Fjallkartan – BD6 Abisko – Kebnekaise – Narvik

by backpackingbongos

For me one of the best things about planning a trip is spreading out a map and virtually walking my route.  I trace the line that I will walk, envisioning the landscape that I will be passing through.  The printed page becomes 3D with the folds of valleys, crashing streams and towering peaks.

I recently received a map for the section of the Kungsleden trail that I will be walking later in the summer.  Opening it up is like learning to read all over again, completely different from the Ordnance Survey maps which have become so familiar.  The scale will take some getting used to, you can’t cram a huge amount of detail in at 1:100,000 and the contours are every 20 metres.  There are new map features to learn, although thankfully the legend also includes English.

The last time that I attempted to navigate via a foreign map was whilst doing the Helambu trek in Nepal several years ago.  It was still early in the season and we were close to reaching a lodge on the highest part of the trek.  Without warning an electrical snow storm blew in and within minutes our path was covered in inches of the white stuff.  Out came the map but it soon became evident that it would be impossible to navigate using 100 metre contour lines!  With darkness fast approaching and thunder and lightning booming and crashing all around us, it was not the best time to be stranded on an isolated mountain ridge.  It was decision time, attempt to retrace our steps for four hours back through the forest, or continue onwards to try to locate our lodge for the night.  We decided to continue onwards for 10 minutes, just in case, before turning back.  I’m not embarrassed to say we both shed a tear of relief when we spotted a light in the darkness a few hundred metres away.

Thankfully the Swedish maps are much better, and to be honest to actually walk this section of the Kungsleden they may not be totally necessary.  The trail is heavily used and well signposted.  However I have plans to make a couple of diversions off the main path for a quiet wild camp or to climb an easy peak, weather permitting.  I look forward to sitting with map on lap and guide book in hand, planning these diversions.

The Kungsleden has now changed from a dream into reality.  My flights are booked along with a sleeper train and a hotel for the night in Stockholm.  Whenever I think of the trek my feelings could best be summed up as ‘nervous excitement’!

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30 Comments to “Fjallkartan – BD6 Abisko – Kebnekaise – Narvik”

  1. I love maps as well, and have had the opportunity to using maps from a number of different countries – Austria, Switzerland, France, Solvenia, Poland, Canada, etc, etc, even Albania!

    They are all different, with different scales, contour intervals, symbols, colouration and depth of detail. And part of the fun is getting to feel comfortable in navigating when using them – go easy at first while you get used to them, then build up the degree of challenge as you go.

    The section of map shown looks to be fine, clear and easy to read/interpret. It should make for an enjoyable trip, leaving you free to drink in the scenery and the experience!

    • Indeed Jules, a map is as good as a guide book. The map I have does appear to be clear without too much clutter. Lets hope that the scenery is every bit as good on the ground as on paper!

  2. It really is half the fun getting the map out and trying to visualise the terrain and all the twists and turns of the trail isn’t it? Imagining yourself lying in the tent at a likely spot, or getting water from a particular stream or even toiling up a steep slope – brilliant!

    • Been doing alot of that recently Chrissie. Looking forward to laying in my tent looking at a totally unfamilar landscape.

  3. One of my favourite things to do is to sit down and stare at a map and as you say envisioning the landscape. It is never what you think it is like when you actually walk it ! Going to be a great trip

  4. The names on the map, the ridges, glaciers, all looks magnificent and to say I’m jealous is an understatement. Like you I’m a map addict and I have a huge collection of foreign maps and guidebooks of areas where I’ve planned trips but never actually been

    • I do hope that I don’t have to pronounce many of those names Andy as I am sure I will destroy the Swedish language! I have never owned a map with a glacier on it before. My shelves groan under all those maps and guidebooks I brought ‘just in case’ and have never used…….

      • Hope you enjoy your trip! I’m sure it will be great.

        By the way, there is some Swedish on the map, but the majority of the names are written in a Sami language. The Sami languages belong to the Uralic language group (unlike Swedish, which is an Indo-European language like English). The majority of the Swedes (that is, all who don’t know Sami!) will have trouble pronouncing the Sami names correctly, so don’t worry 😉

        Not that you really need this piece of information to plan or enjoy your trip, but I thought it might be interesting to know.

