So apparently hiking here in Austria is all based on huts. You pick a hut you want to walk to, then find a suitable starting point, and walk from the starting point along a marked trail to the hut and back. Or maybe you do a circular walk, in which case the way back is not the same as the way there, but you will certainly have a hut somewhere on your route. In fact the starting point is quite likely to also be a hut.

The tourist information point here in Mayrhofen was staffed by a friendly lady who circled a bunch of suitable huts for us on a hiking map, and today we tried out the first of these – Steinerkogl, which lies basically straight above Mayrhofen, and on good days probably has beautiful views.

Today was not one of those days.

Today was foggy and wet. It was drizzling already when we got up, and continued that way all day. The valley was filled by a cloud that looked like it was touching the rooftops, and blocked all views.

We went out anyway, because the prospect of spending all day indoors was way worse than getting a bit wet. And while we did get a bit wet, because the wether didn’t get better, it didn’t get any worse either – it hovered in that strange no-mans-land between fog, cloud and light rain.

The views were absolutely non-existent when we got out of the forested lower slopes and onto the meadows. If we hadn’t had a clear path to follow, I would have been seriously worried about getting lost, or losing sight of each other.

It might not sound like fun but this was actually a pleasant hike, memorable rather than miserable. The fog was cool, and the endlessly ziggy-zaggy forest path was like nothing we’ve walked before. Would definitely do again.

The Midsummer weekend contained too much eating and lounging around and not enough moving. I was itching to get out and walk, so here I am. Sörmlandsleden, stage 5:2. I like the stages that are easy to reach using public transport, and it doesn’t get much more convenient than this one: it effectively goes from Ösmo station to Hemfosa station.

Well, that’s what it does on paper. In reality the start is about a kilometre from the station, and the end likewise, so the 15 km becomes more like 17 and some. And then there’s the extra detour you can make to a hill with an ancient fort. That one is described as “might be worth making a detour for” and indeed I’m sure there are people for whom that is the case, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend it. I couldn’t see any signs of the fort itself, just a rocky hill with a view barely worth looking at, because whichever direction you look, it’s all the same forest. Or perhaps I was just getting too tired to appreciate it.

This part of Sormlandsleden itself was more varied than most. There were lakeside views, the usual Sörmland pine and blueberry forests, rough spruce forest with plenty of rocks and roots, and even a golf course with its manicured lawns and well-tended shrubberies.

Day two of scout camp. A half day – we packed up and went home just after lunch.

Everybody was happy with the kitchen team – we cooked good food, in sufficient amounts, and served it on time. However it was very hectic. And the run-up to the camp, with all the planning and preparation, was not much better. I feel I reinvented not just a wheel but a whole truck’s worth of wheels, in a few short and stressful weeks. I feel no desire to ever do this again, and I suspect the rest of the kitchen team might feel the same way.

Instead I’m thinking of how to make use of this experience so that other people won’t have to reinvent yet more wheels for future scout camps. There has got to be a better way to plan and prepare this kind of thing.

I always sleep like crap in tents. When I am constricted by a sleeping bag, I wake up every single time I want to turn the other side, or switch from my back to my side. But it’s also because I don’t sleep well on bad mattresses – I always end up stiff and achy. Eric even got me an inflatable camp mattress, which was better than others I’ve tried, but still nothing like sleeping in a proper bed.

This weekend I tried sleeping in a hammock for the first time. I bought it last autumn already, but this was my first chance to try it out.

I wish I could say that I slept like a baby. Or a log. Unfortunately I still kept waking to turn. But the hammock was great for my back – I was not the least bit sore in the morning. I’ll definitely be using it again. Now I wonder what alternatives might exist for the standard sleeping bag.

Yesterday was all full of knowledge. Today was a teambuilding day, with social activities and a nice dinner at the end. There were multiple activities to choose from. I opted for kayaking, and got to see the parks around the canal again, from a different angle.

We started out in the Daugava river itself, among waves and big boats. This part was quite challenging, especially when it came to steering – the waves and wind and the flowing river seemed to always be conspiring to push us off course. The canal by comparison was placid and easy.

I’ve been doing the first dozen or so stages of Sörmlandsleden consecutively, but skipped a few to walk stage 20 today. This stage passes through Henaredalen, which is described as “botanically interesting, wonderful late spring/early summer flowering”. Sounds great for a weekend in May.

It was rather underwhelming. The Henaredalen valley turned out to be a only few hundred metres long, so just a tiny fraction of the 6 km walk. The rest of it was the usual Sörmland pine forest. And while there were flowers in the valley, it wasn’t exactly breathtaking. I suppose it is more “botanically interesting” than impressive for the general public.

Nevertheless a nice walk – not least because it was very empty. I ran into a single walker on the trail itself (a local bird photographer), and three people at the far end. On my way back I didn’t see a single human being.

The beautiful weather helped as well – we’re just a few days into May but already it feels like summer, and I was walking in just a tank top and thin trousers and a sandals. I thought the choice of footwear was a bit foolhardy perhaps – early May can be quite wet still – and was mentally prepared to get all muddy, but there was none of that, except in the river valley.

The coolest flowers I saw was the common toothwort (Lathraea squamaria). It was impressively good at hiding in plain sight. Its shoots are quite large and thickly covered with flowers, but those are unassumingly pale brownish pink and somehow the eye just glides over them, especially among dead brown leaves. But once I had seen one, I started seeing them everywhere.

Ingrid is off on a scout hike and Eric is working (on such a beautiful sunny weekend, too, poor guy). Adrian and I went out for some walking and sausage grilling near Hellasgården.

