From Kebnekaise Fjällstation to Singi

August 24 and 25: Day two and three of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Kebnekaise Fjällstation – Singi

After the crowded Kebnekaise Fjällstation I really longed to continue our hike. Soon after breakfast (with real German bread!) we left and continued westwards. Soon a first wooden bridge over a small creek came into view followed by a larger bridge over the ravine that the stream Láddjujohka has cut into the rock. In the back: The mighty mountain Siŋŋičohkka.

It was as warm as the day before and the sky was incredibly blue. We continued westwards and went round the steep southern slope of the Siŋŋičohkka. Parts of the narrow valley lay in the shadow of the mountains Skárttoaivi and Liddubákti, but soon we came to a sunny place covered with soft heather beside of a small creek – the ideal resting place. It was hard to prevent dozing off and to pull ourselves together to continue after a long while of resting and being lazy.

This daily stage was quite relaxed: only 14 kilometres. Soon the Singistugorna – The Singi cabins – came into view.

We hardly saw any animals yet but round the cabins we saw two quite typical species commonly found in Lapland: The lämmel or lemming and the ripa or ptarmigan (sometimes called snow chicken). They came quite near but gave me a hard time photoing them. I only had a small 100mm-lens with manual focus instead of my great but huge and heavy 70-200mm-lens, so I’m not really content with the results. However, the experience to have these animals so near was more important.

(Later on the journey I got a much better opportunity to take pictures of ptarmigans …)

Singi – Hukejaure – Singi

This day was planned to be a long one! Instead of following the Kungsleden – the King’s trail we planned to go to Hukejaure in the west and then to cross the Swedish-Norwegian border. From Singi to Hukejaure it’s 20 km and it’s just a path, only partly marked.

We started quite early, went north along the stream Tjäktjajåkka and crossed it after two kilometres on another chain bridge.

We had to “climb” over some rocky parts until we came to a beautiful alpine pasture. Do you know the film The Sound of Music? It almost looked alike – without the dancing and singing. Instead of that we got some snow fields and some shallow bogs and ponds. Beautiful anyway:

After a while the path was gone and we had to go up some hundred meters. It was as warm as the other days plus we were on a treeless southern slope – a matter that makes one sweat. We made a rest after 7 or 8 kilometres. It was later than expected and we just made the easy part of our way today. Will we come to Hukejaure in time? Or will it get dark? Is it safe and reasonable to continue? We both didn’t like the decision but since we weren’t sure to reach Hukejaure in time we decided to go back. Next time we have either to start even earlier or take a tent with us. We’ll see …

After 5 kilometres we came to the Tjäktjajåkka again but the light was completely different.

The last two kilometres felt a bit boring and we were glad when we arrived at the Singistugorna that we left the same morning. Other people walk there dogs, we walked our backpacks. After a two-course dinner (noodle soup and tortellini) I went around in the dusk and took pictures of the landscape reflecting in the oxbow lakes of the Tjäktjajåkka.

I was glad that I had my mosquito jacket with me, they were many of them seeking my blood that evening. And when I came back I was glad that all windows are equipped with fly screens to keep out those little bloodsucking vampires.

On the one hand it was a disappointment that we had to change plans, on the other side the tour itself through this side valley was awesome. We probably would never have thought about it without our Hukejaure-plans. Next stop tomorrow: Sälka, only 12 kilometres.

From Singi to Sälka and Nallo

August 26 – 29: Day four to seven of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Singi – Sälka

After three very warm and sunny days clouds came in over night and the sky was quite overcast that morning. Only at the northern sky a larger patch of blue was visible. That fits, we’re going north! The first two kilometres were very well known to us, we went them there and back the day before. The day’s walk was short – just 12 kilometres.

Soon the huts of Sälka came into view. It was funny to see the ads for the shop and the bastu – the sauna – amidst the extend mountain landscape. Only 300 meters left and we entered the reception to check in.

It’s a nice look from Sälka but we had another interest that afternoon: Overall on the ground the ptarmigans were running and there were even sitting on the huge pile of birch wood, so that me, the photographer and them, the models, were on eye level. They let me advance quite near – in fact so near that the tele lens couldn’t focus anymore. The first two images are younger ptarmigans, the last is a grown up – look at these fantastic white feathered feet.

Sälka – Nallo

The next morning there were so many ptarmigans around that you really had to watch yourself not stepping on one of them. I never saw so many and never saw them so near. Our plan was not to continue the King’s Trail but to go northeast to Nallo, a smaller cabin a bit higher up in the mountains. After the common breakfast (muesli with some milkish liquid made from dry milk – yuck!) we started our tour. Even shorter than yesterday: only 9 km but perhaps a bit more demanding since there’re streams to ford, while the whole King’s trail is equipped with Bridges.

We had to look for planks to cross the small rivers behind the cabins but soon we were on our trail.

