• Trip report
  • Travel season for ski touring and hiking in Lapland
  • Gear list and short gear review
  • Food for a backcountry ski tour
  • Traveling to Lapland by car
  • What would I do differently next time?
  • If you’d like some music while reading, this would be the song to go with: John Butler Trio – Wait for spring to come

Trip report: 11 days along the Padjelantaleden, through Sarek National Park and along the Kungsleden

It’s early for Sarek is the reaction we get from most locals when we tell them we’re heading out for a ski tour through Sarek National Park. It’s only February. A lot of snow… And cold! While Sarek is often called one of Europe’s last wildernesses, for the Sami people, whose land this is, it isn’t “wild”, for them it has always been home for the summer. It is where in May their reindeer will give birth to their calves and will spend the short snowfree time up in the mountains, growing strong for the cold and dark winter. Sápmi stretches from northern Norway, over northern Sweden and Finland, all the way to northern Russia. A tundra landscape north of the arctic circle. In winter the sun barely touches the horizon and snow covers the bushes, lichen, mosses, birch and pine trees. It’s the land where the Gods speak through Northern Lights high in the starry sky…

While we normally would head South in winter, this year things come differently. Ever since surgery life has changed. Instead of sweet I eat savory breakfast, instead of getting up at the crack of dawn I stay in bed till the birds are long done singing their morning song, instead of traveling South I travel North. Never before had I really felt the pull of the nordic landscape, but when we couldn’t agree on a place to go to South Dan suggested Sarek and everything in me said Yes. Maybe because doing the opposite of what I used to do feels good. My life has been turned upside down, my body is no longer fully abled, but my sense for adventure has survived. The past half a year I’ve lived with the question “How do I live my life well, really well, even with chronic pain?”

Kvikkjokk – Padjelantaleden – Sarek – Kungsleden – Kvikkjokk

In between work and more work we spent the month of January poring over maps. Something we both love. And we came up with a plan: A ski tour starting in Kvikkjokk, going west-northwest along the Padjelanteleden, going north and east through Sarek National Park, and back south to Kvikkjokk along the Kungsleden. Roughly 160 km through the cold and snow, through one of the most remote landscapes in Europe. And while Dan has a lot of experience skitouring through the Alps, I can’t ski one bit and the cold has never been my friend. I like to blame my surgeon who said to me before surgery In one year time you’ll be back at skiing. Little did he know I can’t ski but instead sparked my desire to head out into the arctic snow. Am I mad? Maybe I am, but hell what would life be without madness? 

So in the beginning of February we packed our bags, the pulka, a shit-ton of dehydrated food and a bottle of whiskey into our Subaru Forester and drove 3000km up north, all the way to the arctic circle. This is our story.

Day 1: February 15: Kvikkjokk – Camp 7 km further West along the Padjelantaleden, -8°C / 17°F, sun and clouds

It’s 10 o’clock already when we check out from Villa Asgard, the youth hostel in Jokkmokk, where we spent the past 2 days getting everything ready for our tour. A warm, cosy and truly friendly place to stay with a very kind host called Cecilia. The closer we drive towards the mountains the more the sun pours through the clouds that have been covering the land for days. Oh what a difference the sun makes! Mid February she doesn’t climb high, but she climbs high enough to fill the sky with hope.

We park our car at the Kungsleden parking lot at the end of the village of Kvikkjokk, pack the pulka, put the skins on our backcountry skis and are ready to head out. Let me not speak of base pack weight this time, this ain’t no ultralight summer hike. With temperatures sinking as low as -35°C/-31°F this tour is not the one to fret over grams. And yet since I can’t carry heavy loads due to my condition, we have to try to go as light and at the same time as safe as possible. While I only carry a sleeping bag, sleeping mat, my down jacket, some extra clothes, basic first aid, water and a few snacks in my backpack, Dan gets to pull the 40kg heavy pulka and carry a 10kg backpack. We have enough fuel and food to spend at least 13 to 14 days self-supported in our tent. I try not to feel guilty but I still do. It’s what we have to live with when we wanna continue heading out on adventures. He gets the weight, I get the pain… Fair deal.

Just as we’re heading out we meet Jonas and Olaf, who are coming back from an 8 day backcountry tour along the Padjelantaleden. They’re super friendly but also tell us of quite some harsh conditions and even though I haven’t put one ski on the trail yet I start questioning our plans. Have we planned a tour much too long and difficult? Will we make it? I used to think I can do everything… if only one wants it bad enough right? Not right! I learned a lot in the past years. ‘Cause it’s just not worth ruining my body for wanting something bad enough. The lesson of balance is an important one.

The sun is already on her downward journey when we ski along and over the Kvikkjokk river delta where the rivers Tarraälven and Kamajokk meet. We don’t plan on going far today. Only three hours till it gets dark. We follow the snowmobile track made by locals who go ice fishing or hunting for ptarmigans. It goes up and down through the pine and birch tree forest, but when we’re on the river we take off our skins ’cause it’s exhausting having them on while skiing on a flat surface. The view is amazing though: A perpetual sunset in a never ending postcard.

It’s 4 pm when evening falls and so we look for a place to camp. The snow is hip deep and soft like cotton candy but we manage to pitch our tent and get comfortable. We each have two sleeping bags, two sleeping mats (one evazote and one neo-air), and very very warm down jackets. While I hide out in my sleeping bag Dan melts snow. I think… I see northern lights I hear him say. Never have I crawled out of my sleeping bag this fast. Excuse my words (ya not really) but: Holy fucking shit! No wonder people say it’s the Gods speaking. For the next 20 minutes we get the most incredible show right above our heads. Green curtains, and a hunch of purple, moving and dancing high in the sky. I’m not sure what They are trying to tell me. You’ve seen us now, better you head back before accidents happen. Or maybe Welcome. Go on you badass warrior! ? One thing I know is that it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. Damn. Magic truly exists! Maybe this is why I came up North, because of the lights that tell you that even in the coldest and darkest nights, there is something more, there is hope, life is so worth living.

