SOD KATAN | MARCH 23
Here in Övre Soppero we slee in a sod katan. Although... sleeping. Therefor the nights are way too beautiful, we watch the northern lights for hours. Britt-Marie’s mother (now 84) is grown up in such a katan and around the wooden house in which Britt-Marie and Per-Nils live now, we find beside this sod katan and the smoke katan, also a tipi and a shed full of items from the traditional Sámi-life. Under the name of Min Eallin (My Life) Britt-Marie and Per-Nils share their daily life and culture. With so much hospitality and in such a sympathic and relaxed atmosphere. Such a luck that I just happened to stay here. Like the northern lights. A present.
TWO WORLDS | MARCH 22
The smoke katan is not used so often anymore, but today Per-Nils Päiviö heats up the fire to hang a reindeer breast above it. The nicely colored clothes in which you so often see the Sámi on pictures, is changed for a Goretex jacket and a pair of working pants. Only with some ceremonies like weddings or funerals, these traditional clothes do get out of the cupboard. Only since the sixties the Sámi here live in houses, two generations back they went where their reindeer went. A lot has changed in short time. Tradition and modern times are mixing up. And although we outsiders like to keep up that romantic picture, reality is different. That is the great thing of traveling: it makes you review your images and adapt them.
THE RHYTHM OF THE REINDEER | MARCH 21
We call national parks like Sarek wild, but actually it is cultureground where for ages the Sámi herded their reindeer and lived in their katan. That’s why I didn’t want to head for home straight after Sarek, but first visit the Sámi. The Sámi are the indigenous people of what we nowadays call Lapland, totally 70.000 people with their own language and traditions, spreaded along 4 countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). Today we drove to one of Sweden’s most northerly places, Övre Soppero, a Sámi-village of 200 people, most of them reindeer herders. Britt Marie invites us inside. “The reindeer determine our rhythm, it cannot be the other way around.” Some cups of coffee and a good pile of knäckebröd later, she shows us the authentic sod hut (with woodstove) in which we will stay overnight. It seems that the reindeer even will determine my own rhythm these days.
LIGHT | MARS 20
Today we drove to Jokkmokk and visited the Ájtte museum on Swedish mountains and the Sámi people. I am standing here underneath the pine trees, the dark night has begun but in the northwest some sunlight is still visible. The light is coming back, each day minutes at once, the nights now last shorter than 10 hours and the days a little more than 14. Within 3 months the sun here doesn’t go down here at all. Life is – as is photography – all about light. That makes the land above the Polarcircle so irresistible. At times elusive – even unmanageable – but at the same time so much delicate, so tranquil and just so amazing beautiful. As the light at night. According to the Sámi myths all has a spirit – the earth, the light. I do understand that. If you sleep regularly under the stars yourself, you start thinking in a different way.
FREEDOM | MARCH 19
Stora Sjöfallet MAP POSITION
Today a day of rest: repacking our gear (what do we take to the Sami where we go after tomorrow, what can stowed away deeply in the car until home), hanging around and... of course go out for a serious run because rest doesn’t mean doing-nothing, it only means that you stop doing what became a habit. Underneath the old pine trees of Stora Sjöfallet, I run with Herschel along a snowscootertrail. In the direction of the Satihaure lake, which originally was part of my planned soloroute – if all had went different. That hurts, of course, but that sometimes just belongs to it as well. The sun promises the summer. New plans, new chances. To be in motion, means ultimate freedom because all the time you have to choose your own route.
OUTDOORLIFE | MARCH 18
Stora Sjöfallet Fjällstation
This morning finally the kind of winterday I hoped for the last weeks: –15, blue sky and no wind at all. To pitch the tent most of the days meant: to close the zipper en enjoy the tentlife inside (which is absolutely possible with downmatress, down sleepingbag, a good stove and enough food) but now we cook out breakfast outdoors with a view across Sarek. What a great place to be. This is outdoorlife as you would hope for. It’s allways different than one expects, you learn to cope with the difficulties and just then a morning like this is a true present. We ski today down to the Suorvadam, we catch the only bus and get back to our car. Finally in the evening somewhere, we arrive at Stora Sjöfallet Fjällstation where they have showers... And a shower never is that special as after a rough outdoorlife.
