Diaries from the Kungsleden – or how to survive the Lappish summer (Week 1)

In August/September 2017 we hiked 457 kilometres on the Northern part of the Kungsleden. An invaluable and not always pleasant experience in Sweden during the late summer. This is our diary for the first week (Abisko to Pårte).

To learn more about the Kungsleden and our preparation, check out this blogpost. We also uploaded more pictures onto our Flick-Account: check it out.

Please note: The stated kilometres are approximate. The hiking times are pure walking times, without breaks. On average we take 1,5 – 2 hours breaks during the day. The smileys describe our mental, the muscle arm our physical state. 10/10 is the best.


Day 1: Abisko – Abiskojaure

13,8 km, 3h

Nadine

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 8/10

The journey to Abisko was long and accordingly tiring. After a short flight from Zurich to Stockholm we had a stopover of 5 hours. Philippe brought our resupply box to the postoffice in the town close to the airport, but apart from that we waited… we still had an 18 hours train ride through Sweden, crossing the arctic circle to Abisko, ahead of us.

Finally in Abisko (2.45 pm) we went to the shop to buy gas, become member of the Swedisch Tourist Association (STF) and enjoy the last flushing toilets for the next couple of days.

By the way, at this time we were both carrying approx. 12,5kg. Since our last visit on the Kungsleden three years ago we’ve halfed the weight we carried! Quite a progress, I’d say.

Soon we were on our way in familiar territory. The pictures from our last visit came back to mind and when we spotted the Huts of Abiskojaure at the end of the lake we knew exactly what awaited us there: Sauna! 😀

Clean, refreshed and relaxed the exertions of our journey were soon forgotten and we prepared for our first night on the Kungsleden.

A cold night is predicted.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

We are finally on the Kungsleden. 28 hours of travelling is a round-the-world-trip. In this time you could fly to New Zealand.

Before we could enter the train to Abisko at Stockholm Airport I had to drive to next town called Märsta. There was the nearest post office from where we could send our food parcel. But we only found out about it when we couldn’t find a post office for private customers at the airport. Next time we may invest more time into research. Anyway, the parcel is on its way.

I didn’t sleep much in the night train but it was much more comfortable than expected. The cabin is much bigger and the beds are softer and wider than in the trains at home. But the continuous jolting and the human noise emissions still exist. I often ask myself how I’d survived the Vietnamese or Thai night buses.

We’ve been to Abisko before so we knew the way around. We bought gas and the STF membership quickly. The Kungsleden was waiting. But, what’s there? A Fjällräven banner, tents and some market stalls? Horray, we timed our start with the popular fun run (11.-18 august) Fjällräven Classic. Luckily, the +2’000 hikers were starting from Nikkaloukta and we would see the first people (not counting the runners) not until tomorrow. Good timing :-/. We’ll probably avoid all the huts after Abiskojaure and camp in a distance.

But now to the Kungsleden. With a quick pace we hiked the well trodden path. Over numerous gangplanks and boggy spots we followed the trail through birch forest and along the Abiskojokk. Now and then we overtook two or more staggering mountains, which on a closer look turned out to be huge backpacks on the shoulders of poor hikers. For Scandinavians the real fun starts at over +75 liters. I couldn’t have carried one of those monstrosities. My knee was thankful for the 12,5kg. It’s enough.

Three hours of walking later we arrived at Abiskojaure and we hurried with eating and setting up the tent so that we could go to the sauna in time. What’s better than a hot sauna after a hike? And we wanted to have a good value out of the 300SEK camping fee. (The first few huts on the “Kings Trail” from Abisko to Nikkaloukta cost 50SEK more per person than in the normal huts).

Day 2: Abiskojaure – 4 km after Alesjaure

25,8 km, 5h45min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

Hej! Hej! Hallo! Hej! Hejhej!

