Along the Arctic Trail

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Finland, Sweden, Norway
By Rolf Palmberg

The tripoint monument
The tripoint monument
For the second time in less than an hour I remove my hiking shoes and step carefully into ice-cold water. The stream that I have to cross is less than two metres wide, but I dare not jump and risk spraining my ankle, or, even worse, breaking a leg on the slippery stones. I wouldn’t want to break my leg anywhere, of course, but especially not here in the wilderness, far away from the nearest hospital.

I’m in the north-westernmost corner of the Malla Nature Reserve, which is the second largest wilderness area in Finland. It’s sometimes called the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, because on a map this part of Finland looks like an arm (“käsivarsi” is the Finnish word for “arm”).

It is June and the weather is sunny. Everything is quiet and peaceful. There are not even any disturbing mosquitoes. I still have eight kilometres to walk to get to the Finnish village of Kilpisjärvi. The views are lovely where I’m standing high in a fell, and the Finnish-Swedish-Norwegian tripoint is barely visible three kilometres behind me.

A tripoint is the place where the borders of three neighbouring countries meet. This particular tripoint monument is a huge, yellow-painted dome-shaped stone made of concrete. It is located about ten metres out in Lake Goldajärvi (also known as Koltajauri). The monument was built in 1926 and shows the exact spot where the boundaries of Finland, Sweden and Norway meet. The monument is also the northernmost point of Sweden and a very popular trekking destination for tourists from all over the world.

A<br /> Finnish-Norwegian border marker and the tripoint monument in the background
A Finnish-Norwegian border marker and the tripoint monument in the
background
There are many routes to choose among for those willing to explore the tripoint monument and its immediate surroundings. The easiest way is to take a boat from the Finnish village of Kilpisjärvi to the Swedish village of Koltaluokta (which I did), a distance of about eight kilometres. The boat takes you south-west across Lake Kilpisjärvi, the northernmost Finnish-Swedish border lake, in less than half an hour. The boat operates three times daily from the middle of June until the middle of August, providing there are at least four paying passengers (or, of course, fewer passengers who are willing to pay the price of four). There is a Swedish hiking trail that straddles the Swedish-Finnish border between Koltaluokta and the tripoint monument. The distance is about three kilometres.

I chose the second easiest way to get back to Kilpisjärvi (and I’m in no way implying that the way was easy), by taking the Finnish hiking trail from the tripoint monument to the E8 main road two kilometres north of the Kilpisjärvi village centre. The trail is clearly marked with 40-centimetre-high orange-topped posts.

This section of the Arctic Trail starts from a large mound of stones some fifty metres north-east of the tripoint monument. The yellow-painted mound of stones is marked RR294, which is a Swedish numbering system. Many Swedish trekkers therefore wrongly assume that the mound of stones is in fact the northernmost point of Sweden. It isn’t. It has a Swedish numbering system because the border between Sweden and Norway was agreed upon when Finland was still part of Sweden.

The Finnish-Norwegian border path
The Finnish-Norwegian border path
Having straddled the Finnish-Norwegian border for a couple of kilometres, the hiking trail suddenly turns east towards Kilpisjärvi, away from the border. The trail then takes the trekker through the beautiful Malla Nature Reserve, where open terrain intersperses with forests, rocky areas, streams and even a waterfall, the Kitsiputous Falls. The natural beauty is difficult to describe.

It’s not very difficult to describe the feeling in my feet and my whole body when I eventually reach the Finnish main road and the outskirts of Kilpisjärvi: tired, tired, tired! But in the following morning, new, exciting thoughts enter my mind. What if I decided to hike to the tripoint monument again in two or three years’ time? I could then choose another section of the Arctic Trail, for example the Swedish hiking trail that starts in the Swedish village of Keinovuopio. Keinovuopio is famous for having the world’s narrowest border bridge (the suspension bridge between Keinovuopio and the Finnish village of Peera).This trail takes the trekker through Swedish territory along the southern shore of Lake Kilpisjärvi (and through Koltaluokta, the end destination of the boat route) all the way to the tripoint. The distance? A mere 33 kilometres!





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