During the night temperatures drop to -28°C and a “panic attack” caused by two tightly closed sleeping bags (we all know ’em) makes me sleep with my head outside of the hood anyway.

 

Day 2: February 16: Camp + 15 km till Tarrekaisestugan, -9°C / 15°F, snow, clouds, some sun

Our alarm goes off at 6 am. This ain’t no holiday. Seriously, we gotta make some changes. This is no life getting up at 6 am while we’re on vacation! Just kidding. Of course we get up at 6. It’s time to melt snow so we can head out at 8 am the latest. Everything takes much longer during a winter tour. While in summer we break camp in 20 minutes, this time it takes us 2 hours and 10 minutes. Melting snow, boiling water for the day, coffee, warm breakfast, packing the double amount of sleeping bags and mats. Wearing thick down mitts doesn’t make it any easier. Ugh!

We get back on the snowmobile track and while we head out it starts to snow. Big beautiful snowflakes fall from the grey sky. We continue along the Padjelantaleden, one of the trails that is marked both in summer and in winter. We’re already skiing for 2 hours when blue holes appear in the clouds. Holes of hope I call them. And then the sun lights the mountains and I’m in awe. While we have lunch sitting in the sun on our pulka, a local on his snowmobile and his dog Pirak stop to have a little chat. He just went out with Pirak to hunt in the snow, but the snow is too deep so now they wanna go ice fishing. He shows us Piraks little snowboots and he even has a snowsuit in the colors of the swedish backcountry ski team. He asks us what we’re up to and we tell him about our Sarek plans. It’s early for Sarek he says (surprise!) but his eyes light up when we talk to him about sleeping in our tent and cooking food on our backcountry stove. Last year I did something alike, but not in February! We all laugh.

After half an hour break we head on but we’re tired already and backcountry skiing is hard work. We meet an injured reindeer in the middle of the lake and I cry cause I can’t help her. We assume she’s been attacked by a wolverine but who knows what happens out here in cold and forgotten places. Life and death are close neighbors here. When I pass, Reindeer gets up with her last power and looks at me with big eyes. I see fear and sadness but maybe all I see is myself. If only I had lichen. If the trees on the riverside have lichen I will pick some, ski back and give it to her. No one cares that I am tired. The trees have none and then all I have left are prayers. When we reach Tarrekaisestugan, a STF hut along the Padjelantaleden, I see 2 snowmobiles pass on the river and I hope they will help.

The huts along the marked trails have winter safety rooms that are equiped with a stove, a bunk bed, some pots and pans and sometimes a candle. Also there’s a wood shed, where you have to chop wood for the next one who arrives looking for shelter. As for payment, they ask you to wire the money to the STF account once you get home.

While we hadn’t planned to sleep in huts, the safety room of Tarrekaisestugan comes like a blessing. Dan lights the fire and we drink hot cocoa. In the evening we eat mashed potatoes with rehydraded spinach beet from my moms garden and rehydraded scrambled eggs. The warm wood stove and chocolate pudding for dessert make it feel like a luxury vacation.

Every time I wake up at night I think of Reindeer on the lake. Between us the thin line of life and death.

 

Day 3: February 17: Tarrekaisestugan – Sammarlappastugan: 12 km, -30°C / -22°F, sunny

We leave the blessing of the safe shelter when the sun hits the first mountain tops. Once we are on the river the cold slaps us in the face. It’s so fucking cold I have to put on my balaclava and my expedition mitts. We check the thermometer and it shows -30°C / -22°F. That’s a first. The snowmobile tracks get less higher up in the backcountry, instead it’s the snow hares writing their stories in the untouched snow. Their tracks are to die for. So damn cute with their big hairy paws, way bigger than a normal hare. This land is tracker’s paradise. Fox, Wolverine, lynx, moose… they’re all here. I think of our tracker friends So and Pinar, they’d love it out here!

With blue skies above it stays cold all day, maximum temperature is -25°C / -13°F, and so we can only sit for a few minutes to have lunch. Movement means warmth. The chronic hamstring tendinopathy I’ve been dealing with ever since surgery keeps on bothering me. I wonder what my surgeon’d say about this crazy endeavor, me moving 8 hours a day in temperatures that are non-human. I imagine how a conversation’d go. Good for you, you keep going! or maybe Have you lost your mind completely?  is what I imagine him saying. In reality he probably doesn’t care. And so I let go of the conversation in my head ’cause life’s too short for imaginary conversations. I rather talk to the thick blanket of snow and the creatures below who are the ones giving me the teaching of the North, of how to live well with all the good and the bad, of how to store energy and preserve life in dark times and in a way still thrive or maybe thrive because of it. It’s a teaching of active patience. Of knowing when to act and knowing when to wait and trust that spring will come eventually. Doing all you can while trusting patiently.

It’s only 1.45pm when we reach Sammarlapastugan but we decide to stay ’cause we can’t find a reason to move on when it’s so damn cold outside. Take no shelter for granted. Much like in life, it’s good to know when to stop and when to move on. The teaching put into practice. So we light the fire, melt snow, chop wood, play chess and master mind and while it’s -32°C / -25°F outside, inside it’s +32°C / 89°F and each time we open the door to look for northern lights, the cold enters like a ghost that goes hiding in corners and under beds.

Under faint northern lights and the blessing of a warm wood stove we go to bed. Laying down is like heaven for my body.

