Vue sur Rapadalen dans la montée vers le Skierffe - Sarek

SAREK

9days

trekking

170km

walked

2500m

D+

1

day without rainning

It’s been fifteen months now since we returned from our Lapland adventure along the Kungsleden. Fifteen months that the Far North is calling us again. So, of course, the GR738 has allowed me to escape a week in the mountains but I need my annual migration to the Nordic countries, this time we will take the direction of the Sarek National Park in Sweden for nine days to trek in a wild and raw Nature.

Sarek and Route


Vast almost 2000km², the Sarek is a Swedish national park located a few hours drive south of Kiruna and not far from the Norwegian border. Often considered the last wilderness in Europe, Sarek is a concentrate of wild nature. Here there is no road, no marked path (and even almost no “real” path), just 2 bridges, no refuge as such, at most some cabins as spartan as rare and weather conditions may be hard. Your only neighbors at (tens of) kilometers will be the reindeer that the Sames let graze here all summer long.

A true paradise for the walker who wants to be in the middle of nothing for several days.

On the other hand, the Sarek has a price: no path, no road, etc. implies that you have to navigate even in an often harsh environment. You have the choice between marshes, dense birch forests or large empty expanses in altitude and for the weather: rain (a lot), wind, snow and a little sun sometimes…

Sarek is a difficult environment. The terrain and the weather can be very hard and changing. Even in summer, very short indeed, you can have winter conditions at altitude. Be prepared! The Sarek are aimed at experienced walkers who know a minimum of the middle of the Scandinavian Arctic and who are equipped accordingly. Here you will be alone and the help will not always be able to intervene quickly, besides that you will have no telephone network, nor quick escape.

Warning: the following tutorial is part of a specific context of this month of September 2018. Do not assume conditions in advance (especially with regard to crossings rivers) and do not take the characteristics that we have encountered as an absolute truth. Prepare your hike well and always keep a margin of safety.

Our route allowed us to travel a good piece of Sarek and to pass by the Rapadalen and Skierffe, THE point of view not to be missed in the park. About 170km long, it took us 9 days of walking to achieve it at a rate of 20km / days. It was not a health walk but it is achievable. You will find below are details (the GPX is downloadable):

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Joining Sarek


Who says isolated region says not easy to access. In addition, we leave in September which corresponds to the end of the season here, some services are already at a standstill.

First step: going to the North. We chose Kiruna once again as a base camp. You can also start from Gällivare which is accessible by train (but no longer by plane). Kiruna has the advantage of having an airport and some good hotels. It is the “city” of northern Sweden. To enter Sarek there are several “classic” points: Ritsem, Kvikkjokk and Saltoluokta. Since the lake crossings and the bus to Ritsem seemed complex because the services were finished for the season, we chose Kvikkjokk as an entry point and Saltoluokta as the exit.

Getting to Kvikkjokk by public transport from Kiruna, requires taking a train to Gällivare and then several buses and a taxi, in other words, it’s long and we did not have many days in front of us. So we chose a solution not “sexy” and rather expensive: the taxi. It is still 4h30 drive and around 5000SEK, three it’s better but good …

So we arrived on site on a Sunday, we bought gas for the stove on Monday morning and we took the taxi at 12h to arrive around 16h (driving sport driver …).

For the return of Saltoluoka it is “simply” taking two buses to Kiruna or one to Gällivare.

Here are some useful links to prepare transfers:

Also links to the main “resorts” in the area and information on lake crossings:

Warning: you will certainly have to cross lakes by boat, although some are rowing there are motor boat crossings. You will sometimes have no choice. By cons it is very expensive! Here is a non-exhaustive list valid for 2018:

  • Kvikkjokk-Padjalenta : 250SEK each
  • Sitojaure : 400SEK each (Twice a day or on demand)
  • Saltoluokta to the bus : 200SEK each
  • Ritsem : ??

No bank card for the first two but euros seem accepted. In the end, plan cash!

Day one - Departure and Padjelanta


We are September 10, 2018 in Kvikkjokk around 16:30, the weather is nice, the sun begins to be low in the sky and we are waiting at the water’s edge the arrival of the water taxi that should lead us to the beginning of the Padjelanta. We are all three, with Quentin and Matthieu, eager to immerse ourselves for 9 days and 170km in the Sarek. We had only a hurry after last year and the Kungsleden: come back and make even more wild, here we are!

Our “pilot” arrives with a few passengers coming back from Padjelanta. We see with him some details and we embark for 10min of boat. Although early September, autumn has already established its camp here. The birches are dressed in their yellow-red hues, it’s beautiful. The sunlight is soothing. We slide on the water quietly, what a nice way to start a trek.

The jetty is sketchy but there is a small cabin next door for hikers who missed the last boat. We take the time to discuss with the pilot about the route, the passages of lakes, … First a little gruff, it will prove quite nice and will give us good advice.

Now we are alone, the bags are loaded on our backs that bear the weight of the 10 days of food but we are going the light heart on a very good way, marked and easy. This is also a good thing because we will spend two days along it, the time to warm our leg before attacking the heart of the subject.

We will do 7km tonight. Nothing really difficult. The landscapes are pleasant but not particularly impressive because one evolves mainly in dense forest. There are some comfortable bivouac areas along the way. So we settle down at nightfall, not far from the river.

The time to get on camp and eat and the rain begins to fall in fine drops which precipitates our movement back into the sleeping bag warm and soft.

End of the first day which will have been especially a day of transfer. We really attack the march tomorrow with at least 18km to go. In the meantime: good night!

Day 2 - Futher along the Padjelanta


It has rained all night and the environment is particularly humid this morning. We will bend the camp under the drizzle of what hasten our departure.

Today we continue along the Padjelanta. So we are progressing easily even if the rain has made some passages slippery (including the famous boardwalks crossing the marshes). After some time we start to leave the forest at times, allowing us to admire the extension of the valley for kilometers downstream and upstream. We have, for the moment, only met one person at the Nunjes cabin and that will be all for the day …

We are fit and happy to be here. Even if the weather is not good, the weather is not unpleasant. The sun plays with the dense clouds and creates beautiful contrast on the orange birches.

There is not much to say about this particular day. The landscapes remind us a lot of those of the Kungsleden for now but can be at more impressive dimensions.

In the evening (around 16h – the sun setting at 19:30, we shifted the day: get up 6h bed 21h), we will put the camp a little before Såmmarlappstugan, where the path comes very close to the river. It is a nice spot for the bivouac with a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. Unfortunately we will have the right to a succession of small showers all the evening. We still managed to light a fire despite the wet wood but it will not heat very hard.

We do not stay late tonight. The sun setting early and rain not helping but especially we are tired of these first 20km. You have to give the body time to get used to it, it will be better in a day or two.

For now we fall asleep, rocked by the plop plop rain on the tent. It’s nice to feel a little further from civilization tonight but I can not wait to be really isolated, just a few days of patience.

Day 3 - End of Tarradalen and end of path


A second rainy night. We are bending a wet camp again but at least it has stopped raining for now.

We will arrive quickly at Såmmarlappstugan where we will cross the caretaker doing the cleaning before closing. He expected to leave this afternoon. The time to chat and admire the morning mist on the river and we take the road on the Padjelanta which rises slightly here.

The vegetation is becoming more and more sparse as the day progresses, this allows us to enjoy the view of the entire valley.

We will arrive in view of the cabins of Darreluoppal in the early afternoon. We will meet three people in this area who will be the last for 48h.

Another hour of walking and we are at the cabins.

We will arrive at the cabins in the middle of the afternoon. Then the big question is whether we continue a little way or if we stop here for the night and enjoy the comfort of the winter cabin …

After deliberation, we choose to push further. It will always be won … So we go back on the road again a few hundred meters. Indeed it is here that we come out to walk in the pampas freely. So we choose to cross the river (we will stay west of it for later), climb a little on the heights and finally out of the way.

It is amazing how this little step aside, the one that leads you off trail, is loaded with a strong symbolism in my opinion. By this small step one finds a kind of total freedom, one can walk where one wants, as one wants, having for only constraint the ground. However, we also leave a reassuring line that leads from a point A to a point B without asking too much question. Inwardly, therefore, we must accept all this freedom. For my part I will have to wait a few hours off trail to just find a nice feeling of walking in freedom.

In any case, what reassures me is the field. I was afraid that it is complicated on this section but for now it is grass with some bushes and rockeries. Nothing really bad.

We will not be long in crossing our first reindeer in this ground which is ideal for them. They usually move in a small group of about ten individuals, but one can cross larger herds.

After twenty kilometers we will set up the camp right next to the river Vassjajåhkå to the right of Lake Vassjajavrtja. A very nice location with a beautiful view and relatively sheltered from the wind.

The bivouac quickly installed, we take advantage of the fact that it is still early to go about our business: photo, rest or hunt wild berries that abound in the area.

It will not be long before we have successive visits of small groups of reindeer to the other side of the river. They still keep their distance but it’s a nice show while we eat our lyophi well protected from the wind. In the evening, temperatures fall quickly and it is difficult to stay outdoors for a long time after eating.

Thus ends the third day of walking. For the moment everything is fine if it is a few small sores and a little tired but nothing abnormal.

It’s the first night I feel like I’m far from civilization and still, in the end, there are the cabins that are a short walk away … In any case, the morale is good the physicist is following and I can not wait to get a little further into Lapland.

Day 4 - Off tracks and Lake Crossing


Here we are, today we really enter the  Sarek whose limit is represented by the small river next to which we camp.

The night was cool but good. We are starting to get a good run on camp storage and we are quickly back on track for our 20km daily.

We continue towards Alggajavrre Lake. The off-trail progression is much easier than I expected and that’s good! Even the few streams to cross are low enough not to bother us too much. We are moving relatively quickly in this beautiful valley. We pass small passes in small passes, revealing each time a new perspective. Here, more trees obviously but the grassy steppe as far as the eye can see. I love this kind of landscape. It feels very small and you breathe.

We will quickly pass the barrier reindeer that serves the Sami to gather their animals. We will cross it at the river but there must be “doors” to cross it elsewhere I guess. The meal break will be done a little further, in front of the Renvaktarstuga.

The Renvaktarstuga are private cabins that belong to the Sames, so you can not use them as a refuge for the evening. On the maps you will find further indications “Låst” or “Forfallen” next to some huts; it means “locked” and “ruined” respectively.

A little after the meal break, we will come across our first crossing a little complex of river. Indeed we find here the confluence of two arms which form a rather important stream in the end. It is therefore necessary to cross a little after the Renvaktarstuga and stay to the west of all the rivers (left bank). We will arrive after some research time to cross (almost) dry by jumping from rocks to rocks. Once again I think we are lucky because the level of lessons is low in this season, it must go very differently in the spring and the crossing must be much more difficult!

We will quickly see Alggajàvrre which marks our entry point into Sarek and a little above Alkavare Kapell, a small chapel, a remnant of a period of mining exploration in the area.

To cross the lake there are two possibilities: row or pass by a bridge. You will find to the north-west end and under the Kapell, boats to cross the river.

The system of the three boats: it is a system that you will find in Sweden and Norway. To cross the train you have two possibilities. Either there are two boats on your side and you take one to cross, or there is only one boat on your side and you will have to cross, come back to drop a second boat which is on the other side and cross a new time. In summary with three boats, we make sure that there is always at least one on each side and it is the responsibility of the user to ensure it. It is therefore necessary to play the game even if it can take time (we will come back to the crossing of Sitojaure) and ensure that there is always a boat at least on each side.

No luck for us, there is only one boat on our side. But hey, the crossing must be 300m, we should get by.

We load our stuff, the guys and the last (me) pushes the boat to finish putting it in the water but the problem: it blocks! It can not be taken off. The water level is so low that near the bank there is not enough for the boat to float …

It will be nice to unload, no means to properly float the boat …. Good … Since we know that there is a bridge a little higher we do not take the head: we unload the boat and we go back to the bridge. I think it could have been put in the water by emptying bags and all, removing the shoes and pushing in the water but except a certain laziness to do all that, we did not know the depth either on the rest of the course, the bridge seemed a good alternative. Suffice it to say that 2018 was a particularly hot year for Sweden, even in the Arctic, which must partly explain the low level of the lake.

