Gáppetjåhkkå — Backcountry Skiing Swedish Style, Part 3

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | July 15, 2014      

Aaron Schorsch

[Part 2]

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.

The author nearing the the summit of Gáppetjåhkkå.

The author nearing the the summit of Gáppetjåhkkå.

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 Swedish mountains can be windy; here the wind has exposed rocks.

The Swedish mountains can be windy, resulting in exposed rocks and vegetation.

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.

Fun turns in soft snow, randonnée skis rule!

Fun turns in soft snow, randonnée skis rule!

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!

[Part 2]

(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.)


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8 Responses to “Gáppetjåhkkå — Backcountry Skiing Swedish Style, Part 3”

  1. Edgar July 15th, 2014 7:43 pm

    Wow great trip! But didn’t anyone roll in the snow after the sauna?

  2. Aaron Schorsch July 16th, 2014 3:52 am

    Actually there was some rolling in the snow after the sauna. In some places they cut a hole in the ice and you can jump into the literally ice cold water to cool off. After much experimentation I prefer to cool off after a sauna by putting my boots on and chilling-out outside. If your feet are warm you can loiter even at sub zero temps without any clothes!

  3. john July 16th, 2014 4:40 am

    Looks like some steep terrain

  4. Mikael July 17th, 2014 12:12 am

    Nice to read some trip reports from Northern scandinavia too here on wildsnow… 🙂

    The swedish mountains (Fjell) are maybe not the steepest ones, even though there are areas with steep skiing too. But go over the border to Norway, and then the picture changes a LOT. The long daylight and closeness to the sea is incredible. Scandinavian mountains are not that crowded either compared to what the alps can be.

  5. Lou Dawson July 17th, 2014 5:30 am

    It’s funny how we’re indoctrinated by current ski culture and media to think it has to be steeper to be fun. Sure, you need an angle to ski, but there is a lot more to backcountry skiing than just the slope angle. The gear Aaron used for this terrain does look to be a bit much, but it’s hard to always match the exact gear for the terrain of a given trip. Back here in the U.S. in Colorado, the 10th Mountain hut system has hundreds of miles of lower angled connecting trails and moderate ski terrain. Alpine-nordic telemark gear has been popular for years in that situation just as it is in Sweden and Norway, but the newer lighter tech binding rigs are excellent for such stuff. Pair a Scarpa Evo F1 or Dynafit TLT 6 Mountain with a stripped down (no brake) tech binding on a lighter ski and you’ve got a rig that can tour the flats as well as handle descents, and can even be lighter than the tele gear.

  6. Mikael July 18th, 2014 2:43 am

    Here is a picture I took in Hurrungane (Norway) this spring:


    >>> Those K2 pontoons were hardly moving around a single meter (or inch) during the time I was there, except out from the ski box and back to the ski box. There is not a single lift in Hurrungane so I suspect the pontoons are maybe not the best skis for the place…

    The Fischer BCX99 on the other hand were probably skied quite much. They are of those backcountry oriented cross-country -type skis that norwegians use with touring type of low leather boots. I would not even call them telemark skis because the are not really suitable for going steep downhills with telemark turns at all.

    Same peaks that nowadays are “skied” with dynafti ski touring types of skis, have for years been conquered with those kind of backcountry cross-country skis. I met one elder man on Store Ringstind during easter who came up with such touring skis. A 1200 meter (about 4000 feets) descent/ascent that goes over a crevassed glacier.

    That peak is usually skied today with dynafit type of gear/skis but still today there are many especially in Norway for whom the downhill part is not the thing, rather moving around in the mountains (or fjells as we call them here) with skis. And the do come up surprisingly steep mountains with those skis. The downhill part cannot be very enjoyable but the uphill is more effective compared to using dynafit gear, especially if there are long flat sections on the tour.

    So yes Lou, you are right, steepness is not everything 🙂

  7. Aaron Schorsch July 18th, 2014 3:23 pm

    The Fischer BCX99 and Asnes Sondre skis are used by almost everyone in the Fjall of Sweden. I can say however that many of my colleagues were extremely jealous of my dynafit setup after watching me playfully ski down even mild slopes. On those same slopes they were using intentional butt falls to prevent collisions with dwarf birches. Certainly an excellent skier can take skinny touring skis to very difficult terrain but with varialbe snow conditions and a heavy pack having locked heels makes everything easier. One option would be to use the touring skis to access a remote area and then use the AT setup to ski the steep peaks. I might try that approach for a longer tour, but for shorter tours I think it is easier not to have to fool with two sets of boots and skis.

  8. Christian July 20th, 2014 3:13 am

    As long as there are tracks the bcx99/Åsnes/Norwegian mountain skis type of skis are much faster than any dynafit setup – inkluding race gear. If you go outside the tracks, I would say that modern rando gear is usually almost as good even on flats – as long as it is not very hard. As soon as there is a little incline I prefer tech gear to BCX99 et al. On wet snow and low angle slopes, the “mountain skis” can be faster going down…

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