Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tour de Pältsan

Grab a cup of good coffee, since this post is long.

After returning from a family trip to Sweden and Norway, I still had time for a short bikepacking trip before my vacation would be over. I contemplated a few alternatives, and Abisko was right on the top of the list. Some uncertainty regarding the bus schedule on the Swedish side made me choose another option. In just the same time I could go a bit further north to Kilpisjärvi and do a little bikepacking in Finland, Sweden and Norway during the same trip. I had some information saying that at least part of the trails in the area would be suitable for riding a bike.

On Thursday evening I entered the train in Turku. There were quite a lot of bikes on it this time. Since you can sleep decently on the night train, this doesn't really cost much time. The train ticket with a sleeping cabin is rather expensive, though.

After a night on the train followed some eight hours in a bus, before I finally arrived at Peera, about 15 km before Kilpisjärvi. I quickly stashed away a bag with clean clothes for the return journey before starting the ride. An air temperature of around 15C was quite pleasant.

After a short while I came upon the bridge to Keinovuopio, the northernmost community of Sweden. Crossing the bridge also meant crossing the border.

Now around 8 km of rather coarse gravel followed, leading to Kummavuopio.

The road ended at Kummavuopio and the trails started. The trails were mostly easy, though there was a distinct advantage to having a fatbike during a longish soft and wet section. Now the sheer number of bugs also became obvious.

Well, I think the risk of getting a rocket in your head is rather minimal, so I didn't check out the details.

Closing in on the higher region. Notice the good visibility.

Pältsan and Moskkugáisi.

The waterfall near the Pältsastugorna cabins.

I chatted a bit with the host of Pältsastugorna and he was skeptical about my route. The trail to Rostahytta would be fine, but Isdalen would not be rideable at all.

I still continued for one hour after Pältsastugorna, which was a little too much. I had only eaten a banana while riding for almost six hours, and now felt a bit weak. I never seem to learn...

I found a nice place for the tent, suitably close to a small creek.

The period with midnight sun ended one week earlier, but the sun didn't go far below the horizon for the two hours it wasn't visible.

The following morning saw a little lower cloudline, but the visibility was still good.

I left sometime after nine in the morning. It was now slightly chillier, around 9C, which suited me fine, since I needed the wind clothing for bug protection anyway.

Leaving Sweden for Norway.

Bartsia Alpina.

The weather was now quite grey with a light rain.

My Salsa Mukluk fatbike performed perfectly.

Downhill towards Rostahytta.

The fun ended when I flatted my front tire through a nasty snakebite. It was less fun to change the inner tube in the rain among the mosquitoes.

The bridge over Iselva wasn't made for bikes. It started with an almost two meter high ladder and the bridge itself was rather unsteady. Attempting to push the bike over could have ended only one way. By dismantling the bags from the bike and crossing it several times I got everything over.

A good place to have lunch. I managed to buy a supply of Real Turmat meals a week earlier in Sweden for a price that was not totally horrible.

A short ride later I arrived at Rostahyttan.

The bridge over Rostaelva did not seem much better than the previous one.

I'm going to Gappohytta via Isdalen.

A view back.

The trail was still mostly rideable, though it was hard going because of the climb.

Finally the difficulties began.

When I arrived at the highest point in Isdalen it was time to search for a place to put up the tent. All the suitable spots I found were rather exposed, but fortunately the wind was quite weak. And unfortunately, since the wind was weak the bugs were quite annoying.

It took a while warm and dry up in the tent, since I was about as wet as possible after a rainy day. The feet were wet from creek crossings and despite the rain I had only used my wind clothing instead of the rain gear. Using the rain gear would have been much to warm, despite the temperature being only 9C. Riding and pushing a bike generates lots of heat. I slept fine during the night, though.

I tried a different breakfast this time. A porridge made on rice flakes and milk powder was a lot better than the usual oatmeal porridge.

The road ahead.

Still no riding.

The Glacier Buttercup lives where nothing else can.

The terrain became (barely) rideable again.

Purple saxifrage.

 The rain just continues.

Briefly going into Sweden again.

 I certainly got my feet wet.

I came from there.


My original plan was to ride to Goldahytta from here, but I had plenty of time and decided to take the trail to Pältsastugan instead. It was supposed to be great.

The trail followed a ridge that mostly was rideable. Only a few sections were to rocky.

Another lunch accompanied by bugs and rain.

A Finnish couple is hiking om the trail.

Arriving at Pältsastugorna I again chatted a while with the host. He was again skeptical towards my plan to ride over Duoibal to the Three-Country Cairn. I was again optimistic.

The waterfall again.

Hey, it's summer. You should be green.

Pushing the bike up from Pältsastugorna was quite hard work. The trail was partially rideable, but it was slow going.

A little Norwegian energy.

Wringing water from the socks.

I set camp on Duiobal a short distance from where the trail would begin to descend. There were still lots of mosquitoes and some rain.

Couscous, butter and beer sausage for dinner.

Without a bugproof shelter the sanity would be in grave danger.

The next morning saw no difference in the weather.

The trail started to descend.

After a while I was below the cloudline.

The Three-Country Cairn (Kolmen valtakunnan rajapyykki, Treriksröset, Treriksrøysa). I felt the trip was a success this far.

A glimpse through the clouds reveals part of the steep face of Bárrás.

The trail to Koltaluokta was more like a road. And the rain had now stopped.

The boat from Kilpisjärvi bringing tourists for the short walk to the Three-Country Cairn.

I chatted with the boat driver and he told me that the route from Koltaluokta to Keinovuopio should be mostly rideable, with a fairly even terrain. The fat tires gathered comments, as usual, but the main question for the boat driver was that I had no booze with me. A Finn without booze, how is that possible?

The trail rose quickly through the forest...

...and soon provided a view back towards Koltaluokta.

A final lunch on the trail.

The terrain was generally quite easy, but when the ATV trail went in another direction, the hiking trail occasionally became hard to follow.

During this section the head net was absolutely essential. There was a slight breeze coming from behind, making it easy for the bugs to keep my speed.
 From here it is downwards to Kummaeno and the Kummavuopio-Pältsastugorna trail.

 Leaving the interesting area.
 Kummavuopio again.

After this followed 8 km of gravel, getting the return journey clothes from their hide and finally 15 km of road riding to Kilpisjärvi. I arrived at 18:00 on Monday evening and rented a cheap room and ate an expensive dinner. The next day again saw almost eight hours in a bus, followed by a nice dinner with Mark Roberts and family from Backpacking North and finally the night train to the south.

All in all a very nice trip in an area which don't see too many cyclists, despite the potential. The following map shows the route, but the details are found in the Swedish map Fjällkartan BD1. You can click on the sections for a short summary.

Visa Tour de Pältsan på en större karta

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