So here we are on the way to the “Bro” which is about 2km higher (to locate the area from far it is in the set of small hillocks that can be seen quickly by leaving the area of ​​the boat). So we reach it quickly and we quickly realize that it pulls a little face this bridge …

In addition to its rusty side and the few hanging ends, we have the right to a beautiful sign with a raised hand that seems to indicate a ban to pass … Not having too much choice we start anyway, one by a. It creaks and it squeaks but it goes. Honestly, we were not reassured at all at the crossing and I advise you to be very careful if you go there … (Back in France and after translation, we will realize that the sign means that the bridge is repair and do not borrow it …).

Here we are on the other side … Half turn then and it is left towards the Kapell that we will reach relatively quickly if it is the crossing of the river Gajnajjågåsj which will take us a little time because we have a search for a dry passage.

The detour by the bridge has consumed time and we have made less progress than expected. So we want to continue at least to the east end of the lake.

We are now progressing in a kind of miniature forest composed of bushes, height height or shoulders, particularly dense which makes navigation and progression particularly difficult. So we move slowly while making our way. It makes sense to have a path in the corner but you can not find it and try it up or down, there is nothing to do and frankly it annoys me! In addition to Quentin begins to have a suspicious knee pain, we will have to be vigilant.

We will finally arrive at the end of the lake and a not too bad place for the bivouac after 23km of walking … a good day.

The setting up of the bivouac is accompanied by a “nice” small fine rain that will not let go of the evening … So for me a moment a little gloomy in the gray and the cold. It’s a shame, the corner must be beautiful under the sun.

Once again we will not be slow to join our down especially since we are very tired tonight but well be happy, we are concretely in the Sarek tonight and we will begin to explore it tomorrow!

Day 5 - Alggavàgge and magic hut


Cold and rainy night! The alarm clock is not so easy … but the landscape compensates: indeed a light layer of snow sprinkled the head of the surrounding mountains is beautiful. The morning atmosphere is very serene but the clouds will soon come back to their appearance bringing the rain …

We go back on the road looking for the famous path that must pass in the area. So honestly, except for some traces of passages that are due to humans but also to reindeer, we will not find a good path for a moment. No, we will have the right to these horrible bushes which are, moreover, soaked this morning! So we are all wet pants and it goes into the socks by capillarity. So I quickly wet feet and to be honest, they will not dry before the end of the stay … It progresses very slowly and galley, it’s a dirty start to the day! To top it off, Quentin’s knee pain is sharp and very similar to tendonitis. This is worrying for the future because we are at least 40-50km from an exit point … So it will be necessary for the knee to hold!

After this horrible area, we finally arrive in a clear space that allows us to walk a little faster even if we sometimes progress in the marsh that ends to moisten us. On the other hand, the view is superb and the mountains keep their snow cap.

We will take the lunch break (at 11h …) on a small prominence and with a magnificent view of the valley towards the west with a large herd of reindeer below. Magnificent.

We begin the descent on the west side of the valley. In the distance the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Mihkatjåhkkå and Māhtujåhkkå.

The descent is easy and beautiful. Do not cross the Ahkavegge, on the contrary at this level stay on the left of the valley (north side). You will see in the distance a Renvaktarstuga, that the semblance of path crosses on the left. We will cross here a beautiful herd of reindeer curious enough to come to about thirty meters.

The confluence of two valleys offers a magnificent landscape. It’s superb, that’s what we came for.

We arrive after this beautiful meeting to a potentially delicate passage: the crossing of the Guohperjåhkå. Do this “under” the reflaktarstuga, there are cairns that indicate the passage. Once again, our crossing was made easier by the low level of the river but in spring it must be another pair of sleeves!

The continuation of the progression will be relatively boring especially that it drizzles! There is not really a well marked path, at most reindeer tracks … Try to stay on the heights it will be easier to move forward. In any case after a while, we finally see the little hut next to the bridge that allows to cross the gorge of Skàrjà. I’m happy we did not get very far, we improve in navigation. I can not wait for it to arrive because Quentin has a lot of pain in his knee, he has to rest it.

The descent to the hut will be fast. This one is stupid but there is the essential: a table, two benches and a space of “storage”. By cons not enough to sleep properly, so we put the tents outside because we stop here for today. The sun makes its appearance again after a little while. The corner is really beautiful because it is at the confluence of several valleys. At 360 °, summits, valleys and the raw beauty of the country Samis.

As I said we will stay here for the night. The place is beautiful, it is nice and then it will be good to be a little sheltered to eat and do the evening.

This little hut, Mikkastuga, is a real moment of relaxation and happiness in the trek, a breath of fresh air that allows us to find a semblance of comfort. So we will spend the end of the afternoon to warm up quietly in the sun or tidy up a little, clean, … We will have the visit of a Finn who walks for 2 weeks in the Sarek, to make summits, a colorful character but who knew the “job”!

The hours go by, the light changes continuously, I want to redo the same photo every 15min. That these great spaces are beautiful!

In the evening we will have a king feast: sausage, cheese, pistachios, the famous four-cheese freeze-dried fondue that has become a tradition of hiking, soup, chocolate mousse lyophi, caramelized almonds … What to redo the calorie stock for the next day !

We are well, it is cold but there is no wind which makes things bearable. We spend a little time playing cards before joining our apartments outside after some final night shots. This evening is the best I spent trekking and this bivouac (luxury) is one of the most beautiful of these holidays. That will have done us a good crazy in this middle of course.

I fall asleep happy, unaware of the horrible day that awaits us tomorrow …

Day 6 - Horror


Morning rise and cold to change … At least it does not rain … for now. We fold the camp and we leave.

Here there is a path not too badly drawn, we lose it from time to time but we end up finding it in general. Quentin’s knee pulls a little but we took some gear to lighten his bag, it seems to stabilize the pain at least …

You will see this portion of the path is not complicated. There are three streams to cross, no problem for us but be careful in the spring. Only the Tjåggnårisjåhkå asks us to spend some time looking for a dry passage. The track forks after the river. You have to aim for the little prominence in the distance called Bielavàràsj (on my right side of the board).

It is from this point that the rain returns. At first light, it becomes stronger as and when. For now it’s okay if the atmosphere is less pleasant. In any case the view is beautiful and the valley impressive. One last rainy photo before the beginning of the horror.

The rest of the way takes us to the technical part of the day. The path passes under the big cliff of Bieltjåhkkå. We meet a duo father / daughter who warns that it slides hard and indeed already it is smooth rock and rain does not help! To top it off, the water-soaked vegetation soaks our pants and the rain always falls harder. So we move in this passage by moving slowly because it really slips.

After 45 minutes, we start to get wet. We finally reach the plateau of Lake Sàvvajavrre and there we go to a whole new level. Already we are almost 1000m, the mercury has fallen well, but we have a strong headwind (about 50km / h) and we are in the clouds. So take rain, wind and a temperature around 0 ° C and you have the great combo. Quickly we find ourselves wet to the underpants (literally), the goretex gives up the game and we are immediately wet at the torso. Basically we are fully soaked!

Then starts a long moment of struggle, we lose our temperature extremely fast, so we start to walk like crazy. Heads down in the wind, we advance as quickly as possible to warm from the inside. We do not talk anymore or just some jokes from time to time to warm up the atmosphere.

We will talk about it together next but I can tell you that at that moment we all felt extremely vulnerable in the middle. Already we are 60km from any civilization, the telephone network does not pass obviously and even if necessary the relief could not intervene by this weather. So we are all alone, walking like ghosts to escape this plateau that is literally sucking all traces of heat in our bodies.

Further, before attacking the descent, we will make the ghostly meeting of a group of reindeer posed waiting for the end of the storm. The descent sounds like the exit door of this hell of fog.

The few tens of meters of elevations remount slightly the thermometer but we are soaked and we stay cold. We continue to move forward. We will arrive quickly in a forest of sodden birches that will continue to wet us.

After long kilometers, we finally find a spot where to land. The camp is hastily mounted and we jump into our respective tents. Matthieu and I are in underwear because all our clothes are soaked. Directly under the cover of survival time to resume a few degrees. Quickly we dress with dry clothes (thankfully the backpacks have not (or little) taken the water) and we take refuge in our down.

It will take us 3 hours to return to a suitable temperature! The rain fell continuously for 7 hours. The “evening” around 17h it finally stops and it’s happy because we have to eat something hot to recover. So we go out “cook” in underpants because the pants are soaked. The clouds have finally risen and reveal a beautiful scenery. We spend a good time with our lyophi and the view. It’s crazy the speed with which we go from one emotion to another on a hike: we alternate between saying “but why are I fucking here? Why am I doing this?” at times of grace offered by a view, a hot little thing to eat or just a good joke. It is also that finally that one comes to look here, the simple things which have a real beneficent impact on you.

We will go to bed early, rain resuming in the early evening. Fortunately our sleeping bags are not wet.

This day will have been very rich in teaching, first and even if we know it is the speed at which a difficult situation can happen, it is also the fact that the water will always cross but it is especially the harshness of the climate here. This day changed our perception of this trek. We went from wild “walk” to engaged hike. Tonight we especially want to get out of here. Our arrival in Rapadalen will have been very sporting.

In terms of feedback, I think we have prepared too much in “French Mountains” mode. Sweden requires a particular approach especially in terms of moisture management. Afterwards, we will have to review some points. But let’s be reassured too, we overcame that and the Swedish father / daughter duo we met today will say to Saltoluokta (where we find them) that they had a lot of problems too and it was hard so good, if even experienced local galley, it’s ok!

In the meantime I fall asleep, exhausted, warm and listening to the rain outside. I hope it will stop by tomorrow morning.

Day 7 - Rapadalen


It rained again tonight but at least this morning it stopped … By cons everything is obviously wet from yesterday. I must admit that this morning I have no desire to get up and put on clothes full of water (pants, socks, …).

But hey … you have to go. We fold the camp and we start. It was not too bad recovery from the day before but Quentin still has bad left knee and the right one starts to make his too … it’s not good sign and we have 60km to go …

The beginning of the path is still and always in the dense and wet forest, we will not dry today … By road I hear a vague trace of track that seems to have been recently trod by a human given the few footprints that we find here and there. It is far from the beautiful Padjelanta and its 4-star layout. Here no boardwalk in the swamps, you have to go straight and up to mid-calves sometimes. And marsh level we are served today. Anyway to summarize we have the choice between the forest of wet birches, swamps and a bush dense to the height of man who whips your face … A real treat.

In spite of everything one progresses and the few passages close to the water reveal every time a splendid landscape with, in the background, the Gådoktjåhkkå all sprinkled with fresh snow.

The further we go, the less the trace is visible. It often disappears in rivers and marshes.

Early afternoon, Nammàsj (pronounced Nammatche) is in sight, it’s our destination. We are trying to set up camp near the landing stage that normally leads to Akste but is no longer operational at this time.

We will reach our destination around 16h. We have a nice bivouac area and above all an incredible view of Rapadalen.

The camp installed, we s’atèle our classic tasks: drying business (we even have the chance to have the sun!), Photo, foot care … Moreover, when it comes to feet, mine start to get a little tired of being so wet that I have some open sores on the heels and a toe that starts gently to purge … but hey, when you walk 8 hours a day in swamps you must not s’ wait for better – we also meet a Swede later who had an interesting philosophy: “Get wet and accept” (Be soaked and accept it) …

We will light a small fire tonight. What to warm a little even if the wet wood does not heat very hard.

The day was good in the end and we made good progress despite the difficult terrain and the knee of Quentin. The bivouac is really beautiful and pleasant. Once again, the lights of the self make you want to take pictures continuously.

Because it’s freezing, we will soon be joining our down.

Day 8 - Skierffe, Kungsleden and Sitojaure


It was cold tonight! With Matthieu it was because we are two in the tent and we have good duvets but Quentin is well peeled. We had about -5 ° C. The funny thing is that since everything is soaked, and everything has frozen, even the shoes. So we have the good fortune to put good big blocks of ice right after the sunrise.

By cons who says cool night said pretty sunny morning atmosphere :

The first step of the day is to climb the Skierffe. Just 600m from D +, it is not huge but there is no way on this side which changes the situation in the end. So we start off trail through the birch forest once again relatively dense.

