Today’s goal, a mountain called Gáppetjåhkka. The tour began by skiing across the lake and climbing gently through small glades of dwarf birch trees. The snow was deep and relatively soft; clear blue sky and shining sun a welcome sight. Arctic ptarmigan, some starting to transition out of their startlingly white plumage, ran ahead of us, bursting to flight with bizarre chortling. Traversing across a gradually rising slope we steadily gained altitude and beautiful views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.
Our route continued slowly upwards for several hours. We threw in a few kick turns to avoid steep cornices and soon gained the plateau. Scouring winds had revealed rocks, blueberry and other low-lying vegetation peeking out from the snow. We picked our way through the rock gardens until the final pitch. Here the mountain rose dramatically upwards for a short distance until the summit. Lacking crampons, ice axes, rope, and knowledge we contentedly sat and drank hot tea and ate jagarsnus (hunter’s snus, Sweden’s GORP).
The descent was wonderful; one had only to follow seams of powder, swept together by the wind. We carved turns down a steep face and then traversed back towards the lake, leaving squiggles in the soft snow. We ripped turns through the trees and I hit a few small jumps until we crashed into the crusty snow near the lake. Skins were reaffixed and we shuffled our way back to the cabins after a full day of climbs and turns. Mirja and Anders had left, but not before fulfilling the duties of all STF guests: chopping wood and refilling water.
New roommates arrived shortly thereafter; Elin, a coworker from Saltoluokta accompanied by her brother and a friend from snow-poor southern Sweden. They had skied the same 15 km trip on the Kungsleden but using the standard issued metal-edged touring skis, one of which had relinquished its binding in the first several kilometers. They had temporarily repaired it using matches stuck into the stripped holes, zip ties, and straps. The group was cheerful, tired, hungry and full of stories of creative new ways to fall on skis.
Bastu: The Wonders of Sweden’s Saunas
We decided to check out the wood-fired sauna. Daniel begins heating the sauna everyday around 3 pm. Now was the “mixed” sauna time. Swedes have different ideas of nudity compared with most Americans and though this was not Rome, we followed suit (no pun intended) and stripped down. Elin had carried a few beers in her pack as a surprise. We sipped on the cold Swedish brew while enjoying the hot wooden room, clouds of steam rising from the stove as we threw cupfuls of water on it. When we became too hot we slipped outside and let the cold wind blow away excess heat. After the sauna we took bucket showers using hot water heated in a special tank on top of the stove. The Swedes know how to deal with cold weather!
(Guest blogger Aaron Schorsch is a chef, carpenter, farm hand, teacher, and baker who loves food, skiing, travel, canoeing and writing. He calls home wherever the snow is falling and the rivers are rushing, which is most often western Oregon. He is currently living above the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden with his wife Amanda. He blogs at Saveur The Journey.)