 

Day 4: February 18: Sammarlappastugan – Tarraluoppalstugorna: 15 km, – 25°C / -13°F, sun and clouds

We manage to leave at 8. After a short while the clouds give way to the sun rays that one after the other light the peaks around us. It reminds me of a display cabinet in a museum where you have to push a button and then something is lit and all your attention goes to the one thing shining in all its glory. Maybe it’s the Gods from the Northern Lights pushing the buttons here. Today you get to go first… they say to the peak at my right.

We follow the last snowmobile track all the way up to the border of the Unesco Heritage Laponia and have to put the skins on our skis to leave Tarradalen Valley and the tree line behind us. This is pure beauty. Untouched snow. No humans. Only wild creatures. There’s another peace here. Uncivilized natural peace. There’s a special beauty, Dan says, in skiing the first line in a landscape. He’s right. It’s much like a blank page in an unwritten book. So much possibilities. Words and worlds left open. A door into everything that could be.

During the past 4 days we’ve been skiing with the idea of We can still turn back in the back of our heads. So what do we do now? Can we make it? The next hut is far and beyond lays our point of no return. Once we move past the next hut, we enter Sarek and there are no more huts nor trails nor nothing. I hate turning back. I want to continue. I wanna write a new story in the snow. Let’s continue for one more hour, have lunch and then decide whether we turn back or not, Dan suggests. Agreed! And so we ski on and are in heaven. Yes it’s hard work in the deep snow but the landscape has a power that feeds our souls. When it’s 12pm it’s too cold to have lunch, so we just pour peanuts into our mouths and chocolate and cookies and we no longer ask the question as whether to go on or not. We just go.  

As we ski on the sun plays hide and seek. She moves along the ridge of the mountain west of us and we ski along the shadow line. I imagine it’s the border of my comfort zone. After crossing the river we see Tarraluoppalstugorna in the distance and we know we can do it. I’m both surprised and proud we make it so far today and while it’s -15°C / 5°F inside of the hut and there’s only a small gas heater, I am happy. We are in Sarek!

 

Day 5: February 19: Tarraluoppalstugorna – Sarvesvagge, 11km, -20°C / -4°F, mostly cloudy

It’s windy when we leave the last hut behind us. We find our way up along the river, all while the sun tries to break through the clouds but has to give up after a while. The views though, the views. We can’t see far, but still enough to be in awe. I feel like we’re on the North Pole.

We climb till the highest point of 940m and then next to one of the few summer reindeer fences we dig a windshelter hole to sit in for lunch. It’s “only” -20°C / -4°F but the windchill I tell you. Damn it’s cold. My hands freeze off and when we ski down towards the entrance of Sarvesvagge valley the wind blows like crazy and under my skis I see pure ice. Who told me it was a good idea to go on a backcountry ski tour while I can’t ski? Right… nobody. Type B fun. I am almost embarrassed when big tears roll down from my face. It feels like crying out so much more than just my frustration over not being able to move on the ice. I am hurt, so fucking hurt by all I went through in the past year and half. My life feels like a fucking ice lake. As always the land just drinks my tears, integrates them into the frozen landscape; they will melt when spring comes.

It takes some routefinding skills to find a safe way into Sarvesvagge. We have to put on our masks against the wind. The marshland plants peek through the ice and show us the way.  We’re happy to find snow behind a rock where we can dig a hole to put our tent in. I guess this is the adventure I wanted. All is well when we eat our self made rehydraded dinner of rice with broccoli and cauliflower. Outside the wind blows and snow falls from the sky and I still can’t help thinking that without Dan I’d probably curl up in a ball and die.

 

Day 6: February 20: Sarvesvagge West entrance – Sarvesvagge x Noajdevallda, 17 km, -15°C / 5°F, clouds and sun

It’s too cold for me to get out of my sleeping bag and thank god for Dan who get’s everything ready so we can head on. I told you, without him I’d curl up and die. Alright.. in the end I’d probably say Well maybe not just yet, show death my middle finger and head on anyway. But the thought of curling up and staying in my sleeping bag continues to be appealing. It’s windy as fuck till we reach the highest point in Sarvesvagge. We breath in our Snickers Dan has kept warm in his pocket. It’s like living out of a freezer here. At home we don’t even have a fridge.

As soon as we head down the wind stops. It’s a blessing. The calm after the storm. The day through Sarvesvagge was the day I had dreaded. I was so wrong. This is my favorite day. The avalanche danger is low and the views are spectacular. Fuck the beach I think, I love the mountains. For the first time in days we can have a 30 minute lunchbreak in the sun, sitting on our pulka, soaking up mountains, blue skies, hard cheese and bread chips. The deep snow comes back once we hit tree line but damn it’s still so beautiful and at 3:30 pm we set up camp down in the valley, where the Noajdevagge meets Sarvesvagge, and it will turn out to be the coldest camp ever since camping was born. I think of our friend Trax who was here before and I picture him on top of Naite mountain watching northern lights. Praise the crazy wild people who live their dreams and make the world a better place!

 

Day 7: February 21: Sarvesvagge x Noajdevallda – Rapadalen Valley x near Gadokvarasj/Lulep Spádnek, 19 km, – 30°C / -22°F, sun but shade from Bielloriehppe all day 

While yesterday evening it didn’t feel that cold the night is crazy cold. Our thermometer shows -35°C / -31 °F but that’s where our thermometer stops so maybe it’s even colder. It sure feels like it. My feet freeze off before we leave and I cry out of pain. Movement or shelter are the only things that will save you here. More than ever I am aware of the fact that I hold my life in my own hands, that it is only when I actively do something about it my feet will “maybe” get warm again.

