges into the pine forest… and the peat. It’s one of the worst sections of entire trip: 13km of ankle-deep (if I carefully pick my route) swamps. I’m happy it’s a warm day. A marked stick every 50m indicates the direction, but there is no trail whatsoever. But the horizon brings hope: the Skjaekerfjella peaks, with snowfields still draping their summits, are now within striking distance.

Endless peat bogs on the way to Veresvatnet

Endless peat bogs on the way to Veresvatnet

The Skjaekerfjella mountains come into view

The Skjaekerfjella mountains come into view

I am happy with the gravel road along the Veresvatnet lake and enjoy a long break on some kind of a camping ground near the inflow of Stradøla river. But I won’t call it a day yet. The weather forecast for the next few days looks good and I would like to reach the Skjaekerhatten (1139m), the highest mountain of the Skjaekerfjella range, by tomorrow evening to enjoy sunset from the summit. That is another 35km, to a large extent off-trail, so I better cover some more distance today.

The walking conditions remain unchanged, with endless sticky peat sections while I cross the summit of Reinsmyrhøgda and descend towards the Flatjønna lake and towards a group of cabins called Storvukuseteren. I feel the fatigue starts to kick in and take another break to rest and eat. A welcome surprise only a few minutes later: as I enter the Bjafjella-Skjaekerfjella National Park, most of the trail has suddenly been equipped with planking. It feels ridiculous after all the swamps you need to cross just to get to this place. It gets even more ridiculous when the planking disappears again after crossing the Tverraa river less than a kilometer further, and I spend the rest of the stage battering through the wet terrain again. Near the Einartjønna I’m physically spent for the day. It takes me some time to find a reasonably dry bivouac spot. I’ve hardly pitched my tarp when it starts to rain slightly. I long for the mountains.

Entering the Blafjella-Skjaekerfjella National Park

Entering the Blafjella-Skjaekerfjella National Park

Planking on the first hectometers of the trail into Skjaekerfjella

Planking on the first hectometers of the trail into Skjaekerfjella

Bivouac in the peat near Einertjønna

Bivouac in the peat near Einertjønna

The bivouac at the Einartjønna means the start of a long off-trail section which will guide me through the very heart of the Skjaekerfjella range. I get going a bit after 8 o’clock in the morning. The first hours of the day do not differ too much from the previous days: first it takes some bushwhacking and peat-hiking to walk the length of the Storbekkryggen ridge. I then descend towards the confluence of the Snødalsbekken stream with the main Tverraa river. The valley floor is situated around the treeline and my progress is slow because of the relentless bushwhacking. Instead of following the Tverraa upstream for a while, I therefore decide to frontally climb in a N-NE-direction, upstream along a small creek which flows through a ravine. The terrain quickly eases and half an hour later and after a short break I reach the Andtjønna lake.

View back into the Tverraa valley while buchwhacking up towards Andtjønna

View back into the Tverraa valley while buchwhacking up towards Andtjønna

The geological structure of the Skjaekerfjella range has now become all too clear: the entire range consist of a complex of heavily folded gneiss, with the main axis with all the major summits following the SSW-NNE structural trend. The folding becomes apparent in an endless series of parallel rock bands following the main axis of the range. Concretely, this means walking parallel with this axis will be rather easy, but crosscutting the main structures will be a hassle because of all the rock bands to traverse. Lucky enough, following the main ridge is exactly what I plan to do.

Typical view of the Skjaekerfjella range, as seen while descending towards the Gluptjønna lake

Typical view of the Skjaekerfjella range, as seen while descending towards the Gluptjønna lake

After an overcast morning with some showers, the weather is also improving. The scenery is some of the finest since Knutsø, already two weeks ago. Despite the off-trail terrain I intensely enjoy the walk. I descend towards the Gluptjønna lake and take advantage of the fair weather to have a wash. After that it’s a long, gradual climb through increasingly rough terrain towards a group of small lakes on the pass between Litlskjaekerhatten (990m) and Løysmundhatten (1090m). I cross multiple small groups of wild reindeer on the way. A cold wind sweeps across the iceberg-loaded lakes on the pass. I seek and find a sheltered spot for a break.

