Kungsleden - 17 Day Trek | SWE
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
The idea to hike the world famous Kungsleden first came into existence 6 years ago when I came to Sweden to hike the highest mountain, Kebnekaise. At that point in time, it was more of a bucket list type attraction and not one that I had been actively planning. It wasn’t until I made the serious move to Sweden last September that the adventure plans began taking their first steps.
With COVID-19 situations around the world continuing to develop and an uncertainty constantly in the air relating to travel, I narrowed my hiking destinations to within the country in order to avoid any type of quarantine measures. My final “Top 3” list consisted of The High Coast near Sundsvall, The Jämtland’s Triangle near Åre and The Kungsleden near Abisko. I had initial plans to hike Jämtland’s Triangle in late June but unfortunately, I had a bad crash on the BMX and didn’t feel fit for the challenge.
My good friend Dana Tauderer and I have been keeping in touch consistently since the day we met nearly two years ago while unknowingly booking the same overnight sailboat together to the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. We had talked a lot about going up to the Swedish Lapland in August once my Working Holiday Visa expired and I was no longer employed with Copperhill Mountain Lodge.
Originally, the idea was to hike from Abisko to Nikkaluokta and then do some smaller day hikes over 12 days because I had other responsibilities to attend to back in Stockholm later in the month. Dana on the other hand felt like this was her once in a lifetime opportunity to hike the full length of the Kungsleden, a total of over 440 kilometers. When she told me that she’d be willing to tackle this venture by herself, I felt the sudden urge to continue with her at least halfway to Kvikkjokk before heading down to Stockholm.
As planning went on, her brother Nico decided he would join up with us in Kvikkjokk after obtaining his second shot of the COVID-19 vaccination. This would allow Dana and Nico to finish off the Kungsleden together and for me to feel a bit more comfortable with leaving, knowing the two of them were together.
Enough with the planning of all this and let’s jump into the adventure!
DAY 1(ish): August 7th
Although our trip together doesn’t technically start till the next day, I feel the need to include this one because it’s how my trip truly begins.
I woke up in the town of Åre where I had been living for the previous 9 months knowing I would be saying goodbye. I won’t get into the sobbing details but let’s just say, this goodbye was nowhere as easy as my previous countries. In fact, even as I write this, I find myself not ready to leave nor say farewell. Det är som det är - It is what it is. After getting myself completely packed up and my room cleaned up, it was time to go. Instead of taking the train from Åre like I had originally planned, my friend Dan asked if I would like to join him down to Gävle (about 6 hours towards Stockholm) and then hop on my train there. That was the perfect chance to spend not only a little more time with Dan, but also with his new puppy, Milo.
We made our way down to Gävle slowly but surely with stops along the way for Milo to take care of business. A quick stop at his parents’ summer house outside of Gävle for a bite to eat and then off to the train station. With me at this point was basically my entire life. I had my regular check in luggage, a BMX bike bag, carry-on luggage and a backpack full of camera equipment. It wasn’t easy to get around with all this but hey, det är som det är.
The train from Gävle to Stockholm only took an hour and a half but lucky for me, I had a seat next to a chronic puker which made the ride quite interesting… I mean that in the worst way possible. I’m not one for vomiting, but the smell had me ready to reach for a bag a couple times throughout.
I showed up at Stockholm Central Station at 11pm (23:00) where Dana was waiting for me after arriving from Austria the previous day and spending the day exploring the city. We had corresponded with our friend Fabian earlier about dropping off my luggage at his place, and getting a good nights sleep before hoping on the lengthy 18-hour long train ride to Abisko National Park the next day. Fabian wasn’t able to get the time off work and therefore his mother Marja welcomed us with open arms.
I had stayed with Marja and Fabian previously when I first arrived in Sweden which made it all feel a bit like being back home. As much as Dana and I wanted to catch up, we knew it was quite late and we wanted the best rest we could get both knowing this would be our last time in a real bed for a while. Lights out.
DAY 1: August 8th (Stockholm to Abisko)
Knowing our train to Abisko wasn’t leaving until 5pm (17:00) this afternoon, we took full advantage of a sleep in before getting our final pack together. Once we were comfortable with our organizational skills, we decided to go for a little walk around Lidingö to give our legs some exercise before we have to sit for the night.
