This year we continued our quest to do the entire length of Kungsleden. And when I say “we” I mean R+V (as usual, I’ll have to come up with better nic’s for you guys) and V’s little sister, miss C. As usual we really looked forward to it. Actually, V had been doing lists and planned the stuff since… er… well, last year I guess.Our strategy was more or less the same as the year before: follow Kungsleden south and camp by the huts, approximately, with possible modifications along the way.Did we have any new gear? Well, you’ll be unsurprised to know, yes, we had. I mean, it’s not like we’re complete geeks, is it? This year V’s been going on and on and on about lightweight packing, and wimps as we are R and me couldn’t resist her (at east I think that’s the way it went). So we had slashed our packs and bought some new gear. R+V both sported new backpacks (GoLite Jam and Osprey Exos respectively) and all of us had generally cut down on the equipment. But not on the food mind you! The food stays! Food is good!So in the end my new stuff was:
- New sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering, Caribou MF. Sub-kilo down bag, which, with a bag liner, should keep me warm even through most of the autumn. Great stuff! Incredible! Expensive, but damn good buy anyway!
- I also decided to use my Haglöfs Matrix 60L which I had used on one trip only before, instead of my usual heavy packs. The Matrix isn’t extreme lightweight but still, 1.8 kilos instead of 3 makes for a great relief.
All in all I had cut down 2.5 kilos from my base weight and R+V even more. With food my pack weighted about 16 kilos when we started, which makes for a nice change from 18+.Oh, and miss C was on her second ever trek, but had had great coaching from the rest of us – lightweight pack, lightweight sleeping bag and som on ad infinitum – so she slotted right in. At least, let’s call it “coaching”, the truth is we’d probably bored her to death by the time we got on with it by talking gear constantly. I mean: All. The. Time.
Day one; To Saltoluokta
R had been working in northern Sweden, and V and miss C had been up at their parents place, so we decided to meet in Gällivare. I would fly up and they’d take the train. Thinking back to last year’s broken backpack (mishandled on the flight) I was a bit hesitant: ought I not pack it quite so tight? Ought I wrap it up in something? But my fears were ungrounded, I flew with NextJet, a small Swedish company only flying domestic, to small airports, the bag made it and on the whole, it was a pleasant experience: calm, relaxed and friendly.I arrived before the others and met them at the train station. There’s not much to say about Gällivare. We had a rather dreadful hamburger, bought the last of our food, waited a while and then boarded the bus that’d take us to the mountains.We took the boat across the lake from the place the bus stops, and then promptly proceeded a couple of kilometres up from Saltoluokta to camp above the tree line. A very beautiful sunset and striking view and mosquitoes ended our first day.
Day two; The next lake
This part of Kungsleden has a few lakes that you need to cross. At each you can choose: pay to get a ride or take a rowing boat, but beware: If you plan on rowing you must make sure there’s at least one rowing boat at each shore unless someone else will be stranded, which means that if you arrive and there’s only one boat on your shore you either have to wait until someone crosses from the other side or row over with one boat, tow another back and then return… It may take a while.Crossing from Saltoluokta to Sitojaure works as a nice warm-up for the rest of the trek. It’s above the tree line and easy going, although quite long (approx. 20 km from Saltoluokta station). It’s a nice trek but probably nicer still going the other way when you get a great view the second half.The hut at Sitojaure is small, and located at the next lake. And beware no. 2: there are not a lot of camping space around the hut itself; you’d probably be better off above the tree line. As it where, we arrived first in the day and could pick spots, and even then it was hard; those who arrived later had to take whatever spot of land was left and probably had rather an uneven ground under their tent.We basked in the evening sun and generally started to seriously relax. This evening we also got the trips only – I repeat, only – rain. And it lasted a whole of 5 minutes… Incredible!We had a mystery visitor in the night! Both me and miss C woke in the middle of the night by something scratching the tent wall. As soon as we made any noise it’d stop only to come back a few minutes later. On the third time it came back I made enough noise by slapping the tent wall to make it go away for good. What it was? I have no idea, but it sounded like it tried to get in, right where a plastic bag with sausages had fallen out from my backpack… Probably a bjärv. Yes, I’m quite sure it was a bjärv.
Day three; Closing in…
The morning started with another lake crossing. We decided to pay for the ride (“better be there early, he’s known to go 5 minutes before schedule rather than after”) instead of rowing. We where taken across the lake by a lovely little lady (the wife of “he” in the quote above) who steered us through the reefs in the middle of the crossing with a flair (“imagine the to-do if I sat the boat on a stone… well you know: men are like that”).This is also where you get your first taste of Sarek and the real wilderness, the view to the west is getting dramatic. But still nothing to what comes later…The trek to… You get it: the next lake, takes you to Aktse and what a magic place that is! You see, that’s the entrance to Sarek and lies just where Rapadalen ends.We arrived early in the day, as the trek is quite short, camped above the tree line and basked in the sun. In fact, early enough that we could have made a trip up Skierfe that very day, but decided to relax, and then take Skierfe the next day.Any bjärvs in the night? None that I noticed.