We ski in the shade all day ’cause the sun is blocked by Bielloriehppe. It feels like the Gods are testing my will to live. And so I break the trail. The snow is deep. There is no track. And my hip hurts. But I move fast because I have to. After 2 hours my feet start to unfreeze and it hurts so much that I have to shout out my pain. It’s as if my toes are being squeezed between metal doors. Maybe it’s no coincidence we stumble on lynx tracks we can follow. Cat power. We pass Rovdjurstorget also known as Predator Square, where Brown Bear, Lynx, Wolverine and Arctic Fox live. We see tracks of the last three. Brown Bear is still asleep for another two months.

When we head into Rapadalen we hear a snowmobile, which appears strange as snowmobiles aren’t allowed in Sarek National Park. Turns out it’s a Park Ranger following lynx and wolverine tracks… and tracks of crazy ski tourers. Are you ok? he asks. Yes, I say, it’s just cold. We talk for a bit, not long cause standing still means freezing. He tells us where to safely cross the Gadokjagasj river, I’ll put down a safe track but don’t follow me when I go all the way uphill, I’m following the lynx and wolverine! I have just enough time to say thank you tack se mycket and he’s off.

In the hours that follow Thank you for this track are the most whispered words in Sarek.

At 4.15 pm we set up camp and in no time the tent looks like an ice cave. Don’t cook inside your tent they say but what do you do when it’s -35°C / -31°F? You cook inside your tent… with the door shut! Condensation turns into ice instantly and everything and everyone is colored white. It’s only 7 pm when we go to sleep. I think of the dead people on Everest. This is what they look like I think. I have this weird sensation on my skin. It feels like my face is wet but it’s just really really cold. Thank you geese for your down, without you I would not survive. Seriously, life is so fucking fragile here, and I can only live because others have given theirs.

PS: We hardly have any pictures of today. Our cameras stopped working because of the cold:cP

 

Day 8: February 22: Rapadalen – Aktse, 19 km, – 17°C / 1°F, sunny

Another cold night. My breath turns into ice crystals on my sleeping bag. This could be art but this climate doesn’t care for art. We leave late today and soon we meet the snowmobile tracks of our trail angel and we follow them all day. The thank you whispers continue. The sun feels like heaven and we move fast ’cause we wanna reach Aktse today. I freeze everything off when I don’t move so we just keep going through Rapadalen, along Nammasj, under Skierffe, and see tons of Wolverine, Fox and Lynx tracks circling a dead reindeer. Life because others have given theirs…

We reach Aktse at 4:30 pm and we share the winter safety room with another ski tourer who follows the Kungsleden to Abisko. In the evening we see beautiful Northern Lights above Sarek, and both Dan and I hear the Gods speak Goodbye! Till we meet again!

 

Day 9: Aktse + 12 km till camp next to Tjaktjajaure, -15°C / 5°F, cloudy

We stay in the cabin till noon cause we only have 12 km to go. The next hut Partestugan is 24 km away and since we can’t make the distance in one day, we choose to camp halfway. It feels great to be lazy, dry all of our stuff, repair my vapor barrier plastic bags and drink a second cup of coffee.

When we cross Laitaure lake the clouds hang low in the sky and the beautiful view we had from Rapadalen yesterday remains hidden. Bye Sarek. I want to come back in summer. The track goes up and down through the forest and shows signs of heavy snowmobile use. We suspect companies take their customers out on snowmobile tours here. Apart from one group passing us we get to enjoy the silence.

Silence has been striking on this tour. In fact Sarek is the quietest place I’ve ever been. Not even an airplane in the sky. This land speaks my language I think while skiing across the lake. Sometimes silence is the only word you need…

After crossing the lake Tjaktjajaure that looks like a battlefield of ice (it’s a lake used for hydroenerergy and due to the water been taken out, the thick layer of ice has sunk and broken on top of the big boulders in the lake) we reach camp. We find a nice spot inbeween some birch and pine trees. Even though we’ve only been skiing for 4 hours, we are spent and go to bed early.

 

Day 10: Camp next to Tjaktjajaure – Partestugan, 12 km, -20°C / -4°F, sun and clouds

During the night it turns cold again and in the morning the thermometer shows – 32°C / -25°F. Dan’s neo-air xlite started to lose air during the night (wtf, we never had a neo air failing on us) and so he had to reinflate it a couple of times and I gave him the evazote I have under my neo-air xtherm. Because it’s so cold, we pack up quickly and even forget to take a picture. We wanna get to the next hut Partestugan.

Another short day and today the landscape is, forgive me, a bit boring. This stretch along the famous Kungsleden is not very interesting.  But hey that’s fine. Last year I couldn’t even walk on my own, so I’m grateful even for a boring stretch. The surgeries, being unable to move, sitting in a wheelchair, learning to walk again has given me strength. In the tough stretches it makes me remember I’ve been through so much worse; in the boring stretches it makes me grateful for being able to move my body and just being out here. I keep on finding pleasure in just being able to move my legs on my own. I will never take movement for granted again.

We meet another dead reindeer, cross lakes and ski thru birch and pine forests. By noon we reach the hut and first thing we have to do is chop wood cause the ones who’ve used the winter room before us, didn’t make any. A well, we’re used of making fire wood and it keeps us warm.

The afternoon passes by quickly, we play games and melt snow and eat a lot and life is good just the way it is.

 

Day 11: Partestugan – Kvikkjokk, 15 km, -25°C / -13°F, sun

The thermometer shows -30°C / -22°F when we leave. Ah it’s so much easier leaving when you’re able to pack in the warm coziness of a cabin. We only have 15 km to go. Holy shit. We almost made it. I can hardly believe it. We cross the lakes Sjabttjakjavrre and Stuor Dahta and the sun has a rainbow on both sides. Unlike yesterday the last stretch is beautiful and fun, especially the downhill to Kvikkjokk. I don’t care about the cold. My eyelashes freeze and I look like a polar bear but  I have a warm bed in the youth hostel in Jokkmokk in mind and some serious gratitude in my heart. I manage to stay up on my skis the whole way down and when we reach Kvikkjokk I am so damn proud and happy. It’s only 12:30 pm when we get to our car. For the last time I take off my skis. We put the pulka in the car, put on other shoes (ah a blessing), and our car starts without problems. Bamn!

