Sarek Part Six: An Amazing Arctic Adventure – or – Is It Wrong To Love A Tent?

I woke at about 5 the next morning, desperate to go to the loo. Nothing unusual about that, only this morning it was pouring with rain. I tried lying there for as long as I could, in the hope that the rain would stop, but it didn’t. Half an hour later, I couldn’t wait any longer. So, waterproofs had to be donned – overtrousers and jacket – and I had to go out and get really wet. Not the most pleasant experience. And of course I then came back to the tent with a load of wet stuff.

Still, I managed to go back to sleep until it was time to get up and get ready for the off.

It was still raining a bit when it came to packing everything away and this was another test for the Enan. Could I pack whilst sitting inside, like I could in my Voyager? The answer was a definite ‘Yes’. Impressive.

But the best thing for me was being able to take the inner out, dry, and put that away in a separate bag while leaving the outer up. I’ve never had an outer-pitching-first tent before and it was a bit of a revelation for me. I was now getting very fond of this tent….

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Anyway it was seriously cloudy and damp then this morning and for the first time this trip, I set off with full waterproofs on.

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We were now heading off back towards the path we came out on.

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The clouds were lowering and we were climbing again.

At one point, we found what we thought was a moose antler.

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The temperature was a lot cooler than when we crossed the saddle at Sahkok a few days ago, and as we approached it I almost thought it was going to turn a bit sleety. The big snow bank we’d crossed before, was definitely harder and more icy, so this time we picked our way around the edge as much as possible, where it wasn’t so steep.

I didn’t like to take my camera out in the rain this day so the photos are a bit thin on the ground, I’m afraid.

We dropped back down the other side of the saddle, checking our route often, as visibility was not so good. The rocks underfoot were now very greasy with the wet but despite being really careful, at one point I suddenly found myself on the deck. I’d landed on my left side, with my head slightly lower than my feet. I could neither get up easily or even undo my hip belt, for some reason, but James came back to help me. I was somewhat bruised and it also served to remind me how important it is to have both your hip belt and chest strap undone when crossing awkward rivers. Imagine trying to undo those under water.

Anyway, we crossed the wide, glacier fed river with no problem, before once again arriving at the, ‘White water! White water! Very dangerous!’ river. Thankfully, still with a good snow bridge, we negotiated our way across. This time though, there were quite a lot of red marks on it. We decided it probably wasn’t blood though, but some kind of algae….

I took a few photos of the snow bridge this time.

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The next river was also still filled with snow

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and before we knew it, we’d lost a bit more height, turned a corner, and were once more looking over the Parek bog.

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By now, the rain was a bit on and off, but not enough off to take waterproofs off.

We found a spot for the night not too far away from the river between the two lakes, which we needed to cross to get back onto the boggy section.

James made sure that his spot was comfy enough for a good night’s sleep.

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Putting the tent up, I fell in love with it even more. The outer went up and then I put the dry inner inside! Brilliant!

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Lying in bed, listening to the rain overnight, I began to wonder if we should have crossed the next river before making camp that evening.

I had another sopping wet toileting experience in the early hours – at the same time checking the stream we were camped next to, making sure it wasn’t overflowing – and we once again breakfasted and packed up in heavy rain.

Making our way to the river, through the trees, was even wetter. The ground was covered in streams we’d not noticed before and the foliage constantly dripped more water onto us.

When we finally reached the ford, I didn’t even recognise it. All the stones and triangles of wood were now so far under water they couldn’t be seen and I’m sure it had got wider as well.

I can’t say I was that happy at the thought of crossing it. Short of camping there for a couple of nights though, ’till the weather changed, we didn’t really have a lot of choice.

I muttered things about being washed away and drowning, while James appeared calm and started giving me orders like,

“Right. Take your trousers off…”

We crossed together and it seemed to go on forever. I remember getting half way across and thinking that it still stretched off into the distance. Up to our waists most of the way across, I was thankful that the current between the two lakes was quite gentle.

The other side was finally reached, safe and sound. I didn’t take any photos, but James took a couple, looking back at the water we’d just negotiated.

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Trousers

As we continued on our way, across the Parek bog and back through the forest to the same spot as we’d camped on the first night, the sun came out briefly – just disappearing again and dumping more rain on us as we started to make camp.

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It proved to be an eventful night. An organised gang of Arctic Voles ambushed us from all directions. Rat sized, they made my flesh crawl. I’d rather have had a bear wander through camp.

James managed to trap one under his pan at one point – but it escaped – but when we finally retired to bed, the onslaught really began.

I was initially rudely awoken in the early hours by a loud crunching noise near my right ear. As I looked, and saw the two holes that had been eaten in the tent inner, I think I screamed.

I then saw a rat through the thin yellow fabric, running round and round in between the inner and the outer.

The only thing for it, was to stay awake all night, chasing them away every time they came near. Much easier said than done. I awoke again, a couple of hours later, to more munching sounds as they industriously made the holes in the tent even bigger.

It was a bit like a cross between a Stephen King horror movie and a National Lampoon comedy.

The night seemed to last an eternity and when I packed away in the morning, I found a bag inside the inner which had been chewed…….I couldn’t even bear to think about what that meant.

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It was still drizzling when we finally set off for Kvikkjokk. The four miles passed quickly and when we got back to the hostel, we paid for a shower each, and a delicious lunch, before starting our long journey home.

