Day 26 – Warning

I wake to the sound of the wind scrabbling at the edge of the cabin.  I’m glad I chose to sleep inside, as the tent would have struggled to cope.  The clouds had moved in and shrouded everything in mist.

‘There is snow… On the mountain’ remarked the cabin attendant.

I look behind me a there, coming out forge distant clouds is a mountain with a new coating of snow.  There is almost a taste of dread in the air…

‘You will go up, up and up.  1000m before you come down’

The words repeat on everyone’s heads.  It will be a wet day, a cold day and a windy day.  The route will climb up and out of the lake valley and over a mountain pass, before a short descent to the next cabin, Lappjordhytta.

I struggled to wake this morning, finding it difficult to sleep well.  This will slow me in the first hour or so.  I set off.  It is later than I would like, but earlier than the others.  I find the trail, follow it as best as I can, choosing better terrain when what I’m faced with involved wet feet.

A river crossing and wet feet are inevitable.  I simply walk through the river, the cold, clear waters filling my tabi socks and cooling my feet.  The rain falls past my head and to the ground and all around me the mountains wear their winter coats.  A dress rehearsal for their winter season.

More height is gained, a tent is passed, the occupant silhouetted against the side and the rhythm of moving takes over.  I drift away, simply responding to what is below my feet, arms tucked behind my back to maximise the warmth of what o wear.  There is no back up.  I can not add layer to stay warm if my body temperature drops.  

A snow flake drifts into my eyeline and floats slowly to the ground.  All around me snow falls the ground and I am now enveloped in the silence that is snow.  A Lappis village appears out of the mist, looking as though it is part of the mountain.  The bogs appear as expected.  I have reached 600-700m. Then the ground turns from bog to a thin layer of newly formed peat.  It is now 800m.

More snow passes me, and I pause.

The mountains are beautiful and I am lost.  I would say lost in though but there was only a stunned silence.  I was heading into a strong wind and from the appearance of the small valley, more snow, yet I stood still.


The call of a Ptarmign wakes me from my empty day dream.  An odd sound.  Like the sound of a wooden rattle.  Reindeer are climbing a ridge line ahead, the snow has stopped, the wind eased and the temperature rises.  I smile.  A tear wells up.  

I think I am extremely lucky, but then remember the work that went into getting here and the risk I have taken.  This is not a result of luck.  We create our ‘luck’ through a simple matter of choice. I chose to put myself here.  The sense of foreboding of th coming snow and inevitable cold of gaining another 100m vanishes.  The land is now jagged rock, snow and ice and still I move on.  

‘I will rest at the next hill top’ is the mantra.  It is a lie and I know it is yet I still utter the words aloud.  

The next hill top arrives and there is another looking in the distance.  I reach it, lacking in any energy. The angle of the slope changes and it is time to wander downhill.  The trail meanders, I lean forwards and let momentum increase my pace to a run.  

Suddenly I stop and drop to my knees.  There are berries here and I feel and uncontrollable urge to eat them.  I have my fill, I stand and I begin to run again.  I am expecting to run to the lake that reflects the light of the sun in the distance but there, directly in front of me is the hut!  

I have arrived faster thank thought.  Inside I find food and so I stay here tonight.  There is a small cabin that is out of the way.  The perfect place to hide, eat and sleep.

Tomorrow I will reach Abisko, collect new equipment, eat fresh food and get ready for the next section of the journey. A section that will prove even tougher than what I’ve travelled through already, and now, with the threat of an early winter. 

Day 25 – Sleep & Pondering


Last night I sat and listened.  The words just sounds, the gestures alien and still I watched and listened.  The light slowly faded, never reaching the point of utter darkness.  Their faces became lost in shadows and I imagined their expressions as they discussed late into the night.

A glow of orange.  A candle is lit. Then another and a third, casting a warm glow across their faces.  Their conversation rarely faltered and the age old game began.  To retire to sleep would mean defeat and besides… I was curious.

A large Easter egg sat atop a cupboard and I was intrigued as to what lay within.

They left, defeated by the one they thought strange.  Not through his actions or mannerisms, but by their judgement of his feet.  Stained brown from countless km in tannin rich bogs.  Their concern was written on their faces.

‘Your feet need to be washed or you will become ill’ one said

‘You would have no problems with your feet or leg if you wore shoes.  In winter I wear wool socks and in summer cotton.’

