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.




Sylarna to Storulvån.

Today’s hike overlaps with one leg of the Jämtland triangle, the most marketed and publicised part of the network of hiking trails in Jämtland. I was so disappointed – and so glad that I had been walking elsewhere the other days. Had I only seen the triangle, I would have gone home wondering what the big deal was, why would anyone want to go hiking here?

It barely felt like being in the mountains. In part I guess I was spoilt by the magnificent views of the last two days. Here the landscape was bland in comparison – less hilly, less varied, less colourful, less wild. But in part the trail was simply destroyed by the sheer amount of people there.

It wasn’t so much due to the number of people I actually met on the trail. They were many – around eighty, which is about ten times as many I saw on any of the other days! – but not so many that I was constantly surrounded by people. But the near-constant presence of hundreds of people on the trail had worn it down until I was walking not on a path but a wide rocky field of mud.

Alpine flora is tough in a way, but it cannot survive being trampled by thousands and thousands of feet. Because of this, information boards remind hikers to stay on the trail, but I only saw one or two such signs at the mountain stations, so most hikers probably never noticed them. They see the muddy, rocky trail and it is no fun to walk on – and it really isn’t – so they decide to walk just a little to the side. And the next person does the same, and the next hundred do the same, and the ground “just a little to the side” becomes a part of the muddy, rocky field. Even worse: biking was allowed on these trails. I don’t understand how anyone can think this is a good idea. Wherever the bikers decided to leave the path (and I can understand their decision, biking over rocks the size of half my head seems nearly impossible) they left destruction behind them. In some areas the path had multiplied into five or six paths; in others it was literally a single 6-metre-wide “path”. Almost worse than walking on a road, except for the lack of cars.

So today was almost zero nature experience, just plenty of exercise in fresh air. Which isn’t a bad way to spend a day. It was all downhill as well, so (with my poles to help me) my pace was about twice as fast as the previous days. For the record, I normally reckon with 3 km/h (including all breaks) when I hike the Sörmlandsleden trail. Here my pace was under 2.5 km/h on average, except for today. Today I ended up taking a long lunch break shortly before the end of the hike, because otherwise I don’t know what I’d have done with the rest of this day.

But – there was nothing photo-worthy to this hike. So instead I’m cheating a bit and posting a selection of macro photos from the past three days.

What I learned from this hike:
(The scrum master/software developer in me cannot “close” a project without holding a retrospective.)

  • 20 km is the maximum for a day in mountainous terrain, and 2.5 km/h is reasonable to plan around.
  • Avoid any trail that seems really popular.
  • Keep the pack at 15 kg or less.
  • Start each day’s hike early in the morning. If there is a large group staying in the same hut, and they might be going in the same direction as me, make particularly sure to leave a good while before them.


It’s easy to say that I should aim for a lighter pack, but not so easy to achieve… There wasn’t much in my pack that I could have done without, or would have wanted to be without. Each extra that I start considering comes with a “but”.

The one thing I might leave behind next time is the water bottle. I don’t get very thirsty when I hike, except on the very hottest days, and I could have managed easily with just the thermos flask.

The heaviest extra was my big camera. But even though it’s heavy, I would still pack it again if I were to re-do this trip. The macro photography took this trip to another level for me – it makes me stop and see things that I otherwise wouldn’t even notice. However next time I will only bring the macro lens, leave the “normal” lens at home and only use my compact camera for any non-macro shots. Or perhaps look for lighter-weight macro kit.

The snacks and dinner extras were heavy. The snacks lasted me almost exactly to the end of my trip, so the quantity was not excessive in any way. Maybe I could have brought less and bought more in the huts every day, but the range of goods they had in stock this close to the end of the season was very variable, and I’m not sure I’d want to rely so much on shopping there. One of the huts had run out of pasta as well as rice; another sold me their last half cup of lentils; none of them had any eggs left.

The spare clothes were an extra. I packed one extra of everything, and never needed the spare trousers or fleece jacket. Which was expected: I packed them just in case. I forded that one river without falling, but one of the ladies I met in the huts had fallen into the water while crossing a river and came out soaked. That could have been me.

A heavy pack feels even heavier if it doesn’t sit well. Which I knew, of course, but noticed extra clearly this time. In fact this may be part of the reason why the pack felt so heavy the first day. I was experimenting with various ways of attaching my big camera to the shoulder straps, on the front of the pack, so I could reach it easily without having to take the pack off my back every time I wanted to take a photo. Day two, I put the camera away because of the rain – and noticed that my pack felt lighter this way. I tried hanging it off one of the straps, or two, further up, lower down – but whichever way I tried, it felt heavier than having it inside the rucksack. So that’s where I ended up having it. It was somewhat inconvenient, so then I didn’t use it for landscape photos, but for macro photos I normally took a bit of a break anyway and put my pack down, so then it made less of a difference.


Gåsen to Sylarna.

