Moose love affair in Laponia
C-J Utsi shares autumn memories of moose love in Sápmi.
October might not be the month most think of to hike in Sápmi Mountains. But, with a bit of luck you will miss the worst snow falls. In many ways it can be more rewarding than a summer tour. You won’t feel crowded either – by people that is. No mosquitoes either. Nature is quietly getting settled for winter. The darkness and chilly air give you an extra sense of presence in nature. On this expedition the purpose was to visit the legendary big moose of Rápavuopmis (Rapa Valley) in Laponia World Heritage. These moose are Europe’s largest land animal. In Rapa Valley they grow bigger than anywhere else in Europe.
Swans take to the sky. A sign of winter coming. Photo: CJ Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com
At the beginning of October the great Sarek moose mating season start. The bulls are never as big and strong. They are fighting and courting to impress the cows. Horns have been scrubbed bare and shine. Before ending the season and snow covering the landscape nature puts on its last big show. If you go there remember to learn the sound of a cow moose. Before you do your love sick cow song, note that it can be risky if some bull hidden from view takes you seriously. On the other hand the valley is abundant with moose cows so you will also have strong competition.
How to get there
This time we choose not to walk since we carried a lot of camera gear. Of course a lot of cloth, thick reindeer skins to sleep on and good food made the back packs more than full. We drove to the Sitoälv Bridge 100 kilometers from Jokkmokk. Then we mountain biked 10 kilometers on a dirt road to lake Lájtávrre (Lajtaure). I do recommend a bicycle wagon for heavy equipment. From here we phoned Lennart Läntha who lives in Aktse. He came plowing over the lake with his boat and picked us up.
Glacier colored water of lake Lájtávarre Photo: CJ Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com
Sarek National Park – a gem in Laponia World Heritage
By using Lennart Länthas boat ride you can leisurely enjoy the majestic landscape traveling across the glacier colored lake and up into the delta land. Up there is where the moose congregate.
At the national park border Lennart put us ashore and we continued by trekking up the small mountain Nammatj in the middle of the valley. It was steep and willow bushes slowed us down. Once you get up the view is great and you are placed strategically to look for moose. It is excellent to camp here and most of the time there is water close to the summit.
Moose surveillance from slopes of Mt. Nammatj Photo: CJ Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com
Eagerly we started to survey the landscape below. But the sun stood too high. The moose generally rest lying down in the bush during day. As soon as the sun disappeared behind Mt Vájggántjåhkkå the moose rose from their resting places. We got a clear view of a number of moose groups. Male bulls with majestic antlers leading their harem. There were also individual animals moving along slowly. All of them were close to the great bog below the North West slope of Mt Nammatj. For hours we watched the bull’s courtship rituals. We forgot time and had to raise camp in darkness. I fell asleep with the strange feeling of having moose roaming below my feet.
Weather sensitive program
Morning came with sleet drumming on the tent. Misty clouds drove in from south west. We decided to sleep some more even though we knew moose are most active mornings and evenings. Later in the morning the weather cleared and we went into the valley to get closer to the moose. It was not easy. They were vary of us all the time and kept their distance the whole day. In spite of us sounding like willing cows for hours. A bit disappointed we returned to camp.
First encounter with the Bull! Photo: CJ Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com
Meeting the Bull
Last day we watched the valley for hours but did not see many moose. So we decided to go into the valley again to try and attract a young bull we had seen. As we came down to the bog my friend pulled me in behind a rock. Just opposite across the bog stood a great bull moose. He was a hidden among the willow bushes and mountain birch. We began to tease him with female mating sounds. I rigged the camera. The bull moved into the open. It heard us and showed some interest. Slowly he started walking towards us. He seemed somewhat skeptical having to cross the wet bog land for this strangely sounding female. He wanted to see and scent to believe. At 120 meters he lost faith and started to wander off.
The apprehensive bull is looking for the source of a strange female sound. Photo:CJ Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com
Close encounter again
We didn’t give up. Instead we ran to a small hill and tried again. This time the bull moved more decisively towards us. Probably it didn’t like to move across open land and felt more secure coming through the bush. This time it came as close as 80 meters before becoming cautious. Then he must have understood we were not a love sick cow after all and move away. But, he gave us some nice photographs and film sequences. A great feeling lingered on in my mind having been so close to the mighty moose.
The bull has had enough of strange female sounds and goes looking elsewhere. Photo: CJ Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com
Hard trek home
The walk back to the bikes proved to be more exhausting than we had thought. The infamous boulder landscape by Skierfe was bouldering extreme. At least with heavy back packs and no cell phone contact to the outer world. It took an hour but felt like a whole day.
A coffee break by Sájvva before bouldering below Mt. Skierfe. Photo: CJ Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com
Good advice is to walk up on Mt. Skierfe and get the great view. Or let Lennart take you back with his boat. After we got past the boulders we walked the whole afternoon passing Aktse where Lennart lives. We could have stayed overnight in some cabin at beautiful Aktse. But we pushed on. Darkness came when we started cycling. It was very black when we reached the car. Good feeling to get all the gear off my back.
Sájvva. A last goodbye before trekking home. Photo: CJ Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com
Samelandsresor can help with information, transfer and equipment.
Lennart Läntha for boat transport: Cell phone +46 (0) 70-2228250. Pay in cash.
Text and photo: Carl-Johan Utsi/cjutsiphoto.com (translation Dan Jonasson)
Published 501 days ago by dan.jonasson
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