Ingvar Loco Nordin & Anna Nygren
Russian Disappearance Hike
(Presley Rock Hike 2012)

Anna moves with caution down the north side of The Pyramid Pass

WATCH A VIDEO CLIP OF PART OF THE DESCENT


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Chapter 12

Yellow line shows the distance covered in chapter 12, while yellow and red lines combined show the total hiking distance of the day



14 August 2012 (continuation)

Anna on the Northern Pyramid Pass wall. The ridge we just came down is visible above.

 

 

 

It is very steep, but this August - contrary to last year - the snow on the ice was nice and secure

 

We got our stuff over to the brink of the wall, or the rim of the bowl, where the last showing rocks (before he snow) lay. The area gives an impression of the inside of a bowl, extremely steep on top, and slightly rounded out around us to the sides, the left (westerly) side connecting to The Knife's Edge Mountain (Knivkammen) and the right (eastern) side hooking up with The Pyramid (Pyramiden), and then gradually getting less steep further on down. It's a swooping, airy feeling to stand up there and think that you actually will get down that inside of the bowl, like a fly...

 

 

 

Anna got past me downwards, and shot this picture up at me in the glaring sunlight. The glacier glasses were useful!

(Photo: Anna Nygren)

 

We commenced to put on our crampons, and I gave Anna a lecture on how to walk straddle-legged not to entangle the crampons in each other or the trousers, and to lift the feet a bit higher than usual, not to get stuck "too soon" in the snow and fall forward. Then I fell like a tree myself, right on my face...

When we were ready, our backpacks on, the crampons mounted, and with a pole in one hand and the ice axe in the other, Anna discovered that the front snow protection plate on one of my crampons had gotten loose in the front. Had she not seen that, I would surely have fallen out on the wall, with real danger to my health as a result. I really felt jittery at that. We had to get back up to the rocks of the rim, take off our packs and fix the problem. Anna is the technical one of us, and she got the plate in a locked position, so we could make a second start down The Pyramid Pass precipe.

 

Anna!

 

I started out, and after a few meters of decent descent the vertiginous precipe opened below me; that infamous inside of the bowl, a few hundred meters down and out. I was dutifully careful with my crampon-supported hiking boots, walking with legs well apart, and not straight down but in a slow descent over to the right, for a while, before turning left, and thus zigzagging the uppermost section.
Very soon I discovered that my backpack put too much gravitational pressure on me in that precarious situation of trying the act of a fly on the wall, so I relieved myself of it and let it slide down. That's what it did for a while, but then it started to tumble, and kept on what seemed a long time doing that, until it came to rest far down at the bottom of this northern wall of The Pyramid Pass. I had forgotten to remove my two water flasks from their places at the bottom of either side of the backpack, so they were torn loose on the way down, each finding their own style and path of descent!

 

I'm losing altitude fast! My backpack is visible as a dot down to the left!

(Photo: Anna Nygren)

 

I've never heard of anyone else doing this drop of his or her backpacks down The Pyramid Pass, but it was the second time for me. I did it in 2008 too, feeling the same relief at just having to maneuver my own body down that almost insulting steepness. A lighter pack, of course, would not pose any problem.

 

I'm pulling my backpack on the snow as long as possible after the descent, before getting on the rocks.

(Photo: Anna Nygren)

 

Looking back to the Pyramid Pass (the north side)

(Photo: Anna Nygren)

 

Anna came behind me, keeping her backpack mounted. It was the first time she used her crampons - those magnificent Petzl Charlet Irvis Flexlock crampons - but she utilized them like she'd never done anything else.

I soon gave up the zigzagging, and instead eased on downwards sideways, putting my left foot down, following with my right, and so forth, like walking sideways down a staircase, and Anna followed suit. Soon we were down on almost level ground, and I picked up my two flasks, mounted them on the backpack again as I got to where the backpack was waiting after its rolling and tumbling solo descent, and commenced to pull the backpack across the now level snowfield, until we got to where the rocks were showing again, where we took off our crampons.

We now had a couple of snowfields and some brief sections of big sharp rocks to engage before we got to the tilting glacier below The Knife's Edge (Knivkammen). It was completely covered in good snow this summer, so we didn't have any problems cutting across, but we still mounted our crampons again.
As soon as I got up, I fell, not once but twice, and one of those times on rocks, but not hurting anything but my pride!
Other passages I've made across that remnant of a glacier have included a few meters of ice, which has been sprayed with small rocks and pebbles, but this time it was all snow.