In order to find you I advise you to aim at the waterfall that descends to the left of the Skierffe. Following this course you will not encounter any major difficulties. There is just the Nammàsjjåhkå to cross but looking a bit you can find a watchtower.

We arrive quickly at the beginning of the climb which is done largely in the forest. The slope is quite steep and the lack of path does not help but by going quietly no worries. In addition, the view is more and more beautiful as one raises what gives balm to the heart:

You will reach a “false” plane at the top of the climb where trees are scarce. Take direction to the right (full east) at this time. Once the cascade has passed from above, you start the long final slope towards the summit. I advise you not to walk too close to the cliff, already for safety but especially to have the surprise of the view when you reach the highest point of Skierffe.

And I must tell you that this view is absolutely beautiful! From above you kiss in a glance Rapadalen and its delta, Nammàsj very small down, Tjahkelij, the lakes of Làjtavrre and Tjaktjajàvrre, … It’s amazing! To the north you can also admire the large empty moors that extend to Lake Sitojaure. The Skierffe keeps its promises in any case and we are happy and far from the harshness of the last days. That’s why we walk: to see these unique and wonderful landscapes with our own eyes.

We take advantage of this magical place to make our lunch break. However at 1179m altitude it is cold especially in the Far North, we cool quickly being static. Still some photos and we take the road again.

The continuation of the path must lead us to the lake Sitojaure, for that we must reach the Kungsleden but the path goes down to Akste to go up. So we decide to cut straight past the Doaresoajvve. We find ourselves again off the trail in a very pleasant terrain walking freely. The landscapes are superb: tundra as far as the eye can see with a backdrop of great peaks all white.

We finally reach the Kungsleden which seems to us a highway after these 7 days in the pampas: the path is wide, perfectly marked and marked up every 10m. In short we advance quickly on the end of the plateau and then in a forest / swamp relatively sad.

Around 16:30 we arrive in sight of the little cabin near the pier which allows to cross the lake. From here we can take a motor boat but as we do not have enough Swedish crowns on us (400Kr / pers), we say that we will row on the 4.5km except that … there a 0 rowing boat! There should be at least one except that no … It’s a problem!

Fortunately for us there is an American waiting for 1h the boat to pass the other side. We will wait until the driver arrives and see with her how we can arrange to pay for our crossing (euros, transfer, ..).

Then starts the wait, we do not know what time it will pass, there is just a word saying that it will … We wait while chatting with the American hiker, nibbling, improvising a petanque to pebble base, …

Time passes and is long, after 2 hours of waiting we begin to wonder what we will do ….

Fortunately, our pilot will arrive around 18:30. Fortunately she also accepts euros, so we will be able to cross tonight and not waste time. So we embark all four and left for 10 minutes crossing.

The distance is really long to the small village on the other side. I think that rowing is possible but it is a good step not to undertake if there is too much wind! And I’m not even talking about the case where you have to make an extra round trip to bring a boat to the other side. I advise you to prefer the passage with the motorboat even if it is expensive.

We arrive on the other side, we land and we take the time to chat with the pilot who is also a reindeer breeder. Initially we thought we would stay well at the Sitojaurestugorna for the night (a refuge) but she advised us to continue the road 3km further to bivouac and spend the 50 € of the night (500kr) Saltoluokta is more fun according to her.

So we take the road at dusk walking quickly to try not to arrive at night. The Kungsleden is still “rolling”, so we need just 45 minutes to cover the 3km to the bivouac near a water point.

It’s already dark when we get on camp. We will have the visit of a beautiful red fox, not afraid who will approach a few meters to glean a little food I think. He will leave after a while leaving us to our lyophi eaten in the light of the headlight.

The sky is clear, it will still be cold tonight. We sleep for the last time in our tents because tomorrow is the last day.

Day 9 - Last day toward Saltoluokta


The mercury is still down well tonight as evidenced by the frozen tent awakening. The rising sun also reveals the beautiful landscape that surrounds us and which we could not enjoy yesterday. I love these early morning atmosphere where everything is calm and peaceful.

We fold the camp one last time and we take the road for the 15km that separate us from the Saltoluokta fjallstation.

The landscapes are really beautiful all along this stretch of road, moreover we are lucky to have a big sun today, the perfect time to finish the trek. It’s the first day without any rain.

So we go forward the light heart happy to find the civilization after these 8 days not always easy.

It will take us only 4 hours to travel the distance that separates us from the “resort”, 4 hours of show offered by nature:

We will arrive in Saltoluokta around 13h. There are a lot of people here, it’s even surprising and a little destabilizing after a week having almost nobody. I always need a little moment to land …

The rest of the day will be shared between a small beer, a sauna tour with a beautiful view of the lake and the valley, a good evening meal (~ 25 €).

In the evening we will wait for the dawn and we will be rewarded by a beautiful show! A great way to finish this trek.

We will fall asleep with our head full of northern lights in our room.

The next day we will take the boat at 12:30 and then the bus to Kiruna where we will spend a day before returning to France.

From the bus ride, we will feel a nostalgia for the great outdoors and the “Wild”. Unfortunately we say goodbye to Lapland but already we want to go back to live such an experience again.

Conclusions


What an adventure ! I wanted to go to Sarek as soon as I heard about it and my hopes were not disappointed. Sarek is wild, hard, beautiful, breathtaking. The dimension of Nature, whether landscape or weather, make you feel very small. It is rare nowadays, in Europe at least, to walk 3, 5 or even 7 days without crossing a real human structure or even people or just 2min time to cross.

This trek will have been one of the hardest that I have done and it is the same for my acolytes. The field was the main difficulty but the weather will have arranged nothing. But besides that, the reward offered by the landscapes and all these little indescribable moments largely compensate for the difficulties. A few days after our return Quentin was talking about amnesia to pain, I like this picture. We forget what was wrong and we only keep the good and we immediately want to leave a little further, a little longer. I do not know yet where it will be, but what is certain is that the call of the North will still be strong in the coming months.


Bouquetins au col de la Vache - GR738

GR738 - Crossing Belledonne

8days

trekking

130km

walked

10000m

D+

10

mountain goats

It’s been a long time I wished to walk along the Belledonne Mountain Range. The creation of the GR738 was a perfect time to do it and to discover this beautiful but unknown place of the French Alps.

In France the “GR – Grandes Randonnées” are some long hiking paths managed by the French Hiking Association. This are awesome paths to discover the French mountains, country or even seaside.

Follow me along this 8 days on this difficult hiking path wild and lonely, only 4h away from Paris.

Belledonne and the GR738


Belledonne extends from Chambery to Grenoble. The mountain range is 60km long and 10km wide. Its highest point is the “Grand Pic de Belledonne” at 2977m. It is one of the last mountain range not being a natural park but some projects are being leaded this way. Less know than the Ecrins, the Vanoise or the Vercors, Belledonne offers a large choice of interesting hikes in marvelous landscapes, all of this far from the crowd. It is easily reachable by car but also by train.

Belledonne is a place of pastoralism so you will cross herds of sheep guarded by sherped dogs called Patou. The fauna is rich, you will meet Ibexes, mountains goats and the wolf is also there especially in the nord side.

Patou : this dogs are raised to guard and protect the sheeps. This are defense dogs so they will not let anyone coming near the herd even a hiker. So beware approaching a herd because several people are bitten every years.

How to behave meeting a Patou :

  • Do not cross a herd of sheeps, always go around or pass it keeping your distance.
  • The Patou, when it spots you, will come running towards you and barking loudly to “mark” his territory. He will then smell you and evaluate the threat you represent. Talk to him gently, without shouting, stop the time he “scans” you or continue to walk quietly, have a calm attitude to put him in confidence. He will accompany you as you move away from the herd.
  • Do not run or be threatening of any kind. Do not brand a walking stick for example. Any action that can be interpreted by the dog as aggression could lead to aggressive behavior.
  • If you have a dog with you, do not take it in your arms

The trails that make up the GR738 are not from yesterday, they were known as the “Shepherds Trail” before, but the official status of GR dates from 2017 with an official opening in the summer of 2018. When I traveled the GR (July 2018), the section between the “Col de la Vache” and the “Brèche de la Roche Fendue” was not yet marked GR (but there is a markup consisting of a yellow line and / or blue points) but this should be finalized in 2018. With these 130km long and 10 000m of elevation gain, the GR738 is positioned as a long and difficult mountain range crossing like the GR54 or the famous GR20. One of the specificities of the GR that marked me is the few village that we cross. If you want to go independently, you will have to provide food for almost the entire hike. If you do not want to carry heavy laods, it is also possible to go from shelter to shelter.

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As I said before, Belledonne is not crowded and wild, so you will hike meeting few people especially in the most remote parts. For having traveled, the GR738 is a beautiful trek, quite physically demanding but rewarding in terms of landscapes especially on the Seven Laux – La Pra section.

Day 1 - Departure from Paris and first kilometers


We are July the 06, 2018 at Gare de Lyon, let’s go for 8 days of hiking along the GR738. I will be solo for this trek because I had to do it with my brother but his holidays have been canceled unfortunately … This is the first big hike of the year and I didn’t train a lot recently (…), we will see how it goes physically knowing that the backpack is particularly heavy because I have 8 days of food with me since I want to be completely autonomous.

Direction Aiguebelle to join the beginning of the GR738. The trip is fast because the village is 30 minutes from Chambery that is reached in 3 hours from Paris by TGV.

So here I am at the beginning of the 130km that separate me from Vizille, the end of the GR. To find the beginning of the path, join the main street of the village towards the NW. The first red and white marks that will accompany you for a few days are located at the junction of the road that climbs towards the Planay (it’s a pity that there is no small sign marking the beginning of the trail, whatever something a little solemn).

So let’s say it right away, I do not like the first days of walking, in general it’s difficult (the time to launch the machine), it’s not beautiful in terms of landscape and I always make a mistake of navigation. And you know what … I got the winning trio this time! The climb over Aiguebelle is not very pretty and I will be accompanied by flies and horseflies. The bag is heavy, I’m not “warm” and the fatigue of the trip makes it hard on this first day. To top it off, I’ll go in wrong a direction at Les Bugnons  adding 2 or 3 useless km!

I choose to keep the location name in French so that it is easier to find them on the map.

The goal today was to go up to Fort Montgilbert and camp there. I arrive at 7pm, exhausted (…) and harassed by mosquitoes – a hell! No adequate surface to put the tent, I decided to push further in the hope of finding a better place.

In the end, I will stay next to a forest track and I will spend the evening in the tent because mosquitoes made the outside unbearable … This is a typical first day! I hope it will be better tomorrow. For the moment sleeping, it is necessary to recover for the continuation.

Day 2 - From Fort Montgilbert to Refuge de la Perrière


Early wake up and fast packaging. It’s a long day waiting for me: 17km and 1700m of climbing ! Few hundred meters away from my camp I cross an old tower with a place that would have been perfect to put the tent … Too bad!

The trail then goes down to a small village called Les Granges, I meet briefliy a mountain goat in the descent in the undergrowth. In the village, the GR738 passes on the other side of the valley, in the shade, to go up towards Col du Champet.

The climb for the pass is long, I physically in pain and tired. I pay for the lack of training this year. Fortunately the trail oes under the foret cover.

Arrived at the pass I give myself a little break, time to nibble. Trees begin to be rare at this altitude (~ 1800m); the surrounding mountains show themselves, the landscape has already changed and is more beautiful.

The GR738 then leads to the summit of the Grand Chat (1992m) and runs along the ridge to Frog Lake – LAc des Grenouilles. It is a nice passage but I have a little trouble to enjoy because I have more water for some time and it is very hot. Unfortunately the place is dry …

Fortunately, I cross the little “lake of frogs” that allows me to drink a little even if it is not deep and the water a little muddy (thank you straw filter …). On the other hand on this one there I show some stupidity given that a few meters lower (but hide at the sight from the lake) is the refuge of Arbarétan to which there is water …

Bakc on the trail after this short refreshing break. Next key passage, the Col de la Perche (1988m) that I quickly join. You must then descend relatively low before climbing the Col de la Perrière (1979m). On the way we cross the spring of Gargoton which is full of charm and which allows me especially to drink to my thirst and refuel. I give myself a good break before attacking the 300/400 m climb.

The ascent to the pass is not complex in itself but I’m really getting tired today. I can not wait to get to the shelter of La Perrière and breathe a little.

