The Kungsleden, August/September 2019 – Part Two

Kvikkjokk To Abisko, 20 Days

Setting off from Kvikkjokk for the northern half of the Trail, felt totally different. Not only was Geoff finally starting to feel much better, our jumping forward had given us extra spare days. We were now planning two zero days at Saltoluokta and Salka, and had three more spare on top of those. The stress had gone. There were still 20 days of walking ahead of us, though, still a good chunk of the Trail to do!

 

It was raining when we set off again.

 

Even the rain when we set off, didn’t dampen our spirits (gosh, I’m good….), and the forecast was actually looking quite reasonable for the foreseeable future.

 

We’ve actually walked from Kvikkjokk to the Parte Hut before, and knew what the route was like.

 

My Paramo Velez jacket beading nicely.

 

Mud, tree roots, boulders and lots of ups and downs made this section very slow going at times.

 

By the afternoon, the sun was making an appearance.

 

Crossing a reindeer fence.

 

We found a nice pitch just short of the Parte Hut and used the nearby trees as drying racks.

 

Gaiters and over trousers were particularly muddy and needed to dry out.

 

It was lovely to see the sun again the next morning. As we passed Parte we called in to drop some rubbish off (another useful function of the mountain huts) and chatted to the warden for a while. She was lovely and had obviously led a colourful life in the mountains.

 

First Lunch.

 

We were once more in trees for the first few hours, steadily climbing up towards the tree line.

 

They are certainly creative with their bridges.

 

It was somewhere around this rocky section that I lost the tip off one of my walking poles. Geoff heroically did a Trail Repair on it for me.

 

 

There was a bit of a boulder field as we crested the pass.

 

We’d heard there was a good pitch at this bridge and weren’t disappointed.

 

After a beautifully sunny day, the heavens opened as we started to put the tent up, then stopped just as we finished!

 

Thank goodness for ‘outer pitch first’ tents…

The next day we had a boat to catch. Since we didn’t know what the terrain would be like, we allowed loads of time just in case, and got up at 5:30am. In the end, it was pretty easy going and we got to the river crossing 3 hours early. Plenty of time for a chill and a brew!

 

 

Lovely views.

 

Looking towards the high mountains of Sarek.

 

We had to drop down towards the Rapa Delta.

 

More forest and bridges.

 

It got quite hot this afternoon and we needed to keep hydrated.

 

Easier going underfoot in this forest.

 

You could row across if you wanted, but we weren’t going to…

 

The long wait passed very pleasantly as we chatted to Octavia, from Brazil.

 

 

At the other side of the river is the Aktse Mountain Hut. We didn’t want to walk any further this night, so we decided to camp there. One of the reasons we normally avoided camping at a hut is because it costs you around ยฃ15 each for the night. You do get use of a kitchen and all the other facilities though, so I expect some people would think this money well spent.

 

The view from Aktse. There were helicopters bringing a group of kids in. It was actually unbelievably busy. Too busy…

 

Our pitch at the hut. Possibly the worst pitch of the trip… We had a sociable evening though and Geoff mended a broken tent pole for an English couple.

 

We raided the hut shop for supplies for the next three days. The stock wasn’t too bad, so we set off in the morning feeling like we had plenty to eat.

There was another boat crossing this afternoon – at nearly 4km the longest one of the trip. As we crossed the high fell, there was a sign telling you to call and book your crossing before you lost mobile signal. There were 3 German guys there at the same time as us, so they booked us in when they rang.

 

Gaining height again.

 

Sunshine and views.

 

We hadn’t fancied Ryvita this time when we shopped, so we bought these to eat with our squeezy cheese. They were absolutely disgusting.

 

Dropping down to the lake.

 

Crossing Gasskajavrre. I was asked to sit at the front of the boat as I was the lightest. Really.

 

 

Despite saying that we weren’t going to stay in any of the huts, before we left Kvikkjokk we had decided that we would give a couple of them a try. We decided it was a bit daft to be totally dogmatic and refuse to see what it was like.

Sitojaure – the hut at the far side of the lake – was the first one we stayed in. It was actually very pleasant. We were lucky enough to get a private dorm and a very sociable evening was passed in the kitchen, in the company of a group of mature students who were staying there on a uni residential trip.

 

Our private room.

 

Chatting by candle light.

 

 

The view of the lake the next morning.

 

Setting off the following morning, we had an easy climb followed by a huge, high valley to follow. The views were magnificent.

 

Sunny weather again.