One hour later we were on the moon …

… well, not exactly, but it was such a sharp contrast to the sweet and lovely landscape of the last days. We could hardly see any vegetation. Only moss, grass and some scattered flowers were left. And some reindeers on some of the tabular slopes. There were many small streams and brooks to cross and it was the first day where I was glad, that I walked in rubber boots.

After a while the lake Reaiddájávri that lies on 1056 meter came into view and we went along it. More and more clouds came towards us and swirled around as if they wanted to surround us.

We had to cross the stream that enters the lake at the northern shore. Annika had to switch to sandals and ford the stream, for the water was to high for her hiking boots. It started to drizzle, than to rain and it got windy. Navigation was less easy now since it started to get foggy, there were less marks and some streams and snow patches to cross. Mostly I navigated with the compass, but twice I took the GPS to ensure my navigation. Since wind and rain increased more and more and I was busy with the navigation I packed the camera into the waterproof bag and didn’t make any photo on the last two kilometres. In the end the small Nallostuga came into view and even the huge mountain Nállu in the back lingered through the floating clouds. We got a warm welcome of the stugvärd – the warden of the Nallostuga. And warm was the wood fired oven, too. A good opportunity to dry our wet clothes.

I only went out later that day to take a photo of the wooden signpost and the hut itself. The rest of the day was just gemütlich – the pouring rain outside and we ourselves warm and cozy inside.

Two days of at Nallo

One

We planned to stay a day in Nallo already two days ago. It looked like a good idea since the rain just poured down the whole day and it was very windy. All people out there looked very wet, whether they just crossed the stream – now twice as large and probably twice as deep – or if they just fetched a bucket full of water.

Time to make some photos within the house. Two typical views in Swedish mountain huts: Many of them have two rooms, each has a kitchen and two flanking bedrooms, only separated by a curtain. That make 20 beds in total. Plus one for the stugvärd who has his own little room. The Primus 2388 is a gas cooker, easy to handle and is found in almost each Swedish mountain hut.

Two solo hikers planned to continue their tour that day but after a while they decided to stay. Perhaps not the worst idea when you looked at the young hikers, that came in. They were completely soaked. They poured the water out of their hiking shoes and hang up the dripping-wet sleeping bags for drying. All was just soaking wet! We we’re quite glad to be inside. But finally I took my camera and went out for some photos. Brr, it was really cold (7 °C) and so windy that the spray of the brooks was blown upwards again. Some photos:

I was glad, when I came into the inside of our cozy hut again. Only Simba, the warden’s dog endured the weather stoically.

Later that day: The sleeping bag already has dried, but other clothes were still hanging on the clothes line.

Two

Next day we wanted to continue our trip but I changed plans. Unintentionally. I got ill. I got fever that night and problems with my stomach and intestines, that I definitely don’t want to describe in detail. Otherwise there’s nothing much to report. I didn’t make a single photo (a certain proof that I was really ill) and slept almost the whole day.

Later in the evening, when I felt a bit better I was able to communicate again. I heard about others that went Singi–Sälka, the very same way we went three days before. The trail has been so flooded that the water poured over the wooden planks of the minor bridges making them very slippery and it was so windy that the hikers were really frightened to be blown from the bridge right into one of the swollen rivers. Illness never fits, bit I guess I chose a quite good day for being sick.

I slept the night before, I slept almost the whole day and I slept the next night. That sums up to round about 30 hours of sleep without any larger interruption. That probably was the best medicine and the next day I felt sound and healthy again. The plan for the coming day: Hiking to Vistas.

From Nallo to Vistas, Alesjaure, Abiskojaure and back to civilization

August 30 – September 2: Day eight to eleven of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Nallo – Vistas

After two days in Nallo Annika and I were eager and keen to move on. After our breakfast we said goodbye to stugvärd Janne and started to ford the stream behind of the hut. Fortunately the water level dropped to normal again and quite easily we could cross the stream.

Then we went along the Nallú, a fantastic mountain that changed its appearance every other second because of the moving clouds and the changing light situations. We never tired of looking at this big mountain that seemed to accompany us a long way.

After a while another stream that we had to cross, came down from the lake Nállujávrrit. While I managed to splash through with my high rubber boots, Annika decided to take of her shoes and wade through it in her sandals – brr, the water was really ice cold!

We continued the hike through the fast-changing scenery. Quite soon we saw the first trees and realised that the big mountain ahead was the Vássačorru, that lies behind the valley Visttasvággi, where our next destination, the Vistasstuga is located.

Soon we crossed the Visttasjohka on the chain bridge and arrived at the cabin to meet the stugvärd – the warden.

Oh look: Coke and beer are priced down! That’s because the season only lasts three other weeks. After that the huts are closed down until their reopening for the skiers in February or March. But because none of the cans would survive the frost, all liquids has to be drunk in the next three weeks or poured away. We decided to save some cokes from this cruel destiny.

We were placed in the outhouse – the main building was in the act of being renovated. There we sat on the front stairs, ate, drank and looked on the river Visttasjohka. And we took a bath in this cold river. Chilling but refreshing! Finally the sun came out. I crossed the bridge to make a photo of our cabin.

