Table of Contents
Total distance: 108,5 km
Hiking days: 5
Day 122: Kilpisjärvi – Saarijärvi – Kuonjarjoki
14.09.2022 | 21,3 km
It is the day when winter will break in Finland. But we don’t know that this morning. When we look at the weather forecast, we realize that it will be uncomfortable for the next few days. The extra break day didn’t help. Today it is supposed to rain, at two degrees. A look outside confirms the uncomfortable weather. We therefore put on the rain gear and Lando’s coat is directly going to get its first use.
The village of Kilpisjärvi lies quickly behind us and now we are heading steadily uphill back into the mountains. It is foggy and the dwarf birches around us glow in bright orange. The path is stony and exhausting to walk. But that’s what we heard about the section through Finland that lies ahead of us. It is not supposed to be very good to walk. The first snowflakes soon mix in between the rain and an icy wind whistles around us.
Welcome break at Saarijärvi hut
After a little more than eight kilometers we briefly cross through Norway again but return to Finland only shortly after. A sign announces the border change. The further kilometers to the Saarijärvi hut drag on. We are very relieved when we arrive. Inside some people have already made themselves comfortable. The stove is burning, but I still don’t get warm during the whole break. The upcoming thought to spend the night here is quickly displaced by reality: the cabin is full to the last bed.
Snowstorm and cold
We therefore continue walking. We still have about nine kilometers ahead of us, which will bring us up to almost 1000 meters. I wonder what it looks like there? The snow cover is already closed as we hike on. With every step the wind becomes more and more cutting. Lando’s face is completely iced over and the trail markings are very hard to see. We have to stop constantly to reorient ourselves. Just don’t get lost in this weather. We don’t notice the landscape around us anymore. It’s all about arriving. It occurs to me that it can quickly become dangerous in such situations and I ask myself whether we are really doing the right thing.
I am cold, Lando just trots along and Manuel does his best to find the snowed-in wooden posts that mark the trail here in Finland. This morning we have cursed the orange marking between all the autumnal dwarf birch trees, now it means that we can still find a marking at all. Around eight o’clock we finally arrive at the Kuonjarjoki hut. Fortunately the other guests have already taken care of firewood and water. There is also a drying room! Hurray to the Finnish huts.
Day 123: Kuonjarjoki – Pitsusjärvi
15.09.2022 | 20,0 km
Overnight it has snowed even more. While everyone else wants to get out of the mountains in the direction of Kilpisjärvi, we walk further in. But at least after the first six kilometers we are slowly going back to lower regions. Until then, however, we continue to fight our way through the snow. The wind has decreased a bit, but it is still unpleasant. Markings are no longer visible. At times the snow is knee deep. We cross some rivers and our feet get wetter and wetter. In addition, we can not see stones and boulders under the snow.
Snow, wet feet and a locked cabin
So we continue to carefully go on, and yet we stumble at many steps. This day is definitely one of the most strenuous of our tour. We don’t want to make the detour to Meekonjärvi autiotupa, the open hut. Not a single meter more of walking! Instead, we take a short rest on the porch of one of the closed huts and are happy that at least the toilet house is open.
The mood is depressed. We’re not enjoying what we’re doing right now. And half of the distance is still ahead of us. The snow has now given way to slush and wetness. We are at about 600 meters altitude now and walk along the lakeshore. Lake shore sounds so idyllic, but what we find is a stone and scree desert. And it’s damn slippery in the wet. Even the wooden planks that are laid out in some places don’t help much. They are slippery as well.
Of wet stones and slippery wooden planks
After seemingly endless time we reach the bridge at Vuomakasjärvi. The old bridge was broken and the new one has only been up for a week. We are glad that we can cross the river on dry feet. Although of course there is no question of dry feet.
Somehow the last seven kilometers pass and we reach the Pitsusjärvi hut in the pouring rain. The hut is tiny and everywhere are already hanging wet clothes. We hang ours to it and chat with two Finns, who have climbed up Halti on this day. As a Finn you seem to have to have done this once in your life. The two climbed up there in full awareness that they would not see anything at the top. Just to say that they were up there. Well, in my opinion, one can do that, but one doesn’t necessarily have to do that.
Day 124: Pitsusjärvi – Kopmajoki – Somashytta
16.09.2022 | 14,6 km
Today there are only fourteen kilometers ahead of us. I take a deep breath and am grateful for it. A few hours, then we should probably be there. It’s raining again. And it’s cold. And stony. And windy. Soon I’m completely wet and a little later quite frozen to the bone. My pants are totally soaked with water, because the rain skirt is blown up by the wind. Rain pants would definitely be the better choice at this point. Manuel’s combination of rain pants and poncho now shows its strengths.
Complete exhaustion at Kopmajoki cabin
It takes us four hours to reach Kopmajoki hut, the last open Finnish cabin. We are all alone, because after we left the turnoff to Halti behind us, it has become lonely. It is only three kilometers to the Somas hut, but I need a break. We get firewood and light the fireplace. After a little more than two hours I am warm again and also my pants are reasonably dry. We move on. There are still some river crossings ahead of us and also the border crossing back to Norway. It is the last one on our way to the North Cape.
