Photo: Kebnekaise Fjällstation mountain huts in Autumn, Lapland, Sweden. Sept. 2012
Days 1-2 Berlin – Kiruna – Nikkaluokta – Kebnekaise Fjällstation
[This is part 1 of my hike along the northern section of the Kungsleden trail, Sweden from Sept 11 – 20, 2012. For a general overview of hiking the trail in Autumn, CLICK HERE ]
Beep, Beep, BEEEEEEPPPP! WAKE UP!!! My imaginary mental alarm wakes to the 4:00 am darkness of Berlin. My real alarm wasn’t too far behind; my head likes to give me a bit of a warning so I have a moment of brief calm before the day begins. Showered (would be the last one for a week) and packed, we head out the hostel door into the mild morning air barely 12 hours after we’d arrived in Berlin the previous afternoon. Hopping on the U-bahn, we ride with the early morning commuters, most looking like they wouldn’t have minded a few more hours in bed. But despite our tired faces our backpacks give us away. Just passing through…
At 7:00 am we were in the air heading north to Stockholm. A few hours later, we were landing north of the Arctic Circle, under the grey, misty skies of Kiruna, Sweden. Though it doesn’t really ever appear on any schedule, or at least not the two times I’ve flown to Kiruna, there seems to be a bus that appears from somewhere mysterious and takes you to the city center. The last guy to get on the bus asked if there would be another one later that night, as his girlfriend would be arriving on another flight. ‘Nope,’ the driver replies. ‘Only one bus today.’ That seems to be how things work in the north, and I’m always wondering if the info I read, especially if found online, is accurate. Does the bus actually come when the schedule says it will? Or do they just go by their own rule. Luckily, the bus taking us to Nikkaluokta did show up at the bus station in Kiruna and by late afternoon were were deposited at the trail head. The next 120km would be by foot.
The clouds hung low in the valley, concealing the peaks around us. A light drizzle fell from the grey sky. One of those rains that temps you not to put on rain gear, but then ends up getting you unexpectedly wet somehow. After taking shelter to change into full waterproofs, we took to the trail for several hours of uneventful hiking into the fading afternoon light. At the estimated halfway point, I found a nice flat spot amongst the autumn birches and setup camp. I did put a little effort into trying to find someplace slightly scenic, trying to remain optimistic that I could put my camera to work at sunrise. As morning came heavy drops pelted the tent, a bit more sleep seemed the best idea.
The only thing worse than setting up a tent in the rain is taking down a tent in the rain. And the rain was falling, and falling as the morning hours passes. Finally tired of waiting to see if the storm would relent, we packed up camp and continued along the trail. In my best swag (scientific wild ass guess) of an estimate, we’d reach Kebnekaise Fjällstation is about 3 hours, around noon or so.
The rain was relentless a we continued down the sloppy trail and through forests of golden birch trees. We passed the ghostly silhouettes of hikers, hoods up and heads down, more closely resembling waterfalls than men. My (supposedly) waterproof shoes soon began to show their submission to the weather, and my thin fleece gloves left my hands wet and cold. We continued in silence towards the dream of warmth and of fire, of a place to dry off and relax, of an expensive bunk at Kebnekaise Fjällstation.
And then, out of nowhere, the clouds parted and a brilliant blue filled the sky! My first thoughts where that we should have waited in the tent longer. My next thought was that it probably would have rained for a week straight had we waited. I think the North sometimes likes me to suffer a bit before she offers me any rewards. As we neared the surrounds of hut, my thoughts drifted to finding a nice place to camp and maybe a few nice camping photos. And then reality reminded me that the tent was completely soaked, sleeping bags were damp, clothes were wet, and most importantly, if I set up my tent, it would rain again. And so I forked out the 500 SEK for a bunk bed and went even more extreme and bought myself a beer or two. And since I was carrying a laptop for no other reason than I had no place to leave it, I even made use of some internets. Luxury in the mountains.
Kebnekaise Fjällstation turned out to be a busy place, or at least much more so than I imagined, it being so late in the season. And entering the guest kitchen I was presented with the dilemma I always seem to find myself in: Yummy free food to eat or the beginnings of a lighter backpack. A mix of both would do on this night. And so my head hit the pillow that night, full, dry and warm. Luxury in the mountains…
Photo: 1662 meter Tolpagorni – Duolbagorni rises above Ladtjovagge viewed from near Kebnekaise Fjällstation, Lapland, Sweden. Sept. 2012
Photo: Autumn tree with summit of Tolpagorni – Duolbagorni in distance, viewed from near Kebnekaise Fjällstation, Ladtjovagge, Lappland, Sweden. Sept 2012