Later – it started getting dark – we got a visitor: A big moose stood beside the river. I went out, where I could observe this huge animal, how it ate leaves and grass, less than 10 meters away. It looked at me but wasn’t disturbed by me at all, it even passed quite near until it vanished between some trees. This was one of the moments were I was glad and touched as a “normal person”, but a bit grumpy with myself, that I was too lazy to carry my big tele lens for better and sharper pictures. I never experienced a moose so near and so fearless.

Vistas – Alesjaure

The trip the day before was short: only 9 kilometres, this day it would be twice as much: 18 km. The first kilometres were a bit boring since they went through birch forests and quite muddy passages. But after a while the landscape opened and we could see the mountain Siehtagas with its glacier Siehtagasglaciären. In front of the mountain there were alpine meadows and small birch forests. In front of that the turquoise water of the Visttasjohka glimmered in the sunlight.

We went up again until we again were over the treeline. This part of the valley Visttasvaggi is beautiful and very varying. The first rest we made in the lee side of a huge cuboid rock. We weren’t the first – someone built a bench by laying a plank over two stones. The second rest we made at the Tjatjajaurekåtan (there’s not much left of it).

After a while I saw some reindeers grassing. There were shy and quickly went away when I came nearer. We saw (probably) them again when we had a view at the sami village Alisjávri that lies at the lake with the the same name. From that it’s not far to the mountain huts of Alesjaure – the Swedish version of Alisjávri. The Alesjaurestugorna are the biggest mountain huts of the STF – the Swedish tourist association. I prefer the smaller ones as e.g. Nallo, but it’s fine to have a shop, a drying room and especially a sauna. And we used it all! It’s nice to go to sleep after being in the sauna and having a wash in the river Aliseatnu.

Alesjaure – Abiskojaure

I didn’t make many pictures of this part of our tour. I was a bit bored of this part of the trail and found nothing special in the landscape. Just some photos of human evidence: Tent poles for a lavvu and a crossing over a long reindeer fence.

It was the first time, that I was really impatient and just wanted to arrive. Some kilometres before Abiskojaure we came below the treeline. Most of the birch trees still were green but you could see, that autumn is near. No wonder, it was the 1st of September, beginning of autumn for the meteorologists.

Finally we reached another chain bridge and shortly after it arrived in Abiskojaure. The sun came out and even though it was much colder than one week ago we could sit and lie on the short-cut lawn in front of the hut. I took the last bath of the journey and strolled around making some photos. After crossing a small swamp I came to a quite huge sandy beach beside the lake Ábeskojávri. A beautiful place!

The evening it started to become chilly, hardly 3 °C. I was curious if we would get the first frost of the season next morning …

Abiskojaure – Abisko Östra

… and yes, we got frost. -2.5 °C showed the scientific thermometer of the swedish weather service, when I had my first look. On the water surface of the buckets lay a layer of ice and round the leaves of lower plants I could see the first autumnal hoarfrost.

I was up very early that morning and I went to the beach at the lake again. First it looked quite normal but then it started to get foggy and misty while the sun rose behind the mountain Giron. What a beautiful sight! I stood there for at least an hour and only walked back to get another full battery for my camera. Later I met Annika, showed her the place and was glad that I could share this awesome experience.

I was a bit sad – this would be the last day of hiking through the wonderful mountain landscape of Swedish Lapland. But each journey has some kind of end and so had ours. We started our tour through the birth forests along the lake Ábeskojávri, than along the river Abiskojåkka.

After a while a famous landmark came into sight: Lapporten – “The Lapponian Gate”, a U-shaped valley framed of two mountains that give this valley its specific and recognizable shape. However, since this photo is taken from the backside, it hardly shows this special shape.

Since Alesjaure we followed the Kungsleden – the King’s Trail, but right after the bridge over the stream Nissonjohka we left the main trail that leads to the Abisko Mountain Station and turned right to Abisko Östra, the village, were we planned to stay for two other days. The way, however, was not much fun to go. A lot of all-terrain vehicles has turned the way into mud. Since I lost my lens cap and I was afraid that mud would splatter my lens, I packed the camera into its waterproof bag long before the worst mud patches. And that’s why this is the last photo of our hiking tour:

Thank you Annika, för trevligt sällskap – for nice company. Where should we hike next?

Any suggestions?

Winter journey in a nutshell

It snowed in Skelleftehamn tonight. It’s hardly a secret, that I love winter, snow and coldness. In Skelleftehamn however it would be too warm, because the Baltic Sea is near.

Therefore I decided yesterday to take a day off today, take camera and car and travel towards winter. In the inland the climate is colder and hopefully there would be more snow. I started at 6:45 in darkness. The first part was no fun to drive. Road salt is used on the big road to Skellefteå and the road further west. With temperatures slightly below zero you always have a film of muddy saltwater on your windscreen while the wipers still are partly frozen and will not work properly. That in combination with approaching cars with bright lights makes it hard to see and much concentration is needed.