‘You need shoes like these’ he takes off his shoe and flexes it to show me its quality.  I have no words to explain we are capable of more and that I have just travelled 24 days, with feet in sandals and my injury is from a fall.  Still…  They continue their conversation.  Laughter at stories they are telling before they even reach the middle of their sentences.  I catch the odd word, I glean meaning here and there, still I sit and listen.  Lost in the rhythm of their words and the flow of their language.
Then I realise it is night.  I have not seen stars for 24 days.  I have no seen the black of the night sky.  I step outside and search. The sky is too bright and the stars remain hidden.  A return to the warmth of the cabin and the realisation that the things you have missed are not as I expected.

I have no desire for comforts.  I have yet to utter the words ‘I’d love a nice warm bath’ but I still miss certain things.

I muss the darkness of the night.  I miss the brightness of the stars.  I miss being able to run with friends and others.  To experience is all well and good, but you will never be able to communicate the love, the freedoms, the delightful sense of insignificance that the wilderness brings.  It seems that I stare at the face of an old love but see facets that I never knew existed.  I fall in love anew each day.  Each mountain is the most beautiful I have ever seen.  Each river I cross the most spectacular, each lake the clearest, each stretch of cotton grass the most delicate and each berry the most delicious.

It is sad to think that we took to change her true face.  To bend her to our will and wants as apposed to allow her to just be.  To love like a mountain takes on a deeper meaning everyday I move amongst them. The path ahead grows more difficult.  I have alternatives to the route.  Ones that are safer and easier, but I find no temptation in them.  No desire to lessen the burden.  Only to move, to ponder, to record and one day to share this intense love with someone.  In person, experiencing the same moments as apposed to searching pointlessly for words to describe what it felt like and what it meant to stand, sit or lie for those brief moments.  The uncontrollable urge to pick berries.  The resultant blackening of the hands, the lingering sour taste and the satisfying sensation of having dined on such simple fair. 

But now I catch myself rambling in between sleep.  The thoughts are there, unplanned, lacking in premeditation and to some difficult to grasp in their nebulosity, but what are we if not a collection of our thoughts, experiences and the interactions with others?

My plans (if you can call then that’s) alter each day and now I am aiming at reaching Abisko in two days, allowing my body to absorb what I place into it, working on my leg and reworking my schedule.

A thought from days passed pops into my head!?!

‘I am hunting.  A creature moves ahead and each day I follow.  No footprints, only the prints of others following the same beast.  The only sign of its existence, a red mark on a tree or rock, sometimes easy to see and almost new, other times hidden beneath a layer of fauna or blasted away by the wind.  Still I hunt it each day with no hope of ever reaching it st the end of the day.  Eventually, after many steps I will find it.  Standing still.  Waiting knowingly.  Aware that even though I have finally reached it, I will never be able to capture it in its entirety.  Days will blend together, experiences will hide until a word or smell triggers their presence and the beast will continue to taunt others.  Daring them to give chase.’

For now I will continue to be a shadow.  Present when seen but leaving no trace of my passing.

Day 24 – Only So Many Times…

There’s only so many times I can say the following when describing the landscape…

Beautiful, increible, amazing, delightful, remote, hostile, breathtaking.

They all mean the same thing.  This place is beyond what I expected.  It fills my mind in such a way that there are no deep and meaningful insights into what I am doing.  Any attempt to thing things through gets over powered by one of my senses.  

I sit in the sun, having started in a mountain pass that was anything but sunny.  It rained and I wasn’t bothered.  It was cold and I wasn’t bothered.  I purposefully moved slowly as a rest day, having upped the distance to 35 then 43 the days before.  Today was a simple 32km, at a leisurely pace but I seem to have covered the most difficult part of the day an hour quicker than walking pace!

I arrived at a hut (Gaskahytta) found a bottle of cognac, half full, ate a lunch as I refuse to carry food on the day to Abisko, and then sat wasting time.  I leave and cover the distance an hour or so faster than I though I would!  

I talk to a lady from Switzerland about her  journey.  She asks about mine. 

I tell her where I started and when.

Her eyes nearly pop out of her head.  She asks about today’s trek and I tell her I came from Vuomahytta.  She asks when I left.  Again I tell her and am treated by the same startled, frog eyed fish look.

This happens again when she asks of my plans for the next day.

To me, I am going slow.  To others, I seem to be flying around these fells and other than a healing leg, all feels relaxed and well.  Yesterday and the day o reached Kautokeino are the only days I ended with the feeling of having pushed myself.

