Stokkvikskaret

Muddy walk along Lake Ågvatnet, with chains to assist on the steeper parts, leading to Stokkvikskaret Pass and Stokkvika village.

According to my trusty guidebook, this is a popular Lofoten Islands walk on a (mostly) good track… maybe we were there at the wrong time of year: I’d describe it more as long sections of deep mud connected by a vague path. We saw no-one on the track. Although it was still an enjoyable afternoon.

The hike is near the village of Å, at the very southern end of the Lofoten archipelago and a 20min drive from our accommodation in Reine. Leaving our car at the almost-empty carpark we quickly find the fish drying racks, although there are no fish at this time of year (the racks would be full in March/April). The path is already soggy here as we walk through the drying racks and head towards the lake (Ågvatnet), trying to avoid the worst puddles.

 

The track is not always well-marked, but as it follows the lake we can’t really go wrong. It’s very muddy and it doesn’t take long before we give up trying to avoid the mud, and just walk through it. There’s a few moments where I think the mud may have claimed one of Luke’s shoes that is sucked from his foot, but we manage to recover it!

There’s also a few sections where chains are used to help traverse steep sections, which is good fun.

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It’s pretty slow going. After about an hour we pass a small hut that’s by the shore of Lake Ågvatnet, and on the opposite side we see a few fisherman’s huts. After another half an  hour the end of the lake is in sight, but it’s getting late in the day and Luke has had enough mud.

The track continues further along the lake and then climbs up to the Stokkvikskaret Pass (and onto the town of Stokkvika on the other side of the ridge). There’s also some low mist, so the view from the ridge wouldn’t be great. We call it a day, and head back along the lake.

Despite the mist, the setting sun glows behind Lake Ågvatnet and the surrounding mountains as we squelch our way back to the car…

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Location Near large carpark in the village of Å (southern end of Lofoten archipelago, at the end of E10 highway). Look for fish drying racks.
Distance Approx 7km return (to Stokkvikskaret Pass)
Grade Moderate. 4oom ascent to Stokkvikskaret Pass
Season/s Summer/Autumn
Map  Topographical maps on-line at GotTur.no
Resources “Explore Lofoten” (book) by Kristin Folsland Olsen (p.158)
One of the Top 10 Lofoten Islands hike on Switchback travel

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Sukkertoppen (Sugar Peak)

A steep climb to the Sukkertoppen peak in Senja (456m above sea level) rewards with 360-degree views over the fjord and surrounding mountains.

There are a few different Sugar Peaks in Norway… this Sukkertoppen hike is in Senja, which is located in the Troms county near the town of Hamn on the coast. The scenery looks spectacular when we arrive in the afternoon, so I’m looking forward to my hike later the following morning.

I head out from our accommodation in Hamn i Senja at 6am, as the sun is starting to rise; it’s 300m to the main road (Route 86), and then after turning right another 900m to the start of the walk, which is well marked. The trail quickly narrows to a walking trail and climbs steadily uphill, providing views north over the town of Hamn.

About 700m after the start of the trail from the road, I pass the intersection with the alternative track that goes back to Route 86 on the other side of the ridge. There are now views looking east down the valley to the coast.

The trail rises above the tree line and starts ascending a little more steeply up the exposed ridge after a kilometre (below), passing by some alpine lakes (Storvanet and Grytvatnet). There are cairns marking the way, but the trail is easy to follow though the grass.

Nearing the summit, the path veers left towards the coast and goes around Gryvatnet (lake) climbing steeply up the grassy slope and up through some large boulders.

Two kilometres from the start of the hike, the trail reaches a natural platform before the final section of the hike. The views from here are already spectacular!

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The final 200 metres up to the Sukkertoppen peak gets even steeper (the incline reaches 23% near the top), with ropes to help where the path gets slippery: a fall from here not would not be very pleasant!

The views from the top of Sukkertoppen are impressive – whilst not a particularly high peak at 456m above sea level, it feels like you’re perched almost vertically about the coastline.

Looking out to the north, I can see the beyond the town of Hamn and over Bergsfjorden to the mountains of Skaland.

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To the south is the higher peak of Helland (769m) with Storvatnet (lake) below.

