Monday, July 04, 2016

Storulvån - Blåhammaren - Sylarna

Sylarna from Spåime

[Image source:]

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Storulvån - Blåhammaren - Sylarna

[Booklet about the "friendly triangle" published in 1991. Text by Curt Lofterud, in my translation. Be warned, I struggled with some of the geomorphological terms! It's useful to know the meaning of a few Swedish terms as they appear in names and I haven't always broken the names down into their component parts. Fjäll - Mountain, Fell; Älv(en) - River; Tjärn - Tarn; Stuga(n) - Cabin, cottage.]

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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.

The experience walk

Among fellwalkers one may talk of one's tours as if they were sporting achievements. One walked so many mil  [1 mil = 10km]. The pack weighed so many kilos. This walking tour is a quite different thing -- an experience-walk. The walk's goal is experiences along the way -- not to get through it as swiftly as possible. You can book your overnight stops far in advance.

Reckon on walking two kilometers an hour. Then you'll get to enjoy all the amazing views. Also, it's daylight for 24 hours in the summer, so you can also enjoy the fells through the night.

This booklet describes 14 different interest spots. The idea is that take the booklet with you on your walk and arrive at, say, interest spot 2. On pages 6-9 is described a part of what you can see from this notable viewpoint. Interest spot 3 is a small wildflower meadow... and so on.

Each interest spot is marked on the ground by a small cairn with light-coloured stones at the top. We are trying to avoid putting up yet more noticeboards.

When to go

Traditionally, fell experts advise walking the fells in the latter part of July or in August. And that's a good time to do it! But in the Jämtland fells it's also exciting to walk at midsummer or even earlier. Then you can experience the spring flowers of the fells: Purple Saxifrage, Crowberry, Alpine Bearberry, Trailing Azalea, Diapensia. And the birdsong is intense!

July-August walking is great for the fell flowers of high summer, but the birds have calmed down and are fairly inconspicuous.

At the end of August and into September the autumn colours begin to glow in golds and reds. On the right days the colour-tapestry is fantastically beautiful. Furthermore, the fells have different interest through the course of the summer. Try at all times of the year -- you won't be disappointed.

The tourist lodges are manned from midsummer right through to the first or second week of September.

You only need...

At Storulvån, Blåhammaren and Sylarna you can stay indoors. So you won't need a tent or sleeping-bag -- a light sheet is a good idea. You can buy food at all three places. So just take some packed-lunch ingredients and some money. What you take shouldn't be so heavy that your abiding memory of the walk is struggling with your backpack.

Essential in your backpack is raingear [anorak and waterproof trousers!], a change of clothes, a warm jumper, gloves, cap, washbag. For this kind of walk your backpack doesn't need to weigh more than 8-10kg

Necessary: map, compass (for at least one in the group). Also good: a flora, a bird book, binoculars, camera.

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Mountain birch wood and bare fell

(Interest spot 1)

The mountain birch wood around Storulvån's tourist lodge is for the most part a thin and species-poor heath birchwood. The ground is covered mostly with lichen and crowberry. It's easy going -- the ground is springy underfoot.

From a distance the birch trunks are completely black. When you get nearer you'll see that in fact they are a dark olive-brown. This is "snowmarker" lichen [snömärkeslav - Melanohalea olivacea]. This lichen can't grow under snow; which means that on this hillock there is no snow in winter! Where the snow-depth is half a meter, the snowmarker lichen begins to grow from that point on the birch trunk. Snowmarker lichen tells you about the winter snow-cover, even in the midst of summer.

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Low-growing plants in heath birchwood

Where the ground is somewhat wetter than on the bare windblown hillock shown on the left, there live also other species, for example Juniper (En - Juniperus communis), Bilberry (Blåbär - Vaccinium myrtillus), Cowberry (Lingon - Vaccinium vitis-idaea), Goldenrod (Gullris - Solidago virgaurea), Common Cow-wheat (Ängskovall - Melampyrum pratense), Dwarf Cornel (Hönsbär - Cornus suecica), Chickweed Wintergreen (Skogsstjärna - Trientalis europaea) and several hawkweeds. You'll find all these and more in the birchwood, along the wild flower path from Storulvån to Getryggen.

Tall plants in meadow birchwood

In only a few spots at Storulvån does the groundwater run so near the surface that the earth is really wet. Hence there isn't an abundance of tall plants that have a great need for moist and fertile soil. But in a few places there grows Wolf's-bane (Nordisk stormhatt - Aconitum lycoctonum), Alpine Blue-sow-thistle (Torta - Cicerbita alpina) and other tall plants. So these are small groves of meadow birchwood.

To grow at the limit of possibility

The walk up the wildflower path puts a strain on calf-muscles and breath. It's good to pause many times to inspect the flowers! The 840m level is a suitable rest spot. Here the birch is growing at its limit of possibility. For birch to be able to live and grow, the year's new growth must succeed in becoming woody before the autumn frost arrives. Each little shoot that emerges in spring is full of soft tissue. This tissue must become hard wood over the summer. For that to happen the temperature needs to be above 10 degrees centigrade for at least 21 days.

The 840m level is the limit of life for birches on Getryggen's southern slope. On certain parts of Snasahögarna's northern face the birch only attains 700m. Further south in Sweden the birches can grow higher up the slopes. Further north, the birches' height-limit may be 550-600m above sea-level, even on south-facing slopes.

The fell birches have both wood-limits and tree-limits in most places in Sweden's fell region. The wood-limit is the limit where continuous birchwood ceases to grow. Above the wood-limit there grow individual trees -- when even these cease, the tree-limit has been reached.

Above the tree-limit bare fell takes over. From up here you can see the fir-tree limit ["needle-trees": pine/spruce in Sweden] far below you in Handölsdalen.

On the bare fell the flower path continues up the steep slope. Each hundred meters the temperature drops 0.6 degrees on average. So the average temperature is 4 degrees lower on Getryggen's summit than down in Storulvån. Four degrees is a lot and for many species this is beyond their limit of possibility. One species after another gives up the fight. You can trace the plants' struggle yourself on your walk uphill.