The latter is located not far from the pass slightly below. It is a pretty cabin with about fifteen beds. The building has been entirely renovated by the association “Tous à poêle” in 2018. Although not guarded, the refuge of the Perrière offers a good comfort. It is also popular with locals because it can be reached from Val Pelouse in 50min walking. Since we are Saturday, quite a lot of families have come with their children and the shelter will be full tonight. For my part I will put my tent outside to sleep in peace.

I’m happy to arrive because I’m exhausted. It is not too late, so I have time to enjoy the place and the atmosphere. It will follow a pleasant evening animated by children’s games and the friendly atmosphere. The sunset is beautiful.

From here I see my goal tomorrow, the Col de Claran (1956m) which is only 4km in staight line but which will require a good ride again.

My feeling is shared tonight because although the place is nice and there is a pleasant atmosphere, the GR738 has not particularly impressed me with its landscapes. On the other hand physically I’m suffering and I hope that the next days will be better. For now let’s have a good night’s sleep.

Day 3 - From Refuge de la Perrière to Refuge de la Pierre du Carre


The night was good even though I wake up with my legs and my back stiff . I am the only one awake, it is dawn, the atmosphere is soothing. The “camp” is quickly folded and I start on my way to Refuge des Férices.

This stage of the GR738 begins with a nice climb to the Col de la Frèche (2183m) enough to warm you up in the morning!

The terrain has changed since yesterday. It’s wilder, more rocky, I prefer it. Once at the pass, the path goes from combe in combe to cliff side down nicely towards the Ferices. This portion is very beautiful, very wild but be careful the path can be steep (especially downhill). Be careful especially if you are hiking with children.

I reach the little rustic Refuge des Férices which is a simple stone hut with just enough installation inside. I think this place has a lot of charm and the place it is in is really beautiful.

I give myself a long break before heading to the Chalet de Pré Nouveau some 400m below.

The knees are painful in the descent and the fatigue of the last days is there. This portion unlike the previous one has little charm … I will cross in this descent the only other people of my 8 days having traveled the GR738 in full …

Lunch break at the cabin (which is closed) before beginning the ascent to the Claran.

Again this portion is not very pretty because it evolves in dense vegetation and very wet. It is only at the approach of the Claran refuge (1828m) that the landscape opens again. In any case, the climb is long and difficult for me …

The final climb to the finish collar will tire me even though the view is beautiful. Behind the shelter of the Pierre du Carre is revealed with him the idea of ​​a good cold beer. By cons it seems much closer than it is in reality and the descent is a torture for my knees.

I finally reach the refuge, exhausted once again … There are few people and I will quickly find myself alone with the guards. I eat a good portion of blueberry pie with a well deserved beer, best moment of the day. Once again and as often, the view of the refuge is beautiful.

I will spend a lot of time talking to the caretaker and his wife who are very hospitable. If you pass in the area, I really advise you to spend a night or just some time to eat because there is a pleasant atmosphere of “family refuge” that sometimes gets lost with large establishments.

There are a few pitches above the refuge to set up the tent. They offer a nice view of the valley.

I go to bed early because I need to recover. I’m getting worried for the future and I hope I’m going to hold physically. Walking alone does not help because I have no one to motivate me when I’m tired. The group provides a nice energy.

I fall asleep tonight, lulled by the “scare to wolf” (blank shots of gas cannon) of the shepherd who is a little higher on the mountain.

Day 4 - From Refuge de la Pierre du Carre to Chalet du Léat


Fourth day … my little rituals are well-honed and I get up again early and I fold the camp quickly. The day begins with a long descent … I do not like descents, especially at the beginning of the day.

This one is particularly ugly and not pleasant because the morning dew has soaked everything and it skids. It breaks my spirits and already that I began to tell myself that I will not be able to finish the GR738, this descent undermines me a little more.

Consequence: arrived at the T-fork when the trail joins a forest track, I seriously ask myself whether I continue GR738 or not. It is a scene that would be very cinematographic with the following cornelian choice: to the left the GR, to the right the return home punctuated by a failure. I call my girlfriend to the rescue who finds the words to motivate me and convinces me to continue.

Direction the left and the motivation to finish this GR738 !!

The path follows the forest trail for a good distance. It is not very pretty but at least the ground is good and in the shade. Arrived at the Praillet 1700m, the trail begins a gentle descent through the pastures towards the Aup Bernard that I reach quickly.

After the Aup Bernard and a rehydration break, another descent towards the  Bourgeat Noir awaits me. There is not much to say about this portion again, except that once walks under the trees which is both pleasant because we are in the shade but from a landscape point of view I prefer big open spaces.

Arrived at the village, the GR738 rises normally towards Refuge of the Oule but I will have to double my stage tomorrow to hold my planning, so I make the choice to take a direct route towards the chalet of Léat and thus to gain a little time for tomorrow.

The path in question evolves in the forest (fortunately because it is very hot) but climbs very very strong! I have the chance to meet a mom and her daughter who are hiking to the day between the Léat and Oule and I go up with them, it’s more motivating and it allows to chat.

I am very happy to arrive at the chalet which is nestled right next to the pretty Lac du Léat in a small depression. It is a beautiful place and the cottage is very well maintained.

We share a little mint tea with my two climbing friends before they get on their way again. Soon a pair of walkers arrived to spend the night at the shelter as well. We will be joined a little later by a group of fifties’ very nice. In the end it’s a nice evening that I spend. The surroundings of the chalet are really pretty especially in the orange light of the evening.

I put my tent right next to the shelter. Tomorrow, direction the Sept Laux, for, I think, a new approach of the GR738 because it will be a much more “mountain” and rocky environment.

Day 5 - From Chalet du Léat to the Sept Laux


I did well to sleep in my tent and not in the shelter because there was snorers! I even heard them from outside!

Long day in perspective because today I double a stage (even if the stage until La Martinette is not very long) and tonight I’ll be at the Sept Laux.

To change, the day begins with a descent without great interest towards the bottom of the valley, from there you go towards La Martinette.

Then begins the long climb of 1100m to the Seven Laux. It is early so I have plenty of time to climb this drop and I go quietly at my own pace.

From what I’ve been told, prefer the GR738 trail rather than the one that passes by the “Cul de la Vieille” (translation : the old woman’s ass 🙂 ) because this passage requires to use your hands which is not ideal with the bag . The climb is beautiful and wild, we go between the scree and on nice trails gradually taking the height. There is nobody again and it is sunny.

Once at the Lac Noir, you are almost there. Another 10min and finally the Refuge des Sept Laux is revealed on a small piece of rock between the lakes. The Sept Laux are a huge hydropower complex created by EDF (French Electical compagny)(I imagine that there must still be lakes initially). There are many lakes larger or smaller that communicate together. At this time the lakes are low as can be seen in the photos but it’s nice all the same, especially in the direction of the south.

I sit on the terrace of the refuge to eat a good omelette. I chat a little with the hikers present and I enjoy the satisfaction of having climb these 1100m especially that I feel much better physically, so I am confident to finish the GR738.

It is whe planning the next few days that I realize my mistake: I have not counted the stages well and I miss a day. Currently I miss my train !! So I’ll have to double another stage … By analyzing a little bit the map and the rest of the stages, I decide to try to double tomorrow’s stage, ie to walk to Jean Collet rather than to stop at the Habert d’Aiguebelle. It’s going to be a long day but it’s feasible. By cons to win a little time tomorrow, I take my bag and I push to the sheepfold of Cos under the Col de la Vache to set my camp.

The path between the refuge and the sheepfold is really beautiful especially with the light plays due to the clouds of the late afternoon.

The surroundings of Lac du Cos are beautiful and offer dreamy camping pitches ! I set the tent not far from the sheepfold which is not occupied for the moment. I have all the view of the lake and the Pyramid (2912m) in the background. It’s a nice moment, serene and lonely again.

In the evening I will have the visit from few ibex on the heights behind the tent. The colors on the surrounding mountains are very beautiful and it is not cold. It’s really a beautiful bivouac, certainly the most beautiful of my GR!

Day 6 - From Lac du Cos to Refuge Jean Collet


Well, it’s a long day waiting for me! I have to double my stage and join the refuge Jean Collet. The first problem is that in front of me there is the Col de la Vache and it is still under snow. Indeed, the precipitation has been exceptional this winter and the snow is still present. I know it is manageable because I met groups that had succeeded but during late afternoon every time. I begin early in the morning, I hope that the nocturnal refreezing was limited …

So I start the climb in the rock for the moment. Behind the view is beautiful with the morning sun and the lake below.

I quickly join the snow. I think that from 2300-2400m everything is all white. Fortunately the surroundings of the snow field are ok to get through. Not being equipped with crampons, I prefer to spend in the rockery and avoid a slide … For the climb it is easy and it is even more “playful” because I use my hands a little in some passages.

I quickly arrive at the pass in the end. On the other side no surprise: the snow on 200m of descent… except that this snow is totally frozen and so it is a long slope of ice which presents itself to me ! Ouch !! I am not equipped for. So I have 3 choices: either I turn around and I go elsewhere (but where?), Or I wait for the sun turns and warms the collar but in this case goodbye doubling the stage today, or I try to go down the slope by sliding me on the butt …

I choose the 3rd option because I want to move forward. I’ll be honest, in hindsight, this idea was not very clever because being alone, the risk was quite high … But hey, here I am slowly sliding on the buttocks braking with the walking sticks as much to say that the equilibrium is precarious and that I am cold at the buttocks! Besides I begin an uncontrolled slipping and I can stop only with a depression in the ice a little lower … I get away without much damage if it is a nice hand injury but it could have been much worse.

The descent will take a good hour in the end and a good stress!

Fortunately, and to make me forget this misadventure, some ibex are waiting for me downstairs and scarcely scorn to shift to let me pass. I realize some beautiful pictures, I like this kind of meeting with the local fauna (a priori their presence here in the morning is common).

I take the trail towards Pas de la Coche after disinfecting my hand. We can see the path snaking away. The passage of the Col de la Vache really symbolizes a change in the landscapes, given that the sequel to the GR738 will be in a much more rocky, more wild.

When I walked the GR738 in July 2018, the trail was not marked “GR” from the Col de la Vache to the Brèche de Roche Fendue. There are other markings including yellow lines and / or blue dots. The GR tag should be completed by the fall of 2018.

The landscapes are very beautiful on this portion.

I quickly reach the Pas de la Coche, which normally symbolizes the end of the stage of the day. It is still early so I have plenty of time to join Jean Collet.

For now I head towards the Brèche de la Roche Fendue (2480m). The path is very wild and does not even appear on the IGN map (which is rare). Enjoy the small spring that gives birth to the Creek of the Great Mountain to refill the source water as good as fresh.

The climb to the Brèche is done in the scree all along. It is a good climb, long enough in the end especially that it is very hot.

The passage of the breach is beautiful because it is really a small opening in the surrounding cliffs.

As for the passage of the Col de la Mine de Fer and the whole descent to Jean Collet, I do not have many pictures to present to you because, behind the Brèche de Roche Fendue, I was in the clouds all along . This creates a nice atmosphere but it is more difficult to appreciate the surrounding landscapes.

The Col de la Mine de Fer and the descent to the Refuge Jean Collet do not present any particular difficulty.

I reach the refuge in the afternoon. I did a good job, I’m happy. I therefore offer myself a small craft beer as a reward.

End of the day pretty classic. I will spend a lot of time talking to the guardians and a hiker at the shelter. I will then install my tent a little above because there are some places planned for the bivouac. The place offers a beautiful view of the valley and Grenoble 1700m further down. Seeing Grenoble is also the symbol of the near end of the GR. Another 2 steps and I will have finished. In any case, this day is the most beautiful of the GR738 in terms of landscapes in my opinion.

Day 7 - From Refuge Jean Collet to Refuge de la Pra


It’s go again ! This stage represents the last real stage of the GR since the last will be just dedicated to the descent on Chamrousse.

For now the first part of the day begins with the descent to the Habert du Mousset, which is quickly realized.

We then enter the heart of the subject with the climb on Col de la Sitre (~ 2160m). It is a nice climb quite steep but that does not present a major technical difficulty. You just have to take your time.

