Sweden, March 2023: Icehotel, Dogsledding and Skis


Getting to Saltolukta (the starting point of the dogsledding tour) wasn't easy.

Last year, I was doing it the easy way. As I was visiting Umnäs before and after the dogsledding trip (and the trip started and ended in Saltolukta), I took the easiest way, rented a car and drove there.

It was a bit expensive, as I had to pay the rental fees for a car that was parked at Kebnats (near Saltolukta) for ten days, but it worked.

But this time I was only going to Umnäs at the end of the trip, but I also would start the dogsledding at Saltolukta and end it in Jokkmokk, so having a car parked at Kebnats wouldn't have done me much good.

To get to Saltolukta, you need to get to Kebnats (from which there is a snowmobile transfer available).

You can get to Kebnats from Gällivare by bus (once per day).

And you can fly to Gällivare.

So, in theory, problem solved.

However, it turned out that the tricky bit is getting from Gällivare airport to Gällivare.

While the airport is no more than 7 km outside of town, there is no public transport connecting those two. And while there is a car rental at the airport, that closes around 4 pm. As the flight arrives after 9 pm, you can't rent a car when you arrive by plane (and unlike Hemavan, where there's a key locker and you can pick up a car at the airport with a PIN, there's no way to pick up a car at Gällivare airport when the rental desk is closed).

So the only sensible way to get into town was to take a taxi.

Which might or might not be available at 9 pm.

I didn't fancy carrying 25 kg of luggage along the sides of the highway (no pedestrian pavement for most of the way). In the middle of the night. At a temperature of -10°C.

So I pre-ordered a taxi, which was (even for Sweden) ridiculously expensive (around 60 Euro for a 7 km trip). But at least that worked and I got to the hotel in Gällivare.

I had booked a rental car in Gällivare to drive to the Icehotel the next day.

Doing that turned out to be easy. The hotel I was staying in was also acting as the in-town rental station, so I picked up the key at the reception and returned it there the next evening.

It's a bit frustrating that I was not able to do that at the airport.

An alternative to flying is to take the night train from Stockholm.

Gallivare train station

But I am not fond of train rides and prefer flying or driving.

From Gällivare I tool the bus to Kebnats and the snowmobile transfer to Saltolukta.

The first days of the tour echoed the first days of the tour in the previous year.

But this time, the route were as planned.

In the previous year, the weeks before the trip were warm (and partly rainy), so we couldn't head to the north-west from Saltolukta (where we had intended to go), but went to Sitojaure, Aktse and Pårte instead, with a later stop at Årrenjarka.

The dogs were 'parked' a bit below the main cabin at Saltolukta, closer to the lake

Dogs at Saltolukta Dogs at Saltolukta

The tour guide was again Matti and we were four clients: Constanze, Jan, Craig and I.

Dog teams list

'My' team of dogs was a mix of half "oh, you again" and half "oh, hello new dog".

My two lead dogs were Crille and Homy. Crille had been one of my lead dogs in the previous year, Homy was new to me.

In the middle were Inga and Honey, two dogs I didn't know yet.

And my wheel dogs were Gus and Bettan.

Both had been my wheel dogs on the first day of the previous trip, but later I switched them around a bit and was mostly running Gus together with Nenana (his mother, who had died since then) as wheel dogs.

So a known pair of wheel dogs and one reliable lead. Plus three unknowns.

Something that was noticeably absent on this tour was Annie.

Annie is a border collie and she runs ahead of Matti's sled, checks out the path and is the de-facto lead dog for the dogs in Matti's team. But she was in heat this time and couldn't come along, so Matti had to rely on the regular lead dogs in his team.

That worked, of course. (You can't have a dog sledding company that depends on one single dog.) But there were some situations where it would have been interesting to see how it would have gone with Annie running ahead. Especially in deep snow, where she wouldn't as much follow the trail, but essentially make it. Which would be a lot of effort and tiring. But then, Annie is essentially a bundle of energy wrapped in fur.

But Annie wasn't running with us this time. And the deep snow was something that happened later.

The start at Saltolukta was smooth.

Last year we went around the back of the main cabin, which had caused minor problems.

There were two 90° corners and we also had someone with us who had never been dogsledding, so it was a tough task for him on his first section of dogsledding ever.

Also, there was a patch with no snow on it, where the sleds got stuck.

It is not that hard to push the sled away from it and back unto snowy ground, but you need to go off the sled for it. It then is slightly tricky to jump back onto the sled, before the dogs run away with it.

This time, we went around the front of the main cabin.

The main reason for that was that there were two malamutes tied to a tree behind the building. And it seemed better to avoid any potential issues there and simply go another way.

Everyone made it without a problem away from Saltolukta and up the track towards the mountain plateau.

Way to Sitojaure Way to Sitojaure

The weather wasn't looking great, but good for dogsledding.

Last year there hadn't been that much snow up there.

We (and the snowmobile track) had to do some detours to stay on the bits where there was any snow at all. And even then there were some places where the rock or the vegetation below came through and the sled had difficulties.

This time, we couldn't complain about the lack of snow.

It wasn't that cold (probably around -5°C or so) - it usually isn't very cold when it's overcast - but it was a reasonable temperature for the dogs and, while there wasn't much to see, we moved at a reasonable speed.

And at least Gus and Homy really got into it.

My dogs weren't that enthusiastic on the initial uphill, but every time we got into patches of soft, deep snow - which happened a lot of time - they started to switch to a wide stance, dug in and kept the sled moving forward. Tiring for the dogs, but something at least the two of them seemingly liked to do. And which came in handy later on the trip.

As far as pictures go, this wasn't an impressive part of the trip.

