In december last year five friends visited one of the two confluences farthest north in Sweden
(that was the 68N 20E confluence). That time, during very cold conditions we were able to reach the confluence and we enjoyed it very much. Inspired by that trip two of us (Thomas Niemi and myself, Mats Larsson) soon started planning for our next confluence attempt and the natural one was of the other two 68N confluences in Sweden. We chose the 68N 18E due to its relative proximity to Kiruna.
That confluence it located in the high mountain area in Sweden, about 40 km northwest of Kebnekaise which is the highest mountain in Sweden. The closest road ends about 60 km southwest of the confluence. The location above the tree limit and in the high mountain area makes this confluence a tricky one to reach. Especially in the winter when the weather conditions are prone to change and you can get stuck in a snowstorm in minutes.
Our plan was to make the attempt on February 23rd but strong winds and heavy snowfall made it impossible. So we postponed the attempt to the weekend after, specifically on the 2nd of March. On the morning we collected our things, loaded and fueled up the snowmobiles and started the trip towards Nikkaloukta which is about 70 km west of Kiruna. In Kiruna the weather was fine but as we got closer to Nikkaloukta it got cloudier.
After unpacking [pic #2] the weather was still OK so we decided to make an attempt and started the trip towards Kebnekaise which was the first goal. No problems in getting there but as we moved on from Kebnekaise through the pass towards mount Singi the wind started to catch up and after a few minutes it was hard to see anything. Of course it was a head wind. After a short discussion we decided to keep going despite the conditions since we expected the wind to slow down on the other side of the pass.
The assumption was correct, the wind slowed down but instead it started to snow. Since we were now well above the tree limit the visibility was even worse than before. It was very much like the phenomena called “white out”. Absolutely impossible to see whether we were going up, down or sideways. The GPS and some winter trail markings helped us keep the direction but the pace was reduced to walking speed.
Suddenly Thomas’ snowmobile pointed straight up towards the sky! He drove into a wall of snow without seing it. We were able to get it out of there and took a longer way around the supposed regular trail and managed to come a little bit further. Now the big climb was ahead and we kept moving at a slow pace when I suddenly found that my snowmobile started sliding sidewards and down. Luckily it stopped before entering the bottom af a ravine! Thomas came to help me and also got stuck.
After salvaging the snowmobiles we took a break and had sandwiches and some coffe. After a long consideration we decided that Mother Nature had won this time. It was almost impossible to see anything in the direction we were heading [pic #3] (can you see where the small hill behind Thomas meets the sky?) and it was getting late. Turning back we found that our own tracks were gone but after a few kilometers they started to show again [pic #1] (now there is SOME visibility) and a moment later we even saw the sun through the clouds. It was as if Mother Nature was pleased with having won this one :-)