I admit a certain apprehension to pass this pass because I know that there are sheeps guarded by a patou behind and that some hikers have already had “nice” contacts with this good doggie …

Fortunately for me the flock is lower and down to the lake of the Grande Sitre, so I will avoid a bad meeting.

We have a beautiful view from the pass with the small lake below and the whole area to the Col du Loup. This is the next step that I reach quickly.

From there begins the long descent to Lac du Crozet. The lake is beautiful and it must be a good spot for the bivouac. On the other hand there are some people since we are near Pré Raymond or Pré du Mollard.

From the Crozet, you bifurcate on the left towards the Col de la Pra. All this portion has a lot of charm because there are many small streams that crisscross the valley.

Passing the pass is a formality and I reach the refuge 5min later. It is a “big” refuge, with two buildings facing the beautiful landscape that stretches between Le Galeteau and the cliffs of the Jasse Bralard peaks. I love these great alpine slopes traversed by pretty streams.

So I move to the terrace of the refuge to eat  with a beer admiring the landscape. It is early I will have plenty of time to rest, enjoy the moment and chat with people.

Warning: the bivouac is now prohibited in the direct area of the refuge, following a municipal bylaw. Indeed the tourist affluence has greatly degraded the area, not to mention the people who tear trees for campfires. Link to the refuge site and the order.

By talking with the guardians, they tell me that hikers saw the Wolf yesterday a few meters from their bivouac! It is unexpected but I would like to live the same thing tonight!

After this long pause of several hours I’m back on the trail towards Lake Longet to get out of the no-bivouac area. I get a nice little place at the SW end of the lake, right at the water’s edge.

No wolf tonight but the nice visit of a group of chamois near the camp. A beautiful moment to sign my last bivouac along the GR738.

Day 8 - Back home


Last awakening, last storage and last departure of the bivouac. I only have 3 hours until Chamrousse before returning to the tumult city. My camera was out of battery, so I can not show you the pretty Robert Lakes. This would have been the only nice landscape of this stage because the rest (especially after the lakes) is not very beautiful compared to the last days. The end in particular is done by the ski slopes …

I thought that Chamrousse would be an authentic mountain village but it is not. It is a resort 100% dedicated to skiing without much charm. I will wait for the bus to Grenoble to the terrace of a restaurant. Direction to the train station and return to Paris … That concludes these 8 days.

The most attentive will have noticed that I did not realize the last stage which consists of a long descent towards Vizille. I did not see any interest in this section and it was confirmed to me by a group of hikers.


Conclusions

Well above all, I was surprised by this GR738. I was expecting something easier and I must admit that it made me doubt myself ! Well, my physical training was not at the top, far from it, but still it’s technical. One of the key points of this difficulty lies in the fact that if you want to achieve it in complete autonomy you have to take all the food with you … The bag weighs quite heavy at first. On the other hand you can realize it from refuge to refuge which limits this difficulty. The first days are also quite demanding in terms of altitude. Well, it must still nuance because I realized in 8 days what is expected in 10 and I think I could have reached Chamrousse directly the same day as the Pra. If I get there, you can do it too.

In terms of landscape there is really a contrast between a very “forest” start, nice but no more and the portion after the Sept Laux which is very beautiful and very wild. This whole area really deserves to be known. In addition one meet really few people (at least in the beginning of July) and it is appreciable to enjoy the mountain.

The layout of the last born of the GR family (in 2018) allows you to discover this beautiful and little known Belledonne mountain range and I am happy to have realized it. If you are looking for a beautiful alpine trek far from the classical routes I really recommend the GR738 which will not fail to emulate the next years.

Feel free to share your experience of this route in the comments!


Vercors crossing

3days

trekking

42km

walked

1660m

D+

10

Ibex

Finding a mountain hike for a few days in November is not always easy but the Vercors was the perfect place: isolation, landscapes, wildlife, altitude, everything you need to walk a few days away from the world.

The Vercors is a special place, limestone massif of the pre-Alps located close to Grenoble, it stands out for its isolation and the relative lack of water that reigns there. There is also a rich fauna easy to get close of. The massif is easily accessible by car or train, which makes transport logistics easier. I do not know why, the Vercors and its highlands have always had a reasoning a little mystical in me and it was a long time that I wanted to discover this place.

So we sealed the bags for three days at the end of October. The goal was simple: join Corrençon-en-Vercors from Chichilianne taking the time to savor the fall on the Hauts Plateaux. Here is the story of this beautiful autumn trek along the GR91.

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Day 1 - From Paris to Mont Aiguille ("Mount Needle")


For this adventure, I will be accompanied by my friend Geoffroy, Jeff for the friends. It is at Gare de Lyon that we meet for an early start towards Grenoble. We will be there 3 hours later O magic of the French High Speed Train (TGV)!

For the next part we will take a TER which will deposit us at Clelles. The train station and the village are lost in the middle of nowhere, that’s it, we are there, we can start our trek!

It begins with a small disappointment, since Jeff forgot his camera memory card! I will be the reporter for the next few days.

The first stage of the hike is to join Chichilianne and more specifically the Richardière, close to the Mont Aiguille. It is about 13h we still have a few hours before us before dark.

In the background of this first stage, the magnificent Mont Aiguille, rock prominence, alone, at 2087m. It is a historic place for mountaineering because it is the first “real” ascent made in 1492. It is also our goal of the day because we intend to bivouac towards the Col de l’Aupet.

The path is not difficult until the Richardière and relatively flat. We turn around the mountain that presents us different profiles.

Once at the Richardière (1000m), we begin the climb through the forest of Chichilianne. We quickly gain altitude and for my part I struggle a little and I am short of breath. Jeff, he’s in the lead. It is getting late and the sun is falling.

We arrive at the shoulder under Mont Aiguille around 4pm, for my part exhausted … We can not drink as we wish because there is no water there. We hope to find some tomorrow at the fountain of Bachassons. For the moment we install the camp which offers a beautiful view of the Mont Aiguille and the surrounding valley. As there is still light we leave to try to find water on the north side but nothing … we come back empty-handed.

The temperature falls quickly and the wind does not help! We will take refuge in our sleepingbag very early after a meal taken in a hurry! We have enough water for tonight but we need to find some tomorrow.

As often with the first days, the warm up was not easy but we are still happy to be here wrapped up in our sleeping bag.

Day 2 - From Mont Aiguille to the Playe's fountain


The night was not too cold, we had equipped ourselves knowingly. Dawn holds a glowing sunrise and the weather is sunny, all we need to attack the day the good way!

The breakfast has been light and fast because the lack of water does not allow us to make tea or coffee. So we resume the road fairly quickly once the camp folded.

The first stage takes us to Pas de la Selle, which will be our gateway to the highlands. We leave the trees behind us in the climb which is therefore more and more mineral. The view to the pass is marvelous: down below the valley covered with morning mists and Mount Aiguille planted there in all its splendor.

The arrival at the pass finally reveals the Highlands and it’s worth it! It’s like being in the Rohan of the Lord of the Rings: large heaths of short grass as far as the eye can see with a few trees here and there. It is very beautiful and there is nobody !

We then branch off to the north in search of the Bachasson fountain. On the road we cross a small hut lost in the land, there is a stop 2min.

We are looking for the fountain that we will find a little further. It flows slowly but it flows, it’s already that! We fill our bottles thoroughly (3L / person).

We take the road towards the Cabane des Aiguillettes for a coffee. It’s sunny but it’s very windy. The view is very beautiful with the Grand Veymont (2341m) in the background wearing a pretty cloudy hat.

We arrive quickly at the Cabane des Aiguillettes but it is already occupied by other hikers with whom we settle the time of a coffee.

The news are not good though: our companions inform us that many fountains are completely dry. Not good! So we take extra bottles that we fill with snow melted in the stove … We still hope to find some water on the road …

We leave after this short break a little “worried” about this water problem … we’ll see. Initially we wanted to climb up the Grand Veymont but as it is all hooded we decide to turn west and recover the GR91 earlier than expected.

We go through the Pas des Chattons (The Kittens Pass) where we expect a nice surprise! It is here that we expect a dozen ibex literally grazing on the way … We are approaching carefully so as not to scare them to the point of finding ourselves within 10m of them. It is even up to us to shift the path to pass because these gentlemen (there are only males) do not bother to move … We take the opportunity for some photos!

I had heard that the wildlife here was not very shy but at this point! As I said we are only males here, the females are higher with their young.

The landscape changes quickly after the Pas des Chattons. We are losing altitude, so the trees are coming back in numbers. Those are only conifers however, the conditions being always rough here in winter.

We will find, a little by chance, our first Scialet a little further. Scialets are kind of bottomless holes (at least in appearance) that are due to the very nature of the Vercors basement. Indeed it is mainly made of limestone and is therefore particularly prone to erosion by water. It is also this karstic subsoil that makes the Vercors an area so arid because the water disappears directly into the crevices of the ground. In any case do not fall in!

We reach the GR91 a little further north-east of the “Grande Cabane”. We will now follow GR passing through the Vercors from one side to the other. North direction.

We stop a little further just before the fountain of Serrons to have a break. The view is beautiful on the Grand Veymon.

We continue towards the fountain of Serrons. Even though we were told it was dry we made a 100m detour to see. And of course it does not run very well but it flows ! So we decided to fill all the bottles with good clean water (half was filled with melted snow and not very clean).

Well it takes 10min per bottle and we have 6 bottles to make … A long break in perspective, but it’s okay we are well there waiting in the sun.

9L later we resume our way with the sun in the back.

Landscapes oscillate between fairly rocky ground forest and open spaces where crossing bison would not be surprising. We move quickly, it’s pleasant. We have not met many people since we left the Aiguillettes cabin.

Further we cross the fountain of La Chaux which does not run almost (just a drop by drop). We recover some water that stagnates in the pipe to drink at the break.

We continue our road in the maquis for another 2km towards the fountain of Playe, we plan to bivouac nearby hoping to find enough water.

And we are lucky because the fountain still has an acceptable flow. So we will have enough water tonight to drink our thirst and cook. We set up the camp next door. The view is beautiful from here but the temperatures drop quickly with the twilight and it is windy again.

We will have a good meal rich in comparison with the day before but we will not linger outside because it is freezing tonight. Direction the sleeping bag at 6:30pm to fall asleep not long after. A nice day with a lot of diversity in terms of landscape and especially a real immersion in the wild Vercors.

Day 3 - From fountain of Playe to the Carrette's Cabin


Fresh night but no problem with our warm sleeping bags. The breakfast will be nicer than the day before because we have water. We also refuel the bottles before we leave because we will not cross other fountains and tonight we will be at the Carrette’s Cabin, so we need stock.

We take the road past the Cabin of the Jasse Play which exhales a good smell of fire passing by …

The path then continues through the forest and through small depressions. There is a pleasant maze of rocks and tree. A little further, not far from the Head of Cognaux, we overlook the forest and the rising sun offers a beautiful light. We take the opportunity to take a break and take aerial photos because we can finally fly the drone since the wind has fallen.

We continue our route along the GR91. The landscapes are so beautiful. The progression is fast since the day before we are on a flat downhill.

The GR91 then takes us through the Canyon of Erges. So it’s not the Grand Canyon either, but it’s original, the trail is steeped between two cliffs of about 20m high with sometimes some organic shapes.

Small meal break not far from the “Pot du Play” after crossing the canyon. We have lost a little altitude since this morning and it is felt by the presence of more and more numerous hardwoods.

We then quickly reach the plain of Darbounouse. I find this place beautiful especially when we are there because the clouds created games of shadows on the ground, quite beautiful. It’s like being in the American Great Plains and we would not have been surprised to see a herd of bison grazing.

Photo shoot to immortalize the moment.

Back in the forest we do not have much distance to the Carrette Hut. The weather quickly turned gray and temperatures dropped in the process.

We arrive relatively early at the cabin which is nestled in a small depression east of the road. We could have continued to Corrençon but we wanted to enjoy this last night in the forest.

The cabin is already occupied by a mother, her daughter and a friend, we share a tea before they go back home.

Since there is a small stove, we will look in the surrounding woods if we can find some dead wood but the harvest is poor. This may help to gain some few degrees …

The hut could not be more simple: a rectangular hold with a stove in a corner and a table in the middle of the room, at the bottom a staircase leads to the floor, a simple wooden floor, intended to sleep. Without being clean is not too dirty either, it will be fine for tonight.

