It wasn’t really meant to be THE return to the crime scene. I just really really needed to get away from Umeå and into the mountains. Four weeks of temperatures between 25 and 33 C° had made me a very dull hen. Basically all I could do was to hang around with the fishes in the water.
I was desperate to escape into the great wide open. To feel alive and at least somewhat kicking. In addition, I had promised my self back in June (and imperatively informed Martin) that we would go bike some proper mountains in August. So when August approached, we basically had no choice but to go.
The timing could definitely have been better; the week before (during the Skellefteå Bike Rally), my left ankle brutally informed me that it had had enough. Apparently, standing on one leg for 3 months can give you an inflammation in your joint capsules. Or at least, that is what it gave me. Nothing dangerous according to my physiotherapist, but painful as hell. In addition, the night before take off, the hub of my back wheel decided to die. It sounded like a grinding mill. What was worse, we didn’t have the right bearings at home. But we just had to go to the mountains, so we had no choice but to get the bike in at least some shape. So while Martin took out his best MacGuver skills and revived the old bearing, I wrapped my left ankle in sports tape and prayed that I and the bike would stay in one piece. After that, we let Ralf loose to roam the inland roads.
Due to my ankle status, we decided to aim for exploration rather than epic downhill. We had already explored Hemavan, Borgafjäll and Saxnäs to some extent. The only ski town left was Kittelfjäll. Neither of us had been there during summer, so it seemed perfect. In addition, it would allow us to go and see the mess that we had created on Lebnes back in February.
Kittelfjäll greated us with beautiful mountains and dark grey storm clouds. Luckily, the rain in those clouds decided to mostly fall on something else than us.
We arrived at dinner time, but since we had stopped in Vilhelmina to eat palt (with the result that Martin once again was very close to a coma), we had plenty of energy to go gear hunting.
There is no proper trail going up the mountainside where we were caught in the avalanche, but we had a pretty good idea of where we had been, so we decided to just head up and trust our instincts concerning the direction.
At first, we kept wondering if the sporadic trees laying on the ground could have been avalanche victims. Then we came to the avalanche path… we didn’t have to wonder anymore. It looked like giants had been playing Jack-straws.
Exhale. Inhale. I don’t think that I had thought about how I would react to seeing the avi path again. It was emotional, very emotional. Seeing the destruction that we had caused made the feelings of guilt and shame that I felt 5 months ago resurrect. So many trees, now dead, wasted. To see the size of the trees taken down by the snow, knowing that we were just meters away from that path made my heart jump. I don’t really like the word, but I guess it fits here. It was intense.
Amazingly enough, we found all of our gear (except two poles) neatly lined up in an almost straight line. I wish that I had recorded the sound of Martin when he saw one side of his split board. He giggled, and talked to it as if he was seeing an long lost friend (He actually referred to it as exactly that).
Unfortunately, my own precious one was not left unaffected by the destructive forces of the snow.
I think that being back on that slope was important for both of us, both for removing the plastic and metal that we had left behind, and in a therapeutic way. We stood there for quite some time just looking, thinking.
But eventually, we had to go down again.
Of course, contemplating over life and death and searching the hillsides for skis was not all we did while in Kittelfjäll. We also did some biking. Not much due to my #%€ ankle, but we managed to ride the trail that goes through Grantonskalet. If you want a fast XC-ride in an almost astonishingly beautiful landscape, I really recommend it, especially if the weather has been as dry as it has this summer.
We rode our bikes slightly uphill about 10 km into the valley, until the trail disappeared. According to the map, the trail is supposed to continue all the way to Fältjaur (25 km from Grönfjäll), but the people who walk all that way must be very light footed. With no trail in front of us, we decided to turn around, claim our reward and charg back down again.
After that little excursion, we decided to give my ankle a break. So we spent the rest of the weekend checking out potential future adventures, idling on the beach, drinking beer and gazing at the sunset.
It wasn’t so bad :), but now I want to re-do and do right. That is – to ride my bike.