According to Sven Kilander the following species among others can attain these heights on Getryggen:

Fell Birch (Fjällbjörk - Betula pubescens var. tortuosa)  932m
Dwarf Cornel (Hönsbär - Cornus suecica) 938m
Common Cow-wheat (Ängskovall - Melampyrum pratense) 1008m
Mountain Avens (Fjällsippa - Dryas octopetala) 1194m
Diapensia (Fjällgröna - Diapensia lapponica) 1243m
Yellow lousewort (Gullspira - Pedicularis oederi) 1280m
Alpine Lady-fern (Fjällbräken - Athyrium distentifolium) 1295m
Dwarf Birch (Dvärgbjörk - Betula nana) 1296m
Trailing Azalea (Krypljung - Loiseleuria procumbens) 1350m
Goldenrod (Gullris - Solidago virgaurea) 1351m
Fell Violet (Fjällviol - Viola biflora) 1362m
Alpine Lady's-mantle (Fjällkåpa - Alchemilla alpina) 1364m
Mountain Sorrel (Fjällsyra - Oxyria digyna) 1366m
Alpine Bistort (Ormrot - Persicaria vivipara) 1370m
Purple Saxifrage (Purpurbräcka - Saxifraga oppositifolia) 1370m
Glacier Buttercup (Isranunkel - Ranunculus glacialis) 1381m
Mossy Cassiope (Mossljung - Cassiope hypnoides) 1381m
Northern Crowberry (Nordkråkbär - Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum) 1381m

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Snasahögarna comes into existence

An inconceivably long time ago -- nearly 600 million years ago -- the predecessors of present-day North America and Europe [nb Laurentia and Baltica in this case]  were separated by a large body of water: the Iapetus Ocean. From the surrounding landmass gravel, sand and clay were carried out to sea by the rivers and streams and were layered on the sea-bed. Animals and plants lived in the ocean and, when they died, their bodies were embedded in these layers.

In the course of millions of years these layers hardened to form rock types. Sand became quartzite, clay became shale, calcium-rich silt became limestone. If the layers grow by 1 millimeter every hundred years, then in a hundred million years the layered rock would a kilometer high! That's the sort of scale we're talking about.

The landmasses of the earth sit on large continental plates that move a centimeter or two per year. About 570 million years ago the American plate and the European plate began to move towards each other.

After about 170 million years they collided. The layers of rock on the sea-bed were folded and were shot up over the landmass that is now Norway and Sweden. In the collision zone the heat was so intense that the rock layers became distorted and toughened. The front part of the American plate was forced down beneath the European plate. After a few million years the collision ceased and the plates lay still. The land surface eroded until it was nearly a featureless plain.

Around 100 million years ago the plates began to slide apart, thus forming the Atlantic. At the same time the Nordic lands were elevated to fully a thousand meters, forming a flat, high plateau.

And then began the slow breaking down of the mountains again, e.g. by inland ice-sheets, storms, sun and rain.  The Snasen Heights (Snasahögarna) are only the roots of that original, gigantic mountain. All the rest of that mountain lies to the east, spread across Jämtland, Medelpad, Östersund... in the form of gravel, stone and silt.

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Snasahögarna ["Snasen Heights"] - Hard rocks

Snasahögarna is now a 1462m high mountain massif with several tops. The rock is a hard gneiss (a granite gneiss) together with amphibolite. It's because the rocks are so hard that Snasahögarna hasn't been broken down further. Amphibolite is favorable to plants and hence Snasahögarna is a wild-flower mountain.

In road cuttings along the E75 you can see the layering and folding in the mountain. Sometimes the fold goes right over, so that older rock lies above younger rock.

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Ice Age Memorials

Interest spot 2 is a small hillock on the path towards Ulvåtjärn-Blåhammaren (300m from where the Sylarna and Blåhammaren paths diverge). From the hillock there's a fine view towards the Storulvån cottages, Handölsdalen, and Storulvån's dale. Here you can get a front-row view of a number of  ice-age traces and can actually understand how they were formed. The most recent ice age began around 100,000 years ago and lasted about 90,000 years.

Around 15,000 years ago the inland ice began to melt. After 5-6 thousand years Snasahögarna, Bunnerfjällen and other high mountain massifs had emerged from the ice. Lower down, over Ånnsjön and further to the east, the ice-covering still lay thick. Handölsdalen and Storulvån valley were filled with ice.

An incredible number of melt-waters were formed and they ran strongly along the edges of the ice-field. These waters couldn't run down towards Ånnsjön but instead in the directions shown by the arrows in the upper map. The water flowed inwards along Storulvån valley! But at Ulvåtjärn there was an ice-tongue which penned in an "ice-lake" in Storulvådalen.

Sand and gravel carried down by the melt-water filled up the ice-lake again. It serves to make up what is now a curiously flat landscape with deep dales. These dales, or ravines, were carved out by flood-waters after the end of the ice age. The waters of "Lake Storulvån" drained into the Enan valley and thence into Norway.

Along the side of Getryggen you can clearly see a terrace at the 840m mark. That's a track showing where the melt-water and gravel gushed past. (See photo on page 9.) On the far side of Handölsdalen, along Stråten's western face, you can also see clear terraces. There are also terraces further up along Handölan.

After a few hundred years the ice had melted still further. The ice-tongue in Handölsdalen separated into two pieces. (See the lower map.) The ice now lay so low that melt-water could no longer flow into Storulvådalen. Instead, the water found its way around Snasen and thus into Norway by another route.

Finally the ice melted in both valleys and the water   [continues on page 9]

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found its way down beneath the ice to the east of Snasahögarna. It carried with it the huge mass of gravel that now almost fills the valley of the river Handölan. Many big cracks in the ice were filled with gravel and now form the large eskers in the valley bed [nb, long ridges of sand and gravel]. The river Handölan has carved out a course below them and runs over boulders and rock.