We got caught in the hubbub of Fjällräven Classic and couldn’t escape the endless greeting of oncoming hikers. The greetings from the others were wafted towards us by the strong wind. We walked against cold wind all day. It was between 10 and 12°C, but it felt like 5°C. Luckily we got into rainshowers only twice and they didn’t last long. Putting on the rainpants wasn’t worthwile and the wind dried our clothes and backpacks within a couple of minutes. At the huts of Alesjaure we still felt strong and wanted to save the 19 CHF p.P. that tenting there would have cost so we walked on. After about 4km we found a campspot that was a bit sheltered from the wind and close to a river. We were the only campers far and wide. On the trail however, the Fjällräven Classic hikers passed like a column of ants. Before sunset several tents popped up in sight after all.

Oh yeah, last night temperatures dropped to about 5°C. This night we’re 400m higher up so it’s going to be cold again.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

The night was bitterly cold and the temperatures fell down to 5°C (haha, if we knew). The summer slowly says good-bye up here in the North. The sun managed to heat us up eventually, so that we could hike in t-shirts during the uphills. But it didn’t last long. Above the treeline the wind was icy and we put on the fleece and later the rain jacket. The apparent air temperature felt like minus.

We hiked against the wind and with the sun in our faces (if she condescended to show herself) up to the fjäll and finally followed the Alesjaure and other lakes. We passed the Alesjaure hut to save us the 300SEK for camping and to do some more kilometres. Tomorrow the weather is going to be worse.

After saying “hey” for the hundredth time to the many Fjällräven Classic hikers we made halt at a sheltered spot and set up camp.

Day 3: 4 km after Alesjaure – Singi

33,4 km, 7h55min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 6/10

Wind and rain beat our tent all night long. The noise impeded our sleep and it was a restless night. The day continued similarly:

🌧️🌬☀️😎🌧️🌬❄️☀️🌈🌦️🌧️⛅

The wind was extremely tiring. Especially in the morning when it blew us directly in the face. On the highest point of the Kungsleden (1140m above sea level) we found a storage hut for wood next to the emergency shelter (which was overflowing with Fjällräven Classic hikers) to take a break and have some tea. At Sälka we had the choice: should we stay or should we go? We expected a sauna, a more quiet hut and better distances for the next days if we’d continue to Singi. So we walked on. Arriving at Singi we were disappointed: there was no sauna :o( . Someone hasn’t done the research thoroughly… (at it wasn’t me :/ ). Still we enjoyed the well isolated and warm communal kitchen. I really don’t want to go out into the tent that stays beaten by the wind in front of the hut.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 7/10

Wind, wind and rain. The day was dominated by the weather. We started the day with snug 6°C and alternating rain showers and wind. And the day would end the same way. It even snowed a little bit on 1’100m at Tjäktja pass.The headwind tried to peel off our face or at least numb it. Never before was I so happy to wear all my clothes plus the rain gear. We only got a little sweaty on the way up to the highest point of Kungsleden. The wind and the horde of Fjällräven Classic hikers hampered our advancement. They trampled like a herd of cows and transformed the path into sludge and jammed the gangplanks.

At some point Nadine had to feed me because I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. I definitely need a better pair of gloves. Without her I would have starved.

The few moments with a view around the mountains were quite spectacular and I could take some pictures. In Sälka – after 21km – we decided to move on. Three hours more. In turn we’d get a Sauna in Singi. But there was none… Anyway, the warm kitchen was worth the costs and extra km. It didn’t matter if we’d stink one more day or less.

Day 4: Singi – 5 km after Teusajaure

27 km, 6h10min (+ 1 km by motorboat across Teusajaure)

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

I hardly felt the more than 30km from yesterday, only in my shoes pinched now and then. They’re not as broken in yet as my last pair. During the night the wind pushed the tent wall against our feet and it was around 4°C at times. Brrr… It’s good that we’d started wearing the down jackets to sleep. That way the shivering could be limited. Sometimes I feel chilly when just thinking of the strong wind, just as I feel chilly when it’s snowing outside, even though I might be inside and warm. That’s the instinct that usually ushers me towards a fireplace or under a soft and cuddly blanket. But for now the only thing I can do is to snuggle down in the sleeping bag until only the tip of my nose is left outside.