There was a lot of 'nothing much to see here, really' on the way.

But the dogsledding was good. I my main reason for going dogsledding is the dogsledding itself.

Everything else, like living an outdoor life or seeing fantastic landscapes is a nice add-on, but not the core experience.

So even when there wasn't much to see and it was essentially me, six dogs and a sled in a great white featureless environment, I was happy being there.

On the next day, heading from Sitojaure to Aktse, it was mainly the same.

On the way to Aktse

And the snowing had mostly stopped. And while the sky was still overcast and everything was in a diffuse light and featureless, the views were wider and it was easier to see some vegetation at greater distance.

On the way to Aktse

It doesn't sound like much, but it made me happy.

Me doing dogsledding

Although this doesn't really come through in pictures.

Better weather on the way to Aktse Good weather close to Aktse Good weather close to Aktse Good weather close to Aktse

By the time we came close to Aktse, most of the clouds were gone and we didn't only have weather that was good for dogsledding, but also weather that looked good on photographs.

Dogs at Aktse Dogs at Aktse

At Aktse, I had a bit of bad luck with the 'parking spot' for the dogs.

When arriving at places, Matti usually stopped shortly before we reached the cabin (like in a small birch forest at Sitojaure). And all other teams were lined up behind that. Which meant that 'my' team, which was the last in line, usually ended up farthest away from the cabin.

In Aktse, we would be passing by the hut and heading downhill again, which meant that my team would end up closest to the cabin. (Which would have been especially nice, as being close to the cabin not only meant the shortest distance, but also the least amount of uphill walking.)

Which would have worked, if there hadn't been two other teams of dogs already parked there.

So we ended up being parked a bit 'sideways' along the hillside. Which made for an interesting start the next morning, as we had to turn the teams around and then start in reverse order, so everyone needed to be sure not to let their teams go to early. It worked well, but it was a bit tricky.)

At least the other two teams left before we did. So, not only did we have a chance to see them leaving, but we also had no other dogs to worry about when we left ourselves.

Other teams leaving Aktse Other teams leaving Aktse

The next day, heading on to Pårte was, without doubt, photographing day.

Clear blue skies, good trails.

Out from Aktse Out from Aktse Out from Aktse Out from Aktse

And, along the way, my favorite bit of scenery - a lake with an uneven, often icy surface.

Icy lake Icy lake

The lake is part of a reservoir. And sometimes they use more water from the lake than comes in from the rivers.

As a result the water level under the ice drops and the surface cracks.

Water from the lake flows out of the cracks, freezes and creates icy patches.

It looks fantastic, especially with the sun coming in from a good angle, but it is difficult to 'anchor' a dog team reliably on ice, so I haven't got pictures of the cool looking bits - I was too busy making sure that none of the dogs stepped into a crack in the ice. And that we wouldn't bump against a frozen ice block.

But it's great and exciting to drive there. Especially in the sun.

After that lake, we went along some more 'normal' lakes.

Driving a dog sled over a lake Driving a dog sled over a lake

Although something that the last picture reveals is something that can also be seen on many other pictures.

My dog team is all over the place.

Badly aligned dog team  title=

Technically, the dogs are supposed to run in two rows, one on the left and one on the right.

And all the other dog teams did that.

But Homy likes to run on the very left of the trail (and Crille either runs alongside, running mainly where Homy is supposed to run).

And for the first couple of days, there was a neckline missing for the pair in the middle, usually meaning that Inga would run as far away from the main line as she could.

Which means that about half of my dogs spent a lot of energy of pulling the sled sideways instead of forward.

And it didn't help that Bettan is a big 'sightseer' who is interested in everything.

A lot of times when there was something 'interesting' on the side of a trail (like, understandably, another dog or a reindeer, or, less understandable, a tree, a rock or some snow), Bettan would turn her head and look at it. And while she was still running forward, it was a bit sideways. Not the best way for a dog to walk.

Bettan looks around

Ultimately, it kind of worked (while I was the slowest team, I wasn't really in a hurry, so it didn't matter), but there were times I wanted to shout at the dogs "Look at the other teams, will you!".

It got a bit better when Matti fashioned a new neckline. But not much.

After a good day of sledding, we arrived at Pårte.

Here, it doesn't matter much in which order the teams are parked.

Parte parking

The 'dog parking space' is on a lake, right below the cabins, with multiple paths going down to the lake, so there was no need to walk past all the dogs to get to the cabin.

Parking at Parte

And, unlike last year, where we were walking in deep snow and kept sinking in with almost every step, this time the snow was firm and easy to walk on.

Time for foot preparation.

Food preparation in Parte

That had changed a bit since last year.

Then we had used only a couple of metal bowls (roughly enough for one team), which meant that feeding took some time, as we needed to wait until the bowls were empty (or the dogs no longer ate) until they could be collected and used for the next team.

This year, we also had a number of plastic boxes with us, increasing the number of teams we could feed at the same time.

Parte feeding time Parte feeding time

We still had the metal bowls as well - some of the dogs couldn't eat from the plastic boxes and some would shredder them, so they needed to be given the food in metal bowls - but we could now feed about three teams at the same time, allowing to reduce the number of 'sittings' required from five to two.

The foot given was a mixture of three things (well, four, if you count the water). Sausages, high energy dog food and a handful of even higher energy dog food. Essentially, something for all tastes (some dog would 'fish' out the sausages from the bowl first, before considering whether to eat the rest of the dog food), but for most of the trip, a large number of dogs were eating poorly and not emptying their bowls.

So while you want to be your dogs athletic and not carry around much fat, it sometimes seemed like the dogs weren't eating enough to compensate for all the work they did.

