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.