      • That’s good to know, especially when I am making an attempt to say where I am heading or asking for directions!

  5. A great joy indeed, I can happily unfold a map and read it for an hour or more, trying to understand the story it tells me about a place (particularly in symbols heavy maps like the OS ones). A little detour to visit a glacier is on the cards? Always an awesome sight imo.

    • I do look forward to having a look at a glacier Yuri. I won’t be walking on one however whilst on my own!

  6. I don’t know if I’m going too far here, lol, but new maps even smell good! Don’t think I could ever really adopt a GPS unit as my primary navigation tool?

    • Maps and guidebooks all smell great when brand new. My older maps smell like musty bothies which in a way is also a nice smell! Just got my first GPS but it is strictly as a backup.

  7. Maybe you’ll finally run into the fabled Swedish women’s volleyball team…

  8. Re: writesofway.

    Is that what you call a tall story?

  9. Interested in the fact that you’re doing this. I spoke to a native Swede recently and she recommended it. I probably won’t do it this summer though, because I like a bit of sunshine and I’m not sure if you reliably get it on the K. I understand some of the huts have got saunas – great way to relax after a day’s walking.

    • I think that the weather can be a bit hit and miss, even the possibility for a bit of snow! The idea of a sauna after a long day in the hills certainly appeals to me.

  10. I can easily lose a few hours staring at maps, we have an OS map on our wall with our post code in the centre, I’m forever looking at it planning new routes to walk and run with the dog. Enjoy planning 🙂

    • Cheers Phil. Found a really good blog of a guy who visits the area every year. Can’t wait to get up there.

  11. I forgot to mention earlier: I have a map on my wall of Central Asia – the ‘Stans – showing the Tien Shan, the Pamir, the edge of the Karakorum, the corner of the Altai. I can look at it any time a bit of inspiration is required.

    One day …….

  12. You might want to take a look at the Tyvek maps issued by Calazo or Utekartan. Much more convenient for use en route than the regular Fjällkartan maps (but Fjällkartan is great for pre-trip planning). And yes, side trips are highly recommended (stay off the M1, as it were…)!

    • Thanks for the info. I looked up those maps which are at 1:50,000 scale, much better for navigating. I can’t work out which ones I need so will have a browse when I arrive in Sweden, as have an afternoon in Stockholm before my train. I am now planning on leaving the Kungsleden and detouring via vistas and Nallo huts, before rejoining at Salka. Looks a great quieter alternative?!

  13. Sounds like a great detour! Then you’ll probably hike through Stuor Reaidavaggi (Nallo to Sälka), which I have had recommended to me (but not been to, yet). If you are bringing a tent or tarp, then you could potentially detour earlier, for example through Ballinvaggi, Siellavaggi and then opt to do the Mårma pass, if snow and weather conditions permit (check with the NP headquarters), before joining Vistasvaggi.
    Note that some of the 1:50,000 maps are a bit “deceptive” as they are simply blow-ups of the 1:100,000 maps and do not contain any more detail than the latter (but may still be easier to read and navigate from, of course).
    Have a great trip!

    • I will be hiking through Stuor Reaidavaggi, which is meant to be superb. I am thinking of doing a detour to the unmanned Unna Raita hut which sits beneath the pyramid and right next to lake 1226. The Marma pass may be a bit hardcore for my first visit though, especially going solo!

      Good to know about the maps.

  14. We did a bit of this in 1976, including climbing Kebnekaise (not difficult, but you may need an ice axe). We also visited the area around Store Solnkletten – great for isolated wild camping. We managed to get lost just South of Narvik, but didn’t realize this until we emerged from the mountains at the end of a very long lake. In those days the only maps available for the Narvik region were the one used by the NATO airforces. As they were only really designed for recognising big features from a speeding fighter plane, they weren’t much use on the ground. Hope you get some time to look round Stockholm, which is a great city (I don’t generally like cities at all:)

    • Hi Ian, sounds like you had a good trip. I think that I would only bother attempting Kebnekaise if the weather is excellent. There is a choice of two routes, one of which crosses a glacier and needs a guide and equipment etc.

      I have got a day in Stockholm before catching a sleeping train north so have time for a pootle round the city.

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