Walking the world
- Norway/Finland: Kilpisjarvi-Vuomahytta
- 20 – 24 July, 2019
- 110 km (643 km in total)
- E1 European long distance path: Scandinavia, Green Ribbon (Gröna Bandet), The Arctic Trail (Nordkalottleden)
We head out of Kilpisjärvi and back up towards Saana mountain, we sidle along in the Saana national reserve where there is a lot of butterflies, moths and other insects unique to this area of Finland.
We enter into Mallan, a national park filled with beautiful lakes and waterfalls. The trail takes a high route with stunning views.
In Mallan national park we reach the Three Country Cairn (Treriksröset), the marker dividing Norway, Finland, and Sweden. It is also the starting point for the Swedish Green Ribbon Trail (Gröna Bandet) which we plan to thru-hike along the way. The route we are planning also follows The Artic Trail (Nordkalottleden) through this section.
From here we enter back into Norway and head into the beautiful picturesque mountains still topped with snow. This section has amazing huts every 20km or so and leads you through some of the best mountain valleys on offer in the area. Isdalen (Ice Valley) is a spectacular example, with ice-covered lakes and large cliffs on either side some housing small glaciers.
We finally drop down into Dividalen, another amazing valley filled with trees and a large raging river with giant crashing waterfalls and rapids. Making our way up the Anjavasselva river we head up the valley and climb back up into the mountains towards the Vuomahytta hut.
Day 25: Gappohytte (camped)
Distance: 32 km (566 km total)
Weather: sunny, a few clouds in the afternoon, evening showers
Left Kilpisjärvi and headed for Treriksröset (Three Country Cairn) where Sweden, Norway, and Finland meet. We got there and the monument was empty. We did some photos and video then sat down to have lunch. Next thing we know another couple and a dog shows up, then a whole boatload of tourists being dropped off from the lake from the Finish side. Completely swamped! Madness!
We hiked out. This is where we start our Gröna Bandet (Green Ribbon) thru-hike, a 1300 km hike through it the Scandinavian mountain range from Treriksröset to Grövelsjön. Since we would be passing by anyway, we figured, why not officially “do” this trail too.
We aimed for Gappohytte. The sign said another 14 km, but we are pretty sure the sign was placed in the wrong spot. It felt much longer and our GPS confirmed it being off by 2 km, but we made it. It was a long walk and some climbing to get to the hut. It was located in a really beautiful spot in the mountains but was kind of crowded so we camped up outside.
We jumped into the pond by the hut to get cleaned up and rinse out our clothes. Very sweaty couple of days to get here, so well needed. Cooked dinner inside the hut and chatted with a young Finish couple and a Norwegian guy for a while. Nice evening!
Day 26: Nye Rostahytta
Distance: 22 km (588 km total)
Weather: sunny, a few scattered clouds
We continued further into the mountains today. Beautiful weather and it felt amazing to be surrounded by these big and impressive mountains — finally. Crossed back and forth between Norway and Sweden a few times today, straddling the border. We walked through Isdalen (Ice Valley) for most of the day. It is a gorgeous high valley surrounded by steep rock faces, scattered snowdrifts and lots of little lakes and waterfalls. A highlight of the trip so far.
We decided to take an early day today since we did such a big one yesterday. So when we saw the next set of huts after 20 km we could not resist… plus there looks to be rain coming. It is pretty accessible though, so we will probably get lots of company tonight, but there are 4 huts, so we are hoping it won’t get too crazy!
A Finish/German couple we had seen earlier on trail joined us later in the evening. Nice company. Five more days to Abisko.
Day 27: Isjönalpark
Distance: 26 km (614 km total)
Weather: sunny, a few scattered clouds
Our hut mates were early risers, so we were on trail around 8. Nice sith an early start though, we have been sleeping in the past week. A fair bit of climbing all morning, but we finally got up high enough so the breeze picked up to sweep away the mosquitoes and annoying little flies plaguing the valley. Not as dramatic landscape as yesterday but still pretty cool.
By lunch, we had done 17 km and we descended down into a valley to a hut. We dropped our packs and boots for an hour or so recharging for the last 9 km. We are both feeling a bit run down and due for a rest day. It doesn’t help that we are packing a few calories short on this stretch to keep the pack weight down. We really want to go as light as possible on these longer 8-day food carries. One more to go after this.
Got our first social media recognition encounter today… a hiker walked in as we were chillin’ and said: “I know who you are”. Turns out she had seen our post about Gröna Bandet and had looked us up. Cool! Hi Camilla!
After an hour or so of rest, we moved on, smashing out the last 9 km. We need to do a minimum of 26 km/day to make it to Abisko as planned. Looking forward to a rest day there.
We camped up on a saddle with beautiful sweeping views just as a thunderstorm was rolling through the valley below! We got some heavy winds an a bit of rain for about 15 minutes but that was it. Now the sun is back out and it is nice and calm.
Day 28: Vuomahytta (- 5km)
Distance: 29 km (633 km total)
Weather: sun and clouds, evening showers
We had a great day out. Walking along a massive river towards Vuomahytta. However, we have not packed enough calories on this stretch. In our efforts to keep weight down we have been a bit too stingy… nothing serious, but we are feeling the energy drop at this point.
We had about 5 km left to go on an already long 29 km day when disaster strikes!
On a flat and simple section, Karma had a very undramatic stumble on trail. Normally she is fast on her feet again, but this was different. She had landed knee first on a very sharp rock and was unable to move. What should have resulted in a simple skinned knee instead left a 12 cm long gash across the knee all the way into the bone! It would take nine stitches to close!
We soon realized the severity of the fall. We were days from civilization and it was clear that we were not walking out on this knee! So we activated our PLB (personal locator beacon) to call for mountain rescue. Next, we got the first aid kit out and wrapped the wound with sterile bandages. Surprisingly little bleeding or pain for some reason, but you could see all the way into the bone!
There were heavy clouds with drizzly rain overhead, so Scott pitched the tent and tucked Karma into a sleeping bag to stay warm and dry. While we waited, two other hikers and a dog walked up. They stayed with us until the helicopter arrived. Very nice!
Two hours after pushing the button we were airlifted to civilization by the Norwegian army. Thank you!! The flying conditions were less than ideal and they had to fly really low through the valleys. The two skilled young pilots looked like they were having a great time though and we felt like we were living a scene in Top Gun…
Once in civilization, we were handed over into first responders care and taken by ambulance to the clinic in Setermoen. Close to midnight, the doctor on staff was a young woman in training. She did a great job cleaning and sowing up the wound though and the orthopedic doctors at the hospital in Tromsø the next day gave their approval. They just took some X-rays to rule out bone damage and prescribed some heavy-duty antibiotics. A lucky wound in the sense that no bone or tendons were damaged in the fall—just an enormous flesh wound to heal! Hopefully, we can be back on trail again in about 4-5 weeks. Fingers crossed!
Since we need some time to rest we decided to go back to Sweden and stay with family for the summer. We have worked out how to get back to where we left the trail again. We have also looked at a slightly modified route so we can still get through Scandinavia before winter hits, and Scott’s visa runs out, despite this unfortunate delay. That makes us feel a whole lot better!! More on this at a later time.