Sunday, September 29, 2019

Hemavan to Norra Storfjället, Kungsleden - August 2019

Ok, it's about time I started putting up my Kungsleden posts. Before I start though I want to throw in a bit of a disclaimer. Not only did I really struggle with the pronunciation of some of the Swedish place names but I also struggled typing them up on my blog, with the average place name having about the same amount of rock dots (umlauts) scattered above the letters as a 1980 hair metal band, along with a seemingly alphabet soup arrangement of the letters my old brain has struggled. So consequently I'm expecting quite a few typos, so go easy on me.

To all the wonderful fellow travellers and locals I met on this walk, I look forward to hosting you in Australia one day;)

The glacially carved Norra Storfjället.

So finally, after around a year of planning and sorting out the logistics my Kungsleden walk in Sweden was about to start. Before I could actually set foot on the track today though I still had a few hurdles in the way, the main one being getting from Stockholm to Hemavan and the start of the walk. Thankfully a series of planes, trains and automobiles trips went off without a hitch and just after lunch I touched down in the tiny northern Sweden ski resort town of Hemavan.

Flying into Hemavan. There appears to be a lot of trees and lakes in Sweden.

The good news when I arrived in Hemavan was that it wasn’t raining, the bad news being that it didn’t look like it would be long before it was, I was greeted in town by the kind of billowing black clouds that had accompanied me for a lot of my last long walk on the AAWT a couple of years ago. Still after grabbing some gas and a few last minute supplies in town, a hamburger at the takeaway caravan at the service station (recommended), and walking a couple of kilometres up to the start of the track at the Naturum I was still being blessed with mostly fine weather.

The forecast wasn't looking that promising.
After finding some gas and last minute supplies it was time for a hamburger!
I'd probably walked at least 2 or 3 kilometres today before I actually set foot on the Kungsleden.
If you ever find yourself in Hemavan and are looking for the start of the Kungsleden then aim for the big golden orb of the Nuturum, high on the hill above town.

Taking into account all the mucking around I’d already done today starting the walk at 1:30pm wasn’t too bad I thought. So after getting the obligatory start photo I shouldered my pack and took my first steps on my 450 kilometre journey north. My first impressions of the Kungsleden were that this was going to be a fairly well defined track, I was climbing fairly easily up above the town on a wide gravel path and already I was noticing the plethora of signs and track markers about, although the signs needed a little concentration as they didn’t always match up exactly with the place names in my guide book. The start of the Kungsleden is a little nondescript really as it has to climb up through the Hemavan downhill ski slopes, the sight of dormant ski lifts doesn’t exactly scream wilderness I don’t think.

Alright, I'm off then!
I walked around 20 metres before my first shower of rain.
Passing through the Hemavan ski resort.

Eventually I gained enough height and emerged out of the Birch trees onto fairly open ground, now passing above most of the ski lifts. With one or two minor exceptions the rain had missed me so far but climbing above the tree line it looked like things were not going to stay that way for much longer. I was now gently climbing and making my way into the high Viterskalet Valley of which I’d follow for many hours. Initially this glacially carved valley was fairly wide and gentle but the further up it I went, the grander the scenery became.

Climbing away from Hemavan it didn't take long for me to be impressed with the scenery.
Looking back down towards Hemavan (and the airport) from the open slopes above town.
The Kungsleden.

Initially I didn’t appreciate the grand scenery so much as the rain had now arrived, accompanied by thunder, lightning and hail. Pulling on all my wet weather gear in the meagre shelter provided by the veranda of a toilet I trudged of into the tempest hoping that this wasn’t an ominous sign of things to come. Shuffling my way up the valley I passed by the Viterskals stuga (hut), although being pretty well covered from head to toe with my wet weather gear I couldn’t be bothered taking it all off and going in to check things out this afternoon.

I was now contouring around to drop into the valley that was opening up ahead of me.
Conditions behind me were looking fairly ominous!
Heading up the valley towards Viterskals - it was about time for full wets!
I couldn't help but wonder if this was going to be my typical Kungsleden experience.

The valley that I’d been following swung from heading NNE to pretty well east after passing the stuga and the dark brooding cliffs started to close in a bit on me, well from what I could see through the low cloud anyway. I was now walking through Norra Storfjället which is known to be a bit of a scenic highlight on the Kungsleden, with mountains either side of the valley rising hundreds of metres vertically into the clouds and waterfalls cascading down the rock faces it certainly got my attention. It was along here that I also had another first for my Kungsleden walk, my first (but definitely not last, as it would turn out) Reindeer sighting.