Just like that our tour is over, but the journey never is…

In the 2 hour drive back to Jokkmokk we keep on saying holy shit we did it, we enjoy the warmth of our car and when we’re in the youth hostel Cecilia gives us a quiet and beautiful room, telling us that after a tour one needs some quiet time. She’s an outdoor person herself. She understands.

Thank you Sápmi and Gods of the Northern Lights, 

Cat.

 

Logistics for a ski tour in Lapland:

  • Travel season
  • Gear list
  • Short gear review
  • Food for a backcountry ski tour
  • Traveling to Lapland by car
  • What I would do differently next time

 

Travel season for ski touring and hiking in Lapland:

The travel season in Lapland is defined by both the weather and the reindeer herding.

Ski tour season is from the beginning of March till the end of April. In those months the huts along marked winter trails are open (like really open, not just the winter safety room).

In May the huts close again because in May the reindeer are up in the mountains where they are getting their calves. It is considered good manner not to go hiking or ski touring in May to not disturb the reindeer. Everyone we spoke with considered May a “no-go month”. May is for Reindeer.

Hiking season is from June till September. The huts along the marked trails are open, offering beds and (sometimes) meals, some food,…

You can find more accurate info’s on huts on the website of the Swedish Tourist Association.

 

Gear list: 
Cat Dan Comments
Skistuff and Backpacks: 
Backpack Gossamer Gear Gorilla GoLite Pinnacle
Ski: We both didn’t have backcountry langlauf ski so we bought some at XXL (sports store) on our way up through Sweden. It were the cheapest ones, not the best… Madhus backcountry explorer waxless ski with a Rottefella NNN-BC manual binding.
Backcountry ski shoes: Bought on the way up at XXL Rossignol BC X2 16/17 Alpina Backcountry Too cold for Cat
Ski poles I used my Leki hiking poles. Hiking poles are normally too short for backcountry skiing but I didn’t have money to buy new ones, so they had to do the job. Some old leki ski poles.
Ski skins We intented to rent skins from Laponia Adventures but as they no longer use long skins, they let us just keep em (for the same price…) instead of having to return them after our tour. (Thanks guys!)
Gaiters cheap old decathlon gaiters expensive old lowe alpine gaiters Cat: Buy better ones next time
Snow shovel Mammut Mammut
Pulka Globetrotter explorer
Pulka-bag Old bivy bag
Pulka pulling system Selfmade from bamboo Make more stable next time or buy one
Shelter and Sleepsystem:
Tent Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT
Snowpegs 12 MSR Snowpegs, we didn’t need them all ’cause for the 4 corners we mostly used our skis.
Sleeping bags: We both don’t have a winter sleeping bag warm enough for Lapland temperatures so we each used two sleeping bags. The Warmpeace and North Face sleeping bags are old bags we hardly ever use. 1: Western Mountaineering Antelope down sleeping bag