Our loneliness is quickly interrupted because two travelers arrive: a girl and her little brother who also come to spend the night here.

The hour passes quickly and we are already at the meal where we share our food. The stove heats very little and we are not unhappy to be 4 to warm the cabin a little.

Unfortunately, we will not stay at 4 because one of our acolytes did not feel good at the end of the meal and they made the choice to go back to their car because they felt the need to see a doctor quickly … Too bad and not nice for them because they came from far …

We are back alone. We enjoy the end of the evening calm and cold in the light of the candle! Bucolic!

Early sleeping, tomorrow return to civilization.

Day 4 - Arrival to Corrençon and back to Home


We did not sleep badly even though it must have been cold outside as evidenced by the beautiful frosty landscape that awakens us.

Let’s start the day with a photo session:

After breakfast, we continue to admire this morning show outside and in aerial view:

Past this contemplative moment, we fold the bags one last time, we then leave, to ward Corrençon-en-Vercors. But before that we make a small detour through a cave not far from the hut that houses a spring.

It is found after some hesitation. The place is quite nice and especially practical if you need water.

We then take the direction of the village. The path goes through a double place of interest : the 45th parallel mark that symbolizes this latitude and a monument to the memory of the Vercors guerrillas because the High Plateaux were a place of the Resistance during the Second World War.

The path that follows takes us back to civilization. It becomes almost drivable and meanders between golf and cross-country ski circuits … We arrive in Correçon-en-Vercors shortly thereafter.

Jeff will push to Villard-de-Lans on foot but I hitchhike on my side because I have a knee pain that has appeared since yesterday …

Villard, which is quite nice as a city, marks the end of the trip, a bus ride to Grenoble and train to Paris and here we are at home …


Conclusion

The Vercors will have kept its promises: what an extraordinary place! Only 1 hour drive from Grenoble and so isolated. There is really a feeling of end of the world here. I was particularly surprised by the variety of landscapes and their staging, in only 100m of altitude one passes from the grassy plain to the forest then to barren lands.

The hike itself is really nice and accessible. The only point of attention is the water, it is necessary to inquire a little in advance but there is this site to know the state of the fountains: Link.

I advise you to go discover this beautiful corner of France as well in summer, autumn or even in winter ski touring or snowshoeing.


Cirque de Gavarnie depuis le refuge de Baysselance - Pyrénées

From Cauteret to Gavarnie - French Pyrénées

4days

trekking

40km

walked

2750m

D+

2days

raining...

It’s been a long time that we wanted to discover the Pyrénées and in particular the National Park (Link to the site of the Park). We took advantage of our summer holidays to hike four days from Cauteret to Gavarnie. A short trek between lakes, refuges and sumptuous passes.

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Day 1 - from Cauteret to Lac d'Estom


We arrived the day before at Cauteret. The city is friendly and very active. It also has the advantage of being easily accessible by train (with bus at the end). Last restaurant and especially last night in a bed before starting 4 days in the mountains.

Note on the duration of the hike: we chose to go slow during this trek and enjoy the mountain. Some days, especially the third, are relatively short but it’s good not to have to run. The crossing must be feasible in 2 days I think by walking at a good pace.

So we are ready to go up to Estom Lake this morning. The weather is gray and it is not very warm. We reach the beginning of the path that is near the intersection of the Avenue du Mamelon Vert and Avenue Charles Thierry (GPS coordinates: 42 ° 53’17.7 “N 0 ° 06’58.2” W). The beginning of the path climbs above the city in the undergrowth. We are accompanied by some morning hikers.

The section to La Raillière (1050m) is not very interesting, we follow the road a little higher on a path “civilized”. The arrival at the thermal establishment immerses us in a real crowd. This is the starting area to the famous Gaube Lake. On our side we fork to the climb of Lake Estom, there are still a lot of people with us.

The vegetation changes little by little, there are now less hardwoods and more conifers. We follow the Gave de Lutour, the landscape is nicer now but the sky is more and more threatening …

After some time we pass the Fruitière which marks the end of the road. We finally reach less “civilized” areas. We will stop a little further to have a snack next to the river and with a herd of cow for the animation. He still has a lot of people on the way.

The end of the climb to the lake will be in the rain. This portion will be long, it’s our first day of walking for a long time, the bags weigh and the weather does not help. Under the sun the mountain must be beautiful but in this case it does not benefit too much.

We will take advantage of the small Refuge to warm up a bit with a tea. They are full tonight, so we will sleep under the tent. We pitch it a little under the refuge to be sheltered from the wind tonight. It’s not too bad even if it’s never fun to bivouac in the rain but it’s part of the game …

In the end, a good first day with the necessary elevation and weather conditions unfriendly … Hope that tomorrow will be better, we’ll see.

Day 2 - from Lac d'Estom  to the Oulettes de Gaube passing by the Col d'Arraillé


A good cold and wet night as we like … The alarm clock is not very pleasant this morning and we would prefer to stay warm in the sleepingbag but we must go …

It is not raining for the moment but the sky is totally covered and gray. Once on our way we attack the climb to the Col d’Arraillé (2583m), the trail offers a beautiful view of the lake with green waters.

The weather is deteriorating as the temperatures drop, we quickly find ourselves in the fog and the few people we meet tell us that there is fresh snow in the pass … Quickly, we will be under our first snowflakes … The atmosphere is gloomy, we have not slept well, it is now really cold and it snows at least August … the Charm of the Mountain!

We finally arrive at the Col! The climb has seemed endless with this weather … It has a little bit of snow at the top but nothing nasty. Unfortunately, the fog closes us all the sight which must however be beautiful in good weather.

We begin the descent after a small meal break. We quickly lose altitude and this slope is a little more sheltered so we warm up a little. We are even entitled to our first rays of sun since our departure from Cauteret … The weather seems to want changed but it is shy for the moment. We are not the only ones enjoying a little warmth as evidenced by our meeting with a little fierce Marmot.

We will arrive quickly at the Refuge des Oulettes de Gaubes, it is a superb place! The Oulettes extend at the foot of the Vignemale in a kind of mini valley surrounded by high walls.

We will have a break at the shelter before going to pitch the tent in the spaces provided for this purpose west of Oulettes. There are not many people at the moment but there will be a lot of tents tonight.

Once the tent is up we have the visit of a curious who has understood that hikers are generous in apples or other treats!

The weather at the end of the day will be changing with some sunny moments but especially the greyness and the rain. Temperatures have also dropped a lot tonight. So we are wrapped up in the tent hoping to spend a night not too cold.

Too bad the weather is so ugly today but we still had a good day of walking and the Oulettes are very beautiful. In the late evening, the face of Vignemale will play hide and seek with us, offering us beautiful images.

Day 3 - From the Oulettes de Gaube to the Refuge de Bayssellance


The night was difficult! It was very cold as evidenced by our tent all covered with ice this morning. I took for myself a summer sleeping bag (comfort 5-10 ° C) so I had to sleep with the jacket to gain comfort. Fortunately, Hélène had a good 0 ° C comfort sleepingbag.

It was cold but this morning, O happiness, it is very beautiful !!! Our first rays of sun after 2 days of bad weather what joy! The Oulettes de Gaube reveal all their beauty under the morning rays. The north face of Vignemale is superb. All this is good for the spirit.

We take out all our things to dry them on a big rock. After 2 days of rain everything was wet. We continue with the breakfast that we share with another couple. We feel that this morning everyone takes their time to enjoy the weather.

We are not in a hurry to fold the camp and it is only at 11am that we take the road to the refuge Baysselance. It’s a short walking day in perspective but as I said in the introduction we wanted to enjoy the mountain and its beautiful landscapes.

First step, going back on our step and join the fork that we had taken under the pass of Arraillé. There are a few people on the way but it is ok. We often stop taking pictures because we finally see further than 200m! We discover below Lake Gaube and in front of us the beautiful red rocks of the mountains closing west of Oulettes.

Once the bifurcation exceeded, the climb is steeper but the view of the Vignemale and the small glacier that resists somehow motivates well and moves us forward.

We will finally arrive quickly enough to Hourquette d’Oussoue (2734m) before descending to the refuge Baysselance (2651m). We discover a brand new view that now extends eastward with Gavarnie in the distance. The location of the refuge is superb.

We meet a lot of people who have made the way from the dam Oussoue to climb the Petit Vignemale and its 3032m.

Our arrival at the refuge will be accompanied by a good cheese omelette and a nice piece of pie! The shelter team is very nice.

We are in the early afternoon and we enjoy the sun.

We will eventually go up the tent a little away, near the cliff, on a promontory that offers us an absolutely wonderful view of the Mountain with, in the distance, the circus of Gavarnie.

The evening will be magic. It will be a succession of changing lights, shadows, clouds of fabulous shapes. One of my most beautiful bivouac in terms of scenery and what happiness to finally have this weather!

We will fall asleep above a sea of glowing cloud.

Day 4 - Climbing of the Petit Vignemale and descent to Gavarnie


The night was cold but nothing really bad. The program of the day is charged: ascent of Petit Vignemale (3034m) and then long road to Gavarnie.

For the climb we will travel light: we leave the bags at the shelter to just take water and our cameras. The weather is beautiful, it’s perfect!

First step join the Hourquette d’Oussoue 100m above the refuge, it is quickly done. We then turn left to follow a set of rather clear trails towards the summit. It is early we are only two groups to climb for now.

We will reach the summit in barely an hour. The view from here is absolutely beautiful! To the north, the Oulettes de Gaube, which extend under a vertiginous precipice, to the east the chain of the Pyrenees which continues as far as the eye can see. It’s sumptuous! We photograph, we observe, we take advantage of the moment especially that we are almost alone at this time.

Back to the refuge after this beautiful moment, there were already many more people in the climb. We stop for a coffee and we begin the long (!) descent to Gavarnie: 1200m D- and 15km  …

The beginning of the trail is rapidly losing altitude, it evolves in the canyon dug by the river. The landscapes are beautiful. There are some marmots to accompany us.

We will arrive quickly to Oulettes d’Oussoue and its dam. It is very hot now as we have lost a lot of altitude and the sun is hot. Short meal break and we hit the road again. We follow the GR10 at about 1800m. The landscapes have changed a lot. We left the high mountain for the pastures and there are many cows. We will also explain that these cows are all Spanish because an old Napoleonic treaty leaves summer access to our Iberian friends …

The end of the hike, even if the landscapes are beautiful, will be very long! Between the 1600m of cumulative descent, the horizontal distance and the temperatures, we will be happy to arrive in Gavarnie in the prospect of a good hot shower, a good bed and a restaurant!

Joy nuanced by the impressive crowd that the circus attracts. On the other hand all disappear after 6-7pm and the city becomes dead until the next day 8pm for a new human tide. However the circus is worth a visit because it’s impressive. We did not have time to do it but the hike to the breach Roland also looks great.


Conclusion

For a first time in the Pyrénées we were not disappointed ! Despite the first days of bad weather we still enjoyed the beautiful scenery on the second half of the trek. This crossing offers a good patchwork of possibilities that the Pyrénées reserves.

What is certain is that we will come back because we did not have much time and the list of hikes that make us want is long: the Breche de Roland, the Vire aux Fleurs, the Néouviel … to mention them.

We advise you to discover or rediscover this beautiful mountain range that extends all the same over 400km, there is plenty to do …


Traversée du pont de neige - Laponie

Kungsleden - From Nikkaluokta to Abisko

9days

into the wild

96km

walked

1500m

D+

140km

north from the Polar Circle

The “Call of the Wild” has been strong again this year ! Of course we answered if : destination Swedish Lapland with Matthieu and Quentin in the Kebnekaise region for around ten days between Nikkaluokta and Abisko.

First we wanted to follow the Kungsleden between this two places but we had to change our plans a bit as I will explain later.

For this trek, our main goal was to escape in the Great Outdoors with as little human contact as possible, in total freedom. Sweden and Lapland are perfect for that !

Follow us for this 9 days in the birch forest, the swaps or the snow, far for the civilization, alone and happy to be !

The path


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Our first wish was to go in a remote area with very little human contact and in which we would live the “Great Life”. Sweden was perfect for that especially in the Lapland and thanks to the Allemansrätt law (More information about this law here).

