Three weeks ago I set out on a 10 day adventure to tackle a section of the Kungsleden trail in Swedish Lapland. In its entirety the Kungsleden is roughly 440 kilometres with two thirds of that above the arctic circle. I was hiking the northern most 100 kilometres of the trail from Abisko to Nikkaluokta. This section is arguably the most popular part of the trail, the landscape is rugged and barren, and has the highest mountain pass of the entire 440km.
This trip would be my first solo trip abroad, as well as my first multi day hike, with that came a great deal of nervous energy. Within the first 20 minutes of the hike all that anxiety had melted away, and I was able to enjoy the beauty and silence of the trail.
I spent that first night in the Abisko Turiststation, which is part of a network of huts and mountain stations run by the Swedish Tourism Association, STF. The Huts are built at reasonable intervals all along the trail, the longest distance being just over 20km and most huts spaced about 15km apart. I stayed in them every night while hiking, doing away with the need for a tent, sleeping bag, and everything else that goes along with camping which allowed me to keep my bag a lot lighter, and made more room for camera gear.
I shot out of bed at 6 am full of energy, any jet lag I may have had would have to wait. I made a quick cup of crappy coffee skipped breakfast and head for the trail(this would become my routine for the next 6 days)
All the nervous energy I had melted away wishing the first 20 minutes on the trail as I picked my way through the birch forest, the leaves were starting to change and the sun was warm and low in the sky. I love nordic light, theres an amazing quality to it that I have never found anywhere else in the world, Im drawn to the golden warm light that lasts for hours in the mornings, the blue light of the evening that never really stops in the summer, and even when it is mid day the sun is never beating down on you in the same harsh way. Couple that with the regularity of stormy dramatic skies and I have found my paradise.
I came into the first real clearing I’m sure I had a big grin on my face, I had come all this way to see mountains and this was my first real taste. Although I was a bit surprised by the landscape, I was expecting something much more barren like I experienced in Iceland, but this was different, there were so many trees, mosses and wild flowers. The vegetation would thin out of then next day or so as I made my way higher into the mountains and passed the treeline.
The day progressed the wind picked up a little and clouds started rolling in, those clouds would more or less be following me on and off until the 5th day of my journey.
I made an effort to not use my headphones while I was hiking, I didn’t want to get lost in someone else’s thoughts and miss out on something beautiful because I was paying attention to a podcast or audiobook. As a consequence I spent most of the day singing to myself, muttering, and taking time to stop and hear the ringing in my ears from the absolute silence.
Finished the hike in just over 4 hours. I was the first to arrive at the hut, so I poured a whiskey and played cards, hit the sauna and rested up for the longest and hardest day I would have on the trail.