Ice Age Memorials

The gravel formations were formed about 9,000 years ago. The terraces, the level plain, the eskers and the ravines all speak of the landscape's history -- they are giant memorials. Every road company, every gravel pit, and every building-site nibbles at the edges of these memorials. We must be mindful of and preserve our heritage.

Almost in a single glance from Interest Spot 2 you can seen at least fifteen memorials from the Ice Age. The map on the right shows where these strange formations are.

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Flower meadow

(Interest Spot 3)

After about a one kilometer walk towards Ulvåtjärn from Interest Spot 2 there's a lovely little wild flower meadow -- just 20m x 30m in size. Here taking off the backpack is a must. You need your flower book!

In a quick search we found about thirty species in this small spot. It's evidently good soil here, with just the right amount of ground water. Please don't pick a single flower here! Many others wish to see this beautiful sight. Choose ten species that you would like to learn to recognize. Study their names and appearance as you carry on walking. When you're sure of them, choose 5-10 more. Repeat! By the end of the whole trip you will know maybe fifty species!

The italicized names are suggestions for the plants you might study.

Alpine Lady-fern (FjällbräkenAthyrium distentifolium)
Lapland Lousewort (Lappspira - Pedicularis lapponica)
Alpine Speedwell (Fjällveronika - Veronica alpina)
Chickweed Wintergreen (Skogsstjärna - Trientalis europaea)
Common Wintergreen (Klotpyrola - Pyrola minor)
Goldenrod (Gullris - Solidago virgaurea)
Alpine Lady's-mantle (Fjällkåpa - Alchemilla alpina)
Tormentil (Blodrot - Potentilla erecta)
Roseroot (Rosenrot - Rhodiola rosea)
Starry Saxifrage (Stjärnbräcka - Saxifraga stellaris)
Marsh Marigold (Kabbeleka - Caltha palustris)
Blue Heath (Lappljung - Phyllodoce caerulea)
Fell Violet (Fjällviol - Viola biflora)
Marsh Violet (Kärrviol - Viola palustris)
Dwarf Willow (Dvärgvide - Salix herbacea)
Alpine Cat's-tail (Fjälltimotej - Phleum alpinum)
Alpine Bistort (OrmrotPersicaria vivipara)
Dwarf Cudweed (Fjällnoppa - Gnaphalium supinum)
Common Sorrel (Ängssyra - Rumex acetosa)
Dandelion (Maskros - Taraxacum spp.)
Oeder's Lousewort (Gullspira - Pedicularis oederi)
Alpine Bartsia (Svarthö - Bartsia alpina)
Frog Orchid (Grönkulla - Coeloglossum viride)
Common Butterwort (Tätört - Pinguicula vulgaris)
Alpine Clubmoss (Fjällummer - Diphasiastrum alpinum)

The plateau east of Ulvåtjärn [=Ulvå tarn]

(Interest Spot 4)

Around 1500m from the wild flower meadow you arrive at a strange incline. You see the same steep slope continuing for some distance towards your right. The slope is altogether treeless. On top, the land is completely flat. Pause for a moment at the crest of the slope. You are standing on a beautiful Ice Age memorial. Think back 9,000 years.

Exactly at this steep slope there was an ice-tongue that reached into Storulvån's valley. (See the map on page 8.)

Water and gravel jetted forth along the ice-tongue's edges and beneath the ice. The gravel came from Getryggen's southern slope and from the mountains above Handölsdalen. When the water reached the little ice-lake it lost its force, the gravel lodged here and eventually filled the little lake right up to its surface. That's why the plateau is so flat. As the melting ice retreated in the direction of Storulvån's tourist hostel, so this steep slope also "walked" in that direction.

But right here is where the strange thing happened. The water suddenly changed direction! The ice had now melted down to the 800m level and this opened up a new route for the water, right round Snasahögarna! So the steep slope was fixed just here, for our own enjoyment and for the benefit of scientists. We gain insight into a fantastic stage in the development of our natural landscape.

On the walk to Ulvåtjärnstugan [the Ulvåtjärn cabin] (just under 2km) you might notice some broad, shallow grooves. These are where melt-water streams flowed. Here and there are large round pits. Some are so big that they look like swimming pools, and you can indeed bathe in them. The pits were formed where large blocks of ice had bedded into the gravel and subsequently melted.

When you are almost at Ulvåtjärnstugan the path drops steeply down into the dale bed that Storulvån carved out 10,000 years ago. Take a look round this dale. Here and there you can find exposed cuttings where you can see the layers in which gravel was deposited during the melt of warm summers. Each layer is the record of an Ice Age summer.

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At Ulvåtjärnsstugan (the Ulvåtjärn cabin)

The old Ulvåtjärn cabin was for a long time one of the "memorial buildings" of tourism in the fells. As early as 1890 this cabin had been erected at the foot of Sylarna under the direction of STF [Svenska turistföreningen, the Swedish tourist association]. Six years later it was found to be too small for the purpose and a larger cabin was constructed at Sylarna. In 1906 the original cabin was relocated to here at Ulvåtjärn. On its original site there is now a little memorial stone. This Ulvåtjärn cabin was pulled down in 1989.

To the right of the new cabin you can see a pale square; a solar panel. It supplies energy to the emergency telephone's batteries. Ultramodern technology in the middle of the fell world to serve people who are in trouble. The telephone has now been moved to the new wind shelter, to the right of the Ulvåtjärn cabin. Further to the right stands the toilet in splendid isolation; a blessing of civilization in a spot that thousands of tourists pass through.

If you're doing well for time it's worth walking down to the beautiful shore of Ulvåtjärn and looking westward to where, for several centuries, an ice-age river once ran strongly.

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Flowers along a stream

(Interest spot 5)

The Ulvåtjärn cabin is 840m above sea level. In the nearly 6 kilometers that remain before you reach the Blåhammaren tourist hostel, the fell rises a further 250m. This part of the walk holds out the promise of many discoveries. The path runs beside a stream for 3 kilometers so Interest spot 5 is an extended stretch. Along the stream grow many unusual plants, for instance those shown in the picture above.

