Day 83-90: Sulitjelma, Padjelanta and Sarek: through the wild hearth of Scandinavia

Summer slowly starts to turn into autumn when we reach Sulitjelma in late august. From this point my route takes a sharp turn towards the east, and starts its longest section without resupply. We will first cross the wild Sulitjelma range, cross the Swedish border, hike through the vast expanses of the Padjelanta National Park, and eventually reach one of the most renown mountain clusters in entire Scandinavia: Sarek, Europe’s last wilderness. It is presumably the stretch I have looked forward to most before and during my trip. As it is the longest stretch without resupply (9 days), our backpacks are also at their heaviest of the entire trip. I haul about 22kg up the winding gravel road up the hill when we leave Sulitjelma the following morning. Fre, who has no packrafting gear but whose pack and camping gear is heavier than mine, won’t be far off.

Unfortunately the fine weather has come to an end, and our traverse into Sweden brings many dull and windy days, cold temperatures, and the first snow on higher ground. In Sarek low clouds obscure the views of the majestic summits for all but a few hours.

As I don’t have a lot of time to write these days, I’ll make this an entirely visual part of my report again, with some remarks below the pictures. Enjoy!

Climbing away from the mining town of Sulitjelma

Climbing away from the mining town of Sulitjelma

Crossing the high passes between Storelvvatnet and Sorjoshytta, a section which offers hours of rocky terrain - and which could also offer great views on the Sulitjelma range in finer weather

Crossing the high passes between Storelvvatnet and Sorjoshytta, a section which offers hours of rocky terrain – and which could also offer great views on the Sulitjelma range in finer weather

Approaching the Sorjoshytta, where we will spend the night

Approaching the Sorjoshytta, where we will spend the night

I hoped to explore the wild area around the Skagmadalen the next day, but the cloudbase remained very low with regular drizzle, so in the end we just continue east on the Nordkalottleden. While walking along the Sarjasjavrre the clouds start to break and views onto the peaks of Sulitjelma open up

I hoped to explore the wild area around the Skagmadalen the next day, but the cloudbase remained very low with regular drizzle, so in the end we just continue east on the Nordkalottleden. While walking along the Sarjasjavrre the clouds start to break and views onto the peaks of Sulitjelma open up

We meet fellow Belgians Steve and Katrijn, who are on an 8-week trip in Lapland, on the trail! Check out their website: www.patagoniandreams.com

We meet fellow Belgians Steve and Katrijn, who are on an 8-week trip in Lapland, on the trail! Check out their website: http://www.patagoniandreams.com

Peak 1663m on the Swedish-Norwegian border, as seen from the shores of Sarjasjavrre during clearing weather

Peak 1663m on the Swedish-Norwegian border, as seen from the shores of Sarjasjavrre during clearing weather

Retrospective view towards the Sorjostjahkka peak in northern Sulitjelma as seen from the outflow of the Sarjasjavrre near Sarjasjaurestugan

Retrospective view towards the Sorjostjahkka peak in northern Sulitjelma as seen from the outflow of the Sarjasjavrre near Sarjasjaurestugan

Pancake break in the cozy Sarjasjaurestugan cabin

Pancake break in the cozy Sarjasjaurestugan cabin

Reindeer on the Nordkalottleden while appoaching Staloluaktostugorna

Reindeer on the Nordkalottleden while appoaching Staloluaktostugorna

View back through the magnificent Stalojahka valley, a battlefield of old moraines. The peaks of the Sulitjelma range loom in the back

View back through the magnificent Stalojahka valley, a battlefield of old moraines. The peaks of the Sulitjelma range loom in the back

Sami shop in Staloluoktastugorna

Sami shop in Staloluoktastugorna

The church of the Sami village of Staloluoktastugorna, at the shore of the vast Virihaure lake.

The church of the Sami village of Staloluoktastugorna, at the shore of the vast Virihaure lake.

Swedish helicopter humor at Staloluokta

Swedish helicopter humor at Staloluokta

East along the Padjelanteladen, the peaks of Sarek are coming closer...

East along the Padjelanteladen, the peaks of Sarek are coming closer…

View back towards Virihaure from the Padjelantaleden between Stalolukatostugorna and Tuottarstugorna

View back towards Virihaure from the Padjelantaleden between Stalolukatostugorna and Tuottarstugorna

Camp a few kilometers short of Tuottarstugorna during a bright spell between numerous showers

Camp a few kilometers short of Tuottarstugorna during a bright spell between numerous showers

Off-trail approach of Sarvesvagge at the entrance of Sarek National Park

Off-trail approach of Sarvesvagge at the entrance of Sarek National Park

Entering the Sarvesvagge in western Sarek - the weather is set for rain and low clouds

Entering the Sarvesvagge in western Sarek – the weather is set for rain and low clouds

This must have been the most miserable bivouac of the entire trip, with rain and sleet, around-freezing temperatures and a howling wind all night long.

