Four Seasons in Four Months – Part 8

It isn’t the mountain ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.
– Muhammad Ali
Abisko (Sweden) – Ritsem (Sweden)
15 June 2017 – 24 June 2017
10 Days
209 km
TOTAL: 1157 km
15 July 2017 (Saturday) — by the E1 path, about 14 km from Unna Allakas, Sweden
Distance: 20.8 km

After a few days of break, we returned to walking and finally we got onto the E1 path! We left the campsite quite late, as we had to repack, pack our food supplies and change our way of packing the bags. In the end, we decided to have a coffee as well, as it was already time for it. In Abisko we bought one pair of walking poles, Marcin, after talking to other walkers became convinced to them, and decided to try it. We walked with sticks, one for each, and we both quickly got used to them, and we both agreed that it was a good purchase.

We left only after 1pm, but the weather was good and it went well. The path was not demanding, it ran along the river, it was wide, well-prepared, well maintained and lined with wooden footbridges over the wetlands. There were many people walking, but this is how it looks like, at a day distance from the tourist centre there is a lot of traffic. As soon as we went further away, everyone disappeared somewhere.

We set up our camp near a quite noisy river, but the place was perfectly flat, better than at the last campsite. In general there was a lot of water, both in rivers and on the paths, after all, it rained for three days non-stop, so all that water was from the rain.

16 July 2017 (Sunday) — by the E1 path, close to Cunojávrihytta
Distance: 24.9 km

From the early morning we were attacked by mosquitoes, they had been biting us mercilessly. The fact, that the air was still and there was no wind, did not help at all. We walked in the long valley, so the landscape did not change much. The path was in good condition, sometimes uphill, sometimes downhill. It was only at the end of the day that we climbed a bit higher and there were snow patches. It also got colder, but thanks to that we had no problem with mosquitoes. We crossed the rivers four times, taking off our shoes, and because it takes a while, it was only in the late afternoon when we arrived at Unna Allakas Hut. While we were preparing our dinner, 3 people arrived, that were staying in tents by the hut. We chatted over dinner and then we moved on. We crossed two more rivers, one of which was quite challenging, wide with fast current and quite deep, but we managed. We walked little further, passing another hut, and we set up our camp, seeing that dark clouds were coming over. Fortunately, we managed before the rain.

17 July 2017 (Monday) — Cáihnavággihytta
Distance: 14.4 km

In the morning we managed to pack up between the rains, but soon afterwards it started to rain for good, and it kept raining until the end of the day. That part was promised to be a difficult one, more physically, as we have already prepared ourselves mentally. We had to cross several rivers, some over the bridges, but bridges in poor condition.

There was plenty of water on the path, swamps all around, the footbridges disappeared because we were far off from popular tracks. There was no way around it, so we just walked across the water. The path went through the bushes, which not only made us wet but also slowed us down. And when in the early afternoon we started to climb and warm ourselves up, we were wet from inside and outside. Our views were limited to the edge of the hood pulled over the head and to what was under our feet.

We thought that we would get to the hut in time for coffee, but due to the weather and terrain condition it has come to dinner time. We started to get ready for dinner, Marcin lit fire in a fireplace, and then we decided that we will stay for the night in the hut, as we already had the fire on, and it got quite late, and the weather was terrible. The decision has been made, so we settled on. We also had another reason to stay, namely the opportunity to celebrate — we have just past 1000 km on our trip meter. So we ate the dinner, did a quick laundry, took a bath in an icy stream and sat down peacefully with coffee, exchanging our impressions from two months on the way. All in all, our first hut in which we stayed came at the perfect moment. How nice it was to be on the right side of the window, watching the rain from a cosy place near the fireplace.

18 July 2017 (Tuesday) — Skoaddejávre
Distance: 23.3 km

We knew that next day will be difficult, so we woke up early, about 5:30, and after breakfast we set off. The rain did not stop overnight, and now there was also quite strong wind. To start with, we had to cross the river, not challenging in a way, but at such low temperatures, with falling snow and strong wind it was a real challenge to take off the shoes and enter the water in sandals. There were few more rivers, but we managed to cross them without taking our shoes off. A difficult section was ahead of us, climb up to 1280 meters, namely the highest point on the Norwegian part of the E1 path.

