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Guy’s First Arctic Ski Touring Trip. Part Six.

Continuing with Guy Oliver’s first winter trip to the Norwegian Arctic. We have just had lunch at room 101 and hoping to get to our last hut, Devdishytta with a load of firewood and a broken binding.

The sun had disappeared behind an ever greying sky and although we could still see into the distance quite well, as any skier knows when the sun goes in it’s difficult to see the indentations in the snow meaning the skier has to take a little more care.

We passed the little lonely tree, the landmark Odd Knut had told us about many years previously. In fact navigation was fairly easy as there were so many tracks to follow. It was a little like the A5 at home.

Guy passing the little lonely tree on the way to the head of the Devdis valley. This is the only tree for miles and is used by locals as a landmark. A couple of folks with dogs and sledges can be seen in the distance.

Sami people.

I feel a note about the Sami people is appropriate. The Sami are the indigenous people of Lapland, often called Laplanders or Lapps in the past, but now this is considered very derogatory and the term is not now used. Two years previously I had met the father and mother of Espen the guide who worked for Odd Knut. They had called into Daertahytta to leave a book that Espen’s father had written about Sami history. I had no idea who they were until Espen called the following day, and upon checking the hut logbook said “Oh my father has called in.” He told me his father had studied the history of the Sami people and was instrumental in renovating a traditional Sami dwelling in the Devdis valley. I was told the dwelling was open and it was possible to use it and stay overnight. The idea appealed to me but as it’s the other side of the valley from our route and with a dodgy ski binding it would probably not be a good idea to detour unnecessarily.

I had passed this way twice, once in 2007 and now in 2009 and looked across the valley trying to locate this Sami hut, but was unable to see it. Upon checking old photos for this article, I spotted it. I have cropped and enlarged the picture below and you can just make out the Sami Hut in the centre left. There seems to be more than one and I think I can make out a toilet, just to the right in the trees.

For those interested, this is a video of a Sami guide talking about the way her father & mother lived and showing folk round a traditional Sami dwelling similar to where she was born.

The traditional Sami hut, near the top of the Devdis valley I it looks like a tent, but is very strong and cosy inside, and will cope with any weather. Devdis is a Sami word and means Beautiful. Photo editing Robbie Bridson.

History lesson over, the trip down the Devdis valley was fairly uneventful and we arrived at the hut late afternoon. After unloading and a quick brew we set about searching the woods for dead wood. We found plenty of dead branches and kindling but unfortunately it was all very wet. We were able to get the stove going quite well with the old timber from the roof at Daertahytta, but we quickly realised it would not last very long and as we were having to spend two nights here we needed a lot more firewood. We collected what we could that evening, stacked it round the stove, and retired to our sleeping bags early.

Guy in a chilly hut. An early night is called for.

We managed to find a good supply of wood, pity it’s all so damp. Hopefully it will dry out for tomorrow, if it doesn't catch fire! There is a smoke detector but I doubt it works.

The next morning I was up early and about to go outside when just in time I noticed a frost on the door handle. There was no porch here and it was pretty cold outside and if I had grabbed the handle with bare hands it was fairly certain my hand would have stuck to it. I found my gloves and warned Guy. Outside it was cold, crisp and sunny, and very beautiful. The Sami people were right when they named this valley "Beautiful"

We spent most of the morning looking for fallen branches and cutting and chopping firewood, not really an unpleasant task in the sunshine. I always find it quite relaxing sawing and chopping timber.

Get stuck in Guy, the fire is going out!!!

After lunch we both skied off in different directions to explore. The weather was still excellent. The temperature was several degrees below zero, but the sun was shining and in those conditions the air becomes very dry and it feels very pleasant just pottering about. I skied round the side of Devddesjavri (Devdis lake). Like many in Norway this is a regulated lake used for generating electricity. During the winter the level of the lake drops from 414 to 381m above see level. That’s a drop of 100 feet, often this causes quite dangerous crevasse like features, especially round the edges. All the regulated lakes have two levels marked on the map. If you need to travel across a lake it is wise to check the map and seek local knowledge if possible.

Devddesjavri. A regulated lake, the water level changes by 100 feet or more when the Norwegian power company use the water for generating electricity.

Holes and cracks form all around the edges of the regulated lakes, not the place to be in a white-out. I have had to cross many lakes over the years and never quite felt comfortable, but it is not unusual to come across people camping on the lakes to fish. We always ask “how thick is the ice?” The answer is usually a metre or more.

While wandering about I heard a snow scooter in the distance and stopped to look, it was heading towards the lake. After a short while he spotted me and changed direction, heading straight towards me. He didn’t look like the drivers from Statskog and as he pulled up I realised he was Sami. He shouted something to me that I didn’t understand, so I shouted I was English. He turned the engine off and spoke again, I told him again I was English. He looked very surprised and it took him a while to reply. Then he asked if I had seen any reindeer. “No” I replied, in fact I hadn't seen any on this trip. It was obvious he hadn’t spoken English for a while, but despite that we had quite a chat. It seems if they let their reindeer roam into Norway at certain times of the year they are charged a tax. I didn’t understand the details, but it obviously cost them money, so I guess he was looking for strays to round up. After a while he gunned the engine and with a wave disappeared into the distance and I made my way back to the cabin and Guy.

We now had quite a stock of firewood so we decided there would be a good fire tonight. We got the stove roaring, but strangely the hut didn’t get that warm. We realised that although we were burning plenty of fuel, the wood was still very damp and all the energy was going into drying and burning the wood instead of warming the building. Still the place was a lot warmer than last night and we were able to melt snow for water on the stove.

We were just finishing our evening meal when there was a knock at the door. A couple with a pulk and a large cuddly black furry dog came in, the dog obediently stayed outside while we chatted. As I mentioned, Devdis was only a small hut and our gear was spread out all over the place. We rather guiltily apologised and started to try and clear some space, but they said they were more than happy to camp and after a brew they disappeared outside to erect their tent.

We dived into our sleeping bags. All being well, this was to be our last night in the wilderness.

Part seven coming soon, watch this space…..

© Pete Dutfield, February, 2021.

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