[ Lapland Oxytropis  (Lappvedel - Oxytropis lapponica)
Mountain Sorrel (Fjällsyra - Oxyria digyna)
One-flowered Fleabane (Fjällbinka - Erigeron uniflorus)
Starry Saxifrage (Stjärnbräcka - Saxifraga stellaris)
Oeder's Lousewort (Gullspira - Pedicularis oederi) ]

Mountain Sorrel's red-green leaves are sour tasting and are rich in Vitamin C. Pick a few leaves and add them to your sandwich, and take a few more leaves with you for your evening meal. A white sauce with leaves of Mountain Sorrel and Dwarf Birch is a taste sensation.

The Sami put the Vitamin C to good use by blending the sorrel leaves with reindeer milk. This dish kept all through the winter.

Here and there the rock is exposed by the stream. Here lies layer upon layer of black amphibolite, the rock type that makes up the eastern part of  Blåhammarfjäll  [Blåhammaren fell] and the whole of the Sylarna massif.

White stones may be quartz, possibly from a narrow seam of quartz that runs in a north-south direction right under the Blåhammaren cabins. See if you can pick out quartz when you come here. The white stones could also be feldspar or calcite.

A brown slush oozes out of the small bogs. It is iron sediment. (Compare with the appearance of rusty iron!)

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Frost phenomena

(Interest Spot 6)

The vegetation cover becomes sparser and bare earth and rock is seen ever more frequently as you move towards the Blåhammaren cabins. Thick snowdrifts lie here in the winter. The melt-water saturates the earth and turns it into a loose sludge; it's difficult for plants to take root in this.

Furthermore, the frosts are hard up here and the ground-frost penetrates deep into the ground. Frost and water shape the ground in a singular way and you can see the traces everywhere as you carry on walking: jordtuvor ["earth-tufts"], flytvalkor ["float-rolls"], jordrutor ["earth-tiles"], stengropar ["stone-pits"], stenringar ["stone-rings"], stenströmmar ["stone-streams"].

The tendency for ground-frost to rearrange and organize ground-material arises from the way that the water in the ground, when it freezes, gets drawn up out of the smallest cavities -- "pores" -- and collects together into layers of pure ice -- "ice-lenses". The frozen ground therefore consists of ice-strata alternating with layers of dry soil containing air-filled pores. With the right soil structure and an abundant supply of water the ice-lenses can be several centimeters thick. The water-content in the frozen soil may thus be more than double what the same soil could retain in an unfrozen state. As the frost penetrates deeper into the ground so new ice-lenses are created and to make room for them the soil surface rises.

When the ground-frost thaws it produces a large water surplus near the soil surface, which becomes highly unstable. (Compare potholes!)

The stone grows up   [See drawings above]

[1] In autumn the stone lies buried with the upper part entirely beneath the soil surface.
[2] Ground-frost descends into the ground and water freezes to ice in so-called "ice-lenses". The ground surface is raised up but the stone remains where it was. In autumn you may see this sort of hole, going down into the ground.
[3] When the ground-frost descends still deeper the stone is frozen solid in the ground-frost. The earth continues to be raised upwards but now the stone rises with it.
[4] Ground-frost thows both from above and below. The saturated soil is carried down to fill the hollow space beneath the stone.
[5] The stone sinks down a little, but not as far down as its original position.
[6] The stone now lies several centimeters higher, compared with the previous year. Next year's ground-frost will raise it a further few centimeters. The stone "grows" up out of the earth.

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[See drawings above]

Jordtuvor ["Earth-tufts"]

The roots of the grass hold the grass-tuft together. Between the tufts the earth is loose. The ground-frost raises the ground surface. When the ground-frost thaws, the loose earth falls partly beneath the tufts. So the tufts become gradually taller and taller.

Stengropar ["Stone-pits"]

Where the ground is well-covered with vegetation the stones in the ground may collect together in round stone-pits. You could be forgiven for thinking that people have been tidying up and collecting the stones in the pits.

Stenringar ["Stone-rings"]

Where the vegetation is thinner, the stones collect not in pits but in stone rings. In the middle of the rings the earth is most often bare. During the thaw this earth is almost floating within the rings.

When the ground slopes

The stone is embedded on a slope. The ground-frost penetrates at right-angles to the slope, and thus raises the stone out from the ground-surface in this direction. But when the ground-frost melts, the stone sinks directly downwards under its own gravity. Because the stone's sinking is in a downward direction it tends to move down the slope.

Flytvalkar ["Float-rolls"]

The vegetation cover holds together when it is lifted by the ground-frost. When the frost melts from the ground the upper surface is completely saturated with water. The vegetation cover and the earth beneath it "floats" down the slope. The leading edge of the vegetation layer "rolls inward". This produces the flytvalkar.

Flytvalkar with stones

Where the ground is stony the flytvalkar consist, not of grass tufts, but of stones. In some places it can look as if people have been building terraces.

Stenströmmar ["Stone-streams"]

Between tightly packed rocky ground the stone may "run down" like a stream. The stones are lifted by the ground-frost and rotated so they stand on their edges with the long side in the direction of the "current".

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Viewed from Sylstation [i.e. the hostel at the foot of Sylarna], Slottet ["The Castle"] looks like a big grey elephant's rear end. There are few places along the hiking trail Storulvån-Blåhammaren-Sylarna-Storulvån where the results of frost-burst look as magnificent as here. Another very clear frost-burst crag is Mettjeburretjakke's western slope down towards Handölan-Storulvån. Water penetrates into small cracks in the rock. When the water freezes it expands by 10%: 10mm becomes 11mm. Year after year the cracks expand and all at once a block of stone comes loose and thuds down to rest on what looks like a skirting at the base of the rock [ a talus cone]. New scars on Slottet, lighter in colour than the rest, show that frost-burst is still happening.

[Text in box 1:]

Along the path Blåhammaren-Sylarna

You can study a number of frost phenomena along the path towards Sylarna.

