In the beginning, there was a plan, as simple as it was tempting: A hiking tour from Saltoluokta in Sweden to Sulitjelma in Norway. Right through the wild high mountains of Sarek and across the sweeping plains of Padjelantas. It is reputed to be the last wilderness in Europe and the epitome of remoteness. In short – Lapland par excellence!
But it all began more than 20 years ago, in August 1991. I was only just 17 years old and walked the Kungsleden, Sweden’s famous “King’s Trail” from Abisko to Kvikkjokk. The Nordic remoteness burnt itself deep into my soul. Sometimes I found it difficult to cope with the loneliness. But at the same time, I was fascinated by the landscape and the freedom of walking over mountains and through valleys. It was the beginning of a passion, which is strong to this day.
Towards the end of my hike, I passed the eastern border of the Sarek national park. Even back then it was a magical country, notorious as a challenge without trails, and not to be attempted by a greenhorn like myself. Not yet. Two years later I ventured for the first time a little into this primitive world. Spurred on by Northland fever, with a backpack full of respect, and a youthful spirit of discovery. I managed to make it to Kvikkjokk through the southern part of the park to Alkavare kapell, then the weather thwarted any further plans. But at least: The loneliness, which had often been hard to bear in the beginning, now no longer fazed me – slowly I was becoming one of those people who felt that two hikers in a valley was already one too many..
Last fall I return. And still I have this “ideal track” in my head: from east to west through Sarek and Padjelanta, from Sweden over to Norway. Therefore, once again, I find myself at Saltoluokta-Fjällstation, surrounded by misshapen trees, and heave the 30 kilo backpack onto my back.
At 1179 m, the summit of Skierffe is my first destination. The rocky outcrop is easy to climb from the rear, a trail leads to the top, and only the last little bit is pebbly. Suddenly I’m at the top, there is a 700 meter perpendicular drop in front of me. The view of the delta of Ráhpaädno takes my breath away. Far below, the many branches of the mighty river make their way through a blue-green tapestry of lakes and forests. Wedged in between the rock falls of the Skierffe and Tjahkelij, the water mixed with glacier sediments, the pulsing arteries of the river flow into the Laitaure. For many, this place offers the most beautiful view in the Sarek. I can hardly get enough of the spectacle.
During the hike, rain and sun follow closely one upon the other. When I reach Skárjá, my trousers are sticking to my legs. Quickly I put up my tent at Smájllájåhkå. Off with the wet clothes, and then immerse yourself into your own little world. In the midst of the imposing mountains, it is only possible to find a measure of comfort within one’s own four walls. During the night, new snow has coated the summits.
Finally, I descend the white heights at the sweeping hills of Padjelantas, and go down into the green oasis of Staloluokta. I leave behind me the powdered, jagged rocks of the Sarek and see the mighty Virihaure spreading out in front of me. At its banks I put up my tent, look around me, dream, and let my mind roam. Maybe the most beautiful spot yet. Vast and still. Slowly the sun sets. I am living in the moment.
Once I’ve reached the Ny-Sulitjelma hut, I’ve nearly come to end of the hike. For the last time I pitch my tent, already I can see the mining community of Sulitjelma. In the evening the street lights shine in the valley. Early in the morning, I walk the last little stretch of the trail, back down into civilization. When I reach the little village at 8.30 am and stand in front of the village shop, the weather is once again terrible. So what? It’s done!
By completing this dream tour, I’ve returned to my roots to where it all started. I started dreaming all over again. It was the start of the project “My North”, which since then has lead me back into the north for over two years. 11 trips to places which were significant for me from my earlier adventures, but also a discovery of new lands and countries which had been foreign to me until then, and which I want to explore. It’s a declaration of love to landscapes, regions and an intensive way of traveling.
About the author:
Martin Hülle (*1973) has been drawn mainly to the wild and remote landscapes of Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland for more than two centuries. Photography and writing are a way of life for him – a chance to capture feelings, express them, and share them with others. Camera and notebook are his constant companions in the search for exciting stories.