In the morning the weather was milder and a very nice hiking day could be expected. Even the sun came out and the wind contained itself.

The scenery was dramatic and thus the kilometres flew by. I was “in the zone”. At Teusajaure we had the choice between rowing boat (for free) or motor boat taxi (100SEK p.P.). We teamed up with to equally inexperienced Brits to row across the lake, get the second boat and row two more times. There are always three boats and there must be at least one at each end: the Rabbit-Kale-Fox-Riddle. Our attempt failed after just a few metres because of the presence of strong wind and in the absence of experience. We towed the boat back ashore. Well, the motor boat then. At least we’ve tried. ;o)

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

Packing up the the tent in freezing 4°C and then eat breakfast in a heated hut. Well, that was very nice. The weather was much better than yesterday and we could hike without rain gear after midmorning.

Our surroundings got more diverse. Besides powdered mountain tops there were birch forests again and the dozens of smaller streams turned into the big Tjäksajokk.

We would pass two high plateaus today. From the first one we had great views down to the lake Teusajaure. It was a steep climb down to the hut and the lake. From there you either take the rowing boat (1km) or you pay 100SEK for the motorboat. If there is only one rowing boat on your side you have to row 3 times, so that there is always one boat on each side. The wind blew strongly from backboard and because we were rowing newbies we decided to spent the 100SEK. Of course the wind stopped after the crossing.

On the other side we climbed up again and over the treeline (700m). For the first time we camped without heavy winds.

Day 5: 5 km after Teusajaure – Saltoluokta

9,7 km, 2h30min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 6/10

We got up early to get the 11.05 Bus in Vakkotovare. Due to the additional kilometres we walked yesterday, today’s hike was short but no less spectacular. Yesterday evening the sky had cleared and in the morning it was almost cloudless. The night got accordingly cold, the condensed water on the tent wall was frozen! But in the morning luckily the sun shone and warmed us up quickly. We hiked over the flat elongated pass. To our right towered the mighty snowy peaks of the Sarek National Park. Soon the next lake came into view ahead of us. We were going to drive along this one by bus and the cross it by boat. On the other side was Saltoluokta Fjällstation. We booked to beds in a dorm and began with the routine known from New Zealand: Showering (the first for six days!), laundry, sorting food, buying more food, packing it, eating fresh food (apples and pastry), relaxing, sauna (!), cooking, eating, sleeping. The bodily needs were satisfied once again. By the way, we feel the first symptoms of the hiker-hunger, the insatiable hunger and craving for food, especially high-calorie items. A jar of peanut butter found its way into the bag of groceries too.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

Our tent wall was covered in frost this morning and I thought “Do penguins take a warm bath when they go into the Arctic sea?”. Then we began scraping the ice with toilet paper.

We continued our hike to Vakkatovare, where we would take the bus and then a boat to Saltuolokta fjällstation. But first we hiked a short 9,4km over a pass and down into forest. The views were amazing. Snow covered mountain tops and glaciers, which all were situated in the Sarek Nationalpark, where the real wilderness lies.

In the fjällstation we got a pricy 4-bedroom. Normally you book in advance at Saltoluokta because it’s so popular. But without any internet connection or expensive roaming costs it’s kinda difficult. In the end we were the only people in the room and so the price was okay for a double room :-). But now to the chores. We washed our smelly clothes, bought food and of course went to the sauna.

Day 6: Saltoluokta – turn-off to Skierffe (1,5km before Aktse)

27,5 km, 6h

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 9/10

The night in a bed had rejuvinating effects and we were even alone in the 4-beds-dorm. This morning we had a relaxed breakfast, checked out and then started walking again. The weather was terrific, we could even walk in T-Shirts. The scenery meanwhile was less impressive comparingly. But the lakes that came into view after each hill and the vastness still gave memorable impressions. And when we just stood there and listened we heard: nothing.