The weather was a bit off and on with rain and judging by the upcoming forecast in Abisko, it’s something we’re going to need to get use to. After our walk, we said a short goodbye to Marja before catching the bus/subway back to Stockholm central station. We still had a few hours to kill before our train so we thought it would be a good idea to grab a big lunch and buy a few things for dinner/breakfast on the train.
Before long, our train had arrived and we were officially on our way to the trailhead in Abisko. Luckily, we had a couple sit at our table that was super easy going which made for some pleasant chats until they departed shortly after Sundsvall. In the meantime, Dana and I played some Tic-Tac-Toe, I Spy and a bit of Who Am I to pass the time. We were both pretty exhausted and knowing we had a 13km trek ahead of us once we get off the train in Abisko, we decided to call it a night around midnight to get as much sleep as we could.
DAY 2: August 9th (Abisko National Park) 17km’s
I awoke this morning in a bit of a panic. I felt something hit me on my arm when we reached Umeå and when I took my sleeping mask off, there was two guys sitting next to me with Dana nowhere to be seen. I asked them if they had seen a girl and they said the seats have been empty… Confused but still noticing that her bag was there and her shoes were at my feet, I chose to go back to sleep knowing she probably just went for a comfier spot to sleep.
By 9am, I was up for good and by this time I had realized where abouts Dana had moved to. Her back had began to hurt in the seats we had since we weren’t able to book a sleeper wagon, so she moved to a two seat row and laid down. Eventually, the two guys that had sat next to me got off in Kiruna which gave us time to eat breakfast and get one last preparation in for the hike.
The clock struck 11:08 and we found ourselves finally at the Abisko Tourist Station after the longest train ride in both of our lives. We set out on the Kungsleden finally and within moments we were mesmerized by the river and many rapids that flowed down it. We didn’t have that long to go on the first day, which was nice to think about knowing we’d be doing a bigger push the second day. The aim for day 1 was about 13 kilometers to Abiskojaure.
The path lead us along the river most of the way and the skies were constantly cloudy. It did tend to rain quite a bit but it was never a serious downpour. There was a few stops we took to have a break and give our legs/arms a rest. The mountains had shown themselves from time to time but if anything, it just made us anxious to get closer to them.
As we made our way to the junction for Abiskojaure, we decided it would be better to continue the Kungsleden out of the Abisko National Park so we could set up our tent for the night. Plus, that would give us a little headstart on tomorrow’s trek. As we neared the exit of the park, we found an amazing little spot next to Mt. Giron.
We quickly set up camp while the rain took a break and got our dinners ready. Dana had risotto and I went with a chicken curry. Both delicious! By the time we were all set up and full, it was 8pm (20:00) and the knats were in full force partnered up with the mosquitoes so we thought it would be best to get in the tent and relax.
After reminiscing about the days events, we called it a night and were surprised to see that we ended up doing nearly 17km’s altogether today.
DAY 3: August 10th (Abisko to Alesjaure) 23km's
Today started off well rested and surprisingly enough, we slept in quite a bit. It was nearly 9am by the time we rolled out of the tent and began getting ourselves ready for a big day. We knew we had a minimum of 22km’s ahead of us and needed to make the most out of the time we had. Fortunately, the days are still quite long up here which meant breaks and mini side hikes wouldn’t be an issue.
Once we had everything packed up, we began making our way towards a river crossing where we decided to have breakfast. Just as we were arriving, we met a German couple that chatted with us for a bit before heading further along the trail.
The views after this point began to be more and more dramatic which made me want to stop more and more for photos. I had to learn to pick and choose otherwise I swear we would never make it to the next camping site.
Eventually, we came upon Alisjávri and followed the trail next to the lake all the way to Alesjaure. We chose not to take the ferry that saves you 5km’s of walking in order to appreciate the views a bit more but also to save ourselves 450kr each. Ditching the boat was worth it though as we got to step up next to an amazing waterfall location and then a small little beach as we got closer to Alesjaure.
When we were walking through the little mountain cabins of Alesjaure, the German’s we had met earlier called out to us. We went over for another chat and got to know them a bit more. Turns out their names are Marie and Jasper. They were doing the same sort of itinerary as us for the moment and shared an idea to take a different path up Kebnekaise. Dana and I were quite intrigued and at this point, it seems like that’s the route we’ll be taking in a couple days time.
