Guy’s First Arctic Ski Touring Trip. Part Three.
More of Guy Oliver’s first trip to the Norwegian Arctic. We have been to Paltsastugan, Sweden, for the night, and now we are heading back into peaceful Norway.
We were now on our way back into Norway, moving about 5k or 6k along an undulating valley and then up towards a low, wide col that took us over the border, and into the top end of Rostadalen. Crossing any kind of pass on a clear day is often more rewarding than climbing a peak. When one climbs a peak the views are all around, and seem to come up gradually as you approach the summit. But crossing a pass the views are behind, in front are only views of the next few metres of ground or snow, until the last few seconds when suddenly the vista opens up in all its glory. That’s what happened this morning, one minute we were flogging up a moderate slope, trying not to get too hot. The next minute, WOW, the scenery seemed to hit us. Across the valley and from side to side, there were snow covered mountains as far as the eye could see. And to the left of centre there was a wide flat valley with steep sides, cutting right through the mountains. This was the higher Rosta valley or Stor-Rosta. Many years ago we stayed in a tiny hut there Stor-Rostahytta, it only had 2 bunks and there were five of us. I have since heard it has been rebuilt with 4 bunks.
At the far end was a large lake that stretched round to the left, well out of sight behind the mountains, and several miles back into Sweden. This was the source of the now unseen Rosta river. Unseen because it was covered with ice and snow
Always beneath the ice and snow the Rosta river continues to be a strong quite fast flowing river. At the beginning of a trip when arriving here, I would ask the local people about any particular dangers in the mountains, such as avalanche, etc.
I always got the same answer from Odd Knut, “Stay away from the Rosta River”
As I said earlier we were hoping to stay at Rostahytta tonight, another 12k away, but about half way from where we were now there was a small hut, Maskohytta, I had passed by it several times, and stayed there a couple of times some years ago.
Maskohytta seemed to attract snow, almost every time I had been there the hut was at least half buried. A few years previous one of our party was having lower back problems, the only thing we could see on the approach was the tee shaped chimney sticking above the snow. We spent a long time digging down to find and open the door, while she stood around outside getting rather cold. Then it took a lot of careful manoeuvring to get the lady safely through the top stable door.
Guy emerging from Maskohytta living up to its reputation for being buried. The primitive toilet facilities are on the left in the background.
After a pleasant lunch stop in the sunshine we carefully locked the door, and left Maskohytta to the mercy of the next blizzard, and proceeded down the wide open valley another 6k towards Rostahytta.
Guy passing the ice valley on the way to Rostahytta
The snow was in good condition, I was in front, the slight downhill made the going easy and I was enjoying the effortless kick and glide I was getting from the ski. Then looking behind I noticed Guy was now about half a kilometre behind. I stopped and watched, Guy seemed to be moving quite happily, I waved a ski pole in the air, and got a casual wave back. This was a prearranged signal we had worked out early in the trip, so I knew he was happy. If he was having problems he would have raised both poles in the air, and I would stop and wait. if he had needed help he would have raised them in the form of a cross, and I would have gone back to him.
A little lonely tree on the way to Rostahytta where the valley begins to narrow. Rostahytta sits just below the distant trees. You can just make out a ravine above where the hut is. A few years ago we skied up & down that ravine just for fun and the excitement.
As I got further down the valley old ski trails began to appear heading in my direction. Then I came across an old snow scooter trail, this would have been made by someone from Statskog. Statskog are a sort of mountain police and have the job of servicing the huts, I guess they had been to Rostahytta to drop supplies. I skied onto the scooter trail and found the going even better, and as the terrain steepened up a little I was able to glide most of the time without any effort at all. Suddenly I noticed I was skiing between two high banks of snow, and realised I was travelling down the middle of the river! Well the tracks were no more than a couple of days old and if the snow could support a snow scooter then I don’t think my weight would cause any problem.
I carried on to where the river widened and just picked up enough speed to take me up the bank and outside the hut. Guy turned up within a few minutes and we pulled the pulk over to the door, noticing two pair of ski outside. The hut was obviously occupied.
Inside the newly built Rostahytta, incredible luxury a good day’s walk/ski from the nearest road.
We knocked the snow off our boots and walked in to be meet by two ladies. Now I have never met anyone from the UK that far north, and I started to explain we were from England. “Oh we are from England too” said the first lady…. I was so surprised I was lost for words and probably stood there with my mouth open, while she carried on, this is Jane and I’m Bridget and I’m actually from Wales. “Whereabouts in Wales do you live?” I said. “Nowhere you would know, its a bit remote” was the reply, but when I pressed her she said “Dinorwig near Snowdon, North Wales.” What an incredible coincidence. While sitting having a drink and a snack we chatted. I told her we were from Wolverhampton Mountaineering Club, and our cottage, Tal-y-Braich, was only a kilometre away from her house. Bridget explained there were four of them altogether, the other two, Jonathan and Geoff, were out climbing a local mountain. Sadly they were leaving the following day, but not before we exchanged contact details. I was able to meet Bridget and her husband Mike later in the summer, and we have remained firm friends ever since, even having little adventures in Wales together.
A word of warning to anyone going to the Rosta Valley in future years. The effects of global warming on the climate are felt much stronger nearer the polar regions. The Rosta river (Rostaelva) is fed from a very large lake running 12 or 15 miles into Sweden. I have crossed the Rosta river on ski many times, often following ski tracks, dog sled trails, or snow scooter trails. Quite often not realising the river was even there, until maybe I would look back and see the dip in the terrain. On my first visit there, 25 to 30 years ago, we skied up from the road-head in the Rosta valley and followed ski tracks across the lower Rosta river, there is a large foot bridge near there but I don't recollect seeing it at that time. Several times since I have been down that lower valley but I have never seen the river frozen again that far down. Many times I have collected water from a hole in the ice/snow outside Rostahytta, one time out of curiosity I put my ski pole down into the water, I was unable to feel the bottom and the strong current almost took the pole from my hand! Do not underestimate The Rosta River!
The next part of our trip was to Daertahytta and involved quite a lot of uphill, crossing into the Dividal National park and crossing a high pass, quite a big day for me. So after Bridget and her party left, we decided to stay another night for me to recuperate. During the day a small Norwegian party arrived and stayed in the other hut. We met two of them as we were going to fetch the water.
The water is in the Igloo!
A previous party had gone to the trouble of building an Igloo over the water hole, on the ice, in the middle of the river! Now, remembering the warnings about the dangers of the Rosta River, this needed some thought. Then it occurred to me I had an apprentice and this was obviously part of his Arctic Training, problem solved.
So I armed Guy with a couple water buckets and a ladle and pointed him at the igloo.
Come on Guy, hurry up with that water.
We’re desperate for a cup of tea out here.
Easy, no real challenge at all
Well done Guy, you’re their hero. I wonder if he really appreciated the way I tried to fix him up with a couple of Norwegian Beauty Queens?
The DNT, Den Norske Tourist Forening, as well as building and servicing the huts, organise guided parties of tourists. That evening a large DNT party arrived looking rather tired. We chatted to the guide and discovered they were leaving for Daertahytta early the next day. I pointed out to Guy that we would have a good trail to follow.
Chapter four coming soon, don’t forget to click on the heart. And leave a comment if you are logged in as a member, lets make use of our website!
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© Pete Dutfield, January 2021