Arctic Circle Trail Day 8 – Giant Reindeer Stag!

Pack weights (kg): Gavin: 14.4 (with softshell) – Steve: 14.6 – Anna: 11.25!

This morning dawned in a cloud, and visibility was about 30-50m. This lifted as we ate breakfast, replaced with sun. As we dined, we were jolted by a cry from Anna of “giant reindeer stag”! A fair- (though not giant-) sized reindeer was indeed strolling- with a somewhat knock-kneed gait – past our window.

We set off at 08:45 and as it had brightened up I weighed in with my softshell in the pack but started with it on to warm up at the very start. We went down to the luxury hut to look for the geocache tokens. As we approached, we were surprised to see no tents. We knew the German lads were around the corner as we had seen them camped on the beach last night, but had seen who we thought were the French couple go by last night. Moving round to the front, the bar was across the door indicating that no-one was inside. There were no entries in the logbook, however; could we have had the luxury hut to ourselves after all? No matter; the small hut layout – shared between here, Katiffik and (judging from the guidebook description) the final hut – is perfect for our group of three.

We found the tokens fairly quickly – one for me and one for Steve – and were on our way again. Immediately past the hut, we had to cross the outflow of the lake. This was a reasonably straightforward boulder-hop though the route was a little weaving. Following the path beside the lake and then moving uphill, the track was good but the scrub encroached. This made the use of walking poles difficult.

As we neared the exit of one valley, it appeared as if we might come out on top of a cloud inversion in the next. Sadly the cloud only hung on one side, but still provided an atmospheric feel to the next section. We stopped for a short break at 10:30, and as we set off again we spotted Klaus in the distance; perhaps the hut had been occupied after all. Shortly thereafter we spotted more reindeer, then Alain and Veronique. They, as well as Klaus, had stayed in the hut the night before, but obviously just had an early (compared to us) start. They didn’t know what time as neither had a watch!

Moving on, I spotted a cairn to our left downhill from where we were. It seemed we were no longer on the marked path. As we could still see down, we continued on the higher path but couldn’t ascertain if the two would merge. We opted to bash downhill and rejoin the main path. Making progress again we caught up to Klaus, who had stopped to chat to two Danish lads heading the opposite way. One of these was carrying a rifle. Not just on his pack, but in his hands. These were no hunters though: Klaus told us they said it was in case of polar bears! Klaus pressed on while we stopped for lunch near a stream at 12:30.

We set off again at 13:15 and set a good pace to reach the Nerumaq hut by 14:15. The other three were already set up inside; presumably Alain and Veronique had continued on the high path as they had not passed us on the trail. We had a look around and a hunt for the geocache markers. Veronique and Alain seemed bemused, so we explained what we were doing. As we were about to give up, I spotted the letter token. Alain then found the number, which had been painted over but was still legible.

We thought the hut would be a little crowded with 6, so decided to pitch the tent outside. With this complete, afternoon tea was taken. The “Big Eat” freeze dried meals are so filling that we’ve struggled to eat the four desserts that we’ve carried. I had managed three, while Steve and Anna had eaten only one each. I nobly ate one of Steve’s to save him some weight for the final two days.

There is a lot of potential bouldering near this hut. As is to be expected, it is very dirty and much of the rock is friable. There seems to be solid rock underneath though, and there are plenty of boulders. I tried a few lines but they were too hard in sandals. The landings were soft though.

The flies have sadly not abated, and seem to be getting worse as we get closer to the coast. I guess the first frosts have not reached this far west yet. We went back into the hut and chatted to the guys while we had tea. At some point, the red-tented Germans turned up but camped some distance away and didn’t come inside.

Tomorrow night has two huts marked, but one is more commonly used. This hut, however, sleeps only three in the same design as Katiffik. Our aim is an efficient early start to be the first to arrive. Bags are sorted as best they can be and the pan is filled ready for breakfast…

Today I regained my RFTG crown, playing a 2xVP strategy for the win. Literally.

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