Kungsleden day 2 – me and the reindeer

I slept in!  Glorious!  The English neighbours kept me up until 11pm.  I did wake up freezing at 2am and put my down jacket on and then slept soundly until 7am.  Made myself breakfast in bed and then dismantled my tent.

view down to Aiger hut

I wandered past the Aiger hut en route to Ammarnas town.  The huts here are quite flash but expensive – about £25 for a dorm bed.  For that you do get a sauna also.   And they sell food, which is more than you can get in a hut in NZ.  I have been a bit spoilt in France as for more or less the same price they give you a bed and also cook you a four course dinner and breakfast.  And the other downside of the Swedish huts is that you are expected to contribute to the chores by hauling water and chopping wood.   I guess if I am going to haul water then I may as well just camp, and it’s free 

It was a nice gentle 8k wander down into Ammarnas town. Like most hikers I was already fantasising about what yummy food they might have (yes even after just two nights camping). Hmmmm, I was sure there would be a bakery with a world class freshly baked cinnamon roll (the swedes are famous for their cinnamon rolls) and some rye bread with dark chocolate chunks and dried apricots…. And I would get a great coffee to have with it. Not so much! The ‘supermarket’ opened as I rolled into town around ten and it had a world class display of fish, liver and cheese paste in tubes. No fresh bread, no cinnamon rolls. Oh well, I bought some fruit and some chocolate and headed to the cafe. The cafe was closed but they did give me a coffee – £2.50 for the coffee from the pump thermos which had been sitting there since breakfast…. Oh the disappointment…..

ammarnas town

Leaving Ammarnas I was heading into the wilder part of the trail – 166km with no huts and only two small villages.  The trail wasn’t very well marked as few people hike this stretch.  Heading out of town there were multiple trails, no signposts, and my map didn’t help much as it only had one trail on it.  Oh well, a bit of reckoning with the compass, and mostly dumb luck and I eventually picked a trail.  For 17km I didn’t see a soul, and I startled five reindeer….it was lovely, although it might have been been nice to see someone to make sure I was on the right trail as there were multiple trail options and still no signposts.   There is nothing more disconcerting to a hiker than walking a long way and then having to turn around…. While hiking is lovely, hiking the wrong way and backtracking really isn’t…

Heading down to Ravfjallstugan I did run into to Norwegian mountain bikers who confirmed I was on the right track… Very amusing, one had panniers, but the other was cycling with a huge hiking pack.  Well I say cycling, but they were pushing the bikes when I saw them…. 

these high plains seem to go on forever

After a late lunch at Ravfjallstugan of chilli and bread (my fantasy of running into a generous Sami family grilling reindeer steaks didn’t pan out either), I checked the map for an obvious camping destination for the night and there weren’t many …. So walked another 10k up onto the high reindeer ground and have pitched camp next to one of the few rivers and I have a herd of reindeer entertaining me on the other bank.   I have only seen one tent since leaving the valley at Ravfjallstugan so fingers crossed I won’t have any neighbours tonight. 

Distance travelled= 40.1 km from 1km short of Aiger hut to the Davta bavnna bridge


Kungsleden day 1 – light all night

So as far as I can tell, while the sun when down last night, it didn’t ever get dark.  I woke up to pee a few times (a combination of the cold, the babbling brook feeding the lake, and too many cups of tea before bed) and it was bright all night

the view from my tent last night at 11pm

There was a fair amount of nocturnal activity as well.  I thought I was totally alone but heard voices and the noise of an engine around 11pm.  I clearly hadn’t been out of London long enough as I started looking for my knife, and then I remembered I was in one of the safest countries in the world.  I couldn’t actually see anyone but noise carries a fair way over water, and they puttered around out there until about 1am

the view from the tent at 3am

First night in the tent is always a tough one, so I gave up trying to sleep around 5.30 and had a leisurely breakfast of cheesy grits and powdered eggs and a litre of coffee.  I set off into the mist around 7 to walk through a stunning bridged section of the archipelago.  The sun was trying and failing to burn the mist off, but I actually enjoyed the eerieness.  I passed a few tents en route to the next hut but didn’t see my first hiker until 9.30, and they had just left the hut…. It’s a fairly laid back approach here…. Most people walk for no more than 15k per day, and like to take extended breaks 

The swedes are extremely friendly and I did stop to chat to a few.  One lady in particular was a fellow gear aficionado who recognised my tent poking out of my pack!  She had also been to NZ (as had many of the folks I talked to today) and asked why I wasn’t wearing shorts over thermal underwear – which is classic kiwi kit (but not good for tanning the legs). 