Difficult stretch through rocky scree

The difficulty was in that the path led over the rock rubble, and due to the rain, the stones and boulders were very slippery, and also partially covered with snow, so we had to be very careful placing our feet, not to fall into the cracks and not hurt ourselves. We walked very slowly, meandering between the boulders. In the end we came to the saddle, but it was not the end of the difficulties. Further down the path led over the snow and rock debris, all the time at about 1000 meters above sea level. After such a walk our shoes was not only wet but also very cold. Also, we couldn’t really stop for longer, as there was nowhere to hide. In the evening we arrived at Skoaddejavri Hut, and we decided to stay there for the night, as we did not see any good place for tent.

Landscape and navigation — it’s so easy to lose track of directions and places especially on cloudy and rainy days, when every valley looks the same covered in snow.

19 July 2017 (Wednesday) –by the E1 path, about 2 km from Sitashytta
Distance: 24.9 km

In the morning we had to cross one more difficult section over the snow, and then we had a steep descent down the rocks to do. It was dangerously slippery and steep, we did not have good grip, so slowly we walked down to the road. There, we stopped for dinner, and then we continued along the gravel road. Our pace increased, but unfortunately it wasn’t very pleasant, as it was raining all the time. We had no luck in the evening, and we had to set up our camp in pouring rain, everything was wet and sticky, which made our work more difficult. The challenge also was to get into the tent and not to let too much water inside. After so many nights spent in the tent we had already mastered the best ways and techniques :)

Landscape and weather — the weather completely changes the perception of the landscape and the whole trip. In the rain everything escape your notice, you only see the hem of the jacket hood and a piece of the road under your feet, and you think about a dry and warm place. In the beautiful weather you can see and admire everything around.

20 July 2017 (Thursday) — by the E1 path, about 2 km from Paurohytta
Distance: 19.9 km

Another morning surprised us nicely, and we could pack up everything dry. The sky brightened with every hour. Unfortunately the same could not be said about Marcin’s mood. He got up unwillingly and moved on even less willingly. Marcin’s mornings were generally not the greatest, but on that day it was kind of culmination! It got even worse, as in the morning we had a steep climb to do.

All of this made us stop for an early coffee break. While we were busy preparing the seating area, suddenly, out of nowhere we heard: Hello! Surprised we turned our heads, and we met two nice ladies who came from the opposite direction from ours. We invited them to sit next to us, and we offered them coffee. We chatted a bit, it got so nice, and as if for confirmation the Sun came out and warmed us up.

Coffee in good company tastes better :)

This break and this meeting have lifted Marcin’s spirit a bit, and eagerly we moved on. Or maybe it was the coffee? We still had some climbing to do over the snow, then we started going down to a beautiful valley. The path led us along the lake, over the bridge across the river, and then some climbing and walk to another valley. It got late, so we found a nice place on a piece of grass without snow and set up camp with a beautiful view of the lake covered in snow.

21 July 2017 (Friday) — by the E1 path, about 9 km from Røysvatn
Distance: 19.3 km

During the night the temperature dropped to about zero, but the morning greeted us with the shining Sun warming up through the tent. An attraction for today was a boat crossing at the junction of two lakes. We reached the shore, where one of the boats lay, we dragged it onto the water, we got inside and got ourselves to the other side. There we left our backpacks, dragged the other boat into the water and took it to the first shore. We left it there on the shore, and we went back to our backpacks. Marcin did some paddling, but fortunately we had the good boat, as the other one had a puncture and leaked. The crossing took us some time, but we gained new experience.

Boat crossing on the E1 trail near Paurohytta cabin, Norway

Marcin started to grumble again, having enough of the snow, which made the walking laborious and the fact that we could not see “the end of the snow”. We stopped for a coffee. And this break with beautiful view of the incredibly clear, blue lake, and with the Sun shining, put him back on his feet. Or maybe it was caffeine that was doing it, because it was not the first time that after coffee break he felt much better. In any case, later the walk went well. All day long we were walking along the border, being sometimes in Sweden, sometimes in Norway. In the evening we met a lonely elderly wanderer (67 years old!), with whom we chatted for a moment and then moved on different ways. He had some climbing ahead, and we were already going down to the valley.