What is stranger is that my life as a teacher feels like a distant memory.  As though this has been my life for as long as I can remember.  What a life it would be if we had no need to be a cog in another’s machine?

Day 23 – Waffles

I started early again and as always it was cold.  Not as cold as the clear skied nights but cold.  My legs felt heavy and tired.  There seemed to be no fuel in the tank.  I promised myself a stop and some food at the next hill top, but never stopped.  I ate small handfuls of berries as I went.  They did let seem to do anything.  Still I kept moving determined to get the first 25km done in under 7 hours.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

The trail climbed as it had on previous days but today I had to stop and rest frequently.  I knew I had a steep climb ahead but had no concept of how far.  They I reach a river and see the trail climb steeply from it.  It is time to eat something.  I have 7 ration packs so can spare one.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

I use the wood I collected two days ago to warm some water.  The cold wind means the water is not even tepid when I run out of wood but I make a meal anyway.  Crunchy, salty and fuel regardless of the odd combination of couscous and oriental chicken.  I am getting dangerously cold and I have a wide river to cross.  I step from rock to rock, avoiding the inevitable need to go into the water.  The water burn my feet and makes my legs ache.  I am across and need to move fast so that I can warm up.  I start the climb and push as though in a race.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

The climb plateaus, climbs one last time and ahead I see the hut and the longest descent I have ever seen!  I run.  My quads start to burn and still I run downhill.  A woodland section, meandering, avoiding fallen trees, checking for trail markings and out into the open.  The cabin is ahead.  I have arrived ahead of my planned time.  

I enter the cabin and as always look for food.  I find waffle batter mix, wine, Jägermeißter, tea, crisp bread, porridge and mash potatoe.  I take it and promise myself some alcohol and waffles if I can make the next 18km in less than 6 hours. 18 of almost constant uphill, climbing to around 800m.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

The climb begins after a river crossing.  I am even given a choice…

Wet feet or head to the bridge and add on 2km.

I pick wet feet.  They are already wet from the bogs.  I wander across, lose my balance, create enough circular motion to allow my additional food to swing around and smack me on the side of the head.  The river gets deeper but I am across, and after a wrong turn I regain the trail.  It climbs and the 14km of uphill begins.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

It seems like I’ve been climbing for hours, unable to see far in the birch woodland and wandering how long before I reach the cabin.  I climb and get above the tree line.  Still no cabin and my leg is hurting after a collision with a branch and an unfortunate twist of my foot that had me at a standstill from the pain.  I am tired.  I am hungry. I am getting cold.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

I set a time… 7pm and I stop, eat and sleep.  I eat some crisp bread and move on, pushing with the renews energy that a quick rest provides.  I swear at the rain and the hill and hold no hope of seeing a chain once I reach its brow.

‘Abisko in 3 days’

To my surprise I see the cabins.  The exhilaration of reaching the end of day takes over and I run.  Fire is made, kettleIs on and I settle down for the eve.  

Tomorrow, a new mantra…

‘Abisko in 2 days’

Day 22 – Unlearning

Cold.  Bitter cold.  Burning, bitter cold.

Clear skies and the height combined meant that the ground, air and water I wandered through were cold.  After an hour my toes burnt and I knew I was walking as though my feet were solid blocks. 

A quick stop, tabi socks on and I started off again.  I can’t say how long it took for the burning sensation to be replaced by warmth, but it did, and just as I was starting to warm in the sun’s light I approached the biggest peak in the area and quickly snuck into its shadow.

The temperature difference was impressive.  Huge sheets of snow clung to the side of slopes and the ground frozen as though the summer sun was powerless here.  It truly felt like entering anther world, enhanced by the yellow cairn marking the border between Norway and Finland.  

I catch the bottom of my right sandal on a rock along the trail.

Pain.  Burning pain.  Debilitating burning pain.

I breath deep, squeeze the muscles in my shin and then start to walk again.  It’s not often I catch my sandals on rocks and it’s not often that it hurts in anyway, but…

The sudden tightening of my leg muscles causes unbearable agony.

I tread more carefully, but regardless…

I slip.

An innocent looking rock was coated in a layer of ice and although the slip was small the same pain ignites in my leg.  I shout.

‘Oh!  Echo!’

I now distract myself my shouting loudly and listening to the echo return.  It works only in giving my leg time to settle.

I realise I’m getting colder.  My feet and hands are starting to burn despite my gloves.  The bog is frozen too, making it unexpectedly a dry feet moment.