We said our goodbyes and kept hiking a bit further to find a good spot to set up the tent. It didn’t take too much longer before we found an incredible little spot overlooking the river. Seriously, this was straight out of a fairytale. We cooked and relaxed but by this time it was already 9pm (21:00) so we quickly called it a night knowing that tomorrow would be an even bigger push than what we just accomplished.
DAY 4: August 11th (Alesjaure to Sälka) 22.3km
This past night was a bit chillier than the first but I slept great. Actually, I slept so great that I awoke at 5am thinking it was closer to 8am full of energy, ready to go until I saw the actual time. Instead of jumping straight back into bed, I got out for a few blue hour shots of the surrounding area and then got a couple more hours of shuteye.
By 8am, I was all ready to go and Dana had woken up shortly after. Our aim was to get a better start on the day than the previous in order to cover roughly as much ground in order to have the same kind of start the next day. These first few days were crucial for us to make up ground in order to have a bit of extra time incase of poor weather conditions later in the hike. By 8:45am, we had the tent packed up and were on our way south towards Tjäktja with intentions of getting as close to Sälkta as possible.
Our new routine has been to pack up first, hike a couple kilometers and then find a good spot to eat breakfast. That allows us to focus on what’s important (covering ground) first instead of perhaps spending a bit of extra time in the same location. It was 3 kilometers later that we found a small little spot with a makeshift bench that seemed perfect for our first meal of the day. Dana made herself buckwheat and almonds with some dried fruit and I went with a Swebar Protein Bar. Can you tell which one of us is a bit more health conscious?
The rain started to come in a bit but luckily, it didn’t hit us too hard. We had all our gear on and were prepared for the worst. After another kilometer and a half, we came across the perfect little waterfall with a bridge crossing it. I instantly knew we’d be stopping here for a bit of a photo op. Moments after I got my camera ready, our two new German friends came hiking up and Jasper recognized my Wandrd camera cube which gave me the impression he was also a photographer of sorts. Not long after, he was down at the base of the waterfall joining me for some photos!
At this point, the four of us would stick together for the hike so we continued onward towards the Tjäktja Hut. It’s always nice getting to know someone new because there is a whole lifetime of memories to share with one another. Dana got to speak her mother tongue with Marie while Jasper and I nerded out over different photography gear.
We came upon Tjäktja Hut around 2pm (14:00) and pretty much as soon as I saw the waterfall, I made a b-line straight for it. Jasper has been having some difficulty with his knee and therefore chose to use the hut for an extended rest/lunch. Dana and I had a quick bite to eat and then continued on just the two of us knowing that I’d be stopping for photos at some point anyway.
The next area we passed through was a bit of a barron land. The wind had died down quite a bit and it was basically rock hopping the entire portion trying to avoid the water. The area came up to a mountain pass which saw us gain elevation and then giving us an immense showing of the valley that we’d be traversing through. Just as Dana and I were about to head down into the valley, two familiar heads popped up over the ridge. We laughed, chatted a bit and then waited for Jasper to get some shots before beginning the journey down into the valley.
Perhaps a mere 10 minutes went by and we were greeted with an even more spectacular view of the valley with the lighting seemingly perfect for photos. Today has been magical to say the least! Of course we had to stop here for a bit but the break was short knowing we still wanted to get as close to Sälkta Hut as possible in order to ease our hike the following day.
Once we got down and began traversing through the village, I could tell that Jasper’s knee was really starting to hurt. Dana and I figured we’d go on up ahead for another hour or so since we still had some energy and we’d link up again tomorrow. Unfortunately, Jasper wasn’t too confident in his ability to trek up Kebnekaise anymore due to the knee injury so we all thought it would be best to say our goodbyes now and exchange information. If this was indeed the end (which I don’t think it is) than it was one of the best mini friendships I have ever built on a hike!
