Lapland/Sweden

Sarek in winter

The needle of the compass leads only to yourself. On tour with pulk and tent through one of the largest wilderness regions in Europe.

Time – our most valuable currency … suddenly we had a lot of it. We are far away from home in the middle of the Sarek National Park in Lapland, Northern Sweden.

Also far away is the daily background noise of obligations, deadlines, phonecalls and emails – we didn't miss it at all. No disturbance, no interruption. Blessed with a childish joy we plunge into our daily routine: Melting snow for morning coffee and breakfast, taking the tent down, packing the pulks, walking and making progress – step by step, day by day. Breathing. Listening to the body, and the crushing snow under our boots. Moving in total balance and mental peace, curious what's aroud the corner. We want to explore new terrain, get to know our own limits, rediscover ourselves and simply follow the rhythm of nature – day and night. Moving and resting, freezing, and feeling warm and comfy again. Being hungry, and happy after a simple meal – what a comfort.

The satisfaction lies in being receptice for the inconspicuous things. And the certainty of being there for each other – despite, or perhaps because of the physical and psychological strain. The head becomes clear. Thoughts – they come and go. Often sorted, and sometimes with new perspective. It is exactly this meditative chant that brings us back to our roots. Life. I love it!

The magic of the moment

Crossing the Sarek under arctic conditions is one of the most demanding but also outstanding winter trips in Lapland. The sheer scale of the wilderness area with its rugged cliffs, impressive glaciers and deep-cut high valleys is mind blowing and and simply overwhelming. It makes us feel so small, in a sublime environment which is so big, so strong. The time for our traverse stretches and transforms the most beautiful and remote mountain region in Europe into a magical place that miraculously sorts all thoughts and puts them into the right context. How simple life is!

» You get the feeling that you are truely a small light. But you are a light, and that is so important and makes all the difference. «

There are no marked trails, no serviced huts and no mobile phone reception in the Sarek. We can’t count on any help of others, for many days in a row. Far away from any civilisation, we are responsible for ourselves. We sleep in places with unique views of the surrounding mountains.

Than there is the distance – over 130 km from Kvikkjokk to Ritsem. Everything we need for this trip, about 86 kg of equipment, is loaded on two pulks. Our bulky winter clothing, all the food and fuel have to be hauled over the entire distance. Under which circumstances? We don't know yet, we have to find out. Dealing with the persistent cold will be our biggest challenge. The former reasons for this trip, they also exist. Often in rare moments for sure. The Northern Lights, the beauty of a mountain landscape, a group of rendeer gathering around, frozen lakes with tracks of wild animals. But this wild place teaches us an important lesson: Our success and all of our daily activities depend to 100 % on our decicion-making along the way, as well as our ability to move under difficult situations. Whether cold temperatures down to –‍35°C, whiteout without sight, heavy snowfall or storm – we defy all conditions no matter what nature throws on us. There are truely times when there is no big margin for air. It is an unforgiving environment.

Reaching the finish line: Yes, that’s cherry on the cake. Being able to deal with all those circumstances in days on end can give a strong feeling of self confidence, which is very satisfying. Basically, it’s all about throwing ourself into an adventure and finding out, what we are capable of. What are our limits? What are yours?

Facts

Let’s see where it is:

On tour:

26 March – 6 April 2024, together with Kirsten Steimel

Best time of the year:

End of March.

Starting and end point:

Kvikkjokk and Ritsem. Both places are easily accessible by bus from Murjek/Jokkmokk and Gällivare.

» STF Kvikkjokk Fjällstation Mountain Station (www.swedishtouristassociation.com …)

» STF Ritsem Fjällstation Mountain Station (www.swedishtouristassociation.com …)

An annual membership of the STF is highly recommended.

Length:

Depending on your choice of the route approximately 130 – 140 km.

GPS track of our trip:

» Download track

What I’ve used:

This expedition was supported by Leica Camera.
All photos in this report were taken with the Leica Q3.

» Learn more about the Leica Q3

Requirements:

This trip is very serious and has a high risk potential due to the cold temperatures and therefor requires a stable physical and mental resilience, as well as good equipment for arctic conditions. In the cold winter months, you should be comfortable with permanent temperatures between –‍10°C and –40°C, otherwise the undertaking will quickly become an ordeal.

Caution:

In terms of weather and temperature planning, it should be noted that the temperatures in the Sarek National Park are 10 – 20°C colder than at the two Mountain Stations Kvikkjokk and Ritsem outside of the Sarek. In April, night-time lows of down to –35°C are possible. Appropriate equipment and emergency gear is essential for survival.

Culinary recommendation:

Cold-smoked elk and reindeer steak is produced locally.

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