Diaries from the Kungsleden – or how to survive the Lappish summer (Week 3)

In August/September 2017 we hiked 457 kilometres on the Northern part of the Kungsleden. An invaluable and not always pleasant experience during the Swedish late summer. This is our diary for the third and last week (Adolfström to Hemavan).

To learn more about the Kungsleden and our preparation, check out this blogpost. If you haven’t done it yet, you should read about our first and second week. 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 15: Adolfström – 5 km after Sjnulttjie

28,2 km, 6h15min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 7/10

What a glorious day. The morning was cloudy and cold but at around noon it cleared and the sun warmed body and soul. The track initially led through beech forest and along a wild river and then up into the Fjäll. A green-yellow-red carpet was spread out in front of us. Unfortunately, I once again developed a slight shin splint in the afternoon. I stretched, massaged and took Ibuprofen. At the very least it didn’t get worse until the evening. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

We’ves till got five days ahead of us until we reach the Southern end of the Kungsleden in Hemavan. The cold temperatures debilitate and we relish every day that’s not too windy and maybe even sunny. The cold has only one advantage: it kills all the mosquitoes.

Apart from the mosquitoes I found the boat-sections the most troublesome. We were so reliant on the drivers, the wind, the time and the question if there’s one or two boats at our shore. But still we realised today that our most memorable acquaintances and maybe even friendships developed precisely because of these boat-sections.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

It was still windy when we finally left our cosy retreat but the day promised to be at least more sunny than usual. We followed around the lake to Bäverholmen. It was a nice flat route through forest. All day long the changing colours followed us. Bright reds and yellows. Gorgeous. Then as always we went up into the fjäll. The track was really nice and we could walk with our normal gait. The sun came really out and Nadine even put sunscreen on. Without a fleece it was still too cold to walk but what a nice change. Wr set up our tent and ate for the first time outside but wearing all our layers. The clear sky promises a freezing night. Autumn is coming.

Day 16: 5 km after Sjnulttjie – Rävfallet

22 km, 4h33min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 7/10

-2°C. That’s how cold it was during the night, at least when I checked. To protect us from the cold we slipped the 60l trash bag we use as a bag liner over our sleeping bags. This helped us to stay warm for quite a while but also condensed more. When I woke up early in the morning and could hardly feel my toes I pulled off the trash bag and realised that the condensed water was frozen onto my sleeping bag. No wonder I’d gotten cold feet. But at least I was warm until the early hours of the day. When I got up and out of the tent the surroundings were adorned with ice crystals, the water in the Platypus outside was now “on the rocks”, a layer of frost covered our tent and the panties I’d washed yesterday and hung outside were frozen rock-hard.

This has been the coldest night we’ve ever spent outside. Luckily the sun shone in the morning and it became a marvellous “warm” day (13°C). We hiked up in the fjäll quite long, on great tracks and with some very pretty views of pristine river valleys and snowy mountains.

Our plan was to walk another +/- 30km today, so we’d arrive in Ammarnäs early tomorrow. After 22km we reached the Rävfallet hut. It was nicer and bigger than expected and situated in a beautiful spot in the forest right next to a roaring waterfall. Again the familiar question: Should we stay or should we go?

Sleeping outside with temperatures below zero again or inside in a bunk? Walking 15 or 23km tomorrow? Being able to sit in the sun and relax today? Or enjoy the views from the Fjälls ahead of us in the evening lights? Washing down in the river because it would still be warm enough to undress outside? Perhaps spending another evening with Julia and Per? Maybe picking some blueberries in the forest? Yes, we stay.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 7/10

It was freezing in the night. The bottoms of the water bottles froze, the inside and outside of the tent too and Nadines washed slip was a frozen flag in the wind. We put on all our clothes but we were still cold in the night. -2°C read the display of the Suunto watch.

We got out around 9am when the grass was defrosted and I was warm enough for taking a dump. We walked up to +900m  uphill until the junction for the shortcut to Ammarnäs. We took the normal route down to Räfvallet. At lunch we got surprised by the sun and it warmed up. We climbed down to 500m and through birch forest which grow lusher and lusher. The blueberries had a deep blue and the leaves were still green.

At around 3pm we arrived at the Rävfallet stugor. It was such a lovely hut in a great spot so that we started discussing. “Should we stay or should we go?”♪♫ Originally there were still 8km to go according to our plan. But the sun, the summerly 13°C, the river, the lack of mosquitos and so an were all too tempting. And we just could get up early to arrive in Ammarnäs with enough time to do all our chores. We stayed. We washed for the first time without freezing off some limbs.  And we waited for the others to arrive, who had a much longer day ahead of them. Eventually they arrived when were getting ready for bed. The heated up hut was very much appreciated.

Day 17: Rävfallet – Ammarnäs

23 km, 5h30min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 5/10

I’m glad that we stayed in the hut. It was cosy warm and comfortable. When we started at 7am it was around 0°C, the leaves had icy rims and the fine ice crystals glittered in the sunlight. The hiking day would have been very enjoyable, if we’d both been healthy.