 

The closest snow and ice is what remains of the Knife Edge's Glacier. Even though it's very small, it can cause trouble some years, if the snow is molten away, since the slope is slanting good.

 

The last part to traverse on that slope - which disappears down towards the lower of the two lakes by The Unna Räita Cabin - before reaching solid ground, consists of the mushy, murky kind of conditions that usually appears below a receding glacier. The sense of the steepness that disappears out of view before falling down towards the lower lake gives you an uneasy feeling, and treading that mushy ground, covered in small pebbles and gravel, reminds me of the feeling in some dreams, where you want to run away from some danger, though your legs can hardly move, and your feet feel like lead.
This section is short, though, and soon we felt like we'd covered all the high-pulse areas of the day, as we saw The Unna Räita Cabin over by the other side of the stream that runs from the upper Unna Räita Lake (1226) into the waterfall into the lower lake. The richness of melting water required us to ford the stream, jumping from rock to rock. Other times I've been there it’s been much drier.

The mountain manuals, by Claes Grundsten and Tore Abrahamsson, though indispensable, give a strange and certainly insufficient picture of The Pyramid Pass and the surrounding areas, at least for the common hiker. That, and the recent update of the official maps, give a false view of the pass, that will chock many an unsuspecting common hiker, and maybe even have him/her give up on the pass, believing the conditions to be temporarily extreme, while they're just normal for that pass.

If we consider the maps first, I'm talking about the commonly used one; Lantmäteriets Fjällkarta BD6 (1 : 100 000). Due to a scientific agreement a few years ago, the definition of a glacier requires a certain depth of the ice, plus a certain value of some other parameters. The glaciers in this area in question, i.e. the glacier on the steep northern slope of The Pyramid Pass, and the remnant of a glacier on the eastern side of The Knife's Edge (Knivkammen) (the one that you pass across and below on mushy ground), thus have lost their glacier worthiness on the latest version of the maps, from 2009. On my map from 2006 they're still glaciers.

 

Left: Map from 2006, with glaciers indicated. Right: Map from 2009; glaciers not indicated. On the ground nothing has changed, though. Only policies changed, and the maps are not dependable anymore.


This change of definitions would not pose any problem to the common hiker, were it not that the latest version of the maps do not contain any indication of what has been called glaciers up until a few years ago, and which look the same as they did when they were called glaciers, i.e. areas with constant ice and snow. On the latest map nothing indicates these constant ice and snow parts that you have to cross and climb. If you just read the map and equip and mentally prepare yourself accordingly, you just expect rocks and nothing else. This is a completely false view, and if you're not somewhat experienced, this might stop you from continuing across this area, and up the pass. Even if the two glaciers you have to pass, and in one case climb, aren’t by definition glaciers anymore, they're still the same entities as they were when the map defined them as glaciers, and thus still pose the same challenges. For instance, The Pyramid Pass Glacier is easy to climb when it's covered in good snow, like this year of 2012, but hard as hell to engage when the snow is molten away and the ice is bare, like last year, 2011, when Anna and I still managed to get up, with our hearts in our throats. Since these two glaciers between The Unna Räita Cabin and the threshold of The Pyramid Pass no longer are defined as glaciers, the maps must still indicate them as areas with constant ice and snow, or the maps will post false information to the hikers that trust them and plan their hikes on their accuracy.

I called this serious problem to the attention of the authority that publishes the mountain maps, Lantmäteriet, in this letter, given here in Swedish:

Hej!

Jag är en van och erfaren fjällvandrare, och tycker därför det är min plikt att påkalla de allvarliga felaktigheter som de nyare trycken av fjällkartan är behäftad med, och som i värsta fall kan orsaka den intet ont anande och mer oerfarne vandraren skada. Jag bifogar efter uppmaning från er några bilder från ett av dessa ställen med fullständigt felaktiga kartangivelser. Det rör sig om - bara som exempel! - BD6-kartan och området runt berget Pyramiden, Unna Räitastugan och Kaskasavagge (Gaskkasvággi), där erfarna som oerfarna, svenskar som utlänningar, passerar på den s.k. Jojoleden eller Trepassleden, med BD6-kartan som stöd.