 

So we wanted to walk the Kungsleden between Singi and Abisko starting in Nikkaluokta but after few searches on the Internet et some feedbacks from the field, we chose to start in the Vistas valley first and then cross in the Mountains at the Raïtastugan hut and join the regular path after Nallo.

The Kungsleden, the Royal Path, is a 400km trek between Hemavan and Abisko. It crosses wild area of the north sweden as the Sarek, the Vindelfjallen ou Saltoluokta mountains. The Singi-Abikso portion is the most walked because there are shelters every 20km so one can do this part with a light backpack.

The problem is that this idea was good but winter has been late this yer and there was still much snow from the locals feedback. Finally we started in Vistas valley as planned and then we crossed toward Alesjaure. After that, to avoid meeting too much people, we went to the Gama and the Kårsavagge valley. This was a interesting way, more remote than the Kungsleden and offering beautiful, unspoiled sceneries.

Start and first day: beginning of the journey and first mishap


Meeting is at 8am in Charles de Gaulle Airport, France. Quentin and Matthieu are there with their huge backpacks full of 10 days of food. Excitation is there to, we are eager to be in the wild soon.

The 2h30 flight is quick. Here we are in Stockholm airport. We decided to continue our journey by train. It is a good way to take time, to adapt slowly to our new environment.

But before that we have to wait for 5h in the airport. So we use this time to pack our bag and to check the path one more time.

The train is leaving at 6pm, we have a compartment for three, it is a bit small but it will be ok for the night (there are also shower available). The evening will be spent playing cards and watching the landscapes flying through. It is a succession of lakes, forests and small town from time to time.

This night, the sun will barely set, polar circle is closing up…

We spend a good night, It’s around 8h when we wake up. Card play again while playing breakfast. We take a new train in Boden at 10am. It is a regular small on full of hikers going in Lapland. This next 4hours seems very long.. It’s already been 17h that we are in a train…

Finally we arrive in Kiruna! The end of the journey is impressive because the train passes by the enormous iron mine of the city (27500 tons on iron are extracted every day). From the trainstation we go to the city thank to a free shuttle. Then we go to the tourist office to have some informations about the ways to go to Nikkaluokta.

Normally there are daily buses from Kiruna to Nikkaluokta but they only that on the tomorrow so we want to take a taxi. The lady at the office tells us that it is possible but she just received a mail which warn people that the Kungsleden is almost unwalkable due to a 80/90% snow coverage and swamps…Ouch ! Listening to her, it seems that our plans are about to fail due to the conditions…

We think about the options we have : going there anyway, waiting for tomorrow to have more informations or going in another place… Changing place : no, it will be the same and we are not prepared, waiting : it will change nothing… So we choose to go to Nikkaluokta and asses the situation there… if it is not good we will return…

So here we are, in the taxi, to Nikkaluokta. I’m happy to be there in this northern landscapes soon into the wild…

One and half hour and a nap later we are finally in Nikkaluokta, the true beginning of our trip !

Not many things here : just a big building which is an hotel, a restaurant and a small shop but the best thing is that this is the end of the road !

Before we go we stop to check with the owner of the hotel to get more informations about the field conditions. She has no more news than the Lady at the turist office earlier. She just confirms us that the valleys are quite snowy and that it can be a bit difficult to walk there. At this moment some guys are just passing by and it appears that they are helicopter pilots here. They are telling us that all the Kungsleden valley is almost full of snow from Singi to Abisko. The Vistas valley seems better but they don’t how is the end of it. Yesterday they had to “rescue” people… not a good news… With all this infos we decide to begin in the Vistas valley tand to improvise depending on the snow… We’ll see.

Here we are, ready to go, everything is set, it’s sunny,.. one last photo and GO !

We start on the road for 2km then we turn left into the birch forest. We are directly attacked by the mosquitoes !

In summer, polar regions can be a real inferno because of the mosquitoes which are swarning in the swamps. We hoped that there would be few of them in June (which was true especially because of the late winter). There are few of them after mid august.

The problem is that we made a mistake ! We turned left too soon so the path disappears after few hundred meters and now we walk either on thick forest or in swamps ! Ô happiness ! We don’t know if it is normal or not and or map is showing us that we should be in a right place… so we go on.

Quickly we are totally soaked, we try to keep going in the swamps but it is difficult and to improve the situation mosquitoes are very found of us. After two hours we will just do 2km… I have to admit that I am a bit afraid of the rest of the trek if it’s all like this…

It’s already late and we are tired of the journey so we start looking for a place to camp. After a bit of hesitation we find a nice place close to the river. It will be fine for the night.

The tents are quickly set up even if the mosquitoes are trying to distract us. The mood is quickly better after we lit up a fire.

Fast lunch and everyone is going to bed because we are tired… The place is nice on this evening with a beautiful sunlight over the valley. However, I am falling asleep a bit worried due to the snow, the swamps we had to cross and the ones ahead,… We will see tomorow but I hope it will be better… Anyway, I’m still happy to be there !

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Day 2 : further in the Vistas valley


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We had a good night sleep even with the midnight sun.

We don’t spend too much time at the camp on the morning because of the mosquitoes. Once we are ready to go we choose not to continue in the “right” direction but in perpendicular way because we think that the path could be in this direction after a fine analysis of the map… and here it is 200m from the camp ! A beautiful path in wood planks… Yesterday we were so close but we didn’t see it…

Of course we are moving much faster on this good track. It is cloudy today but the landscapes are pleasant. For the time being we have not met anyone since we left Nikkaluokta …

Arrived at a large river, the path is more discreet in the high grass, so we are wrong turning on the right but this is a chance because we fall on a moose grazing nicely at 50m away … The absence of antlers makes me think that it is a female, it is not very big but itt is however impressive. It lets us observe it for 1 minute and then moves away without too much hurry revealing a second one hidden farther in the undergrowth …

We find the right way after this nice meeting. The crossing of the river is done on a makeshift bridge in trunks of birches. We then meet a group of four Russians who passed by the mountains a few days ago, good news! We can therefore pass despite the snow, the conditions are not so horrible as that.

We continue the road at a good pace taking time to admire the landscapes. Behind us, Nikkaluokta seems already far away, the phone network has disappeared since this morning, we are now really in the Wild Lapland!

There are many rivers to cross on the way, many are relatively narrow, others wider or more flowing require a bit of judgment. But the one ahead of us is going to be complicated to cross without removing the shoes and the pants … so be it. Everyone crosses his turn, the water is freezing! It comes directly from the melting snow and has not had time to warm up …

The path then continues gently. During the lunch break we meet two Germans arriving from where we want to go! Good news especially that we also met Dutchmen who turned back towards Nallo … The road we want to do is therefore feasible even if it will be a bit challenging according to the Germans…

The day is long, especially as we are not yet “warmed up” and that the bags are heavy in this trek start. Quentin begins to feel pain on the iliac crest and suffers a little while walking, for my part I start to get a little fed up, it is soon 16km walking. Two guys we met earlier (with 10 people this day was the most populous of the trip) told us that there are some very nice camping spots next to a bridge. We decided to push another 2km.

And indeed, we find a perfect location for the camp: flat grassy ground, river below 20m, corner for the campfire … Perfect!

I spot a herd of reindeers in the forest a little further away! They have not seen us, so we approach discreetly to observe them. They obviously spot us before long and escape but we still have time for few photos.

The camp will soon be set and the fire quickly lights up. It’s a fresh weather we have tonight. Everyone washes a little at the river (the water is always as cold) and we have a “good” meal based on dehydrated food, sausages and cheese by the fire. We are well that night, we feel free. We are living what we came for, we are lucky.

End of day more optimistic than the day before. The path will be fine until Alesjaure but it will be complicated then until Abiskojaure …

Day 3 : To Vistasstugan


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Another good night even though the sound of the river was pretty present. We fold, we tidy up, we start. The program of the day is light: we walk to the cabin / refuge of Vistas 10km away.

But before resuming the road: DIY workshop! Indeed, the shoes of Matthieu show signs of worrying at the level of the soles. That of the right foot is already well detached and that of the left foot will not be long … It is not a good thing for the following of the trek. Fortunately, I took my big climbing tape which is solid, so we will try to keep the sole in place as well and change the tape in the evening, at the worst Quentin also has a little of it and we have a bit of string …

We are on our way back, still further into the wild Lapland. The beginning of the road takes us to a small bridge that crosses an impassable river otherwise, farther, again, small bridge that crosses a beautiful river and which offers a superb view on the valley downstream.

The map shows the presence of a hut near the second bridge. We did not go inside but this one looks more than rundown.

The path then leads to Vistasstugan. We arrive there 4 hours after the departure of the camp this morning (without hurry). The day of walking was short.

Vistasstugan is normally guarded but the keeper will only arrive 2-3 days later according to what we were told in Alesjaure the next day. The facilities cover a fairly large area because there are several residential or technical buildings and even a sauna!

As far as we are concerned, we are heading towards the winter hut (the one near the bridge) which remains open annually and which in particular contains an emergency telephone. The hut is really nice, it’s even amazing how well it’s laid out, maintained and clean! The atmosphere inside is very cozy, there are four beds (relatively comfortable), a table, a stove that heats very well, gas and a small gas cooker (great luxury) and quite a lot of kitchen equipment. We will believe ourselves at home!

We settle for the rest of the day and the night, three days already that we left and it would be stupid not to take advantage of this small cabin, especially since, according to what we know, the next days will be hard!

Scarcely settled, we are welcomed by reindeers passing in the middle of the cabins.

The afternoon will start with a hearty meal followed by alternating siesta, “shower” at the river, playing cards (a lot) and just enjoy the moment.

We will also throw a fire in the stove to warm up and dry the clothes, the latter heats very well, so it is very (very) hot quickly in the cabin but it’s not bad.

Vistasstugan is a beautiful place, it offers a nice view of the mountains around and on the valley. There is also the beginning of the path for Nallostugan.

We will be joined in the early evening by two Us girls who come from Abisko, which is good news because it makes two groups that come from this direction, so it will be achievable. As we took three beds out of the four of the cabin they decide to settle the tent a little further, we will nevertheless share the meal and heat of the stove.

We will be in our bed soon because tomorrow we have a long road to Alesjaure.

Although the winter cabin is unguarded there is a small “fee” that must be paid (250SEK / night / person). You can pay the amount by bank transfer or at the STF office in Abisko (and maybe in Nikkaluokta but I have a doubt about it).

Day 4 : from Vistasstugan to Alesjaure


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Destination Alesjaure after tidy up and cleaning of the hut. We are rested, the tape is put on the shoes of Matthew, the bags done … Let’s go for 19km!

Today, we leave the valley of Vistas after three days to walk in it. We will begin to take a little altitude to arrive finally a small pass that will allow us to “descend” on Alesjaure.

The vegetation changes rapidly, the trees become more and more rare and stunted, the tundra takes the place. The bottom of the valley is beautiful and wild.

We will have the chance to pass not far from a reindeer couple shortly after departure. The reindeer are here accustomed to humain since they belong to the Sami people and are parked several times a year to be counted or marked.

The path is good and relatively dry on this portion. We’re moving forward quickly.

We will have lunch break in front of a Renvaktarstuga hut(private hut owned by Sami people).

Further on we cross the Moarhmmàjhoka on another small bridge, all on the same kind, simple but efficient. Just behind, we start the climb on the pass. Last look at the valley of Vistas who will have kept his promises in terms of landscapes and isolation.

We then cross three groups, some Swiss, Estonians and Germans who all come from Abisko. They give us all the same version of the way, ie achievable but extremely wet and snow is often above the knees between Alesjaure and Abiskojaure … Despite the fight that seems to be waiting for us, we will make it which is better than than turn around (the US girls of the previous day still told us that a group of 9 people had called the helicopter to Alesjaure to go back…).

The path passes here on a kind of plateau. We’re starting to get our first snow. This one is rather good and is none of a problem to us. We feel that we are in altitude because the trees are almost absent and the lakes still partially frozen!

The hut of Tjatjajaurekåtan is a ruin, it can offer a relative shelter to the wind for a break.

We quickly begin the “descent” on Alesjaure. During this one we pass not far from Alisjàrvi a Sami camp still unoccupied because it is a little early in the season. The view of the lake makes it clear that there is a lot of snow on this part of the Kungsleden.

