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 arctic summer. This is our diary for the second week (Pårte to Adolfström).
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 8: Pårte – Kvikkjokk
15,5 km, 3h40min
Today was rather dull but at least the rain waited until we’d reached the Fjällstation in Kvikkjokk. The track led through old forests, along lakes and was continuously rocky and rooty, so that we could hardly lift our gaze from the ground.
In Kvikkjokk we booked two nights in a dorm. We’re here one day too early (according to our plans), so we’ll have a Zero-Day tomorrow. That’s all well and good, but then the bummer came: Our parcel, which we’d sent last Friday after arriving in Stockholm, hasn’t arrived yet. It would take until Monday evening, maybe even Tuesday evening, until it would be delivered (today is Saturday). We’ve got the choice: ditch the parcel and buy expensive food in the small shop here, waiting here until Tuesday or Wednesday Morning (which would leave us with no extra days until the end), or taking the bus to Jokkmokk tomorrow (the next bigger “town”, where the parcel is at the moment, 4,5h, CHF60) and trying to get the parcel there. Tomorrow morning we’re going to have to decide. Annoying, expensive and a “gamble” it is one way or the other.
It rained in the night and in the morning and so we took a slow start and got out around 8.30. We wouldn’t have to walk far today. Kvikkjokk was our goal, where we had planned to stay for two nights. The trail lead through very old forest first, then gradually got younger and was more influenced by humans. The trail was really shitty. Rocks everywhere. Despite the flatness we moved slowly. We listened to audiobooks and my cold made itself noticeable.
In Kvikkjokk we booked two nights in a dorm and then asked for the parcel. No parcel there. It’s still in Jokkmokk (120km). Should arrive Monday or Tuesday evening. Great. Our schedule was messed up. After some discussion with the people from the fjällstation we had 3 options left. But which one should it be?
We postponed the decision. My cold became worse and my only interest for now was eating and sleeping. But first we met another Swiss hiker. Andres was hiking the Kungsleden too. He was very interested in our light gear because he carried almost the double. So we had a little bit of gear talk :-).
Day 9: Kvikkjokk
At 9am I sat in the bus to Jokkmokk. Trees and lakes rolled past and now and then the bus had to slow down because of some reindeers, which wanted to cross the road.
We decided to take the risk and that I’d undertake the journey. I could also use the trip to shop for food for Megan and Dan, who will be in Kvikkjokk for two more days (there’s only the small store at the Fjällstation). In return they’d chip in for the bus fare. I bought some fruits and cheese as well as dinner for the four of us too. I got the parcel without further problems and I was incredibly happy when the shop assistant brought our parcel from the small storage area. I managed to do all this in 30min and thus caught the earlier of the two (!) daily busses to Kvikkjokk. The next bus would have driven 3,5h later. Shortly after 2pm I was back. Things weren’t all that bad after all and we can continue tomorrow, as planned.
I was still not fit and Nadine had to make the decision. Go to Jokkmokk by bus, which takes 2h45min to get there and coming back at 6 in the evening, and get the parcel at the ICA. Wait until Monday evening or in the worst case Tuesday.
Well, Nadine went for the bus option. At the same time she would do the groceries for the young English couple (Meg and Dan) we met while rowing from Aktse. We would pay only one way (200 SEK) and Nadine could do something else besides waiting in Jokkmokk.
At 12.00 I got a message. Nadine managed to get the parcel and to do the shopping in less than 30 min! She was back at 14.00. Now we could set off the next day. She also bought a ton of fresh vegetables for dinner, which we cooked together with Meg and Dunn in their cabin. (Airbnb offers exist even here) We had a really lovely evening. But too soon it was hikers midnight and we had to part ways. Tomorrow we’ll leave with the 8.30 boat. And they will leave for home soon.
Day 10: Kvikkjokk – 17 km after Tsielekjåhkå
29,3 km, 7h15min (+ 4km, 30min by motor boat)
Today has been the first time I’d gotten completely wet feet. Firstly because of the blueberry and other shrubs that grew into the track and were wet from dew. When walking past, my shoes unavoidably brushed against them. It seems that I’d been the first one to walk there this morning. Then there were the wooden planks, which were supposed to bring you across swampy parts with dry feet. But since the wood was wet they were slippery like an icefield. More than once I slipped from the planks into the cold swamp. As is usual it didn’t take long until my feet were warm again. In the evening the shoes and socks were already dry again.
The hiking day dragged on, especially since I was a bit concerned about Philippe’s fitness because of his cold. But the track was quite pleasant and less rocky than during the last days. There were also less people, because the route until Kvikkjokk is more popular. So there are less people walking the whole Northern Kungsleden from Abisko to Hemavan. Until Jäckvik there are also no STF huts. The need to camp seems to put off some hikers.