As we navigated our way along the Kungsleden, you could tell that others had a similar idea to us because tents were beginning to pop up sporadically. It took us a bit of time to find a proper good location but once we did, it ended up being the first night we’ve been able to cook, eat and relax without the pesky mosquitoes in our faces. All in all, today was a serious highlight but I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
DAY 5: August 12th (Sälka to Singivagge) 18.6km's
The sleep this past night was a bit rough to say the least. The spot we thought was quite epic turned out to be just a bit more epic in photos than actual comfort. I found myself sleeping somewhat on a bump and slightly in a hole at the same time. I woke up multiple times throughout the night but kept trying to get some sleep until I saw it was 8am.
At this time, I began to get myself together and begin packing up the sleeping bag, air mattress and small liner I use for extra warmth. Dana woke up as I was doing so and began to do the same that way we could get another good start to the day. Personally, I love getting started early because I’m always so eager to see what the next location has in store for us.
By 8:30am, we were well on our way through the Tjäktjavagge whose mountains towered over us with its mighty cliffs stretching out for what seemingly looked like forever. It was a bit chilly this morning so we layered up a bit more than usual, which meant we’d be delayering soon enough with a brief pause. I used this opportunity to get a closer look at a nearby waterfall but couldn’t navigate my way across the winding river.
Aside from Jasper and Marie, there was another German couple we continually leapfrogged throughout the entire hike. We always shared a good laugh and a bit of conversation whenever we passed. Today seemed to be no different as we must have met them at least 4 or 5 different times.
Our goal was to have brunch at the Sälka Hut and after finding out that some food items weren’t outrageously priced, I was excited to treat myself. Not too long before we reached the hut though, a big herd of reindeer came wandering by which left us and fellow hikers in awe. Just as they passed and we went up around the next bend, another small herd come jaunting in front of a waterfall located on the other side of the valley making for some beautiful scenes.
I did my best not to get overwhelmed because in situations like these, I can get a bit carried away with the camera. Sälka was only 300m away now which had us motivated and excited for a longer break. When we entered the area we were greeted by more reindeer but best of all, a butik full of food. I had 60kr so I bought two kex chocolate bars and two ramen noodles. That’s my kind of lunch!
While we were relaxing and eating, Jasper and Marie came strolling up! We had definitely thought we’d said our goodbyes the night before but surprise, surprise. I talked Jasper into buying a Kex because he’s moving to Sweden and it’s basically a staple snack here. We talked a bit about where we would be camping for the night and decided on a place that would not only set Dana and I up for the Kebnekaise summit the following day but also not too far off the Kungsleden so they wouldn’t lose anytime. It was still another 8km’s away, so we set off quickly. The weather began to spit here and there but nothing too major.
Jasper and Marie continued to leap frog us here and there when I was taking photos but we knew we’d be doing the same shortly after when Jasper began his photo taking. That was what sort of happened for the next 4km’s until the four of us actually stuck together. We chose to take one last bigger break together before making the final push. During the break, a couple of hikers told us about a Fjällraven race that would be starting tomorrow in Nikkaluokta and ends in Abisko. Apparently 2,000 people would be running past us tomorrow with staggered starts. I’m glad we’ll be heading up to the summit after all.
By the time we reached the point where Dana and I would be changing course to go towards Kebnekaise, the sun was beginning to show some light and the four of us thought it would be a great idea to camp out down by the river instead of up in the valley. We set up camp next to each other and then everyone (not me) wanted to go down to the river for a quick bath. I went with them, but only to take some photos and show moral support knowing tomorrow’s hike would probably change my mind for a dip.
The four of us had dinner together, got a couple of group photos and then said our goodbyes once again. This time knowing it would certainly be the last as Jasper has the big decision to make now wether he goes to Nikkaluokta or continue on to Vakkotavare. Soon after we crawled into our tents and called it a night with anticipation of a very early start for the top of Sweden.
DAY 6: August 13th (Durlings Led) 26km's
The initial plan this morning was to set an alarm for 4am knowing it was going to be a long day. Instead of setting the alarm however, we opted to sleep until I woke up the first time which is usually between 4:45am and 6am. I had actually woken up probably around 4am initially but there was a bit of rain and strong winds so I went back to sleep and then woke up again at 6am on the dot.
By 6:10, we were awake and getting out of the tent with our day packs that we organized the day before. With one last look at Jasper and Marie’s tent and a quick wave goodbye, we headed towards Singivagge that would bring us to the top of Sweden.
