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Wide Welkin and Speaking Stones, Part 3: Wind in High Places

October 21, 2012

This post is part of a series.  See the introduction for background and previous posts.

August 9, 2012

Long, LONG day.  On the one hand, that gives me lots of things I could write about.  On the other hand … goodness, I’m tired.

Tired will probably win, since it’s 20 to 10 already.  The valley I’m sitting in is in shadow, but that’s just because the sun ducked behind a mountain.  It’s been hanging out there for hours, and there’s still light on the mountaintops.

I woke at about 5:30, feeling extraordinarily well-rested, and somehow managed to spend until 8 eating breakfast.  I don’t know how, except that I had made too much couscous but didn’t want to waste the calories, so was choking it down slowly.

I filled my water bottle from the tap that runs straight from the stream, feeling rather daring.  It tasted like water, and diarrhea didn’t spring out of nowhere at me. (As of evening, hasn’t yet.  Am crossing fingers.) I left at 9:30, passing through birch forest before starting to climb.

View of mountains from Abiskojaure on a fine day

Leaving Abiskojaure

It turns out there were plenty of excellent camping spots shortly outside the park boundary.  So now I know that.  Many of them were still occupied when I passed.

Abiskojaure from the Kungsleden

Looking back at Abiskojaure

At the bridge, where the trail started to climb for real, I was passed by two young men – one in a bright blue shirt, the other in a flat cap and carrying a very large leather binocular (I think) case.  I leapfrogged with them throughout the day, and was looking forward to seeing them at the end of it and actually talking, but they either fell behind or took a different path.

Kungsleden between Abiskojaure and Alesjaure

It was pretty flat after the pass, and nice open tundra.  I saw loads of people.  Then I got to the lake (Alesjaure) and felt like I was home free, but of course I wasn’t, there being another 10 km ahead.  Alternated tundra and bog, with some rhodedendron [actually, dwarf willow] thrown in, mostly around the bog.

The descent to Alesjaure

The first sign at Alesjaurestugorna said 22 km back to Abiskojaure.  The second, 20 km.  Which was it? Who knows.  But I managed to press on (after a break) another km past Alesjaure hut, to find a nice private camping-spot on the hillside.  Some previous inhabitant thought it needed decoration and left some trash, which was unfortunate.  On closer inspection it might not be the best-drained, but I’m too tired to move the tent; I just hope it doesn’t rain too hard.

Campsite past Alesjaure

Saw my first reindeer of the trip as I sat eating my beans and rice; they went running from a dog and its associated hiker.

Faults on Kungsleden

Faults

Shiny rock

Phyllite? Biotite?
(I am not a petrologist!)

Gneiss in Alisvagge

Gneiss

Geology: Glacial striations.  Greenschist or phyllite? (Probably phyllite.) Faults. Folds? Awesome gneiss.  I took a lot of pictures.  Beware hiking with a geologist, for they will stop every five minutes to look at rocks …

August 10, 2012

I’m still sleeping intermittently, and woke at 2 am as before before going back to sleep.  I suspect that’s when the sun rounded the side of the mountain again.  It didn’t rain, and my tent site didn’t flood – though on reflection, considering there was a mouse hole, it probably wouldn’t have anyway.  The morning was less cold than the night before – though, cold enough that there was condensation all along the top of my sleeping bag.  I love my new sleeping bag – it’s so nice to actually sleep warm, after years and years of shivering in a steadily delofting bag! – but the condensation is an unexpected problem.  I wiped it off with my pack towel, or maybe just spread it around.

I got out of the tent around 6:30, and for breakfast put muesli in my hot cocoa, which seemed like a good idea at the time and actually wasn’t terrible – more palatable than oatmeal, since it was more heterogeneous.  Then I had a nice big mug of tea that wasn’t even dishwater tea, because I’d overestimated how much fuel I would need for breakfast.  It seems that for breakfast, a half-full burner is too full?

