Places:Start at Lon 18.5813, Lat 67.0787, end at Start Logged as completed by 1
Two years ago our hearts sank when atrocious weather meant that we were unable to climb one of the most famous mountains in Sweden whilst trekking part of the Kungsleden (Kings Way). This year our hearts leapt with sheer joy as we arrived on top of it to behold what is undoubtedly the best view in the whole country.
Skierffe is a 1,179 metre fin of rock shorn in two by a glacier which ground its way down through the most famous valley in the most well-known national park in Sweden: Rapadalen in Sarek. Lying inside the Arctic Circle with no roads, signed trails, wardened huts, or motorised access, Sarek National Park was established in 1909 and covers 1,970 square kilometres. This famous park lies at the very heart of the Laponia Area, part of the homeland of the indigenous Sámi people (also known as Laplanders), which was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Sarek is an expanse of genuine wilderness, one of Europe’s last, with numerous 2,000 metre high mountains, many still holding glaciers. The landscape feels decidedly primordial, perhaps because the last remnants of the vast Fennoscandian Ice Sheet only receded from the mountains of eastern Sarek some 9,000 years ago, just after the end of the Pleistocene epoch. The only way to get to Skierffe is on foot. By far the easiest (and costliest) way is to take a helicopter to the small Sámi settlement of Aktse, but you still have to climb for several hours to reach the summit. Otherwise it is more than a two and a half day walk from the trailheads of the Kungsleden at Kvikkjokk in the south, or Saltoluokta in the north, or a day and a half walk the way that we came.
We decided to take our tent and to wild camp on the mountain in the hope of capturing some good photographs. We left our Land Rover at a small parking area at Sitoälvsbron which is situated at the end of the road from Tjåmotis that passes a large dam on Lake Tjaktjajaure. From here we crossed the roaring Sitoälven River by bridge and followed the 10km long dirt track to the shore of Lake Tjaktjajaure. From the jetty there we picked up a trail through the taiga leading towards Aktse. We decided not to camp at the Svenska Turistföreningen (STF) hut at Aktse, knowing that the pitches aren’t all that great there, and to save ourselves the 20 euro per person camping fee (30 euro each for non-STF members), opting instead to make camp in a mossy forest clearing before the hut.
The next day we stopped by the Aktse hut which is on the Kungsleden. There is a small shop here which sells food stuffs, camping gas, other essentials and cool beer! As STF members we have the right to access the cooking facilities and the hut during the day for free, which we made good use of to enjoy a very leisurely lunch. After filling our water bladders and a nalgene bottle (there is no water at the summit so you need to carry enough with you) we began the steep climb up the wooded valley on the well-trodden Kungsleden away from Aktse to a point where the tree line ends. Here we left the Kungsleden and struck out in a north westerly direction across the alpine tundra following inconstant reindeer tracks. We encountered occasional boggy ground with dense patches of dwarf willow which were tedious to cross, but the views down over Lake Laitaure were magnificent. About half way to the summit, the boundary into Sarek National Park is crossed. The trail then traverses windswept alpine tundra, traversing the low ground between two other mountains - Bassoajvve and Slieŋgetjåhkka – before swinging round the back of Skierffe. The final 140 metre climb up to the summit is over steep and boulder-strewn terrain.
Good pitches at the rocky summit of Skierffe are at a premium, but we managed to find a level site which was not too stony for our 2-man Terra Nova Voyager tent just metres from the vertiginous 600m cliffs overlooking the incredible Laitaure Delta. Below us lay the Rapa River, which stretches 75 km from its glacial headwaters deep inside Sarek to the mouth of Lake Tjaktjajaure, braided into countless small streams flowing between sandbanks and russet bog which was pockmarked by scores of lakes and pools which shone like shards of glass in the afternoon light. Luckily, we had the summit to ourselves and the clear sky meant we enjoyed a decent sunset over the high ground towards the glaciated Pårte Massif, and a fabulous moonrise over Lake Laitaure. However, during the night it was forecast to cloud over bringing rain by dawn. Just before sunrise the nylon of our tent began to blaze with an intense vermillion light sending us rushing out to grab some shots. It began to rain lightly from thick grey cloud that had not quite enveloped the eastern horizon which had erupted in colour, sending a rose-pink glow over Lake Laitaure and its delta, and turning the broad summit of Tjahkelij just opposite, cerise-pink. A small rainbow hung in the sky over the delta for a few moments before the rising sun was swallowed in the encroaching gloom. We returned to our tent to grab a few more hours sleep while it bucketed down with rain. By the time we broke camp the rain had turned into billowing mist as the high ground was shrouded in low cloud. We returned the way we had come, picking our way carefully over the now wet rocks, stopping at the Aktse hut once more for some hot lunch and to stock up on supplies, before returning to the taiga where we found a good sheltered camp for the night. The following day it was still grey and overcast with occasional showers making the long traipse from the lake shore along the dirt track back to our Land Rover at Sitoälvsbron somewhat tedious, particularly since Martin had badly twisted his ankle the day before!
To follow the route we did you will need your own vehicle as there is no bus to the parking area at Sitoälvsbron. To keep the walking distance down, you could catch a boat which operates in the high season from the jetty at the end of Lake Tjaktjajaure to Aktse which saves over 6km of walking. It’s also possible to cycle between Sitoälvsbron and the lake.
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Note: ALL information such as Ascent, Length and Creator time taken etc should be regarded as approximate. The creator's comments are opinions and may not be accurate or still correct.
Your time to complete will depend on your speed plus break time and your mode of transport. For walkers: Naismith's rule, a rough and often inaccurate estimate, suggests a time of 11h 41m + time stopped for breaks
Note: It is up to you to ensure that your route is appropriate for you and your party to follow bearing in mind all factors such as safety, weather conditions, experience and access permission.