Philippe finally had had his cold in check, but this morning he woke up feeling feverish and with flu symptoms. Apparently he felt like he’d been run over by a truck. I myself had a sore throat. The frosty night in the tent seemed to have tipped us over the edge. While walking I went through several possible scenarios in my head. We’ll go to Ammarnäs, sleep in a bed and tomorrow we’ll feel much better? Philippe will get really sick and we’ll have to end our hike in Ammarnäs? I tried to suppress the disappointment that started creeping into my thoughts. It would be a great pity to miss the last three days, which are supposed to be really nice again (the second most popular part), and hang around recovering. I tried to put the thoughts aside that wanted to “blame” Philippe and lament about his weak immune system. It would have been unfair, to bear a grudge against him. After all until now it’s not me who’d lie in bed with fever and in pain. Poor Philippe. Apart from the sore throat I’m (still?) fine.

Thanks to the early start this morning we reached Ammarnäs shortly after 1pm and soon after got comfortable in a cabin. We showered and Philippe was off to bed. I did laundry and went shopping for groceries. Per and Julia came later in the evening. Because our cabin was more like a sickroom they won’t share the cabin with us this time. But we cooked and ate together in the communal kitchen. We’ll probably stay here tomorrow and then see how we feel. Much longer we can’t wait, otherwise we wouldn’t reach Hemavan in time.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 3/10

💪: 2/10

What’s going on? I felt like shit. We got up early at 5.30 and my cold seemed to be back worse. Or was it really the flue? The urge to run to the toilet indicated it. We left at 7 and climbed up again. But this time more slowly. Nadine had to wait several times. The ground was frozen and it took me 3 hours to get warm feet despite the walking uphill. On the top I had to take an additional Ibuprofen and after some time it got better.

We walked along a ridge which allowed us really nice 360° views. When we got down to the treeline again it really warmed up. At 1pm Ammarnäs was in sight and I was ready for a bed. We booked a 4p-cabin for the same price as 2 bunk beds. After a shower I vanished under my sleeping bag and only showed up for dinner. Julia and Per made it to the Wärdshus as well and together with Nadine they cooked a delicious Risotto. With candlelight and wine and beer for the others we “celebrated” the end of Julias time on the Kungsleden. I got back to bed quickly.

Day 18: Ammarnäs

0 km

Nadine

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 9/10

My throat felt much better. The ginger tea with honey and lozenges seemed to have done their job. But Philippe had already decided yesterday evening that we would stay here for at least another day. However, I found no peace of mind. In my head I constantly planned the next days, went through different scenarios, pondered about the food and generally had a difficult time to calm the monkey mind. When I started reading my thoughts wandered off, to current, future and past events. In the late afternoon my head finally calmed down and because Philippe was starting to feel better my anticipation for tomorrow grew. The food for the next three days is also prepared and packed.

Philippe

Stomach cramps woke me up and finally made me visit the toilet. I guess I got the bug somewhere. Diarrhea is such a polite word. Better to call it “shitstorm”.

Well, we will stay for another night. Now our time schedule was a bit tight and we had to see if we gonna make the last 3 hiking days to Hemavan.
At lunch we said good-bye to Julia and Nadine cooked me some stomach friendly semolina. Per would stay until the evening and then head 8km to the Aigert stuga, which apparently had the best sauna on the trail.

Apart from a short shopping tour we stayed in the hut. And at dinner we stopped by the restaurant to meet up with a couple of hikers (incl. Andres) we’ve seen on and off since Kvikkjokk. I needed as much recovery time as possible.

Day 19: Ammarnäs – Serve

28 km, 6h15min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 9/10

There are days when 20km feel like 40, on others 20km feel like 10. Today the latter was the case for me. I walked light-footed and was really glad that we could hike the last section after all.

When we departed the sun was shining and it went back up into the Fjäll. But soon the weather showed its harsh side. The rain got heavier and heavier and I sang my rainjackets praise, which kept me dry and warm. But oh holy princess tartlet it was windy! Sometimes the wind blew my feet off the track. Luckily there were huts and shelters along the way where we could take breaks in dry and windless rooms. And the weather did not succeed to dampen my enthusiasm. Shortly after 4pm we reached todays goal, the Serve huts. Here, as planned, we booked a bed and changed from our wet and muddy clothes into our dry and warm camp and sleeping outfit. The wood stoves were moulded-in and we met another acquintance, whom we’ve met several times since Kvikkjokk.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

I had some cramps during the night but in the morning I felt fit enough to hike again. We left at 8.30am and made it to Aigert in short time. The hiking felt good. The stomach was still grumbly, though. It was sunny and the forecasted rain was still far away. After the treeline the wind got much stronger and we head to fight against the headwind.