Ahead I can see the edge of the mountains shadow.  I move faster, knowing that it will be warmer once I step out of the shadows, and as I do so, I am greeted by a gloriously warm sun, low in the sky and still slightly orange in colour.

The trail climbed and then the descent began.  I tried to run, but again caught my sandal and the pain erupted down my leg, stopping my in my tracks.

I feel my shin muscles and they are tight. I massage them until they loosen and breath through the ache of squeezing sore muscle willing them to relax.  I realise that my movements are anything but relaxed, resembling more a late stage sufferer of syphalis!

‘I need to move smooth, light and easy’

I try it.  Feet relaxed, legs relaxed, arms relaxed, moving as the terrain moves.

It works.  My leg pain eases and I am running again.  I breech a crest of a hill and there is Rostahytta, nestled next to a river and at the base of a beautiful mountain.

I run down to the cabin, open it and search for food.  I have food but it’s nice to get a surprise treat occasionally.  One cabin smells like fired fish, the other some kind of stew and the third smells unused.  The only thin I find is stock for a soup and coffee.

Is it and write in my journal before being joined by an elderly couple.  The lady speaks little Englaih but her husband begins a conversation.  The usual questions…
Where are you going, are you English, how long have you been on the trail?

I answer and he then tells me the following:

  • I will climb to past 1000m today before dropping down to Dærtahytta.
  • He has been fishing with his wife for the last 4 days.
  • They live in Tromso and must hike a little before the 75km drive home.
  • Once I pass Abisko I will get very tired from saying hello to all the people on the trail.

The last is amusing, and the first a challenge.  I ignored some 1000m peaks today and to know that I will climb that high just following the trail was almost a challenge.  

‘Get there before 4 and you can eat more’ I tell myself.

The trail from there rose out of the river valley and continues to rise, crossing rivers, skirting lakes and being most larger rocky expanses of land (they reminded me of the rocky sections on Scafell pike and Great Gable).

Then I see some people on the peak ahead, look down at the trail and when I look up…

They’re gone!

‘Hallucinating?  I can’t be halucinating? Maybe I am!’

I move with greater speed hoping his is the last section of climb and as I reach he climbs zenith, there… Ahead… Are a group of hikers.

‘Challenge is on!’

I move faster now, I run, I jump from rock to rock, staying smooth, light and easy, going with whatever the trail provides.

I pass three and say hello to each until the fourth exclaims ‘in… In…’

I finish off the sentence as I carry on running passed,

‘Sandals’ 

A rocky descent, a boggy plateau, a beautifully winding, steep and technical descent and then the home straight.  I can see the hut, it is 3:40 and I have 20mins to cover the mile of rough ground ahead.

15 minutes later I arrive. 

I have a double portion of food and coffee in front if me, realise I have left my journal behind at the last cabin (only a day in it so never mind… I will rewrite t all) and I have the afternoon and evening of beautiful blue skies and sunshine to enjoy.  

It feels good to have rediscovered why I ever ran barefooted.  As if by magic my leg feels far better in the later parts of today than it has in what feels like weeks.  Tomorrow I will see how it feels before continuing further towards Abisko.

Day 21 – Resignation

Morning

Three times I woke in the night.

Three times I clutched my leg, unable to ease the burning pain.

A split second thought about staying till tomorrow.

It passes, the pain remains, I fall back to sleep as the pain reaches a low.

It is 34km to Rhostahytta, and only 14 to Gappohytta.  These distances are small.  These distances are achievable.  These distances will be paid for by pain, joy and awe.

The air is cooler today.  The sun hidden behind a thick blanket of clouds, close enough that I can reach out and touch.  It is time for coffee, to clean and to move on.

Afternoon

Just after 1pm I reach Goskahytta. Not sure why the time matters in the slightest.  The trail here climbed out of the valley around Goldajavri and up towards the mountains.

The peaks I was in admiration of grew closer and closer as the trail snakes it’s way south west.  A steep descent into a dry river bed, with signs of the rivers true power and nature etched on the face of each beautifully carved rock.  A hello to a group of hikers and a steep climb out and along to the next climb.  Up it went.  Slow and meandering, whilst I wandered how best to describe the landscape I move through.  Beautiful is too common placed, magnificent full of grandiose without substance, incredible a word best used to describe the forces that formed this place.

