Sweden – The Kungsleden Trail

 BRIEF OVERVIEW

The Kungsleden, aka The Kings Trail is a 430 km hiking trail in Sweden that spans between Abisko and Hemavan being the main trailheads. As the trail can be accessed from various points this gives opportunity to walk the trail as an end to end hike, a sectional hike or day walks. There is also the option to cycle the trail although it be a terrain challenge many enjoy pushing the peddles around. During the winter months many transverse the trail by ski, dog sled or snowmobile.

If walking the trail in summer as we did then expect magnificant sunny hot days to freezing days of snow and everything inbetween.

The trail is dog friendly.

All relevant information for planning your Kungsleden adventure can be sourced on the website. http://www.swedishtouristassociation.com

Further to that a publication ‘Plan and Go Kungsleden’ by Wayne and Danielle Fenton (Trek Snappy) is well worth reading. http://www.treksnappy.com

Kungsleden public facebook page features posts from numerous people who have completed the trail. Also its a great place to submit any questions.

There are 2 You tube posts that are well worth viewing 1: Walkumentary Kungsleden by Elin Nordlander  2: Distant North-Hiking the Kungsleden by The Indie Projects.

In addition there are many blog postings that can be googled.

The STF (Svenska Turist Forenngen) is a government and volunteer organization. It is optional to join the STF which can be completed online. As a result you receive discounted accommodation fees at STF huts and a monthly glossy magazine written in Swedish language but the glossy pictures are fantastic. No national parks permit is required.

The trail is divided into three sections.  

1: Southern section Hemavan to Ammarnas 78kms. STF cabins, tent sites and wild camping options.

2: Middle/Remote section Ammarnas to Kvikkjokk 168kms. NO STF CABINS IN THE MIDDLE SECTION. There is private accommodation and wild camping options. It is essential a tent is carried throughout this section due to distances between the private accommodation.

3:Northern section Kvikkjokk to Abisko 184kms. STF cabins, tent sites and wild camping options.

The Calazo maps 1:1000,000 are detailed adequately with all relevant information. Being  printed on tyvek makes them waterproof and durable. They can be ordered online or purchased in Sweden. The trail is marked by orange blazing on rocks being the summer trail and red crosses   on poles being the winter trail.

Kungsleden App can also be downloaded.

It is advisable to carry your own emergency device. In addition to this STF hosts at the cabins are able to make contact with emergency services. The emergency cabins are fitted out with an emergency phone.

 At the STF cabins there is no electricity therefore it is advisable to carry battery banks or small solar panels for recharging purposes. Electricity is available at villages and fjallstations.

For mobile phone service we used Telia,a Swedish carrier and had adequate coverage.

Food supplies can be purchased at the STF cabin shops and village supermarkets. Another option is to purchase your food supplies, packaged up and mail to various accommodation places in the villages or fjallstations along the trail. Addresses can be found in the book ‘Plan and Go Kungsleden’. Water is gathered from the lakes and rivers along the trail and at the accommodation. Gas canisters can be purchased in the villages and fjallstations.

PLANNING AT HOME

We spent many long hours pouring over all information that we were able to source which allowed us to be well planned and prepared before leaving Australia. The itinerary we drafted had plenty of flexibility. We packed to accommodate the unpredictable weather. 

With the Calazo maps arriving well in advance we familiarized ourselves with the map layout and Ian was able to mark co-ordinates, scribe the distances and mark possible wild camping spots.

We opted to take our own food supply and purchase at the cabins as need be. The food was sorted  into individual bundles in readiness for posting when in Sweden along with preparing the labels for the postal bags.

Booked flights from Stockholm to Hemavan/Tarnaby with Amapola http://www.direktflyg.com

Booked accommodation at the STF in Hemavan and airport hotel.

Booked flights from Perth, Western Australia to Stockholm with Emirates.

GETTING THERE and GETTING STARTED

From Australia we flew into Stockholm with a 3 hour stopover at Dubai.

It was convenient for us to take accommodation within the airport.

The airport train took us directly into Stockholm where we posted the supply boxes, organized phones and exchanged money which was all relatively stress free. We then enjoyed wandering around Stockholm. Like most European cities there is an old section and newer city section.

From terminal 3 at Stockholm we boarded the plane destined for Hemavan. As the plane descended the view was breathtaking as we gazed on white capped mountain peaks.

Hemavan is a small village catering for the tourist, the ski season, hikers, mountain bike enthusiast and fisherman. There is a variety of accommodation along with the STF Fjallstation and a STF mountain hut. The mountain hut has a camping store within the grounds, we purchased our gas canister here.

Within the village there is large supermarket/general store adequately stocked with processed food, bakery, fresh food,meat, fruit, vegetables and take away selections. There are a couple of cafes and a large hardware store. The post office is small but the staff are familiar with posting supply boxes to the villages along the trail.

and so the adventure begins…HEMAVAN TO AMMANRAS 78kms

Eager, enthusiastic and excited understated our emotions on waking. The day we had planned for, the day we had longed for, the day we finally stepped onto the Kungsleden had arrived. Showered, dressed and packed we headed over to the dining room to enjoy yet another buffet style breakfast. Since arriving in Sweden we had indulged in a far too many buffet breakfasts and certainly needed a good walk to burn the calories off, lucky we had 430kms ahead of us.IMG_6003

We had read finding the start to the Kungsleden trail had many a hiker wandering around in circles lost. Wondering  how that could be with the monument looming over the village we headed off. Well we added to the numbers of hikers walking around in circles and had to ask for directions!!!           .