A few of the many reindeer I saw in Skjaekerfjella

A few of the many reindeer I saw in Skjaekerfjella

From across the pass one of the finest views in the National Park opens up: the flat, rocky summit of Skjaekerhatten (1139m), the highest mountain of the range, dominates the pyramidal Sukkertoppen (950m). Their surroundings are a battlefield of rock slabs and small pools and lakes. I navigate through the maze until I reach the Hatjønna lake (779m), located on the pass separating both summits.

The view towards Sukkertoppen (950m, left) and Skjaekerhatten (1139m, right)

The view towards Sukkertoppen (950m, left) and Skjaekerhatten (1139m, right)

My plan is to climb high onto the slopes of Skjaekerhatten via a ledge on its west face, then cross a shoulder at about 980m and search for a bivouac spot just across. I could then climb to the summit this evening for sunset. But suddenly the cloudbase plummets to only 900m while I get soaked by a shower. As I need good visibility to find the ledge (with 250m of sheer emptiness to the left) I have to abandon my plan. I climb a bit higher up until I find a bivouac spot with splendid views onto the lakes deep below in the west. When the weather clears a bit in the evening I see sunlight reflected by the Atlantic ocean in the distance.

Views towards the Skjaekervatnet while climbing the ledge

Views towards the Skjaekervatnet while climbing the ledge

Splendid bivouac on the slopes of Skjaekerhatten

Splendid bivouac on the slopes of Skjaekerhatten

The cloudbase has lifted a bit by the next morning, although the summit of Skjaekerhatten remains in the clouds – I definitively abandon my plan to try and climb it. I climb further up the ledge, cross the shoulder and start a highly enjoyable descent towards the Fjellskjaekerskardet saddle, crossing several reindeer along the way. The weather clears and it will become a warm and sunny day. The terrain gets a bit more accidented with several rock bands to cross while I traverse western slopes of the rounded Skjaekerskaftet summit and cross a small pass to reach the Janvatnet lake. I am now leaving the Skjaekerfjella range and the rock bands disappear to give way for tundra.

View back towards Skjaekerhatten and the Fjellskjaeker lake while traversing the slopes of Skjaekerskaftet

View back towards Skjaekerhatten and the Fjellskjaeker lake while traversing the slopes of Skjaekerskaftet

After a relaxed stroll across open tundra, with some easy bushwhacking every now and then, I reach the Finnvolltjønna lake. A path along the northern shore and towards the Imsdalen valley is indicated on my map. It takes some searching, but I eventually find a trace with a cairn every 20-30m. It’s all I need to cross the rolling tundra plateaus between Flatfjellet and Kjevlifjellet. It’s incredible how many reindeer I see today. While crossing the pass just south of the main Kjevlifjellet summit (743m) a herd of about 50 stares at me from higher up the hill.

Reindeer near the Jantjønna lake

Reindeer near the Jantjønna lake

A pond somewhere near the Finnvolltjønna lake

A pond somewhere near the Finnvolltjønna lake

Crossing a stream on the tundra plateau northwest of Flatfjellet

Crossing a stream on the tundra plateau northwest of Flatfjellet

Crossing the pass south of Kjevlifjellet

Crossing the pass south of Kjevlifjellet

Reindeer on the pass south of Kjevlifjellet

Reindeer on the pass south of Kjevlifjellet

I now steeply descend into the Imsdalen valley, crossing from the tundra through the birch forest and pine forest into the lush vegetation of the valley. There should be a path crossing the valley floor west of the extensive Steinkjermyran swamps and crossing the Imsa river via a bridge. At first I am able to follow some kind of a very old tractor trace, but this gradually faints and I end up fighting my way through the brush and wading the river near a gravel bar. I am happy to reach the Kjevlia farm.

Descending into the Imsdalen valley

Descending into the Imsdalen valley

It is already well past 6 o’clock when I start climbing up the other side of the valley on a gravel road, which quickly faint in dense forest as predicted by the map. After a final fierce uphill bushwhacking section I eventually reach the Steinkjertjønna lake, at the southern edge of a peat plateau separating the Imsdalen and Granadalen valleys. It’s a brilliant sunny evening and I stay outside until sunset.

