Day 1 – 8 miles
Getting off the train at the Abisko Tourist Station was a bit of a shock. This stop has obviously been built purely for the start of the Kunglsleden, which starts right there – next to the tracks. It looked like at least 50 or 60 people got off with us, too. How busy was this going to be!
Luckily, most folk were milling around trying to take photos of each other so we made as quick a getaway as was humanly possible, whilst carrying fairly heavy rucksacks loaded up with 8 days’ worth of food.
There was an inevitable tangle to start with, with groups passing and re-passing each other along the trail, but we gradually began to spread out. Our plan anyway, was to leave the Kungsleden after the second day, so we had high hopes of a much quieter hike once we’d done that.
The walking was pleasant and easy, passing alongside the Abeskojavri Lake, through forest vegetation, with duckboards taking us over the wettest bits.
Nine miles was the projected distance to our first camping spot. The first eight miles take you through the Abisko National Park, where – unusually it would seem, for Sweden – you are forbidden to camp except at designated spots, so we wanted to be out of the park before pitching. The downside to this plan however, was that we hadn’t set off walking until about 1:30pm, and the heat (yes, heat!) and those 8 days’ worth of food we were carrying, started to take their toll.
So, just before the Park boundary after doing about 8 miles, we gave in and pitched camp. It had become apparent by then that nobody was taking much notice of the no-camping rule anyway, and we figured nobody would come looking for us. Which they didn’t.
Day 2 – 11 miles
The first night had been much cooler than expected. We weren’t cold, but there was a thin coating of ice on the tent in the morning. Nevertheless, fluffy clouds and blue skies promised another dry, warm day.
Unlike the day before – which had been fairly flat going – we started gaining some height this morning, climbing past Garddenvarri to a high pass of around 800m. We also began to pick up the hordes again. Surely Geoff wasn’t beginning to get grumpy?
We also had an extra mile to make up after stopping short the night before, which made for an 11 mile day instead of the planned 10. But, who could really moan with views – and weather – like these?
The rest of the afternoon was accompanied by wonderful views of three lakes – Miesakjavri, Radujavri and Alisjavri.
We eventually found a spot for the tent, about a mile before the Alesjaure Hut – one of many STF huts that can be found dotted around the mountains in this area.
It was peaceful. It was beautiful. And if you look very carefully at the next two photos, you might notice that Geoff is using one of those rather nifty Thermarest chair kits on his Neoair Xtherm. I was to become very jealous of that chair kit over the following days.
Day 3 – 8 miles
This was the day we were leaving the Kunglseden and all its busy-ness behind. But first, we were very intrigued to call in at the Alesjaure Hut, just to see what it was like.
It turned out this was one of the extra posh ones. You could spend the night there for a fee, camp and use the showers etc for a fee, or – like us – just call in and drink coffee and hot chocolate, for a fee. We might have bought and eaten a couple of delicious cakes as well.
Leaving the hut we crossed yet another fun suspension bridge, where I got into trouble for apparently creating a ‘double bounce’. I did notice that after that, he never got on one of those bridges at the same time as me again.
And so, we were now leaving the Kungsleden. Turning left, instead of right, we passed close to the Sami village of Alisjavri. Clearly occupied, this is a summer settlement for the reindeer herding community.
Our route then took us over another pass, visiting a rather scenic high lake at 874m, before dropping down to the head of the Visttasvaggi Valley.
This was were I got my come-uppence for the earlier double bounce. The photos don’t do it justice at all, but the Moarhmmajohka gorge had to be crossed by an airy bridge. Rounding a corner and catching a glimpse of it, it looked Very High. Probably because it was Very High. By the time I’d reached it, Geoff had already dashed to the other side and was standing staring at me across the gaping chasm with the roaring water far below. To be fair, this was the only bridge on the trip which made me think ‘Oh ****!’, but, I’m not ashamed to admit that I did hesitate for a couple of seconds.
I looked at Geoff. Then, locking my eyes onto his, I went for it, refusing to look anywhere else other than his face, until I had safely bounced and swayed across to the other side.
As we dropped further into the valley the walking became a little rougher underfoot, as we alternately passed through tree-rooty dense forests and over boulder fields. Always wonderfully scenic though, we eventually settled on a pitch for the night in the middle of a large, grassy flat area.
With high peaks all around, we lost the sun here very early. It was going to be another chilly night.
Day 4 – 8 miles
Around midnight, I had to go out for a wee. It was a bit disconcerting then, that whilst answering the call of nature, I heard an enormous crack then loads of crashing, as rock after rock fell down one of the high faces nearby.
On going back into the tent, I woke Geoff up and told him.
‘So?’ came the reply.
Then we both heard another rockfall – this time from the other side of the river.
‘So?’ came the reply once more. ‘What’re you gonna do about it? There’s nothing that’s actually been falling around where the tent is for thousands of years! Go back to sleep.’
He was right of course. I went back to sleep.
Morning brought an ice covered tent again, and it was going to be hours before the sun hit us. Consequently, it was all rather wet and cool when we packed up after breakfast.
We set off for a further 3 and a 1/2 miles down the valley, towards the Vistas hut. Three hours it took us to get there, once more tackling clinging forest vegetation and the odd talus field. A beautiful setting for lunch though, the hut was a grand spot to get a brew on and gaze up at the route we were taking in the afternoon.
After a decent break, we filled our water bottles again and set off up the Stuor Reaiddavaggi valley on the other side of the river. With the peak of Nallu in our sights, we climbed ever higher. The sun was hot and frequent drink stops were required. Again, not a particularly quick route, with it turning rockier as the valley narrowed.