Finally arriving at the official southern trail head we set off. Immediately into a sharp incline we were huffing and puffing and furiously swatting the mosquitoes away. Within the first half hour we had been lost, huffing and puffing and being attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. I jokingly asked Ian as to whether we should turn back.

Once on the plateau the lush green slopes with ice capped mountains had our attention. In winter these slopes would be covered in snow. A ski run stretched from the mountain peaks all the way down to the village. A stream with crystal clear water trickled over the rocks, the air was crisp, the sky was clear and the sun was shining, oh what a morning to be ambling along the hiking trail.

Not long into the walk a woman stopped to share her excitement of having only a few kms to walk then she could boast having hiked the Kungsleden. She confirmed that the snow on Tjaktja Pass was knee deep having trudged through it herself. Reassuring us by the time we reached that area basically the snow should be melted.

Hearing a motor running and as we veered around the corner a gondola was operational. Venturing over people were disembarking from the ride up from Hemavan to walk back down to the village. As we hadn’t had a break we decided to enjoy a round trip. The operator picked our accent not to be local and was amazed that anyone would come from Australia just to walk. In his words ‘if you are mad enough to come all this way just to walk you can have the ride for free’. The view of Hemavan, the forest, the snow capped mountains and network of rivers was spectacular. Back at the top we gathered our packs and continued on our way.

Not far along dark rolling clouds filled the sky, the weather turned cold and the the track merged into mud and rock. It was head down, watch your footing and get to camp before the heavens opened up. Unexpectedly we sensed movement. Looking up we gazed upon a herd of reindeer. Startled by our presence they scurried off. Continuing on, the track weaved down to the river. With the wind sweeping across the river It was cold.

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At the bridge was a loo with a view and some planks of wood set up to sit on making an ideal lunch spot. We chatted to a small group who were walking to Ammarnas with their dog in tow.

Continuing to climb gently through a rocky section we were amazed at the height of the surrounding mountains. Melted snow ran down creating streams across the track.

The Viterskalet cabin came into view. We had intended to have a rest and continue on and wild camp but with the dark clouds rolling and rumbling above we decided to call it a day. Searching for an ideal tent pad we only discovered rocks and mud on sloping terrain. Ian being aware of my exasperation suggested we take a bed in the cabin for the night.  

The STF host greeted us and eagerly showed us around before running the cabin rules by us. We had to contribute to collecting the water by bucket from the near by river, gather wood from the woodshed to keep the fire burning and empty the slush water. Really, didn’t she realize we had just walked from Hemavan. Jokes aside, all hikers contribute to the functioning of the cabin. We were amazed to see the cabin set up. Just as we had read there was a fully equipped kitchen with pots and pans, crockery, cutlery you name it it was there. The shop was well stocked with a large variety of processed food, snacks and alcohol/non drinks. The dormitory rooms had a wood fire along with the drying room. Many people rolled in for the night a few walking the entire trail and some enjoying a section.

Up early and organized we left decked out in our wet weather gear as it was raining and the fresh dusting of snow that had fell overnight certainly put a chill in the air. Coming across our first snow patch to traverse we certainly learnt a new walking skill as we negotiated the ice and slush. It was picturesque walking through the valley with the huge mountain walls either side. The wind howled knocking us about as we crossed many rocky streams. Taking refuge in the emergency hut we were relieved to have a break from the weather. Chatting to others who had camped in the area said they had put in a fairly rough night.

Emergency huts along the trail can only be used for a short break from the weather or an emergency. They are equipped with 2 sleeping platforms, an emergency phone, first aid kit, fireplace and wood along with a shovel hanging at the door to dig away any snow from the entrance. After a hot drink and eats we continued on over the rocky terrain following the trail markers. Now on the plateau we where at the mercy of whatever the weather threw at us. With a sudden drop in temperature it started to lightly snow, our faces were freezing but we were well rugged up so our bodies remained warm.

Certainly was a hard slog pushing through the inclement weather as we stepped along the track of rock, it was slow going. We came across the small group with their dog huddled together feeling exhausted and cold but as they explained ‘we are familiar with this weather’. Then just like that the wind dropped, the snow abated, the dark clouds rolled by, the sun made an appearance and to top things off in the distance Syter cabin came into view.

Leaving the plateau it was all down hill to the cabin. The host greeted everyone warmly as we made our way towards the fire. We couldn’t understand why but she insisted we take the smaller cabin and we were far too tired to disagree. Apparently the previous host had contacted saying the Australians were on their way, perhaps we were being given special treatment.

We woke to a glorious morning with white fluffy clouds above and the  sun popping through casting a bit of warmth. Heading off we kept our wits about us as the talk was there had been a bear sighting on the nearby mountain crest. Being the European summer a bear encounter was possible but they are usually timid and a sighting is rare. The track was well formed with not too many rocks to get caught up in. Coming to a rise we paused and took in the sight of the vast water that spread before us. Descending into a birch forest we were hit by a swarm of mosquitoes which had us grabbing for our head nets.

Crossing the network of 7 bridges to reach the other side of the river we continued on following the waters edge for most of the way. On such a sunny day the scenery was spectacular highlighted by the mountain reflections in the water. The walk around the lake was beautiful as the water gently lapped onto the pebbles.

