Lunndörren to Vålådalen, 12 km. Today was a short day because I had a bus to catch in the afternoon.

Heading north, mostly through forest and across small bogs. Steadily downhill all the day, which made for an easy walk. Quite soon I left winter behind me and was back in an autumn forest. Pleasant but quite unexciting after the past few days’ dramatic experiences.

Near the end of my hike, where the trail crosses Vålå river, I got to try an experimental ropeway. Normal bridges are expensive to build and risk getting damaged or swept away by ice and high waters. A ropeway hangs higher up and is therefore less likely to be caught in a flood.

It worked well enough but dragging me and my pack and the “basket” across was hard work and took about ten times longer than walking across. Given a choice between this and a normal bridge, I’d rather walk, but if the choice is between this and wading then I’ll take the ropeway.

Ropeway on the left, bridge on the right:

Day trip from Lunndörren to Pyramiderna / Issjön / Grönvallen, 18 km.

The snow caught up with me here today.

I wasn’t planning to be here and didn’t really have a plan for the day. I need to be back at Vålådalen by the end of tomorrow, and there are no huts within reach of a day’s hike of here and Vålådalen. So I did a day trip. The hut host had some day trip proposals and I picked one that did not involve going higher up.

Issjödalen was supposed to be this beautiful valley, the highlight of this route. I saw nearly nothing of it since I had the wind in my face and was keeping my head down and just plodding along. Quite definitely the least enjoyable part of today, and of this entire hike. I was glad when it was over. This is my only photo from this section of the hike and the only way to get it was to turn around and face backwards, away from the wind.

As long as I wasn’t in a wind tunnel, the hiking was good. It was still windy, of course – the photos look quiet but reality was anything but. My clothes were flapping and the wind was whining around my hood all the time.

Today was not at all what I had in mind, but definitely memorable. There is something about hiking in challenging weather conditions that appeals to me in a way I cannot really explain.

The day felt almost unreal. Emptiness and snow all around me; the paths all hidden by snow and no people or even footprints to be seen. I could almost pretend that I was alone in the world.

The world consisted of three colours: white, gray, and the gold of birch leaves.

Vålåstugorna to Lunndörren, 16 km.

This is what I woke up to this morning. Snow everywhere. And although you can’t see it in the photo, there is more snow coming, and it is accompanied by a fierce wind. Knud is apparently staying here a bit longer.

The hut host came in with the weather report: continuing storm winds from the west and more snow all day. My planned route would take me straight west, heading straight into the teeth of that wind, plodding through deepening snow. At best this would be a very unpleasant hike; at worst it could be deadly since I have no winter safety gear with me.

Nope. I’m not going to fight this weather. If the wind is from the west, then I’ll head east, and my plans can go… wherever abandoned plans go. Not only will I have the wind at my back this way, I’ll also be heading down rather than up and get some shelter from the forest.

Whenever I got out of the forest, though, the full force of the wind hit me again. But I had it at my back so it mostly didn’t bother me, as long as I kept moving. (Glad I packed my warm gloves and buff and fleece hat.) It snowed much of the time but I was just below the snow line and heading even further down as time passed, so the path remained clear and easy to walk.

Stopping wasn’t pleasant. My lunch break was brief and took place I came across the one and only rock along this day’s route that was large enough for me to crouch behind. I wasn’t the first one to crouch there; the moss on the ground on the eastern side of the rock had been worn down by many hikers.

This side of the park is criss-crossed by rivers. The bigger ones have bridges. The smaller one I first thought I’d have to wade across, but then I found an almost-bridge of fallen trees so I crossed with dry feet after all.

I arrived at the hut at Lunndörren with plenty of daylight to spare. The hut was beautifully situated on the shore of a little lake. Once I’d gotten warm and had a meal, and spotted a break in the snow, I took a photo walk around the lake.

Day 1 of a four-day circular hike in Jämtland. I’m starting out from Vålådalen like last year, heading to Vålåstugorna and then to Gåsen, Stensdalen and finally back to Vålådalen. Half of my route overlaps with last year’s, but then instead of heading further west after Gåsen I’ll turn back north and stick to the quieter eastern part of the national park, away from the “Jämtland triangle”.