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Helland (769m) with Storvatnet (lake) to the left

Almost directly below is our accommodation at Hamn i Senja, an old fishing village from the 1880s, located on a small island off the west coast.

After taking in the views, I descend carefully down the steep path again, with the sun now higher in the sky.

About 1.5km from the top, I take the right-hand fork in the trail, which descends back to the main road (Route 86) via the site of an old power station on the Mølnelva river. Built in 1882, this was the first power station in the world based on hydroelectric power; the dam is still standing.

From the site of the old power station, it’s just 400m back to Route 86 along an old vehicular road, and then an easy (flat) walk of just under a kilometre back to Hamn i Senja. Overall, the circuit is 4.4km from the road, or 6.5km if starting and finishing at Hamn i Senja.

Location Two (sign-posted) starting points on Route 86:
N69.41275, E17.15324 and N69.41278, E17.17985.
Follow the road 86 towards Gryllefjord if you come from the north of Senja or from inland. If you come by ferry from Andenes to Gryllefjord, follow road 86 towards Finnsnes; Hamn is 10 minutes from Gryllefjord.
Distance 6.2km round-trip with 450m total ascent. Allow 3-4 hours.
Grade Moderate. Some off-track walking to reach Lifjellet summit
Season/s June-October
Map Topographical maps on-line at GotTur.no
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Pick up a guide to local walks from the office at Hamn i Senja
Photos Google Photos album

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Mount Warning (Wollumbin)

A steep hike to the top of a volcanic plug, and the first place on the Australian mainland to be touched by the morning sun.

The remnant of an ancient shield volcano, Mount Warning stands to the south-west of Brisbane in the Tweed Ranges. A place of cultural and traditional significance to the Bundjalung (Aboriginal) people, the mountain was officially recognised as Wollumbin in 2006. It’s a popular walk undertaken by over 60,000 people each year (Source: Wikipedia), many of them to watch the sunrise. Under traditional Aboriginal culture, Wollumbin is considered a sacred men’s site and people are discouraged from climbing the mountain (there’s signage at the start), although very few Web sites mention this and it’s a popular walk.

Today is my second time doing this hike, this time taking Luke, my (7-year old) son, with me. We set off from our hotel at Kingscliff around 7am, and we’re at the start of the trail just after 8:30am. The track immediately starts climbing up through subtropical and temperate rainforest.

It’s a well-made track; a few sections are a bit rough and there’s sometimes a bit of mud (it looks like it could get pretty muddy in places after heavy rain) and we make good progress. As the mountain gets steeper, the track zig-zags up the hill maintaining a very constant or consistent gradient. There’s occasional views out through the foliage, but most of the time there’s not a lot to see.

The fun starts at the 4km mark, when the track turns into a steep rock scramble assisted by chains. This last section is about 400m, with 150m vertical ascent.

There’s a couple of platforms and benches on the summit, which is 1,156, m above sea level. There are views in all directions, from coastal views towards the Gold Coast and Byron Bay in the east to the Border Ranges National Park to the west. The ascent’s taken a bit over two hours, and the round trip including 30min at top is just under four hours.

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The Sunrise Climb

My previous Mt Warning ascent was in May 2014; this time on my own. I stayed overnight in the area, arriving at 11pm the previous evening and staying at the Mt Warning Rainforest Park. This meant I could get a 5am start, reaching the summit in about 1:15min. It wasn’t the best weather: it rained heavily overnight and while it did clear in the morning, I didn’t actually see the sun rising.

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Hints and Warnings

  • It can get cold when you stop – bring some warm clothing.
  • There’s a chance you’ll get a leech; you can bring salt, pluck it off with fingers or wait until it falls off!
  • Don’t be on the summit (or on the section with chains) if there is a thunderstorm. [Update: a man was killed and his partner injured by lightning on the summit in December 2016. ABC News]
  • There is no mobile coverage on the trail.
Location About 2 hours from Brisbane and an hour from Gold Coast. Head towards Murwillumbah.
Distance 8.8km return (3-4 hours)
Grade Moderate. Steep climb (750m ascent).
Season/s All year round. Avoid being on the summit during thunderstorms
Map Burringbar 1:25,000 (NSW 9541-2S)
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources National Parks web site. Park brochure (wollumbin_mebbin_pdf)

Barn Bluff circuit

A less-busy alternative to Cradle Mountain, with equally impressive views and a slightly harder scramble to the top.