Today was a repeat yesterday, in the best of ways. Beautiful and wild. (And just as windy as yesterday, and with clouds so low I was walking through them. I almost ended up skipping lunch because the wind was so strong, but then I finally found one large, lonely boulder in the otherwise open grassland and huddled in its lee.)

A new experience for me today was fording a river. I crossed one yesterday as well, but that one had enough rocks in it that I could get across with a few agile hops, keeping my feet dry. A group of runners came along just as I got to today’s river, and some of them managed to get across by jumping between rocks, with their light packs and long legs. But with my pack, the risk of losing my balance was too great, so I had to wade through a part of it. The water was shallow – up to mid-calf maybe – but ice cold of course. I’m glad I only had to take a few steps in it.

I wonder if the word vad, which means “calf” in Swedish, is related to vada which means “wade”.

I was also very grateful for my walking poles. I hesitated when packing them, but decided to bring them after all, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t use them much on Thursday, but on yesterday’s and today’s rocky, uneven paths they were great to have. Not that it was difficult to walk without them – but with them, I could walk without thinking so much about the actual walking.

Most hikers seem to use poles the same way as when skiing: the arms swing back and forth in the same rhythm as the legs, and the poles help propel you forward. At least on uneven ground, like here, I plant a pole once every two steps, roughly, but in fact I’m not even sure my arms and legs really move in sync. I use the poles less as extra motors and more like feelers or tentacles. They provide extra contact with the ground, so I have two or three points of contact almost all the time, which means I can be somewhat sloppy about where and how my feet land. They allow me to “flow” forward over the ground, if that makes sense.






Vålåstugorna to Gåsen.

This! This is what I came here for. Wide open views of rolling rocky hills, grassland and shrubland in autumn colours.

A narrow thread of a path cuts through the shrub. Lots of little streams cross the path or run parallel with it (or in some cases, on the path).

Because the path is so narrow, it’s almost like it doesn’t exist. There is just enough of it so I can put my feet down on somewhat level ground and don’t have to watch every step – but no more. The vegetation comes right up to me, so I can see all the lovely tiny plants, and really feel that I am right in the middle of them.

I thought waterfalls would be beautiful, but I loved the little streams best. Waterfalls are noisy, whereas the trickle of a stream over rocks was truly like music to my ears. I made a point of pausing for a moment to listen and enjoy each one.

Apart from the streams, the only thing I could hear was myself. I saw and heard a very few little birds, but apart from that, no one.

The day was overcast and drizzly and windy, so there was no avoiding the waterproof jacket or its hood, which rustles, unfortunately. Luckily I had the wind at my back – I rather pitied the few hikers I met going in the other direction.


The start of a four-day hike in Jämtland.

I started in Vålådalen today, and my planned route is Vålådalen – Vålåstugorna – Gåsen – Sylarna – Storulvån. (Here’s a map of the mountain trails in Jämtland.)

Why this route? I chose endpoints that I could easily get to using train and bus. To keep my pack relatively light, I’m staying in STF accommodation rather than a tent. I’m sure there are people out there who would tell me to just buy ultra lightweight stuff, but I haven’t invested in that, and I quite like having an actual bed, and a stove to cook on, and a loo.

I also chose to mostly stay away from the “Jämtland triangle” between Sylarna, Storulvån and Blåhammaren. Lots of people walk it and love it, and it’s kind of the obvious choice for hiking in Jämtland – but even though I’ve never been there, I get strong vibes of “not my thing” about it. Those three STF facilities are basically hotels, not mountain huts, so I expect them and the trails between them to be crowded, and the whole experience to be focused on convenience and “hiking lite” rather than a real nature experience. Prejudiced, perhaps, but that’s what I chose.

Today I walked from Vålådalen to Vålåstugorna.

It was a tiring day.

At 20 km, today is the longest of the four days. Plus my pack was at its heaviest since I haven’t started eating into it yet. Plus I slept like crap on the sleeper train so I started out really, really tired. Plus half of the day was uphill (and the rest was not downhill to compensate, but flat).

The last few hours I didn’t enjoy much at all, and mostly spent looking forward to arriving at the hut.

My surroundings during the first half of the day were quite forested – pine and spruce at lower altitudes and mountain birch later on. At times the forest opened up into a boggy meadow. Of the mountains themselves, I only got occasional glimpses here and there.

Later in the afternoon the landscape started looking more like what I had been expecting and looking forward to – beautiful wide views of open grassland and shrub, with little lakes and streams here and there.

This was mostly a quiet year with no major life changes.

Events:

  • The burglary early in January. I lost my favourite necklace that I still miss. As a result of the burglary I also bought a new camera system.

Travels:

Projects:

Miscellaneous:

  • My first full year working at tretton37.
  • Cycled to work from April to October, not every day but often enough that I didn’t buy an SL season pass for that half year.

Looking back at previous years in review, it is interesting to see what was memorable then but is ordinary now. Such as daily photography, or going to the gym.

I’ve now filled the three-week gap in my daily posts in September, so if you want to catch up and read all about my hike in Jämtland (among other things) then you can start here and then continue with the help of the links to “older posts” at the bottom.