Just before Finnbäcken there are large eskers [ridged heaps of stones] on both sides of the path, though a few kilometers in the distance. Finnbäcken carried water from Handölsdalen at one stage of the Ice Age melt.

Before you reach Finnbäcken you can see a stand of at least sixty Moor-king Lousewort plants (Kung Karls spira - Pedicularis sceptrum-carolinum); they are at their best around the middle of July. Also growing here are quantities of "Northern Lousewort" (Nordspira - Pedicularis palustris ssp. borealis), a northern form of Marsh Lousewort (Kärrspira - Pedicularis palustris). Here and there Alpine Catchfly (Fjällnejlika - Lychnis alpina) grows beside the path. Common gulls (Fiskmås - Larus canus) nest beside the small tarns.

[Lychnis alpina was originally named Viscaria alpina and now looks as if it will end up being called Silene suecica. Its distribution is almost limited to Europe, Greenland and Quebec/Labrador/Newfoundland; its heartland is the mountains of Norway and Sweden. In the UK it's an extreme rarity.]

[Text in box 2:]

The friendly triangle

Fell-walking tourism began in the mountain region Handöl-Storulvån-Sylarna-Blåhammaren. Because the trail is easy and there are good opportunities for overnight stays, this area has become known as "the friendly triangle".

A few dates:

First Sylarna cabin:              1890
Second Sylarna cabin:         1896
Sylstation [Sylarna hostel]:   1933
Storulvån:                            1896
Blåhammaren:                      1912

STF [Svenska turistföreningen, the Swedish tourist association] has done pioneer work with cabins and marked trails and the association still runs the tourist hostels. In 1976 the State Environmental Protection Agency took over responsibility for the trails and wind shelters. These are now maintained by the county council.

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The plants depend on the snow

(Interest spot 7)

Around 50m before you arrive at the wind-shelter at Långtjärnen, you'll see a little hillock on the right hand side. There is nothing exceptional about this hillock. On the contrary, there are many such small heights throughout the fell world. All these hillocks tell of how dependent the plants are on snow.

On top the hillock is covered with gravel. Fierce westerly storms have carried away all the fine soil particles and no plants can take root here. Around the bare hill-brow grows a ring of Dwarf Birch (Dvärgbjörk - Betula nana), like a bushy wreath of frizzy hair. Dwarf Birch needs snow-cover during the hard winters. Any twig that sticks up above the snow dries out with the wind or is broken in pieces by the storms, which bring with them sharp ice crystals.

In among the birch scrub grows Juniper (En - Juniperus communis) and Blue Heath (Lappljung - Phyllodoce caerulea), which also need to be sheltered by

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snow. But these three species require only a thin layer of snow; they want a long growing season.

Between the gravel and the Dwarf Birch there is a narrow fringe of Crowberry (Kråkbär - Empetrum nigrum),  Mountain Bearberry (Ripbär - Arctostaphylos alpinus), Diapensia (Fjällgröna - Diapensia lapponica) and Trailing Azalea (Krypljung - Loiseleuria procumbens). Below the Dwarf Birch grows, among other species, Dwarf Willow (Dvärgvide - Salix herbacea) and Moss Heather (Mossljung - Harrimanella hypnoides, formerly Cassiope hypnoides). These six plant species are described in more detail in the next section [see pp. 18-19].

Snow cover on the hillock

Year after year the winter winds blow from the west here in western Jämtland. Year after year the snow settles in the same snowdrifts and when you see the plants on the hillock you can actually tell how the snow lies in winter.

The gravel is always snow-free. Only a very thin snow cover lies on the Crowberry, Mountain Bearberry, Diapensia and Trailing Azalea -- they can withstand being snow-free. On the Dwarf Birch, Blue Heath and Juniper the snow cover is thin. Further down the hillock the snow is a meter deep.

Furthest down the hillock, by the little stream, there are small flytvalkar. (These are described on page 14.) So this small height yields several fine examples of the special world of the fells; the storm that carries away the soil so that the stones lie naked, the snow as it is formed after the storm, the plants that are specially adapted to different thicknesses of snow cover. Snow gives protection and determines the length of the growing season.

Pages 18-19

[page 18:]

Crowberry (Kråkbär - Empetrum nigrum)

Crowberry leaves have a special means of preserving water. Each leaf is folded so that the leaf edges come together underneath. You can see a white felt stripe where the leaf edges meet. The leaf is like a little balloon. Inside, there is only air.

On the leaves of all plants there are small pores. Through them the plant takes in carbon dioxide and releases oxygen and water vapour.

Crowberry leaves have these pores only on the underside. Since the leaf is folded, the pores are on the interior of the "balloon". No matter how hard it blows outside it stays calm within the leaf. The moist air remains there.

Crowberries are ripe in August-September. By that time the buds of next year's flowers have already formed. These are the true spring flowers of the fells.

Mountain Bearberry (Ripbär - Arctostaphylos alpinus)

Mountain Bearberry is one of the spring plants too. As early as the beginning of June small leaf rosettes emerge in the shelter of the previous year's withered leaves, which remain on the plant. In the middle of the green leaf-rosettes the marble-white bells appear. With a magnifying glass you can see this small miracle. Over the summer the large berries grow, at first red and becoming black when they ripen.

Mountain Bearberry is a dwarf shrub. It drops its leaves, just like birch, rowan, and other leaf-trees. Before the leaves wither, the green chlorophyll withdraws into the stem. What remains in the leaf is pure red, a resplendent glow in September. When the leaves have fallen the shrub doesn't need so much water. Mountain Bearberry applies the same water strategy as most leaf-trees and bushes.

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Trailing Azalea (Krypljung - Loiseleuria procumbens)

Trailing Azalea is another of the spring flowers of the fells. In early June the pink flowers glow. Examine them through a magnifying glass and rejoice at the lovely petals, the stamens in various states of development and the single pistil. The leaf is a real water-preserver. The leaf edges are infolded and prevent the wind from carrying away moisture.