Kebnekaise has two main peaks, the north and south summit with the latter being the higher of the two due to a small glacier on top. The glacier is melting quickly though and eventually the northern summit will become the highest point in Sweden. The southern summit is the easier of the two to get to and most people summit it via Kebnekaise Fjällstation but since we were currently on the Kungsleden, we took the lesser known route called “Durlings Led” and it still took us 22km’s and over 1,300m of elevation gain alone.
After just a couple hours of hiking, we had passed multiple little camping spots that others had made in the rocky areas before coming upon a narrow valley that felt simply unreal. We admired this majestic landscape for a bit before crossing a couple streams. In part to this not being a marked route, it meant there was no bridge crossings so rock hopping was a must. During the second crossing, I admittedly took my shoes off and walked through part of the freezing cold stream because I was unsure if there’d be a better point to cross at. Sure enough, Dana found that better point mere seconds after me.
The great thing about this route up is that we were completely alone. In fact, throughout the entire ascent (aside from where it merges with the main trail at Kaffedalen) we alone saw a handful of people compared to the hundreds (may be exaggerating a bit) we saw from the other routes. The fun part is that your only navigation up is the cairns that lead the way. It can be quite easy to get off path if you don’t pay attention but this is the kind of hiking I enjoy the most!
It took us 5 hours to reach the saddle between Kebnekaise and Vierranvárri and to be honest, I forgot how much of hike was still left to go. It felt like forever as we hiked in hiked, seeing false summit after false summit. One thing I forgot to mention was that when we came to the saddle, we also entered into the clouds so our view and depth of field had decreased immensely.
There was a brief moment when we began circling onto the eastern side of the mountain when the sun shown itself and we caught a tiny glimpse of the Lapland from high above. We may have been deceived a little because as we drew closer to the summit, we just entered into more clouds. The freezing temperatures from the altitude also took notice and my glasses continuously fogged up making the cloud seem much gnarlier than it really was.
We passed an old hut around 1,880m and then not long after we reached the plateau. I knew we were close at that point remembering from last time I was here in 2016 with clear weather we could see the summit by this point.
Coming back down was much easier and only took us about 5 hours. We took a few brief pauses along the way to ease the burden on the knees but our stomachs were itching for some real food by this point. I had just a couple of chocolate bars and a pack of ramen noodles for the day but Dana also gave me a few of her nuts and knackabröd to tie me off.
When we finally made it down to our tent after a long 12 hours up on the mountain, we didn’t waste anytime in gathering some fresh clothes and heading down to the river to clean up. There was a herd of reindeer on the other side grazing along and the sun began to shine more than it ever had during the trek. It lit up the mountains like we had never seen. Here’s to hoping for more sunny days to come!
After a calorie packed dinner, and some slight reorganizing in the tent, we crawled in and wrote our journal entries before putting the sleeping mask on and calling it a night. Did I ever mention we are in the arctic and it barely gets dark this time of year?
DAY 7: August 14th (Singivagge to Kaitumjaure) 22km's
Today was meant to be a pretty chill day after exhausting ourselves on Kebnekaise the day before. I feel like saying we’re going to have a chill day is like saying you’re going to go out for just one drink…
As per usual, I kept waking up between 5am and 8am before eventually just getting the day started. Keep in mind we are usually asleep by 9pm (21:00) so even a 5am wake up still nets me 8 hours of sleep. It’s pretty much my body telling me to wake the hell up and go! We headed towards Singi which was only 3km’s away from where we camped and that was to be our breakfast destination. We passed a small sami village and shot some beautiful reflections in the nearby little ponds on the way.
Once we got heading towards Kaitumjaure, we realized how easy today was really going to be. We envisioned stopping to camp somewhere in the valley, perhaps a few kilometers before the Kaitumjaure hut but the track proved to be much easier than expected. It was flat compared to the recent tracks we had been on, especially yesterday’s boulder hopping trek.
We took a couple small breaks and then a bigger lunch break at an old sami tipi before stopping at the bridge crossing Täktjajåkka to pick some wild blueberries.
From this point we were only 3km’s from the next hut and it was only 4pm (16:00) so we thought we’d hike until at least 6pm (18:00) and see where we ended up. We were both feeling quite well at this point surprisingly so when we arrived in Kaitumjaure, we hit the shop for a few different chocolates and then continued on.