Skinny dog

On the other hand, none of the dogs had serious problems on the trip. And, to a certain point, it's their call whether they want to eat. It's not like we would force feed them.

On my team, at least Bettan ate all the sausages she could get.

When we fed them with sausages only (usually in the morning), I could in most cases collect all the bits of sausage that the other dogs had left over and fed them to her.

Gus, strangely, didn't mind that.

What he did mind was Bettan eating dinner out of a bowl.

When feeding in the evening, Gus tended to look at his bowl, but positioning himself in a way that Bettan couldn't get at the other bowl.

When Bettan tried to get at the other bowl, Gus moved to that one, blocking her from accessing it.

It's not like he was necessarily eating from his bowl. All he did was keeping Bettan from eating from it.

I tried to stand on his neckline during feeding, to shorten his range and give him access to only one of the bowls, but that only worked partly. I started to wonder whether I should take Bettan of the stake out line during feeding and put her bowl behind the sled, where Gus wouldn't be able to reach it.

But as Gus didn't interfere when she was getting extra sausages in the morning, that seemed like the best way to get some food into her.

But, feeding issues aside, Pårte is a great place for the dogs.

Dogs were allowed in the main cabin (in some cabins, dogs are only allowed in a single room) and Matti did bring in four dogs which hadn't great fur and were a bit uncomfortable sleeping outside, into the cabin.

Dogs in Parte cabin Dogs in Parte cabin Dogs in Parte cabin Dogs in Parte cabin

The dogs obviously liked that.

While the next morning started out sunny, but we already knew it wouldn't stay that way.

On the weather forecast, there was a prediction of heavy snowfall.

As we hadn't planned to stay in any cabins for the next three nights in any case, we simply headed east, passing Kvikkjokk and then continuing in the direction of Tarrekaise valley and stop somewhere along the way.

We stopped for lunch once we had passed Kvikkjokk.

Lunch outside of Kvikkjokk

(The sign of the various companies supporting the maintenance of the trail can be seen in the background.)

It turned out to be a busy lunch break, as there was some snowmobile traffic going on. So every couple of minutes we had to go to our dog teams and make sure that they didn't go in front of a passing snowmobile.

When we continued after that, the snowfall got heavier.

Snowfall increasing

We continued until we passed two critical bridges.

They are very small bridges. A couple of planks nailed onto some supporting wooden beams.

You could probably jump over the stream that those bridges cross.

But they are problematics with dog sleds.

The issue is that there are gaps between the wooden planks.

Unless there is thick snow cover on the bridges, there is the risk that one of the dogs might step into a gap between two planks. And then gets pulled forward by the other dogs and dislocates a shoulder or breaks a leg.

You need to cross these bridges very slowly and, ideally, giving the dog as much freedom of movement as possible.

Depending on the condition of that day, that can mean that the tour guide walks in front of the dogs over the bridge, limiting their speed. (This is what Kenneth did back in 2019 when we had to cross the same bridge.) Or unhook the tug lines, so the dogs are only connected by the neck lines to the tow line. Or, in extreme cases, unhook the dogs and walk them over individually.

This time we were somewhat lucky, as there was already a reasonably firm snow cover on the bridge.

Not a massive one, but enough that the sled could be driven (very slowly, with intensive braking) over the bridges.

Once we were past those bridges, we stopped to make camp.

The place was (kind of) convenient for that.

As we were still near the small bridge, we had easy access to fresh water (it was a bit of a walk from where we stopped, but still easy to get to, as there was an obvious trail to it).

And there was a branch in the trail, not far ahead.

Essentially, in that area there's a 'summer trail' and a 'winter trail' (the latter one is the one that we were using). And while the summer trail is not useable in winter (as nobody is removing the snow and it would be heavy going in deep snow), it means that there is a path between the trees. So there's enough space to park the dogs and put up tents on the side.

Everywhere else the trees are fairly dense. And while it would have been possible to park the dogs there and set up tents, turning onto the 'summer trail' made it a bit easier.

And since the trail wasn't used in winter, we also wouldn't have to worry about snowmobiles passing through out camp.

The problematic bit, however, was getting onto that trail.

Tracks around corner

The summer trail hits the winter trail at an acute 30° angle. And even right angle turns are difficult to do on a dog sled.

And we were going in slowly, as we were about to make camp there, so it is impossible to use momentum when going around the corner.

So the first (guide) sled gets around without issues. Partly because Matti is the guide and knows what he's doing, partly because his dogs listen to him and partly because the dogs don't know yet where they will be going.

So, from their point of view, they are doing an (about) 120° turn left and then about a 90° turn left, ending up with a 30° turn. (The 'wide' turn track is easy to see.)

And then the following dogs do not go in the same track, but see where the dogs in front of them are and go for the direct route. Which is right next to the tree at the corner.

The dogs easily pass by the tree. But the towline goes around the tree, pulling the sled against the tree.

If you're unlucky, that twist the sled off the ground (I did see the runners of one of the sleds ahead of me pointing skyward). If you are slightly more lucky (and see what happened to the sleds in front of you), you get off the sled and try to push it around the corner and away from the tree, hoping you're not getting stuck in some deep snow.

While (obviously) everyone made it around that corner, it wasn't trivial.

Time to set up camp.

Set out the stake-out line and transfer the dogs to that.

Put on the snowshoes and trample down an appropriately large area of snow for the tent. (And be aware that it's easy to think "Well, that's good enough." Anything that is not sufficiently compacted, level or flat will become noticeable at night, when you try to sleep there.)

Get the tent out and set it up.