Our day started with a boat ride and 200 SEK less in each pocket. Luckily, there is only one left. Theoretically you would have to pay 1170 SEK in total if you never row. At first we thought the conditions of the trail would be worse because fewer people walk here. But after a swampy part and a wet fall for Nadine the way improved and was even better than in many parts before. A lot of forest followed and a short part on a barren fjäll. The views were great tough. Forest, lakes, some snowy mountains. At some point I got tired and we made more short stops. But most of the were due to the blueberries, which are not quite ready, and the in Lappland beloved cloudberries, which are mostly ripe. The last ones grow only in swampy areas and are rare. There are also a ton of mushrooms but besides the wildlife nobody harvests them. An elderly German guy told me two days ago, that the Swedes wouldn’t eat most of them and even less would go harvest them. I guess it’s the same for us in Switzerland. A few types are popular and the rest gets forgotten. To the end my cold called for a stop and we set up our tent next to a trail and to one of the thousands of lakes. It was time for couscous and Paracetamol.
Day 11: 17km after Tsielekjåhkå – 5km before Vuonatjviken
29,6 km, 7h15min
Less hikers = not as well maintained tracks = less wooden planks across swampy areas = wet feet. The only reward for the swampy parts were the cloudberries, which grew along the sides of the track and invited us to nibble. The blueberries are not quite ripe yet.
Because we washed our feet, socks and shoes in a stream before lunch we were very careful not to get wet feet again in the afternoon. Thus, in the evening the socks and shoes were almost dry.
Today’s hiking got a bit longer than expected because it took us a while to find a suitable spot to pitch our tent. The track also was rockier towards the end and hence more arduous, which challenged us a bit because of the decreasing energy and coordination. And then it also started raining. Not heavily, but still. Because until then it had been the day with the best weather so far. Rarely we’d had cloudless parts in the sky. On the last kilometres podcasts and audiobooks helped us to carry on. This way we sank less into self-pity and were less aware of the increasingly sore feet.
♬I can’t feel my hands when I’m without you♬♪♫
Without gloves I’m stranded. No setting the tent up, no eating, no putting on the clothes. My cold made me dizzy and slow but at some point we must have walked on. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been the swampy business in the morning. It was more the question, which area wasn’t too deep to suck in our shoes. On the way up to the fjäll it got better and we washed socks and shoes in the hope of no more boggy parts.
The miserable morning changed into a nice afternoon when the sun came out. So far it had been the most sunny hours on a day by far. After the climb up to 1000m we descended again and with that also my power. At the end of the day I was outpowered and my cold entered the next level. A few drizzles accompanied us while setting up camp. Inside the warm sleeping bag I dreamt of a cosy bed and some Netflix.
Day 12: 5km before Vuonatjviken – Jäckvik
23,4 km, 5h50min (+ 8km, 30min by motor boat, incl. 750m by rowing boat)
Shitty day. Yesterday I’d called a fisherman who offers the boat transport across Riebnes. We were informed that one should “book” the crossing, since there was no schedule. I told him we’d be there at around 10am. He said we should just come and we’ll see, he couldn’t tell me at what time he’d leave. Right. didn’t sound very promising. We heard from people coming in the other direction that he’d let them wait for several hours. Two hikers we’d met yesterday evening told us, they’d plan to be at the lake at 9am. For fear of having the boat going across with the other two but without us we rose early and hasted to Vuonatjviken.
We got there at 9am. But there was no boat in sight. I called the fisherman. His wife answered. They were “out and about” somewhere and it would take them at least another hour, maybe longer, to get back. Great. At least the other two hikers, Per and Julia, were there as well. Misery loves company. We could pass the time with conversations about this and that. But it was cold (bellow 10°C) and to just stand or sit there it felt even colder. For more than three hours we waited. Then the boater and his wive came chugging into the small harbour. Allegedly, there were more fish in their nets than expected, so they had to work longer. Yeah, yeah. I guess it’s their lifestyle: I come when I come, I go when I go. But for us hikers, shivering and with cold feet it was quite annoying.
On the other side of the lake we had a quick lunch with some soup to warm us up and then set off. Our goal was Jäckvik. There’s store that’s open until 6pm. 18km in 4,5h: should be possible. Would have been possible, if it weren’t for the lake. Yet another stretch of water we had to cross by rowing boat. Just 250m, so actually not that challenging. But because it was a three-boat-game again and the hikers coming the other directions became rare (the season is coming to it’s end), we had to row three times. Added to that the first boat had water inside (and no bucket, and seemed to be leaking a bit) and Philippe’s backpack took a bath. Wet were in the end his fleece, buff and: the camera. I truly hope it’s not completely broken.
The bright side: the rain hasn’t started yet. And even though the store was closed after we finally arrived in Jäckvik after the exertions with the rowing, we found a nice camping area at the church, where we also got a warm shower and lovely communal kitchen and lounge.