There was a bit of confusion too, as it turned out that the ‘lake’ we were hoping to camp near, wasn’t a lake at all, but just a river. Presumably in the spring melt it swells enormously, which is why it looks like it does on the map, but when we were there the water level was very low. It wasn’t a particularly good spot to camp anyway – far too bouldery – so we moved on a touch, finding an excellent pitch just about a mile before the Nallo Hut.
Day 5 – 8 miles
This time, the tent had kept the sun till quite late and then caught it early in the morning, so the night was pleasantly warm. In fact, the sun woke us so early, that even after a leisurely breakfast outside we were packed and off again by 8:30.
It didn’t take us long to reach the Nallo Hut. Not one of the posh restauranty-types, but in the most wonderful alpine setting imaginable. I had a quick look around whilst dropping off some rubbish. The air was clear, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there were people – and dogs, as they’re allowed in the huts too – excitedly chatting and milling about. We had a pleasant chat with a couple of Swedish lads, who gave us a tip about which side of the lake to walk as we continued up over the pass and down the other side.
We stayed to the right of the lake (at 1056m) as they’d suggested, and it was idyllic. Definitely a highlight of the trip.
Several miles later, we eventually dropped down to around 860m and joined the Kungsleden again, at the Salka Hut. We once again availed ourselves of coffee, Coke and cakes. Well, why wouldn’t you?
Another great camping spot was found about a mile further on and as we retired for the night, we couldn’t help but noticing that the weather was changing. Clouds were bubbling up all around us.
Day 6 – 6m
A shorter day had been planned, to take us to a particular lake which was supposed to have good camping.
It was grey this morning. A cloud covered sky and a bit cooler, but nevertheless a perfect temperature for walking.
The first 5 miles took us a bit further south on the Kungsleden, before we turned off and left it for good. Here, we started a steady climb up to said lake, at 980m.
I wouldn’t say the camping was brilliant as the ground was exceptionally stony, but it was certainly brooding and atmospheric. We were pitched by early afternoon and shortly after, the rain and the wind started. This was definitely a time when having the larger tent with us paid off. With plenty of space inside, we could not only have all our gear in there and pass the afternoon quite happily, someone could actually use his Thermarest Chair Kit inside as well. I was nearly green with envy.
Day 7 – 8 miles
The rain rained and the wind blew, for most of the night but by the time we’d had breakfast, it was finally dry. We still set off in waterproofs mind – the sky didn’t look trustworthy at all.
Leaving the lake, we descended to join the trail to the Kebnekaise Fjallstation. Not part of the actual Kungsleden, but known as a ‘side-trail’, it’s another section which attracts a greater number of people. The route was once again rocky and followed a narrowing, somewhat intimidating valley, between high peaks.
The menacing clouds also decided to give us an hour or so of very heavy rain, during which the temperature dropped quite dramatically.
By the time we reached the Fjallstation then, we were more than happy to partake of its upmarket-holiday-camp-type hospitality. This was another STF hut, but of the exceedingly posh variety.
We ate an extremely tasty lunch in the restaurant, availed ourselves of free wifi for a while, and used the toilets. We could have even had a shower but couldn’t be bothered, so I just contented myself with
watching noticing a good looking, fit, Swedish guy getting undressed outside the shower cubicles.
All too soon, it was time for us to move on to find a pitch for the night.
Day 8 – 7 miles
A good night’s sleep was once again had, before being woken by helicopters at about 8am. It would appear that a fair number of the visitors to the Kebnekaise Fjallstation don’t walk in, but take a helicopter. It became a bit like walking through the set of Good Morning Vietnam for the next couple of days.
The Fjallstation is situated in the shadow of Kebnekaise which, at 2106m, is the highest peak in Sweden and of course this is part of what makes it such a popular place. Not a climb for everyone, but people obviously still like to go and see it and soak up the atmosphere.
Continuing on our way, the trail now became quite a lot easier – after all if folk do want to walk into the Fjallstation they want to make it easy for them – and all boggy bits and bouldery bits were once again covered with duckboards.
We were now very much aware the trip was nearly over, but it was still very pleasant and we made the most of it. We had sun again and the scents from the foliage were decidedly autumnal.
We pitched camp for the night at the Sami settlement of Ladtjoluspekatan, alongside the Laddjujavri lake, for the princely sum of about £8. Our last night on the trail.
Day 9 – 3.5m
Up early, we cruised the final 3.5m into Nikkaluokta, quickly and easily. We had a bus to catch at 11:10am but wanted to make sure we had time for a good breakfast at the eatery in the village.
And suddenly, there we were, being driven back to the STF hostel in the iron ore mining town of Kiruna. It had been a wonderful trip and amazingly, Geoff and I were still speaking to each other. I do wish he’d do as he’s told, though…..
Thanks have to go to our good friend James for introducing me to the Swedish mountains in Sarek, last summer, and also for putting this route together – he walked this a few years back and we unashamedly copied it for our trip.
Also thanks to Mark Waring, for help with a few Swedish tips and translations.
We used SAS airlines for our return flights from Manchester to Kiruna and back.
We used the STF hostel in Kiruna – on the way out to the trail for one night, and then another night on the way back after finishing the walk.
The train was used to get us from Kiruna to Abisko at the start (about an hour) and the bus to get us from Nikkaluokta to Kiruna at the end (again, about an hour).
And if you want to read Geoff’s version of events, click here!