Leaving the waters edge behind we wandered back into the forest and started to climb before descending to Tarnasjo cabin being our lunch stop. The word had spread as we were greeted by hikers walking south ‘you are the Australians, everyone is talking about the Australians’, no disguising our accent. With so many rivers, lakes and streams there was no requirement to carry bottles of water. The crystal clear water that we scooped up from the streams along the trail was cold and so refreshing.

Sitting on the hut veranda the warm sunshine caressed our bodies whilst enjoying lunch and chatting to fellow hikers and the host. Pushing on it was a relatively easy walk to our intended wild camp by the river.

We were happy to see the riverside wasn’t crowded with tents. Being late afternoon and by the river the temperature had dropped significantly with the wind picking up. Setting up the tent was a circus as the wind whipped the fly about. Ian suggested I stop giggling and hold on tightly. Honestly, had we lost our grip we would never have retrieved the fly. Set up for the night we perched on a plank of wood and watched the river dance around and over the large rocks, just a beautiful closure to a wonderful day of hiking.

With only a short walk to Serve cabin we opted for just a cuppa before setting off with the intention to have breakfast at the cabin. The distant mountains loomed creating a very pretty backdrop so easy to get caught up in the beauty of nature. We passed by a few people heading south. They had pitched their tents on a rise with no shelter from any surrounding vegetation, they were at mercy of the wind during the night.

Arriving at Serve cabin it was a hive of people buzzing about getting themselves sorted for the day ahead. A few people had walked in via another track for the night whilst others were continuing south. We had noticed just how many other tracks joined the Kungsleden. With breakfast consumed we left the flurry of people and continued on arriving at a spectacular waterfall. The water roared as it gushed over the rocks eventually spilling into the river below.

Crossing the bridge we headed up and up and up over a very muddy track but the forest was beautiful to be wandering through highlighted by the sun filtering through the trees. Ian reached  for his phone to check if he had service. Frantically going through all his pockets and his pack revealed no phone. He remembered checking for service back at the cabin and with that he unloaded his pack, suggested I enjoy an unscheduled rest while he back tracked in search of his phone. The short story was he had left his phone on the table at the cabin which added an extra 8 kms walking to his day as for me I had a wonderful rest.

On reaching Juovvatjahhka emergency hut and being much later as a result of the lost phone episode we realized we weren’t going to make Aiget hut. With the sky indicating a storm brewing we took shelter in the emergency hut as the ground was covered in rocks making it impossible to set up the tent.

All settled down for the night in our warm sleeping bags we dozed off to sleep without much effort. Our deep sleep was disturbed by someone bursting into the small cabin. Startled and sitting bolt upright to find someone unloading his back pack as he anguished over his painful swollen ankle. Offering to have a look at his ankle (being a nurse) he declined as he just wanted to get into his sleeping bag, get warm and get to sleep. 

Waking early we set off leaving the guy to call for an emergency rescue, wasn’t long before we sighted the helicopter above. Walking over the track of rocks was treacherous and would have been easy to take a tumble but we made it unscathed onto flatter ground. Leaving the rocky terrain behind we came across a herd of reindeer grazing. They didn’t flee straight away which enabled a couple of pics to be snapped.

Aiget cabin came into the distant view which was a tease as we could see it in the destination for a long time before actually arriving. Stopping to chat to a couple originally from Australia now living in Sweden, they were out day waking hoping to come across a sighting of reindeer so they where most excited to learn we had walked passed a herd. The downhill walk into Aiget was uneventful and we reached it in good time. After enjoying a cuppa along with a chat to the host, they always have great stories to share we continued on towards the village of Ammarnas. 

The short sharp climb out of the valley had us on a plateau that gave great views of Ammarnas before descending into the forest. We paused at a magnificent waterfall spilling into the river. The trail signage indicated there were many short walks through the forest and being a beautiful sunny day a lot of folk were out and about.

We leisurely strolled around the lake passing a few people camped with some set up fishing. Coming off the dirt track onto the bitumen road we made our way to the hotel, booked in, retrieved our supply box that we had posted from Stockholm and collapsed on the soft bed. Without too many challenges we had successfully walked the southern section of the Kungsleden and now for a day off the track. With washing done, a hot shower and clean clothes we dined at the local cafe with the hamburger and chips hitting the spot. The village also had a well stocked supermarket and camping store which mainly catered for the fisherman and skier. At the visitors centre we organized the key for Ravfallsstugan being a private hut offering accommodation to trail walkers. It was so good to chill for a day and a half.

into the remote section …..Ammarnas to Kvikkjok 168kms

Feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the remote section we headed off early through the pine plantation in the rain. Up and up and up, the ascent dragged on over rough boggy terrain but we eventually made it and the views made the slog well worth it. Stopping at a lake with a three sided wind shelter we took refuge and hoped the rain would be short lived. Cleared areas indicated this spot was popular for camping. 

The rain was off and on for most of the day as we made our way across the plateau. We weren’t expecting a cabin in this area so we were pleasantly surprised coming across one. At first we thought it might be a private cabin but being right on the track it was open to all who wandered by. The days walk was really uneventful but highlighted by crossing the arctic circle which was signified by a large cairn of rocks. PIC_0093

 

Dipping down off the plateau we crossed the bridge and continued through the forest until reaching the private Ravfallsstugan cabin. There were quiet a few people already at the hut in fact it was over crowded but on such a miserable weather day we were appreciative of a roof over our head. The actual kitchen and one room with 4 bunk beds was open for anyone stranded. The key we had was to a large dormitory with 8 beds and a wood fire. Initially we were confused as to why about 10 people all headed off to the smaller room, then we realized, arrh, the locals didn’t pay for a room. Anyway we suggested the crowd spread themselves into our large room with the warmth of the wood fire burning. With night falling despite full light as the sun never goes down we snuggled down with the fire keeping the room very warm.