I’d say 10 minutes after heading south from Kaitumjaure, Dana hit her breaking point and was ready to call it a day. We arrived at the bridge crossing Kaitumjåkka and set up camp on the other side. The weather was perfect and since it had been sunny all day, there was a ton of dry wood laying around to make a fire. I got started on that while Dana prepared dinner for the two of us. Just as we were about to eat and the fire was raging, mother nature decided she would have some fun with us.
The rain clouds came in and the water fell. Now is a good time to mention that there is also a waterfall just a few hundred meters north of our campsite! I had full intentions of shooting it once the sun set enough so I could get some long exposures but due to the rain, I instead battled with keeping the fire alive. I did my best for nearly an hour while the sky gave way to a beautiful double rainbow before running out of wood and having to jump inside the tent where Dana had already been to keep warm and dry.
Taking the time to organize everything once again while in the tent, the rain had began to slowly drizzle before coming to a complete stop. Instead of jumping on the opportunity to go shoot the waterfall, I chose to write my journal entry and then take the chance with the waterfall…
*Break in writing to shoot waterfall*
100% worth getting back out of the tent! As I pulled the zipper to reveal outside, I was met with the first sunset colours of our hike. I immediately ran to the waterfall to fire off a couple photos before I lost all the colour and then ran down to the bridge for a few more long exposures. Now I know the sunset is around 9:30pm (21:30) and I’ll be making sure to keep an eye on the sky until then. Bring on another day!
DAY 8: August 15th (Kaitumjaure to Teusajaure) 12.8km's
This marks the first day of our hike where the sun was so hot in the morning that it practically forced us out of the tent. Knowing we had only 7km’s to go until Teusajaure meant this would be our chillest morning yet. I decided to get another little fire going with the rest of the wood we had left, did a bit of laundry in the river and then soaked up some sun.
We didn’t hit the trail till 10am but once we got moving again, the kilometers started to come quite smoothly. Before we knew it, we were at an old Sami Tipi that had been renovated in the 1900’s to act as an emergency shelter. The trail to it could be easily missed but luckily, Dana saw a small information sign that gave it away. Glad she had her eyes open!
The trail was pretty easy from the start and then it became quite an uphill as we entered into a new valley down to Teusajaure. The coolest thing about Teusajaure would no doubt be the waterfall that majestically descends behind it. You bet I spent a bit of time wandering around that before the final descent.
When we arrived at the Teusajaure hut, a woman had offered us lingonberry juice and stopped to have a bit of a chat. She happened to be from Åre, the same town in which I lived for the past 9 months so we had a fun little chat.
The next step for our day was to get across the lake. Here we had two different choices. We could take a small ferry across the water for 150kr (€15) or choose to row our way across with one of the three boats supplied. The issue with rowing across is that there always needs to be one boat on either side, which means if you get there and your side only has one boat, you’ll have to row back and forth three times.
When we got down to the water, there was only one boat… We prepared to row over and grab another boat but just as we were untying the boat, Dana could see that two groups were currently paddling over which meant we only had to paddle once! It worked out great for both parties because one of them would have had to paddle back with a boat otherwise.
Thankful to have to only row 500m instead of 1.5km’s in total, we split the rowing up 50/50 and enjoyed the windless cruise across the lake. It’s an entirely different perspective looking at the valley in the middle of it all.
When we arrived and docked on the otherside, we immediately entered Stora Sjöfallet National Park. You could tell there was a drastic change in scenery with lots of large mushrooms, birch trees and tons of blueberry bushes just waiting to be picked. We hiked up nearly to the edge of the tree line in order to find a good spot for camping.
Once we had set everything up, I got a little fire going but the rain from the night before had really dampened the wood all around us so we just made a smokey fire to rid off all the mosquitoes. The sky was much like last nights minus the rain which meant I was hoping for some more sunset colours.
There was still an hour to go until sunset and I was restless in the tent. I ate a pack of noodles to kill some time and played with my thoughts before eventually deciding to pick some blueberries. But… Mother nature had other plans; As soon as I got out of the tent to pick some blueberries, it began to pour down completely cancelling my sunset plans after all.
