EBOOK - Kungsleden South

New Ebook – Kungsleden South

EBOOK - Kungsleden South

I’m happy to announce that my 5th ebook is now available: Kungsleden South – Hiking From Ammarnäs to Hemavan

Now available for $7, this guide covers the southernmost section of Sweden’s Kungsleden trail.

CLICK HERE for more info.

 

Hiking Kungsleden trail in Autumn, Sweden

Kungsleden Trail 2015

Six years since I first started walking south from Abisko through the autumn forests and arctic tundra of Sweden’s Kungsleden trail, I will be making the journey again. This time I will be part of a team of four, and our goal, Hemavan, 440 kilometres to the south.

The team will consist of me, Cody – the photographer, my partner Justyna – the blogger, and the traveling couple of Theo – the filmmaker, and Bee – the writer, the duo behind vdubvanlife.com. I met and briefly traveled with them on Lofoten last year and they were also the first visitors at my new flat in Germany in May, as they were making their way home from a year on the road in Europe in their, can you guess, VW van.

Theo and Bee have also recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them get some necessary gear for the trip. Often with a week+ between power, the trip is going to require a lot of batteries and memory cards. They are also giving away some prizes, so go check them out.

Unlike the last few times in which I have visited the Kungsleden, during which I also combined with visits to other areas of Scandinavia/Europe, this trip will be dedicated to the trail alone. This is one of the reasons I moved to Germany in the spring, so I could focus better on the individual projects I have planned, as I have gotten a bit weary of the 3-6 month backpacking trips as my 30th birthday drifts further into the past.  This also gives me the benefit of being able to pack lighter, as I don’t have to worry about splitting my time on the trail and in cities/hostels.

September 2nd will be the day we head south, into the wilds of the Swedish arctic, hopefully with the sun bright overhead. Well, hopefully anything but rain really; I’m from California, I don’t like rain. I have hiked this northern section of the trail twice, but it is a landscape that I don’t think I will ever tire of, especially in autumn when the trees are golden yellow and the tundra foliage a mix of oranges and reds. If all goes well, we will find ourselves reaching Hemavan around four weeks later.

Many of you reading this are probably familiar with my 68north.com website, focusing on Norway’s Lofoten Islands. I was a bit hasty when starting the site in 2010 and was a bit small in my focus. Even though Lofoten was, and still is, one of my biggest interests, I have long had plans for something more. A bigger photography and hiking site dedicated to all areas north.

Like Lofoten, the more time I spend in other parts of the northern Scandinavian landscapes, the more I know I will return again and again. There is simply so much out there to see and walk. If I’m lucky in life, when I’m 60 years old, I’ll be like one of the old German guys I often meet wandering alone on the trail. With stories about the autumn of 1980-something that was so warm they spent 2 weeks in a t-shirt, or the cool summer when they were still in knee-deep snow in July.

And so choosing the Kungsleden this year will be the start of another project set to keep me occupied in my spare time over the following years, in which I’ll hopefully be able to add another Scandinavia region to each year. Keep an eye out in the autumn for a new website…

As my gear lists always seem popular, HERE is what I will be carrying on the trail this year.

Hiking Kungsleden trail in Autumn, Sweden

2015 Gear List

Hiking Kungsleden trail in Autumn, Sweden

Photo: Hiking the Kungsleden trail in autumn, September, 2012

I’ve now added a new hiking – backpacking gear article for my 2015 hike on Sweden’s Kungsleden trail. While there are a few updates from the last couple years, as I’m planning to hike the entire 440 kilometers of the trail, I’m using a lot of my tried and trusted gear from the last few years. Nothing new or experimental this time.

You can checkout the 2015 gear guide HERE.

X Journey Magazine 2015

Kungsleden Article In X Journey Magazine

X Journey Magazine 2015

In the 2015 issue of X Journey magazine is a 13 page article (+ photos) written by me about hiking on Sweden’s Kungsleden trail.  You can find more info about the article on their blog HERE.

You can also find an online supplement to the article and many images on HERE on ISSUU

This is the 2nd edition of X Journey, a beautifully printed and wonderfully thick yearly magazine focusing on hiking and travel. Published in Germany, all articles are bilingual in German and English.

You can find out more about the X Journey HERE or follow them on FACEBOOK.

X Journey Magazine 2015

Photo: Cover of X Journey magazine 2015

Silhouette of person watching Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis over coastline, Austvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Interview on Routes North Website

Hiking Kungsleden trail in Autumn, Sweden

Photo: Rainy days on Sweden’s Kungsleden Trail

There’s an interview with me now appearing over on the Routes North website.

Check it out HERE

It’s mostly about travel and photography in Scandinavia and how someone from California has ended up spending so much time in the north.

