Tied at the waist to the end of a 30-metre-length of rope, I stare down at my boots. Small streams of meltwater carve out channels as they flow off the tongue of the glacier, revealing tantalisingly blue ice underneath, perhaps hundreds if not thousands of years old. I feel the tug of the rope and take a step forward, pressing the points of my crampons into the ice.
A shout suddenly interrupts the sound of trickling water. In front, Björn, my Swedish trip partner tied at the other end, steps through a snow bridge. “There’s a crevasse here!” he yells ominously.
Nervously hopping over its unknown depths, we continue to plod up the glacier to the pass without incident. But the mountain ridge we want to ascend disappears into thick mist. We debate whether to go further, conscious too that we’re starting to shiver as the glacier acts like a giant refrigerator on our by now clammy bodies.
It’s time to beat a retreat back to our base camp, a bright red tent pitched in a green glade at the foot of the glacial moraine – a large mass of dark rubble. It’s a welcome sight after the monochrome world of ice and rock above. Defeated this time round, we now have to play a waiting game for a window in the weather that we know might never come.
Our objective is the peak of Sarektjåkkå lying some sixty miles above the Arctic Circle. At 2089 metres, it is the second-highest mountain in Sweden after the better-known Kebnekaise. It receives only a fraction of the latter’s visitors, however, entailing an arduous two-day walk-in over pathless ground just to get to the foot of the mountain.
Situated in Sarek, one of Europe’s first national parks established over a century ago, the area’s reputation has long attracted wilderness enthusiasts – from relative trekking newbies wanting to cut their teeth in more challenging terrain, to grizzled, knee-hardened veterans who make annual pilgrimages here. It’s paradise too for mountaineers and off-piste skiers enticed by its Alpine-like character.
Photos: ©Alec Forss
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