PROMISE | MARCH 17
Through the wooded valley of Sijddoätno we ski up. Left of us open up the most gorgious valleys like the narrow Basstavágge. It hurts to ignore them and ski past. My plan had been to ski across, but with these changing temperatures, this much snowfall and wind, the avalancherisk simply is too high. At the head of the Sijddoätno valley, where we make camp at the mountainlake Guordesluoppal, the dark snowclouds break open and there stand these lonesome small trees, highlighted in big mountains, on Sarek’s border. Like a promise. For another time, another winter. Sarek stays a dream to realise. I prefer to see it that way.in stead of feeling disappointed.
CONTRADICTIONS | MARCH 16
Near Namádis MAP POSITION
When we leave camp at 8, the sun is shining although the wind is blowing hard. 1 hour later, the mountains are hidden behind thick dark clouds. We struggle against the blowing wind, but my yellow snowgoggles make everything look so much brighter. At noon the snow starts to stick underneath the ski’s and our clothes get wet from the melting snowflakes. But then we pitch the tent and enjoy a long lazy tent-afternoon. Around us a new westerly depression explodes, but hidden deeply in the birchforest, it is a different world. To switch negative into positive seems to work quite easy today...
RICHNESS | MARCH 15
Tjalebákte MAP POSITION
The tent stays between the birch trees just above lake Sitojaure and close to the magic wall of Tjalebákte. Nearby I hear a raven. Frank prepares the stove in the fronttent. Herschel lies beside me, his head on my matress. Nothing special all together, but therefore all the more worthfull. So little is needed to feel rich out here.
POSSIBILITIES | MARCH 14
Svijnne MAP POSITION
Trekkings through nature force me to think in possibilities. Being sad that Rapadalen won’t be a safe route now, brings me no further. Going back in northern direction across Njunjes doesn’t only mean a new chance to enter Sarek by a different route, but also offers an excellent view across Rapadalen’s delta. We’ve passed this place before, but then we saw only clouds. Today was unexpected perfection.
FLEXIBILITY | MARCH 13
Aktse MAP POSITION
Again stormwind and snowfall, 70 cm fresh wet snow. Our progresse is very slow and the river has a lot of thin ice and open water because of the warm temperatures of the last days. We have to follow this river at least 4 days uphill. How wise will that be? But we are so close to Sarek now... Yet we decide to turn and go back to Aktse. The river just isn’t save enough right now, but if we go back and up the lake Sitojaure, we can try enter Sarek from there. Flexibility means to let nature guide you. Not easy, but I believe the best way.
HEAVY | MARCH 12
Rapadalen MAP POSITION
It may sound strange, but warmth is the worsest thing for who is wintercamping. When it snows heavily at zero degrees, your gear gets soaked and the snowcover changes into a wet snowswamp. Our skipoles sometimes sink in until our hands, other times we ourselves sink through 1 meter of snow into the riverwater. The only right thing – again – is waiting. We seek shelter against the strong wind in the birchforest and make a good camp. So great to be together now!
RESPECT | MARCH 11
After another day along the Kungsleden (the last) we arrive at Aktse where we enjoy the Swedish ‘stugorna’ for the last time. Tomorrow we go without trail into the delta of Rapadalen, the gateway into Sarek. To keep looking for the bright and beautiful – the ice parts – is important, as to have respect for this great winterworld. How far we will get, I don’t know with this fresh snowfall and too high temperatures. But we take it one day at a time.