I drop down into another small river bed, with only the smallest of streams exiting the small lake.  It’s power is such that along its path are plunge pool after plunge pool, all filled with crystal clear cyan coloured liquid.  The smile I’ve worn all day widens.  The knowledge the hut is near doesn’t solicit the same increase in pace.  I wish to stand here and admire.

I contemplate a quick swim, imagining the fun it would be to slide along the waterfall and fall into the pool below.  It would be foolish to do so in such a cold wind and at this altitude, so instead I collect water.

I reach the hut after a few 100m and enter.  Inside I find some porridge and a can of stew.  I make a meal of the stew and have th porridge as a sweet treat, sweetened using the raspberry jam I find, along with some butter for richness.

I take only what I need, some soya mince and couscous, leaving everything else.  I debate moving on and decide to stay for one evening.  The leg is sore after a jolt on a downhill and I would prefer it fixed sooner and spend more time on the trail than heal slower and less time here.  I’m quickly joined by a Canadian philosophy lecturer who is exploring Northern Norway and a family (I assume they’re a family!  A husband and wife joined by a father/father in law) from Switzerland, on their way to the tripoint and then Kilipisjârvi on a boat.  

Evening 

The fire is on, people are sat either chatting or lost in their thoughts.  I’ve worked on the tendons and muscles in my leg, loosening the muscles as best as I can.  I’ve realised that I need to moisturised my feet!  The cool and arid air dries the skin and makes it easier for cracks to appears.  By cut toe is all but healed and the small nick to the ball of my right foot is healing well.  My pack is ready to go and all I have to do is clean the mess I create before I leave in the morning.  An early start is needed to cover the distance to Dærtahytta.

I realise that others will view my mental state or emotional state with a perception other than what it is.  I may get angry, be in pain or even sad through loneliness. This means nothing as below all this is a simple and nourishing joy.  The joy that comes from a confidence in ones ability to survive.  The ‘dark places’ are truly places of metamorphosis.  We enter and leave with either subtle or profound changes to our nature or resolve.  Their is now a greediness to my actions.  Greedy to place my feet on new ground everyday, to see new sites and to feed on the sensations my body receives and brain translates.  The land is rich in all things and I am greedy for its fruits. 

Day 20 – Return To The Mountains

I woke early.  I wished to remain in bed.  This was the briefest of moments as I quickly began to plan the day.  Coffee was made, the section of the route with distances written down, the first and most painful step of the day made and equipment laid out ready for sorting and packing.

I’ve managed to cover 20 days of wilderness with just 3 guaranteed food stops with just 10 ration packs, 3 of which I still have, yet I seem to have purchased enough food to last me more than the 7-8 days this section will take!  This is what happens when you listen to the concerns of others that are seeing just a snapshot of what you have done.

Today, I have eaten 3 meals and I can’t really say I feel any better for it.  Why 3 meals? 

So I can at least use the additional calories and nutrition to rebuild the damaged section of my leg.  Not sure it will make any difference but it does solve the problem of fitting it all into my pack.

Finding the start of the trail was a little tricky… Everytime I found it, it placed me back on the road so I decided to stick to the road and head to section that crosses the road and heads towards Norway.  The landscape still brings me joy to behold.  Even after 20 days of being amongst the mountains, lakes, marshes and forests on a daily basis, they still hold their lure.  

The trail was easy to follow and climbed out from Kilipisjarvi before reaching a peak and diving back into a valley.  Ahead where some of the most incredible mountains and ridges I have ever seen!

Around 3km from Goldahytta I went off route to see why two people where repeatedly having their picture taken around a block of yellow painted cement.

‘Hi hi!’

‘Hey’ I replied

I looked at the block.  Above it a plaque that simply said ‘Suomi 1926’

I looked at the two guys stood there…

‘Where are you from?’

‘England.  Erm… What is this thing?’

‘You don’t know what this is?’

‘Nope’

‘It’s a tripoint’

‘What’s a tripoint?’

‘You really don’t know??  It’s a rare point on the planet where three countries intersect.  Here is Suomi, on the left Sweden and on the right Norway.’

I was suddenly amused by the fact that by walking round the block you went back one hour and then forward again by an hour. The jolly German, the chatty one sporting a bright yellow tshirt, proceded to take a photo of me on all sides of the monument.  It’s interesting how we give such things the amount of importance that we do.  The jolly Getmans explained to me that they are travelling around to go to a few of these places in Scandinavia, having got a boat here to avoid walking!

At that point I bid then fair well and off I went, which is where I am now.  My day today ends early at Goldahytta, just outside of Finalnd and in Norway.