That instantly got better when I left the big road 95 (that would bring me to Bodø in Norway) right after Jörn. The smaller roads are covered with ice and hard snow – much easier to drive and the windscreen stays clear. And it looks much more like winter than a wet road. And while in Skelleftehamn even the duck pond is open, here the lakes and some small streams are ice and snow covered.

I continued the road and drove to Storklinten, a small ski hill. Well, it wasn’t so interesting yet with only round about 10 cm snow, but the lake nearby – Lill-Klintträsket – was really nice. It started snowing and the tree covered hills farther away seemed to vanish into a white nothing.

The way to Storklinten is a dead-end road and I had to return. I continued the larger road to Myrheden looking for motives. And I found one. The small river Ålsån:

I was glad I had my chest waders with me, so I could come quite near to the motive. And there were a lot of motives this day. For example reindeers. The first small flock was extremely shy and cautious. It didn’t dare to pass my car and left the road starring at me suspiciously from behind the small trees. You can see that they digged for food in the snow, the noses are snow covered and one of the reindeers even had a twig hanging in its antlers.

Further on the road: Town signs with funny looking names (there was even a village called Hej, which is Swedish for hello), more snow covered roads and trees and two extremely well educated reindeers going beside the road in single file.

I’m looking for motive especially, where there are crash barriers beside of the road – there the street will probably cross a river or a creek. Some of them are open, many broader ones with less current are already covered with ice. And on one of them – far away – I could see a reddish animal and some dark spots. A fox? Birds? I looked for the next parking opportunity – sometimes a real challenge – and walked back.

I was right: There was a fox. And some kind of skeleton, perhaps a roe deer or a reindeer. And some crows. And an eagle! It doesn’t happen often, that I see eagles nearby where I live. I made some photos with my tele lens. Zooming in I could even see some magpies hopping around hoping for a snack. The scene was much too far away to get good pictures, but anyway, I want to show you this one:

After a while I started to get hungry. My car too; the red R-lamp has been glowing for a while. Anyway, the town Arvidsjaur, todays destination, was not so far away anymore. As people in former days first fed their horses before eating themselves I first tanked my car with E95, then myself with beef, mashed potato, mushroom sauce and salad. Then I looked around in the city which I think is really nice. Especially in winter with snow – round 20 cm today.

Even if the “real winter” is not here yet the days are already quite short: Sunset in Arvidsjaur was a quarter past two! At three o’clock I started to use the car’s full beam, half an hour later it was quite dark. Time to head home. I couldn’t see any motives any longer and I navigated to the main road. Now driving became exhausting again for a while since it started to snow quite heavily. And if you use full beam while snowing you just see a tunnel of snow flakes swooshing towards you. It’s a big like old televisions science fiction series, when the spaceships activated their warp-drives. And as in space there is no up or down. The second photo may give you a faint idea.

Luckily the snow shower ended soon and the rest of the trip was just about coming home.

400 km and 500 meters – 11 hours 30 minutes – a straining but great one day trip winterwards.

Back again in Skelleftehamn: Snow is gone, it’s pitch black and it’s raining cats and dogs.

Kungsleden ski tour: From Nikkaluokta to Singi

It was 2005 when I was asked by C. from Switzerland, if I wanted to join him on a ski tour on the Kungsleden – the King’s trail. That’s how I came to my first ski tour in the mountains of Swedish Lapland. More tours followed, but sometimes it was hard to find a tour mate. Same thing this year; that’s why I decided to do my first ski tour on my own.

Kungsleden would be ideal for that, since there’s infrastructure as mountain huts and I won’t be alone. Good to know, since even twisting an ankle could be a serious problem in winter if no one’s around. I wanted to start 19 February, the day, when the huts open.

After a long trip I reached Nikkaluokta (many thanks to A. for the lift from Kiruna!) on the evening of the 17th I had one spare day in one of the cosy cabins of family Sarri. This place can be very cold and I had a look at the digital thermometer in the cabin: -44.8 °C minimum since the last reset – brr, that had been a cold day!

I climbed the small church hill and looked west. That’s were I’ll go the next day.

From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise Fjällstation

19 February · 19 km · Link to map

Time: 7:40, temperature -17 °C, weather: cloudy. Time to start the tour. I mount my skis, put the belt of the pulka (a sled for transportation) round my hips and after some gliding steps I see the first mark of the winter way to Kebnekaise.

It’s the only mark for a long time, the winter way to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation is not marked, neither on the map nor in real. But it’s easy to find the way, since many snowmobiles take this way and you only have to follow their tracks. Soon I’m at the place where the trail crosses the stream Čievrragorsa. In summer I used the chain bridge, In winter the snowmobile goes right over the frozen and snow covered stream. I can hear the sound of water running underneath the ice – a strange feeling.