KUNGSLEDEN | MARCH 10
Sitojaurestugorna MAP POSITION
Distance is not absolute, especially in winter. We chose for the Kungsleden as our way into Sarek (of 4 days) because it is frequently driven by snowscooters (good trail). By the time we really enter Sarek, our pulks are lighter. Just 11 km today untill the hut at Sitojaure, but in storm that means endless hours of slow motion. The key not only to finally reach our goal but also to stay warm.
HOUSEWARMING | MARCH 9
Through the birchforest we ski up the hill, but as soon as we leave the trees behind, the wind catches us in the face. In 15 min. we are blown backwards more than we ski forward, Bft 8-9. This is of no use. We ski back down into the forest, make a snowpit and wait an hour or so. Then we try again, Bft 6-7. Just about possible, with skigoggles and the right clothes. After some hours of tough going, we reach the shelter Autsutjvagge. A real nice place where my friends and I make a good party (after 1.5 hour of snow shoveling it can start...)
WORLD HERITAGE SITE LAPONIA | MARCH 8
Saltoluokte Fjällstation MAP POSITION
That exciting feeling of taking your ski’s and heading out into the white. This afternoon it finally was time again. A short and easy start, because at 1.5 hour we were at Saltoluokta Fjällstation. This 100 year old building of the Swedish mountainclub is too special to just pass by. Swedish hospitality (yes, with sauna of course) in a traditional setting in the middle of world heritage site Laponia, to which Stora Sjöfallet NP (where we are now) and Sarek NP (where we’re going to) both belong, not only because of the great mountainworld but also because of the Sami culture and history.
REPACKING | MARCH 7
Trekking through nature by fair means is about balance. Taking too much on the trip means no progression, taking too less means no safety. To find the right balance between those always is an art in itself. Two weeks of food, fuel, camping gear, photo- and filming equipment: divided in watertight bags, each of a different color that makes you find the right bag blindly even in the worst weather. Frank and I eagerly go in and out the cabin to load our sleds with gear. Even inside the sled all things have their own place. Repacking means looking in the future. I am looking forward, into the mountains. The weather or circumstances can push us back again. But to travel means to create chances. Guaranties don’t exist. Nowhere. Never. Just chances. That is always reason enough to be on the go.
DAWN | MARCH 6
While a new day is sliding forward, silently when Kvikkjokk is still sleeping – between 5 and 6 in the morning with the cold shadows still hanging in the valleys and the sun only a far away promise – I am outside for a walk. Because this is the best moment. Ready to go but still enjoying the forwarded start, like a promise. The dawnfeeling so to speak. Today Frank is arriving here, tomorrow packing everything for 2 weeks Sarek and the day after tomorrow driving north to Kebnats, a dead-end sideroad, a busstop but above all our starting point for Sweden’s wildest and most alpine area. That is what I like about photography: in one single picture a thousand words come together.
WRITTEN ROUTE ON THE MAP | MARCH 4
“Electric little solar parts, moving through the atmosphere and colliding there with other parts and that collision causes the magical moving lights”. So far the scientific explanation of the northern lights and no doubt this is how it works, but according to the traditional Sami songs, these curtains in the sky are the souls of those who died and now dance along the starry night. And believe me, standing there in the cold (Yes! Finally below –20 again!) underneath these green glowing waves, the Sami explanation is the one that strikes my heart. Here I am at the frozen Tarraätno river, just outside Kvikkjokk – a place I did not plan to go, I had drawn a different route on the map and I came here unintended – and yet the only thing I can do is taking deep breathes and endlessly looking above me. Maybe this is what they call happiness. Obviously that has nothing to do with written routes on maps, then.
DREAMS | MARCH 3
‘Dreams are foolish. ‘Don’t dream so much’. Already young, we are learned to stick with both our feet on earth. A nice, practical way of being, only too often it is accompanied with the not so loudly spoken thought ‘behave yourself normally, please’. That feels quite restricting, I found out, after working for years as a schoolteacher with my head full of dreams about the kind of outdoorlife I live now. Where your heart is, that’s where the dreams begin. It sounds so easy: doing what you love doing. That’s also the biggest obstacle because in reality things always are a little more difficult, more severe, less nicely curled. The law of the north might as well be the law of the dreams: tomorrow won’t be easier. But as magic as Aurora Borealis lightens up the northern sky, as great it feels to live my dream.