2: Warmpeace Klondike 1200 down sleeping bag

1: Warmpeace Klondike 1200 down sleeping bag

2: The North Face snowshoe synthetics sleeping bag

Evazote sleeping mat 6 mm evazote 9 mm evazote
Inflatable sleeping mat Thermarest Neo-air XTherm Thermarest Neo-air XLite
Tentfloor 4 mm evazote cut to size
Vapor Barrier Liner Selfmade vapor barrier liner made from lightweight silnylon (36g/qm)
Clothing worn:
Underwear Arcteryx synthetic underwear (didn’t want to spend money on new merino underwear, I was fine with these though) Peak Performance merino boxers
Liner socks Woolpower liner socks Woolpower liner socks
Vapor Barrier Socks Plastic storage bags (each 3 pair)
Warm socks Smartwool Mountaineering extra heavy crew Merino Darn Tough Merino
Liner Gloves Patagonia Synthetic Liner Glove Silk Liner Glove,
VBL Gloves Latex gloves (the ones they use for surgery and stuff) Dan didn’t use VBL gloves but just used a pair of Windstopper gloves on top of his silk liner gloves
Insulation Mittens Down mittens Marmot 8000er mitts Hestra Insulation Mitts
Gore Tex Mittens Gore tex layer of my Marmot 8000 mitts Mammut gore tex mitts
Merino long underwear Kari Traa Icebreaker
Merino Longsleeve/Shortsleeve shirt Kari Traa LS Icebreaker SS
VBL Shirt Cheapest childrens rain jacket from Decathlon None
Insulation layer Patagonia Nano Puff Bivy Fjällräven Keb Hybrid halfzip powerstretch fleece
Extra Jacket Cheap decathlon down jacket Fjällräven Singi Loft Jacket
Pants Jack Wolfskin Atmosphere Down Pants Fjällräven Barents Pro
Balaclava Decathlon Decathlon
Hat Fleece hat from The Mouse Works Wool hat
Extra Hat Fjällräven Nordic hat Cheap fleece hat
Mask Decathlon Windstopper mask
Extra Clothing ( carried in backpack or pulka):
Warm down jacket (which we would put on as soon as we stopped moving) Mountain Equipment Annapurna Jacket Mountain Equipment Annapurna Jacket Heaven
extra underwear Arcteryx synthetic underwear Decathlon boxers Never used
Long underwear Patagonia Cap 4 leggings Decathlon Fleece Pants Never used
longsleeve shirt Cheap Decathlon shirt Lowe Alpine LS Never used
shortsleeve shirt Bergans Merino SS / Never used
extra socks Smartwool Mountaineering extra heavy crew Merino, Darn Tough merino Smartwool Mountaineering extra heavy crew Merino, Darn Tough merino Loved the Smartwools
Downbooties Exped down booties with selfmade goretex booties (from an old The North Face rain jacket) /
Lightweight rain jacket OR Helium II Marmot rain jacket Never used
Rain pants Montane Minimus rain pants Vaude rain pants Never used
extra insulation layer Montane fireball smock Montane prism jacket
extra insulation pants selfmade from a cheap decathlon synthetic pants (added two full zippers to the sides) Mountain Equipment Compressor pants
VBL Pants Cheapest childrens rainpaints from Decathlon /
Downvest / Yeti down vest Didn’t really need it
Sunglasses No-name Adidas Never used
Ski goggles Cheap decathlon ski glasses Julbo Didn’t work well
Extra mittens and gloves Powerstretch gloves, Montane prism mittens Vaude wool mittens
Kitchen and cooking:
Stove MSR Whisperlite Universal
Fuel 5 L white gas, 2 gascans (1 normal, 1 wintergas) Didn’t use the gascans.
Pots 2 MSR lightweight pots: MSR Quick 2, with selfmade cosy (one pot for melting snow, one for cooking)
Heat exchanger MSR heat exchanger
Windshield MSR Windshield (comes with the stove)
Spoon Sea to Summit spoon Selfmade wood spoon
Fire Bic Mini, Primus fire steel, some extra matches
Knive Victorinox pocket knife Victorinox pocket knife
Coffee cup Cheap old plastic cup with selfmade cosy
Bowl Relags Haferl Relags Haferl
Insulated bottles Klean Kanteen Insulated Classic 1L Klean Kanteen Insulated Classic 1L
extra 500 ml bottle Platypus (often used by Cat as a warm water bottle inside sleeping bag)
bottle for whiskey Platypus 500 ml
Hygiene and such:
Toothbrush Lightweight travelling toothbrush Bamboo tootbrush
Toothpaste Dehydrated toothpaste drops
Skincare Selfmade healing cream from olive oil, beewax and essential oils
Toiletpaper 2 rolls
Girls stuff Tampons, Pads /
First Aid Kit Basic first aid kit, pain medication More extensive first aid kit
UV Lipstick Organic Lipstick 20UV
Peebottle Selfmade peebottle from an old cokebottle :c)
Camera and electronics:
Headlamp Petzl Actik Core Petzl Actik Core
Cell Phone Iphone Iphone
Lithium Batteries 12 extra AAA Didn’t use
Powerbank 2 x 10000 mAh Didn’t use
Camera and lenses Old Canon Powershot G12, 4 Batteries DLSR Nikon D7000, lenses: Sigma 10-20 3,5 ; Nikon 35 1,8; Nikon 18-105 3,5-6,3, 3 Batteries with charging station
Tripod Lightweight tripod
Charging cables Mini USB and Iphone cable
Lamps Lucy Light Decathlon camping light  Didn’t use Lucy Light
Primus gas lamp Only used once
Navigation:
Map Outdoorkartan Saltoluokta Padjelanta Kvikkjokk Blad 3 1:75000
Compass Recta D S50 G
GPS/Emergency Garmin InReach Explorer
Extra Calazo App on Iphone, Gaia GPS App on Iphone
Other Stuff:
Repair kit Repair kit for Thermarest Neo-Air, superglue, tiny sewing kit, extra guyline, small fire starter kit,…
Journaling Ripped out some blank pages from a Moleskine, pen and pencil /
Games Chess and battleship on paper, Mastermind
Thermometer 2 mini thermometers

 

Short gear review: 

I won’t be going through every item on my list ’cause over all we were pretty happy with our gear choice, so I’ll just comment on what I think is worth talking about or what we’d change next time.

– Tent: Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT: Hard to believe but yes this tent turned out to almost be too small for this adventure. With each two sleeping mats and sleeping bags the sleeping space turned out to be quite small. Somehow the tent seemed bigger when we bought it. We’re planning on selling it again as this tent is way too heavy (3,1 kg) for us to take on summer hikes.

– Sleeping bags: If we’d have more money, we would buy one very warm winter sleeping bag instead of each combining two bags. But o well, they did keep us warm. I just hate stuffing sleeping bags back into their compression bags and with two sleeping bags I had to do that shitty job twice (or even four times as I took care of the “indoor chores”).

– Vapor barrier liner: I ordered some lightweight silnylon (36g/qm) from extremtextil.de and made us a vapor barrier liner (with seamsealed seams). They turned out super lightweight and actually pretty comfortable.

– Tent”carpet”: We ordered a big piece of 4mm evazote from extremtextil and cut it to same size as our tentfloor. Best thing we ever did for camping on snow.

– Clothing: While Dan looked like a Fjällmodel I looked like a shitty scrapbook layering cheap Decathlon clothes and lightweight hiking clothes. Dans’ Fjällräven clothes were perfect (these kind of adventures is what Fjällräven clothes are made for I guess), but my scrapbook style was fine too. We hardly used our extra clothing and basically lived in the same clothes for 11 days (we were surprised the smell wasn’t even that bad, so that’s something positive that comes with icy cold temps). I mostly used my extra socks, down booties and of course warm down jacket (those jackets saved our lives) and extra insulation pants. The other stuff we probably could’ve left at home, but then again if we would have fallen through the ice…

– VBL socks: We didn’t wanna spend any money on VBL socks, so we just used 6L plastic bags. We each had 3 pair. They didn’t last long and got holes after 2 days. Maybe next time, I’d sew us some VBL socks from the same silnylon I made our VBL bags from. Underneath the plastic bags we wore the woolpower merino liner socks. Dans would get quite wet during the day, mine just a bit moist. On top of the plastic bags I wore Smartwool merino mountaineering socks, Dan a pair of Darn Toughs. While Dan had toasty warm feet, keeping my feet warm was more of a challenge. Next time I would bring warmer shoes.