View back towards the Steinkjermyran swamps in the Imsdalen valley

View back towards the Steinkjermyran swamps in the Imsdalen valley

Bivouac at the Steinkertjønna lake (and a really bad pitch)

Bivouac at the Steinkertjønna lake (and a really bad pitch)

Under clear skies it gets pretty cold during the night. Dawn brings more glorious sunshine. Today will be a special day: I will reach the town of Snasa – in a few aspects a symbolic point along my route. Although I have not covered half of the total distance yet (1170km of 2760km), this should be about the halfway point in terms of walking days. More importantly, Snasa is an important resupply point, where I have not only new shoes waiting, but also my packraft.
But first there is the peat plateau to cross. Because of the lack of real landmarks I have to use my compass to navigate from lake to lake until I finally reach a faint path near the Vargtjønnin. From there it’s a quick descent through the forest towards a series of gravel and asphalt roads leading to Snasa. I have my very first blueberries of the season on the way! I reach the main road near the Navlus farm just after having crossed the Grana river. It’s a 3km walk along the road until I reach the town center.

One of the lakes on the peat plateau

One of the lakes on the peat plateau

My trailrunners really needed replacement by the time I reach Snasa!

My trailrunners really needed replacement by the time I reach Snasa!

After the obligatory hamburger at the gasoline station I go to the Coop Supermarket. First I pick up my post package from home. It’s clear my mother has done a perfect job on the follow-up of the package. It is not in the rack at the ‘Post I Butikk’ like all the other packages, but on a chair in the corner of the manager’s office! Apart from the very welcome new pair of shoes and my packraft, I also find some other stuff like a new battery for my mobile phone (the old one did not fully recharge anymore), vitamins, new liner socks and a bunch of maps. I reorganize my bag and go back to the supermarket for shopping and to send food drops towards Umbukta and Lønsdal, which I will pick up in a few weeks time. I then search for a camping or a hotel to have a shower, but after asking a few people it becomes clear the closest one is at least 3km away and it would be too much of a hassle to try and get there. I have another hamburger to finish my logistics.

In the afternoon I start walking back towards Navlus. After a few minutes a car spontaneously stops and I am happy to hitchhike back to the junction. My driver is a very kind 72-year-old German called Peter. He lives near the town of Agle, about 8km further up the road. I tell him I don’t want to go that far, but apparently he does not understand me (or he just wants me to visit his place) and we drive all the way up (a very strict person could thus argue I have ‘cheated’ 5km and not covered the entire distance in a self-propelled way). I feel a bit weird about this at first, but I soon realize I could easily have walked the distance – and it compensates a bit for all the extra kilometers I have walked near towns for resupply.

Peter shows me his entire house and we have a cup of tea together. I think he would have liked me to camp in his garden, but I eventually decide to cover a few more kilometers today on a gravel road along the Nordlandsbanen railway between Trondheim en Bødo. With 5kg of food and my packraft my backpack suddenly feels painfully heavy. I will have to adapt to the extra weight throughout the next few days. When I reach the a bridge across the Luru river in the early evening I decide to call it a day and camp right next to the river, in which I have a highly necessary wash in the warm evening sun. And I can’t resist to inflate my packraft and have a few strokes before going to sleep. Yep, with nearly 1600km left to cover in less than 2 months it’s time to speed up. It’s time for packrafting!

The gravel road along the railway

The gravel road along the railway

The beautiful Luru river

The beautiful Luru river

Bivouac along the Luru river on a splendid summer evening

Bivouac along the Luru river on a splendid summer evening

Bivouac along the Luru river on a splendid summer evening

Bivouac along the Luru river on a splendid summer evening

Stages:
29/07/2012: Skurdalssjön – Koltjønndalen (25km, +480/-480, 6h30)
30/07/2012: Koltjønndalen – Sandvika/Innstua (23km, +340/-620, 6h25)
31/07/2012: Sandvika/Innstua – Einartjønna (31km, +680/-520, 7h15)
01/08/2012: Einartjønna – W-side Skjaekerhatten (22km, +790/-510, 6h30)
02/08/2012: W-side Skjaekerhatten – Steinkertjønna (24km, +640/-990, 7h00)
03/08/2012: Steinkertjønna – Luru river (32km, +200/-520, 6h30)

Map Storlien - Snasa

Map Storlien – Snasa

One thought on “Day 58-63: Skjækerfjella, and beyond…

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