After some kilometers I come to the lake Láddjujávri. Here you can eat waffles with cloudberries or burgers at “Lap Dånalds” and even take the boat over the lake to shorten your trip a bit. Well – in summer …

Hardly imaginable that I took a bath here six month ago on a hot summer day, when I was here with Annika. Not it’s winter, all is closed down, the boats lie on land and are covered with snow and I’m completely alone. Anyway it’s not too cold and I take a first rest on my tour. Without waffles, without a refreshing bath, but with the same beautiful view as in summer, since the sky starts to clear up and one mountain top after the other starts to get free from clouds, fogs and haze.

When I continue my tour over the ice of the frozen lake I soon can see the same mountain range as I did in summer. And it’s as beautiful as in summer, too.

After some kilometres the trail leaves the lake and continues through scattered birch forests and over frozen swamps, some of them covered with ice. The weather is fine and sky is of a clear blue with some clouds.

Another rest, this time on top of a rock, with hot tea, chocolate, and a bit of salami. What a beautiful day! I could sit here for hours, but I shouldn’t. I have to reach the huts of the Kebnekaise Fjällstation. I do reach them, but before that I have to work. The trail ascends and I have to make wide V-steps with my skis to be able to pull the pulka uphills. Finally I arrive. This mountain resort is quite huge, since Kebnekaise is the highest mountain in Sweden and very popular among hikers, skiers, and climbers. Anyway it is not opened yet beside of the cabin Jägarn (“the hunter”). Here I’ll stay overnight before I’ll continue to the Singistugorna the next day. Twice I climb on the small hill with the radio mast, first after sundown, then at half past six – where I see the first polar light of the tour.

From Kebnekaise Fjällstation to the Singistugorna

20 February · 14 km · Link to map

When I wake up sky is blue again and -17 °C. I take a short breakfast with muesli and prepare for leaving. That means: packing all things – doing the dishes – cleaning the kitchen and my bed room – checking that I have everything with me – putting on skis and pulka belt. Meanwhile the sky is overcast and it has started snowing. Weather can change quickly in the mountains.

After I have walked some kilometres it clears up a bit, just so much, that you can see some mountain tops shining through the hazy fog.

When I enter the narrow passage of the valley the mountain tops hide again, which is a pity. The mountains here are so beautiful.

There is not much snow in the mountains this winter. Parts of the marked winter way lead over stony passages with no snow at all. I have to go round these passages to avoid ruining my skis and pulka. Mostly I follow the snowmobile tracks, hoping that the locals know the best way.

This way leads over the frozen river, but sometimes it’s hard to see, since the snow under the overcast whitish-grey sky don’t show any contours. Wind increases, snow falls as well and the snow starts to drift in the increasing wind. In the narrow valley between the mountains Siŋŋičohhka and Liddubákti more snow lies on the ground which makes it easier to ski but worse to see.

That’s when you are really glad about the winter way marks: Red crosses set on long poles. Sadly plastic crosses are used nowadays. They are ugly, in my opinion harder to see and many of them are broken. But I’m glad to have them anyway. They do not only show you the way, they help you even in guessing whether it’s going up or down, which you cannot see, if visibility and sight are poor.

I always have compass and a good map with me on such tours. Anyway, if you cannot see any landmark these tools are of limited help if you do not count steps or know how fast you are on your skis. That’s when a GPS can be very handy. When I make another rest, longing for the mountain huts Singistugorna, the GPS revealed, that it’s only 970 meter to go. Easy!

Well, not really. The valley opens, wind increases and there are many rocks and snow-free parts on my way. I decide to circumnavigate a steeper passage and ski a bit to the right. To my big amazement I don’t go down but keep on level. Suddenly I feel part of the ground collapsing a bit and realise that I stand on the rim of a soft snow drift, about two meter high. It was absolutely impossible to see it. I’m lucky, that I didn’t fell down! I go back and circumnavigate my circumnavigation until I’m on the marked trail again. There I can see the cabins shining through the drifting and blowing snow. It takes some time to find a good way down to Singi but finally I arrive. Here the wind seems to be even stronger and the snow falls even more intense.

Stugvärd J. shows me my room, light fires in the ovens of the kitchen and my bed room and allows me to take my pulka inside since I’m the only guest. After doing some work he leaves and heads to his own cabin against hard wind and snow.

According to the forecast wind will increase even more and snow fall round 20 cm are expected. I’m glad, that I have time and plan to stay at least one other day in the Singistugorna, perhaps two.

The next article: Singi – from blizzard to clear sky >>

Kungsleden ski tour: Singi – from blizzard to clear sky

Singi day #1 – 21. February

That’s me on the picture above. It’s 3:45 in the night. I can hear the storm shaking the cabin and howling in all chimneys. When I look out through another window (this one is completely covered with a layer of snow), I can see that it’s still snowing a lot. But it doesn’t help, I have to go to the loo. And since the toilet is a utedass – an earth closet round 50 meters away, I have to dress for it: The headlamp to find my way through the blizzard, the parka to stay warm and the ski goggles for more comfort when I go back against the snow storm.