Routes North is a travel website focusing mostly on Sweden and Scandinavia.

Markan, Lofoten Islands, Norway

New Lofoten Mountain Hiking Pages

Markan, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Sunset over Kråkhammartind from the summit of Markan, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  September 2014

I’ve added a few new mountain hiking routes from my September trip on the islands.

Markan – Moskenesøy

Munken – Moskenesøy

Stornappstind – Flakstadøy

I still have a couple more mountains to add as well, but time is going to be tight, with a little less then a month before I’m returning to Lofoten again to co-guide a photo tour with Muench Workshops.  I’m hoping to have the time to write up a few posts about my autumn travels, particularly about the sailing trip, which was fantastic!  But I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get around to it, so things might be a little quiet around here for a while.  Though most of the next couple weeks will be spent working on something cool, and if I can finish in time, then it should more than make up for my lack of posting here…

 

hiker crosses snow near summit of Koscielec (2155m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Poland – Tatra Mountains – Part 2

hiker crosses snow near summit of Koscielec (2155m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Nearing the summit of Koscielec, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

Perhaps there had been too many beers Friday night in Zakopane, so it was a slow start to get moving on Saturday morning.  Eventually the four of us were loaded into the car and on the way to the trailhead for the Five Lakes Valley in the Polish Tatra mountains.

Some roadworks led to some detours which extended the drive time.  But at some point we decided to call the hut to make sure there was room.  It was May, early in the season and a questionable weather forecast, but better to be safe.  At some point in the last year or so, rules changed in some of the huts: from – always having space, even if you sleep in the dining room, to – hut is full, you need to have a room.

Pulling off the road in one of the few places with phone reception, we finally contacted the hut. Full.  Shit!  Next try was to Morskie Oko hut.  Also Full.  Double shit!  There went those plans.

Having a map with me, I suggested we try Murowaniec hut, located on the ‘front’ side of the mountains, a few hours hike above Zakopane.  Luckily there were beds available.  And so a couple hours after we left Zakopane, we were driving back into the town to begin our hike.

The suspect weather had cleared into a nice sunny day by the time we finally got onto the trail, well, more of a fairly well worn path through the forest – the Tatra are a popular hiking destination.  Sometime afternoon we finally arrived at Murowaniec hut to a scene I am familiar with from hiking the Alps, benches of people sitting in the sun eating home cooked food with a glass of beer or two.  The food did smell good, and we were hungry, so after checking into our room for the night, we were ready to get something to eat.

Never having been to this part of the mountains, I wasn’t really sure what to do with the remainder of the day.  I had been up on Kasprovy Wierch, so wasn’t really interested in hiking up there again, and it looked really crowded up on the ridge anyhow.  There was still a lot of snow in all the gullies, so without winter gear we had a fairly limited list of possibilities.  I pointed out an interesting looking peak above the hut, but it turned out not to have a trail to the summit, so a fairly difficult bushwhack through the dense dwarf pines would have been required.  FInally, Jack pointed towards a tall, and from our angle, quite steep looking mountain, the 2155 meter high peak of Koscielec.

Still with a few spiderwebs of snow covering the face, it seemed like the best option, or at least we would go as far as we could.  Backpacks bag on – overnight stuff – we hit the trail in mid afternoon.

While I appreciate the wilderness we have in the mountains of California, sometime I like being able to hike, for the sake of hiking.  This is the experience in the Polish Tatra mountains.  Criss crossed with a seeming endless series of sign posted trails, all are well build and maintained, something like mountain sidewalks.

After an hour or so of hiking we reached a small pass at the base of the mountain.  The angle didn’t look too bad anymore, but I could tell we’d have a few sections of snow to negotiate.

The next hour was spent going up, up, and a bit more up, as the trail wound its way higher on the mountain.   For the most part the route was simple going, with maybe a short scramble here and there.  And of course, ever improving views as we came closer to the summit.  It had been t-shirt weather thus far, but the winds picked up as we neared the summit so it was back into a fleece again, which was good, as I was probably getting pretty sunburnt anyhow!

About five o’clock, with the sinking afternoon sun we arrived at the summit.  Wonderful views in every direction, but especially towards the 2301 meter peak of Swinica, still covered with a healthy layer of snow.

We took our time on the summit as the weather was near perfect before we eventually figured it was time to head back down.  Before leaving the hut, we noticed a sign saying, ‘kitchen closes at 21:30.’  Without further inquiry, we figured this would be the last time to order dinner.  A dinner I was greatly looking forward to from my memories of my last trip to the Tatra!

Descent was a little more complicated than the ascent and took a little more time than I thought.  The sky was growing dark as we arrived back at the hut a little before nine o’clock.  I was somewhat shocked to see a full on party going on in the dining hall, even with a live band.

