Against the grain.

Today I woke up to a leaden grey sky, the rain wasn’t really bad but there was really no incentive to ride. So another day off, because essentially I’m feeling lazy. It’s a hard life.

However today the library is open so here is some expansion on yesterday’s brevity. Although only 9 days ago it seems an age since I set off from Trondheim. My first day set the tone for the 5 days I spend cycling. I covered a good distance on tarmac and gravel roads with a short detour along a route that had been ‘designed’ for mountain bikes. There was climbing and descents, forests and lakes. Then I decided to venture into the mountains more fully and follow a hiking trail on my map. Around 5 hours later having pushed my bike for most of that time up steep inclines, across marshes and snow patches and finding little trail I was able to ride I arrived at Kvikfjellhytta.

I was expecting the mountain huts to be like bothies in the UK. I was wrong, the hut was locked. Fairly exhausted I just pitched the tent and got on with the task of eating and sleeping. The next day I had a choice. Continue on into the mountains with a potentially three days of pushing ahead or give up on this trail and push out to the nearest road. I chose the latter option and after a couple of hours of mostly pushing with the odd rideable section I reached a gravel road and descended back to tarmac.

I was fairly deflated but this was just the beginning of the journey and if I followed the road eastwards there were other opportunities to enter the mountains and test other trails. So this is what I did, a couple of days ride and then I headed up the gravel road to Nedalshytta which lies fairly close to the Swedish border. Again the hut which is a ‘serviced’ hut was locked with no signs of life. No one to ask about the trail and the stupidity of taking a bike along it or not. So I set off up the hiking trail. More pushing, some riding, more solid under foot/wheel and less steep than before. However more snow, much more snow. The patches that I was having to cross were getting bigger, more tiring and were importantly worrying me more and more.

I crossed the border into Sweden which involved getting bike and person over a high stile which crossed what looked essentially like a deer fence tracing where the countries meet. After eating my lunch I again pressed on and around 1km further on reached the largest snow patch I had encountered so far. The trail is marked by rocks/posts marked with red paint. At this point I couldn’t see the next marker at the end of the snow the distance to be crossed was too far. I also could hear multiple streams underneath the snow. My feet were already wet from plunging into deep snow and also going through into streams beneath. I had seen a number of large collapsed areas of snow where it had melted sufficiently to create a sort of ‘sinkhole’.

My nerve gave. Looking beyond the snow patch to the mountains ahead I could see that my route which climbed further still to cross the shoulder of  a peak was going to get worse. More snow at a higher altitude. Even if I had been just hiking I would have been having second thoughts here. The fact I was alone on the mountain hung heavy on my shoulders eclipsing the weight of the bike I was dragging across this landscape. As I said my nerve gave. I decided that ‘sense’ won out and turned back. Back over the stile/fence, back along my own tracks losing altitude. Annoyingly now I could ride more sections travelling downhill with momentum. I savoured those moments.

So after successfully reaching the mountain hut it was back along the gravel road to the town of Stugudal and square one. 27 miles covered to the same place. Talking to the bar man in the local hotel restaurant it transpired I was early. In my planning I hadn’t appreciated that although temperatures wouldn’t be low in this region at this time there would be significant snow on the ground at the beginning of June. Essentially I am between seasons with the summer tourist season not quite yet here which is why the mountain huts are closed. Two weeks later and the path would possibly have been a different proposition.

Failure? I’m not so sure. The landscape I witnessed even in my short foray into the mountains was incredible. So my planning was lacking but that didn’t mean I didn’t achieve something in getting so far up the trail to experience that landscape.  I would like to come back without the bike I think and hike through those mountains.

So my route from Stugudal on in to Sweden and to Östersund was almost exclusively tarmac and gravel roads bar some short cycle/mtb tracks in Funasdalen. However some of those gravel roads were equally spectacular. The road from Funasdalen to Ljungdalen climbs up to over 950m above sea level and you traverse a large plateau/fell chasing herds of reindeer down the road. Where are the photos? I hear you ask. Sadly I can’t seem to upload them on this PC so you’ll have to use your imagination. In addition I didn’t manage to photograph any wildlife including the moose I saw.

So tomorrow I am more mentally prepared to break my current lethargy and truly will ride onwards…

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