Earlier on, on the way we also met a walking couple, and from them we got the idea about changing our route. Instead of going further the E1 path, we decided to take the Gränsleden trail, which runs on the northern side of the Áhkájávrre Lake and goes directly to Ritsem, where we had parcel to pick up.

22 July 2017 (Saturday) — by the Gränsleden path, about 11 km from Røysvatn, Sweden
Distance: 19.3 km

One more climb was ahead of us, over the snow. It was a bit tiring and slow climb, but the wonderful weather and views rewarded everything. We stopped for a well-deserved break at the beautifully located Røysvatn Hut. Then we started descending towards the green valleys.

As soon as we turned into the Gränsleden path, the marking of the trail deteriorated and, although there was no snow at all, walking was much worse, because we had to go through the bushes and water. From total winter in the morning, in the afternoon we entered the spring in full blossom. The fell-like temperature was clearly higher and everything around was lush green. Soon the area flattened, the path improved and our pace has increased.

At this stage of the trip, we have already fallen into kind of routine of everyday life. Wake up, breakfast, walk, walk, dinner, sleep. Marcin began to complain again, being a little tired of this routine, and because he became fully aware of the scale of our trip, that it was all the same day by day for so many months. “And there should have been some fishing, and there is only snow and persistent tiredness. I would like to sit on the couch for three days or sleep three more days in a row”. It’s not easy to walk on the snow, so sometimes we were in bad moods when we had enough of all of this.

23 July 2017 (Sunday) — by the Gränsleden path, about 13 km from Ritsem, Sweden
Distance: 20.8 km

Usually the sleep regenerated our strength, but today it was different. Marcin completely lost his power, more mental than physical. Step by step we slowly dragged ourselves, pausing every few minutes, and discussing why this was happening, what is this all for, what we are lacking, that he had enough of this routine, that he is not for him, that it’s always uphill then downhill like in circles. It was already 1pm and we only walked 3 kilometres. There was no point in going like this, so we stopped for a coffee to discuss the matter properly. It is hard, but you have to be positive, see the good points, not focus on those worse ones, just like in life. The snow is there — but you can actually walk on it; it’s again uphill — but it will be downhill soon; walking is hard — but at least its’s not raining; and if it’s raining — at least it does not pour down for weeks constantly. Tomorrow, the Sun will rise :)

Whether it was coffee or the discussion, but further on was much better. We had good pace, and we almost run, especially that we were going downhill. We came to the Áhkájávrre Lake, where we made a dinner break. Then we walked a few more kilometres, but the walk was harder, because it was stuffy, uphill and swarms of mosquitoes were circling around us, biting wherever they managed.

All day long we had incredible view, at the large, dark blue lake, and snow-capped mountains, and all around us was such an astonishing space. As Scandinavia is such a vast area, with great lakes, immense stretches of mountain ranges and long valleys, the perception of distance changes completely. When the path goes along the lake, and you already see this lake, you say to yourself that its only little more along the lake and you will arrive at destination. And here you walk and walk for hours, because the lake is 20 kilometres long and it takes some time to walk along the shore.

24 July 2017 (Monday) — STF Ritsem, Sweden
Distance: 16.1 km

The path was meandering between the rocks, between the trees, through the woods, through the swamps, uphill and downhill. We did not reach Ritsem until the early afternoon. Although the morning was cloudy, in the afternoon it cleared up, and we used the Sun. We quickly dried our tent, and then we applied silicone to all seams, to strengthen the waterproof properties of the tent, which was quite old anyway. We had the whole afternoon to ourselves, so after sorting ourselves out, bathing, washing, we could rest, charging all our batteries and accumulating our energy. Also, we have changed our further route a bit, and instead of walking the E1 path, we will now follow the Padjelanta track.

On the E1 path, Norway