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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Father and Son Bushcraft Trip to Sweden; Ullådallen, Åre and route planning

A marshy hike into our camp site at Ullsjön

When Michael and I headed out for our adventure in Sweden we planned in advance where we were going to spend our time. Any outdoor activity, especially if you are far from home needs, to be properly planned so you can leave a detailed plan with someone at home so rescue can be arranged if you don't come back or get in touch according to schedule. 

While you should be able to navigate from map and compass even if you haven't previously planned a route there really is no excuse for heading out somewhere without doing some planning in advance. This is especially important if you are taking a child with you, there may be terrain you want to avoid, or particular features you want to include in your route. I am fascinated by maps anyway so spending a few hours poring over a map is no hardship and has always payed off. 

It's also important at the planning stage to make backup plans and 'escape routes', especially in mountainous areas where weather can change drastically and very quickly.  These plans might include a route around a particular feature that could be dangerous in bad weather such as river crossings that might be too dangerous when water levels are high or mountain tops and ridges that might be too dangerous in snowy conditions or high winds. These routes might also be used in the event of injury or the need to depart from a route and head back to civilisation in an emergency. 

This route with all necessary camp sites and  escape routes can then be left with someone at home so if the worst was to occur and you didn't get back in touch when you said you would or you don't come back on schedule they can pass those details on to whoever becomes responsible for your rescue.  We ended up having to use one of our alternative routes  on our trip; we had hoped to get to the top of a mountain called Åreskutan a 1420 meter mountain which overlooks Åre,  a popular ski resort during the Winter on our first day in the mountains but as there was snow already on the top of the mountain when we arrived we decided to reverse our route and head off up  Ullådallen first. Taking an eight year old up a a snow clad mountain top without proper winter climbing kit would not have been a responsible thing to do and would have added significant unnecessary risk to our trip. 

We were expecting snow on the last day of our trip but it had snowed before we get there and was settled above about 1000 meters so we stayed a bit lower down and headed up into  Ullådallen on our first day instead of our last. 

Manuscript Ullr.jpg
A depiction of Ullr from an Icelandic manuscript from  the 18th Century showing Ullr on ski's with his bow.  Image is in the Public Domain. 

Ullådallen takes it's name from the Norse God of Hunting Ullr. According to mythology Ullr was the son of Siv and foster son of Thor. He was skilled at skiing and a talented bowman and is also celebrated as the God of skiing and archery. It is a popular destination for skiing in Winter and for hunting and fishing. 

A sign informing hikers that hunting was in progress and that dogs may be loose in the area.
We had planned to camp near Ullsjön on the second and third nights of our trip and do some fishing and exploring but now this was to be our first stop, it was important that our trip not be all about hiking each day. I've done my fair share of expeditions when I have needed to hike day after day after day and they haven't always been fun and I wanted to make sure this was fun for Michael and not something he had to endure. 

The hike up Ullådallen from Åre started on the 'trollstigen' or troll tail and fittingly considering that our destination takes it's name from a Norse God the troll trail starts with a a crossing of the mythological 'bifrost' the rainbow bridge that links Asgard (the world of the Gods) with Midgard (earth). 

Michael heading through the bifrost, the platform above him is one of the many mountain bike routes that are popular around Åre outside of ski season. 
On the troll trail we saw signs off all sorts of mythological creatures such as trolls and hob goblins.
We needed to plan a route that wouldn't be too strenuous for an eight year old but was remote enough  to feel like a genuine adventure for him and the troll trail and some of the well marked hiking trails got us up out of the valley to the head of the trail we would follow to Ullsjön. We had picked a camp site there where we thought we would have access to a small shelter, these are marked on maps in Sweden and are popular places for people to stop and stay while hiking and camping, they can be a bit hit and miss though so I never know what to expect, some are positively luxurious others are a bit more spartan. 

Our little shelter on the banks of Ullsjön, you can see the long drop toilet behind the shelter and further up the bank a tiny cabin used by the Sami reindeer herders when their reindeer are ranging in the area. 

Our route around the foot of Åreskutan into Ullådallen took as through Buustamon a little collection of holiday cottages and a small hotel which serves the area in holiday season and which takes it's name from the old jamska dialects word for wind shelter; 'buusta' and a dry place in a marsh 'mo'. And it was indeed the last dry place we encountered on our hike. From there on it was very wet under foot and we had several miles of hiking through marshy terrain until we eventually saw the lake we were heading for. Even though it was a fairly misty, damp day with the low cloud hiding the mountain tops from us the scenery was beautiful and seeing the occasional mountain hare already in winter pelage and flocks of cross bills in the pine and spruce trees was great. We were both happy though when we spotted the lake and realised it would only be a few more minutes before we could get out of our wet boots and dry our socks by a fire. 
fishing at Ullsjön with Rödkullen which we would climb on our last day in the mountains in the distance. 
It was a great place to stay close to the lake and on the edge of a beautiful patch of birch forest with junipers and spruces scattered amongst the lichen bedecked birches. The juniper was a great source of firewood as we found plenty of dead dry branches amongst the thicker, larger growths of juniper and that as well as some dead birch that we collected made the basis of all our camp fires.  

Michael hiking through the birch forests at the foot of Åreskutan on our way out of  Ullådalen. 

We never did make it to the top of Åreskutan, the snow never did clear and actually fell quite heavily the night after we headed out of the hills. We did make it to the top of Rödkullen a smaller 900 meter peak to the west of Åreskutan which Michael had taken to calling Raven Hill after the hill and outpost at the foot of the lonely mountain in The Hobbit. We had been looking at it from our camp site and decided that as it was clear of snow we would change out route so we could climb it on our way back. That route change would also have us climb out of the marshy ground earlier than we otherwise would and get somewhere drier. 

Climbing up our of Ullådalen

Looking back down Ullådalen with Ulsjön in the background. 

While our adventure didn't take us anywhere truly remote in the grand scheme of things it was far enough from everyone to feel like a real adventure to an eight year old and being able to hear a wold cry under the moon by our camp fire one night was a real thrill. Uullådalen and it's surroundings were beautiful despite the fact that we only briefly had clear skies and sunshine and it's a place I fully intend to return to explore more fully, hopefully with members of my family at mys side again.

Hopefully this adventure has only encouraged Michael to pursue more opportunities to get outside and explore, we had a great time and I'm really glad he chose to take me on his adventure.

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