My tent

(On this, I got the easy job. I had the same tent that I had the previous year. I liked that back then and I still like it. That one is cleverly made and easy to set up. I dislike tents (and that's almost all of them, where you have to 'feed' the tent poles through some sort of fabric tunnel. It then gets stuck somewhere, you try to pull it back a bit, the pole segments come apart and things get messy. It's even worse on disassembly, when you need to pull the pole out and you don't even have the option to push it. In the end, you tend to end up with taking your gloves off, trying to 'massage' the tent pole out from the outside of the fabric. And that doesn't even take into account that you need to switch between squeezing on the fabric tunnel from the outside with bare fingers and handling the metal pole in the cold. Something that's preferably not done with bare fingers. I really, massively, dislike those tents. While mine has six 'sockets' to put the end of the three poles in. (Admittedly, these 'sockets' are also fabric tunnels. And as they are reinforced, they are also quite stiff. But they are short sections. And, importantly, shorter than one section of the collapsible tent pole, so you can push or pull the pole without the risk of separating it into individual sections.) And once the poles are in, all that is left to do is to attach the tent with plastic clips to these poles. And that's it. Easily done, even when you are wearing gloves. And the three poles are all the same. I am fond of that tent! I also like that the inner tent has two symmetrical 'exit flaps'. If you are alone in the tent, you can use the area behind the inner tent (which is still under the outer tent) as a 'storage room'. Other tents only have one vestibule, so if you want to store things in easy reach (like the heavy snow boots or your eating utensils), they are in the way every time you enter or leave the tent. With the 'back room', you can put stuff there and access the tent without anything in the way. It's a good and sensible design.)

The others had a somewhat harder time. Constanze had a 'tunnel' tent, which required feeding three tent poles (of two different sizes) through long tunnels of fabric.

Constanze and her tent

And Jan and Craig were sharing a tent of the same type (although, if I remember correctly) a slightly larger version of it.

Jan and Craig ant tent

Matti had a tent that was in theory easy to set up. But not yet under 'outdoor conditions'.

He had recently bought a geodesic dome tent. (In the previous year, he had used a large tunnel tent as the 'community tent'.) And while it worked on the same principle as the one I was using (put in the tent poles and clip the tent to them), the structure was a bit more complex. And, so far, he had only tried to put it up one or two times back home. So it took a bit longer to set his tent up than usual.

Mattis tent

(For some reason, I don't have taken a reasonable picture of his tent in daylight. But the glow from within literally shines a light on the construction details.)

Matti also had to work a bit longer on the 'interior design'.

His tent does not have a floor and (like with the tunnel tent in the previous year), he digs a sort or 'trench' in the tent, so that guests (and he) can sit on 'snow benches' and don't need to squat on the floor during dinner (or breakfast).

But he hadn't quite figured out the best way to use the room within the tent.

Especially as he recently added another innovation - an stove.

In 2022, he did the cooking with a Primus stove.

This time he also had a little collapsible wood burning stove (which folded down to a flatpack for easy transport) with him.

The location of that stove within the tent was fixed, as the stove required a chimney and there was a hole in the roof of the tent for that.

But it wasn't yet clear what would be the best position of everything else in relation to that stove.

(When we set up camp again, the internal layout was improved, but I don't think that this will be the final 'roadtested' version of it.)

The wood burning stove was a mixed success.

Too small, too hungry, little warmth, lots of additional effort.

Matti had bought the smallest version. While that is easy to transport (it folds down to the size of about two paperbacks, side-be-side), there's not much space in it, when it is assembled.

So all wood had to be cut to fairly short pieces. And you couldn't fit many of them in the stove, so you needed to feed the fire almost constantly.

While space on a dog sled is limited, it is not as critical an issue as, for example, someone pulling a pulka, so even before the end of the trip, Matti ordered a larger version of the stove.

But it still means that, in addition to a water source, you also need to find some dead trees close to any camp site, to keep the stove going. And do a lot of wood hacking and sawing in addition to all the other task at camp.

In the end, it provides one more source of heat (especially for heating the water for the dogs) for a large amount of effort.

As an 'indoor campfire' (i.e. something warm that everyone can gather around in the tent) it doesn't work that well. Obviously, it can't warm the air in the tent much, as there is no isolation between the inside of the tent and the cold outside. So the only heat it gives to people in the tent is from radiation, not from convection or conduction. (Which, admittedly, is true for a campfire as well.) But to feel the radiation from the stove in the tent, the stove needs to be almost glowing red. Otherwise it is only an extra cooking surface.

And setting up or packing the chimney (or stove pipe) takes a long time. Currently it's a roll of titanium (like a roll of toilet paper) and you need to unroll it, flatten it, and role it along the other axis to create a long tube. Ideally without putting wrinkles in it. Which needs to be done carefully and, preferably, on a flat bit of ground. It works, but adds 15 minutes to setting up or striking camp. (Although that might be another case of backpacker vs. dog sled. Being able to roll the chimney to a small bundle is essential if you only have a small space to store it in (like a backpack or a pulka). But it seems there are also chimneys that are more like an old foldable telescope, so you get (mostly) cylindrical sections that can be stored in each other. The overall size is probably too large to fit in a backpack, but it would easily fit into a dogsled. And if something else can be stored in the inside of the collapsed pipe, the effective additional volume needed might not be that much.)

Another issue that came up was the quality of the wood found. As you need to take what is available near the campsite, you don't get the best or cleanest burning wood. So you need to put a 'spark arrestor' on top of the chimney. Which can be a problem with heavy snowfall, as it might get covered by snow (it can also get clogged from the inside by soot). And it doesn't work perfectly, as the tent quickly acquired various burn holes. (Even though that might not be an issue with the spark arrestor. The holes might also be from the inside of the tent by sparks flying out of the stove when new wood is added. But whatever the reason, burn holes are an issue.)