River valley surrounded by mountains; huts in the distance

Looking back at Alesjaurestugorna

I was one of the first people on the trail, I think, since no one passed my way between when I got up and when I left, and lots of tents were still pitched back at Alesjaure.  The sun was low over the mountain behind my tent, casting gold over the tops of the mountains that had been in shadow last night.  To the south, where I was bound, clouds gathered at the head of the valley.

It was up and up all day, in and out of sunlight as I wandered up Alisvaggi and the clouds rolled by overhead.  The wind blew steadily out of the south.  A lot of people passed me from behind; I was going a little slowly, but that’s all right.

Not a whole lot of notable geology – I spent a good part of the day wondering if some particular piles of gravel were drumlins or moraines or neither, and never really decided.

The trail ran over ground that was steadily drier, more rocky, and more tundra-like throughout the day.  Down on the valley floor, Aliseatnu meandered like a river ought to be able to as it runs to base level.  The Nordkalottleden/Kallotireiti runs together with the Kungsleden here, but I only saw one Nordkalottleden blaze post; all the other blazes were paired standing stones, painted orange, which made me feel like I was walking through a series of gates deeper and deeper into … somewhere.Paired stone blazes on the Kungsleden

In this valley, I started to really feel small.  There were some pleasant reminders of human presence, like the blazes and the boardwalks, and some less pleasant reminders, like irresponsibly scattered toilet paper, but both were dwarfed by the mountains – and by the thought of the weight of the glacier that once filled this broad valley.

Tundra mountain under dappled sunlight

My left elbow hurts, as it does when I play the accordion for too long.  I really don’t know why this would be, and wish it would stop.

Starting out the day, I wasn’t sure where I would end it – Tjaktjastuga seemed awfully close, but I didn’t know that I really wanted to go over the pass at the end of the day.  I had a thought of camping further in the pass, before the highest point.  But sitting on a rock before Tjaktjastuga as a disarray of French boys passed me, stuff dangling every which way off their backpacks, I began to doubt that plan.  The wind, which had never ceased, was stronger up there, and the pass offered no shelter.  I’m pretty sure my tent could handle it, but I wasn’t so sure I could pitch it by myself without it blowing away down the mountainside.

Rock fields near the Tjaktja pass; cloudy sky

So at 2 pm I called it a day and decided to stay in the hut.  Based on the way the wind as ceaselessly wailed in the chimneys for the past three hours, it was the right choice. Besides, there are people to talk to.  I don’t think I’d talked to anyone since Abiskojaure, which seems a long time ago, besides the quick “Hey!s” exchanged in passing.

Tjaktjastuga, perched above the river

Tjaktjastuga feels a little like Tuottar [which I visited many years ago] – windswept brown cabins cabled on to the mountainside.  But unlike Tuottar, which is a bunch of little cabins, Tjaktjastuga has one main cabin.  There are plenty of windows, which you’re not supposed to open – because the stuga will catch the wind and blow away, I suppose – and woodstoves keep the place warm  The kitchen is filling with the smells of everyone’s tasty dinners – and the wind wants in, and is knocking at the chimney.

I’ve spent a goodly amount of time talking to one of the guys who passed me as I sat eating my lunch and tending my blisters in the sunlit field between streams by the renvakterstuga in Alisvagge.  I guessed he was an American by his Keen boots and because he was wearing shorts with long underwear, and I was right – he’s from Minnesota, a mechanical engineer currently bumming around between jobs.  He’s bound for Hemavan and has less time to get there than I do.  And doesn’t seem particularly organized – his stove is can of chicken salad which he hasn’t eaten yet, on account of having been vegetarian for the past six years, and he has a guidebook but no maps and doesn’t know how to pace himself.  Still, as I said, it’s nice to be able to talk to someone.

The Fjallraven Classic race-ish thing from Nikkaluokta to Abisko started today, and we’ve seen the first brave souls running by on the trail on the other side of the gorge, which is terribly impressive – it’s a long way to Nikkaluokta.  The first guy came by about 4:30, and had already run over a marathon.  Tomorrow I expect to encounter the straggling hordes …

… and now it’s raining.

First snowfields today.

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