– Gloves: With me suffering from Raynaud Syndrom it was an incredible struggle to keep my fingers warm. Even inside my expedition mittens it wasn’t easy. So I don’t know what to do about that except from hiking in the desert instead of in the snow. O well.

– Insulation bottles: Clean Canteen: Fucking loved these. Kept our water hot for hours and hours and hours.

– Backpacks: I used my good old Gossamer Gear Gorilla and I will continue to use it till either I or the backpack dies. Dan used his old GoLite Pinnacle, which was ok but it just does quite a shitty job in transferring the weight from your shoulders to your hips.

– Hygiene: I have to admit, there wasn’t much to do when it comes to hygiene, apart from peeing and pooping and brushing our teeth. One thing that made my life much easier was the peebottle I made from an old cokebottle. Due to my condition I can’t squat and so when I needed to pee, I’d just lower my pants, put the bottle in the right place and pee while standing up. Also when we had set up camp, I didn’t have to go outside to go pee, instead I just went into the apsis, peed in the bottle, put my pants back on, opened the door a little and poured the pee outside. Why? Cause I really didn’t wanna have my naked butt outside in -35°C/-31°F temperatures. As for pooping: Apsis is the codeword. Dig a hole. Poop into the hole. Cover it with snow. Poop freezes. Done.

– Fuel: We brought enough white gas to be self-sufficient for 14 days. We hadn’t planned on sleeping in the hut winter rooms but we ended up doing so. In the huts we could melt snow and cook food on either the woodstove or on the provided gas cooker. When camping Dan managed to use pretty little white gas for melting snow and cooking breakfast and dinner: 280ml per day for 2 persons (including melting snow, drinking water, breakfast and dinner) which really isn’t much in such cold conditions. He “blames” it on the heat exchanger which he is a huuuge fan of :cP As for the gas canisters: We could’ve left them at home (same goes for the gas lamp), but Dan wanted to try out the Primus Winter Gas in really really cold temperatures (he wasn’t too impressed though).

– Skis: If we’d had more money, we would buy some slightly more expensive skis with a quicklock system for short skins. However the cheap Madhus Backcountry Explorer Waxless Skis did the job. They weren’t ideal for deep snow (wider skis would’ve been a bit better) but at least we can still use them for cross-country ski tracks in Germany :cP

– Pulka: The cheap pulk from Globetrotter was ok. Next time Dan would try to make the pulling system a bit more stable. Buying one would’ve costed 180 euros, the bamboo he made it of was only 10 euros. So ya, when you don’t have much money, it definitely is a good option. We chatted about pulling systems with Cecilia from the youth hostel in Jokkmokk and she told us that in the old days people used to make them from rotan, which is a good idea cause you can bend rotan pretty easily and it is stable as fuck. So next time Dan is gonna try that.

– Electronics: Our cameras and the batteries had some trouble with the cold. Only when kept inside of my jacket would my camera keep working. It was not just the battery, but also the LCD screen showed defects. A well… it was just too cold. We were really happy with our Petzl Actik Core headlamps, the rechargeable battery lasted for the whole tour.

 

Food for a backcountry ski tour:

Skitouring through temperatures ranging from -8°C/17°F till -35°C/-31°F basically means you are living and eating out of the freezer. So you wanna take food that has little water inside.

Breakfast:
– Instant coffee for Cat and hot cocoa for Dan
– Each 100g of self-mixed muesli: Oatmeal, chia seeds, nuts, dehydrated berries from my moms garden, chocolate chips. In the morning we’d add some milk powder and warm water to make warm porridge out of it.

Lunch: 
– Bread chips
– Local dried reindeer salami from Jokkmokk (Dan)
– Parmesan cheese (Cat)
– Sundried tomatoes
– One shortbread cookie for dessert :c)

Snacks:
– In the morning: Either a snickers or marzipan
– In the afternoon: Trailmix of nuts, dates, dried banana, pretzels,
– Extra snacks: Chips, chocolate

Dinner: For dinner I dehydraded my homecooked meals and veggies.
– Angel hair noodles with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese
– Lentil curry with sweet potatoes
– Rice with thai curry
– Mashed potatoes with scrambled eggs
– Rice with veggies
I dehydrated extra bell pepper, olives, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach beet and onion to add to our dinners. Heaven I tell you!
I also made what I call “oil pods” from coconut oil. I poured fluid coconut oil into icecube baggies, let them cool off and we could just take the baggies with us and cut the pods out of the baggie when we needed them. We added them to our dinners for extra calories.
-Dessert: Vanilla or chocolate pudding

During the day we drank warm water and tea.

 

Traveling to Lapland by car:

Are you guys nuts? Driving 3000km? Why don’t you fly? Or take the train? Yes we are nuts so we drove all the way up to Lapland with our car. We just really hate traveling by plane or train with heavy gear and so we thought taking our car is a good idea. Due to my condition I can’t carry basically anything and we didn’t wanna have Dan carrying everything.

Also we really like our Subaru Forester and we wanted to put it to the test. So we started searching the internet for info and we read about spikes and motor heaters and were almost ready to give up again.

Turns out it’s not all that difficult!! So if you wanna take your central european car up north this is what you have to pay attention to:

Winter tires: Make sure you have decent winter tires on your car. Unlike what some say, you do not need spikes. Yes the people in Lapland and in Northern Scandinavia drive with spikes. But hey they live there and have to deal with snow and ice for months in a row! So if you’re only planning on staying for 2 or 4 weeks, your winter tires will do. The spike tires from the other cars roughen up the snow/ice layer on the street and it makes driving with just winter tires pretty doable. Does that mean you get to drive really fast? No, it means you get to drive really careful. We also had our snow chains in the back of our car, just in case, but never needed them.