Leaving the crowed hut behind we headed off for what others told us would be a steep climb out of the valley onto another plateau. Well the climb wasn’t too challenging as the trail followed the contours but emerging onto the plateau the wind was blowing a gale. Despite the clear sky and sun shining it was freezing. Finding a ditch we hunkered down for a cuppa to take a break from the howling wind.

The surrounding mountain caps had a covering of snow which clearly was why it was so cold. Further on we had the challenge of negotiating our way across a stream that was the result of melting snow from the mountains. There was no option but to wade our way through the freezing water and over the slippery rocks, thankfully we made it without any mishaps. Our attention was quickly diverted to a few reindeer poised in a snow patch in the distance watching us make our way across the plateau.

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 Continuing on we walked through a lightly sheltered area which gave relief from the wind that hadn’t let up all day. Ian stopped to inspect some abandoned rusty wheels suggesting the terrain was too rough for a cyclist. We had chatted to a few cyclist along the trail all declaring with the amount of rock and mud to push over and through it was a challenge. As one guy put it ‘I’m doing a lot of ‘walkaling’, being the combination of walking and cycling. 

Being late afternoon we were on the lookout for a camp spot. Finally coming across a beautiful spot by a lake with a snow capped mountain we weren’t going any further. Ian was well entertained watching for rising fish but without a fishing rod there was no fish for dinner. After the crowded hut last evening this was so peaceful.

Waking to a warmer morning we were relieved to find the wind was much calmer. Ambling along the plateau without any desire to rush but rather just take this wonderful environment in. The rivers, the huge rocks and the vast barron plateaus, the forest all bringing such beauty and serenity. So many bridges to cross all constructed differently. Some sturdy and stable whilst others wonky that you bounced across. Planks of wood created boardwalks over swampy plains whilst other wood planks were laid over streams with some solid whilst others had collapsed. In some cases balancing on rocks protruding out of the water made for a slippery crossing. Regardless the bridges created a significant part to the trail enabling the hiker to continue on.

Diverting off the trail we stopped at a small shelter for a break. A guy from Norway was brewing his coffee which we could smell as we drew closer. He was walking in the opposite direction and not particularly loving the adventure as loneliness was starting to settle in. Seeing us together didn’t help as his wife wasn’t at all interested in multi day hiking. As I explained it’s a tough gig and more of a mind challenge than physical. After we bid him goodbye I pondered the huge adjustments to everyday living that we make. Personal hygiene being a birdbath, wearing the same clothes for days, setting up and taking down the tent each day, rolling in and out of the tent, sleeping on a thermarest mattress, the insects, walking day after day………… it’s endless.

Heading back to the main track had us chatting about just how lucky we could enjoy nature and hiking together, something we don’t take for granted. Finding a beautiful spot by a river for lunch we lingered longer in the beautiful sunshine as the river flowed by. Back on the track and into the forest we continued on until deciding to pitch the tent by the flowing river for the night.

With a short walk into Baverholmn next morning we were looking forward to visiting the cafe that others had told us to stop at. Today was the first of many private boat crossing that we would encounter through the remote section. Baverholmn being a holiday resort on the river can only be assessed by foot or boat. Merging out of the forest the cafe came into sight. With the outdoor seating on the lawn we eagerly anticipated what gourmet treats we would indulge in. Stepping onto the veranda with an outreached hand grasping the door knob and turning, the door didn’t open. Surely an old door just difficult to open but glancing at the opening hours we were far too early, oh the disappointment. The boat operator was already busy transferring people over to Aldostrom so we just lulled on the lush green lawns and waited our turn to board the boat.

Finally at Adolfstrom we discovered this was a holiday village that could be accessed by road, it was very busy. Making our way to the cafe combined general store we enjoyed morning tea in the garden area. Collecting the key for Pieljekaisestugan, another private hut we set off again making sure we didn’t dilly dally which is what we do very well. Locating the mail box I dropped the key in from the previous private hut, they’ve got this key pick up and drop off well organized. The map indicated we were in for some climbing and climb we did. Many people from the holiday village were scattered along the trail and eager to stop for a chat. After lunch by a lovely river we crossed the bridge and embarked on some rock scrambling, it was tough going as we ascended.

Arriving at the private hut which was positioned on a slope of rocks, we were relieved we had the key to the hut as there was no way we could have pitched the tent. The construction of this hut would have been some challenge. Another guy arrived and seeing the impossible task of setting up his tent also retreated to the hut.

A short walk the next day had us entering the village of Jakkvik, yeah a rest day. Having booked into the local church hostel we were looking forward to a bed, hot shower and laundry facility. The hostel host informed us he had received a message from a neighboring village to say our supply box had been delivered there. Why didn’t they forward it on to Jakkvik, we weren’t impressed. To shorten the drama story Ian spent his so called rest day on a bus traveling to the neighboring village to collect the supply box which wasn’t straight forward. With Ian identifying who he was, showing his license to confirm just who he was the postal clerk decided because he was of international status then passport identification was required. Where was his passport,  you guessed it safely with me back at Jakkvik. With much convincing talk from Ian the postal clerk reluctantly handed over the supply box and Ian was on the afternoon bus back to Jakkvik. As for me, I enjoyed a wonderful relaxing day by the waters edge.  