PARADISE | MARCH 2
Gasskájvo is a beautiful mountain west of Kvikkjokk and on my daytrip along Padjelantaleden I can see it well. Kvikkjokk is paradise, really, in all meanings. A small simple cabin, aquite settlement of nice houses in Swedish yellow or red nested between big mountains and signs everywhere – not for cars but for skiërs/hikers. No supermarket or other shops, just a mountain hotel where they serve great food. And yes, quite some snowscooterpeople (but about them no bad words anymore after yesterday). So yes, my Place To Be. And the village lies quickly behind me when heading for Gasskájvo. Life is easy when returning in sweat to a warm cabin. But I am studying my magic BD10 map allready, because I know that in a few days, when my husband Frank joins me here in Kvikkjokk, we will head out again to the mountains, with sled and fully equipped. Hopefully to Sarek.
LAST 4 DAYS OVERLOOK | FEB 27 - 1 MAR
Muorannjunnje-Vájmokstugan-Kvikkjokk MAP POSITION
Wintercamping is about 3 things: the right equipment, the needed experience and endless heaps of patience. I needed all 3 the next days. On 27 febr the weather looked quite OK but the barometer was sinking quickly, so I left the tent where it was, build a row of snowwalls and brought half a sledload up the hill to a make a depot. That night hell was out. Bft 11. Snowwalls were blown away, snow blown off the tentflaps and inside all went white (and wet). For hours I hold the tent. In case the tent would brake down, I would shovel a small ‘grave’ and put the sled above me and the dog. But the snowanchors (and the tent) hold.
The next day I could only go to the depot, then the snow and wind were too bad (Bft 8) to carry on safely so I pitched the tent. problem became the temperature. –2. All went wet, what I wore, what was inside the tent (sleepingbag), all was dripping. Besides, the snowcover got a sort of concrete. 90 cm new and awfully wet snow. It snowed continiously since the last storm.
On 29 febr I shoveled through the wet snow to get to Vájmokstugan. A pretty bad experience with ski’s sinking kneedeep. But that hut would be my change: a stove to dry out gear. We get there. All wet. Exhausted. But the huts closed under heaps of snow. Shoveled snow away from the doors, tried to break them open because in Swedish mountain huts there ‘s always an emergencyroom with stove. But it stayed closed like a safe. So again I pitched the tent in the rainsnow, inside all getting wetter and wetter. I need serious frost to get away here anyway but then, that would now be dangerous too.
Next morning (yesterday) I took my satphone and got in contact with the local mountain security. They picked me (and Herschel) up with snowscooters and brought us the 40 remaining km to Kvikkjokk. I felt very emotional during this, as me and my dog, we are totally healthy and here we are being rescued. Patience, experience and the right gear isn’t all. Intuïtion is important too. There comes a certain moment that you know-feel you have to take another road. Better listening to that than ignoring it for that stupid inner voice that shouts “Hé you idiot, shouldn’t you do all by yourself?”
“Where you want to go in Kvikkjokk?” one of the man disrupts my thoughts.
“Oh, anywhere where there is small cabins to stay in!” So I arrive at Kvikkjokk Turistsenter Stugby of Camping.
PS.1. The police tells me later that this whole operation (2 man for 6 hours in bad weather) is for free for me. “We like to help people”.
PS.2. I don’t know why still, but the last 4 days I couldn’t get through sending the blog with the server, although I made them each day.
PS.3. The emergency room of Vájmokstugan appeared to be frozen solid (not closed). I discovered this 1 hour before they picked me up, as the door was thawed free.
