Autumn trekking in Sarek
The breathing is strained, the pack on the back is heavy. Wet boots are searching for the best way up the rocky escarpments. Not a foot bridge as far as the eye can see, just subtle paths trod by reindeer and other animals. Sarek’s mighty autumn landscape is spread out mile upon mile.
In the beginning of September autumn swathes in and paints mountain moors, valleys and high mountains with its dramatic, sparkling colours. Some mornings the frost is glistening in the ruby red ‘Ripriset’ and the mountain peaks are a shining white. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The air is cool and clear, the sky infinitely blue. Other days the mist is heavy in the valleys. Not a mountain peak to be seen.
It is high time for Laponia Adventure’s autumn trek in Sarek. The Mountain guides Christian Heimroth and Mirja Andersson have thoroughly checked the mountain experience and fitness of the participants before they are given the all clear to take their spot in the group. This week long trek is not a Sunday stroll. As matter of fact, it is the total opposite. Here you must have stamina, good lungs and a pinch of “I never give up”.
- It requires hiking experience to appreciate this trip, preferable also experience in camping and being able to carry a heavy load through varied terrain. You need to know what to expect, what it’s like to keep on trekking day after day, says Christian Heimroth, educated nature guide who has arranged trips in and around the World Heritage Listed Laponia since 2004.
Count on hardships
To carry your pack on a trip like this truly means to cart everything. Clothes, tent, sleeping bag, kitchen, fuel, hygiene articles and other bits one does not want to be without. Plus the food for the week, although the guides ensure to split that weight between the participants. The scales usually end up somewhere between eighteen and twenty-two kilos, which is pretty heavy when the sloop is steep and there are no well-trodden paths.
- It takes about two days for the body to adjust to the heavy load, says Christian.
Sarek is void of clearly marked tracks, no bridges, no huts. Nothing is laid out for hikers here. There are no other alternatives than to wade across rippling creeks. In reality this means you simply have to wait, sometimes for days, if the water level is too high and the risk too great. Even if the water settles. To trek in Sarek you need to be prepared for everything. Things don’t always go as planned.
History lesson with a staggering time perspective
After a three day trek through Rapadalen, the home of the huge Sarek moose, a day of rest is awaiting at Snavvavagge. The view is miles wide. Here you can follow moose with your eyes and perhaps other animals too, if you’re lucky.
- In Rapadalen the focus is on the moose and we speak a lot about how the area has been used over the centuries, about reindeer handling, the Sami culture and the new settlers, says Christian.
The trek is also an odyssey through the geological history. It’s fascinating to start noticing and to understand how the area has been carved through millions of years, when there has been ice ages and ice deglaciation successively. The time perspective is staggering. After a while there is another enlightenment. There are only a few signs of human presence here and the ones that are found are treated with homage and respect rather than dismay.
- The World heritage listed area is by far the wildest area in Sweden where it is stated that everything is to be preserved and kept as original as it is possible, says Christian.
Live with wet feet
The areas of conversation in the group will often swap from highs to lows. You’ll have time to get to know each other well in a short period of time when sharing a fire and tribulations.
- Usually a lot of chats and often deep discussions, everything from politics to tips and tricks of how to feel good despite soaked feet.
Just soaked feet is a chapter in itself. No matter how well greased and polished your boots are, your feet will still get wet. The very first day.
- It’s really hard to put on wet socks and boots in the morning, it’s simply no point in using dry ones from the pack. Here we are all outside our comfort zone, says Christian.
The food spice up rainy days
Life is good when the sun is shining over Bielavallda. Reality is just as fantastic as the tourist brochures colour saturated “perfect weather pictures”. One mighty panorama after another.
- It’s easy to be a guide on a sunny day. It’s when we get caught in rain, bad vision and everything gets damp, that’s when it’s hard to keep up the spirit of the group and keep going. Just got to try and have a twinkle in the eye, says Christian.
The guides have a universal trick that work every time. The Food. Not a trace of industrially dried food here. Christian and Mirja are proud to chef together meals made with locally dried delicacies from Jokkmokks local raw produce, like suovas smoked reindeer meat and mountain fish. A meal like that usually get the smiley faces back on anyone that may have had a lull in the mood department.
- The food is of vital importance. When it has been really heavy going the food will raise the positive atmosphere in the group. Sometimes, if someone has an extra tough time or day, one has to be prepared to redistribute the load and help each other.
Feeling of victory despite numb legs
The Sarek trek starts off by helicopter transport from Kvikkjokk till Rapadalen, at the border of Sarek national park, and the finish line is, after numerous miles trekking, in Saltoluokta. During the last couple of days the group is starting to itch to get to the finish line. The feeling of having accomplished something together grows into a satisfactory sense of victory. Daily routines are developed and everyone lends a hand. On numb legs, without speaking, we stumble the last kilometres towards the mountain hut for our last night prior to the boat transport across Sitojaure. Roof over our heads feel luxurious.
- That last night in the hut is actually the end of the mountain trip before civilisation awaits. The last day is easy going. Garbage, which we all have carried through all of Sarek have been disposed of where they belong, in the trash can, says Christian.
When the group finally reaches the mountain station in Saltoluokta the inclination to mix with other people is low.
- We usually want to sit alone and stay in our little bubble for a bit longer. Even if we are quite happy to tell others how tough it really was.
It’s a bunch of tired, yet satisfied, travellers that summarises their Sarek trip on the sauna bench before the wind-up dinner at the mountain station. When the group disperse and everyday life is back there are still pictures to gloat over and is actively shared on social media.
- Most people will stay in touch with each other for a long time. A trip in Sarek, with all it entails, is not something that will be forgotten in a hurry, says Christian Heimroth.
Read more about Sarek’s nationalpark: https://www.sverigesnationalparker.se/park/sarek-nationalpark/
Read more at www.axelhamberg.se about the researcher, the teacher and professor Axel Hambergs lives project in Sarek between 1894 and 1931. His work of studying the glaciers got extended to include mapping, bedrock, Quaternary Geology, meteorology and hydrology. He established his own research station in Sarek and in 1901 published the first larger summary of his findings.