Reloading our backpacks with supplies we head off in the direction of the lake. The mountain reflection on the still water were spectacular. Further along, the trail came to an end at the lake edge and there was only one way across and that was to self row across the lake. Thankfully boats were on either side, otherwise Ian would have endured some extra rowing. Being a beautiful sunny day with no wind the water across the lake was a glass off. Ian being an old hand at row boats had the boat across the other side in no time. As we disembarked a guy was anxiously seeking advice claiming he had never been in a small boat before let alone a row boat. Ian offered to row him across but he declined saying it would be a new experience.

Continuing on through the heat of the day we headed up and up and up through the dense forest before stepping out onto the plateau. Walking across the exposed barron plateau the cold wind was circulating about. The difference in climate and terrain was dramatic.

We high tailed it across the plateau as we needed to be transferred over a wide lake by a private boat operator who had a reputation of not waiting for hikers. The boat arrived with others disembarking and us boarding. The view was beautiful as we skimmed across the water. Arriving at Vuonatjviken another holiday resort, we didn’t delay in heading off as we needed to walk on in search of a spot to set up the camp for the night. In fact we found a beautiful spot right on the waters edge, thankfully the mosquitoes weren’t too bad. We may go without the comforts of life but honestly hiking and wild camping is just the best life with a million dollar view.

Up, packed and heading off, we certainly had this down pat. Today was just another day on the trail, one foot in front of the other allowing the peace of nature to settle over us. We stopped to inspect a traditional Sami hut that is identified as an emergency hut on the trail. Made out of a framework of tree trunks, rock and covered in compacted mud that dries and sets firmly it obviously had stood the test of time. Not far along the track we found a lovely cleared spot sheltered by some shrubbery which was perfect for us to set up. Wandering down to the stream with the intention to take a dip was short lived. Dipping my toes in I discovered the water was freezing. Scooping up some water I made my way back to camp, heated up the water and had yet another birdbath. Despite being in a sheltered spot the wind howled in and around all night collapsing the tent walls at times. 

After a poor nights sleep breaking camp was rather sluggish and with the sky rolling with heavy dark clouds we new it wasn’t going to be a rain free day. The well defined track was covered in huge mud patches. Slipping in would have been disastrous i thought to myself. Ian had just wide birthed a mud patch and warned me to be careful but I didn’t quite go around wide enough. Let me tell you once you start slipping in there’s no stopping. I was up to my knees in mud with the challenge of getting out, mind you I also had the weight of my backpack. Anyway I clawed my way out with Ian pulling. What a mess of thick tacky black mud dripping off me as I eventually stood up. Finding a spot to pull up and try and gain some composure Ian boiled the billy hoping to calm the emotional beast that had emerged from within me. With emotions intact we pushed on. Arriving at a beautiful clearing by a narrow stream we both agreed this would be our home for the night. In our planning at home we allowed flexibility with the itinerary as we wanted that experience of stumbling over beautiful picturesque spots to camp just like this.

Up and at it ready to take on another day of challenges we surged on through the damp forest as a result of the overnight rain. Going through a reindeer enclosure we were mindful to leave the gate as we had found it. Passing by an abandoned tent we guessed the owner wasn’t carrying it any further with the end of the remote section insight.

Dropping into the valley with Goabddabakte mountain in the background the temperature dropped dramatically, it was freezing. With the mammoth rock feature looming over us we made our way along the boggy terrain feeling insignificant in size. Many large pieces of rock had broken away and rolled down into the valley along with loose shale. In the distance the track made its way over a saddle, it looked steep but at least we weren’t going over the summit. Trudging up the ascent it wasn’t long before we were peeling our coats off.

Reaching the saddle summit it was straight down the other side into a valley of snow. In the distance we spotted a lone reindeer wandering about as we continued on.  

Arriving at Tsielekjakkstugan hut, it was early afternoon and we still had energy in our legs to push on so after a hot milo we loaded up again in search of another wild camping spot. Finding a clearing just off the track we set up camp. The river flowed by but Ian had a steep walk down then back up to camp with the water supply. Drifting off to sleep very content knowing with a short walk to the jetty and a boat ride across the lake tomorrow, we had survived the remote section.       

Knowing a hot shower awaited in Kivkkjokk was all that was needed to roll out of the the tent earlier than usual. The fjallstation had laundry facilities which meant clean clothes and a restaurant!!!. We certainly had a spring in our step as we made our way along the trail. The sign ‘ring the boat operator’ appeared which we did giving an estimated arrival time at the jetty.  Descending over the rough rocky track we continued through the dense forest eventually sighting the water. Down on the jetty the air was crisp coming off the water which had us rug up whilst waiting for the boat. The boat arrived with a group of hikers heading off into the forest. The boat operator along with her husband ran the boat service and apart from transferring hikers across the water they conducted scenic tours. The husband was a third generation boat operator.

