Last year me and the fabulous miss T was forced to abandon Hoiganvaggi thanks to massive amounts on H2O in the form snow, mist, clouds, and water. When it turned out that this years planned Kungsleden hike was canceled, I quickly decided to give it another go. Hoiganvaggi, I’ll get you yet!
There’s three pieces of equipment worth highlighting this year:
- Fjällräven Keb Trousers – Simply gorgeous. They are expensive, but as far as I can tell from this trek, they’re worth every penny. Hand down the most comfortable pant I’ve walked in and the zippers on the side of the legs are really good for letting some air in on hot days. Mine is a pair of black ones and I already love them.
- Merrell Mix Master Though Mid – A low drop on 4 millimeters made me want to try this boot. They’re a bit less stiff then you’d be recommended in the Swedish mountains, but that also makes them more comfortable. I did have sore feet at the end, but I’m not sure if that’s because of the lack of sole stiffness or something else. They are also quite low, forcing you to wade a lot. I haven’t decided yet what I think, if my sore feet was not due the soles then these boots are perfect.
- Osprey Airporter L – This was a spontaneous buy at my local (and indeed lovely) shop Addnature. Having had a pack breaking in a flight simply knowing this time that the pack was protected was a surprisingly huge relief. Luxury item, but damn nice to have!
I also carried a “real” camera this year (instead of a pocket shooter). I used a Lowepro Toploader 45 which I carried on the pack belt. It worked really well. It did limit me to one lens ready at the time (and more lenses in the pack), but using a wide-angle lens attach worked out nicely.
Day One: Already Late
Since this was to be a relaxed week I flew up late to Kiruna and had 2 hours to kill before the train would take me further up to Katterjåkk. The local tourist information in Kiruna also allows you to store a bag (for a modest sum) so I left a small bag with a t-shirt and jeans for the trip back. Then I made the tactical mistake of thinking that I could grab a bite at the train station, however, there wasn’t many options there and I compacted my problem with “oh, I can grab a bite on the train instead”. Only the train was an hour late, so when I got my “bite” (a surprisingly good veggie lasagna) I was starving. Damn!
I arrived at Katterjåkk more than an hour later than expected thanks to further delays, but since daylight keeps this far up north I could press on according to plan and I arrived at Gatterjavri at 20:00 in the evening. Gatterjavri is a truly lovely place to stay and I spent the beginning darkness just standing around and letting the scenery take me. Really promising start!
Day Two: Hoiganvaggi – The Return
And now, it was time for Hoiganvaggi. Again! And blimey, the valley wasn’t really what I remembered. Where was the giant jåkk? Where was the snow fields? Where were the low clouds?
Hoiganvaggi turned out to be a really nice place. Easy to walk and completely deserted. A word to the wise though: it looks as if there’s a trail if you look at the map. However, if you look at the legend of the map it will simply say “recommended path, hard to navigate”, so no: there’s no trail, which took me a while to figure out.
Looking back, even if the weather had been better last year, I don’t think me and miss T would have made it across. The middle of the valley looked like a dead mans land, utterly unused to being bare, exposing dead dirt and rocks. There was also a place where water was standing and flowing at both directions that probably would have been a sizable, and uncrossable, lake last year. I could get across without wading this year, but it was a close thing. Last year… I don’t think it would have worked.
I stopped a few kilometers past the “middle” of the valley and found a nice little spot a bit up the north side. A bit to close to a happy brook, but that was alright, with earplugs I slept just fine.
Day Three: Entering Heaven
I started up north crossing Boazocohkka and passed lake “1050” on the west side. If you’re not familiar with Swedish mountain maps, unnamed lakes are often marked using their altitude, so in this case lake “1050” means “the lake in Boazocohkka at 1050 meter above sea level”. It was windy and overcast. Passing the lake on the west side wasn’t the plan but it turned out to be perfect as there was outcrops of rocks hiding me from the worst windy blasts. The cross over was mostly stone (to no-ones surprise) but easy to walk and I arrived at the north drop after only 2:30 hours.
The mountain range drop sharply down into Kårsavagge and damn spectacular it is! Have a look at the panorama at the top of this post which should give you and idea of what it looks like looking down.
I zig-zagged my way down just south west of the manned hut in the middle of the valley. It was perfectly possible to get down safely even if you had to be a bit careful on slippery stones at some places.
After wading the jåkk I went west into start of the valley and with tired legs I forced myself up some 50+ meters on one of the sides. But tired legs to hell! If you’re at such a stunning location you want to make the best of it. And Kårsavagge is a love affair for me. Amazingly green. Amazingly beautiful. And at the west end, fairly deserted as it’s a dead end (almost, you can get down from north side).
The sun actually made an appearance at this point and I spent the evening just looking out the valley. And reading. And gazing at the scenery. And drinking whisky. Lovely!
Day Four: Oh Bother!
One of the things to be aware of when you’re solo’ing: if you get down there’s no-one to pick you up.
The day started absolutely lovely with almost no wind and sunshine. As I was only to roll down to the valley mouth this day, which is only a pleasant 12 km hike, I started the day with… Er… nothing really. Sleeping late and laying in the opened tent looking out over vista. Reading. Sipping coffee. Having lunch. And then slowly making my way east.
But then, for some reason I got slightly depressed. I have no idea why, only that my mood go progressively worse to the point where I arrived where I had planned to stay the night and seriously contemplated pushing on towards Abisko just to have it over with. Silly really. But with some food, some whisky and some contemplation it got better and the night was really nice.
Day Five: Down and Out
I rolled down the remaining bit through the birch forest to Abisko tourist station before lunch. Pretty boring hike, if nothing else because you know it’s the end, and you’re in the woods as opposed to the mountain. But not bad.
At the station I manage to catch a cousin who works there as a guide. Nice! Otherwise I had lunch and waited for the bus to take me back to Kiruna.
I stayed the night in Kiruna at a hotel. A long shower, a pair of jeans, a hamburger and a really good beer was just as nice as I’d planned them to be. Although I embarrassed the bartenders by returning a beer to them that was clearly past its prime, and to be frank: the beer I had as a replacement was… almost too old as well, but it didn’t taste anything out of the ordinary so I let it pass.
Yes, we have lovely pictures!
A lovely trek!