By the way, we don’t find the Somashytta at the place where it is marked on the map, but about 200 meters down the trail. Already from a distance we see birch logs leaning against the shed from the outside. The shed itself is spacious but quite damp and cold. While I make my way down to the river to fetch water, Manuel disappears into the woodshed. It is pretty far to the water here. I walk downhill for 200 meters and then back up again with the heavy buckets. Hut life is sometimes really exhausting.
An uncomfortable hut and a dead Garmin
Manuel, meanwhile, has not made much progress. The wood supply is depleted, there are only large and wet birch trunks left. Together it takes us at least two hours before we manage to light a fire. And even after that it just doesn’t get warm in the hut. We blow up our mats and put them into the beds. The foam mattresses do not look inviting. That evening we definitely mourn the cozy Finnish huts. When we try to check the weather with our broken Garmin InReach Mini that evening, the device finally dies. So far, we have at least managed to activate the device and send our evening location after about 45 minutes of charging at the power bank. Today, however, nothing works at all.
Unfortunately, we wanted to take the weather forecast as a basis for deciding how to continue from here. Actually, we planned to traverse from here without a trail down to the Nedrefosshytta and from there to enter the Nabar. However, due to the rain and the melting snow of the past days, the rivers are quite high and also crossing the Nabar is pathless. With no weather report and no emergency transmitter, the situation now suddenly looks different. We discuss our options and come to the decision that we need internet to assess the situation and also to activate our new InReach Mini.
Thus, we decide to follow the Nordkalottleden towards Reisadalen for the time being. We have no plan where we will spend the night there. On our map the Saraelv hut and the Nordkalottstua are marked. It is about 29 kilometers to the first one. Well, that may become quite a hard day.
Day 125: Somashytta – Nordkalottstua
17.09.2022 | 30,7 km
At nine o’clock we set off. Today we have a long day ahead of us with several river crossings. It’s raining and the wind is whistling hard again. As uncomfortable as the cabin was, it is more uncomfortable outside. About 20 kilometers we are now walking at an altitude of just under 800 meters, so that we can’t expect any improvements of the winds. We put ziplock bags over our gloves so that our gloves don’t get wet quite so quickly. Since putting them on is quite tricky, we now only use our hands in extreme emergencies for anything other than holding the hiking poles.
Will we make it to Reisadalen?
We are running out of time, because it is now getting dark noticeably earlier in the evening. Will we make it to the valley in daylight? We therefore take our first break only after six hours, when we have walked about 17 kilometers. But since it is icy cold, we move on after a short snack. Only on the descent into the valley it gets a little warmer at some point. Rarely have I been so happy to see trees that break the wind and make hiking instantly more pleasant. Now we can also take the plastic bags off our gloves and have a look at the cell phone now and then. But we don’t have internet reception.
We marvel at a huge waterfall before we arrive at the road at about 7 pm. The tension falls off me. We made it! It is already dawn and now we have to find a place to sleep. We don’t find the Saraelv hut, and we still have no reception. The exhaustion of the day spreads in me and brings despair. Where are we supposed to go now? I don’t want to take another step and tears run down my cheeks.
In search of a cabin
We know nothing about the Nordkalottstua, not even where it is. However, there is a signpost and so we set off. Right and left of the road we make out potential campsites, if we do not find the hut. Sure that would work, but we are completely wet and after the exhausting day I just want to get into the warm. Ahead we see some light and as we get closer we see a few cars. The men ask us where we are heading and point the way to the hut. There we could sleep. Hope arises in me and indeed, we find the cabin. But it is locked and not with the DNT key. It is now pitch dark and while we try to reach someone, we explore the area around the hut. It is located in the middle of the Reisadalen Visitor Center, but this is now, out of season, long closed again.
Suddenly Manuel gets a text message with the code for the key box and a little later we are in the hut. The cabin is very cozy, it is warm and there are even battery-powered LED lamps. Only Internet, we are still missing.
Day 126: Nordkalottstua – Bergskogshytta – Storslett
18.09.2022 | 22,0 km
Our shoes are still clammy the next morning. And we are still in crisis mode. Where do we want to go from here? Walk the big detour to Kautokeino? Through the Nabar? Or head northwest to the road and continue there? The Nabar is out of the question, since we still have no internet and no satellite emergency transmitter. I have a tendency to walk towards Kautokeino, Manuel would rather walk in the other direction. The last few days have been exhausting and we both long for a warm place, good food and a bit of rest to sort out our thoughts.
Internet? Why is there no Internet here?
We therefore decide to follow Reisadalen to the northwest and hope for internet reception. By the way, the Reisadalen is quite pretty with its steep slopes on which an autumn colored forest grows at this time of the year. Again and again we have weak reception. Our first priority is to find a place to stay. There are not many options and so we book a cabin 22 kilometers away. Booking and payment work, except that we don’t get a code. Many times we try to reach Statskog, but without success. Finally we stand in front of the hut and still have no key code to open the door.
Exhaustion, frustration and a forward escape
Frustration spreads through us. Right now, however, nothing is going as planned. The Internet is also lousy and here we can certainly not start any research concerning the next days. What would it cost to take a cab from here to the next town, Storslett? Manuel calls the taxiservice and a little later we have booked both cab and hotel. Bite us, Statskog cabin. We just want to get out of here.
Half an hour later, the taxi driver picks us up, closes both eyes, since she is not allowed to transport Lando, and drives us to the hotel. Exhausted, we fall into bed there and gain a little distance from the exertions of the last few days.
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