Day 19 – All About The Tape & Washing Up Liquid

The Knights that go Ni have gone on their merry way home via Sweden and I am left with good memories and a traditional Finnish knife, put together by Tuuka, the generous.  

I’ve purchased my food for the next 8 days, busily storing electricity in every battery and device I carry and washing in the hope that the fire this eve will dry my clothes before tomorrow.  

Now I’m busy working out the problem of an inflamed tendon on my lower shin and learning all sorts of crazy ways to use tape and trying to get the tendon to move as freely as possible so I can start to make less painful progress.

I may start up a cheap Scandinavian running holiday business on my return.  This place can be reached easily, the traditional cabin I sit in will easily sleep 4 minimum and has everything you need, with the highest mountain in Finland only 55km away, with 4 huts along the route.  It is a wanderous part of the world that more should visit.  We can learn lots of people who are shaped by their landscape, as apposed to those that shape their landscape to suit them.

The next stage will be Abisko, 185km of mountain wilderness with the promise of new kit at the end.  

In terms of kit, my waterproofs are still working great, my tshirt is still in one piece (although to call it white is a little bit of a lie), my tent…

Well, my tent outer has two holes, the inner has more than two holes and generally it can be pitched so that you can get in, but you shouldn’t expect to be able to sit up in it unless you have an upper body that is less than 1.5′ in length.  My leggings are starting to wear through in the crotch area, which could prove embarrassing!

I can’t wait till my injury is healed and I can actually start to physically push myself.

Day 18 – Furious Fristrations

So far, I have covered 566km of the route.  This doesn’t include the additional distances from getting lost and relocating myself.  There is however the need to vent and since this blog was set up as an outlet.  A way of putting feelings, fears and ideas in a space where they can be contemplated and made sense of.

This is how I intend to use it today.  The language will be harsh.  The words of no inspirational value and merely a way of getting out the frustration that builds near the end of each day.

Contrary to belief, I have had enough food.  The sources may not match the comforts of everyday life, where your every need and desire is easily met, but there has been adequate nutrition that I rarely felt the need to stop for rest.  I have been managing with the tent, and although it allows in biting insects and the inner flynet touches the outer and so needs drying out every day, I have had shelter.  My leg however is the source of frustration.  It feels like yet another master class in a slow and unavoidable car crash of an adventure.  In fact, it feels at times that it should be titled ‘this how to completely fuck up an adventure and a stable life’

The day begins with fresh hope, the pace is good, but as the km pass, the pace drops and the low level pain becomes a scream that blanks out all positivity and engaged the base instinct of anger.  Everything is subject to this anger from a rock to a patch of grass.  The reality is that the anger is directed at myself and this leads to the inevitable frustration.  I end a day mentally exhausted and in need of time away from all but physically I don’t feel like I’ve pushed myself.  

Today, for around 1km, I ran.  The joy was overwhelming.  The frustration was overpowering and tears poured from my eyes.  Tears of joy but tainted with the inevitable deathly end to the day, where every step was a battle of will power.  I am heading from a tough section to one that will test me even more…

The Swiss Alps in winter, and the longer I take, the tougher and more likely failure will be.  The fury that I feel is only abated by observing the joy of ‘the Knights that go ni’ at completing there multiday trip to the mountains.

Some would say that it is a dark place I am in but it’s not.  Each step I take…

Each hard earn metre of progress is one step towards a change.  I will not be different, but my mentality will be forged by pain, mind numbingly intense pain.  This what the ‘dark place’ is.  It is a room of metamorphosis and it is our choice to stay and watch to carnage or to leave for the safety of our normal lives that defines it as a dark place or no.  I entered, eyes open and along the way, placed my self in a postion where I have closed the windows and barred the shutters.  For now, I see little light entering this space, and until I am fixed or am able to make the progress I feel I should be, I will continue to feel as I do.  Frustrated.  Furiously frustrated and insignificantly alone.  This is what I realised in those first two days of pain.  Miles away from anyone and anything, placing my hopes on the possibility of a hut at some point and the chance to stop lifting and placing one painful footstep after another.

Negativity is a bastard and best placed in full public view, so it can be seen as the bastard it is.  It is a shame…

 It taints everything I see in a given day and blinds me to most of the beauty around me.

A landscape carved by fire, water and ice. incredibly breath taking in its beauty but benign to my presence and in no mood to suffer fools gladly.