– Motor heater: In Lapland people have a motor heater to keep the battery and the motor warm, which they plug in as soon as they get home, or even on the parking lot in front of the supermarket (you’ll see a lot of parking lots that provide electricity for the motor heater). Do you need a motor heater? I’d say no. For only a few weeks our car managed to deal with the cold just fine. Just make sure your battery is in good condition before you leave (we had it checked).

– Motor oil: You need motor oil that can handle cold temperatures. We had our oil changed before leaving and put in 0W30.

– Windshield washer fluid: Make sure your windshield washer fluid is up for freezing temps and take some extra as you’ll need lots.

! Moose and Reindeer like to use the street too! So please don’t speed and give them both the possibility and the time to get to the side of the road. They don’t like to jump aside as the snow next to the road is deep, just be patient and careful. This is their land. The Sami people put black plastic bags on sticks on the side of the road to mark where there is frequent reindeer crossing. Lower your speed as soon as you see a bag!

It took us 5 days to drive all the way from Belgium to Sweden. We took it easy. Also, max. speed on Swedish highways is 110km/h so you can’t speed anyway. We took the E4 along the coast which was the fastest route. We slept in our tent and in hostels along the way.

 

What would I do differently next time?
  1. Travel later in the season. Together with January February is the coldest month in Lapland. Next time we’ll go in March or the beginning of April. Both the temperatures and the snow will be better. In February the snow is still really high and soft. In March and April the snow should be more compact and easier to ski on.
  2. Now that we’ve put our Forester to the test… no need to drive 3000km next time. We would somehow try to manage it by train. The ski tourer we met in Aktse had a great idea: He attatched two wheels to the backside of his pulka for transportation so in trainstations he could just pull his pulka (like a suitcase). Maybe that’d be a doable solution for us so we don’t have to drive all the way up. Don’t get me wrong, the drive was beautiful, but also very long ;cP

 

Thank you to Trax, Rolf and Olli for providing us with intel and/or gear. Thank you to my mom and dad for looking after our Cat Phoebe :c)

18 thoughts on “Winter ski tour through Sarek National Park – Sápmi / Swedish Lapland

  1. I read every word of this, beginning to end, with relish (and on a night before I have to teach an eight hour class!). And while reading, I kept thinking to myself, “Is this for real?”, “No way!”, “What fools!”, and finally, “I want to go too!” This deserves a Pulitzer for blogging. Your writing and descriptions are riveting. – Love to you! Betsy

    Liked by 1 person

    • O Betsy, thank you. You’re too kind. And I’ll take the “What fools!” as a compliment too hahaha :c) In fact there were many times on this tour where I was thinking “We’re just crazy”! While we were laying in our sleeping bags at night talking and thinking of the desert helped. We’re even more looking forward now :cP Love to you from the both of us! Cat

      Like

  2. Hi Helen, great to hear from you again. I was just thinking about you, and wondering how you were getting on, when up popped this latest post. . Wonderful to see how far you have come since the operation. I said you would come good, didn’t I? I loved this blog, from daily journal entries to super pics, to gear list and gear and travel comments. It is first rate. So many blogs and even books on outdoor adventures whilst factual are so prosaic, lifeless. As for your writing! Just beautiful, sensitive, bringing the beauty and the land and journey to life. Your writing and the photos reminded me of my time in Minnesota with its similar temperatures, low light, deep snow for 4-5 months and the most incredible , pristine beauty of the snowy landscape. What an incredible adventure. Wish I could do it! Through your writing and pics I was there! Thank you. I look forward to following more of your adventures. Take care, Barrie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Barrie! It’s good to be back. I haven’t written for a long time and I really enjoyed it. I actually thought during the tour “maybe Minnesota is a bit like this”. Well it definitely was an incredible adventure and I’m still astonished we actually did it. Take care! Cat

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  3. Hi Helen

    Yep, very like Minnesota. On several occasions we too remote one room cabins without any facilities deep in the north woods as a base for xcountry skiing. Magical.

    We used a Suburu Outback wagon and found, like everyone else that we didn’t need winter tyres

    But there is more, in Minnesota that would really appeal to you. In Northern Minnesota is the most incredible wilderness on earth, considered by National Geographic, so I have been told, to be one of only 50 places on earth that everyone should visit at least once. It lies on the Canadian border, west of Lake Superior and is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I had always disdained wilderness that is not mountains until I came here. This is the most ancient of lands, part of the Canadian Shield; an intricate wilderness of lakes, rivers, waterfalls, ancient rocks and forests. It is a land of intense listening, intense silence and deepest stillness; a land magical beyond measure; a land of solitude: true wilderness. Sigurd Olson had this to say about it:

    The singing wilderness has to do with
    The calling of the loons, northern lights,
    and the great silences of a land lying
    north west of Lake Superior.
    It is concerned with the simple joys,
    the timelessness and perspective found
    in a way of life that is close to the past.
    I have heard the singing in many places,
    but I seem to hear it best in the wilderness
    lake country of the Quetico-Superior,
    where travel is still by pack and canoe
    over the ancient trails of the Indians and the Voyageurs2

    Early autumn is a good time when it is still warm but the black flies and midges have gone!

    Read the beguiling and magical book “Canoe Country Snowshoe Country” by Florence Lee Jaques and also the book “The Root Beer Lady” by Bob Carey.

    Take care
    Barrie

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post (and adventure) Cat and Dan! It’s good to see your smiling faces out there again. Continue to mend well, Cat.

    I proposed a similar trip to Jen as we were reading this. Her response, loosely translated, was “Go fuck yourself,” so I think we’ll have to make other plans. So thank you for sharing so many details and pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

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