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.

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