 

 

Plenty of time to linger, today.

 

 

Later in the afternoon we found a high pitch for the night.

 

It was quite breezy overnight.

 

Almost down to freezing in fact, when we woke up in the morning.

 

It was only a handful of miles now today, to deliver us to Saltoluokta Fjallstation. We had two nights booked there – a rest day and tasty food to look forward to!

 

Second Breakfast.

 

Dropping down towards the next lake.

 

We arrived in time for the All You Can Eat Lunch Buffet! So we did! Absolutely delicious.

 

We got a free upgrade to a posher room with free sheets and towels, as the previous occupants of the room we’d booked had disappeared and left all their belongings in it.

 

The other advantage of the posher room was that we didn’t have to clean it ourselves in the morning.

 

A lovely place to chill and eat on a zero day.

 

The shop was quite well stocked so we got more supplies for the next three days, including Tortillas! Delicious! (This is just my pile….)

 

Setting off again the next day, we started by catching the ferry across to Kebnats,

 

This ferry is run by the STF staff.

 

 

The ferry links up with the bus service running along the far side of the lake. The Kungsleden disappears here, to reappear 17 miles up the road, in the direction of Ritsem. It’s the accepted norm to use the bus rather than walk all that way up the road.

We got off the bus at Vakkotavare. As it was now lunchtime, and drizzling, we decided to use their kitchen to eat in before we set off walking. I also managed to find some tea bags in their shop. I’d nearly run out, so I was very pleased. I had to buy them individually though – they only had 16 so I bought them all…

 

Vakkatovare was a lovely hut. Toasty warm inside with a wood stove roaring away.

 

There was a steep climb up from Vakkotavare which everyone talked about, but it wasn’t that bad and didn’t go on too long.

 

We were now into the final section of the walk, with 13 days ahead of us until we reached Abisko. There would be no phone signal at all for this stretch and no nearby settlements you could divert to. There would be mountain huts every now and then but, other than the first and last days, we would always be at least 2 days walk from any roads or normal civilisation of any kind. Makes you realise that places like Black Sail or Skiddaw Youth Hostels in the Lakes – lovely though they are – are not really isolated at all!

 

Looking back down to the lake.

 

There were a lot of these new metal bridges in the northern half.

 

We pitched high again.

 

One of my favourite pitches.

 

Shortly after we’d pitched, three older, Swedish guys came along and stopped for a chat. They were just lovely to talk to. They obviously knew the area really well and had been backpacking here for many years.

*WARNING! UL-ERS MAY WANT TO LOOK AWAY UNTIL THE NEXT PHOTO!*

One of them asked me how much my pack weighed. I told him it was currently around 15 or 16kg, including three days’ worth of food and a litre of water.

“That’s good,” he replied, “I used to carry 20 to 24kg when I was younger, but now I’m 77, I find 16kg is about right.”

What a star, he really made me smile.

 

The light was gorgeous the next morning.

 

Another day with wonderful views.

 

Today’s route took us to the final boat crossing of the trip.

 

And we had tortillas and squeezy cheese for lunch! Exciting stuff!

 

I couldn’t take my eyes off the hills in the distance.

 

We finally dropped down to the lake and put the ‘flag’ up. This meant that the guy at the hut on the other side could see that someone was waiting for a ride. He came straight over for us.

 

The hut on the far side of the lake was Teusajaure. It was in the most beautiful setting imaginable. We had initially planned on walking a bit further to pitch, but changed our minds and camped here, instead.

 

Our pitch for the night.

 

It was just idyllic.

 

 

And I thought I’d add a photo of a hut toilet, too.

 

The next morning had another of those ascents that everyone talked about, but once again, it really wasn’t worth mentioning and didn’t last very long.

 

 

It was a shortish day, over to Kaitum, the next hut.

 

It was also very hot. Possibly the hottest day of the trip.

 

 

We had another pre-paid voucher to use for a night in a hut, and we’d been recommended Kaitum as another idyllic setting. Not as small and quiet as Teusajaure, but still with great views.

 

Can’t really complain at that!

 

Geoff did a load of washing for us.

 

We also had a naked ‘wash’ here, in the river, and had to act all nonchalant when another guy turned up as well……’British Problems’!

There are no photos of that…

I did have a bit of a meltdown here about food. We needed to stock up for the next 2 days, and the shop was seriously low on stock. We could get breakfast and evening meals (although I was starting to get tired of both mash and noodles, and porridge without sugar), but were really struggling with snacks during the day. No biscuits, no big bars of chocolate, no sugar, no tortillas, no jam, no honey…. we were back on Ryvita and squeezy cheese, with a Special Treat of some Cup-a-Soups.

