Kungsleden 500 km

Hiking along Sweden’s King’s Trail

As we make final preparations for our next adventure, I realize that I failed to post about our amazing hike through Sweden in 2018. I shared some photos on social media but ultimately I prefer the less temporary venue of a blog.

4 years ago, I might have written pages and pages, telling the stories and experiences we had but this will be a simple photo gallery of the most memorable parts. Here’s a pictorial tour of our 19 tent spots, each after a day of rural hiking and roughing it in the tundra.

Miles to Go Before We Sleep

We arrived in Hemavan, Sweden, after a two hour flight from Stockholm in a 15 seat prop plane. We deplaned onto the tarmac and headed into a 2-gate airport, similar to the one at home. With our two carry-on backpacks and our single checked bag, containing our tent, trekking poles, knives and various liquids, we walked along the single-lane, gravel road into town.

We found the decent-sized grocery store beside the highway where we loaded up on food for our journey. Although there was no scale available, we guesstimated that our packs were 14 kg each, which meant we had both added more than 8 kg of food weight to our loads. We shouldered the burden and headed upwards, towards the ski area, to find the Kungsleden trailhead.

I always like going South. Somehow it feels like going downhill. – Treebeard

For this adventure, we ignored Treebeard’s advice and started our 500 km trek in Hemavan, Sweden, and walked ever northwards towards Abisko.

This was truly an amazing trip. We walked every step (except for outrunning a thunderstorm on day 5) and planned nothing in advance (except for our train ride back to Stolkholm). We were challenged often by terrain, fitness and weather but always rewarded with gorgeous scenery, remoteness and Swedish hospitality.

This is our favourite photo which we had made into a canvas print and now hangs in our stairwell.
With minimal planning, we start on this spontaneous trip. Tiny packs with few supplies but we’ve got big smiles and soaring enthusiasm.
From South to North, here are our sleep spots

Day 1 – Hemavan to Syterskalet (17 km)

One of our top 3 camping spots of the trip. The Syterskalet valley was truly spectacular!

Day 2 – Syterskalet to Tarnasjo +5 km (27 km)

We hiked up beyond the Tarnasjo lake and hut, rough camping on a tiny square of even terrain

Day 3 – Tarnasjo +5 km to Aigert Hut (28 km)

The STF Aigert hut grounds are perfect for tenting and we enjoyed their simple amenities, like a cooktop. An hour earlier, we had been drenched by a rainstorm on the high pass.

Day 4 – Aigert hut to Stabberet shelter (21 km)

A lovely spot on a high ridge, complete with skinny dipping tarn (how good is your zoom??)
The Stabberet shelter was held in place with heavy-duty cables, a nod to the prevailing winds. We resupplied our food in Ammarnas, halfway through today’s hike. (this is the skinny dipper’s view)

Day 5 – Stabberet to Norbotten/Lappland boundary (27 km)

A foreboding storm chased us across the high plateau for kilometers. We outran it, getting to a lower elevation and pitching the tent in a matter of seconds, just as the skies opened and the lightening struck. This photo was taken the next morning.

Day 6 – Norbotten to Baverholmen (26 km)

Baverholmen is a fishing lodge at the edge of a slow moving river. We set up our tent in the front yard, enjoyed a meal in the lodge and indulged in laundry and a shower – true luxury!

Day 8 – Baverholmen to Jakkvik (29 km)

We pitched our tent on the grounds of the Jakkvik hut (but forgot to take a photo) and this was our view. Here, we resupplied at the general store and cooked an awesome meal in the hut.

Day 8 – Jakkvik to Vuonatjviken +3 km (21 km)

After our first experiences with rowing and with water taxis, we camped at a pretty spot along the Bartek river.

Day 9 – Vuonatjviken to Vasterfjall (28 km)

The day’s hike was incredibly boggy with not nearly enough boardwalks. We were happy to find higher ground for the night (and blueberries!)

Day 10 – Vasterfjall to Kvikkjokk (32 km)

Some days, we were pushed on by boat shuttle schedules to do extra kms, like today. We hiked hard, caught the boat shuttle and earned our first night in a hut. Holy backpack explosion, batman! And the breakfast!!
After a costly resupply at the hut, we hit the trails for the 2nd half of the Kungsleden.

Day 11 – Kvikkjokk to Parte +8 km (24 km)

At this river crossing, we searched (and searched and searched) for a level spot for the tent – and here it is!

Day 12 – Parte to Skierfe (26 km)

The most amazing campsite of the trip – and perhaps of a lifetime. Once we set up camp, we hiked up to the peak just beyond the prow of our tent.
Here is the view of the Rapadalen delta from that peak. The colours were unbelievable from this sheer cliff. We rowed across both of the lakes in the distance earlier that day.

Day 13 Skierfe to Saltoluokta (29 km)

We made it to the Saltoluokta hut/lodge and set up our tent in the busy campground. Luxuries like a sauna, shower and communal kitchen made it worth the busy-ness. Along the way here, we bought real food from the local Sami people and enjoyed unleavened bread, reindeer sausage and salt fish. So good!

Day 14 – Saltoluokta to Lake Teusajaure (14 km)

After a ferry ride and a bus trip along the highway, we hiked up and over a high plateau and down towards the lake. Little did we know that this sunbeam was the last for days.

Day 15 – Teusajaure to Singi Hut (22 km)

This is fun, right??
The weather changed significantly and we found ourselves fighting the wind and rain all the time. We pitched the tent in this slightly sheltered dip and were anxious to see if it would survive the 40 km/hr gusts all night. (It did!)

Day 16 – Singi to Nallo Hut (26 km)

We diverted away from the true Kungsleden trail and headed up the Vista valley. The weather couldn’t stop the beauty of this northern landscape.
We were the only guests at the remote Nallo hut. The temperature outside was 5° C since we were right below a hanging glacier. We lit the woodstove, dried our gear and enjoyed an evening of pretending to read Swedish.

Day 17 – Nallo to Vistas hut +8 km (17 km)

After having close encounters of the bull moose kind, we camped along the river. On this day, we saw 4 bull moose – and one was way too close for comfort!

Day 18 – Vistas to Unna Alakas

Still veering off of the regular Kungsleden, we headed up a different mountain pass and into a valley beyond. We got hailed on but we trekked through a stunningly beautiful high plateau.

Day 19 – Unna Alakas to Stuor Kapel -1 km (20 km)

After fording a raging river in bare feet, we hiked beside endless lakes and rivers. This section is incredibly beautiful and seemingly untouched.
This was our final camp spot. Our trail crossed into Norway and back again. The snow line is not far off – and neither is Abisko. Only 26 km to the northern trailhead.  A perfect spot to end on.

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Along A Path

general lover-of-life, including ultra-running, teaching, enjoying craft brews, being outdoors and living simply

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