In Aigert we met Per again who was quite happy with his new sleeping bag. Now we had to say goodbye to him too. We had a great time with the couple and we’ll definitely miss the good times with them. We climbed up to the second highest point on the Kungsleden and of course it was windy and rainy like it was on the Tjäktja pass. The rain didn’t have much time to stay because it was blown away quickly. Until the first emergency shelter we stayed dry. Tusen takk for this kind of shelters which are perfect to have lunch on a stormy day like this one.

After that the real rain started and I let the time pass with music and a podcast. Occasionally I let a shot of snort out of my nose like a water gun. Sometimes it stuck to my beard and my jacket and now and then I sprayed my glasses. My body worked again and wasn’t completely blown when we arrived at Serve. The weather said: “Stay inside” and we did. There were a ton of mostly older Swedish people in the hut. You can imagine what kind of nuthouse the hut turned into. That’s the bad side of being on a more popular trail again.

Day 20: Serve – Syter

30 km, 6h45min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 8/10

While falling asleep I could hear the rain battering the roof and cuddled myself into the blanket. It was nice to be inside and in the warmth. Today the weather was very changeable. It occasionally rained, but not as heavily as yesterday. And the wind was gone too. The track wore on today, especially the last kilometres. The path suffered from the hard rain and now was quite muddy and thereby slippery. I slipped from rocks or planks a couple of times and got wet feet again. Well, it’s just one more day and then everything, including me, will be thoroughly washed and cleaned.

The scenery was again very pretty and diverse. When the sun broke through the clouds the autumn colours around us blazed and we could surmise mighty peaks behind the clouds.

Philippe

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 7/10

Ah, it’s so nice to wake up in a hut. Everything but the outdoors is dry. But not for long. It rained when we stepped out and soon our fresh-out-of-the-drying-room shoes were soaked. The trail would have been nice actually but the lasting rain up here turned it into a muddy mess.  The scenery was mostly concealed by clouds or curtains of rain. But what we could see was quite beautiful. There were higher mountains with snow fields again.  Autumn colours everywhere. Cloudberry patches with not quite ripe berries. And so on.

We had lunch in the hut about halfway and walked from there on along the Tarnasjön. A huge lake which in the end we crossed over seven bridges, which connected several small islands in the lake.

At the Syter huts we decided to stay inside again. Another bump in our budget. But come on, it’s the last night on the trail. And we had spent so many nights inside the past few days that the tent seemed a cold, wet and uncomfortable place anyway.

Day 21: Syter – Hemavan

26,6 km, 5h30min

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 9/10

We made it!  😀  The last days went by very quickly. Unfortunately the weather today was worse than forecasted and we walked in our rain garments almost all the time. We could see the high mountains behind the Syter huts just for a short time when we set off, later on they were covered in clouds. The trail led through a – for Fjäll-standards – narrow valley. To our left and right streams came rushing down the mountainsides and came together in the middle of the valley to form a river. It’s been a beautiful section and even sadder that we didn’t have clear views. Again, we could spend lunch in a hut along the way. The last three days we’ve always walked “over” one hut, which led to surprised and impressed remarks by “normal” hikers (Ammarnäs-Hemavan is very popular). From their perspective we walked two days in one.

The last kilometres went downhill through the ski area of Hemavan. And then the end came anticipated but still quite abrupt. In New Zealand after 3000km on the Te Araroa it felt overwhelming when we reached the end in Bluff. Unbelievable relief, gratefulness, exhaustion, sadness and cluelessness. Today was similar, but approximately seven times less strongly. The Kungsleden led us more than 450km through the North of Sweden and awarded us with many impressions, experiences and encounters. For the mind it’s been pure relaxation in contrast to everyday life with work, studies, chores, etc.. For the body not quite so, but the daily exercise did so good. And the last days my feet felt amazing. No pinching, tweaking or burning. Not even after almost 30km days. As far as I’m concerned we could go on…

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 7/10

The last day had finally arrived and as always it came pretty fast. The weather gods had no mercy again. It started drizzling as we climbed up to the spur of the Northern and the Southern Sytertoppen which both flanked the trail. The tops of the mountains were mostly cloaked. Only in the beginning we could catch a good view of them. But after stepping into the valley the clouds build up an impenetrable layer blocking the views. To the right and left were steep walls of stone streaked with numerous small creeks. I felt like being back in Iceland.

We followed the valley until the last hut, where we had early lunch. After that the mountains retreated slowly and the feeling of being in a tunnel left.
On the top of the slopes of Hemavan we had a last good view over Swedish Lapland. Then we followed the trail down through the ski area. As we left the forest and onto roads again there was finally the sign. We had reached the end respectively the beginning of the Northern Kungsleden. 457km in total. 18 hiking days and 3 zero days (Kvikkjokk, Jäckvic, Ammarnäs). 21 days. We felt different emotions. Were: Relieved. Of what? Tired. Physically and of the mud and rain. Hungry. For food and future hikes. Sad but also happy.

It may take some time to sort out all the thoughts and nothing. But for now we went to the fjällstation, which was fully booked so we set up our tent on the front lawn. Who would have thought it? Didn’t matter anyway. A hot shower and lots of fresh and unhealthy food were waiting.

 

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