This must have been the most miserable bivouac of the entire trip, with rain and sleet, around-freezing temperatures and a howling wind all night long.

Continuing east through Sarvesvagge on a cold and rainy morning

Continuing east through Sarvesvagge on a cold and rainy morning

The first long bushwhacking section in Sarvesvagge are coming up...

The first long bushwhacking section in Sarvesvagge are coming up…

The rocky bed of the river often allowed easy progress compared to the thick willow bush deep in the valley. Retrospective view through the Sarvesvagge, with the freshly powdered summit of Naite (1620m) in the back

The rocky bed of the river often allowed easy progress compared to the thick willow bush deep in the valley. Retrospective view through the Sarvesvagge, with the freshly powdered summit of Naite (1620m) in the back

The weather finally starts to clear in the evening hours and we climb up the valley slopes for this retrospective view through the Sarvesvagge

The weather finally starts to clear in the evening hours and we climb up the valley slopes for this retrospective view through the Sarvesvagge

Bivouac in the lower Sarvesvagge

Bivouac in the lower Sarvesvagge

After a first freezing night of autumn, the morning hours offer some splendid hiking through the lower Sarvesvagge

After a first freezing night of autumn, the morning hours offer some splendid hiking through the lower Sarvesvagge

The vast alluvial plains near the confluence of the Sarvesjahka and the Rahpaadno rivers. Here I inflated my packraft for a few kilometers on one of Europe's finest rivers

The vast alluvial plains near the confluence of the Sarvesjahka and the Rahpaadno rivers. Here I inflate my packraft for a few kilometers on one of Europe’s finest rivers

Packrafting the Rapaahdno!

Packrafting the Rapaahdno!

Through the birch forest in Rapadalen

Through the birch forest in Rapadalen

Views back on the Rahpaadno river, with rain kicking in again

Views back on the Rahpahdno river, with rain kicking in again

Bivouac along the Snavvajavvre. We really wanted to climb Laddebakte (1537m) from this point for the incredible views through the Rapadalen, but the evening as well as the following morning bring more rain, wind, and low clouds

Bivouac along the Snavvajavvre. We really wanted to climb Laddebakte (1537m) from this point for the incredible views through the Rapadalen, but the evening as well as the following morning bring more rain, wind, and low clouds

Good morning!

Good morning!

Magnificent views through the upper Rapadalen while approaching Spokstenen - on yet another wet and windy morning

Magnificent views through the upper Rapadalen while approaching Spokstenen – on yet another wet and windy morning

The Rahpaadno river as seen from Spokstenen

The Rahpaadno river as seen from Spokstenen

Hiking east through the easy Bierikvagge valley

Hiking east through the easy Bierikvagge valley

Evening view of the delta of the Liehtjijavrre lake, with the summit of Slugga (1279m) getting some sun in the back, as seen while swapping Sarek National Park for Stora Sjöfallets National Park

Evening view of the delta of the Liehtjijavrre lake, with the summit of Slugga (1279m) getting some sun in the back, as seen while swapping Sarek National Park for Stora Sjöfallets National Park

Bivouac in Guhkesvagge

Bivouac in Guhkesvagge

Morning clouds near the Guhkesvakkjahka, the main river in the Guhkesvagge valley

Morning clouds near the Guhkesvakkjahka, the main river in the Guhkesvagge valley

The long section towards the Suorva dam offers quite some bushwhacking and boulderfields. As it is another dull and rainy day, we make a long 32km day in order to reach the Vakkotavare cabin

The long section towards the Suorva dam offers quite some bushwhacking and boulderfields. As it is another dull and rainy day, we make a long 32km day in order to reach the Vakkotavare cabin

Cloudberry heaven!

Cloudberry heaven!

Boulderfields while descending to the Suorva dam

Boulderfields while descending to the Suorva dam

Bear shit in the forest near the Suorva dam

Bear shit in the forest near the Suorva dam

Getting out of Sarek is actually more difficult than hiking its wilderness!

Getting out of Sarek is actually more difficult than hiking its wilderness!