Kvivkkjok being a small residential village attracted many tourist to the holiday village. The village was buzzing with people so we opted to set the tent up in the camping area, clearly we had been bush long enough to feel a tad overwhelmed by the hoards of people. With tent set up, showered and washing done we headed over to the restaurant to tuck into a feed. After dining we mingled in the lounge area and chatted to others. Some like us were hiking others fishing whilst some were holidaying at the village for a few days. Everyone  had a story to share. The supply box had arrived safely, thank goodness. Browsing through the store I excitedly purchased a tin of heinz baked beans and a box of kelloggs corn flakes, who would have thought. We enjoyed our rest day just lulling about. It was hard to imagine we now only had the northern section to walk.

the final countdown……Kvikkjok to Abisko 184kms

Well rested and eager to get back on the trail we headed off in the cool of the morning. As pleasant as it was mingling amongst the hoards of people we were looking forward to heading back into the solitude of the bush and wild camping. The last section of the Kungsleden was in front of us. Reminiscing of the challenges we had encountered and conquered thus far spurred us on.

Being the northern section we were prepared for many more hikers to be on the trail being the most popular section. With the sun pushing through the clouds we walked through the dense forest over the rough track. The day was fairly uneventful as we made our way to Parte cabin with plans to have a break there. Parte was a beautiful spot in the midst of the forest. For the short time we were there a continuous flow of people pulled up making this their stop for the day but for us our days walk wasn’t over. Crossing over a large bridge we discovered a cleared spot by the river. With a plank of wood balancing on rocks for seating and a ring of rocks being a fire pit we decided to pull up for the day. Through the trees we could see a few other tents set up. With all camp tasks completed we snuggle down into our warm sleeping bags for the night listening to the flowing river as we drifted off to sleep.

Up and at it again we headed off for another day on the trail. The gradual climb merged into a much steeper climb involving some serious rock scrambling but with true grit and determination we made it. Walking out of the forest onto a plateau there was a lot of loose shale and rock to negotiate over. The view of the valley below was wonderful. We needed to be mindful of the time as we had to catch a boat over the lake which only made a morning and afternoon transfers. Ian reminded me not to dilly dally along the way, me dilly dally!!!

Arriving at the small Jagge hut we had lunch. While I stretched out on the wooden sleeping platforms resting the old weary body Ian explored the area. Continuing on for the afternoon stint the sky above featured some very dark clouds rolling around and the drop in temperature was apparent. A small group of hikers heading in the opposite direction suggested we gear up for the routine afternoon thunderstorm. They informed us this was to be expected in the northern section. Heeding the advice we slipped into our wet weather gear and within minutes the clap of thunder preceded a dumping of heavy rain.

As instant as the storm hit it moved on with fine weather following. Heading back into the forest the trail descended steeply over rocks that were slippery as a result of the rain. Sure footed making our way down and we continued through the forest until reaching the jetty. Decision time, either raise the white flag and alert the boat operator of our presence or jump in the row boat and self row across the lake. With the wind picking up we decided to raise the white flag. Whilst waiting we watched someone self row, what a struggle as the wind played havoc throwing the row boat around. The views across the lake were spectacular.

After disembarking the boat we had a short walk to Aktse. The area was buzzing with people, dogs and mosquitoes. Luckily we snagged the last tent site. There was a dedicated hut for campers and day hikers which dispersed the crowds. The make shift outdoor shower despite cold water being pumped from the river was popular amongst those who had been hiking for days on end. The shop was more like a mini mart, the best we had seen so far on the trail, so much variety. Climbing the Skierfe which loomed above was the attraction to this area with many walking in from the north to make the climb and view the amazing river delta below. We had read there weren’t many spots to pitch the tent on the plateau so we reluctantly set up the tent with the hoards of people and swarms of mosquitoes. Mingling with others we enjoyed listening to everyone’s adventures.

Waking early we were eager to depart this mosquito infested area. Climbing up out of the valley the trail followed a beautiful stream gentle flowing over the rocks. Merging onto the treeless plateau we were surprised at the amount of tents setup. We were miffed as we realized we could have camped on the plateau but we opted to go with what we had read. Our hopes were dashed with even making the SKierfe climb as heavy thick cloud drifted in, it was a complete white out which suggested there would be no view of the river delta. Like us many forgo the climb and disappointingly walked on across the baron plateau.

Arriving at the sign indicating to ring the boat operator before the decent we did just that and booked our ride. The decent was steep and straight down over loose rocks and shale. One awkward footing would have had us rolling over the rocks to the valley. On entering the valley we walked through marsh lands, with the amount of boardwalk the track was obviously prone to flooding.

A young guy came hurtling along calling out asking as to whether we had booked the boat as he didn’t have a phone on him, lucky for him as it could have been a long cold swim. Making our way across the lake the boat operator was carefully following a marked route as many large rocks lay beneath the water. The sky turned dull and as we alighted the boat a shower of rain fell as we made our way to Sitajaure hut. Taking shelter in the hut to have lunch we agreed to have a short day rather than slog through the rain.

Waking feeling refreshed and in much brighter spirits we head off ready to face what ever challenges come our way as we made our way to Saltoluokta. Being a holiday village we had pre booked a motel style room, a shower awaited. With the wind blowing a gale and throwing us off balance occasionally we were relieved to come across the Autsutjvagge small hut where we stopped for lunch. Heading off for the last few kilometers a couple greeted us with “you would have to be aussies” to which we were intrigued as to what was the tell tale sign without having spoken. The couple had decided, hiking in shorts despite the weather they will have to be fellow Australians. The young couple were from Melbourne and walking the trail north to south.

Descending down to the holiday village many people other than hikers were about. Helicopters flew above conducting tours or dropping people off at the village. Apart from the helicopter the only other way to access and exit this area is by bus then catch the ferry across or travel by foot depending on which direction you are walking.