DAY 9: August 16th (Teusajaure to Vakkotavare) 17km's
After failing to see the sunset the night before, I had hoped for a bit of a positive start. However, the night was a bit chilly and my sleeping spot turned out to be in a bit of a rut when my air mattress deflated slowly during the night giving me not the best of sleeps. When I awoke to turn my phone on in order to see the time, there was a constant drizzle happening outside. It was only 8am and we were in no rush today with only 12km of hiking ahead of us. I stayed calm and patient waiting to see if the rain would fizzle out.
By 9:30, we were in luck! I looked over at Dana, and she was already awake as well. We organized as best we could in the tent before getting out and stripping it down. We aimed for a breakfast spot 3km’s away that was next to a river. On the way there, we saw more reindeer than ever before, including two white reindeer. I didn’t even know they existed!
Breakfast was a good little break and we had a nice spot out of the wind. When we got back on track, we set a good pace and covered a lot of ground quite quickly. We took a few different photo breaks before taking a longer lunch break to enjoy the views. Dana made a few miniature cairns near a rock shelter while she escaped the wind.
When we were crossing one of the many boardwalk style bridges a few minutes after our break, there was a girl who called out to us to ask “How did you get the fire started the other night?”. We got to talking and then all of a sudden a helicopter came buzzing in, landing right next to us. The pilot needed to drop of some nails but it resulted in quite the experience.
We continued chatting with the two sisters from the Netherlands for a bit longer and got to know them, Rose and Marie. Marie had been studying outdoor education and had been showing Rose the ropes, she even taught me and Dana a couple new things!
At this point, we were only a couple of kilometers from our camping area so we carried on and said our goodbyes. We were a bit pickier about our spot this evening, because I did not want two bad sleeps in a row. We put down our bags at one location and then did a bit of scouting until we found one we both agreed on. It had a decent location for a campfire and potential for a sunset if the weather cooperates.
Once we set up camp, Dana looked up at the nearby mountain and asked if I wanted to go up. Yepp! 30 minutes later, we had one of the best views of the hike. Looking out over the entire valley and lakes. Seriously, it was incredible! We took our time up top but on the way down we encountered small patches of cloudberries that were just right for the picking.
Back at camp, I tried to get a fire going but eventually gave up. My fire making skills are just not up to par with the wet wood we’ve got from all the rain. I ended up boiling some water and making a dehydrated Vegan Chili Con Carne for dinner and then crawled into the tent to wait for sunset.
DAY 10: August 17th (Vakkotavarre to Saltoluokta) 5.1km's
This marks the first time we had to set an alarm on the trip. There was a bus leaving Vakkotavarre at 9:50am that we couldn’t miss and our campsite was roughly 30 minutes up the mountain. We chose to set the alarm for 7:40am in order for us to have time to pack up, pick some blueberries and then still have some extra time for possible photos on the last leg to Vakkotavarre.
As seems to be the case for me on this hike, I was up extra early. My mattress was once again slightly deflated so at this point, it’s safe to say I’m over it. I bought it for cheap while I was living in Australia and certainly got more than my money’s worth out of it. Upgrade time on the horizon!
I let Dana sleep until the alarm went off, and then we started packing everything up. There was low rolling clouds which put us in a mist to start the morning. We still took the opportunity to pick a few blueberries but the dew was just making our feet soaking wet. There has been endless amounts of blueberries throughout the hike thus far so we weren’t too bummed about it.
On the way down to Vakkotavarre, we had a river running down the left hand side that cascaded over and over again leaving us with waterfall after waterfall. We also managed to get below the cloud and everything seemed so much brighter. I shot a bunch of photos of the waterfalls and made it down to the bus stop near the lake with 30 minutes to spare. We used this time to relax by the lake and then prepare for what we thought would be a short 30km bus ride to Kebnats where we’d catch the ferry over to Saltoluokta.
Once we got going on the bus, we quickly realized that the ride wouldn’t be so short after all. We pulled into Stora Sjöfallet Mountain Lodge around the midway point for a 45-minute rest break. I was ecstatic to stop because the waterfall that the national park is named after can be seen from this location. Did you know Lapponia was the first national park in all of Europe?
I decided to get myself a coffee in the lodge while we waited and Dana grabbed a bit of a bite to eat. The drive to Kebnats went by super quick from this point and before you know it, we were on the way to Saltoluokta and officially at the halfway point for my adventure. The sun was shining and I was ready for endless coffee!