Problemet härrör från den nya defintionen av glaciärerna, som nu ska vara 40 meter djupa för att kallas glaciärer enligt professor Ninis Rosqvist, föreståndare för Tarfala glaciologiska forskningsstation, om jag förstått saken rätt. Problemet ligger inte i den vetenskapliga, glaciologiska omdefinitionen, som egentligen är en rent vetenskaplig affär, utan det ligger i hur Lantmäteriet beslutat hantera denna omdefinition på sina kartor. Det är där man missar målet grovt, och skapar fara för vandraren.
Eftersom glaciärerna nu ska ha ett djup på 40 meter, har man (Ni!) helt enkelt tagit bort angivelsen för glaciär (glaciärtecknet på kartan) för de glaciärer som inte har detta djup. Denna radikala förändring av fjällkartan har skett mellan 2006 och 2009, för på trycket från 2006 finns det två glaciärer i det s.k. Pyramidpasset (mellan Unna Räitastugan och Kaskasavagge) medan det på kartan från 2009 anges att det på samma område är ren barmark. Inget har dock förändrats nere på marken, i verkligheten. Där ser det ut 2012 som det såg ut 2009 och 2006. Där ligger en glaciär, eller något som nu, efter den vetenskapliga omdefinitionen, kanske måste kallas permanenta isfält med okänd sprickbildning och ett djup som understiger 40 meter.
På längre sikt, dvs. hundra år eller femhundra år, kanske nytrycket av fjällkartan från 2009 kommer att stämma bättre, men idag är den helt felaktig, och förvillar vandrarden rejält.
Jag skickar med några jpg-bilder från 2011 och 2012. 2011 var isen framsmält och gjorde en passage upp över Pyramidpasset riktigt svår. Utan stegjärn gick det inte, om man inte klättrade på klipporna till höger (väster), vilket är mer avancerat än den oerfarne utan utrustning klarar. 2012 var isen väl snöbelagd, och passet kunde passeras utan svårigheter - men om man inte vet om att det alltid finns is eller is och snö där, blir man kraftigt förvånad, för på kartan anges inte konstant is och snö.

Lösningen på det här problemet vore att använda en ny symbol (som redan finns på Högfjällskartan där den kallas "snölega, perenn"), men även den vore strikt betraktat felaktig, för det rör sig ju här i verkligheten inte om enbart en "snölega", utan om konstant is, som i djup understiger det som en glaciär enligt ny definition ska ha. En helt ny symbol behövs egentligen, som anger ett postglacialt eller subglacialt tillstånd med is.

Huvudsaken är ju att kartan går att lita på, och det går inte längre, med er fjällkarta. Jag har svårt att tänka mig att man för femtio år sedan skulle ha släppt igenom en sådan här fadäs. Då var man mer mån om exakthet och vetenskaplig korrekthet. Jag antar ändå att ni nu tar er an detta akuta och allvarliga fel, så att ingen kommer till skada på grund av de falska kartangivelserna. Jag antar att de förekommer här och var på kartorna, eftersom de så gravt missleder vandraren på BD6.

We should then take a look at the mountain manuals by Claes Grundsten and Tore Abrahamsson, which are almost holy books to the hikers of Swedish Lapland. Both experts are flawed or careless when they talk about the area around The Pyramid Pass. Perhaps they're both experienced to a degree that they don't even notice the difficulties faced by the common hiker, but then again I suppose they've written so extensively about Lapland that they're bound to miss some important pieces of information here and there. Without those two heroes of the Swedish mountain manuals, we wouldn't know much, that is for sure, and they've inspired generations of hikers, so this is by no means any general criticism of them; far from it!

Abrahamsson (1968 / 1987) mostly talks about The Eastern Knife's Edge Glacier (Östra Knivglaciären), when he mentions the section between Gaskkasvággi Valley and Unna Reaiddávággi Valley. I can't really make out exactly which section he talks about (and this fact alone is a flaw; you must be very clear in mountain manuals). On the one hand, he begins by talking about the area between The Pyramid and The Knife's Edge (Knivkammen), and tells the hiker to keep to The Pyramid side of the glacier. That would seem to describe the upper part of what I call The Pyramid Pass Glacier (now not a glacier at all, according to new maps). Later in the same slab of text he seems to be describing the passage under The Knife's Edge towards The Unna Räita Cabin, with the mushy, wet ground, and he even talks about this ground as being typical of a receding glacier. There isn't, and hasn't ever been, such a mushy ground on the steep northern side of The Pyramid Pass Glacier, so this must be a description of the receding glacier below The Knife's Edge. Perhaps these two areas were connected in 1968, when Abrahamsson wrote the text? That would explain some of he mist in this text.