It will be interesting to see whether the stove will be part of the 'camping equipment' next year and in what form.

During the night, there was a lot of new snow.

It was even noticeable from within the tent, as during the night the tent became smaller and smaller, with the walls closing in. It took a couple of kicks against the tent walls to dislodge the snow (at least, it was light, fluffy snow) and get the inside back to normal size. (And also create some space between the inner and the outer tent again.)

We had roughly half a meter of fresh snow overnight.


Due to the amount of snow, we changed out plans.

With all the deep snow, we wouldn't be able to go far.

It didn't make much sense to take down the camp, pack everything up, only to be able to cover a few kilometers before setting it all up again. Especially since there hadn't been (so far) any snowmobiles passing by, which would have made the trail a bit easier.

And we were about halfway through our trip.

So why not have a rest day?

It also gave us a chance to find a good way out of there.

The first approach was to follow the summer trail and see whether that would help us to get back to the winter trail.

According to the map the trails would meet again after 800 meters, so we set out to see whether these would be 'sleddable'.

Following the summer trail Following the summer trail

Making a path through the snow was not difficult, but exhausting. There was a firm base under the freshly fallen snow, so it was possible to 'walk' (more shuffle) forward and push the new snow aside, without making deep boot holes.

At first it seemed promising, but the summer trail ended at a steep end, that could be walked down, but wasn't suitable for dog sleds. So we had to make a path suitable for dogsledding through the trees and onto the winter trail, which did require two right turns in quick succession. Not as bad as the turn that brought us unto the summer trail, but not trivial to drive either. And the trail between the trees was more a squeeze between trees at some points, than it was 'driveable'.

But we had the advantage that we had all day to prepare it. Trample down a path for the dogs to follow, take care of any overhanging branches and other possible issues.

Which took a while.

So it turned out to be a good decision not to try to drive out the same day,

We probably wouldn't have been able to leave until the early afternoon. Then we might have had an hour before needing to stop and make camp.

There was also enough spare time to play around with drones again.

View from above camp Tent near path Tent and sled and dogs

Here is an overview of the camp, stitched together from various drone pictures

Camp from above

The next day, we drove to a toilet.

Well, that wasn't really the destination or the main reason for going, but at least it helped making a decision about the destination.

It had been snowing again during the night, but not as heavily as the night before. And at least some snowmobiles had been passing on the winter trail, so there was a bit of a track to follow.

But the question was - where should we go next?

We had a cabin booked in for the evening of the following day at Årrenjarka, which was an easy day ride towards the east.

Due to the mountains to the north and the southwest, the only other direction we could go was to the north-west towards Såmmerlappa.

Going east towards Årrenjarka, seemed silly. We could easily go there (and even beyond) and then set up our camp near the lake (probably around the place where we had our second camp last year). And on the next day, pack up everything and move a trivial five kilometers or something like that to Årrenjarka. Which, in dogsledding terms, is akin to putting up a tent right outside a hotel, so you are able to check in early the next afternoon.

But going towards the Såmmerlappa area also seemed silly. Every bit we would travel in that direction would be something that we would need to drive back on the following day. (There aren't that many alternative trails to take in that area.)

So either we would go a trivial distance of five or ten kilometers. But that would be a trivial amount of sledding, combined with long hours of striking and setting up camp. Or we could make a proper distance (let's say 25 kilometers), but then we would have a long run on the next day towards Årrenjarka. (Although we wouldn't need to set up camp there. Just go into the heated, well equipped cabin, have a shower and go to the restaurant for dinner.)

Or, and that felt like a good idea, we could leave the camp where it was, do a day tour with, essentially, empty sleds and return to camp in the evening. This would give us a day of relaxed and easy sledding. Save us the time to strike or set up camp. And be at a good starting point to go to Årrenjarka the next day.

The only question remained - how far do we go?

The trail was pretty much given, as we needed to follow the direction of the valley.

But a plan like "We go down the trail for an hour, then turn around somewhere and go back" seemed too arbitrary.

Matti suggested that we could drive to the Tarrekaise hat, have lunch there and use the toilet.

The hut is about 10 km away, so it would be an easy 20 km tour (depending on how deep the snow was). We would have a specific destination to go. And there would be a hut, some picnic benches and even an outhouse toilet.

As a result of the last fact, the trip somehow mutated into "Let's dogsled 10 km to go use the nearest toilet."

Time to lighten the sleds and put the dogs into harness again.

Homy had made himself a nice little 'snow castle' at the side of the track, which he obviously liked to be in, even though it was not an ideal place to start running from.

Homy in his snow hole Homy in his snow hole Homy in his snow hole Homy in his snow hole

Sledding was good.

The snow was deep, but some snowmobiles had passed that way ahead of us, so we were mostly running in a 'snow trench' on compacted snow. Making it an easier run for the dogs than expected.

Towards Tarrekaise

Due to the snow walls on both sides, my team was often forced to behave like a 'proper' dog team and run in two rows, instead of being all over the place.

Two rows of dogs

At least sometimes.

Other times, Homy went back to his "I go as far left as the tug line will allow" behaviour, while Inga and Honey decided that they both preferred to run of the right side of the tow line.

Not two rows of dogs

When we arrived at Tarrekaise, Matti decided not to use the picnic tables and benches near the cabin (we had already decided in advance that we wouldn't go into the cabin for lunch, as that would be too 'posh'). We had our lunch around a campfire in the snow, closer to the lake and his dog team.

Parked dogs at Tarrekaise

But we did use the toilet there.

