This journey explores a secret place that only a few know about. It’s a little strange because it really is a paradise. Anjan and the Skäckerfjällen mountains, in Jämtland, Sweden, seduce us in the winter.
In the pale rays of the winter sun, I skin up to an incredibly beautiful snowdrift in the form of a tremendous amphitheater. Light pours over me from all sides, and as the temperature increases, I take off my shell jacket. Already amazed at the beauty of my surroundings, I discover an awe-inspiring rime-ice sculpture as tall as a human at the north end of the drift. Like a silent guardian, it oversees my entry into this mysterious realm of perfect silence and sparkling purity.
It seems to ask me, “Are you really worthy?”
Of course, it’s only made of snow and ice. But I imagine that it nods ”yes”.
As if by magic, the persistent wind subsides. The morning’s clouds have left and visibility is clear. Behind the next ridge, I should be able to see the vastness of the massif.
Or behind the next one? Or maybe the one after that? As I squint into the sun, I wonder if today’s definition of wilderness is a little bit off. I have read books where some parts of Manhattan’s Central Park are described as ”extreme wilderness”. Furthermore: “Wilderness adventure”, according to the Sunday newspapers in Stockholm, can be had only a snowball’s throw from the city’s metro stations.
Pure absurdity. Wilderness is wild land where nature is always ready to take a deadly stranglehold on those who do not understand it. Wilderness should be untouched and located
far from the comforts of civilization.
But where then, can one find wilderness? Personally, I think of the big, pristine forests in Siberia and Alaska’s interior, or even the areas of the Amazon that have gone unexploited. As I see it, these are wilderness areas. I even think it can be found in northern Sweden’s Sarek National Park. And I would even dare to say that in a way, wilderness can be found right here − in Anjan, or Skäckerfjällen as the area is also known. Anjan is an area of mountain landscapes in a very concentrated and stately form. It exists relatively untouched and still bears a virgin and pristine environment. Here, there are very few trails and cabins, and it is rare that you see other hikers or skiers. If you travel further north into the area, or to its western parts, you can live like a hermit for weeks, without having to worry about any unexpected human visitors. You are alone, exposed to nature’s comforts
and to its fury.
Civilization, however, is always nearby. As the crow flies, the Skäckerfjällen region is only 15 to 20 kilometers wide from East to West, and 20 to 25 kilometers from north to south.
The mountain area is complemented by rivers and lakes, both small and large. The huge lake Torrön adorns the region’s eastern flanks, while the lakes of Juvuln and Kallsjön are located further south. Furthest south, Lake Anjan can be found, as well as a myriad of ponds and tarns in the west.
The starting points for trips into the area are the villages of Sågen, Gråsjön and Kolåsen, as well as the Anjan Mountain Station, all of which can be reached by car.
Earlier this morning, I found my way through the forest north of the Anjan Mountain Station. A dense jungle of moss covered spruce – now frozen and glistening white with frost and snow – met me as I turned off the trail around the Dammtjärnen tarn.
I don’t really like trails. For me, it is best to go off the beaten path and discover something new.
The terrain was very hilly with gullies that created paths between small, but steep mounds. And skinning up on my skis proved to be a form of acrobatic parcour as I balanced on the fallen trunks of giant spruces that crossed channels where the first melt waters gushed beneath the snow.
I wobbled up the steep terraces, covered with bottomless snow and broke through wherever the sun had been shining. Once, I sunk in waist deep and wondered how far it was back
to the trail.
Higher up, the forest thinned out. Hunched and bent mountain birch trees were accompanied by equally windswept pines. Together they formed small islands of trees, which had to be traveled around, in order to reach the tree line.
From the top of Lill-Anjeskutan, I look back and examine my meandering tracks. I had gone through a complex and fascinating environment where I constantly tried to find the best route. And I had not seen a soul. This is definitely a type of wilderness, I think to myself.
In my opinion, this is the best way into the Skäckerfjällen mountains, simply because from the top of Lill-Anjeskutan, (Unna Tjukkele in the Sami language), you get a more sensational
entrance into the heart of the area. You enter the region by first gaining altitude and then, after the skins are removed from your skis, gliding down to the bottom of the Strydalen Valley.
It occurs to me that I could just as well ski down with my ski-touring gear. Today, I have used Alpine ski-touring boots and wide skis, which gives a bit of a bulldozer-like feeling on the way up. With ski-touring gear, you can be light and free. You can pole, glide and ski, however you like. But today, the summits are calling to me and I choose ski equipment of a heavier caliber. Maybe it was a poor choice. Skins also work well on touring skis for the way up and skiing downhill can also be fun with thinner skis.
I continue upwards and slowly, but surely, the slope angle decreases. The wind from the dramatic interior of the Skäckerfjällen Mountains greets me as a caress at first, but as I look down over the ridge toward the north, it grips me brusquely and the shell jacket goes on.
Under me, the Strydalen valley stretches down mightily to the northwest. Beyond, the valley rises toward the mountains of Akkantjakke, and the slightly rounder Makkentjakke and
Sockertoppen. Further away I can see Sandfjället, Steuker, as well as Skeuretjakke.
The skins come off. The telescopic poles are shortened. The backpack straps are tightened. Ski goggles are adjusted. The shell jacket is pulled up around the neck. And off I go.
The sun hasn’t reached the north side of Lill-Anjeskutan yet, so the snow is still cold and soft. After three or four turns I find my pace and the soft snow washes up over my thighs
like a whirling wave. The slope continues steepening and I confront it with large turns where I lay in sideways and press both skis down the valley like a surfer. It feels as if my blood has suddenly filled with carbon dioxide that tingles and fizzes its way into my soul and I let out a howl of exhilaration. The run finishes at the foot of Mount Makkentjakkes. I look up to the summit.
Then back at my tracks. Magic.
Then the skins go back on the skis and up I go again. Three summits later, the sun falls in the sky and I head for my car. While I stumble across the frozen marshes in the shimmering pink twilight, I think to myself: Should I really tell anyone else about this place?
Text: Jörgen Vikström Foto: Erik Olsson