Monday, July 04, 2016

Storulvån - Blåhammaren - Sylarna

Sylarna from Spåime

[Image source:]

Storulvån Blåhammaren Sylarna

(Booklet about the "friendly triangle" published in 1991. Text by Curt Lofterud, in my translation.)

Anti-clockwise walking

This little booklet describes nature along the walking route Storulvån - Blåhammaren - Sylarna - Storulvån. So the route goes anti-clockwise. There's no reason why you shouldn't walk the route clockwise, but in that case you should read the booklet backwards!

A good option would be to take five days for the walk.

On the first day take the wild-flower path up to the summit of Getryggen. There you will get acquainted with the birchwoods of the fells and many of the mountain plant species. In good weather you'll also have a fantastic view of Blåhammaren, Sylarna and a large part of the Jämtland fell-world. Stay overnight at Storulvån.

Second day: walk to Blåhammaren - 12km. Third day: walk to Sylarna - 19km. Fourth day: excursions in the Sylarna area. Fifth day: return to Storulvån - 16km.

This outline of a week in the fells is well adapted to the train times from, and back to, the southern half of Sweden.

* * * * *

Birds in the fells

In a small booklet it isn't practicable to cover all the species you may come across when fellwalking. Along the route described here there are no specially rich locations for birds. All the same you need to take a small bird-book along with you. For this area is by no means empty of bird life.

The birds you may encounter are:

Eurasian teal (Anas crecca)
Northern pintail (Anas acuta)
Greater scaup (Aythya marila)
Long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis)
Common scoter (Melanitta nigra)
Velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca)
Common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator)
Common merganser/Goosander (Mergus merganser)
Rough-legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus)
Merlin (Falco columbarius)
Red grouse/Willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus)
Ptarmigan/Rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta)
Common ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Eurasian dotterel (Charadrius morinellus)
Eurasian golden plover (Plurialis apricaria)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax / Calidris pugnax)
Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
Long-tailed skua/Long-tailed jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus)
Common gull (Larus canus)
Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea)
Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Western yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
Northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Ring ouzel (Turdus torquatus)
Redwing (Turdus iliacus)
Garden warbler (Sylvia borin)
Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Hooded crow (Corvus cornix)
Common raven (Corvus corax)
Common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Common redpoll (Acanthis flammea / Carduelis flammea)
Lapland bunting/Lapland longspur (Calcarius lapponicus)
Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)
Common reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

The earlier in spring that you go fell-walking, the better from the birdwatching standpoint. At that time you can witness the songs and courtship displays. The best places to watch birds are the upper parts of the birch-woods, and bog-land that contains willow thickets. Scanning with binoculars from some of the fell-slopes can give good results.

Of course you know that all birds, together with their nests, eggs and fledglings are protected.

Mammals in the fells

Surprisingly few mammals live in the fell-world. The environment is simply too barren. Only three mammals are actually mountain species, namely Norway lemming, Arctic fox and reindeer. All reindeer today are so-called "tame" reindeer; there are are no wild reindeer in Sweden.

Mammals that can live for the majority of their lives in fell terrain ( = the region above the birchwood limit). 

Eurasian pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus)

Common shrew (Sorex araneus)
Eurasian water shrew (Neomys fodiens)
Mountain hare (Lepus timidus)
Norway lemming (Lemmus lemmus)
Grey red-backed vole (Clethrionomys rufocanus)
Field vole (Microtus agrestis)
Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus)
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Stoat (Mustela erminea)
Least weasel (Mustela nivalis)
Wolverine (Gulo gulo)
Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)
Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)

Fishing (Interest spot 12 on the map)

"The friendly triangle" lies in the middle of Sylarna's fishing-card area. Fishing cards can be bought in Storulvån and Handöl. The only game-fish here are char and brown trout.

The entire fishing-card area lies within Handölsdalen's Same village reindeer grazing area. So first and foremost the fishing is to meet the needs of the Same people. But there are so many fish here that  sport fishing is allowed too.

Within our region there are no large lakes, but a multitude of small tarns, for instance Långtjärn, 2 km east of the Sylarna wind-shelter. From the wind-shelter you follow the path towards Gåsen. In Långtjärn the fishing is good. A long boulder-ridge runs through the middle of the tarns. Here walking is easy and the small ridges and hillocks hide many idyllic spots. It's an ideal place to pitch tents.

Here at Långtjärn, too, Mannerfelt exposed cross-sections of the ridges. And here too he established that the ridges are formed because strong-running water carries gravel and rock along with it. The layers are very visible in his excavations.

The rather different landscape of Långtjärn is well worth a detour from the main route between Sylarna and Storulvån. (No path back is marked from the Långtjärn direction. It's easy to find: just head west and you'll pick up the main route again.)