Talking to the hut warden, it was clear that the food situation was a genuine problem that they’d not had before. The Trail is becoming more popular, yet the Person On High in the STF who doles the food out to the shops, had not thought of this and no extra food was being sent out to them. And contrary to what we thought, the wardens are not in a position to order food – neither practically (they would need a satellite phone) nor are they allowed to. It is to be hoped that the STF will take a serious look at this before the next season.

Setting off the next morning, the heat had gone (thank goodness!) and the skies were all dramatic. We joined the Tjaktjajakka Valley for the next three days’ worth of walking.

 

Leaving Kaitum behind.

 

Yet another suspension bridge over a deep gorge and a roaring river.

 

I absolutely loved this valley, and today was cool, windy, wild – weather that really makes me feel alive.

 

Easy walking again.

 

Second Lunch.

 

We pitched about a mile short of the Singi Hut.

 

Not the flattest pitch!

 

It rained heavily overnight, but by the time we’d had breakfast the next morning, it had all dried up again.

 

Looking back where we’d come from.

 

Blue sky starting to appear.

 

Looks nothing, but my least favourite bridge of the trip. The width of this river was pushing it a bit, I felt, for the ‘Balance All The Way Across On Two Pieces Of Floorboard’ routine.

 

Back to a far more sensible bridge, in my humble opinion. Just don’t ask Geoff what he thinks about suspension bridges…

 

 

 

And we bumped into Matt Holland! Never met him before, although we’ve chatted a lot on Twitter. We knew he was about and we were all keeping an eye out for each other.

 

There seemed to be a lot of bridges today! This was one of the longest on the Trail.

 

And another one!!

 

Looking up towards Nallo – a valley we walked down on our first trip here, three years ago.

 

We finally pitched about half a mile short of the Salka Hut.

 

We actually spent two nights here, having a rest day as well.

 

We wandered up to the Salka hut after we’d pitched, to try and stock up again for the next three days. Thankfully, their shop wasn’t too badly stocked. They even had tortillas and crisps!

 

We had lunch in their kitchen on our zero day. I had crisp sandwiches!

Hand washing facilities at the mountain huts:

 

Our next day’s walking was fairly short. We were now starting to slow things down a little so as not to arrive in Abisko too early. It was cheaper (and more pleasant) to spend extra nights on the Trail rather than in Abisko or Kiruna.

 

Walking up the higher reaches of this valley was just gorgeous.

 

Admiring the scenery at First Lunch.

 

The rivers were all low.

 

We finally pitched just below the last pull up to the summit of Tjaktja Pass.

 

One of my favourite pitches of the trip.

 

It was in fact, very windy and rainy overnight. We did double peg the four guys at the rear of the tent, just in case, but it didn’t really need it. Nothing shifted at all!

 

By the time we headed over the pass the next morning, the weather had calmed down. (I don’t know who this guy in the photo is, he just happened to be going down the pass as we were going up…) There was a coolness to the air, though. Autumn was slowly creeping in.

 

By the time we crested the pass, it was feckin’ cold! Positively Arctic! (I’ve still got it….)

 

There is an emregency shelter at the top of the pass. We called in for Second Breakfast.

 

Self explanatory.

 

The north side of the pass is completely different from the grassy south side. Here, it’s all rocks and rivers.

 

Barren looking terrain.

 

There were several stretches of water to negotiate, but none of them posed any problems.

 

A few miles down the valley and we started looking for a spot for the night.

 

This was another of my favourite pitches.

 

No one except us, for miles around.

 

Even though we’d dropped a bit lower again, the weather was generally feeling a bit colder. Each day now seemed to drop the temperature a notch and increase the cold, northerly winds. The sun might have have been shining the next morning, but it wasn’t having much of an impact.

 

We were now heading towards the Alesjaure Hut, hoping to resupply again.

 

We could see over the border, into Norway!

 

Approaching this bridge, we noticed two separate people coming in the other direction, both of whom stopped and hesitated before crossing. We wondered why. It was soon obvious! The wind was pretty strong here and it was coming straight down the gorge, slamming sideways into the bridge….

 

The Alesjaure Hut comes into view.

 

By the time we crossed the bridge over to the hut, the weather was windy and bitterly cold.

