Above the Arctic Circle – trekking in Swedish Lapland pt4

by backpackingbongos

Day 7 – 13 kilometres

Dawn and the man with the worlds most annoying voice was up early.  Much of the surrounding campsite was stirring, probably getting ready to climb Kebnekaise.  This is the highest mountain in Sweden and the main objective of many of those that visit the mountain station.  After walking for one hundred kilometres I have to admit that I was really not that fussed, preferring to have a lie-in and a lazy day.

It was a cold morning and I stayed in my sleeping bag until the sun finally warmed my tent.  With most of my neighbours gone it was a nice quiet spot and I sat outside for a while, drinking coffee and eating my usual camping breakfast of noodles.

The peace was soon shattered by a relay of helicopters coming in to land.  It turns out that many people do not walk the nineteen kilometres to the mountain station, instead taking a short flight.  The helicopter is remarkably cheap at £50, especially if you compare it with what I had paid to shower and use the toilet!

I could not wait to leave and get back on the trail, the hustle and bustle around the buildings too much.  I found the place to be a bit of an intrusion in what otherwise would be a wilderness area.  I shouldered my pack and set off back into the woods.

Initially the birch woods were sparse, giving uninterrupted views back towards Duolbagorni, the main bulk of Kebnekaise hidden by the lower peaks.  A very impressive backdrop of mountains that would remain with me for the rest of the day.

With a small drop in elevation the birch forest quickly established itself, becoming taller, the undergrowth thicker.  I was once again back walking on wooden boards, they were doing a good job at preventing damage from the many passing feet.  I have to admit that I soon grew to dislike the birch forest with its restricted views.  I had got used to the high open country, a sense of space and freedom.  In the woods I felt a little enclosed, hemmed in, only able to move forwards or backwards, sideways movement restricted by thick vegetation.

However there were still frequent open areas amongst the birch trees, small rises that gave views back towards that awe-inspiring skyline.

The day turned out to be hot, the enclosed valley sheltering me from what would have been a welcome breeze.  With the warmth and lack of breeze the mosquitoes came out in force.  They fed on my discomfort.

Sitting at home typing this I would love to return and walk that section through the forest again.  However at the time I felt that the best of the trek was over and I was looking forward to the end.  I failed to savour it, instead beginning to think about the long journey home.  This is common with me on any long trip, towards the end I lose the rhythm I have developed, no longer that feeling of just living in the present.  The worries and anxieties of modern day living start to creep back in.

I passed the landing stage for the ferry that serves Laddjujavri lake, an opportunity to cut off a few kilometres on the walk out to Nikkaluokta.  It was tempting as I am sure that the views from the small boat would have been spectacular.  However after walking this far it would feel like cheating to me, I wanted to complete the journey on foot.

My ‘proper’ leather boots had served me well on most of the trip, providing warmth and support during the previous few days.  However in the heat on a firm forest path my feet were suffering, cooking in what felt like leather coffins.  It was bliss to find an open spot with a cooling breeze to sit barefoot for a while.  I wished I had my trail shoes for the next few kilometers, the open mesh would have been a welcome relief, along with the spring they would have put in my step.  However they would not have suited much of my trip.  Kit selection is all about compromise.

I had rough plans to end the day next to a river a few kilometres from the end of the trail at Nikkaluokta.  However I soon passed a sign saying that there was camping available for 80 SEK (£8).  The campsite was situated spectacularly next to the lake and a cafe, the name of which caught my eye.

I am happy to give my money to a business that manages to subvert the name of a pretty unpleasant multi national company.  I passed on having a reindeer burger, settling for a real coffee which was appreciated after a few days on the trail.

The campsite was deserted and I picked a spectacular spot next to the lake to pitch the Scarp1.  There was a strong wind blowing which was a bit of a nuisance, but it did a great job at keeping biting insects at bay.  I spent a pleasant evening in my tent enjoying the warmth of the sun out of the wind.  I expected that the campsite would fill up but I ended up being the only person there that night.  I frequently got up to walk the short distance to a stony beach.  I found myself just standing there at the water’s edge, hands in pockets staring at the view.  The horizon was crammed with by now familiar peaks, my mind filled with spectacular images from the past week.  It was a great place to spend my last night outside before returning back to civilisation.

Day 8 – 6 kilometres

The wind dropped in the night but it was unfortunately replaced by the gentle pitter patter of rain.  I had a bus to catch just after midday and it was very important that I did not miss it.  Therefore I was up and packed away by 8.30am which is pretty good going for me.  The mosquitos that morning had been joined by a few midges and some small biting flies that were particularly persistent and annoying.  As there was no one around to witness it I managed to do the Scottish midge dance whilst taking the tent down.

It was then back into the birch forest which felt rather humid in the damp and still conditions.

Stopping for a break after an hour I was soon caught up by several groups who must have got the first ferry of the morning.  The earlier drizzle had been replaced by a cold rain as I eventually reached the end of the trail at Nikkaluokta.  A passing couple offered to take my photograph.