Then, after lunch, it was back onto the lake and towards the camp site.

Turning onto the lake at Tarrekaise

At one section of the track, we were lucky with the timing, although some snowmobilers weren't quite as lucky with their chosen alternative track.

While most of the trail was flat (as a fair bit of it was across a lake anyhow), there was one short downhill section with some bends. Not too difficult to drive. Due to the snow on both sides of the track, there was no risk of running into a tree.

But it would have been difficult to make a sudden stop there. And there wasn't much visibility around some of the corners.

When we were about to run down that section, Matti noticed some snowmobiles approaching from the other side.

So we were able to stop before that downhill part and didn't run at speed into a group of snowmobiles coming the other way.

But then, when the came to us, the snowmobilers decided to be extra nice and make a wide detour around us.

Which turned out to be bit too wide, over slanted ground with inconsistent snow over it. So one of the snowmobiles fell over to the side and it took them a moment to get it back on the snow with the right parts pointing up.

While they probably didn't, it looks at least a bit like my wheel dogs are getting a good laugh out of it.

Gus and Bettan observing with interest

Then it was down the hill and through some fast corners.

Fast downhill dog sledding Fast downhill dog sledding Fast downhill dog sledding

Even though it was a short distance, had light sleds and we didn't have to do anything with the camp, it was dark again when we were ready to feed the dogs.

Feeding dogs in darkness Feeding dogs in darkness

At night it started snowing again.

Snow covered sled

But it was light, fluffy snow again and easily brushed off the next morning.

After the first 200 meters or so, the drive to Årrenjarka was easy going.

As on the previous day, it was slightly tricky to navigate through the trees back to the main track and also to do the right angle turn onto that track (this time towards the east, as apposed to heading west on the previous day) without crashing into the trees there.

Towards the main trail Towards the main trail

And it was again time to cross over the two bridges with the holes between the planks. Although, with all the snow that had fallen during the last three nights, it was reasonably safe.

From there on it was an easy ride.

Towards Kvikkjokk Towards Kvikkjokk Passing Kvikkjokk - Note - I really do not like running up that tree in the middle of the picture

By the time we passed Kvikkjokk, the sun had come out and we had perfect postcard weather for the rest of the day.

Before heading down the lake to Årrenjarka, we stopped for lunch in the same place we stopped the previous year (when going into the opposite direction).

Lunch spot near Kvikkjokk Lunch spot near Kvikkjokk Lunch spot near Kvikkjokk

After that, it was straight down the lake to Årrenjarka.

On the lake between Kvikkjokk and Arrenjarka On the lake between Kvikkjokk and Arrenjarka

Conveniently, we had the wind from the back at roughly the same speed as the dog sleds were moving.

So on the sled, there was no wind.

Given that it wasn't extremely cold and the sun was shining and I was wearing a black t-shirt (which warms up nicely in the sun), I was able to do my favorite kind of dogsledding: Driving across lakes, wearing a t-shirt.

Dogsledding in a t-shirt Dogsledding in a t-shirt Dogsledding in a t-shirt

Dogsledding doesn't get any better than this...

That was followed by an easy time at Årrenjarka, where we had a cabin with heating, shower, flush toilet and electrical power to charge batteries. None of them necessary, but nice to have in any case.

This also meant that feeding the dogs was easy, as we could use warm water from the tap and didn't need to heat it up ourselves.

And it meant that feeding the humans was easy too, as we simply walked over to the restaurant.

As back in 2018, when I was in Årrenjarka the first time, the food was excellent. (We also had been in Årrenjarka in 2022, but we had dinner in the cabin, so we didn't visit the restaurant.)

The next day would turn out to be a little more challenging.

From where we were, it's nearly 80 km to the next fixed stop, a hunting cabin.

So we already knew that we would need to set up camp for a night somewhere along the way.

A lot of the way towards the hunting cabin could be done on lakes, following established snowmobile tracks.

But that would have been a bit dull.

We followed a wide, freshly groomed and well travelled snowmobile track at first.

Along a wide snowmobile track Along a wide snowmobile track

At some point, while travelling through some woods, we met a snowmobile coming the other way.

He had driven with his snowmobile somewhere off the beaten track. And came from a direction to which we were (roughly) heading.

So Matti decided to leave the main trail and follow the single snowmobile track.

Dogsledding off the beaten track Dogsledding off the beaten track Dogsledding off the beaten track

While this, indeed, brought us to beautiful places we wouldn't have seen otherwise, it was hard work for the dogs. Especially Matti's dogs, who had to do most of the trail breaking. Following on a snowmobile track helped, but that's not 'dogsled size' and while the 'old snow' below the 'fluffy new snow' was ok, it wasn't compacted. Not like snow that had been driven over by many snowmobiles.

So while the dogsledding was beautiful, it was slow and somewhat hard on the dogs.

Dogs resting during lunch break

The lunch break was a good opportunity to give the dogs some rest. (With over two hours, this was the longest lunch break we had on the whole trip.)

The 'trench' on the right side of the dogs, where we were walking, gives an indication how deep the soft snow was on top of the 'walkable old snow'.

Lunch break

Time for some bacon and sausages and coffee, prepared over an open fire.

Followed by some more dogsledding in a 'snow trench' that Matti's team made.

Dogsledding in snow trench

At some point, we were back on the big lake again, where following the single snowmobile track wouldn't bring us any particularly different scenery than the main snowmobile route. We were running a few hundred meter further south in parallel to the other route, having essentially the same view, but a much harder time for the dogs.

So we headed over to the other track and started following that one.

Rainbow and dogsledding

That did not only make the sledding easier and faster. We also were rewarded by a rainbow.

