Who wants go to the Mountains?
After classes finished Friday, a group of my classmates and I began our 330 kilometre journey up to Marsliden in west Västerbotten county. After a long week at design school, we were all in need of a good adventure.
It is a remote part of Sweden, taking about four hours to drive from Umeå in the south east. We were headed to Marsfjället, a mountain rising 1590 meters high, it’s peak shrouded in a perpetual blanket of clouds during the winter. She is one in a series of mountains and basins carved from glacial movement that run along the border of Sweden and Norway. Sweden’s landscape becomes more pronounced moving north, transitioning from gently rolling pine forests and agricultural lands to rugged granite domes that rise into the sky and disappear under a dusting of snow come late September.
The Adventure Begins…
We left Umeå as the sun began to slip below the tree line. A few hours into our drive, we started to gaining elevation, snow swirling around us, creating a white haze under the beam of our headlights. We twisted and turned through the night on a two lane road, dimly aware of the forests and growing peaks that were concealed by the snow fall and hood of darkness.
Finally we arrived at our cabin, a lodging that was built and maintained for hikers and skiers by a family in the nearby town. Nestled into the woods across from the cabin were several small huts, one with a sauna and another with a fire pit and cozy seating space adorned with reindeer fur made for a winter day fika. Along with a series of cabins, there was a kiosk and cafe a short walk away on the main street, that provides guests with information on trail conditions, upcoming events, and fishing permits among other items of interest.
The Mountain is Calling
The following morning we woke up to fresh snow fall, the grasses in the meadow behind the cabin bent towards the earth under its weight. Since we had Swedes in our midst, we promptly brewed a pot of traditionally dark coffee and popped the cinnamon rolls in the oven. Swedes are know for staying loyal to coffee made in their hometown, so this morning our brew was roasted in the southern county of Skåne, where one of my classmates is from.
Sipping our coffee, we watched out the window as the shifting clouds rolled through the mountains, hiding and revealing the pass we would hike through that day.
The trail to Marsfjället peak began just 500 meters behind the cabin, as a narrow, rock-riddled path under the cover of the pine tree canopies. Slowly we gained elevation, and eventually emerged from the forest onto a series of marshes with boardwalks floating through their center. One more rocky ascent, and we were ushered onto a desert-like plateau who’s open expanse reached far across the valley, and touched the base of the surrounding mountains. The basin was covered in a light layer of new snow, the flakes still floating aimlessly around us. A few barren trees and low growing shrubs punctuated this moonscape, and a lake in the distance reflected milky grey off the clouds draped on the peaks above.
We made our way through the valley and began the long hike up to the mountain’s pass. It was a harrowing scramble up an icy boulder field to the saddle, but the view was worth the heart-racing slip and slide. Revealed through the fog was another snow covered, crater-like basin with granite peaks hugging its edges. We stopped here for an obligatory fika break, taking out our steaming thermoses of coffee. Our cinnamon rolls were near frozen, but after the long climb this was irrelevant, and they tasted as if they were fresh out of the oven.
As the summit remained elusive in clouds high above us, we decided to retreat rather than hike the mountain and continue the loop around Marsfjället. The decent back to the cabin was a snowy blur, and the warm fire and third fika of the day was readily welcomed after the day’s adventure.
This foreign landscape was an incredible juxtaposition to the flat forested lands of the eastern coast of Sweden, near Umeå, to which I have grown accustomed. I can’t wait to take more adventures up to this rugged glacial landscape in the near future!