After days of spectacular walking Nikkaluokta was a bit of an anti-climax, although I am not really sure what I was expecting.  It certainly is not a destination in itself.  It basically consists of a restaurant, a service building for campers and a large car park.  I timed my arrival just as a tour bus was disgorging its passengers into the restaurant.  I did not fancy hauling my carcass in there to join them.  I walked to a shelter and sat down to prepare for a two hour wait for the bus, reading my kindle to pass the time.  The weather began to close in even more, the rain falling heavier and the temperature dropping.  The surrounding hills eventually disappeared in the murk.

A small crowd had gathered by the time the bus came, whisking us through the forests of Lapland to the town of Kiruna.  I had pre-booked a hotel a couple of months previously, securing a reasonable deal.  I was glad to get into the warmth of my room, shower and put on the clean clothes I had saved for travelling.

The following morning as I got a taxi to the airport the temperature had fallen to 1.5 celcius.  Flakes of snow were falling amongst the heavy rain which had continued unabated through the night.  Weather wise I had timed my trek perfectly.

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25 Comments to “Above the Arctic Circle – trekking in Swedish Lapland pt4”

  1. A wonderful conclusion to a great walk in Lapland. I, like you, am happy to support the locals. Helicopters are very much a way of life up there aside from the tourists using them, the sami use them to access there summer camps as well as herd reindeer. I stayed in the Scandic in Kiruna and there was a bus whose schedule matches the flights. I also posted clean clothes to the hotel, thus a little less weight to carry. Did you carry/use the crossing poles for the scarp? These posts have been very enjoyable, thanks.

    • Cheers Roger. Shame that I was up too late in the season to see the reindeer being herded, that would have been an awesome sight. I found out about the bus a bit too late, not very well advertised. I did not carry the crossing poles for the Scarp, really not needed to be honest as not much wind. Probably essential in the winter though when it snows.

  2. Thanks for sharing this trip James. A trek parallel to the Kungsleden sounds just the ticket. Have you had any thoughts about continuing along the Kungsleden on the less popular stretch??

    • I would love to return to the area Alan. Not sure whether I would explore a bit more in the area I walked or continue down the Kungsleden. This year I have applied for the TGO challenge, if I don’t get on I may head back north!

  3. I know exactly what you mean about that ‘end of trip’ feeling!
    What a fantastic trek you had though, in all that stunning scenery, and all those great memories to keep you going until the next one. 🙂

  4. I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts about this trip. Thanks for writing it up!

  5. James, I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your trip reports of Sweden. The photos have intrigued me and told of the difference in hills to the UK. Your style of writing is easy going & insightful – thank you for an outstanding set of posts.

  6. What a super trip James, your photographs really captured the remoteness of the place.

    The Scarp 1 looked at home in the conditions, how do you think the Trailstar would have performed?

    • Hi Geoff, the most remote place that I have visited outside of the Himalaya. Awesome knowing that you are 3 days walk to the nearest road. The Scarp1 was a good choice for this trip. I personally would not have liked to take the Trailstar, I wanted a door to shut out the bugs. Also good pitches were hard to find, it would have been tricky pitching the Trailstar.

  7. Been loving reading these trip reports and stunning photos. Its like nowhere else I have ever seen before! 🙂

  8. Like other commenters I’ve really enjoyed following the progress of your walk. Thanks.

  9. Good work, Mr B. Two questions: when’s your wedding day? Were the three German lads you met aged around twenty-ish?

  10. Hey Dr Edwards. The wedding day be on the 17th Feb next year. Yep the three German lads I met were around twenty-ish, do you know them??

    • 17th February? Good choice; a winter wedding, I like it.

      We think the three German lads had Stefan among them; he’s the son of family friends of Fiona and her Dad – who stays with them near Nuremberg every autumn. They were visiting us when you were away on your trip and said that Stefan was walking in the Kungsleden at the same time. Only just found out that he went with two mates. We’ll send him a link to your blog posts and see if he recognises the beardy English bloke!

  11. And so the journey ends, top notch trip with real wilderness feel into an area I guess few UK walkers and backpackers have heard of (I hadn’t). That last camping spot you had all to yourself must have been magical, that view across the Lake was magnificent

    • Took a while to finish that write-up. Its strange that the area is so unknown by UK walkers and backpackers as it is very well known by Europeans. That last camp was great, loved laying in my tent staring at the views.

  12. What a trip you had! Superb scenes, BIG mountains. Liked that James. Must tell me more when we next meet up and wild camp.

    • A memorable trip Martin, wild and remote backpacking at its best. Loved it. Need to get planning for our next wild camp, maybe November?

  13. Just been catching up on your adventures – all 4 episodes in one go. I’ve been away myself and got loads of write-ups to do for my blog, and have been trying to work through a backlog of other bloggers reports as well.

    You seem to have had a great time, even if there were moments when you didn’t seem totally sure! It looks wonderful, and your experiences appear to cover both the good and the not-so-good of what the area has to offer.

    • It was a great trip, full of the usual highs and lows of spending 8 days in the wilds alone! I have yet to catch up on your adventures, lots of blog reading to do.

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