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Lapland July 1984. Ramblers Holidays.
Peter Balchin (party leader), Debbie Turnbull (Frinton-on-Sea), Allison King (St Albans), Douglas McNally (Windsor MA), Jan Bradley (Windsor MA), Roy Goodsall, David Sheppard, Alan Biggs, Trevor Langhorne and Caroline Langhorne, Margaret Giles.
Sunday 22nd July - Set off at 3.30am drive down to Heathrow, arrive at 6.40am. We are all presented with a 20lb food parcel, difficulty in fitting it in, rucksack now weights about 45lbs . Meet Dave Shepard there, he is going on the same holiday. There are 12 people in the party. Two and a half hour flight to Stockholm, have a meal there, tortellini. Get on the train at 5.08pm. Have bread and cheese for tea on the train and then sleep.
Monday 23rd - Pass the arctic circle just after waking up. Arrive at Kiruna at 11am. Get on a train again and have lunch, arrive in Abisko at 12.30. 18½ hour journey. Get warned about the possibility of heavy mosquito attacks. Walk on Kungsladen path to the first night out. Kungsladen is a long distance footpath starting in Abisko. Very well laid path on wooden planks most of the way. Walk just 10 miles. There are very few mosquitoes due to the breeze. No appreciable decrease in the amount of sunlight by 10.30pm. Stay at Abiskojaure cabin.
Tuesday 24th - Get up at 7.30am, have breakfast of muesli, leave by 9am. Walking as yesterday on wooden planking over marshy ground. Very well routed, well built huts along the way. I get irritated by mosquitoes, I think that I am killing them before they do any damage, learn later that this is not the case. Walk up the valley mostly. See five moose. Cross a couple of streams without bridges, usually the rivers all have wooden suspension bridges. Stay at Unna-Allakas cabin. Have to double up on the bunks.
Wednesday 25th - Walk round a lake and into Norway. Get really wet crossing a river. Stay at Cunojaure cabin. We are warned about now inaccessible this hut is and that if we break a leg we would have to be carried out. I go for a wash in the lake and get a large cut on the sole of my foot, bandage it up and hope nobody sees it. Do a short walk in the afternoon.
Thursday 26th - Woken at 6.30am, leave hut by 8.15, walk round the lake the short way and back to Unna-Allakas. Climb up over the ridge. Walk on a plateau of about 3000 feet. Stay at Alesjaure cabin. New huts have been built down river from old deserted ones. Really good place, plenty of room, there is a shop with chocolate, shandy and postcards. A can of shady costs 80p. Have a proper Swedish sauna with Deb and Allison. Plunge into the cold lake. Have sunny weather for the first time today. Arrive at 6pm.
Friday 27th - Walk to Vistasstugan cabin. Good rock scrambling by the side of Unna-Vistasavare. Mist stays on the top of the cliffs all day, see our first glacier. See a herd of reindeer whilst walking down the mountain. Plod on through dense undergrowth. Caroline is ill with stomach trouble from a mix up with the slop bucket. Caroline and Trevor stay at the hut. Discussions about whether Peter should split the party. Great views of the end of the Nallo ridge. Long day, everyone is tired, we are kept awake by Peter's snoring.
Saturday 28th - Short easy walk up to Nallo cabin, still carrying quite a lot of weight. Great views of the Nallo peak. Heavy rain in the afternoon, stay in the hut and we do physical challenges, press-ups etc. Alan bets me at arm-wrestling. Good shots of reindeer whilst walking up the valley. I cook tea with Deb, Vesta meal.
Sunday 29th - Attempt Nallo peak, extremely loose boulders, Set off at 9.45am, back for 2pm. Get as far as possible without danger of dislodging rocks. Fine weather on the way up. Rain starts as we get to the highest point, very slippery on the way down. Heavy rain when we get back to Nallo hut. Me and Deb go out in cagoules to build a dam in the river. The sun starts shinning. Alan and Ray come out to give a hand. We build a pool large to bath in. I cook tea with Deb, mince beef, smash, mixed veg, soup and mouse. Spend the evening doing competitive exercises again, I do 55 press-ups with feet on a bench. Watch out of the window most of the night, it stays light all the time. Some people come in at midnight after walking 15 hours from Tarfala.