THE LAW OF THE NORTH | FEB 26
Muorannjunnje MAP POSITION
The sun was shining along the reinder and herschel decided all of a sudden to not be the obedient dog any longer, he disappeared for 15 min. Then there is a climb of 400 m, nothing during a summers hike, but now it means 2 half sled loads to climb. During a break, my tooth breaks in half... There’s not many things to be sure of up north, but 1 is certain: tomorrow it won’t be any easier. But. I am so lucky to be able to spend time here!
SILENCE | FEB 25
Lájrosläddo MAP POSITION
Silence exists up here in many variations. Like snow isn’t white only. The silence during windforce 8 is incredible loud but in a clear starry night it’s magical and when I plough through the deep snow it is rather frightening sometimes. It always takes some days before I get used to this new balance where silence is so much more than the lack of noise and where snow becomes colourful.
ADAPTING | FEB 24
Pieskehaure MAP POSITION
The most important lesson of wilderness trekkings is to learn to adapt. Because of the immense load of fallen snow last week, the avalanche risk is high and the possibility of trekking (with a heavy pulk) low. In this part of Sweden the mountains are serious and therefore I change my route first now in easterly direction, following Nordkalottleden direction Kvikkjokk. Today I pass the Swedish border (a large stoneman in a lonesome mountainpass) and go down to lake Pieskehaure. No easy downhill for a heavy load so I will do that with half of the gear (in 3 times up and down).
RECOVERY | FEB 23
Today I stay here in the woodstove-cabin. Recovering, reparing my sled (which gliders were ruined the first days by all the stones) but most of all: throughly enjoying. The magical silence. The sun who shows herself again. The icecrystals on the window. It ‘s just small things but after the last days they become enlarged. And that makes it all the more precious to me.
HEAVEN ON EARTH | FEB 22
Muorki hytta MAP POSITION
80 cm fresh snow and a complete whiteout let today be another remarkable day. Rather exhausted I reach this lonesome little mountaincabin. But the bigger the contrast! A cosy woodstove (all frozen clothing from the rainday can be dried!), complete relaxation. A heaven on earth, all of a sudden.
GALEFORCE | FEB 21
Lomivatnet again MAP POSITION
Tonight the wind shifted 180 degr. and this morning speeded up to galeforce. A big problem as I have no snowwall at that side. 3 hours nonstop I hold the fronttent from bending down. The worst hours since long. If this goes wrong, it’s serious. As soon as it blows a little less hard, I build a new snowwall and check all anchors. Just in time, a new gale is coming. But now I can use the frontcompartment again and lit my stove. Hot freezedried K9Natural for my dog, porridge and a strong coffee for me. Harmfullness and power, they sometimes do exist at the same time.
VARIABLE | FEB 20
Lomivatnet, 700 m. MAP POSITION
Finally arriving at Lomivatnet, I first find iceslush underneath the snow. Herschels feet soon ice up and he shivefrs. So I stop, warm his feet 1 by 1 (with my mouth), then put pawgrease and booties on them. Further the lake is okay and nicely flat. Now the wind picks up, snow is blowing in my face. Deep snow to plough through in a complete whiteout. Ideal circumstances to put up my Nammatj tent and call it a day... Now its about learning to handle all these variations each day brings.
HEAVY DAY | FEB 19
W. of Lomivatnet
After half an hour of pulling, I have to stop. The ‘road’ to Lomivatnet has no snow any longer (blown away) and is full of stones. But this ‘road’ is my best option to get to Lomivatnet, as the terrain is too rocky with steep sections. So I carry all the gear and the sled in 5 shifts and 3 hours. Then I am 1 km further. This occurs a 2nd time. Then it has started to rain, the enemy of every wintercamper. More stones follow, then snowdrifts (the sled tipped over 20 times). It snows again, hard wind now but –8 for Gods sake! What a day. If this continues this way... But once I have made a new camp, I try to focus on all the positives I can think of.
