By the time we pulled up into Fulufjallets National Park, the sun had hidden fully behind the impending snow clouds, soon to set and draw the day to an end. We wanted to reach Sweden’s highest waterfall, Njupeskar, during daylight. When darkness was complete, the entire world seemed to be centered with us inside the van. After a spot of dinner, we hunkered down and became absorbed reading our books sheltered from the wind pressing in against us from the SW. Reuben was reading one of Andy McNab’s novels based on real events from his time in the regiment. I was gripped by, ‘No Picnic on Mount Kenya,’ a true account following an Italian POW’s escape to climb Mount Kenya, only to break back into the prison camp.
We headed out in the morning. The 4 km route lead us into the dense surrounding forest. The compact snow measured about 4 feet and covered the well-marked path ahead. The temperature dropped to -12 during the night and created a glazed surface layer at the path’s thinnest points. Each foot placement only crunched into the first few centimeters or slid further forward.
Guided by orange marked trees we were drawn to the sound of water trickling downstream. A set of steep wooden stairs ushered us to the long promenade which halted abruptly at the riverbed. From here we stepped onto the mound of consolidated snow; below the thick crust, the water rushed meters beneath us. What can only be described as a hill of ice had risen as a result of the extensive billow of spray. It sat stubbornly cemented at the base of the waterfall.
What was during the summer season a fierce waterfall had now frozen into a giant crown of icicles. Because of the constant water flowing from the Rorsjö lakes on the alpine plateau, the ice had built up over a matter of weeks making impressive ice climbing routes straight up the face, untouched by sunlight.
Despite its looming 93 meter walls, the waterfall is well camouflaged within the sandstone mountain slopes. Craning our necks to look up at the crystal flutes, we couldn’t help but imagine their collapse and the short time we would have to escape being crushed or worse…impaled. The near silent valley was punctured by its creaking subsidence, echoing lightly through the evergreen. If you listened closely you could hear the faint curtain of water rumbling from behind.
We had the privilege of experiencing the National Park unaccompanied and under perfect blue skies. After recording the moment with countless photographs and surveying every nook and cranny, we checked the map and picked the trail back up. Multiple tracks crossed the path from what we guessed were small animals such as hares and foxes until we came upon some much bigger tracks, much bigger. A brown bear! Our eyes darted around hoping for a glimpse of it’s fuzzy butt waddling into the thicket, but we had no such luck.