The start of a stormy night along the Suorvajaure, as seen whili walking towards Vakkotavare along the rain. The mighty Ahkka (2015m), can be seen in the back

The start of a stormy night along the Suorvajaure, as seen whili walking towards Vakkotavare along the rain. The mighty Ahkka (2015m), can be seen in the back

Stages:
23/08/2012: Sulitjelma – Sorjoshytta (17km, +1120/-420, 5u05)
24/08/2012: Sorjoshytta – Jiegnaffojahka (19km, +70/-200, 5u15)
25/08/2012: Jiegnaffojahka – Forfallan stuga (25km, +300/-180, 5u50)
26/08/2012: Forfallan stuga – Sarvesvagge 900m (19km, +320/-240, 4u50)
27/08/2012: Sarvesvagge 900m – Sarvesvagge 650m (15km, +130/-380, 4u10)
28/08/2012: Sarvesvagge 650m – Snavvajavvre (11km, +460/-130, 4u00)
29/08/2012: Snavvajavre – Guohkesvagge 840m (16km, +150/-290, 4u45)
30/08/2012: Guohkesvagge 840m – Vakkotavare (32km, +140/-530, 8u10)

Map Sulitjelma - Vakkotavare

Map Sulitjelma – Vakkotavare

10 thoughts on “Day 83-90: Sulitjelma, Padjelanta and Sarek: through the wild hearth of Scandinavia

  1. dzjow says:

    Despite the weather this is for me one of the best parts visually of the entire trip. Funny you met Steve and Katrijn and even more funny to see who of the two wears the map.😀

  2. Chable Mathieu says:

    Hello,

    I’m a packrafter from wallonia, yes we are some of us doing that. I’m planning a 3 weeks trip in Sarek end of August and beginning of September. Regarding the water level at that time of the year, is the Sarvejahka river packraftable, and what about the Guohperjahka? Thanking in advance for you help
    Mathieu

  3. Willem says:

    Hi Mathieu!

    Good to hear there are also some packrafters in Southern Belgium🙂
    As for the Sarvesjahka, water levels will probably be too low in late august/early september to raft this river (the pictures after the bivouac shows the typical view is this river in the lower part of the valley). Maybe the last, braided part before the confluence with the Rahpaadno will be ok.
    I have not been in the Gohpervagge yet, but I think it will be pretty much the same story for this river. It’s gradient is also higher. The last 2km before the confluence with the Raahpaadno should be possible though.

    Do you know the blog of Joery Truyen (http://dzjow.com/)? He has made a 4-week trip with a packraft in Sarek a few years ago, and visited nearly every corner of the National Park. I’m sure he will be able to give you more advice than I do.
    This is his blog post related to this trip: http://dzjow.com/2012/09/27/another-wilderness-trip-through-european-alaska/

    By the way, packrafting (and any other form of navigating the rivers in the park) is now officially forbidden in Sarek… (http://www.naturvardsverket.se/upload/stod-i-miljoarbetet/rattsinformation/remisser/2012/laponia-Remiss-nfs-np-20120326.pdf). So be careful out there😉

    Looking forward to hear more from your trip!
    Willem

    • Chable Mathieu says:

      Hello Willem,

      I came back after walking and found your reply. The end of your message is rather depressing: packrafting is forbidden in all the rivers in Sarek. I cannot read sweden, so I directly went on the official blog of Sarek National Park. Except for the main river, nothing is said about the others. How did you learn about that? I guess at the Fjalstation they will directly know our purpose since we will carrying the pack on our rugsacks. We intend to start from Kvikkjokk. So it will difficult to be carefull.
      I know about Joery Truyen, but have some difficulty to send him a message. Can you send me his email address. My play ground is the Ourthe Occidentale. When there will be enough wather, I will send you a message to down together. Interested?
      Have a nice Sunday

      Mathieu

  4. Willem says:

    Hi Mathieu, I’ve noticed Joery has already given you some more answers on his blog. I didn’t know myself the new regulations only started in 2015. Gives us 2 more years to packraft the area!

    The Ourthe Occidentale has been on my to-do lise for a while now, but I guess water levels are already a bit low? Maybe with next weekends rain🙂

    • Chable Mathieu says:

      Yes water is too low, only 7,7 cubic/” and we need at least 30. Best part: from Wyompont to Engreux. I let you know. Can you give me your mail address, I like to ask you some advice about Sarek out of that blog. Have a good evening. Mat

  5. shibbe says:

    Hi Willem,

    thanks for your reports. They’re a great inspiration.
    I’ve got one quick question about your Sarek trips: How did Fre cross the Rahpaadno? You wrote about how you packrafted there but I dont see a summerbridge or ford on my maps.
    Best, Florian

  6. Luuk Oudshoorn says:

    Hi Willem, This summer I like to do a trip through Sarek, starting at Sulitjelma. Your report was really helpful. May I ask you a few other questions? If so, could you sent me an email with your email adress? Thank you very much! Kind Regards, Luuk (NL)

    • Willem says:

      Hi Luuk – I won’t write my e-mail address here to avoid spam, but you can find it through the ‘contact’ page!

      Cheers,
      Willem

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