As it begins to be late in the afternoon the snow has softened, so we pass a little through but nothing terrible for now. A few river crossings and finally we arrive at Alesjaure.

Alesjaure is a big installation, there are quite a few cabins. I do not know how many people can be welcomed here but we think there must be quite a few people on the Kungsleden in the high season.

We will make a stop at the main cabin, time to chat a little with the friendly guardians about the field conditions and to give them of feedback about the Vistas side.

We will not stay here, however, we prefer to set the camp a little further. We go on 300 meters further and find a beautiful location that offers a breathtaking view of the valley. The vegetation has changed a lot, here only shrubs and grass are found.

The camp is quickly installed, we relax because we walked a fairly long distance. Matthieu goes in search of berries and brings back a few black berries (it’s a shame because there are still few berries given that the winter was late).

The end of the evening will be cool because the wind blows strong and it descends directly from the mountains. Tomorrow awaits us a difficult day, so we eat a lot and we go to bed early.

Day 5 : a hard day (or not) !


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One day more in deep Swedish Lapland and not least because today we attack the part so dreaded since the start.

Our strategy for the day is established: the majority of the groups met followed the “true” path of the Kungsleden along the lake but the “U” shape of the valley makes the water run and stagnates in this zone which makes the snow bad so one ends up soaking wet in the snow / swamp mix. So we chose to go higher up to 800-850m in order to be in an area where the water does not stagnate and to take advantage of the altitude to have a snow a little colder.

According to the feedbacks we had the main difficulty is concentrated on the crossing of an important river 2km after Alesjaure and whose snow bridges in the lower part are broken, we hope to find good ones on our way, upper.

We leave, after five days each now has its reflexes, its rituals, we are now 100% in the trek. We must admit that the absence of a network is positive for this because we are really disconnected from the outside world.

The beginning of the way is good and we take advantage of the cool morning to progress rapidly on the hard snow. We stick a little a few times but nothing dramatic. The famous river is approaching but for the moment no problem and to top it all it is beautiful!

After 45min we arrive to the river, we quickly understand why it can cause problems: it is relatively wide and the flow is impressive. Luckily we fall directly on a snow bridge that seems solid. For safety, we go through each turn; and everything goes fine! It is a moment of joy because our apprehensions of the previous days are flying, the weather is beautiful and the scenery in this place is magnificent! We take the time to savor it.

We then stay on the heights because it is clear that the bottom of valley is gorged with water. We walk relatively fast, there is nobody, it’s nice and the sun does not spoil anything at all. The view of the valley, upstream as well as downstream, is magnificent.

We meet the Kungsleden at the level of a “rengärde”, a large circular enclosure to park the reindeers during the annual counts. The path is much more muddy but fortunately the sections arranged make it possible not to be too wet (even if in the end the water finds its way into the socks).

The use of gaiters and really waterproof footwear is recommended for the whole trek to limit the penetration of water.

We have progressed much faster than expected but it is useless to run because we still have quite a few days ahead and so we have time to go slow. We decide to spend the afternoon in the small cabin of Radunjarga, it is a simple shelter a little away from the Kungsleden. It is composed of a lock (with shovels and brooms) and a large room with wooden benches, table and stove. The use of firewood is reserved for emergencies and there are no trees in the area, so there will be no fire today.

The afternoon will start with a good lunch and even some homemade hot chocolate made by Matthieu with love.

We will then spend our time between resting, water chores and card games. This moment in the cabin will have been a small pause in the trek, the comfort there was minimum but just as it needed to be.

We chose not to sleep in the cabin in order to be quiet if people arrive late. The camp will be set up a little further on the heights to enjoy a dry location. The landscape and the light are superb.

I feel relieved and serene at the end of the evening because I know we will be able to join Abikso; Even the shoes of Matthew and their soles appear to want to hold.

We sleep under a beautiful midnight sun in the calm of the Lapland …

Day 6 & 7 : change of plan and resting


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It was not hot that night but we still slept well. We are back on the Kungsleden. There is a lot of snow but we are still progressing quite quickly.

We are on the sixth day and we still have three days left before returning to Kiruna. We are only two days away from Abisko. So we decided to change the plans a little bit: we are going to change the valley for the Kamajakka river because we are starting to meet more and more people here and we want to be more isolated. We also decided to stay two days at the same place to enjoy the nature, the quiet.

We will then branch off from the Kungsleden to Sami camp (a few hundred meters after the reindeer barrier). The path is then a bit muddy but it’s pretty. At 800m altitude, we climb a small hill to admire the valley below. The landscape is wonderful. The vision is going for miles on a succession of snow-capped peaks and lakes further down the valley. We can see the Sami camp of Rovvidievva in front of us. We settle down to snack while admiring Lapland.

We begin the descent. The road is good, there must not be many people who passed here this year because there is no footsteps. We quickly arrive at the small bridge that spans the river Kamajakka whose flow and power are impressive. On the other hand, Quentin realizes that he lost his camera a little earlier, so he goes back to look for it and, fortunately, finds it quickly.

The Sami camp is not inhabited at present, so we pass quickly and continue north. The ground is particularly soggy, I hope we will find a nice place to set the camp.

We arrive towards the Hoiganjohka river after 2km. We only saw one interesting camp place for now. We leave the bags near the small bridge and we go in scouting in the area to find a good spot.

After some hesitation we find the perfect spot! Flat ground, superb view, river at 20m … We are even welcomed by a great sun just after setting the camp.

We settle for two days in our little camp. The rest of the day starts by eating a good lunch by the fireplace that we just launched. We will then share our time between farniente and workshop wood carving especially for Quentin and Matthieu.

The light at the end of the evening is beautiful, we take full advantage of the moment. We have not crossed anyone since we forked out of the Kungsleden, we feel at the end of the world, isolated, we are well … We really feel fullness in this kind of moment, we came for it , we are overwhelmed.

We will not lie down too late that night because the cold catches us even if the sun does not set.

The next day we will enjoy the day to eat well and rest, Quentin will also take a long stroll on the heights. Matthew and I will stay near the fire all day long, pruning wood, chatting …

We will see absolutely nobody that day, it’s great … We are lucky to be here in Lapland and to be able to fully experience our adventure.

Day 8 : further & lonelier


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Cool night as evidenced by the hat of frost on the surrounding mountains.

We leave the camp and make sure to leave no trace of our passage except two small stone benches. We take the road towards Abiskojaure and certainly towards more human contact …

The path is good and well marked towards the hut, with the loss of altitude, we find forests composed of large trees that contrast with the puny birches of the previous days.

We will soon arrive at Absikojaure which is a big hut installation. The guards will tell us that they can accommodate up to 60 people per night. We meet them by the way taking breakfast and they will invite us to settle with them so that one exchanges on the conditions of ground. I am surprised because I do not have the impression that the cabins discuss a lot between them to get informations of the conditions on the ground, so the guards are very interested in the return that can be made to them.

One of the managers tells us about a valley a little further north in which few people go. We had initially planned to follow the Kungsleden until Abisko but the prospect of being even more isolated is attractive. So we’re changing our plans to get to the Karsåvagge valley.

The beginning of the path is behind the camping site of Abiskojaure. We first go along the lake and then a small river. We quickly take the altitude and the view emerges behind us revealing the lake, the mountains around and on the horizon. It’s beautiful.

The snow quickly reappears, hiding a bit of the road, which is easily followed by the regularly spaced cairns.

The path and the general atmosphere of the landscape are becoming better and better as the ascent progresses, there is an air of garden of Eden, intact nature, pure. On our right two herds of reindeers graze, on the left a small stream is running between the grasses. There is a great sunshine, we are alone, it is a very pleasant moment during which we were particularly happy to be there and to venture in a valley where few people have passed this year.

The path takes us higher and higher, we follow the traces left by the guardian of Abiskojaure yesterday, there are only his …

We arrive at the summit (which is quite flat and all in length) towards 1150m of altitude. The view around is superb: to the south west the valleys from where we come and far the Kebnekaise. To the north is Abisko and Lake Torneträsk.

We start the descent towards Kårsavagge. There is no traces anymore, the terrain is pristine from now on. The valley is particularly covered with snow, we see from here the lakes that are still frozen.

There are some cairns to indicate the way. It is very beautiful. One has the impression, once again, to be alone in the world.

There is a path on the other side of the valley but you have to cross the river at the cabin of Kårsavagge. We will not take this option, instead we choose to remain from this side of the valley and progress off the trail. We turn then to the right at the level of the big river 500m after the summit. The descent is fast, we use the snow plates to go faster.

We will continue a little further time to find a beautiful camping location for the night. It will be done not far from the river to a place where his bed is tightened.

We are setting the camp for the last time because tomorrow we will be in Abisko. We are well installed even if there is a little wind. There is a small place to shelter to have a snack and to play cards.

Late evening classic with meal, moment of fullness and beautiful light when the sun passes behind the mountains. Kårsavagge is beautiful ! We are not far from the Kungsleden but we feel that here few people come.

Day 9 and last days: Abisko...


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Last breakfast, last packing … We take the path towards Abisko. None of us are in a hurry to find the city and its hustle and bustle …

We progress in the Kårsavagge valley off the trail towards the bridge which crosses the river. It is reached quickly but its appearance challenges us a little from far … It is by getting closer that one understands better: one of the slats that supports the bridge way is broken so that it hangs over the river. A sign on the other side indicates that the bridge is closed. The problem is that if you do not take the bridge you end up with the choice of turning back and crossing to look higher (in spite of the very strong current) or else make a long detour downstream … Given the state of the bridge it is estimated that one can try. We go one after the other and despite some cracking we pass without encumber …

There is not much to say about the end of the path to Abisko. It offers a beautiful view of the Torneträsk and the surrounding peaks.

We finally join other paths traveled by tourists passing through Abisko. The civilization is beginning to be rediscovered. The end of the road leads to the road not far from the famous gate that marks the beginning or the end of the Kungsleden. We stop there for a photo.

Here we are at Abisko! The shoes of Mattieu have held!

It is 1pm and the bus to Kiruna passes at 6pm, so we moved to the Turist Station on the tables outside enjoying the sun. It is the Mid-Summer festival that marks the summer solstice. So there is a whole dance and music animation and even cake! This allows us to pass the time …

We board at 6pm in the direction of Kiruna where we spend the night and the next day (we will sleep at the Scandic Ferrum hotel which is not bad). We will also take advantage of our day to visit the mine which is worth it. In the evening we spend the evening at the Bishop Arm, the Kiruna pub …

Return to France the day after. Difficult return to reality between the temperature that had to take 20 ° C, pollution and the crowd … Lapland is already far …

Conclusions

Another trek that will be remembered. These ten days in Lapland were absolutely brilliant thanks to the landscapes, the atmosphere but above all thanks to the feeling of freedom and wild nature that one feels there. I had some apprehensions before the start on the nature of the terrain and the difficulties that we were going to encounter, apprehension confirmed on our arrival by the feedbacks that we had but now in retrospect, it was not so hard on the contrary. The moderate physical difficulty has allowed us to benefit even more. I am also happy because it was the first time I left with 10 days of autonomy in the bag and I even had some food left at the return. We can therefore think about treks of this duration or even a little longer with a bag of 65L well filled.

This trek was my first Swedish experience and in Lapland. I Would definitely come back here again! As soon as I returned I started to look at the Sarek National Park for a next walk … Who knows, we will see? …

I can only advise you to go and lose you a few days in these wild lands.


Montagnes environnantes de Cilaos, La Réunion

Reunion Island Crossing

10days

trekking

140km

walked

9000m

D+

3070m

Altitude of the Piton des Neiges

Located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island is a real treasure in terms of landscapes, culture or hiking. In order to better discover the island and in particular the Cirque de Mafate, we decided with Arthur, to follow the GR-R2 which crosses the island from side to side.

With a length of 140km and with about 8000m of elevation gain, the route starts from Saint Denis, in the North West and joins Saint Philippe, in the South-East passing by Cirques of Mafate and Cilaos but also the Piton des Neiges and that of the Furnace. The landscapes that it crosses its magnificent and the immersion in the atmosphere of the island is total.

Cirque or Circus are roughly circular depression closed by high clifs due to local volcanism. There 3 in La Réunion : Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie.


Few words about La Réunion

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