Some hours later: The blizzard lasts the whole day. Sometimes you cannot see the other cabins standing 50 meters away – just whiteout. Most of the day I stay inside, either in “my” cabin, which I have completely for myself or I visit J., the stugvärd, in his cabin. But I got out to make some pictures (all made with a 35mm lens):

Singi day #2 – 22. February

Still the wind howled, still snowfall from the sky the next day, but I could see some stars shimmering through the clouds above. And after a short while the snowfall stopped and the overcast sky started to clear up. It’s really nice if you’re able to see something again:

I left the cabins for a short ski tour to the near sami village Goržževuoli. Still some snow crystals fell from the clouds above, still snow was drifting over the white ground, but when I looked back, I could see the sun illuminating this landscape with golden and almost magical colours.

After a while sky cleared up and the weather went “normal”. I took some pictures in the village, which is abandoned, at least in winter time. The buildings are a mixture of wooden houses and traditional sami buildings called kåta.

After I while I headed back over white and untouched snow. I love making the first tracks on fresh snow!

When I came back to Singi, wind increased again. The stugvärd told me, that Singi is quite exposed to wind. I crouched behind a two meter high snow drift to make a photo of the drifting snow. After that I had to dry my lens since the snow dust was everywhere.

The blizzard of the last day created snowdrifts up to three meter high and up to 60 meters long behind the lee side of the cabins.

If you are in a mountain hut, you’ll experience big contrasts: Storm or bright sky – inside or outside – day or night. The following two pictures show the same day:

I was quite busy with keeping the hut warm. It has wooden stoves, one for the kitchen, one for each sleeping room. It takes a lot of wood to keep such a cabin warm, especially when strong winds cool it down (and even accelerate the burning). In the morning I had temperatures round 0 °C and was glad about my warm down filled sleeping bag. The wood on the King’s trail comes in long logs. The stugvärd will cut it up to one meter long logs, the rest is up the the guests. The guests? That’s me! I guess I sawed and hacked wood four or five times to keep the fire running and – even more important – to leave enough wood for those that will come after me.

Later in the evening the full moon rose behind the snow covered mountain chain, surrounded by a halo. I just love standing out in the wintry mountains when the moon lights the scenery. Just beautiful.

The next article: Sälka >>

Kungsleden ski tour: Sälka

From the Singistugorna to the Sälkastugorna

23 February · 12 km · Link to map

After I stayed in Singi for two days, I continued to Sälkastugorna (or short Sälka), the next mountain hut. The sky was overcast but the sight was good.

The first part took a bit of time, since there were some quite steep snowdrifts to cross, which is not so easy with the pulka always dragging down. After a while the clouds declined, it started to snow and the sight worsened a bit.

Soon the tiny hut Kuoperjåkka came into sight. You can rest in this hut and it even has a little oven, but only for emergency situations. I shovelled away the snow in front of the door, entered the hut and took a small break. Not that I already was tired after five kilometres, but it’s nice to sit there sheltered from snow and wind and look through the window – even if you hardly can see something. (Taking away the door of the toilet would take longer time as you can see on the second photo.)

After the break I continued the tour. Wind increased and I put on the fur rimmed hood. There was not much to see. When I looked down I could see the blue tips of my skis, when I looked up I could see some waymarks, perhaps some rocks or a tuft of grass. Looking down – looking up – the movements are repetitive, even meditative. Looking down – looking up – what’s that? Sälka is already in view. It’s not a long way from Singi to Sälka, just twelve kilometres.

Arriving in Sälka was like a culture shock. In Singi I was the only guest, here I could see a bunch of pulkas standing outside and when I entered the kitchen of the open hut, it was stuffed with people! 18 people fit in this hut (plus two extra in a tiny locked room) and 18 people we were. 18 people firing the oven and drying their shoes … . Jungle climate! But I got my bed and a place to cook, that’s all you really need.

… and a sauna. It’s not essential to have a sauna, but it’s great, especially, when you can pour a bucket full with hot water over yourself feeling refreshed and clean again.

After the sauna I sat inside, prepared and ate my pasta and chatted with the other people, that came from Belgium, Germany and the US. The weather once again became bad. Wind became stormy and it started to snow more heavily. When people went to the utedass – the earth toilet, 200 meters away, they were clad like for an arctic expeditions: face masks, ski goggles, heavy mittens, headlamps – all for a walk to the toilet.

But as fast weather can worsen, it can improve as well. One hour later the snowfall stopped, the wind fell asleep, sky cleared up and the moon lightened the valley and the nearby mountains. It’s these contrasts I love!

A short day trip into the Stuor Reaiddavággi

24 February

The next day I made a short trip up into the Stuor Reaiddavággi. “vággi” is the sami name for valley and this valley leads to Nallo, another mountain hut that was still closed. You can sleep in closed huts, too, they always have an open emergency room, but you’re completely on your own. I didn’t plan to go to Nallo, even if it’s only 9 km.