I also made friends with a few dogs.  Unlike most countries, dogs are allowed in the national parks and I saw seven gorgeous dogs today all carrying their own packs! ( this pic isn’t very good but you can see the dog backpack)

I walked the 27k to Serve hut then stopped for pasta and coffee on a log beside the trail in the sun. After that another 20k to Aiger with a nice climb up a mountain.  I did see a lovely 2 bed hut which I  contemplated overnighting in as the view was stunning, but a young German guy had beaten me to it and I didn’t fancy sharing.  The scenery returned to the moon, but I am beginning to appreciate the different hues of the rocks, the fluffy flowers, and the lovely tarns and lakes.   

The weather here is highly changeable and a bit goldilocks.  When the sun is out, it is lovely and almost too hot!  But when the sun is behind the clouds and the winds pick up it is mighty cold.  For context it is mid summer and the highest temperature so far has been 16 degrees. 

I have stopped short of the hut at Aiger to pitch camp off the trail and beside a nice river.   Had a lovely dinner sitting in the sun followed by industrial quantities of chocolate (my pack weighs too much with all the food so am incentivised to eat more).  But the wind has picked up so am now sheltering in my wee tent hoping it is secure.  

Bizarrely some hikers have just stopped and are putting up their tent….there are thousands of acres of grass and they literally are pitching right next door!   For those of you who aren’t experienced back country campers, it’s the equivalent of being the only person on a deserted beach and having four people put their towels down one metre away from you.   They are English!!!!  only English people would think it was ok to go for a row of terraced tents….  Just as well my tent has an ensuite.   Oh well, will wake them up nice and early when I leave.  I am 8k short of finishing this first section of the Kungsleden which the guide says takes 5-7 nights.   

my unwelcome neighbours right next to my small grey tent
Distance travelled 44.8 km from Stokkelklippen to 1km short of Aiger hut
Ascent=1250 m

Kungsleden Day 0.5 – walking on the moon

I took a flight to hemavan, two hours from Stockholm, it felt like landing in NZ.  Only 20 of us on the plane and most with backpacks, and the luggage guy pulls the handcart out in front of the terminal for you to get your bag.  I walked into town, bought gas for my stove, dropped off my food parcel at bussgoods to send on to Kvikkjokk for resupply, bought membership to the Swedish youth hostel foundation (saves tonnes of money on ferries and if I need to stay in huts if it rains) and had some coffee. 

I finally got started on the kungsleden (after a few wrong turns in town, I can’t navigate around buildings) at 1pm.   The forecast was for rain, so I figured out where the huts were, but crossed my fingers for calm weather so I could camp

I passed about 50 people that afternoon, coming and going in both directions.  Swedish hikers dress like Nz trampers (our word for hikers) in the 1980s in the snow.  They all have enormous backpacks and are dressed from head to toe in heavy waterproofs, together  with gloves and hat and the obligatory heavy boots.  I, of course, was in shorts, tshirts and trail runners.  Two people actually told me to slow down and breathe, which was quite amusing as I was only ambling along, but wasn’t encumbered by a huge pack (though the 10kg on my back was more than enough).

The scenery was lovely but unremarkable. After a short and easy climb out of Hemavan, there is a long section through a lovely alpine valley.  I couldn’t figure out why I thought it was so moonlike and then I realised that not only were there no trees but I hadn’t seen or heard any birds for a few hours.   It was bleak but interesting

The Kungsleden is both a hiking and a cross country ski trail, sometimes using the same paths, some times separating for a while.  The paths alternate between boggy mush and rock.  Not really surprising it is boggy as it is under snow for 2/3s of the year.  In lots of places the STF kindly put some planks for you to walk on, but I did have wet feet most of the day.   

I decided to walk until the archipelago at Stokkelklippen, just over 27km, and find somewhere to camp.  I arrived around 6.30 to an enthusiastic welcome from a swarm of mozzies who were more annoying than aggressive.  I did end up eating in my tent after my first cup of tea ended up a mosquito graveyard, and I didn’t fancy eating that extra protein

In bed now, feeling warm enough, even though it is significantly colder than I expected it to be!!! It’s 8.30pm/hiker midnight, although the sun won’t fully set here until 10.30 and it comes up at 4. Listening to the sound of the stream outside 

Distance travelled 27.5k from Hemavan to Stokkelklippen 

Ascent 825m (it’s very flat here!)

Packing for 450km in Lapland

The idea of hiking in Swedish lapland has always appealed.  There is tonnes of drinkable water everywhere, you can camp anywhere you like (provided not too close to someone’s house), the daylight goes on until early morning, and in some places there are well equipped huts to sleep in if you are too lazy to pitch your tent.  Hence my next adventure is a solo jaunt along the full length of the Kungsleden (the King’s Way), 450km from Hemavan to Abisko.  Apparently it is supposed to take a month, I reckon it will take 8-
10 days.  Most people don’t walk the whole thing, they just do the 25% of the trail near Abisko, so hopefully it will be quiet for much of the trail.