Abrahamsson recommends crampons, but not for the descent or ascent of the steep side to and from the pass, but for the passage under The Knife's Edge, which probably was more treacherous in 1968 than it is now.
Nowhere, though, can I find a description of the very steep wall up (or down) the northern side of The Pyramid Pass, which will be the main obstacle for any ordinary hiker moving along The Three Pass Trail. It is amazing that this crucial section of The JoJo Trail (Three Pass Trail) is so completely left out of the manuals! Last year, in August (2011) it was so icy that I hardly managed to climb it even with crampons, the ice exploding in brittle pieces under my boots, while Anna, who is a brave lady, climbed the steep rocks to the right of the ice, on The Knife Edge's side of the ascent, with no equipment at all except her strong fingers and sturdy boots with good soles...

Grundsten (1989 / 2010) is hardly more specific in his deliberations. He speaks briefly about the section between The Unna Räita Cabin and The Pyramid Pass, concentrating on the remnants of the glacier under The Knife's Edge, from the point of view of a hiker moving north to south. He mentions that crampons might be useful at times on that tilting section, but he does not mention the wet gravel that can make passing dreamy and a bit precarious. All he says about the main obstacle; that provocatively rising snow-and-ice wall of the north side of The Pyramid Pass, is that you walk diagonally up to the pass threshold! I find it hard to believe that anyone who really has passed this way would describe the section thus. As I said before, it's either that, or that the author is so experienced that he has become oblivious of the views of an average vacation hiker.

 

Anna fording the stream from the upper to the klower lake. This is the water that makes up the tall waterfall we photographed from The Pyramid summit.

 

Anna and I got to The Unna Räita Cabin, settling in for a few hours of well-earned rest and some dinner. This cabin is very special to me, full of mystique and subconscious under-currents, like a wormhole to the starry night-skies of my mind, ever since I slept there alone the first time I ventured into Unna Reaiddávággi a few years ago, finding that novel by Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov - Death and the Penguin - in its white cover up there on the shelf.
Now we ate and rested, and I got myself some heavenly coffee.

 

Anna in the Unna Räita Cabin

 

The cabin was warm and nice inside, since a former guest had made a fire in the wood stove, which, though it'd gone out long ago, left some warmth through the flat pieces of rock that were stacked on top of the stove. This was a simple but ingenious way to retain the heat after making a fire, since the warmth otherwise would be vented out through the cracks in the wall of the rugged and unkempt cabin.

 

Rounding Lake 1226, moving north through Unna Reaiddávággi, looking back towards The Pyramid and the pass

 

The Pyramid as I'm used to seeing it

 

...and through a tele lens

 

Moving on through Unna Reaiddávággi, tired and in need of a tenting place...

(Photo: Anna Nygren)

 

The unnamed glacier below The Sentry (Vaktposten), and its giant end moraine

(Photo: Anna Nygren)

 

At about 6:30 PM we left the cabin, to try and reach Nallo that same evening. That proved too far for us, though, having used most of our energy on first getting up the hard south side of The Pyramid Pass with our full backpacks, and then climbing The Pyramid itself, getting down from the mountain and then engaging the steep precipe down the north side of The Pyramid Pass, dragging ourselves across snow and rocks and glacier remains to The Unna Räita Cabin, topping that with five rocky early evening kilometers north through The Unna Reaiddávággi Valley.
We camped by the stream with two kilometers left to The Nallo Hut. It was a very fine tenting place, with a beautiful view down across The Reaiddajávri Lake to the mountains on the opposite side of The Stuor Reaiddávággi Valley, such as Čeakčačohkka (Tjäktjatjåkka)

 

The Pyramid still visible from our tenting place, five kilometers from the mountain

 

Sleep came softly.

 

To chapter 13

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