We first crossed the bridge to the west side of lake Dammtorpsjön, and I had hoped to maybe walk all the way around the lake. But Adrian was not very interested in the walking – his focus was more on the sausage grilling. (And on sticks, of all sizes.) So shortly after we came to the sunny cliffs with views of the lake, we already stopped for lunch. And I have to admit it was a very nice spot for that.

Very windy, though – and there were no flat spots further down, so it was either make do where we were or take a longer walk, and I was pretty sure the latter wouldn’t end well. I had real trouble getting the coals on the disposable grill to burn in the wind. The starter paper burned up in seconds without any effect on the coals, so I ended up building a little fire out of dry twigs on top of the coals to get them started. But we got our sausages done in the end.

From where we sat, the cliffs on the other side of the lake looked very inviting, so on our way back we made a little detour and clambered around there as well. We stumbled upon an excellent climbing tree, which must have gotten an awful lot of use as just a climbing tree – it had many bald spots and sawed-off branches. Adrian climbed up and I looked on, slightly envious, but I didn’t want to make him come down to make room for me. But then he suggested that I should climb as well, and I was not going to say no to that!

Abiskojaure to Abisko tourist station, 15 km. Heading back to civilization today.

The day’s skiing started with the usual lake. When we got to the other end, the main Kungsleden trail went off into the birch woods but our tour leader kept us on the river so as to avoid the unpleasantly bumpy snowmobile tracks in the woods.

However Abiskojåkka has some rapids and falls which are not passable on skis, and at those points we left the river and made our way through the forest. Skiing in the forest, on uneven ground between rocks and trees, was quite eventful at times but we all got down without breaking any body parts or equipment. Even though many of us fell over or got stuck in unexpectedly deep snow at some point.

After the last rapids the ski trail in the river canyon was very pretty, and I imagine it would look quite picturesque in the summer. It was also very easy to ski – as we were getting closer to the tourist station it was almost like a highway, with well worn-in tracks, and even two lanes at the end. The skiers we met here were a different bunch, day trippers in neon lycra and skinny skis. They’re obviously skiers just as much as we are, but somehow they felt like a different species.

And then all of a sudden we reached a highway and a railway and the tourist station, and were back in everyday life.

The water hole at Abiskojaure

Unna Allakas to Abiskojaure, 24 km.

Flat, flat, flat all day. Along and across small lakes at times, and then through alpine birch forest. The flat isn’t bad, as it makes for efficient skiing, even though it isn’t super exciting. But following snowmobile tracks through forest is no fun at all. When a bunch of snowmobiles all follow the same narrow track over uneven ground, the track gets very icy and bumpy. It’s almost like moguls on a ski run. I have to concentrate on every step, I get no flow and I’m stumbling and losing my balance all the time.

Yesterday’s beautiful weather continued and we had blue skies much of the day. The spring sun was so warm that I stripped off all windbreakers and jackets and was skiing in just a wicking top. Our first lunch on a sunny little hill truly felt like a spring picnic. (The second one was chilly and cloudy and brief.)

Since we were lower down today, we saw more animal tracks: hare, fox, ptarmigan. Among the trees there were blue tits singing, and during one of our breaks we actually encountered mosquitoes or something like them.

Twenty-four kilometres was a lot of skiing and the bumpy forest track was tiring for mind as well as body. Or perhaps it’s the full week of skiing that is starting to take its toll. In any case, for the first time this week I felt really tired when we got to the hut. The other days I’ve been visiting the sauna only to get clean, but today I actually sat in the sauna to rest and relax.

The group split up today for various day trips around Unna Allakas.

Four of us headed north towards the Valffojokka shelter. Like the tour from Vistas to Nallo, this was nearly all uphill on the way out. With the wonderful weather (brilliant sunshine for the first time this week) and nearly weightless packs, even the constant ascent didn’t bother us the least. Plus with a small group there was less stopping and starting, and we got a much more pleasant flow.

In the end we didn’t go all the way to the shelter. We stopped at the highest point, with just the long descent to the shelter ahead of us – and just didn’t see any benefit in continuing. The sun was warm and there was hardly any wind, so we sat on that rocky little peak in the sunshine and enjoyed the views, all the way to Kebnekaise in the south and the Moarhmma massif in the east.

On the way we found numerous wolverine tracks.

Alesjaure to Unna Allakas, around 15 km.

Mostly uphill and mostly cloudy and mostly with the wind against us, so today felt like quite a slog. At least we got a bit of fun in the shape of two exciting descents towards the end of the day when we were nearing the Unna Allakas hut.

We also stopped for a practical lesson in digging/building an emergency shelter in snow. Important, I’m sure, but pretty badly timed.

I am by now getting pretty fed up with our tour leader and find him annoying rather than helpful or inspiring. Yes, he brought the bothy bags and taught us to use them. But that’s pretty much his only contribution. He insists on keeping the group really close together, which I could understand as a safety measure in bad weather but in normal conditions it is just annoying to have to ski right at someone’s heels. He is the last one to be ready to leave in the morning. (We’re starting to take things in our own hands and sometimes the group starts skiing off while he’s still faffing around.) He also likes to stop the group for mini lectures about obvious things while everybody stands around, bored but polite, and gets cold. He is no good at communicating or reading the group’s mood. I get the impression that maybe he isn’t even really enjoying this.

This afternoon I felt a need for a salty snack so I went off to buy crisps at the hut shop. Only to be told by the hostess that the 100 kr note I tried to pay with was invalid. I last used this purse on the ski trip two years ago, and since then I’ve barely ever used cash, so I didn’t even notice. Embarrassing! I had to borrow money to get my crisps.

Unna Allakas was seriously overcrowded, with 37 people (if I recall correctly) vying for places in its 20 beds. We were lucky and got an 8-bed room for our group of 10 (with one couple sharing, and one person sleeping on the floor). All the other rooms were similarly full, and so was the kitchen floor.