 

It was a pleasure to get out of the cold for a while, buy some food (they’d just had some tortillas delivered by helicopter but had totally run out of sugar and bars of chocolate) and use their kitchen for afternoon coke and beer tea.

Nicely warmed up, we continued on a short way, to our pitch for the night.

 

Not too shabby.

 

 

We could see the Sami village of Alisjavri across on the other side of the lake.

 

Geoff picked a load of blueberries to go in our morning porridge. Delicious!

 

Hot chocolate before bed.

 

The next morning was cold, wet and windy.

 

We weren’t planning on going far today, we still had another spare day to make up.

 

Don’t be fooled by the sunshine – it was bitterly cold!

 

In the end, we only walked about three miles that day. We realised there was unlikely to be another pitch until quite a way further on, so stopped when we saw somewhere reasonable.

 

The next morning, the tent was covered in ice and there was fresh snow on the tops.

 

Well wrapped up!

 

Lunch with gloves on.

 

Still good fun though.

 

We lost a lot of height over the course of the afternoon.

 

A nice spot was found just outside the boundary of Abisko National Park. Unusually for Sweden, you’re not allowed to wild camp where you want inside this park.

 

This night, I really struggled to eat my ‘Egg Noodles – Perfect For Wok’. I’m at a loss to know anyway, why the mountain huts are selling backpackers noodles which are ‘Perfect For Wok’. We didn’t even think to bring our wok with us.

 

As we set off again the next morning, we were very aware that our trip was nearly at its end.

 

We talked about things we might have done differently.There’s not much to be honest, the main thing would be to have made it an ‘open ended trip’. We wouldn’t have wanted to leave the doggies in kennels any longer than 5 weeks though. We had got to a point now where we were missing them dreadfully.

 

Our final camp on the Trail was at Nissonjokk, a place in the National Park where you are allowed to camp.

 

Another cold night, and then we just had a couple of miles left to take us into Abisko, the next morning.

 

One more suspension bridge.

 

Some reindeer.

 

Some waterfalls.

 

And we were there.

 

It had been great. And we’d managed to do it and still be married at the end of it. There had been something so simple and calming about the whole thing – the daily routine of getting up, walking, putting the tent up, sleeping – far from being monotonous for that length of time, it had a secure feeling about it. Everyday problems were left at home, with hardly any thought given to them. I’d had some low moments thinking about the dogs, but even as regards them, I was secure in the knowledge that they were being well looked after.

But the adventure still had a couple of surprises left…

 

A meeting with Peter Dixon and Lee Taylor, on the platform at Abisko Ostra Station!

 

I mean, what are the chances of that?

 

And in Kiruna, on the final night of the whole trip…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “The Kungsleden, August/September 2019 – Part Two

  1. LOL to the ‘still being married’ at the end of the trip! I bet your dogs missed you too all that time!

    Some of that looks quite Scottish/Hebridean – especially the ‘shoogly bridges’ as the Scots call them. I just love dodgy bridges – I find them really exciting and usually spend a while going backwards and forwards across them in between walkers, e.g. The Steall rope bridge above Glen Nevis ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’d be a ‘hutter’ me rather than a camper – I can’t stand being cold and cramped up – especially after a wet day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ๐Ÿคฃ ๐Ÿคฃ We did have the odd row, but with hindsight they were on the afternoons when we were struggling with food, and feeling really crabby! ๐Ÿคฃ

      Yes I have to admit I quite enjoy the suspension bridges on the whole. With balance never having been one of my better athletic skills though, the two plank balancing ones are definitely not my favourite!

      If you could afford to stay in all the huts, they would be a very pleasant way of doing it…

      Like

  2. I finally got around to reading your “book” Chrissie ๐Ÿคฃ. I had to look away when the bit came about “I find 16kg is about right” sorry ๐Ÿ˜‚. Glad you guys are still married. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

    Like

  3. Superb stuff! Looks you did pretty well with weather in the second half as well. I think I’d prefer colder conditions to the warmer months when the mossies are out. That food problem would have stressed me a bit though. I eat almost constantly when backpacking. What superb trip and great write up, good mix of photos, helpful practical stuff and insights. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that lovely comment!
      I was so stressed out about the food – when I had my meltdown I’d burst into tears in the hut shop. I really had visions of us trying to walk the last 9 days on nothing but Ryvita and squeezy cheese – I’d have been keeling over. The STF really do need to get a hold of it and sort that problem out.
      I would definitely recommend the trail to you though, Andy…… ๐Ÿคฃ

      Like

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