The weather forecast for today promised storm-strength winds from the west, from Knud the Norwegian storm. At Vålådalen there were no signs of the storm; cloudy and just a bit windier than most days, maybe.

The autumn colours are really at their peak this time. Just two weeks later than last year, and what a difference it makes!

When the trail left the forest and got up onto the plateau, Knud was waiting for me. The wind was so hard that I was nearly blown off my feet at times. Mostly I could see the worst gusts coming and braced in time, but at one point I turned towards the east to take a photo and the wind hit me from behind with no warning and actually blew me off balance. For my next photo I hooked my arm around a signpost to stay upright.

There’s no real shelter to be found up on that plateau. My breaks were brief, huddled in the lee of some little hump of grass. Guess I won’t be taking any macro photos this year.

But in the photos it all looks quiet and peaceful.

Together with our Estonian friends, we went for a walk along the trail in Meenikunno bog and forest. It was abominably hot and at times during the bog section I almost regretted ever getting out of the house today. I was quite glad to get into the shade of the forest. Not cool, exactly, but definitely less hot. Plus there is that cool viewing tower there.

For a while there I could enjoy both the walking and the talking. And the blueberries. Unfortunately the last third or so of the trail was full of ants. Anthills everywhere in the forest and ants everywhere on the path, so instead of a leisurely walk we marched straight on, barely talking and rarely stopping, and were relieved to reach the end.

In the afternoon we drove to Värska for lunch and swimming/bathing. I don’t think I’ve ever been there, even though it’s very well known for its mineral waters and healthy mud and whatnot. The café at the sanatorium was so-so; the beach was small and grassy and not at all crowded even on a Saturday.

The water at Kiidjärv the other day was really warm; even I went in without wincing and took a long swim. Pühajärv yesterday was much larger and much chillier. Today’s swim was in a small bay of Estonia’s largest lake, and felt almost as warm as a bathtub.

For our last day here, we took a trip to the Hintertux glacier.

From Hintertux village, a chain of gondolas can take you all the way up to the top, above the clouds. There is enough snow there for year-round skiing. It felt pretty bizarre to arrive in sandals and t-shirt (although we quickly added fleeces and jackets) and meet skiers and snowboarders.

We had no plans to do any skiing, but there were some snowy attractions for kids. They had fun sledding on inflated rubber tubes, but the snow kept getting into Adrian’s sandals.

Gondolas took us partway down, and all of a sudden we were back in summer. Then we walked the last bit down, from Sommerbergalm to Hintertux village.

This was a very picturesque walk, like most of them here – steep rocky mountains, winding paths with wide views, meadows dotted with fir and pine, lovely little brooks and waterfalls.

We do have mountains in Sweden and there are plenty of hiking paths among them, so one might wonder what the point is of travelling so far to hike in yet more mountains. But the Swedish mountains are very different from the Alps. The Scandes are old and worn-down. While they can look quite mountainous from afar, when you get closer, they usually aren’t that impressive. Whereas here in the Alps, it’s all steep, bare rocky walls and narrow valleys. The Alps are also much lusher.

For today, we chose a flat walk. From Bärenau a local bus took us to the Zillergrund dam, and from there we walked along the reservoir lake to Hohenaualm and back.

Hohenaualm has a Tibetan theme, with prayer wheels and flags. It’s a small and rustic hut, very cosy and pretty but unfortunately not at all familiar with vegetarianism. Which I guess is kind of in keeping with the whole Tibetan theme. They served sausages and cheeses of various kinds, and that was that.

We tried a cheese platter with a local “gray cheese”. It had a potent smell and didn’t taste particularly good. At least it came with some bread and pickled cucumbers.

Adrian ordered “sausages and bread” which we all expected to look vaguely like a hot dog, but it was truly sausages and bread – two wiener sausages and two slices of white bread.

We thought that perhaps the bigger huts near the start of the hike would have more choice for us, so we hiked back. They had more choice, but were no more prepared for vegetarians than the cottage at the end of the road. The two options on the menu for us were French fries, or pancakes, so that’s what we had for lunch.