(Today I think, I should have done it, since Nallo is one of the huts with the most beautiful location I know.)

Anyway, I just went up – first to a ravine, then I climbed up the slope following the Stuor Reaiddavággi. The sky cleared up more and more and all mountain tops came into view. Sälka was miles away and I was alone by myself amid of this great mountainscape.

After a while and a short break with tea and raisins I returned “home” to the Sälkastugorna. The plan for the next day: Continuing my ski tour to Tjäktja.

The next article: Tjäktja >>

Kungsleden ski tour: Tjäktja

From the Sälkastugorna to Tjäktjastugan

25 February · 12 km · Link to map

This day could be a more demanding day. It’s only 12 km to Tjäktja, but first of all i goes up 300 meters and then there’s Tjäktjapasset – the mountain pass, which I remember as being quite steep. In 2005 I skied down the slope, now I have to go up, dragging the pulka behind.

That’s why I started quite early this day. In my pulka: a parcel with food from the shop that stugvärd Z. gave me for stugvärd P. – one kilo more or less doesn’t count so much if you doesn’t have to carry it on your back.

When I started the tour the sky was still cloudy, but soon the clouds disappeared, sun was shining and the sky was blue. I was happy, since according to the weather forecast I expected the whole week being grey and cloudy. Far away in the early sun I could see a chain of mountain – there’s the Tjäktjapass, still far away, and it looked high and steep.

This was the first time that I had skins under my skis that help going up, especially if you carry a pulka that always wants to slide down. The trail led through a hilly landscape and I had to climb many small hills just to go down on the other side of the hill. I asked myself how I should gain altitude going just up and down. Anyway, the landscape was gorgeous, just as the weather, and when I looked back after some time I could see, that I gained more height than I thought. First I could see small brown boxes laying behind – the Sälkastugorna – but after some time they disappeared behind the hilly landscape.

I continued my tour and saw a black bird ahead. It cawed and landed on a dark spot beside another bird. Crows. I remembered, that one of the skiers that I met in Sälka, told me, that he saw a dead reindeer on his way from Tjäktja. This reindeer was killed by a wolverine, one of the biggest carnivores in Scandinavia. I approached the dark spot, the craws cawed again and flew away. There was a heap of something and beside of some patches of reindeer skin it was hardly recognisable. The sight of a frozen hump of meat is neither nice nor beautiful, but it is part of a country, where predators as wolves, bears, lynxes or wolverines still exist.

After taking some photos for this blog I continued my tour. Two other skiers approached from the other side – they just slided down in long, relaxed steps. I however had to climb up. Now, where the pass was near, it was visible that it was neither as steep nor as high as expected. After a bit of effort (I’m not well trained …) I stood on a plateau just below the highest point of the pass. And the view back into the huge valley Tjäktjajåkka (sami: Čeakčajohka) was incredible. The sun shone from a bright blue sky, a rainbow coloured sundog nearby. Ice dust fell from the blue sky that glittered and sparkled against the sun. The broad valley seemed to be endless, the further away mountains looked hazy and I had the impression, that you could walk through this valley forever.

It’s not the first time, that I stood here and gazed in amazement. I’ve been here on my first ski tour in april 2005, too, when I went from Abisko to Kvikkjokk. And now I was just as amazed as at the first time.

I could have stayed for ages, but after I while I broke away from this special place and ascended the last meters of the pass until the small hut Tjäktjatjattja came into sight. I took a break, but instead of seeking shelter in the hut I sat outside in the sun with chocolate and hot tea. It started to snow a bit – always a bit strange if you cannot see a single cloud.

After this sunny break I continued the trail to Tjäktja. The skiers I met left a nice track and the only think I had to do was sliding downwards effortlessly until I arrived in Tjäktja, the smallest mountain hut on my journey. Stugvärd P. got my parcel with food and goodies and I got a room in the stuga.

The sky was clear the whole day and it started to become a bit colder. -15 °C, when I arrived, -19 °C short time later. Time to fire the oven and to eat something warm. But later I went outside again to look at the starlit sky that arched above the Lappish mountainscape.

A day in Tjäktja

The next morning the weather was perfect for skiing: -22 °C, hardly any wind and again an almost cloudless, blue sky.

I stayed a day in Tjäktja and went up the mountain Tjäktjatjåkka, but only half the way. First of all I’m not the most experience skier, and then I was afraid of avalanches. But even going up halfway in this outstanding weather was great.

Going downhill was much faster than uphills. When I arrived in Tjäktja, the thermometer show -18.5 °C, exactly the same temperature as when I started my short day trip and the sun shone from a cloudless sky over the ravine of the stream Čeavččanjira. The next day I will continue to the next mountain hut: Alesjaure.

