And so off we went. Two invalid chicks, their bikes and Steve. Into the (actually pretty) wild west of Västerbotten.
Our destination this time was Stekenjokk, a highland plateau on the border between Västerbotten, Jämtland and Norway. In other words, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
The road to Stekenjokk was built to transport workers to and from the copper mine that was active in the area until 1989, and runs entirely in alpine terrain. It opens in mid May and closes in September. The rest of the year, the whole area is usually covered by snow, at places up to 4 m.
Nowadays, the mine is closed, and the area is mostly populated by arctic foxes, reindeer and Norwegians in camper vans. It is pretty damn fantastic (with the exception of the camper vans, which may be fairly impressive, but I wouldn’t call them fantastic).
There are a chunk of old mining roads going across the plateau, and a number of trails leading from it in various directions. Most of the trails are relatively gentle in comparison to other trails in the Västerbotten mountains, and don’t contain too much push biking. In addition, two of the trails run from the highland plateau down to Klimpfjäll (about 20 km and 400 vertical meters down). To me, that sounded like the perfect starter tour for us invalidos. A gentle stroll down the mountain park so to speak. I had this picture in my head of us flowing down mostly down hill trail in beautiful terrain.
Hm. Have I ever biked a mountain trail that is a stroll in the park? No. Have 1 km of Västerbotten mountain trail ever seemed as anything less than 10 km of suffering as long as it doesn’t have a substantial downhill inclination? No. Does 400 vertical meters over 20 km sound like a substantial downhill inclination? hm… no not really. But of course, I never thought of that before I suggested that we should do the tour. I never do. And I completely forgot that my lungs had shrunken to the size of squirrel balls from being totally inactive for 4.5 months.
Well done. Misery done right usually means epic views, stronger legs and a few more inches on those horns on your forehead. Biking too long mountain trails is a very good activity for growing horns, especially when you do it together with people who refuse to let the grin slip of their faces for a second (not even after 3 face plants in mud, snow and on footbridges, or after 3 flat tires). It is impossible not to grin yourself when around such people, not even when you’re bonking like you’ve never bonked before. Very fertile soil for horn growing indeed.
Said and done. The first day, we (I, Maria and our two grinning friends Mattias and David) decided to bike to the Tjokkele cabin and then take Norgefararleden (a trail used for trade between Norway and Sweden in the good old days) to Klimpfjäll. To save some energy, we decided to take the 4w road to the cabin instead of the trail (which would have added 10 km and a whole lot of misery to the tour), and focus on the 20 km of supposed downhill from the cabin to Klimpfjäll. Looking back at it, I think that was a really good choice.
After about 10 km trail, and 17 km of biking, both I and Maria were starting to feel like we had done a marathon. Only 10 km more to go. And we were still waiting for the downhill to start. Looking around us, it was pretty evident that even though there might be some downhill ahead, there would definitely also be some climbs.
After another 5 km, it felt like we were doing Ironman.
But the views were indeed epic, and as we were closing in on Klimpfjäll, the downhill actually started. Fantastic flowy downhill. Don’t-touch-your-breaks and pedal-like-crazy-and-jump-on-everything-you-see-downhill. I was way to tired to appreciate it fully, but DAMNIT it was fun!
We reached Klimpfjäll dead tired but happy. By then, we had been biking for 6 hours and covered a distance of 27 km. I have to say it: Well ficking done for two chicks who broke a chunk of bones and muscles less than 5 months earlier.
I will always, always, be in gratitude to David and Mattias, who took on the mantle of invalido transporters, pedaled back up to Stekenjokk (20 km of pure uphill) and fetched the car. If I would have had to do that at that point, I think I would have actually done the crawl. Now, I could focus on beer, food, and an epic almost-never-sunset.
Neither I or Maria thought that we would be able to bike the day after, convinced that we had reached our limit on the Tjokkele trail. But our bodies surprised us. Yes, we were tired, but we didn’t feel any signs of “bad pain”. Wohoo! More biking! To be gentle to our bodies, we decided to take the old jeep road to Klimpfjäll. I had heard about a trail that was mostly downhill, and since the Tjokkele trail wasn’t, this one must be. Right?
Well, perhaps after all the snow has melted and the ground has dried up. Not in July when the ground is saturated by melting snow.
It was tough! Not technically tough (super mellow), but for two invalidos with sore butts, it was definitely physical. But of course, it was all worth it. The scenery was magnificient, and after we had passed the last snow field and started to see Klimpfjäll below us, we got do charge down the totally eroded jeep road. It was all fun and games.
It was a completely brilliant weekend. Great weather, epic views and fantastic company. My body got really sore, but my ankle and Maria’s butt seem to have survived. Yes, we did it. I must admit that in spite of the mantra that I’ve been chanting all spring, of how I of course will be able to bike and to everything I want and more this summer, I’ve had my doubts. I even started to make up plans for a summer on the beach (? what the heck do you do on the beach?). It feels pretty damn fantastic to throw those doubts in the bin. Sure, there won’t be any epic Norway riding this year, but soon Gadget soon, there will definitely be some serious mountain riding. Shall I say it, oh I keep repeating myself, but I like repetition, so WOHOO!
Thanks all for a fantastic weekend!
Maria’s take on the weekend can be found here.