Diapensia (Fjällgröna - Diapensia lapponica)

Diapensia's leathery leaves lie tightly squeezed together in many layers. The air between the leaves is still, even when the wind is blowing fiercely. Therefore the evaporation is minimal. When the leaves are several years old they die, fall off and rot. The mulch functions in the same way as a mushroom. In rainy weather it absorbs water, which the plant uses in drought.

Moss Heather (Mossljung - Harrimanella hypnoides, formerly Cassiope hypnoides)

Moss Heather grows far down the slope where the snow lies thickest. Going into July the snow may still cover the buds. These are tough conditions for plant life. Only a few plants can deal with it, so there is not much competition. Moss Heather spreads mostly by suckering. It's a relative of common Ling. Before it flowers it resembles green moss; hence the name.

Dwarf Willow (Dvärgvide - Salix herbacea)

Also growing at the foot of the slope is Dwarf Willow. It is a shrub, described by Linnaeus as the world's smallest tree. It's too cold for bushes so high up in the fells. Therefore the stems and twigs grow right along the ground. Only the leaves and flowers protrude above ground level. The whole plant is only 2 - 5 cm high. Some of the plants are female, others are male.

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A little tourism history

Today Sylstation is a mountain hostel; with the emphasis on "mountain". A sanctuary out of the rain and blast, with beautiful rooms and a dining area with stunning views. The modern Sylstation has a long and dramatic history behind it, but always under STF's management. Credit to STF's achievement in making possible so many people's mountain experience!  

1890 The first hut was built, far down in the valley of Enaälven.
1897 The "Old Sylarna" lodge was built on the other side of Sylälven, just opposite the new wind shelter. The main building had places for eighteen persons, and a "Lapp lodging" for supervisor and mountain drivers together with stables, barn and woodshed all in one building.
1910 Remodelling and extension of  "Old Sylarna".
1931-1933 The new Sylstation was built. The outer walls and roof were finished in July 1931. But just after New Year in 1932 the whole thing collapsed during a strong snowstorm. Building had to start again from scratch and in 1933 New Sylstation was complete.
1956  Demolition of the Old Sylarna lodge, which had been used for nearly thirty years for self-catering and a reserve sleeping area.
1976-1977 major remodelling and extension of Sylstation.
1980 (23rd February) The main building burnt down!
1983 (21 April) Opening of the wholly new-built Sylstation. May it remain standing!

From Sylstation you can make many interesting excursions. There are some ideas on pp. 21 - 25.

Since 1976 the state has responsibility for the tracks and wind-shelters.

The off-road driving legislation of 1976 prohibited all off-road motor-vehicle traffic except when there is snow cover. Since 1979 there is also a snowmobile ban within this area.

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[picture caption:] Alpine Speedwell (Fjällveronika - Veronica alpina) with reindeer horn

The wild flower mountain

Due south of the Sylstation rears the bulky fell known as Herrklumpen. On older maps the same fell is called Knippen, which is good to know if  you're reading older descriptions of Sylarna's plants. This is a classic spot for botanists!

No less than 173 different species grow on Herrklumpen, and that figure doesn't include dandelions and hawkweeds. A stroll around Herrklumpen yields a lot wild flower interest as well as far-reaching views over the fell world.

Set off clockwise and walk straight up towards the snow patch that stays on the eastern slope for nearly the whole of the summer. At close quarters the snow layer looks dirty. But take a little of the dirt in your hand  and you discover that it consists of withered plant fragments, seeds, sand and earth that has blown here. This layer prevents warm winds from melting the snow. On the other hand the drak particles absorb the sun's warmth, which melts the snow.

Around the snow the ground is virtually bare. A few mosses manage to grow in this hard environment. A few Glacier Buttercups (Isranunkel - Ranunculus glacialis) also flower here.

A bit further from the snow patch grass, dwarf willow and mosses grow so tightly that the ground is covered with a green mat. A few meters further off grow several other mountain plants, for example Alpine Lady's-mantle (Fjällkåpa - Alchemilla alpina), Dwarf Cudweed (Fjällnoppa - Gnaphalium supinum)  Willowherb  (Dunört)*  and Alpine Speedwell (Fjällveronika - Veronica alpina).

[* Could be Alpine Willowherb (Dvärgdunört - Epilobium anagallidifolium) or Hornemann's Willowherb (Fjälldunört - Epilobium hornemannii).]

All summer the environment around the snow patch yields fine examples of the mountain plants' incredible hardiness.

From the snow patch continue your wild flower stroll southwards. Keep to the summit ridge as long as you can without having to scramble. The southern slope is is quite dry and holds promise of many of the mountain heathland's delights.

The western slope is perhaps the most species-rich, resulting from a fine microclimate -- plentiful ground-water and the potential for sunshine throughout the whole of the afternoon.

One who has described the botany of Herrklumpen is Sven Kilander, who for many years methodically recorded how high up different species manage to grow on the fell.

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Syltoppen [the summit of Storsylen] is of course a must. From there, the view extends widely across the Norwegian and Swedish fell world. The summit is 1743m* above sea level compared with Sylstation's 1043m. The route to the summit is therefore 5km in distance and 700m of ascent.

[*Wikipedia gives the height as 1762m, and notes that the summit is (just) on the Norwegian side of the border.]

The route up is reasonably straightforward, but preferably go with one of the fell station's guides. A mistake above the cliff is no joke.

The whole Sylarna massif is dark, indeed virtually black because of the rock-type amphibolite. Here there are good opportunities for studying different types of rock, stratification and folding.

Sylarna is a high fell region. By this is meant mountains that are more than 1200 meters above sea-level. In Jämtland Helags, Sylarna and a few other mountain areas come within this definition.

Storsylglaciären [= Storsylen's Glacier]

(Interest spot 9)

In the Sylarna region there are three small glaciers on the Swedish side (Storsyl Glacier, Tempel Glacier and Ekorr Glacier). These glaciers have melted an incredible amount in the last 50 years. Storsyl Glacier is now less than half the size it was in 1930.