Kungsleden_trailMy logic for hiking towards the people (versus away from them) is actually pretty simple.  Most people hike southwards.  Why does that matter?  Well there are quite a few lakes you need to traverse in a rowboat.  This being Sweden there is a wonderful honour system where every lake has three boats.  If you arrive at the lake edge and there is only one boat on your side, you need to traverse the lake (some of which are up to 4km across) THREE times.  Why? well you need to make sure there is ALWAYS a boat on each side of the lake so no-one gets stranded.  So if there is a single boat, you need to row to the other side, tow a boat back, leave it at your original starting point and row back to the other side again.  I don’t want to do that, as I am a completely inept rower who will end up going around in circles on one crossing let alone three.  Hence am hedging my bets that I will avoid this problem by going North.

I will be posting as I go, but given the response to earlier packing posts, I thought I would do an update on what I am taking on this trip.  Obviously this is a fully self sufficient trip without the benefit of french refuges and mountain cheese shops.  There are huts in some parts of the trail where you can buy dehydrated food, but I am a pretty fussy eater so am packing my own in, and sending myself a resupply package to the a mountain hut half way.  You can also stay in huts for about 60% of the trail, but there is a long stretch from Ammarnus to Kvikjokk without huts so I will need a tent, bedroll and cooker.

Core camping kit
  • My beloved compact lightweight tent is from ZPacks – the soloplex.  Used by the holder of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trail fastest known time records – Heather Anish, it is a great tent weighing in at 440 grams (including pegs, and instead of poles you use your hiking poles).  Her review herelightest-backpacking-tent-solplex-angle_l
  • Thermarest sleeping mat – the original and in my view the best.  These are expensive but very comfortable.  I know fast packers who go without, but I love my sleep, so always take a mat!TR NeoAir_XLite
  • ZPacks sleeping bag.  This was custom made for my height and weight specifications.  I love it so much I slept in it at home for a few days when I got it.  I love it so much I bought another one so I have two for different temperature ratings.  On this one I will take the lighter version.
  • Sea to summit pillow – weights 30g, stops me getting neck ache, enough said
  • Jetboil stove – the personal titanium one.  There is an endless debate about alcohol stoves (easier to get fuel, less waste of gas canisters) versus the new generation of gas stoves (lighter and able to boil half a litre of water in under 60 seconds).  For me the jetboil is a no brainer, it is so easy to use, and so fast.  I have properly embraced the french way of living, and unless I am on a tight deadline, I eat hot food 3 times a day if I am in the back country.  With the jetfoil, I can get a cup of tea ready in a minute.  813621Together with the stove I only take a light spoon and my deejo knife and one sea to summit expandable cup (500ml)ANC62RR0J8V_smallI don’t need a fork or a plate!
  • Mosquito headnet – apparently the mozzies are vicious, and one area is called the bloody peninsular because of the mozzies.  While I look like a complete dork in a mozzie headnet it really works
  • I will be using Fizan adjustable hiking poles, so I can also use them as tent poles.
  • I am still taking my Gossamer Gear pack, but am tweaking the set up to enable me to get all my gear into it, so instead of taking a camelback I will add to raid light bottles to the shoulder straps1460727819-55167300

Out of deference to my darling husband I will also be weighing myself down with an extra 600g that I wouldn’t normally bother with, principally as there is a 100k stretch with no huts or comms, and he is worried I will break a leg (a not unfounded concern given how clumsy I am).  So I am also taking a

  • Delorme in reach so I can text via satellite if I break a leg, andInReach1
  • an outrageously heavy 300g solar battery to charge the delorme.   such is the price you pay for a happy husband 🙂

The rest of my kit is pretty much the same as I took on the GR5 which you can see here

I have to carry 7 days worth of food with me.  That is about 4 kg worth at 600grams per day.  While I am pretty basic, I won’t compromise on what I eat, and am pretty good about optimising my calories and macronutrients when out on the trail.   Unlike some hikers, I cannot survive on carbs alone, so need to make sure I get plenty of fat and protein in all my meals and that is actually harder than you might think.  I burn about 3000 – 4000 calories a day when doing hard long days in the hills, but only take about 2500 with me as make up the deficit when I hit a town and eat big burgers and icecream.  I will post separately on my food strategy for anyone super technical.

For more information on the Kungsleden check out the STF page or this pdf Kungsleden_eng.  Note that if you wanted to only do a shorter section of the trail, you could probably do without the full camping kit – this is only necessary on the section between Ammarnas and Kvikjokk.  And the full gear list is –  201608 Kungsleden gear list

Ps.  Things I would not have taken/ did not use – sunscreen, sun hat, Smartwool leggings, ultra lightweight waterproof 

Things I bought/would take – one pair heavy waterproof pants