Today it was day with boat transports again. And luckily the last one. We got up earlier because of two other hikers, who would be at the boat place at 9am. When we were there, they were too but no famous grumpy boatman anywhere. We shared our misery with the nice company and put on all our clothes. It had been 0 degrees in the night and it was still fucking cold. Finally, he showed up at 12 o’clock. The fishing was better than expected. 😑
At 13.30 we started hiking at last. 18km to go. Straight up to the fjäll which was turning more and more colorful the more south we got. Autumn colours. Hurray! We’ve been waiting for it. Down again we walked through nice old birch forest. At the rowing place there was just one boat left. And it was full of water without any bucket to pour it out. Half of my backpack got soaked including my camera in a ziploc bag (which wasn’t completely closed) and other items outside my pack. I hadn’t been that angry for a long time. The camera body seemed to work so far but time will tell.
We rowed the passage 3x times (3 x 250m). It worked better than expected considering our canoe history in New Zealand. 4km later we arrived in Jäckvik and set up our tent besides the church. It cost only 70 SEK per tent and came with an awesome kitchen, some showers and living rooms. We liked it immediately. Tomorrow we have to wait until 10am to resupply in the the small shop. Last possibility before Ammarnäs.
Day 13: Jäckvik
We decided to stay here in Jäckvik for a day. During the night it’s started to rain and didn’t stop the whole day. Also, Philippe’s still got his cold and didn’t sleep well. And it’s the best accommodation so far. It’s warm, clean, cosy, we can do what we want and feel at home. In the morning we went shopping for today’s Zero-Day and the next four hiking days, did laundry and talked a lot with the other hikers who sought refuge inside. Julia and Per from the boat yesterday stayed here as well and together we had a lazy day with tasty food (bread, eggs, popcorn, cinnamon rolls, pizza, beer, etc.) and movies. Sitting on the sofa we looked out onto a lake, red houses with white window frames, boats and ceaseless rain.
We considered ourselves lucky to be inside today. We’re going to spend tonight in a bed. Yay!
Before going to bed the four of us went to the sauna and talked, philosophised, laughed. I realised once more how the trail reflects one’s mood. And how four people can walk the same path but perceive it quite differently. When you’re in a good mood you might experience the trail as thrilling, impressive, fairytale-like. But when your moody, sulky, annoyed, stressed, whatever the trail suddenly becomes less enjoyable. The tree is just another tree, the lake just another lake. Unfortunately, yesterday I’d been walking in the second mindset.
Today we had a perfect zero day. It rained the whole day and we stay inside the warm and cosy house. Bad sleep, a cold and the rain made us book a room and we didn’t regret the choice.
We went shopping and bought a ton of nice food and all the ingredients for a homemade pizza. Together with Julia and Per – the couple we met the day before – we shared a splendid time with talking, watching old 90s movies on VHS (The Mask and Anna and the King), eating Popcorn, sweets and cinnamon rolls and drinking tea and coffee. I loved it. Just hanging out with good people from different countries in Europe and having a damn good time. And let the cold nasty weather outside.
PS: My camera body is fine but the lens is damp on the inside. No more camera pics from the trail. 😢
Day 14: Jäckvik – Adolfström
23,4 km, 5h30min
Today has been much better than the day before yesterday. The kilometres flew past, the forest enchanted, autumn is coming and the leaves turn yellow and red. The temperatures have reached autumn level a while ago already. Also some locals told us it’s been an unusually cold and cloudy August. Today’s 7°C felt like 3 because of the fierce icy wind. But walking in the forest we were often protected from the wind and could enjoy the surroundings.
In Adolfström we posed the familiar question: Should we stay or should we go? A kind lady from the camping ground advised us to rent a cabin because it’s going to be a cold and windy night. But we also could have walked on for another 8 km to a popular guesthouse/camping ground further up the valley. After enquiring about the prices for the caabins (500 SEK for a cabin with 4 beds) we decided to stay. By the end of the day we were six hikers staying in two cabins with 4 and 2 beds. We shared ours with Julia and Per and thus could share the costs. Sheltered from the wind, with a steaming cup of tea in front of me, in nice company and with a bed for the night. Life can be so good.
The bed worked wonders. I was fitter and there was a bit less mucus to spend ;-). We had to eat all of our leftovers so we started a bit later. And there was also more talking because in the meantime a whole group of hikers had gathered here. All of them we’d seen in Kvikkjokk and Andres was one of them.
But then we took off and hiked again. Through forest up to the now turning red fjäll. It was fucking windy and despite the going uphill we were wearing our jackets. On top the Nationalpark Pieljekaise started. It made not much difference in the scenery until the birch forest started again. It was a magnificent old forest. Mystifying and untouched.
We made good time and the kilometers passed quickly. In Adolfström we checked all the possible Camping possibilities out. They were all suited for big Campers or had a ton of little huts. Tenting was possible but quite shitty in the icy wind. After standing around until my fingers got numb we decided not to walk further and stay in a hut. We waited while drinking tea in a 2-Person cabin until the 4 other hikers behind us arrived. In the end we stayed with Julia and Per in a hut. It was cosy and warm and the perfect place to spend the windy night. And it was another night with good sleep!