The way to the glacier is easy to find. Follow the path towards the summit until you see Syltjärn (Syl Tarn). There turn back down the hill, choosing your own path. The best view of the glacier is from the fell slope. This black mountain terrain looks just like large parts of Sweden looked around 8-9,000 years ago!

Let your imagination go back to the Ice Age as you see how the little glacier picks up stones from the summit behind it. The rock beneath the glacier is scoured and if you go closer you can see the fresh polished slabs with grooves. All the loose rock has been converted into large stones and gravel, which lie in large debris cones.

Further up in close proximity to the cliff the snow lies white; this is the glacier's accumulation area. On the lower edge the ice is full of cracks; this is the depletion area. From the depletion area's lower part flow many small channels.

Take a walk down to the tarn. Glacier Buttercup grows here in large numbers, with its feet in the glacier water.

If you want to experience a block field, then carry on down to the foot of Slottet's north-facing slope. Here there's a chance of seeing Snow bunting (Snösparv - Plectrophenax nivalis) and Ring ouzel (Ringtrast - Turdus torquatus).

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(Interest spot 10)

Tempeldalen is a mighty Ice Age memorial. Not just from the last Ice Age but from many Ice Ages. The whole valley has been filled by several glaciers that were so big that they flowed out of it. Gradually the sides and bottom were scoured out to form this grand U-dale. In the next Ice Age, or the one after that, maybe the ice will manage to scrape away the whole of the back wall so that it turns into an open U-dale, like Ekorrdörren, Lunndörren or Lapporten.

The way in to Tempeldalen is easy to walk, so long as you get yourself across the stream from Tempelsjön a long way down towards Sylälven. Nearer the lake the stream is difficult to wade. And it is not practicable to go north of Tempelsjön.

No marked path leads into Tempeldalen, nor is one necessary. If the weather conditions are so poor that you can't see the whole of the valley, the experience will be so minimal that you ought to desist. The walk from Sylstation to Tempeltjärn is around 5 km. A packed lunch is recommended!

The glacier-ice stream runs down on the western side of Tempelsjön. Along this stream there grows a whole field of Glacier Buttercup (Isranunkel - Ranunculus glacialis).

In the valley bottom you'll find many frost phenomena: Stenringar [Stone-rings], Stenströmmar [Stone-streams], Stengropar [Stone-pits], and Jordtuvor [Earth-tufts] [see p. 14]. Tempeldalen is a tremendous place to experience.

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A classic location for Ice Age research

(Interest spot 11)

In 1938 the 25-year-old Carl Mannerfelt came to Sylarna to study the eskers, which are relics of the Ice Age. At the time it was believed that most such eskers were terminal moraines. Ridges of that kind are formed where the ice sheet grows. The front part of the ice then slides forward and drives the soil, gravel and stones in front into a large rampart or ridge. In such a ridge the material is mixed in a higgledy-piggledy fashion.  On most of the eskers in the Sylarna area the upper side is surfaced with moraine, so it seemed reasonable to assume that the eskers were formed wholly of moraine.

In order to find out how the ridges were formed Mannerfelt began a gigantic programme of work. With the help of students and schoolchildren he dug shafts in several of the eskers.

Just to the north of Sylstation is a row of eskers that come straight down from the mountainside. Several eskers can be clearly seen when you stand at the entrance. The view above was drawn from the roof of Sylstation as it was then.

One of the shafts was made just below the join in the esker that forms a Y. Unfortunately that is the one esker that now can't be seen, because the water treatment plant is built over the esker. But the Y is still there.

The result of the excavation can be seen in the picture on the next page. The moraine was revealed to be just a thin shell several decimeters in thickness. Below the moraine lay gravel and sand in clear layers. Such layers can only be formed by one means: in running water.

These ridges began to be formed when a large ice-tongue filled the whole of Sylälvdalen up to about the 1200-meter mark. Gravel and sand were rinsed away from the mountain above and were carried by the floodwater

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[caption to illustration:]  Y-esker looking down in the direction of Sylälven. The shaft shows different layers of sand and gravel. Uppermost is a covering of moraine. Over the shaft today stands the shed for the sludge ponds.

[page 25:]

down the slope. Here and there the ice had cracks and the water could find its way down in ice-tunnels. The water was swallowed by the tunnel -- hence these eskers are known as swallow-eskers [slukåsar].

The water scoured or melted out the tunnels so they became several meters across. Gravel and sand was layered on the bottom of the tunnels which were sometimes choked up. Then the water found a new route ( and hence the esker became crooked).

The layers showing the summer's gravel transport can be seen clearly in Mannerfelt's shaft. Thus he could clearly say that these were not terminal moraines but swallow-eskers.

Such swallow-eskers are very common in the Sylarna region. They are also common in other low mountain areas.

[The diagram in the lower right shows the distinction between a "pour-channel" [Skvalränna], formed along the edge of an ice-tongue, and a "swallow-channel" [Slukränna], tunnelling below the ice-tongue.]

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Wandering among Ice Age memorials

Carl Mannerfelt's route follows the start of the path to Storerikvollen [in Norway]. After a full kilometer take the trail off to the right. It's clearly marked with cairns all the way until its return to the path towards Storerikvollen [in Norway].

A. Swallow-eskers just north of Sylstation. See pp. 24-25.

B. Large flytvalkar [float-rolls]. See pp. 13-14.

C. A little white quartz seam has been polished to a velvety texture by the inland ice. Three small depressions suggest small grooves. The base rock to either side is of softer material and has weathered.

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[Text in diagram:] (Left) Rock free of ice up towards Sylhöjden. (Centre) Terrace. (Right) Tongue of inland ice which dams up the material that is carried down from Sylhöjden.

[Caption to illustration:] Eskers in the dead ice region about 2km north-west of Sylstation.

D. A so-called lateral terrace. Such terraces are formed by the side of inland ice. The whole of this very big terrace is 100m wide and it is about 500m in length. Similar lateral terraces cover nearly the whole of Sylälvshöjden from the 1000m mark to the 1160m mark.