Day four; … on Sarek
We’ve always wanted to go into Sarek, but never gotten around to it. This was the closest we’ve been so far, as we made it for Skierfe in the early in the morning sun. Skierfe by the way, is a cliff rising some 200 meters above the floor of Rapadalen, and offers a dramatic view into Sarek with its vertical south, south-west side.As we made it early in the morning we arrived at Skierfe before anyone else. The trek is easy if you start out from above the tree line (it’s probably a bit harder from the Aktse itself as you get a couple of hundred meters more to climb). And it’s… Majestic. Awesome. Brilliant. I really have no words to describe the feeling standing with a 200-meter vertical drop by your feet looking out over Rapadalen, the crown jewel of Sweden, with Sarek beckoning in the distance. Simple one of the coolest places I have ever been to!When the other day-trippers started to arrive we reluctantly packed our way back to camp. We rested a few hours and then went down to catch a ride across the next lake with Lennart, the local boatman. It’s a rather curious arrangement: last seasons they’ve had a schedule, but now Lennart drives 2 times a day, at 0900 and 1700. Perhaps. Maybe. And don’t be alarmed if he doesn’t show up on time, he might be somewhere else, picking up someone else. We had to wait 45 minutes until he showed up, but after that everything went smoothly.I wonder what the Germans we shared the boat with thought though. Lennart’s English isn’t the best (which of course is perfectly natural), and he will want extra if you’re carrying a lot of equipment (which is not unreasonable as weight equals fuel equals cost). But it ended in one rude conversation. It went like this:
“You have 3 large bags. You are 2 persons. Why?”
“Er… We’re taking it across for a friend”
“And how much do you think that will cost?”
“Er… 10€… ?”
Queue broken English and it sounded like something out of a bad gangster movie. Let’s blame it on the language shall we, but I can’t help wondering what he would have said, had they offered, say 50 instead of 10.From this point on you’re in the woods. Most of the time, there are still a couple of hours left above the tree line, but mostly you’ll be in the woods. Which to be honest, I find rather boring, but as they say, you have to at least try it.We went on for a couple of hours through the darkening birch forest. Until the ladies started to tire, we had after all been up to Skierfe as well, and we decided to make the day. So we found a nice little hollow a stone throw from a river and struck camp. Slightly wet, and a lot of mosquitoes, but nice.
Day five; Pårte FTW
We had camped just below the point where the trail rises up toward the tree line and the mountain again, meaning: we had a nice warm up in the morning. Again the weather was with us, it looked as if it would rain, indeed it looked at one point as if it was inevitable when we were followed by a dark and suspiciously heavy roof of clouds, but no, it drove off and when the afternoon came and we descended down into the forest again, the sky cleared.Pårte lies on a small bit of land jutting out in a lovely lake. And when we sat there, the final piece of calm descended. There was no one there, the sun shone straight in across the lake and even the mosquitoes kept their distance. Our plan was to stay only to cook dinner, but in the end we just sat there for nearly two hours. Bliss!It was now after six and we decided to walk for a few hours more, shortening the last distance a bit. We were closing in on a couple of lakes where we had heard there would be some nice spots to camp, when we met a party coming north. The sun was in my eyes, but I couldn’t help thinking “hey, I know that silhouette!” And sure enough, there was Robban, 2nd bass extraordinaire from St Jacobs Chamber Choir. Small world, eh? He, a son and wife had decided to walk the distance almost on a whim as far as I understood; to the point where they had actually missed to buy maps and just started walking anyway. Even though it‘s Kungsleden and “what could possibly go wrong?” I wouldn’t recommend it, but hey! It was their first day and our last, so I gave them mine and slew of good luck to go with it.And indeed, there were some very good spots to camp at the lake. Where we had this trip’s only, but very nice and cosy, campfire. A campfire and some Balvenie Double Wood 12 Years Old? Oh hell yes!
Day six; Black hole and bus
OK, so we didn’t really enjoy the woods. And also, the ground this particular bit is rather uneven. Actually, Robban et alles had been a bit concerned when they met us and was eager to know if the trail got better further north, which we had told them it did indeed. And I understand the concern, going this part of Kungsleden from south to north gives you a rather boring and, if you’re not used to it, kind of rough, start. But you do get all the nice views at the end. Which direction to go, you pick and choose yourself; if I was to do it again, I’d go south to north instead, do the woods early and end with the nice stuff.So, not much too add really. Down through the woods. A surprisingly good hamburger in Kvikjokk. Bus to a black hole they claimed was actually populated by real people, although it was hard to imagine standing there waiting for the train in something that looked like a ghost town. Then night train home. The end.Overall? A really, really nice trek with the unforgettable Skierfe and Rapadalen in the middle. I probably never have been that tanned in my entire life. And the lighter packs really made a difference, at the end of the trek my pack probably weighted just over ten kilos (which by the way includes a 2 person tent), and R was probably down to 8 kilos or so. It is a noticeable difference and makes it much easier on your feet and back. I recommend you speak to us before your next trip if your starting weight looks to go above, say, 16 kilos including food.Yes, we have pretty pictures!Yes Sarek, we will be back…