Now looking forward to a good meal, we went up to order, only to be informed that there was only one selection of soup available – a sauerkraut soup that I don’t care for very much.  When asking about the 21:30 closing time, we were informed that was when the whole dining hall closed.  Shit!  10 hours hiking in the mountains and I couldn’t even get dinner.  I guess malted barley water would have to suffice, along with the remainder of my hiking food.

Luckily the presence of the live band meant the dining room stayed open later, so we could at least enjoy a few drinks, somewhat to the protest of the hut warden, who could have been doing good business with the full house crowd, but chose to close the bar, only returning sporadically and serving drinks when sufficiently harassed by enough people shaking money at her.

Sometime after 11pm my head finally hit the pillow.  Jack and I had discussed some place of getting up for sunrise, maybe even hiking up Kasprovy Wierch, we would see.  But by the early morning hours the hut began to creek and the windows bang in the increasing winds.  With barely a hint of morning light I got up to checkout the sky.  Fully grey, and the trees were doing quite a dance.  At that, I was content to stay in my sleeping bag for a while!

A lazy hike out of the mountains and back to Zakopane followed.  We headed to a place to grab lunch (another pizza for me) and as we headed inside, thunder began to rumble and rain fall.  Good timing getting down the mountain I guess.

We got dropped of by Jack in Krakow, where I then ended up on a standing room only mini-bus, I was one of the ones standing, back to Katowice before a tram back to Chorzow.

Overall, not the trip planned, but a good one none the less.  Zakopane is such a wonderful mountain town, and in the spring it is nice and green yet the streets, while still crowded, are not overly crowded.  I wished I had had a few more days just to hang out there and enjoy a bit of mountain town life.  Maybe next time…

Two female hikers hiking in Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Heading up the trail to Murowaniec hut, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

 

Female hiker sleeps on bench outside Murowaniec hut, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Afternoon nap outside Murowaniec hut, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

 

Two female hikers hiking in Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Hiking towards Koscielec, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

 

Koscielec (2155m) mountain peak, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: The 2155 meter high Koscielec rises in the distance, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  may 2014

 

Female hiker on the summit of Koscielec (2155m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: On the summit of Koscielec, Tatra mountains, Poland.  May 2014

 

View towards Swinica (2301 m) from summit of Koscielec (2155m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Panoramic view from the summit of Koscielec, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

 

Murowaniec Mountain hut, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Murowaniec hut, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

 

Two female hikers sit outside mountain barn, Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Resting outside a mountain cabin, Tatra Mountains, Poland.  May 2014

Female hiker near Kasprovy Wierch (1987m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Poland – Tatra Mountains – Part 1

Female hiker near Kasprovy Wierch (1987m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Stormy spring sky over the Polish Tatra mountains, near Kasprovy Wierch, Poland.  May 2014

My first trip to the Polish Tatra mountains was in the late autumn of 2011 when I was making was way south from Estonia, through Latvia and Lithuania, before an epic, 18 hour bus ride to visit my friend Jack in Jaroslaw, located in the south east corner of Poland, more of less closer to Ukraine than anything else.  After a few days in the nearby Bieszczady mountains, we headed west to the high peaks of the Tatra.

Being November, we weren’t sure what to expect, but 2011 happened to be an unusually warm autumn in Europe and so we had snow free travel up to the hut at the Five Lakes Valley (Dolinie Pięciu Stawów) for our first night in the mountains.  The next day we continued on towards Morskie Oko hut, thinking about hiking Poland’s highest mountain, Rysy, before deciding conditions weren’t too good.

While somewhat small compared to the Alps, the Tatra left an impression on me as a wild and rugged set of peaks with some stunning views from the high summits.

Returning to Poland this May, I made plans to meet with Jack in the mountains again.  Staying in Chorzow, near Katowice, it took half a day on Polish busses to arrive in Zakopane, where we would spend Friday night before heading further into the mountains.

The weather forecast was so-so, actually rather poor.  Arriving on Friday afternoon in Zakopane, the skies overhead were heavy and dark.  Being lazy, and with a few hours of daylight left, we took the cable car to the summit of Kasprovy Wierch to at least get a few mountain photos.

The trip was also to do a bit of scouting for the next day’s hike, as one of the possibilities was to cross from Kasprovy Wierch over into FIve Lakes Valley and stay in the hut for the night.  But from up high, it was evident that without winter gear, there was still too much snow up high for the journey to be possible.  So it was back down to Zakopane for a pizza and some beers (and a Kebab on the way back to the guesthouse).

We made plans to head to Five Lakes Valley in the morning.