E. At E there's a small dead ice region. This means that the ice mass did not move but lay as if dead and the ice melted where it lay. Within the ice lay stones, gravel, sand and earth. But much material continued to be carried down from Sylhöjden and out over the dead ice. A part of the material filled cracks in the ice, the rest lay on top of the ice and shielded it from melting quickly.

F. A strong stream carved out a tunnel in the ice and the stream carried with it quantities of gravel and stones that formed a 200m long and 5-10m high esker. This esker is marked with an F on the map.

In the esker Mannerfelt dug a shaft which reveals the same layering of gravel and sand as in the swallow-eskers to the north of Sylstation. The shaft can still be seen 50 years on.

G. The path now goes eastward to the site of the Old Sylstation. All the material for the Old Sylstation was transported here from Handöl over the snow by horse and sleigh. After several years laborious work on the transport and construction STF were able to inaugurate the station on the 15th July 1897. It consisted of the living quarters, and a single cabin for the drivers together with stable and woodshed. The Old Sylstation was demolished in 1956. In 1990 a memorial stone was unveiled at the site.

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Birds in the fells

In a small booklet it isn't practicable to cover all the species you may come across when fell-walking. 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. Because this area is by no means empty of bird life.

The birds you may encounter are:

Eurasian teal (Kricka - Anas crecca)
Northern pintail (Stjärtand - Anas acuta)
Greater scaup (Bergand - Aythya marila)
Long-tailed duck (Alfågel - Clangula hyemalis)
Common scoter (Sjöorre - Melanitta nigra)
Velvet scoter (Svärta - Melanitta fusca)
Common goldeneye (Knipa - Bucephala clangula)
Red-breasted merganser (Småskrake - Mergus serrator)
Common merganser/Goosander (Storskrake - Mergus merganser)
Rough-legged buzzard (Fjällvråk - Buteo lagopus)
Merlin (Stenfalk - Falco columbarius)
Red grouse/Willow ptarmigan (Dalripa - Lagopus lagopus)
Ptarmigan/Rock ptarmigan (Fjällripa - Lagopus muta)
Common ringed plover (Större Strandpipare - Charadrius hiaticula)
Eurasian dotterel (Fjällpipare - Charadrius morinellus)
European golden plover (Ljungpipare - Plurialis apricaria)
Ruff (Brushane - Philomachus pugnax / Calidris pugnax)
Common snipe (Enkel beckasin - Gallinago gallinago)
Common sandpiper (Drillsnäppa - Actitis hypoleucos)
Red-necked Phalarope (Smalnäbbad simsnäppa - Phalaropus lobatus)
Long-tailed skua/Long-tailed jaeger (Fjällabb - Stercorarius longicaudus)
Common gull (Fiskmås - Larus canus)
Arctic tern (Silvertärna - Sterna paradisaea)
Common cuckoo (Gök - Cuculus canorus)
Meadow pipit (Ängspiplärka - Anthus pratensis)
Western yellow wagtail (Gulärla - Motacilla flava)
White wagtail (Sädesärla - Motacilla alba)
Bluethroat (Blåhake - Luscinia svecica)
Northern wheatear (Stenskvätta - Oenanthe oenanthe)
Ring ouzel (Ringtrast - Turdus torquatus)
Redwing (Rödvingetrast - Turdus iliacus)
Garden warbler (Trädgårdssångare - Sylvia borin)
Willow warbler (Lövsångare - Phylloscopus trochilus)
Hooded crow (Kråka - Corvus cornix)
Common raven (Korp - Corvus corax)
Common chaffinch (Bofink - Fringilla coelebs)
Common redpoll (Gråsiska - Acanthis flammea / Carduelis flammea)
Lapland bunting/Lapland longspur (Lappsparv - Calcarius lapponicus)
Snow bunting (Snösparv - Plectrophenax nivalis)
Common reed bunting (Sävsparv - 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.

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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)


(Interest spot 12)

"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 Sami village reindeer grazing area. So first and foremost the fishing is to meet the needs of the Sami people. But there are so many fish here that sport fishing is permitted 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 eskers. And here too he established that the eskers 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.)

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(Interest spot 13)

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 snowfall 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)

After Spåime the path crosses the western slope of Lillulvåfjäll and here you'll notice the very large flytvalkar (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 "swallow-channels" and "swallow-eskers". In the lee of the ridges grow small tufts of birch-wood.

Interesting maps

[Map-list reproduced above. No translation necessary!]

Good flower and animal handbooks

Tastes vary and therefore many will have criticisms of the following list of handbooks for fellwalkers. But these are the author's own favourites.

A good basic guide is Ingmar Holmåsen's Plants and Animals in the Fells [Växter och djur i fjällen]. Add to that Mountain Flowers [Fjällflora] by Olav Gjærevoll and Reidar Jørgensen, and you need no other book on your journey. For those who take a special interest in plants I suggest in the first place Örjan Nilsson's Mountain Flowers [Fjällflora]. Bo Nylén's Mountain Plants [Fjällväxter] is also good.

Among bird books it's hard to single out any, when all birders have their own favourites, but a good lightweight option is Peter Hayman's Bird Watcher's Pocket Guide [Fåglar i fält].

Specialist literature that may be of interest to those who wish to know more of the region Storulvån-Blåhammaren-Sylarna

[List reproduced above. I'm not bothering to translate!]

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Handölsdalen's Sami village

Sami villages

The whole of northern Sweden is divided into Sami villages. Each Sami 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 Sami villages, and "the friendly triangle" lies within the area assigned to Handölsdalen's Sami village.

Handölsdalen's Sami 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 Sami village needs to cover a very large area so that the reindeer herd has appropriate grazing land throughout the year.

[*NB The term "Sami village" (Sw: sameby) has been criticized in recent years, because it enshrines a colonial history of Sami 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.

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The Sami'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 these smaller antlers of the cows that can be found on mountain heaths.

[End of booklet]


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