Scandinavian wilderness hike 11- crossing the Arctic Circle in Saltfjellet

When leaving Umbukta in the middle of the day, it is almost hot, and sometimes I got chased by mosquitoes and horseflies...

A quite steep climb leads me out of the birches into open tundra valleys. As usual I meet no hikers, so I am really surprised, when a runner passes by! The guy is doing a 16 km trailrun, up to Sauvashytta, and is dressed for the temperatures...
On how many days in an average norwegian summer, you can run bare chested?

                                                  Norwegian trailrunner

Sauvasshytta is beautifully located on a pass above 1000 meters, overlooking the still frozen lake.

                                View from Sauvasshytta

As it is a beautiful evening I ascend further before I pitch camp on a pass with breathtaking views back to the Okstindan range. 

                                  View from my camp

It is a calm evening so I can enjoy sitting outside and watching a huge reindeer herd, about 200 head strong, walking by.

                                A huge Reindeer herd

Later I enjoy the sunset, colouring Okstindan in pink!

                                  Sunset from high camp

But even when the evening is calm, you never know, what happens later...
At about 2 in the morning a strong wind shakes my tent, and I have to step out to repeg it, before it will collapse! 
Next morning it is windy and cold, so I am happy to wear my gloves. Once again there is not really a trail, but the red DNT- markings lead over fjell, swamps and birch forest. For some time I follow a reindeer fence. Even though one could get the impression, that these northern areas are quite wild, in reality there are fences everywhere, restricting the movement of the reindeer, but of other larger wildlife as well. As I will see later, even the Nationalparks are fenced in that way. Surely each fence contains a large area, but still the straight lines feel very unnatural in these otherwise seemingly untouched wilderness areas.

                                          Reindeer fence

Summer now is in full swing with many flowers and the seeds of the willows already start to ripen.

                               Summer is in full swing

When I get to the DNT- Kvitsteindalstunet hut, I meet three volunteers and chat for a while with them. They tell me that the old cabin has torn down two years ago and since then they are working on reconstruction which should be finished soon. They are rightly proud of their work and I admire their dedication, but still I like the small cabins with no luxury much more...

                         The newly constructed Kvitsteindalstunet hut

And to my delight in the afternoon I reach the beautifully located Kvepsendalskoia, another small, free cabin of Rana turistforening!


Next morning I reach a broad, green valley, of almost Alaska like dimensions before I get again on a vast tundra plateau.

                                Alaska like valley

Now, almost two months into my voyage, I start to meet other hikers, first Eva from Düsseldorf on a 8-day trip, then Erik and Pamela, living in Oslo. They are on a real epic journey: On first of may they started in Pasvik in Northeastern Norway on ski and they have time until November to reach Kap Lindesnes, the southernmost point of Norway!
While he is just wearing an airy net shirt, she even has covered her face against the mosquitoes, which I don't find too bad...

                                           Crossing Norway!

Sirvasshytta is another unbelievable comfortable retreat, complete with cozy livingroom and even electricity! I move on....
The fjell here reminds me of landscapes in Ladakh or Mongolia, so vast!
At Larasskoia, a free cabin I cook my mashed potatoes dinner, and then continue hiking, soon meeting a hero ptarmigan mother!
While most of her small chicks hide when I approach, one stays frozen, easily visible on bare ground. Her mother can't stand that, and almost knocks the little one over, with no result. I don't know if the chick is frozen from fear or ignorance... Now the mother stays just 5 meters away, while I take some photos before I leave them alone, at least I thought so, because now the mother walks in front of me, again with only short distance. She does that for more than five minutes, obviously to get me away from her offspring, before she flies back. That was a brave one!

                                             The frozen chick

                                                           The hero ptarmigan mother

My telelens is still not really clear, but at least I can take pictures  again!
The evening is so beautiful, that I walk 13,5 hours until I pitch tent after 30,5 kilometers.

                                   Beautiful evening on vast tundra

Although the area I cross next morning is close to Saltfjellet- Svartisen Nationalpark, the waterpower here gets heavy use.
A mysterious sign warns of uncontrollable air explosions coming from a tunnel system...

Norway can be dangerous...

As the water of the nearby river has been channeled into the tunnel system, only some puddles remain. The price of "clean electricity"?

                 The water has been channeled off for hydropower  

Soon I get the first views of Saltfjellet.



On the E 6 road, I reach Bolna hut. Even dogs get a nice cabin here!

                                Dog cabin at Bolna hut

Saltfjellet-Svartisen is with more than 2000 sqkm the fourth largest Nationalpark in Norway. As it reaches from the sea to more than 1700 meters it is very diverse. The limestone of the area makes for a rich flora and there are even grottoes! The western area is comprised of the 370 sqkm large Svartisen glacier.
After a steep ascent I reach again wide, easy to walk, rather flat tundra. It already seems, that now at the end of July the breeding season is almost finished. There is much less birdsong than before.


Around noon, I have a special moment, when I reach the arctic circle, which is marked here by a simple, wooden structure! This reminds me, on how large the Scandinavian arctic is, as I barely have reached the halfway point of my hike!

                                       Reaching the arctic circle

After a long descent, I arrive at Bjolladalen in the evening. The Bjolla is a large river 30-50 meters wide, flowing in a very beautiful valley, which I will follow for some hours. There are wild parts full of rapids, but calm, meandering stretches as well. 


                                            A beautiful valley

The fine weather continues, so I enjoy the fantastic Bjolladalen next morning as well. There are quite a lot of birds, like commons redpolls and ducks at the cut off oxbows.

                                 Sometimes the valley is broad

Krukkistua is beautifully located and even has a sauna! A little further on the trail ascends to a cliff where a fine view of the valley is offered and the free Statskog Steinhytta is located.

                                    Cliff overlooking Bjolladalen at Steinhytta

The trail now follows a historic telegraph route, where some of the poles are still visible. 
Finally I leave the valley, pass Saltfellhytta and reach a small, but wild canyon where I cross the river on a suspension bridge.

                                          Waterfall near Saltfjellhytta

At Bjollavatn I meet Alan, a long distance hiker from Belgium who has hiked since a month from Kilpisjärvi in Finland to here. His pack is quite heavy, although he already left his camping chair behind...
Once again I realize how important it is to reduce the pack weight on long hikes!

                            Long distance hiker Alan at Bjollavatn

Soon I reach a wild looking whitewater creek. Luckily it is not very deep, so the wading is possible, although the water is very powerful.
I ascent to a stony high valley and after having reached 900 meters I am back in the snow. Hard to believe that even at the end of july there are still winter conditions...

Barren high valley

                                                Back in winter

But the snow cover is deceiving, two times I break deeply in, down to my knees, luckily I don't hurt myself!

                                                 Treacherous snow

Next morning it rains when I break camp, but soon it is dry again. I wade a wide river and continue across broken, difficult granite terrain above a lake.

                                    Towards Lønsdalen

In Lønsdalen I cross the E 6 again, cross the River on a suspension bridge and am off towards Junkerdalen....


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