Archive for August 28th, 2012

August 28, 2012

An Arctic shakedown and photos

by backpackingbongos

Yesterday morning winter put in a brief appearance in the town of Kiruna.  Flakes of snow were mixed in with the persistent rain which was falling out of a leaden sky.  The taxi driver that took me to the airport said that the temperature was only 1.5 celcius when he had started work.  He thought that the mountains which I had spent a week walking through would now be under a mantle of white.

I think I was exceptionally lucky with the weather, the first three days being almost too hot for walking with a heavy pack.  The weather changes fast and on the fifth day I woke to wet snow falling on my high level camp.  The day spent walking through swirling mists unfortunately hiding the grandeur above.

I set out to walk the first week of the Kungsleden trail but after the first day and a half found it too busy for my liking.  I did a fairly risky river crossing and set off for three days along a series of much quieter side trails, meeting just a handful of people along the way.  As I rejoined the Kungsleden later in the week I found the crowds even more of a shock.

Crowds or not, it was the scenery that totally blew me away, a huge variety in such a short distance.  From the damp humid birch forests I climbed into a landscape that resembled the Cairngorms on steroids.  A day later and I had the music from Lord of the rings going through my head.  Jagged peaks punctured the clouds above one of the most beautiful primeval valleys I have visited.  There is something rather special about wild camping when the nearest road is nearly three days walk away.

What did surprise me was just how difficult it was to find a decent wild camping spot as compared to the British hills.  Space is not an issue, there is plenty of that.  It’s what is under foot which is the issue.  The ground is carpeted in thick wooded shrubs which I think may include Arctic willow.  Definitely not something that you want to pitch a tent on if you value your ground sheet.  Otherwise the ground is either solid rock, boulders or gravel.  It often took a bit of searching to find somewhere suitable to pitch my tent.

Anyway I will do a proper write-up soon.  In the meantime here are a few photos giving a flavour of my 120 kilometer trek.

The Abiskojakka river though the Abisko national park was my companion for much of the first day.

A Sami hut near Abeskojavri.

My first wild camp with the mighty cliffs of Njuikkostakbakti (1370 m) rising above.

The view from my first wild camp.  It reminded me of the Scottish Highlands yet the scale was simply vast.

Visttasvarri (1299 m) rising above the rough landscape.

Looking across the length of Alisjavri from the south shore.  The path disappeared after this point for a few kilometres.

Crossing a low pass on the way to the sublime valley of Visttasvaggi.

Visttasvaggi took my breath away.

The satellite peaks of Passustjakka (1935 m) towering above my camp.  I had a real feeling of being alone that night, the nearest road at the end of the valley being at least 40km away.

Lord of the rings country as I enter Stuor Reaiddavaggi.

The mighty peak of Nallu (1585 m) possibly the most impressive bit of rock I have ever seen.

My highest camp above the Nallo hut, I awoke the following morning and it was snowing.

The highest point of the trip at 1056 m, the mountains hidden in mist.

Descending towards the huts at Salka.

When I spotted an actual patch of grass I could not resist pitching my tent on it!

A peak just off my map filled the sky with a huge wall of rock.

Looking up towards Duolbagorni (1662 m), a satellite of the huge Kebnekaise, the highest peak in Sweden.

Seemingly endless birch forest on the way to the road head at Nikkaluokta.

Fancy a big lap?