Scandinavian Mountains over 2000 metres - James Baxter
Sarek is arguably the finest mountain wilderness in Scandinavia. Together with the adjoining national parks, reserves and protected areas it easily forms the largest wilderness area in Scandinavia and indeed Europe. In total these areas are at least eight times the area of Jotunheimen National Park in Norway. Within this huge wilderness area, Sarek is definitely the jewel of the crown, and it alone is twice the size of Jotunheimen.
In this wilderness there are 4 mountains over 2000 metres. One of the mountains, Sarektjåkko, has a further 3 secondary peaks on its alpine arêtes. Three of these mountains are deep within Sarek and involve multi-day trips of 3-5 days for each of these them. The area is bounded by the vast Akkajaure Lake to the north. On the west are the lakes and moorlands of the high plateau called Padjelanta. To the south is the valley of Tarradalen and the lake it descends into called Saggat while to the east the region descends into the vast spruce forests which gently slope off to the top of the Gulf of Bothnia some 300 km away.
Sarek has been described as “Europe’s Alaska”. In its remote valleys huge moose, bears, wolverine, lynx and arctic fox roam in a vast preserved ecosystem largely untarnished by human influence. In this wilderness there are no paths, very few bridges (solely erected to minimize fatalities), no cabins and a single emergency telephone. It takes nearly a week to walk across this sanctuary and during this time you must be completely self sufficient and be able to deal with unforeseen hazards such as dangerous river crossings and angry moose.
There are about 100 glaciers within Sarek, like elsewhere in the world there are retreating. These glaciers produce a vast amount of silt which is carried by the streams and rivers into the valleys were they are deposited; creating meandering braided rivers with ox bow lakes and extensive deltas where they enter lakes.
The Sami, or Lapps, have for centuries travelled through Sarek as they travelled from the forests of the east to the summer pastures further west. These migration routes are still used today and the Sami have some dispensation to maintain a few simple cabins along their course which were established long before the area was designated a national park in 1909.
Linnaeus, on his famous Lapland travel in 1732, visited Kvikkjokk to the south of the park and skirted around its fringes. The heart of Sarek was not really explored until the latter half of the 18 century when the first cartographers arrived. Amongst the first of them was G Bucht, who became the man first to ascend Sarektjåhkkå in 1879. He was followed by Axel Hamberg in 1895 who did more than anyone to explore and document Sarek. He visited Sarek just about every year until 1931 carrying out research.
Access to Sarek in both summer and especially winter involves some planning. There are two long walking routes which go round the west side and east side of Sarek. At the north end each path starts on the south side of lakes in Sjøfallets nationalpark at Akkastugorna cabin or Saltoluokta Fjällstation Lodge and then they go round the periphery of Sarek for 4-7 days to reach the small town of Kvikkjokk in the south. Along each route are a string of self service cabins which provide accommodation.
In the summer it is possible to take a boat across the lakes at the north to reach the paths. In the winter/spring it is necessary to ski over from Ritsem or Kebnats, being wary of weak ice on these lakes, especially at the latter crossing. In winter the routes to Kebnats, Ritsem and Kvikkjokk from the town of Gallivare are kept open. Kvikkjokk is a good entry point for the southern two mountains and Akkastugorna, via Ritsem, is a good entry point for the northern two. In addition to these there is the dam at Suorva which provides the shortest route to the centre of Sarek. Permission may be needed to cross the dam from the operators there.
Sarek is not famous for its good weather. It is quite heavily influenced but the Atlantic Ocean and also the Barents Sea low pressure systems. Occasionally, high pressure may dominate and the area enjoys stable weather for a week or two. During the relatively short summers there is continual daylight for a few weeks and little darkness for a few months. The temperatures may climb up to 20 centigrade. However in the deep winter the opposite is true and it is virtually dark for a few weeks and the temperatures may drop to -40 centigrade. Perhaps the best time to visit is April for a ski expedition and August for a hiking trip.