(Which, of course, we would have seen from the other track as well.)

By the time we were back on the big trail, the sun was hanging low in the sky.

We had a bit more than an hour until sunset. It was time to look for an appropriate spot to make camp for the night.

Matti started looking for suitable places.

In theory, this could have been easy. Simply head to the side of the lake and make camp where there would be some wind protection from the trees.

But we had an (for us) unexpected extra issue to consider - water for cooking and for the dog food.

Matti hadn't brought an ice drill, so we couldn't make a hole in the ice and get the water from the lake.

And melting ice (or, even worse, snow) requires a lot of energy and takes a lot of time.

We needed to have a place somewhere near a river.

After some more driving, Matti led the dogsleds around a small peninsula, where we stopped to make camp.

Second campsite Tent at second campsite Tent at second campsite Second campsite

Matti knew, that there was a river flowing into the lake somewhere nearby. And that the water was usually accessible in winter.

So a group of three was sent out with instructions stating roughly "five minutes away, in the forest, to the right, at a birch tree" to fetch water.

It turned out that water was much farther away and not easily accessible (requiring some ace work to hack through the ice to get it). But there was a birch tree nearby.

I don't know any more details, as I was among the trees on the peninsula with a saw. There was a dead, fallen tree lying there and I was busy cutting off as much as possible from that, to provide some wood for the stove.

And from time to time look in the direction where the 'water gathers' had gone and tell Matti (who was setting up things in the tent) that I still didn't see any lights approaching. (As by that time, it was already getting dark.)

Main tent at campsite

But finally the 'search party' returned with water (and some stories to tell).

There is one downside to having a sunny day and clear skies in the wintertime in norther Sweden (and I'll call it winter for now, even though it was the 21st of March and, technically, it was already spring) and Matti reminded us of that: "Make sure you do some physical activities before getting into your sleeping bags tonight".

While overcast days tend to have warm(-ish) nights, clear skies are often followed by a bitterly cold night.

As the sleeping bag only warms up due to your body heat, it's a good idea to warm yourself up before retiring for the night.

Good advice.

And something I had unfortunately ignored back in 2011 in Svalbard.

That had been a cold night on a dogsledding tour, but there were also amazing northern lights.

So I stayed outside the tent as long as I could bear, to be able to take more photographs of the northern lights.

At that point my (somewhat befuddled) thinking was, that I take pictures until I feel really cold and then quickly crawl into my warm sleeping bag for the night.

Except, of course, and that was something I didn't properly consider back then, that the sleeping bag wouldn't be a warm, cozy sleeping bag. But a bitterly cold pile of cloth, try to get the last bit of warmth out of my body. And it took a long time to get the interior of the sleeping bag to a comfortable temperature.

So I had learned my lesson and knew what happens if you stay outside and take pictures of northern lights, as opposed to get some warmth from the stove in the main tent, followed by some minor exercise to keep warm and then go into the sleeping bag and warm it up while you still feel comfortable.

A lesson that held until I looked around the end of the peninsular (my sled and tent were, once again, the last in line), and saw the northern lights beyond the other side of the lake.


At least this time I knew what I was getting myself into. And decided to stay out for a while and take pictures of the Aurora Borealis.

Aurora Borealis Aurora Borealis Aurora Borealis with tents and dogs

I was a bit cold after that, but as I knew what to expect, it wasn't too bad. (And it wasn't as cold as that night in Svalbard and I didn't stay out quite as long.)

The next day was, according at the numbers, a long day. Due to following the unusual trail, we hadn't even covered half the distance between Årrenjarka and the hunting cabin at Juksaure.

So we had to cover the longest daily distance and spend the lonest time of all days standing on the sled.

And we had been camping the last night, so we needed to pack everything up.

Which meant we didn't get going until it was almost noon (the second latest starting time - and that only by three minutes)

But the trail was easy. Except for the last three kilometers, we stayed on well used snowmobile routes. And while there were a few section through the forest, which had only minor altitude changes, most of it was going across lakes.

Heading on towards Juksaure Heading on towards Juksaure

As a result, we had the second-highest average speed (while moving) on the whole trip. (Only the last day, when heading home to the kennel and all the dog food on the sleds had been eaten, we went faster.)

Side trail to Juksaure Side trail to Juksaure

Only towards the end, it was slow going and hard work for the dogs (especially Matti's) again.

The cabin isn't much used in the winter. And while there is a small road that goes (almost) all the way to the cabin, that isn't used in wintertime. So at the end of the already long day, Matti's dogs (kind of) needed to 'carve' a trench into the untouched snow towards the cabin.

But we managed to make it to the cabin before sunset.

And as there was cabin, we didn't need to set up camp that night.

Also, this time there was no question where water could be located.

Water near hunting cabin Water near hunting cabin

Before the term 'hunting cabin' evokes mental images of American-style hunting lodges, with a large, common room, open fireplace and leather chairs under a display on hunting trophies along the wall, it should be explained that a hunting cabin in Sweden is rather more simple.

It is a somewhat utilitarian building to spend the night in during a hunting trip.

Hunting cabin

The interior is small (less space to heat) and a bit cramped. But there's an oven, a table with two benches and a cupboard.

Inside the hunting cabin Inside the hunting cabin

That's pretty much it.

There aren't even beds in the cabin. Only a large wooden platform with mattresses on it. A sleeping place that was shared by humans and a few dogs that were allowed indoors.

Dogs resting in hunting cabin

But the cabin was warm and comfortable. Better than setting up camp and sleeping in a tent.

This time, being the last dogsled team in line turned out to be beneficial.

Matti had parked his team far down the line, so my team ended up staying right next to the cabin.

