Sunday, 22 September 2019

Kungsleden, part 2. Kvikkjokk to Abisko.

Refreshed after a break of three days, we set out from Kvikkjokk on a rainy morning. It's day 13 and raining, but the forecast is good. It's a lousy trail underfoot. Very rocky and tree roots abound. But by afternoon the sun is shining and we find a camp spot and wash the filth off our gaiters and overtrousers, hanging them in the sun to dry.

Having rejigged our plans (see part 1) we now have 20 days to complete our journey, which means we can slow down. We have two zero days available and have booked two nights at Saltoluokta STF Fjallsation (luxury) and also two nights in mountain huts which we can use anywhere between here and Kaitumjaure (prebooking gives a discount). Incidentally, our YHA membership, which cost us £40 has given us, not only discounted STF rooms but also daytime access, which would otherwise have cost us about £10 each time we stopped at a mountain hut during the day. This access allows you to use the self catering kitchen during the hours of 11 till 3 when you're passing by. YHA is a member of Hostelling International which gives reciprocal rights with the STF.

On a fine mountain day, we pass Parte and head up up into the hills. During the steep climb the tip and basket pulled from one of Chrissie's poles. We can't find them. But we do find a fine camp site, just before a zany, high bridge. It begins to rain as we get the tent out, but it's soon up....and the rain stops!

It's a wonderful walk, with views down into Rittak valley and up into the mountains of Sarek. We drop down for a boat crossing of Laitaure. We have to wait 3 hours for a scheduled crossing, but we enjoy chatting with Octavia, from Brazil.

The crossing is windy. We're glad not to be rowing the 4km. The hut is very busy so we camp instead of using one of our hut nights. Stock is not bad in the shop, but we part with about £90 buying food for just three days and two nights...

It's just 5 miles across the fell to the next boat crossing, but there's a steep climb and it's hard underfooot again so it takes us around 5 hours. The open fell is fabulous.

There's a boat waiting just as we get there, a helpful young Swedish guy having pre-booked our places by telephone. 

On the other side of the lake is the Sitojaure hut, where we decide to spend one of our hut nights. It's very nice. By chance, we have a private, two bunk room. There's a university group in and they make sociable company as we dine. My evening meal is a curious mixture of instant mash, chickpeas, salami, squeezy cheese and chilli flakes...which is surprisingly tasty.

The hut kitchens are well organised. With no running water there are buckets filled from a nearby water source, with ladles and, once washing up is done, dirty water goes into separate buckets labelled "slask" under the counter. Fresh water buckets must be refilled once emptied and slask buckets emptied, at an appointed place, once filled. Lighting is by candles, cooking by gas hobs. There are wood burning stoves everywhere, including dormitories and these often heat drying rooms. There's usually a cupboard with food left behind, from which you can help yourself.

The morning is chilly. Chrissie almost slips on ice on a boardwalk. Up over a beautiful, wide open fell we go. We meet Germans, backpacking with two lovely dogs. I'd repaired Chrissie's pole with a rubber tip we used for flights, taped on. It's lasted a few days now. We camp high, in a fab location.

In the morning, it's an easy hike down to Saltoluokta Fjallstation, where we've a room for two nights.

In the last pic you can see the ferry coming over from Kebnats. We'll be on that in a couple of days.

The fjallstation is great.No sooner have we checked in than we dive into the lunch buffet, scoffing greedily. When we go to our room there's the previous occupants luggage still in there. Back at reception we're upgraded to better rooms with bedding and towels (normally extra).

We enjoy the break. At our breakfast and lunch buffets we chat with the warden from Aktse, who's finished his term there and has been walking out. He's very friendly and seeks us out each time we're in the dining room. Chatting with a local is very enlightening and he enjoys our tales of backpacks around the globe too. We exchange emails. He's interested in coming to the UK.

From here, we have the final, 13 day section, where we know we'll be unlikely to have any phone signal nor power. We'd be relying on our two, 20000ah Anker battery packs. Up to now we've used just one, regularly recharging it at hostels etc. We set off again, with the ferry across the lake, to a bus. This is an accepted part of the Kungsleden, jumping up 17 miles of tarmac to Vakkotavare  roadside hut. We lunch here, then climb a big hill to a wonderful camp where we chat with some mature Swedish hikers. One comments on the lightness of Chrissie's load saying, "When I was a young man I used to carry around 24kg, but, now I'm 77, 16kg feels about right." What a hero.

