Undertaking a very boggy Mt. Åreskutan circular walk starting from Björnen, with a refreshing lake dip and a visit to an historic mining community included.
We left our comfortable campsite at Ristafallet and drove back west a little way, to the hillside town of Björnen. The town is a cross-country ski hub in winter time, but was rather forlorn and empty at this time of year. The cross-country trails are walkable in the summer months so, with the help of an acquired local map, we combined a few to create a circular (or rather, triangular) walk through the local mountains. Our planned route would leave from Björnen centre and head north to Blåsten, then turn south east to Lillådammen lake, on to Fröå gruva, an old mining community, before returning to Björnen; a walk of around 15km in total.
The ground was quite boggy and the paths churned up, making it difficult to navigate a sensible route through. We were used to getting our walking boots dirty, but this was wetter and deeper than simple mud and in a lot of places had to be studiously avoided. We hoped the trail would dry out as we got higher, and for a short while it did. We made good progress along dusty gravel paths and large stone steps on the first steep ascent of our walk. But once the path began to level out it again became a quagmire and we had to search for delicate paths through or around each bog, making it slow going.
We hit the base of the snow-line on the slopes of the peak of Åreskutan, standing tall to our left at 1420m. The recent snow melt and receding line had left a wide expanse of very wet ground that again had to be avoided. In many areas it was easier going to walk in the snow rather than fight through the deep bogs left by the summer melt. The path was marked with large red crosses on tall posts, so was easy to follow in general terms, but we had to wander off piste, literally, quite a distance to find suitable passage through. This was turning into one of the boggiest walks we’d attempted in years. We worked hard to progress, forging new paths though springy bracken and small, low bushes that scraped the skin off our legs.
The wide plateau at the high base of the slope to Åreskutan was stony and mossy, and much easier to walk on. The elevated position also offered wonderful views right across the nearby hills and several huge lakes. We then had a stretch of welcome and comfortable downhill, on dry paths and sponge-soft heather, away from the snow. The blue sky was home to only a thin layer of clustered cumulus clouds and the bright day lit up the lime greens of the valley below. The views had definitely been worth the climb, and we paused a long moment to soak in all aspects of it.
We reached Blåsten camping area, basically a crossroads set on the junction of several routes, with its various small timber shelters scattered about. We sat a while in one small shelter, out of the wind, and ate our lunch. From here we turned south west, to continue along our planned route. Shortly after we met a few other walkers coming up the trail, walking from where we were heading, who bemoaned how boggy their upward path had been. Great, so no possibility of improvement on the way back. We also confirmed their onward route was going to be no better.
After more downhill and what we saw as a better, more stable path underfoot, we reached the northern shores of the small and beautifully still Lillådammen lake. We crossed a rickety looking dam of sorts and found a comfortable, sheltered spot on the banks of the lake away from the main path. The reflection of the mountain behind was perfect, the water so still and clear; we just had to jump in. We stripped everything off and made our way into the biting cold water, tingling and refreshing after our sticky, sweaty hike. The water was so clean and pure, and despite the coldness, felt like a true reward. The sun dried and warmed us quickly when we came out and slowly dressed.
Revitalised, we continued on our path back down, passing Byxtjärn lake on our left where we heard lots of loud laughter but could not see the happy culprits. We next reached Fröå gruva, the historic and protected site of an old copper mining community. Copper was mined here from 1744 until 1919, with up to 600 people living in the vibrant community. We walked around the buildings, seeing a smithy, a pump-house, several cottages, a windlass and others, reading the history of each. We had a quick look in the visitor shop then made our exit by walking along a long timber pathway winding through the remains of copper-laden stones extracted from the mines below.
We passed the shores of the larger Fröåtjärn lake, where we finally saw another swimmer for the first time in Sweden. The waters were so inviting we had found it difficult to understand why more people were not indulging themselves in the lakes, but perhaps the temperature was not quite optimum yet. We’ll see over the next few weeks. We returned into Björnen along an easy gravel road, being pipped by two joggers right at the end as we hit the main road in town. A muddy, technical ascent with difficult footing that brought us incredible views, a sublime, refreshing skinny dip in a picture-perfect lake and an interesting, informative visit to an historical mining site; all in all, not a bad day in our new outdoor office that is Sweden.