— What is this?! Have you seen anything cooler than this, Zach?
American photographer Andy Anderson calls out to his son and it echos through the Stone Valley. But his son doesn’t answer; he seems absorbed behind his own camera.
— Zach, are you there?
— Isn’t it? Isn’t it just great?
And then Andy starts working again with model Ellinor Hansson Baas running up and down one of the many massive rock formations in the valley. Behind the camera, I hear Andy mumble something about magic.
A beautiful place
When the day comes to an end and darkness descends, walking down to Torneträsk again, the award-winning photographer asks me:
— How can it be that no one knows about this place? It has to be one of the most beautiful places in Sweden.
— Yes, but some know about it. I skirt around the question.
— Eh, today we’ve been practically alone here. Have we seen more than ten people in the entire valley? I mean, if this had been the States there would at least have been a large sign by the road, a sign to tell you where it is.
— I know. But sometimes I’m glad there are magical places like this that don’t feature on everyone’s bucket list.
— Hey, I know. This was friggin’ epic.
Kärkevagge – or as it’s called in Northern Sámi: Geargevággi – translates into Stone Valley in English. When you’ve walked up here from Låktatjåkko Mountain station, a difference in altitude of about 400 metres, you’ll understand why. Thousands of huge boulders are scattered around the wonderfully verdant valley – traces of a retracting ice age. From the Station up to Kärkevagge, it’s no more than eight kilometres and if you want to continue all the way up to Lake Rissajaure you’ve got another four kilometres to hike along an easy trail. But this day we got stuck among the majestic boulders in Kärkevagge, even if our goal was to go for a swim at Rissajaure. It’s a magical place for a photographer. To ordinary people, it’s just a place to explore. A hundred times that day, I catch myself thinking that I’d have liked to come here as a child. A landscape that could have sent my imagination far beyond both Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Behind every boulder, every crest, each step, there’s something new, and a new view. Simply put: it’s a landscape entirely beyond what’s ordinary, or ‘real’.
Rissajaure, or Troll Lake as the locals often call it, is located right where the still glacier-clad mountains Vássecohkka and Biran rise and separates Kärkevagge from another magic valley in Swedish Lapland, namely Gorsavággi/Kårsavagge. The Troll Lake is said to be the most transparent lake in Sweden. It’s 34 metres deep, and on a clear day, you can easily see the bottom of it. If the lake had been deeper, the transparency would probably have been even more impressive. Even though it’s filled with water coming straight from the Vássejietnja glacier, people usually want to go for a swim here after they’ve hiked the 10+ kilometres from the Låktatjokko station. That swim is best summed up by the word ‘fresh’. One thing is for sure; it’ll wake you up. A tip if you want a slightly nicer bath is to find a deep part of the brook Kärkejokk, the stream that drains Troll Lake, providing the water that makes Kärkevagge so lush. Behind the huge boulders, the foliage is a verdant green.
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Andy, Zach, Ellinor and I happily trudge on down towards the car. The Americans both return to how incredibly beautiful it is and what an ‘awesome’ day we’ve had. It’s easy to agree with, even for us who have been here before. It’s a unique landscape, technically formed by an ice tongue that was separated from the main glacier by Kärkereppe, ice that slowly melted and left these boulders behind. Some of them large as houses. But who cares about technicalities? Every time I walk around here, I feel young again, and it seems to me that Geargevággi is more like something out of a fairytale. And in that kind of story, it’s easy to believe in the happy ever after. That evening we enjoy dinner with Dick and Mina at the Abisko Mountain Lodge. As we’re sat out on the porch, night falls, and the first visible northern light of the autumn appears. And that’s another magical spectacle.
I think about the day we’ve had; thinking that perhaps the happily-ever-after fairytale is better lived in the present. And I hear Andy say:
— Hey Zach, today was pretty epic.
— Yeah, it was just so great. I wish we could do it again.
— Yes, actually, Håkan: we never made it to Troll Lake. What do you think, should we head up there in the morning?
— Yes, why not. It’s always a nice place to go to.
STF Abisko Turiststation and the Mountain Hotel in Björkliden both offer guided hikes/day trips up to Troll Lake, through Kärkevagge, in summer. If you think you can find it yourself and just want somewhere nice to stay, Abisko Mountain Lodge is always a good option. Another option is to camp there overnight, of course, to experience both the evening and morning light across the valley. And then perhaps you’ll continue up to Låktatjåkko Mountain Station before heading down to Kårsavagge.