The locals are very, very fond of pancakes. Their version is called Kaiserschmarrn, and it’s to pancakes like scrambled eggs is to an omelette: it’s a scrambled pancake. Quite sweet to begin with, then covered with mounds of icing sugar and served with a large bowl of jam on the side (preferably apple sauce). Tastes quite good when you first try it but when you have to eat a whole large platter of it or go hungry then it’s not quite so appealing any more…

We made a second attempt at an easier, “rest” day and went to see the waterfalls at Krimml. There was plenty of uphill walking today again, and all-in we walked over 6 km, but the path was even and smooth, even accessible to pushchairs, so our legs got some rest.

The Krimml waterfalls lie well outside the Zillertal valley covered by our maps, and we probably wouldn’t have found out about them if it hadn’t been for a couple of friendly hikers that we struck up a conversation with during an earlier walk. Now I realize that they’re one of the top 10 sights in Austria and marketed as the largest in Europe (according to some unclear measure).

Largest or not, the waterfalls are beautiful and impressive. They are actually a series of waterfalls, one after another, quite close together. A path winds up the mountain right next to the waterfalls, with plenty of viewing platforms along the way. Of course there is a Hütte partway up for lunch. And at the bottom, where the waterfalls land in a rocky expanse, there’s plenty of opportunity to scramble up close and get drenched by the spray.

After yesterday’s demanding walk, we thought we’d rest the “uphill walking muscles” and do something different today: rent bikes, take the Penkenbahn gondola up to the top of the mountain right next to Mayrhofen, and then bike down back to the village.

Renting bikes took a fair bit of time, because it wasn’t easy to find a bike with back-pedal brakes for Adrian. But we found them in the end.

The gondola ride to the top was fast and smooth and we had nice views of Mayrhofen. The gondola was very spacious and we had no trouble at all fitting the bikes in there.

At the top, the bicycle path first went uphill for a while, to the ever-present huts at the top. The slope was quite gentle but on gravel roads it was too much for the kids, so we ended up walking the bikes up.

After lunch at one of the huts we were finally ready to start cycling down. Unfortunately Adrian took a bad fall already at the first descent, bloodying half his face and breaking off half of his new front tooth. So that was the end of that. After cleaning and bandaging his face, we walked the bikes back up and came down by gondola again.

All in all, not a great day.

Yesterday was warm-up day; today we were ready for a bigger hike. We picked one of the suggested walks from the Wanderkarte we got from the tourist information: a circular walk (the Neumarkter Runde) from the Schlegeis dam up to the Olperer Hütte and back again. 8.8 km and 675 metres of ascent.

The weather report promised clearer skies, and down in the valley it looked like the weather might actually clear up, but higher up in the mountains it was almost as foggy and cloudy as yesterday. We weren’t constantly wrapped in clouds, but the views were generally quite limited, except for the occasional moment when the clouds shifted away and we suddenly got a wide open view.

This was a beautiful walk despite the clouds. Or perhaps it was beautiful in part thanks to the clouds: because of the moisture, the mountains were lush and green. The lower slopes were thickly covered in pine and juniper. Rhododendrons flowered abundantly between the junipers as well as higher up above the tree line. There were plenty of little streams and waterfalls.

Higher up it got colder and we got some rain and wind. In places we even crossed some small patches of snow. We were quite glad to have packed fleece jackets and woolly hats (and in Adrian’s case, his beloved fingerless gloves).

The first half of the walk was basically all uphill, and by the end of it we were getting a bit fed up with the monotony of always going up. At the highest point we celebrated with a chilly lunch, perched on and between rocks, in the lee of yet more rocks. Another hour or so of walking got us to the Olperer Hütte for a late and well-deserved hot meal.

The path was very well marked, with red-white-red paint, and easy to walk. Well, the path was all uphill, but it was well built and stable. The steepest parts were almost staircases of large slabs of stone, no scrambling required. I had many occasions to wonder who had built these, and how – given the size of the stairs, it must have required a lot of lifting.

The kids enjoyed the stone cairns dotted along the path.

The way down was quite similar to the way up, but condensed and less varied. Downhill, gently at first and then more steeply, ziggy-zaggying alongside the same little stream almost all the way. Had we started out on this side (which I’m glad we didn’t, because of the steepness) then I would probably have found it beautiful, but after the first half of the walk the second didn’t impress quite so much. Our tiredness probably also played a part.