THE CLIMB | FEB 18
Above Sulitjelma MAP POSITON
With the taxi I get from Fauske to Sulitjelma. A tiny village, a frozen fjord and lots of mountains. Herschel runs around, barking loudly. It is –6, Bft 7-8, but according to my husky the world is like it should be. I myself feel slightly less comfortable: leaving cosy Hotell Fauske behind – on purpose – and pulling my 90 kg sled up the hill, straight against the strong wind, is kind of exciting. But after a few hours of pulling, slow and heavy, I get more relaxed. I know I am where I want to be. Already.
ARCTIC CIRCLE | FEB 17
Fauske, Norway MAP POSITION
It’s far from easy to get above the arctic circle. 11 hours took the train from Oppdal to Fauske. Through endless pinewoods and each time the train stopped, Herschel wondered why we didn’t get out to start our trip. “Isn’t it great here, boss?” Yes. Sure. But Swedish Lapland was the plan. The reason for that is simple. As ‘lappi’ is old Finnish for ‘empty barren ground’. The land where the Sápmi people lived longer than anyone remembers. There are the national parks of Padjelanta, Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet and the Kebnekaise area, the European version of Alaska. Mighty mountains where no one expects them.
That is, Herschel, why we ‘re not getting out of the train before passing 66 degrees north!
BREAK | FEB 16
Oppdal, Norway MAP POSITION
Tomorrow morning, me and Herschel will take the train to Fauske (where the sled and all the other equipment is waiting for us) and Frank will start preparations for his wintercourses.
But for today we only enjoy this cabin. Some time together. A magic break before we both head into the snow, each in a separate direction.
TAKE CARE! | FEB 15
Oppdal, Norway MAP POSITION
The car brought us today untill Oppdal, along the sometimes white and slippery E6 where we have to watch out for moose and where big trucks make us disappear into a whiteout. We have to take care, not only during the expedition but for sure on the way into it.
THE ART OF TRAVEL | FEB 14
Lillehammer, Norway MAP POSITION
This morning the ferry broke through sea-ice, then our car drove a whole day through frozen hills. These first days are for transport, necessairy but not very inspiring. Nature is still too far away. The real way of travelling is when the destination is not the most important.
Later this week, when on ski’s with Herschel jumping around happily and behind us the sled with everything for a month of backcountry-trekking, then the travelspeed will change dramatically. I will have to read the snow, I must learn to speak the language of the northern winter. It could well be that the art of travel starts when being out there is more important than arriving.
THE DOORSTEP | FEB 13
Akersloot, The Netherlands MAP POSITION
Have I got everything? What if something bad happens? Won’t it be too far, too lonesome? My sled be too bulky? There have been 1001 things to check en recheck but now all these preparations are over. Its about time to leave. Time to take that final and maybe most difficult hurdle: that of my own frontdoor.
TIME FOR TRAINING | JAN 27
The period before leaving is full of contradictions. Sometimes I am already there. During training on the beach near home f.i., pulling cartires behind me to strengthen my body for the weight of my sled later (90 kg), I dream about the frozen landscape where I soon will travel through, for more than a month. Its silence, its northern lights; but also its cold and the constant state of awareness it ’ll ask from me. No easy going there. That is why these dreams become nightmares at night. Then I see my sled breaking through the ice of a lake. I see my husky being attacked by a wolverine. I get awake in sweat. Do I need to go, really?
Of course not. This travel is luxury. There is no need. I do not have to hunt for food.
But this travel – each travel through wild places – is my way of bonding with nature. At home it weakens, as all seems do-able, reach-able. That’s why I have to get out there every now and then.
SENDING OF LUGGAGE | JAN 26
To travel is to create chances. There are no garanties. Never. Nowhere. I am clearly aware of that, when carrying all my gear in the car to send it ahead. Weeks I was busy with it: 33 days of food for myself and my husky Herschel, first aid, campingstuff, photo- & filmequipment, ski’s. When I will arrive on Febr 17 in Fauske, Norway, it will all be there, hopefully. For Mr. Postman it is just some strange boxes. For me, it will be life. Later. When I close my frontdoor at home and start the travel.