Viterskals STF stuga.
I was still smiling so everything was going ok.
The wet boardwalks needed a bit of respect.
Overhead conditions were changing very quickly.

It wasn’t the Reindeer that was occupying my mind now though, I was starting to look for a place to camp. I wasn’t really that keen to camp up on the high ground at the end of the valley near the Syterkalet Emergency Shelter as I was guessing that the wind would be pretty extreme up there. Thankfully there was plenty of nice grassy camping spots in Norra Storfjället, although with the hail still sitting on the ground I figured that I might be in for a cold night. This was a fairly stunning camp, with tops of the black mountains on either side of the valley enveloped in cloud and any number of streams cascading down the rock out of the clouds. The scenery got even better just before sunset as the sun broke through the brooding clouds bathing everything in a golden light.

Norra Storfjället - I was looking for somewhere to camp now.
Camp was sorted!
I was lucky enough to get a rainbow at one stage.

The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 14.2 kilometres and climbed 539 metres on my first day on the Kungsleden. With the track fairly well defined and well graded I’d call today’s walk a medium grade walk I guess. There were numerous places to access water or camp and also the Viterskals stuga if you wanted to stay in a hut. I used the topo maps on my GPS as well as Ciccerone’s Trekking the Kungsleden book today.

Relevant Posts.

Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg, Scotland, 2015.
West Highland Way, Scotland, 2015.

Looking east towards the head of the valley from camp.
Late afternoon in Norra Storfjället.
It was well after 9pm and the sun was still going down.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Ada Valley Walk, Yarra Ranges State Forest - August 2019

Starling Gap was a little on the cold side this morning.

There is some good walking up around Warburton and a lot of it seems to slip under the radar a little bit. I’m not exactly sure why things are a little low key up here as the Mountain Ash forest with it’s ferny understory is generally fairly pretty country. Maybe the issue might be that most of the walking up here falls beyond the embrace of a National Park, and it’s true that occasionally the walker might come across the jarring sight of a logging coupe. For the most part though the walking is away from the logging operations and the historic old loggers tramways now make for very pleasant walking in a lot of cases.

I started off following a section of the two day Walk into History.

The walk I did today utilised long sections of old tramway, a fair distance also following the promoted route of the Walk into History - I walk that I’ve written up before on my blog. Arriving at my setting off point at Starling Gap early this morning I was greeted….by reasonably heavy snow! Now this wasn’t totally unexpected, snow was forecast down to 400 metres today and Starling Gap sits at just under 800 metres. Having walked this track before and also having written up the Walk into History in the past I was kind of hoping for something a little different today, and it appeared that part of the plan had worked out for a change!

Needless to say I barely broke the DSLR out from its dry bag today so the photos might have suffered a little.

After pulling on all my wet weather gear in the small picnic shelter I grabbed my pack and set off along the old tramway towards Ada No.2 Mill site. Now if anyone is expecting great photos today then your reading the wrong blog, all the photos on this walk were taken with my waterproof camera. It was just a matter of pointing the camera, wiping as much water and snow off the lens as possible and then shooting…there wasn’t much framing or thought going on this morning. While the photography was challenging the walking was relatively easy, the old tramway making for fairly quick and easy progress as I headed further east along the Ada River Valley in worsening weather conditions.

The snow laden vegetation was hanging over the track giving me a cold snow shower every time I pushed through.
The old tramway is fairly obvious, especially where it goes through the old cuttings.

If you look closely on this old tramway you can see plenty of reminders of it’s history, there’s the cuttings, the occasional left over steel tramline and across some of the deeper gullies there is evidence of old trestle bridges slowly rotting away. With plenty of snow falling I was pushing my way through the large ferns that were now drooping down over the track laden with snow, although those same ferns also gave me shelter from the snow if I stood underneath them, so they weren’t all bad. I was now heading towards the lowest spot on my walk down at the Ada River near Ada No.2 Mill site and the snow was getting a little bit sleety, so when I arrived at the old mill site I didn’t linger too long. Walking in the snow is one thing but walking in freezing cold rain is another thing altogether in my opinion.

The snow was getting heavier the further I walked.
This track runs through a small protected corridor in the State Forest.
Ah yes, my personal favourite - fallen trees!
It's definitely a pretty scene when under snow.
One slightly dishevelled Feral Walker.
Dropping into the gullies the snow thinned out a bit.