Monday 30th - Porridge for breakfast, start at 9.45, walk up Stuor Raitavagge. Turn off the main valley and head over lots of rocks towards Unna Raitastugan. Sunshine while we are there, great views of the glaciers. Think about going over the glacier down to Salka but the weather closes in. Turn round and come back down the valley in heavy rain. Easy walk down to Salka, I cook tea again. There is a shop with chocolate, beer and maps. Trevor and Caroline just walk up the valley. The Salka hut feels big and impersonal after the last couple of nights.
Tuesday 31st - One of the best days, set off at 8.15am and walk down Kungsladen and then up Kuopervagge, see dragon ridge. Nearly go over Rabots glacier. Sunshine in the morning bolder walking nearly all the way. Go over two high cols, great views down onto the glaciers and of Kebnekaise. First snow glissade, great fun. Walk round the lake to the Tarfala cabin, there are only 15 places so the Americans, Dave and Pete sleep on the floor. Me and Dave go out for a dip in the lake, about 4 degs C. I cook tea again with Deb and Allison.
Wednesday 1st August - Get up at 7am for porridge. Dave falls into the lake. Walk down the valley to the scientific station to do with glacier measurement. Walk up the valley side, lots of snow climbing. Get to the plateau at the top, see a herd of about 70 reindeer. Look down at the main glacier from the emergency repeater. Mist comes in. Walk over another large snowfield. See a man and boy making an attempt on the summit, he invites one of us along. Fantastic snow glissades on the way down. My rucksack still weighs the same as at the start. Get to the Kebnekaise fjallstation, big hotel type, helicopters are arriving all the time, ferrying people to and from Nikkaluokta.
Thursday 2nd - Get up at 5am, have alpen and lots of crisp bread. Leave the hut at 6am for our assent of Kebnekaise ( 2117 m ). I go with Peter, Allison and Dave up the west route. The two Americans go up the east route. We get to the Toppstugan for 9.15am, good views all the way up, see a couple of Brits in there, contemplating a summit attempt. Get to the upper snow field at 11am, rope together. Spend half an hour cutting snow steps up a very narrow ridge to get to the top. Misty at the top, no views. The Americans don't quite make it to the top. Walk and glissade down, back to the hut for 3.30pm. Cook a meal with Allison, make far too much food. My walking boots fall apart in the evening.
Friday 3rd - Arise at 6am for breakfast of cold porridge. Leave Kebnekaise fjallstation at 7.40 with Dave and Allison. Good natter about her climbing club. Catch a boat down the valley at 10am with Deb, Allison and Peter. A woman catches the boat who has forgotten to put a top on and nobody gives her a second look. Get off the boat and straight into a café, have reindeer steak, rather chewy, and home made bread. Walk down to Nikkaluokta, arrive at about just after noon. Catch the bus to Kiruna. The local lads spend all day driving large American cars up and down the high street, between the only two traffic islands. Stay at a youth hostel by the side of the railway.
Saturday 4th - 22nd Birthday. Have a cup of tea from Margaret at 7.30am. Porridge and then walk down and leave the rucksacks at the railway station. Go for a look round the iron ore mine, it is the biggest underground mine in the world, 500 km of underground roads, 40 km of computerised railway. 30 million tons of iron ore per year are extracted. Slag heap is big enough to build a road to Rome. Watch a ten ton loader in action. Walk into the town centre, go for a burger. The girl who works there tells us that it will be winter in two weeks time. She also tells us that it snowed every day in June last year and that the snow in the main square is between 4 and 6 feet deep in winter. Look round an old Lapp museum. Get on the train at 4.20pm. Get a photo of passing the Arctic circle. Do some physical challenges on the train, hanging from legs, pull-ups etc. Have a beer with Dave, it is incredibly expensive.
Sunday 5th - Get up late, the train is running two hours late due to a lightening strike. We have to get off at Uppsala and catch the bus to get to the airport on time. Fly British Airways home on 737. See Alan's girlfriend and Deb's mum at the airport. Travel on the tube with the Americans (they are going on to the Lake District), Margaret and Peter. Train home to Derby.
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