Kilpisjärvi – Pältsa – Gappo – Golda – Kilpisjärvi

Summer hike with the family, 2014.

Photo credit: some photos are mine, some Richard’s (sometimes its obvious which of us was holding the camera because the other is in the picture, others could be either photographer!)

I have really enjoyed using the network of huts maintained by DNT here in Norway so of course when my family came to visit us in Tromsø I wanted them to have the ‘hyttetur’ experience. This trip, in the border region of Norway, Finland and Sweden, begin in Kilpisjärvi in Finland, takes in two of the Norwegian huts in inner Troms and one on the Swedish side. We chose this trip because a) there is a bus between Tromsø and Kilpisjärvi in the summer, so getting to and from the start/finish was really easy and b) the distances between the huts are all relatively short, nothing too exhausting. The bus left Tromsø around half past seven am, depositing us in Kilpisjärvi mid-morning. We left the heavy packs at Kilpisjärvi hiking centre, and took a day walk round to the open picnic hut at Saanajärvi. We were glad to eat inside the hut as there was a bitingly cold wind blowing. On the way back we took the impressively engineered steps (visible even from the road as we came in on the bus) up Saana, and admired the view of the lake and the route ahead of us.

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Day 1, Kilpisjärvi to Pältsa
There is a boat which runs across the lake from Kilpisjärvi into Sweden, mainly carrying people who go to visit the ‘Treriksröset’ a monument marking the place where the borders of all three countries intersect (more on Treriksröset later). Disembarking from the boat, we passed through a tall fence meant to keep reindeers in the correct country (this is a reindeer herding area), and follow a narrow path into the wilderness. On the lower slopes we were walking through a scrubby birch forest with interesting small birds, dozy ptarmigan and lots of flying biting horrors. The first stream we came to had a bridge. The second did not, & there was a hilarious moment when I took my boots off to wade across only to have one boot attempt to float off downstream. Fortunately I grabbed it before it got away!  Emerging from the forest we found the first snowbank of the day. I had been hoping not to encounter too much snow but on this first day we found a lot of snow in all the shaded hollows and on north facing slopes. The route in Sweden is marked by red crosses on posts. The crosses were above our heads in summer but i expect seem much lower when there is deep snow on the ground in winter. IMG_4733IMG_4768

This day was the longest on our little tour, and the toughest walking. The route travels perpendicular to several valleys so we went up & down, up & down three or four times, always with a stream to wade in the bottom, before Pältsastugan came in sight.  We were welcomed to Pältsa by the custodian (Swedish huts have a custodian even this far north, the Norwegian ones do not, but one has to pick up a key before starting the trip). There were several other visitors, but we were the only ones in our dormitory, a large, bright room with very substantial bunk beds which was extremely hot with the sun on the roof all night! There are two main attractions at Pältsa, one is the lovely sauna, the other a quite spectacular waterfall.

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Day 2, Pältsa to Gappohytta
This was the easiest day of the trip by far. The route follows the top of a really impressive moraine, and with the exception of a couple of quite deep rivers to wade is really easy going. You’d think as a glaciologist by training I would have researched this and gone to walk along it deliberately but actually I hadn’t so this was a really nice surprise! Leaving the moraine the path then follows the shore of Gappojärvi for a couple of km. Arriving at the northern end of Gappojärvi we found something amazing: a solid wooden bridge! Then one final patch of snow to cross and we arrived at the border between Norway and Sweden. Gappohytta is just on the Norwegian side of the border and is possibly my favourite of all the DNT huts I have visited so far. The setting is beautiful and it wasn’t too midgy, so we could have some windows open. We were blessed with blue skies all day and it was around 20 degrees (C) that evening. One thing to get used to when you have 24 hour daylight is that the rule ‘hotter in the day, colder in the night’ may not apply, it can depend more on whether it is cloudy or not! IMG_4871 IMG_4890

Day 2, Gappohytta to Goldahytta
The walking on the third day was different again to the two previous days. We first stayed high on a shelf above Skjœrdalen; crossing two beautiful rivers of sparkling water running down slabby steps in a series of small waterfalls. Apart from a few trees near these rivers this was really open country, with no respite from the beating sun – it was another hot day, not a cloud in the sky! Approaching Gåldahaugen we were relieved to find the wide, fast flowing river there had a bridge. From Gåldahaugen we could look down into the Goldjärvi valley and although we could not quite identify the hut we could see that the landscape was about to change again. We descended through the forest and across a swampy area (some bridges & boardwalk to help), and then back into the trees and there we found Goldahytta, in a cloud of midges. Fortunately some of the windows have midgenetting! IMG_4941

Day 3 Goldahytta to Kilpisjärvi
Rising early we first walked 2 km through the forest to the Treriksröset. This boundary marker is actually a large lump of yellow concrete standing in a lake, with a boardwalk leading out to an around it. Its a really funny looking thing to find in the middle of nowhere! From Treriksröset we followed the track uphill just inside the Finnish side of the reindeer fence on the lower slopes of Gihcibakti. Once above the treeline the track turns more or less due east, crossing a beautiful waterfall before cresting the hill through a small pass and descending through the Malla nature reserve to cross the E8 near the outlet from Siilisjärvi. Shortly after admiring the waterfall we looked up and realised there were dozens of reindeer on a patch of snow far above us. Presumably they were also finding it unseasonably hot and went to cool off, or maybe there were fewer biting creatures bothering them on the snow. After crossing the E8 it was only a couple of km through the forest back to the hiking centre, where we had plenty of time to enjoy the buffet before taking the evening bus back to Tromsø.