We continue over the pass, down to the final boat crossing. This time. we get there a couple of hours early, put up the flag as instructed and the warden comes straight over. Lovely man. We camp at the hut, Teusajaure, knowing there's a stiff climb after it.

Sadly, supplies are seriously lacking in the shop...

Next morning we tackle the steep climb, but only a few miles, to Kaitumjaure,  where we spend our second, pre-booked hut night. It has been very hot today. The only one where I removed my gaiters and rolled my trouser legs up.

I do some laundry in our bowl, using cold water...

Chrissie, has a self-confessed meltdown about food, supplies being poor again at the hut shop. The warden tells her, in 15 years in the role, she's never seen it so bad. This northern section of the trail is particularly busy. They have food, just not what we need. Little for lunch. No biscuits. No chocolate. No sugar for our porridge. Bleurgh! Seems they have NO mechanism for restocking. Some faceless bureaucrat at the STF decides how much they get for the season... Ridiculous.

We're now headed up the Tjaktjavagge, a valley which will take us three days to walk (not including an upcoming zero day). We're getting onto familiar ground now, having covered some of this route, in the opposite direction, back in 2016.

Our camp is just short of the Singi hut, which we pass by next morning.


En route to Salka, we bump into Matt Holland. We know he's in the area. Matt's an online friend who we've never met before, despite regular contact. He endears himself by saying he'd first come here, inspired by us.

The next picture illustrates the state of the trail hereabouts. When we came in 2016 it was nowhere near as wide, nor worn, as this. Can't help but think the Fjallraven Classic, an event bringing around 2000 folk to the area for a few days every August, isn't helping. I fear when I hear rumours of a similar event being proposed in the UK. Suffice to say, I'm not a fan of adrenaline fuelled "challenges" in wild places. And don't get me started on toilet paper...

Bidding the reindeer farewell, we carry on up the valley, camping at the foot of the Tjaktja Pass, which we'll tackle when fresh in the morning. Despite the photos it's a wild evening. I double peg the windward end of the tent, linking the pegs using the cord loops. The wind and rain wake us in the night, but our trusty Terra Nova Polar Lite 3 holds firm.


The morning is calm. We climb the short, steep ascent to the pass, at 1150m, the highest point on the Kungsleden. The north side of the pass is a wild, barren landscape of rock and river.

Our first 20000ah Anker has lasted 7 nights. That's keeping two phones, used for photos, navigation and Kindle, charged. We've just 5 nights left before "civilisation".

Down the valley, over a very long bridge, we arrive at Alesjaure hut and our final resupply. Again, stocks are low. No biscuits. Hardly any sugar. But wait, there's been a helicopter delivery of...tortillas gums. Which idiot authorised that selection?

We camp a short distance from the hut to avoid the £28 fee for camping.

It's September now. The weather is changing. There's fresh snow on the tops. Nights are cold and we set off well togged up in the morning. It's showery but the rain sets in. As we try to shelter from wind every rock has toilet paper behind it!

We're on short days, not wanting to arrive at booked accommodation in Abisko too early, causing extra expense so, in the rain, we spy a good spot for the tent and stop, despite only covering about 3 miles.

On a calmer morning we to begin to drop towards Abisko National Park and find a good camp just before the boundary, camping being permitted in only two places within the park, one being at Abiskojaure hut ie expensive. It becomes noticeably warmer as we drop altitude now.

It's a pleasant wander down to Nissonjokk, a free camping area not far short of Abisko. We eat noodles...again. Hoping for better tomorrow. The final camp of our trip. We even have a visit from reindeer.

We're both feeling relaxed and philosophical as we walk the final couple of miles into Abisko. The sun is shining. We have views back to the mountains. We discuss what we'd change re gear we brought...not much...and then thoughts turn to home...and the dogs. A small herd of reindeer wander across the path, right in front of if to say farewell.

We chill overnight at a nice place in Abisko. Despite no reasonably priced restaurant, the supermarket comes to our aid and we picnic in style in our room.

Next day, we hook up for a few minutes with our friends Pete Dixon and Lee Taylor who are on a train outbound for their own trip. The train stops for 10 minutes at the station close to us and they jump off to catch up. Amazing!

And in the afternoon, our long journey home begins...but wait... there's more. On our final night, at a hostel in Kiruna we finally see the aurora borealis. Just phone pics but who cares.

32 days travelling. 6 zero days. 26 days walking, all save about 6, without rain. 21 nights in our trusty tent. We've walked about 180 miles...around 2/3 of the Kungsleden.

Plenty of highs and lows, figuratively as well as in altitude. What an adventure!