While it might of been a bit cold and wet the old Ada No.2 Mill site and the nearby Ada River are definitely worth detouring down to though, there is quite of bit of rusting machinery slowly being reclaimed by the bush around the camping area here. The remains of the old trestle bridge spanning the Ada River is also worth dropping down to check out, I’m thinking that this is an old pigsty type of trestle bridge although that is another Feral fact! The tannin stained tea coloured water of the Ada River was flowing a banka on this visit as well, which was unsurprising I suppose considering the weather!

There is a lot of old relics left over from logging times scattered about.
Getting closer to Ada No.2 Mill site there are a few lengths of old railway line still on the ground.
This old boiler at Ada No.2 Mill site is a bit of a feature.
Ada No. 2 Mill Site.
Ada No.2 Mill Site was the lowest point on today's stroll, the snow was barely settling at the camping ground.
The remains of the old trestle bridge over the Ada River.
Things were a bit wild down near the Ada River.

After my short detour down to the Ada River I climbed back up and started heading towards the New Ada Mill site. The weather had now deteriorated into what was almost blizzard like conditions and arriving at an old steam powered winch that was used for dropping logs into the Ada River valley I struggled to get a photo with the amount of snow coming down. The old winch and boiler make for an interesting spot, I was particularly interested to see the old wooden brake linings still on the winch. Leaving the old winch I continue climbing, thunder now reverberating through the mountains around me.
Climbing away from the river I was soon back in the snow.
I need to work out a plan for keeping the lens dry in these types of conditions.
I'm guessing this old winch was used to winch logs down to the Ada River.
The winch still has the wooden brake shoes in place.
The old boiler that powered the winch - I was in a full on snow storm now complete with thunder reverberating through the hills.
Now I’d like to wax lyrical about New Ada Mill site but to be honest by the time I got there I was really just concentrating on getting back to the ute, the snow was now getting fairly deep on the ground as I headed for the highest point on my stroll at the spot I met Big Creek Road. The last section of the walk before emerging onto Big Creek Road was along an old logging road, now normally walking these old tracks can be a little ho hum but with the whole scene transformed into a winter wonderland by the fresh snow things were pretty good this morning. Although by the time I arrived at Big Creek Road the snow was mid shin deep so it wasn’t exactly easy walking.
Heading towards New Ada Mill.
New Ada Mill is around here somewhere - but I did't actually find it today.
Finding this old road I followed it out onto Big Creek Road.
Conditions were getting a little extreme now.
My footprints in the fresh snow, I love this type of walking!
Arriving at Big Creek Road signalled the start of my fairly long descent back down to the ute at Starling Gap. Judging by the tracks in the snow there had been a couple of 4wd’s up here this morning, although it looked like they were slipping and sliding a fair bit. The 4wd tracks made my walk back down to the ute a little easier though as I was able to walk in their tyre tracks for the most part. The weather conditions were still pretty ordinary and walking down the road meant that I was a little more exposed now. Thankfully though it was only around an hour after meeting the road when I rounded a corner and spied the ute below me in Starling Gap, the sleet that I’d copped back near Ada No.2 Mill had got me a little wet and by now I was starting to get a little chilly.
There are some massive old stumps up here, the old trees must of been huge.
Meeting up with Big Creek Road meant that I'd topped out on my walk.
There had been a couple of 4wd's along Big Creek Road - although t hadn't been easy by the look of it!
Big Creek Road.
The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 17.8 kilometres and climbed around 355 metres on this Medium - Hard grade stroll. Now snow isn’t really a common occurrence up here but when it does get a good dump it transforms the scenery into a winter wonderland I think. Most of the tracks that I followed today are well signposted and clear, although the track from the New Ada Mill site to Big Creek Road wasn’t signposted - but then again any markers were probably well and truly covered with snow by the stage. I used a set of really old notes out of the second edition of Glenn Tempest’s Daywalks Around Melbourne book, as far as I know there are no more recently published notes for this walk.

Relevant Posts.
Big Pats Creek to Ada No.2 Mill, Walk into History, Yarra State Forest, 2017.
Ada No.2 Mill to Powelltown, Walk into History, Yarra State Park, 2017.
Reids Tramline Walk, Yarra State Forest, 2015.

Big Creek Road approaching Starling Gap.
Starling Gap
A fair bit of snow had obviously fallen since I'd set off earlier that morning.
Heading back down to Warburton, conditions in the surrounding hills were still fairly inclement.

Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I was heading out and doing a snow walk next and indeed that's how it turned out. The weather in Me...