Collecting our supply box and booking in for dinner we then wandered to our room and enjoyed a hot shower, oh the feeling of hot running water over the body. Well rested we mingled with  some other hikers, tourists and some fisherman. The well stocked shop of food and adventure equipment was busy with people. With the dinner bell ringing we ventured into the restaurant and were seated with a family from Norway who had caught the bus and ferry to have a week in the area to enjoy some day walks. We had a lovely evening not to mention the amazing food served in a buffet style banquet.

With the ferry departing at 10 am we were looking forward to a sleep in. With breakfast included in the tariff we were eager to be seated around the breakfast table. Let me say we weren’t disappointed. Making our way down to the jetty we boarded the ferry with many others. Arriving at the other side people were waiting to be ferried across to the holiday village. A short walk up to the road had us board the waiting bus to be transferred 30kms to Vakkotavare. There is no hiking trail in this small section.

Pulling up at the hut at Vakkotavare all hikers hopped off. We joined the flurry of people sorting through the pile of backpacks before heading up the incline. Stopping frequently to enjoy the staggered waterfall flowing furiously down over the rocks. Reaching the plateau we rocked hopped our way across, the mountain views in the distance were breathtaking.

The last few kms to the lakeside was steep, rough and seemed endless but we eventually made it to the dilapidated jetty with time to spare. Looking across the water the hut sat in the hollow with a waterfall as a backdrop, truly beautiful to the eye. Arriving at Teusajaure hut by boat we found a grassy but slopping spot to pitch the tent. The camp host suggested we make use of the vacant hut for meals and storing our bags as inclement weather was expected. Chatting to a couple of women we felt their disappointment as they talked about the possibility of calling their hike quits, we know what that’s like. Many people were enjoying the sauna as they ran out of the hot sauna and jumping into the freezing lake, common practice they say. For whatever reason we never experienced the saunas that most huts had, not sure why perhaps too exhausted at the end of a long day on the track but then again that’s why hikers headed for the sauna.

After a wonderful nights sleep we made our way along the trail up the side of the waterfall. With another day of not knowing what would greet us on the trail we continued across the plateau. The unpredictable weather, steep climbs and descents, rocks, mud, snow patches, a flat smooth trail, rough lake crossings maybe even smooth waters had all become familiar to us. With strength of mind and resilience nothing took us by surprise now. 

Dropping down into the forest we followed along a raging river, the sun was shining above in the clear sky, what a beautiful day to be in nature. Stopping at the spectacular waterfall for awhile before continuing on we crossed paths with a couple hiking the trail from Tasmania.

Crossing over the bridge we made our way to Kaitumjaure hut being our intended lunch stop. What a beautiful spot with magnificent views of the flowing river and mountains in the background. Apparently in this area elk and moose sightings are common but not today. Wandering around I noticed a very familiar patch on a backpack, the Bibbulmun Track patch. The Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia is a 1003km track from Perth to Albany. I scurried off to find the owner of this backpack. Many international people hike the Bibb Track so I was surprised the pack belonged to a fellow Western Australian. As they say ‘its a small world’.

With lunch enjoyed we reluctantly hauled our backpacks on and set off, we would have loved to have stayed overnight in this beautiful setting. Continuing on and once out of the forest we walked between huge mountains with a river flowing in the valley. A canoe was twisting and twirling about in the strong current of water. Drawing closer to the waters edge we noted some ideal spots to pitch the tent but we also noted the mosquito activity was high so we pushed on in hope of coming to some higher ground in which we did. With a scramble up we pitched the tent with a beautiful view below, felt like paradise. The only issue was Ian had to scramble down and up to collect water, yes always Ian’s task to collect the water. 

By now morning pack up was effortless as we both just morphed into what needed to be done. With only a short walk to Singi hut we arrived before the crowds had dispersed. Some where heading north as we were, others heading south whilst a large contingent were detouring to the Kebnekaise Trail. Also this route continues onto the village of Nikkaluokta. After a cuppa and chat to the camp host we pushed on with our destination being another wild camp past Salka hut which would leave a short walk before the climb up and over Tjaktja pass being the highest elevation on the trail. The good news was the knee high snow we had been told about at the start of our hike had melted away leaving snow patches that were easy to walk over.

Stopping at Salka hut for lunch we bathed in the warm sunshine before pushing on for the afternoon. Our anticipation was growing not knowing what to expect with regards the ascent over the Tjaktja pass. Having listened to many reports from hikers heading south we decided  ‘lets just enjoy the adventure for ourselves’. Finding another beautiful spot to pitch the tent we set about the necessary camp tasks before lounging back and enjoying the view, and what a view it was.

With a spring in our step and the summit in view we made our way across the soggy valley that had a lot of water running off the mountains making the track muddy and slippery over the rocks. Stopping to chat to a couple and a baby on board we decided our load was nothing in comparison. The guy carried the hiking gear for all three whilst the lady carried the baby in a pouch and food supplies in her backpack.

Reaching the base of Tjaktja Pass we commenced the climb not knowing what to expect. Mid way up the ascent we reached a plateau were others were camped, if only we had known. Turning a round the view back down the valley was pure beauty. 

With the second part of the climb becoming more serious it was head down and just keep climbing to the summit. Perhaps we had become fitter than we had realized but we were standing on the summit and not destroyed by the challenge of climbing Tjaktja Pass, we did it. There was still plenty of snow up on the pass but certainly not knee deep.