 

Sprintime view over Tatra mountains, from near Kasprovy Wierch (1987 m), Poland

Photo: Spring in the Tatra mountains, Poland.  May 2014

View towards Swinica (2301 m) from Beskid (2014 m), Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: Snow covered Swinica, Tatra mountains, Poland.  May 2014

Stormy weather over Tatra mountains, Poland/Slovakia

Photo: Dark sky over the Slovakian side of the Tatra mountains, near Kasprovy Wierch, Poland.  May 2014

Female hiker takes in view of Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Brecon Beacons National Park – Mynydd Llangorse

Female hiker takes in view of Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Watching sunset over Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

With the long days of summer just around the corner it’s now possible to head out into the Black Mountains for quick evening hikes from here in Hay-on-Wye.  Normally, the default hike is Twmpa or Hay Bluff, the quickest mountains two reach, just down the road and the very eastern border of Brecon Beacons national park.  With rainy days often spent at the climbing gym at llangorse, I’ve often had my eye of the isolated peaks of Mynydd Troed and Mynydd Llangorse for some time.  And looking for something new to wander around to break out of the normal routine, I finally made the effort to get there.

Arriving at the small parking area between both peaks, I decided to head up the lower Mynydd Llangorse, at 515 meters, as the views towards Llangorse lakes seemed to be more promising.  A short ascent leads to the mountain’s ridge and fantastic views of the gently rolling hills and Hedged-in fields of the Welsh countrside.  In the distant west, the flat, table-like summit of Pen Y Fan rose into the mist.

A strange, soft light covered the last, fading off into the hazy distant mountain peaks.  At times, the sun would break through the clouds, casting beams of light over the land in typical Welsh fashion.  Sunset looked like it would be promising, so I stayed up on the mountain, often surrounded by the wild Welsh mountain ponies, grazing away on the spring grass, until strangely pink sun sunk below the horizon.  Now I’m just waiting for a day with some nice puffy clouds to head back again.

For more images from Mynydd Llangorse, and the rest of the Brecon Beacons national park, you can visit my Welsh image archive: HERE

View towards Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Views over the scenic Welsh countryside, Mynydd Llangorse, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

View towards Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Rays of light break through the clouds, Mynydd Llangorse, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Old drystone wall on Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Old stone wall on Mynydd Llangorse, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Wild Welsh Mountain Pony grazing on hillside of Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Welsh mountain pony at sunset, Mynydd Llangorse, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Wild Welsh Mountain Pony at sunset on Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Welsh mountain pony at sunset, Mynydd Llangorse, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Female hill walker hiking on Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Brecon Beacons National Park – Black Mountain

Female hill walker on Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: View along the Carmarthen Fans, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

The Black Mountain – Y Mynydd Du, the strangely singularl named mountain range, not to be confused with the Black Mountains or Black Mountain itself, on the Western edge of south Wales’ Brecon Beacons national park is home to the some of the most stunning and wild mountains of the national park.  While the central peaks of the Brecons Beacons can have a near endless train of people heading up on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the Black Mountain receives only a fraction of the foot traffic which is one of the reasons that they are my favourite mountains in the region to hike.

When a fair weathered day presented itself a few weekends back, I headed west to hike one my favourite route: Bannau Sir Gaer – Camarthen Fans.  Often I hike in from the east, as it’s quick to get there, and often just ascend Fan Brycheiniog before returning, but this time I wanted to wait around until sunset, and so decided to hike in from the west via Llyn Y Fan Fach.  From Llyn Y Fan Fach, the trail ascends to Waun Lefrith, with scenic view of the entire Camarthen Fans, before continuing on to the first high point at Picws Du.  From here the trail descends before climbing again to Fan Foel and eventually on to the high point of the range, the 802 meter high Fan Brycheiniog.

Instead of descending the mountains and heading back to the car park, I decided to head back up Picws Du and back along the Camarthen Fan ridge to Waun Lefrith where I was hoping to wait for sunset.  Buts as the afternoon hours passed, heavy clouds began rolling in from the west, and it was evident that any sunset would be unlikely.  So after 7:00pm, as the spring sky was beginning to darken I began to head back down the mountain, slightly hurried by the calling of dinner.

For more images from Black Mountain, and the rest of the Brecon Beacons national park, you can visit my Welsh image archive: HERE

Female hill walker hiking towards Waun Lefrith above Llyn Y Fan Fach, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Hiking above Llyn Y Fan Fach, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Llyn Y Fan Fach and Carmarthen Fans, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Llyn Y Fan Fach and Carmarthen Fans, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Female hill walker hiking on Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: View along Carmarthen Fans, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

Rock outcropping on ridge of Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Rock outcropping, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  April 2014

View along Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer towards Picws Du, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Last light touchest the summit of Fan Foel, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales