Kungsleden day 3. 26km.
I can’t believe that I actually slept well, waking up just twice, shortly thinking that my nose is cold but then sleeping again. It’s about 3 degrees Celsius inside my tent but outside it must be below as my tent is frozen white outside. Luckily I have the additional layer of warm clothing from Woolpower, with 2 long johns, 2 thermal long shirts and my down jacket it was warm enough!
I wake up early and have breakfast from inside my tent before packing up and starting to hike at 7.30am. It’s the best day I’ve had so far, clear sky and the sun is shining, soon where I am as I walk u to the hut. The planks are frozen and slippery so I have to be very careful. Two guys coming out of the small hut and over the river where I meet them tell me that it was so full that some had to sleep on the floor. I guess I was better up in my tent!
I continue to the pass, it’s not very challenging, the pass is just at 1,200m and except for the last bit it’s not steep. The pass is still in the clouds and I want to get shelter from the wind so I go inside the emergency hut where 3 guys from the UK slept last night. Not what you’re supposed to do but it looked cozy in there.
I continue my way down from the pass as the clouds disappear and reveal a stunning valley and river below me. Wow, it’s so beautiful!
I walk on for a while, my feet and blisters hurt quite much. At a good viewpoint I take a break to dry my tent (and unfreeze it, it was solid from ice!) and enjoy the sun and view as one of the guys catches up and we chat for a while about long distance hikes while he waits for the others. It’s another hour to the Sälka hut where the three guys are staying.
But it’s just 12.30pm and such a wonderful day, I want to continue. I enquire about the weather forecast and the trail options and a lovely Swede tells me about an alternative, unmarked trail to go up the Kebnekaise. It’s much shorter from where I am now so I can make it to the top tomorrow where there’s more chance of good weather. I just have to continue some 8km more on the Kungsleden and then veer to the left. The trail is marked on my map and on my app so I decide to go for it. I also had my share of conversation today and am totally fine to be camping on my own again.
The afternoon gets really hot, I can walk just in my shirt and enjoy the view. Not such a strong wind as yesterday. Just after the bridge, as marked on the map, I find a trail and even though it doesn’t have official red marks, it’s quite obvious and later when hiking on rocks there are plenty of stone pyramids. The view gets better and better as I hike up along a river. I run into another reindeer and then need to climb a little on rocks. Yeah, this is now what I really like, the trail has been a bit too easy so far.
I can see a tent set up and further up a second one but I want to continue a bit further. I decided to not go further up than 1,000m altitude, it will just get even colder otherwise tonight. And then I come out at the most beautiful plateau. A small lake, a river and mountains all around me. And there’s a great camping spot just for me! I cannot believe how lucky I am, this is such a beautiful place and there’s no one but me. So I decide to wash myself but after 30 seconds I have to step out of the water, it’s freezing! I cannot wash my hair, I am too afraid of getting too cold. So well, another few days of smelly, dirty me 😉 But it’s just me inside the tent, so who cares!
Dinner is early at 6pm, then writing my blog with a tea and some chocolate before reading and hiding in my tent, it’s quickly getting cold now. I also want to get up early for the hike up to the top of the Kebnekaise. I already talked a few times to the weather God today, it’s been a long time I didn’t do that. I count on my luck for good weather tomorrow but as the hut warden said, weather can be anything tomorrow, this is Sweden!
Kungsleden day 4. At the top of Kebnekaise – well almost!
Another good night (sneaking out of my tent twice to check for Northern Lights but no luck). I wake up really early (with puffy eyes again, must be the cold) and the weather looks promising. Clear sky where I am, clouds further East but hopefully disappearing. (Well, at least I can say I was optimistic for quite some time!) Today I already start hiking at 6.30am. Just me and this beautiful valley that I love since yesterday.
But time to leave for the summit. It’s not too tough in the beginning, I follow the trail marked just with occasional stone piles (my new best friends!) along the river. The river crossing doesn’t look difficult but the stones are so slippery I have to be very careful.
Then further up, more and more into the clouds. The first snowfield has to be crossed and then it’s climbing up the rocks, very careful not to lose the marks as I can’t see very far now. I am still hoping it will clear up, but for now it’s just getting colder and windier.
Finally I join the marked trail where people should be coming up from the Fjällstation, but so far I cannot see anything or anyone within my radius of 20m visibility. I am unsure what to do, it’s so cold and windy. My app tells me a shelter is only a kilometer further up so I decide to go there, uncertain how long it would take me going down till I am back into a warmer area. But it was not a good idea. I hike and fight my way up through snow, rocks and against the storm. My water bladder or at least the tube is frozen and I cannot drink anything. I am covered in white and check again my app, it’s still 830m further, how can that be? I walk and count till 100 and only then allow myself a short break. I continue to do this until it gets less steep and a bit easier to walk. Finally! This must be the hut! As I turn around, I see two people coming up. Shelter and company, I am reliefed. But it turns out the shelter is soon to be demolished and although it provides shelter from the wind it’s still freezing cold inside. I put on additional layers of clothing and am thankful for the coffee I get from the two Swedes. I say that I am not walking any further up. Still 1.2km to the summit with zero visibility but wind so strong that I sometimes feared to fall and hardly could breath is not what I need now! They agree and we start hiking back.
I am trembling from the cold but the lower we get the warmer I get. We meet a few people hiking up and talk to them about the situation. Most continue to the hut. After the first part downhill, it’s again a stretch uphill. So difficult to judge in the fog how far, it seems endless and it gets colder again. I am the only one hiking with my full backpack, the others left it at the Fjällstation. Once on the top it’s still a long way down against the wind but scrambling on rocks with my blistered feet.
I am reliefed when I am finally below the clouds and can see again what’s ahead. Well, yesterday I was so happy about the challenge after finding the Kungsleden too easy, now I am certainly done! At the river I stop to finally drink and cook lunch, I am hiking non stop for 6h now, I need a rest before the remaining 5km to the Fjällstation.
After 10 minutes I am frozen again and hike in my down jacket. 20 minutes later I can remove it and now I enjoy the magnificent autumn landscape around me!
At the hut I find a spot on the couch at the window, it’s warm and cozy. After quickly telling everyone at home that I am still alive (no signal the last days!), I get an apple pie and hot tea. What a treat! I am still trembling from inside though and a quick check outside shows me that I can’t really sleep in my tent tonight after having been frozen to my bones today. There are two beds left (the Fjällstation is huge, 220 beds!) but after the first shock about the price is over (almost 85€!!!), I take it anyway. Included: my own bed (luckily the nice Dutch guy proposes himself to change for the upper bunk) in a “room” closed by a curtain to the hallway, heater, sauna, shower, usage of the kitchen, a plug next to my bed, towel. A splurge today. For my next time in Sweden (or Iceland or Norway or…) I promise myself to buy a real 4 season tent and bring my warmer sleeping bag! And warmer gloves. And maybe a gas heater????
In any case, I fully enjoy all the benefits of having paid for accommodation and hoping to be back to normal tomorrow for a final night in my tent.
When having my little dinner in the warm kitchen I think about the hike today. Technically it wasn’t that challenging, I guess the most difficult part was mentally that I had to walk for so many hours in the clouds seeing just some 20m ahead, plus the strong wind and cold temperature below 0 degrees. Well, I guess I have to come back, do the Kebnekaise and the rest of the Kungsleden!