Making our way down it certainly was cold as the wind came off the snow. Now in the valley the track turned to loose stone which was very tiresome on the legs and mind. Relieved to see Tjaktja hut in the distance we totally relaxed and walked it in for an early lunch. What another spectacular hut setting with the mountain backdrop and flowing river in the foreground.

The walk into Alesjaure had its climbs and rocky terrain but nothing too challenging but a long walk. From Tjaktja hut it was only 13kms but it seemed liked 31kms. Anyway we eventually made the hut which was set amongst huge rocks. What a place with a couple of large cabins, large kitchen and dining areas and a very well stocked shop. Helicopters buzzed in and out continuously being the only transport into the area unless walking. Setting up camp we pondered as to whether we would have a rest day tomorrow as we had a few days up our sleeve but decided to leave that decision till the morning.

Waking earlier than planned thanks to the helicopters making an early start, we pondered what we might do to fill the day in. By about mid morning our conversation had turned to what time did the boat depart that could take us to the end of the lake. Having lost a few hours of walking IMG_7558we thought it a good plan to catch the boat to ensure we weren’t too late arriving into camp. In no time we were packed, water bottles filled and down at the jetty waiting for the boat. We don’t do rest days very well but they are essential for overall physical, emotional and psychological well being.

A few others boarded the boat with us. The skipper being of Sami heritage had actually just returned from the mountains after a few days of herding reindeer. As we pssed by a Sami village he enlightened us with the work of the Sami people. During the warmer months the reindeer head up into the mountains where there is still significant snow fall. He was surprised at the reindeer sightings we had experienced along the trail. The modern day Sami lives in town with a normal job and only inhabits the Sami village during herding season. Over the winter months all supplies and food are transported in for the summer duration. Families stay in the towns with only the men living in the Sami villages during herding season whereas in days gone by families lived in the villages permanently. As we disembarked a group of walkers boarded for the return trip to Alesjaure. 

The walk around the lake was very pleasant with the warmth of the sun and the snow capped mountain reflections on the lake making for a very peaceful time. Being our second last day we just ambled along wishing this could last forever.

As the day went on it was very hot walking along the exposed plateau that followed the river. The the intense heat which had us stopping to refill our water bottles frequently. With no trees in sight there was no shade but as luck had it there were plenty of large rocks throwing shade which made a perfect lunch stop. Mid afternoon we started the decent into the forest which gave relief from the pounding sun rays. Weaving our way along the boardwalk the hut came into view as did the many people. We noticed the northern end certainly had more facilities to cater for the crowds.

Well here we were at Abiskojaure pitching the tent for the last night on the Kungsleden. We could hardly believe it as we chatted about the adventure we had experienced. During dinner a very excited guy ran towards us calling out ‘you made it, you made it’ Well of course we made it I thought to myself but in saying that not everyone does. The French guy had met us way back in the first week of walking and being Australian he had remembered us. Everyone stops for the night at different campsites so its easy to loose one another but you always seem to catch up down the track. We had a great chat especially about walking the Le Puy Camino in France which is where we were heading after a few days in back Stockholm. Feeling incredibly content we called it a night hoping for a solid nights sleep.

 The sun was shining beckoning us to roll out of the tent and get the day started. Sitting at the picnic area having breakfast we were join by a woman looking about our age. She was heading off on another trail that would take her up into the mountains for a few days. My first thought was ‘bears’ but she was not perturbed. She was more terrified of the snakes she had read about in Australia. This made me realize our attitude towards snake encounters is no different to Swedish locals attitude to bears. Anyway with all that chatter behind us we headed off for our last day walking along the Kungsleden trail.

The trail weaved around the lake as we passed many private huts nestled in amongst the dense vegetation. With the sun filtering through the canopy of branches we ambled along taking our time as we were aware once off the trail we would be back into the hustle and bustle of normal life. Though we both feel after all the hiking we have enjoyed over the years this is our preferred normal. The final ascent lead us along a raging river that lead into a gorge. The rock formations were huge.

Our final steps on the Kungsleden lead us through a walkway that featured all the areas we had walked through over the past weeks. It was rather surreal and emotional as we slowly made our way along pausing to reflect on the events we had encountered whilst hiking. Starting in Hemavan we actually had walked our way to Abisko, we were chuffed.

Then just like that our hiking adventure was over as we made our way to the Abisko ski village where many others were finishing like us or starting off. Many tourists were also about. We were definitely back in civilization. Booked into our accommodation we showered, collapsed on the bed then found our way down to the restaurant and grazed our way around the buffet banquet. Despite a wonderful hike we both felt very disappointed we had not been able to make the  Skierfe climb to view the delta lakes. With having finished the hike earlier than planned, the decision was made and Ian set about booking a helicopter scenic flight over the area. 

From Abisko we caught the train to Kirnua and from there we made the journey by bus to Kebnats for the helicopter tour. The day was perfect with not a cloud insight and the pilot was most excited he was able to show us what we had missed out on. We flew over the track we had walked followed by a few circuits of the delta lakes. In fact he took us further on over an area where many keen fishermen get flown in for a period of time to fish. Our Sweden journey was now complete. 

The next few days we just spent chilling and filling in time until our flight to France to walk the Le Puy Camino, our adventure wasn’t over just yet. 

Until next yarn, happy hiking

Bernadette and Ian Wright

sign off

 

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