Dog team next to cabin Dog team next to cabin

So, this time, I had only a short walk to bring stuff from my sled inside.

Which was, especially at this site, convenient, as the line of dogs sleds was spread out a long way along the trail and getting to Matti's lead dogs was a bit of a walk.

Dog sled row at hunting cabin

And while I would go down to that end of the lime during feeding time (and also to use the outhouse), I didn't need to carry my gear down there.

The place where the hunting cabin is located is beautiful.

Hunting cabin and environment

But even though there was much to admire, it was time ro start the last day of dogsledding - heading home.

At least 'home' for Matti and the dogs.

Last year, we started out in Saltolukta and ended up there. But this time, or final stop was at the kennel at Jokkmokk.

Time to ge moving.

First, down the 3 km to the main snowmobile track.

Towards main snowmobile trail

This time, it was a bit easier on the dogs, as it hadn't snowed overnight and the trail from the previous day was still there.

And afterwards an easy run over lakes and easy trails through forests.

An easy and fun run at the end of the trip.

We hadn't that far to go and we had started early, so we stopped near some wooden wind shelter at the side of a river for a final lunch break, having a barbeque,

Lunch time on the way to Jokkmokk Lunch time on the way to Jokkmokk River at lunch site on the way to Jokkmokk River at lunch site on the way to Jokkmokk

And then, with beautiful weather, it was time to step a last time this year onto the sled and start moving.

Towards Jokkmokk

I intentionally didn't take many pictures on the last part of the trip. I wanted to simply be on the sled and enjoy the dogsledding.

Towards Jokkmokk

At some point, across a lake, I noticed a dog running loose from the shore and running towards our teams.

I was worried for a moment (a strange dog running into a bunch of sled dogs is a potential source for all kinds of problems), but then I recognized the dog (from the distance more from the over-enthusiastic running style than by looks). It was Annie.

We were already at the kennels and she had come out to greet us. (Or, being Annie, more likely to herd us in.)

And that's it for the dogsledding.

Stop outside the kennel. Let the dogs loose (they were home, so they didn't want to go anywhere but into the kennel). Go into the kennel, Take the harnesses off and pile them in the middle somewhere.

And then cuddle the dogs a bit and say 'thank you'.

Saying goodbye to the dogs Saying goodbye to the dogs Saying goodbye to the dogs

Not that the dogs really care. There more interested in meeting up again with the dogs that stayed in the kennel and weren't on the tour. And also the dogs that were on the tour, but on teams far ahead or behind.

But it feels nice to hug the dogs anyway.

Dogs at the kennel in Jokkmokk Dogs at the kennel in Jokkmokk Dogs at the kennel in Jokkmokk Dogs at the kennel in Jokkmokk

And Annie kept a watchful eye over everything, so nobody would go anywhere they weren't supposed to...

The kennel is set up in a with two main paths that cross in the middle and one of them leads to a fenced in, open area, which is usually the dogs 'playground'.

The gate to that area was open, but, obviously, it wasn't playtime. And it's for dogs, not for humans.

So when I went to the path that the playground, Annie passed me and went into her usual crouched position at the gate. A clear sign of "You shouldn't go this way. It's not that I'd do anything to stop you if you try to pass me. But you really shouldn't go this way. Can't you see there's a dog lying here?"

Annie is a bit of a control freak when it comes to 'keeping the herd together'.

So we left the kennel through the proper gate. Got to a guesthouse in town. We had already been there back in 2018, when we had to stop a tour at Årrenjarka, put the dog in the trailer and stop for the night in Jokkmokk, where we actually met Matti for the first time, while fueling up at the gas station.

In the evening, we gathered for an 'end of tour' goodbye-dinner and that was the end of this year's dog sledding tour.

Date From To Start End TotalTime Pause MovingTime Distance Avg. Mov.Avg. Min Alt Max Alt Total Asc. Total Des.
14.03.2023 Saltoluokta Sitojaure 11:25 13:50 02:24 00:13 02:11 20.02 8.31 9.17 384 774 624 364
15.03.2023 Sitojaure Aktse 11:24 17:16 05:52 02:01 03:51 37.41 6.36 9.72 474 653 907 988
16.03.2023 Aktse Pårte 10:28 14:33 04:05 01:16 02:49 26.41 6.47 9.38 443 549 766 819
17.03.2023 Pårte Campsite 1 11:51 15:23 03:32 00:45 02:47 30.61 8.66 11.00 294 540 549 639
18.03.2023 Rest day
19.03.2023 Campsite 1 Campsite 1 11:45 15:50 04:04 01:37 02:27 22.91 5.62 9.35 397 527 585 591
20.03.2023 Campsite 1 Årrenjarka 10:40 14:36 03:55 01:11 02:44 29.28 7.45 10.71 252 401 738 841
21.03.2023 Årrenjarka Campsite 2 10:57 16:41 05:43 02:08 03:35 31.08 5.43 8.67 296 478 853 746
22.03.2023 Campsite 2 Hunting Cabin 11:48 17:07 05:19 01:21 03:58 45.67 8.59 11.51 375 439 922 955
23.03.2023 Hunting Cabin Jokkmokk 10:26 14:28 04:02 01:27 02:35 33.17 8.22 12.84 257 431 1063 1181
Total 38:59 12:02 26:57 276.55 7.09 10.26 252 774 7007 7124

Here is a zipped KML file (for viewing in Google Earth) of the trail we took: dogsledding2023.kmz

And here is a map of the trail:

Map of dogsledding tour 2022

The dogsledding trip wasn't quite the end of the vacation, though.

But as this is getting a bit long, it will continue (with a lot of text, but few pictures) on the next page here.