I give my apolgies only for the complete fuck up of a trip so far, regardless of the progress made.

Tomorrow I will undoubtedly feel different but at present, with a mind that feels like it has done battle with the gods of old legend, I drink, rest and look for solutions.  Complaint without action is more pointless and unnecessary than complaining and feeling sorry for one’s self. 

  

Days 13 to 17 – Perspective Changes & Near Death


I’m sat staring at mountain. The sun is warm. It beats down on the landscape yet the snow defies its presence as the tallest peaks cling on to their winter coats.Progress is slow, hampered by pain, as I head to Sommahytta. Two days have passed since I left Kautokeino and pushed through the day that ended upon a mountain.

Two days ago I left that hill top camp and journeyed north, something that vexes me a little. I reached my first port of call. A small cabin named Raisevanhytta. I stopped here. Drank coffee. Wrote some words. Words that I didn’t plan on writing and gave no forethought too. 

It seemed I was fighting against the land I was on. Folly!

No longer will I fight. What happens everyday happens. This was the decision I made as I wandered along the trail to Nedrefoss. Before I left I searched for anything useful…

Sea salt, zip lock bags! Camera is inserted into on bag and some holes are punched into it. The sale goes in a second along with the bag containing my camera. This should help remove the moisture inside the small black box of picture making. It was now time to leave.
The trail changed from sandy lakeside trails to mountain single tracks, occasionally opening out into a marshy mountain lake view. I felt light, all was well and my pace was of no concern.  

Then the trail became alpine. Meandering down hill, technical and rocky, through what felt like a fairy tail forest. A small river crossing lies ahead. I take the first step and stop, enjoying the feeling of the crisp cool water on my feet. I reach for my bottle so I can…

The crisp cool water envelopes me. I’ve fallen in yet another river, deep into the plunge pool formed by the fast moving water.  

I jump out and utter the same single swear word three times, I grab my phone, take t out of the case, turn it off and put in my pack.
A smile creeps across my face and no sooner than it reaches the far side, I unleash a laugh!

I laugh for a while, amused that I am now soaked!! My phone is likely to stop working and that makes two pieces of kit that are dead. All hope lies at Nedrefoss and the promise of a fire and some dried food like rice.

I arrive and there is a family already at the cabin. We exchanged brief words, Klaus is the most talkative, questioning me on where I’m headed, food, shelter and water. They sit done to a meal and I wander in search of something to help to dry my things. I return and they’ve finished their meal and are on their way to the sauna. Klaus gives me a ration pack. He insists I take it and refused the money I offer him. Thankful, I take it and prepare it. Then I find the mother load…

Pasta!! A big bag of dried pasta!!!
Camera and phone are in, the whole thing is then hung above the wood burning stove. If all goes well they should be fine in a day or so.

I eat half the meal, lie down on the bed and drift off.
I wake to a pain in my shin. My leg hurts, so I loosen the tendon as best I can, pack and leave, saying fair well to Klaus and his family. Before long I notice that the ache is now more severe. I begin to walk, but with each km that passes they leg feel heavier and more painful. I’m expecting a DNT cabin at the 30km mark. The river changes to a raging torrent to a wide and quite beast, snaking its way to sea. Water falls fill it from cliffs on either side and on occasion the trail becomes a boulder hopping exercise.  

30km arrives. I can’t find the hut. There are no sign posts and no one to ask so I continue along the trail. Climb steeply towards the sound of a waterfall and am rewarded with a view that I wish to revisit. A deep ravine filled by a powerful waterfall that drowned out all other sounds. This is where I will sleep tonight. A fire is made, water heated and a medley of pasta and cheese is eaten. It is time to sleep.
My sleep is restless. My leg hurt and the pain wakes me in the night, but the roar of falling water lulls me back to sleep. I wake early. The sun has reached above the peaks and shines bright. I know today will be painful. I also realise I have no way out from here. My way out is through the pain. Something stops me pressing the SOS button. The trail keeps climbing, and climbs for hours, until I need a break from the pain and so I stop and write these words while the sun warms my skin and the landscape feeds my heart.  
I will reach Sommahytta and if I find food there, I will rest. If not I will continue to the next hut until I am lucky enough to find food. I have 4 ration packs but at this pace I’m not sure they are enough to get me to Kilipisjârvi. 
I reached Sommahytta and although there was no food, I found some dried milk and rapeseed oil. I had two cup fulls of dry milk powder whilst getting the fire going. A hot cup of soup followed before heading to sleep. The leg was no better. It hurt to walk. The next day would be a slow and short day, but the cabin was warm and I wasn’t planning on staying up late.
Day 16 arrived and I wandered out fairly early. The first cabin was only 3.5km away. Sooner than I expected and after 2 river crossings I arrived. Two lads were already in there and looked like they’d just woken up. Brief words were exchanged, I drank a small amount of coffee and I massaged and flexed my leg. There was a roll of gaffatape handy…

I used it to tape my leg up, and then left the cabin after saying farewell. The size of my pack was an amusement and a wander to them both. My sandals got to the response ‘what ever floats your boat’ which was amusing.