After 20 km we reached Sitojaure. Because we had to cross this lake by boat too (rowing would have been 4 km and the hutwarden advised us against it because of the wind), we didn’t have another choice than to wait for three hours for the next scheduled crossing.

At least the Britisch couple we met earlier joined us soon after our arrival. And the sun was shining so we sat on a bench, put on the mosquito head nets and waited. When we finally reached the other side of the lake at 17.30 we set off immediately. 7,5 km later we pitched our tent. From here we want to make a detour up to Skierfe first thing in the morning.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 8/10

Freshly showered and in good mood we started the day. The weather has been the best so far. Hiking in t-shirts again but always the fleece as backup ready when the sun disappeared in the clouds or during a break as protection against the zillions of mosquitoes. The first 20km went by quickly but then we had to wait for three hours until we could cross the lake with the motorboat. One of many crossing on the Kungsleden. Quiet annoying cause it messes your hiking schedule up and you’ll spend up to +100CHF in total. After 5 pm we started hiking again and up to the fjäll. Our first reindeer herd and a glimpse of the Skierffe. Tomorrow we detour to this mountain (~1100m), which is famous for its 700m steep face (350m vertical), to enjoy the famous view down the Laitaure delta.

 

Day 7: turn-off to Skierffe (1,5km before Aktse) – Pårte

24,8 km, 6h (+ 3,2 km, 45min Rowingboat)

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 6/10

After getting up and packing we started in direction of Skierfe. But after a bit more than a kilometre the clouds gathered around us and covered the upper 300m of the mountain we were supposed to climb. We took a break at a great boulder, from the top of which we already had good views into the river delta underneath. This delta is what made Skierfe and the views from it so famous. After more than half an hour the top of Skierfe was still in clouds and from the direction of the wind more clouds were coming in. We decided to turn around. It wasn’t our first mountain top that we were denied by weather.

Passing the Aktse huts (an old farm) we came to the next lake we had to cross. We would have had to wait for 7 hours for the next scheduled crossing of the motor boat (why they only drive at 9 and 17 o’clock and not around noon we can’t understand). There was also no wind, so we dared to consider row across. We were lucky this time. From the other side a boat was approaching, which meant that we would have to row across only once. We got ready (waterproofing our backpacks, putting on life jackets, …) and waited for some minutes. And then, as anticipated, two Brits (Megan and Dan) came rushing through the forest towards the rowing boats. We new they would want to cross the lake as soon as possible as well and on their way to the boats they overtook another group of hikers in order to get there first ;o) Dan even has rowing experience and offered to row the first stretch. It became the whole distance (changing positions on the lake seemed too risky) and Philippe and me were even more thankfull. We had lunch together at the other side and then headed off. We still planned to walk 20 km to Pårte, closer to Kvikkjokk, where a Zero-Day was scheduled. Besides, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so a shorter day would be beneficial. Today it has been cloudy but unusually warm, only the mosquitoes were so annoying and made us wear our fleece as soon as we stopped moving. During the first days we had been walking more above the treeline than now, and up there the beasts don’t survive. Not enough fresh blood and too cold, apparently…

Philippe

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 7/10

Unfortunately the top of Skierffe was hidden beneath white layers. At first we walked a bit towards the path toward the top but gave up in the end. We wouldn’t have had much of a view. But the views down to the delta were still nice.

In Aktse we were lucky and could row together with an English couple over the lake and we even didn’t have to row by ourselves. Only steering ;-). After that we walked 20km through very nice but mosquito infested forests and for a short time in the fjäll. Close to the Pårte hut we camped and dipped into the lake. Everybody warned us about the the midgets and mosquitos further down South. Now it really has begun.

 

Read on (week 2)

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