Spåime  (Interest spot 13 on the map)

Spåime is one of the many wind-shelters that lie along mountain trails. The wind-shelter is strategically positioned to give shelter to hikers and cross-country skiers when the weather is bad. Notice how the wind-shelter is placed on a high spot so the wind sweeps around it and carries away the snow! It would be disastrous if a large snow-fall made it impossible to open the door.

The wind-shelter is not intended for overnight camping except in dire need. In many wind-shelters there is an emergency telephone; the name tells you what it's for!

Stor- and Lillulvåfjäll (Interest spot 14 on the map)

After Spåime the path crosses the western slope of Lillulvåfjäll and here you'll notice the very large terracettes [="sheep paths"] (see p. 14). Substantial "vindblottor" witness to the wind's strength in winter. The fellside is watered in grey-violet, light green and dark green streaks.

["Vindblottor" are areas where the winter wind is so fierce that snow never settles. This produces an extreme environment in which few or no plants can grow.]

Storulvåfjäll's southern prospect is striped with several large "sluk-gorges" and "sluk-ridges". In the lee of the ridges grow small tufts of birch-wood.

[These gorges and ridges run vertically in the same direction as the slope. They were formed when the last Ice Age melted. The gorges (deep cracks like the indentation of a giant axe) were formed by water gushing beneath the ice. The ridges were formed when gravel accumulated in cracks in the ice-cover. ]

Handölsdalen's Saami village

Saami villages

The whole of northern Sweden is divided into Saami villages. Each Saami village comprises a region. Within that region the village's reindeer can be found. In Jämtland's Län [administrative county, consisting of the two traditional counties Jämtland and Härjedalen] there are eleven Saami villages, and "the friendly triangle" lies within the area assigned to Handölsdalen's Saami village.

Handölsdalen's Saami village has the largest population of reindeer in the Län: 6,000 reindeer. From 1 May to 30 September they graze in the mountain grazing land which is accurately shown on the map. This benefits both the reindeer and the land itself.

When the plants wither and winter approaches, the summer grazing comes to an end and then the reindeer are transported to the winter grazing area down in the forest country. There the reindeer scrape with their hooves through the snow to find reindeer-lichen. The boundaries of the winter grazing area are not so strictly defined.

In spring the reindeer cows give birth to their calves and then it's time for the reindeer herd to return to the summer-grazing region.

Each Saami village needs to cover a very large area so that the reindeer herd has appropriate grazing land throughout the year.

[*NB The term "Saami village" (Sw: sameby) has been criticized in recent years, because it enshrines a colonial history of Saami nomads being subjected to laws that were really designed for Swedish farmers and settlers.]

The reindeer pen

On Lillulvvåfjäll there is a very large reindeer pen which can be seen clearly from the footpath. The reindeer are rounded up within the pen several times each summer so the calves can be marked. Each calf follows its mother and a reindeer-owner can see if the mother has his own mark of ownership in her ear. If  she does, then the calf is his. The calf is caught with a lasso and the reindeer-owner cuts his own mark into the calf's ear.

Tourists and reindeer

You that are tourists and guests in the fells must obviously allow the reindeer to graze in peace. Don't follow after the reindeer so they think they're being hunted. If you are fortunate enough to see the reindeer being rounded up for marking, sit down and watch the drama unfold. But don't interfere with the round-up; several day's work can be lost in that way. And don't pitch your tent near the reindeer pen.

The Same's reindeer

Reindeer on snow patches enjoy the coolness from the snow. Here there are no Reindeer horse-flies (Tabanus tarandinus) or Reindeer warble flies (Hypoderma tarandi). These insects are really a sore plague for reindeer. The Reindeer horse-fly sucks blood and this irritates the reindeer severely for a short time. However the Reindeer warble fly is a worse plague in the long term. The female fly lays her eggs on the the reindeer's leg and the larvae hatch there. When the reindeer licks itself the larva get into its mouth and down into the gut. From there they pass up to the backbone and, beneath the skin, swell to form a warble. When the larva is ready it bursts out and pupate in the ground. From the pupa comes a new warble fly.

Leave the reindeer in peace on the snow layer; it gives them a chance to escape these tormenting insects.

In summer most reindeer live above the tree-line. There they feed on grass, sedge, cotton-grass, bogbean, willow, dwarf birch and many other plants.

Sometimes you can see reindeer cows with their young calves on the snow patches. The calves are born in May and this is a very sensitive time. Be sure not to disturb them!

The reindeer calf is only a few minutes old when it can stand and find its way to the cow's teats. Reindeer milk contains 15-20% fat and this is needed in order for the calf to gain strength quickly and be able to follow the herd. The cow and calf learn to know each other by short, low grunts.

The reindeer bulls lose their antlers around the turn of the year, so normally in their winter grazing region. The cows lose their antlers in May. It's normally the smaller antlers of the cows that can be found on mountain heaths.




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