The next article: returning to civilisation >>

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wolverineVielfraßjärv

Kungsleden: returning to civilisation

From the Tjäktjastuagn to Alesjaurestugorna

27 February · 13 km · Link to map

This day I continued to the Alesjaurestugorna, the last mountain hut in the kalfjäll –  the treeless mountain landscape in Lapland. Perhaps that’s why I was a bit sad, because I love the bare mountains and I felt that I had to say farewell to this outstanding landscape soon. I said farewell to quietness a bit, too, since I knew, that Alesjaure would be quite crowded:

But first of all I had a nice trip of thirteen kilometres to go. Weather was good and the way was short and easy, even if there were some patches with hardly any snow that I had to bypass. So I arrived in Alesjaure already at a quarter past one, being the first guest.

Other guests came, from Austria, from Germany, from France and from Denmark – many interesting people. And in between five scooters arrived – all with a trailer loaded with figures dressed in huge black down parkas and ski goggles – the Englishwomen. Their plan was to go back to Abisko on skis in two days with some detours to make it a full marathon distance.

The rest of the day was relaxed and easy-going. First I sat the sauna, then I made dinner (an outdoor meal called “Rice with basil” – quite boring). After that I sat together with all those kind and interesting people. At half past nine one of the Danes started to make pancakes – and I was invited! The Danes told me, that each of them has a surprise for the others on their tour and the pancakes were the first surprise. What a great idea (especially, since I benefitted from this surprise). I went to bed at half past ten – much later than the last days.

From Alesjaure to Abiskojaure

28 February · 20 km · Link to map

The next day I wanted to continue to Abiskojaure, that’s the longest part of my journey. The last tour days had quite short distances between 12 and 14 km and I was rather slow. As a photographer I have a good excuse: It’s making photos, that takes time, not my slow speed! Anyway, today I planned to start very early and decided to go a bit faster to avoid arriving in darkness. But first I had to get water, there was hardly any left.

If you tent in the winter, you’ll have to melt snow in most cases – this takes a lot of time and doesn’t taste well. The mountain huts on Kungsleden have ice holes to get fresh water, either in lakes or rivers. The ice hole of Alesjaure lies exactly below the summer bridge. It is covered with a wooden look to reduce freezing over, but I had to break the fresh ice anyway. It’s almost impossible to fill a 25 litre container with water (lowering the bucket into the small hole – pull it up again – pour water through the funnel – de-ice the funnel – pour water through it again) without getting wet hands. Oh, what I longed for waterproof gloves. My fleece gloves were completely soaked and my fingers got so cold that they itched when I “defrosted” them above the gas oven.

That’s why I started a bit later than planned and at the same time as the marathon skiers. They followed the official winter way, I took the short cut over the frozen lake Alisjávri. Although I took pictures I was faster than the skiers – some of them probably stood on skis the first time – and when I left the lake to join the winter way they already lagged behind.

I tried to go a bit faster, but stopped for some photos:

After I went more than half the way I took a break. It’s quite warm: -5 °C and even the cloud-covered sun warms a bit. For me it was a bit like saying good-bye. Good-bye to the treeless kalfjäll. Soon I will enter the narrow valley Gárddenvággi where terrain declines. And soon after I finished my break and continued the tour I saw the first small birch woods. The sun has disappeared behind a cloud layer and the landscape got monochrome. Dark birches, white snow, only interrupted by some red waymarks.

The last descend to the woodlands is quite steep. I decided to unmount my skis and go on foot. Even so the pulka tried to push me down towards the valley and I had to lean back to avoid being knocked over. After some minutes I was almost level with the Abiskojaurestugorna and went the rest of the tour through denser birch forests on skis again. I have to admit that I found this part a bit boring – we have snow and trees in Skelleftehamn, too, but soon I arrived at the mountain huts, where I spent the rest of the day.

In the evening I met C. who wanted to go to Abisko the next day and we planned to do this last part together.

From Abiskojaure to Abisko Östra and home

29 February · 15 km · Link to map

Let’s make it short: This day was travel day. C. and I woke up at 6 o’clock. Not by our own will but because we had the loudest snorer ever in our room. Jet engine level! We took a short breakfast, packed our pulkas and started our tour. Not to Abisko Turiststation, the classical start and end of the Kungsleden, but to Abisko Östra, the station of the village Abisko. I went on skis, C. just with normal boots, since the snow on the snow mobile tracks was packed and easy to walk on. C. was much faster than I use to be, but we headed for the 12-o’clock-train and I was keen to get it, too. We took two breaks: One for elevenses (or some kind of pre-lunch), one for the reindeer posing in front of the kåta.

We mad it, we even had an hour time until the train arrived. 14 km in 3 hours, 8 minutes (including the two breaks) – that was the fastest part of my tour. Thank you, C. for helping me leaving my comfort zone a bit.

The rest of the tour: Train from Abisko Östra to Luleå. Bus from Luleå to Skellefteå. Bus from Skellefteå to Skelleftehamn. I was home at 21:30 – 13½ hours after starting on skis in Abiskojaure.

Now it’s midnight. I’m sitting in the living room of my house in Skelleftehamn. I really like this place, but I’m already longing to the Swedish Mountains again. Perhaps another ski tour later in April?

Well, we’ll see …