The trip had been a magnificent experience and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world; many thanks have to go to James for organising the whole thing.

I can well understand why people return to the area time and time again, and when I got home Geoff decided that he really fancied an arctic trek too, so we’ve already booked some flights to Kiruna for next summer.

Can’t wait 🙂

James’ version of Part Six can be read here.

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About chrissiedixie

Love being out on the moors and mountains, backpacking, dogs, travelling generally. Favourite place in the world - Yosemite National Park. Retired teacher and ex Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader. Married to Geoff, who puts up with all sorts.
This entry was posted in Backpacking Trips, Trips Abroad. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Sarek Part Six: An Amazing Arctic Adventure – or – Is It Wrong To Love A Tent?

  1. I’m surprised that TN continue to have inner first tents

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    • We’ve used Voyagers for years and loved them, but most of our trips have been in the States in the summer. You’ll obviously appreciate the difference in climate there, and so inner first isn’t really an issue. Three wet nights on the run through and outer first was definitely appreciated. Geoff and I have therefore bought a new tent to take to the Arctic next year, still TN but one of a newish range of outer first ones. It’s a Polar Lite 2 Micro.

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  2. The rivers can certainly be tricky, fortunately apart from early snow melt I have had less problems but you never know what is around the next corner. The arctic area is beautiful in my view and one I intend to revisit many times in the years to come. Inner pitch tents are definitely the way to go and the Polar Lite 2 Micro looks good, however, I think when you and James are next out on the hills together one of you needs to have a red Enan, for the contrast.

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    • That makes me laugh, because hubby wanted us to get a red Enan, but we couldn’t find one, and James also said he wouldn’t camp near me if I had a red one! 😀
      Hubby also wanted us to buy a red Polar Lite, but I’ve persuaded him to go for green for camouflage purposes…..we did have a red Voyager once….. 😀

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  3. Dawn says:

    Have had experience of tents that pitch inner first, much prefer pitching outer first.
    Oh my what experiences you have had though, absolutely gorgeous scenery. wild, open spaces and exciting experiences with wildlife??
    You have my sympathy with getting out of the tent for the loo. It is something that causes me a few problems.
    Brilliant stuff Chrissie and well done.

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  4. Rowena says:

    Fantastic! I felt so bad for you after reading about the voles munching through your lovely tent 😦 I would have screamed as well. I couldn’t believe that river/lake you had to cross at the end – I would have been pretty scared at that. Good tip though about undoing your hip belt at crossings – that hadn’t occurred to me (and I fell into that river in Skye with a full pack on – but luckily was able to get back up OK).
    And you have all my sympathies for the toilet experience!

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    • Thanks 😀
      Can’t believe we were so naïve to start with, to think that there was only one ratty thing round the tents – there must have been at least half a dozen in the end! Nothing less than co-ordinated ambushing!
      I phoned Hilleberg when I got home and they kindly sent me some material to patch the inner with, so it looks ok again, now.
      And that river was something else……. 😀

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  5. that’s awful about your tent being munched like that – I was just thinking Arctic Voles would be really cute until I read on.

    Can’t be many times you’ve been commanded to remove your trousers by a man surely? 😉

    I usually just put a jacket on to go ‘outside’ during the night – I find if I don’t fasten it and bend over, I mostly stay dry. Having said that, last time I camped in my car down Glenelg in torrential rain, I had to take a large umbrella out of the car in the night as well as my coat!
    Carol.

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    • Now, I know of some people who would have an umbrella with them backpacking! No-one’s ever said how useful it might be for night time toilet excursions before, though…. 😀

      And as for being told to remove my trousers by a bloke, I can only think of doctors and gynaecological situations in the past! 😀 😀

      We did see several lemmings over the week while we were walking – they would suddenly cross your path and dive into some grass. They were quite cute and had lovely markings. The voles just looked like rats……

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  6. surfnslide says:

    I wonder if the tent invaders were conscripts or Vole-unteers. I’m here all week! 🙂

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      • surfnslide says:

        How many were there? Did you conduct a Vole-umetric analysis?
        I used to chuckle at my other half having to get up in the middle of the night for a pee when camping. Alas I’m now at the age when I can’t make it through the night either 😦

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        • Double groan…..!

          When I was having breakfast though the next morning, I was sat in my tent, looking at four of the things chewing on some rubbish, only about 6′ from my door. Brazen, or what?! They obviously weren’t phased by anything – I reckon there were actually hundreds….. 😉

          And I don’t understand why I always need more overnight toilet excursions when I’m camping, than when I’m at home 😦

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  7. Nice six part write up Chrissie!!
    I have not had may tents (two) but both pitch outer first. I remember being really glad of this on two separate occasions in Derbyshire whilst helping out on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. The first involved mozzies and the second lashing rain. On both occasions, to get underneath a pitched outer was a real relief!!
    The voles on your trip sounded horrible. The river crossings just sounded wet!
    Enjoy next summer.
    John
    PS often thought about getting another tent and it being red!

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    • Thanks, John! Yes, outer first pitching is definitely the way to go, now the bulk of my backpacking is in less clement climates than the Western USA!
      And I can see the appeal of a red tent, our old red Voyager does look rather nice in photos…. 😀

      Like

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