The next 12km felt better. There had been moments in the first 3km where I’d wanted to stop. The pain so intense that my leg would lock up. As time passed the pain became worse and the final few meters to the next hut where agony.

Still, it’s not that painful if you are still taking steps!

This hut is on Finnish land and 9km from the highest peak in Finland, Halti at just over a 1000m. If my leg was better, I would be heading for its summit, but with regret I sat and looked at it in the near distance instead. I know where it is and that arriving here is easy enough from Kilipisjâvri so another place to visit in the future. I chatted with the people here, 3 who spoke good English commented on my pack size, the lack of food I carried and my footwear. Dooka, the most talkative of the bunch had three days left and enough food for 10 days! He off loaded some in my direction even though I insisted I had enough. Another fella asks if I could fix his water bottle top and in exchanged gave me a mix of dried watermelon, apple, banana and peanuts. This was the prebed snack.  

Right now it is day 17. The landscape I’ve woken too is incredible. I am amongst mountains, the sun is filling a blue sky and clouds hug the mountains. I will get myself close to Kilipisjâvri today, with the plan on arriving there on Saturday, buy provisions for the next 250km and move on. Until my leg improves, it will be slow progress but progress it will be.
‘The Knights that go Ni’ (Dooka, Jonnas and Ville) invited me along with them. We set off and although the pain was still there, it seems less of a burden. After a few km, we stopped and the 3 of them made breakfast next to an incredible waterfall. Nothing as big as the Norwegian one I stayed near, but amazing none the least.  

A quick breakfast and it was time to move on. Their pace is more leisurely, although the this is more a product of their ginormous packs. They planned to travel for 4 days and carried enough food for 8 or 9.

The trail is a good one and I’m left wishing I could run. We reach a river that is spanned by a simple and solid wooden bridge. The water is so clear and appears blue as it flows toward the sea. Their plan is to reach Kilipisjârvi tomorrow, grab a beer, then a sauna and end their adventure with a pizza. Dooka and Jonnas insist I go for a Finnish sauna. The saying here is that if what ails you is not cured by a sauna or tar, nothing will cure you!

The pain grows and as it does my leg begins to feel heavy and stiff. We break… I go through to agonising process of voodoo flossing my leg and freeing it up again. More km pass and we arrive at a lake and more huts. It is time for lunch cooked one a fire and a hours break. The next section to the final hut for today is 11km and the first few km are uphill.  
We head out and I test myself on the hill. I can push up as a good pace and not feel tired. I decide to run ahead and see if I can free up my leg again. The pain has reached its usual peak and if I don’t do something the next 11km will be soul destroying. I’m amazed at the difference in mentality the companionship of random strangers make. The pain seems to be treated differently and the next 11km seem to fly by as we stop for breaks, chat about nothing in particular and talk about the kit I carry.

One final hill and the hut appears at just the right time. The pain was reaching yet another peak and I head straight for he river. The ice cold water may not do anything for the injury but it’s numbing effect is hugely welcomed. I feel more positive about my progress. It will be far slower than I planned but I will continue moving towards Saracusa.  
The evening is pleasant. Some food, more conversation, watching Jonnas reach the peak of a 1000m+ peak near the hut and how everyone here revels in his achievement. A sense of quiet contentment fills the air and as though a silent alarm has been sounded, everyone head to sleep. Another day ends and one more lies ahead. I sleep as best as I can having drank a pint or so of coffee. The bed is comfortable and I have little packing to do in the morning.
I should explain calling the 3 kind fellas, the Knights that go Ni. The Finnish conversation tends to involve the word ‘ni’, a way of agreeing with what is being said, much like a gangster would say ‘true dat’ or ‘I get ya bled’. So if in Finland and involved in Finnish conversation, all you need to do to blend is is on occasion, when it seems like a sentence has ended, utter the word Ni.