Having climbed Cradle Mountain a few times, Barn Bluff looked like a good alternative for a day-trip. It’s Tasmania’s fourth-highest peak, and looks like a barn… This is my second attempt; I’d tried just over a year ago and was thwarted by the weather. (Despite having wet-weather gear, I wasn’t equipped to deal with driving sleet and turned back at Kitchen Hut.)

Today starts ominously overcast. I start pretty early as I’ve got an evening flight out of Launceston. I’m staying nearby, at the Cradle Mountain Highlanders cottages just outside the park (I prefer to stay at the very basic Waldheim Cabins which are inside the park, but none were available). So it’s a short drive to the start of the track at Ronny Creek, and I set off at 6:30am.

The walk to Barn Bluff starts on the Overland Track at Ronny Creek, although it would be just as feasible to commence from the Dove Lake car park. There’s a raised timber boardwalk for the first section across the grassland and then a well-constructed track with stone steps, so it’s easy walking, even though I’m climbing fairly steeply up past Crater Lake and onto Crater Peak lookout.

After 3.6km the track reaches an exposed and often windy plateau and from here it’s fairly flat, sometimes on boardwalk and sometimes on gravel. The morning is still very misty, which brings out the autumn colours in the deciduous beech, or fagus.

After 5.8km I pass Kitchen Hut (where I gave up last time) and shortly after that the turn-off to the Face Track, as I continue down the Overland Track. Another 3km of walking and I reach the well-marked junction, where I turn right (off the Overland Track) and down Barn Bluff Track.

As I peer into the mist, I question whether I should continue… but press on regardless. Miracles may happen. The weather does change very quickly, even though all I’ve seen for the last three hours is different shades of misty grey.

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It does feel rather miraculous when, half an hour later Barn Bluff materializes out of the mist, with blue sky behind it. From the foot of the mountain the path to the summit is very steep as it makes it way up and over large boulders and scree, marked by a series of cairns that are not always obvious. The route heads up the middle of the rocky peak, following a steep valley, and then follows the ridge up to the summit. As I climb, Cradle Mountain pokes its head up though the clouds, in the distance.

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From the top, Cradle Mountain is (partly) visible to the north, and Lake Will is below, looking to the south-east. It’s an impressive view.

It’s taken me three and half hours to cover the 12.5km up the summit, reaching it around 10am, so I’ve still got most of the day ahead. After half an hour, I start the descent. It’s still misty as I retrace my steps along the ridge on the Barn Bluff track. I’m now seeing a few more people, who are coming up the track.

The mist lifts a little – and a few walkers have said the Lake Rodway track is clearer. So, 800m after the Barn Bluff track joins the Overland Track, I veer right onto the Lake Rodway Track.

This is a rougher track than the Overland Track, and it descends steeply down to Lake Rodway and Flynns Tarn and then ascends up to the Twisted Lakes. This is a very photogenic area; unfortunately the early afternoon light is not ideal.

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Twisted Lakes, with Cradle Mountain behind

I continue up the Lake Rodway Track towards Hansons Peak, with Cradle Mountain now behind me.

Soon Dove Lake is in sight again as I swing around the east side of Hanson Peak, with Cradle Mountain to my left and the Dove Lake car park on the right.

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The track now descends fairly steeply, until it joins the Dove Lake Circuit track shortly before the car park.

From here the walk is almost over – I skirt around the car park, and walk the final three kilometres back to Ronny Creek car park via the Cradle Valley Boardwalk. It’s been a very enjoyable day, despite the overcast start, and it feels good to have made it to the top of Barn Bluff 13 months after my first attempt.

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Location Ronny Creek car park near the end of Dove Lake Road.
Cradle Mountain National Park is about 2.5 hours from Launceston, via Sheffield or Mole Creek.
Distance 27.5km circuit as walked. 24km return to Barn Bluff (shortest route)
Grade Moderate. 1125m total ascent.
Season/s All year round; may be challenging/difficult in winter
Map TasMap “Cradle Mountain Day Walks”
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Photos Google Photos gallery
Resources Day Walks Tasmania (book) has track notes for this walk
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Map of Cradle Valley (day walks) with Barn Bluff hiking route