We had a bit of a wait at the Fjällstation since this was a point where all the hikers on the Kungsleden mixed with the day hikers in one place. We got assigned tent place #5 and paid 300kr (€30) each to have access to hot showers, a tent spot on site, a drying room and you betcha, endless coffee! The price also allowed us to relax inside and charge up all my electronics to prepare for the next half of the hike.
Once we had our tent organized and set up, the first thing we did was get in a well needed shower. I don’t think I’ll ever take a hot shower for granted anymore! After that, we did some laundry and let it hang in the drying room before paying 110kr (€11) for an all you can eat lunch. Well worth it! From that point on, we sat and made a plan for what’s to come and charged are devices.
While charging, we happened to look out the window and couldn’t believe who we saw. Marie and Jasper had made it to Saltoluokta! We instantly ran out and gave them both a big hug and caught up with them for a brief moment before they finished up their adventure with the ferry back over to Kebnats.
After charging everything we headed back to the tent only to find that someone decided it would be a smart decision to set his tent up right in front of ours. No matter how far away from people you get, there is always one… We laid down and pondered what decision we’d be making the next day in regards to moving our tent as to avoid any extra STF fees. We agreed it would be best to move it first thing in the morning before the rain to avoid setting up in the rain and getting everything soaking wet.
DAY 11: August 18th (Saltoluokta to Peitsjaure) 15.2km's
The first moment I woke up, I heard no sound of rain and decided to check the time. It was 4am… I checked the weather to see how long we had before the rain would start coming down and it looked like we had a 3 hour window. We took full advantage of it! We packed up inside the tent as best we could and then when I opened the tent, an amazing sunrise was in play that made me wonder how the heck a storm could be coming in. I ran down to the lake to get a bunch of photos because the whole lake was a picture perfect mirror.
I came back up to the tent not long after and finished getting everything together before going to the Nåiben cabin where we could dry some last minute things before moving our tent to a new location. A quick tea while we waited for the tent’s rain fly to dry and then we were off on the Kungsleden once again. We didn’t plan to stray too far from Saltoluokta though, so we pitched the tent up about 1km out where the path parts ways to a small sami village called Pietsjaure.
We thought it would be a great idea to hike out there early before the rain really began to pour and then get back to the Fjällstation for warmth. We were as wrong as wrong could be… We arrived at the little village at 9am, only to find out that the little café we intended to grab a warm coffee at didn’t open till 11am.
We had just hiked 6km’s and didn’t want to hike back without a local experience so guess what we did. We found shelter at first under a little awning next to a house for an hour but as it slowly became too cold to stand, we searched for something better. Low and behold, we found ourselves inside an outhouse for the next hour and listened to music. To be fair, it was rather comfortable and didn’t smell at all. They even had brand new air fresheners!
At 11am sharp, we headed back over to the little café and a lovely gentleman greeted us in. This was the first time I genuinely had to use all my Swedish practice, as the guy spoke next to no English. It felt great to be able to communicate in Swedish, even if it was just a little. We shared some laughs together and enjoyed homemade bread with coffee while Dana and I warmed up alongside the wood stove.
Eventually, we knew the time would come where we’d have to make the 6km trek back to Saltoluokta no matter how much either of us didn’t want to do it. Did we get wet? We most certainly did! Dana had a few good slips and slides along the trail but we made it back to our tent to get what we needed in order to spend the rest of our evening in a warm shelter.
There was no denying how drenched we were but I’m still so glad we took the opportunity to do this little adventure. We got in some nice hot showers and then began drying our clothes like the night before. The good news about tonight is that we stocked up on what others left behind in order to make a delicious pesto pasta for dinner. No better way to fill the belly before a cold night in the tent.
After dinner, we made the wet hike back up to the tent and prepared for a big hike to come even though the weather was expected to be much the same.
DAY 12: August 19th (Saltoluokta to Sitojaure) 20.1km's
I woke up this morning feeling fresher than all the nights before thanks to a couple of relaxing days, albeit yesterday’s mini adventure out to Pietsjaure. It was nearing 7:30am when I woke up and there was no sound of rain outside the tent so I instantly woke Dana up so we could get packed up before it did decide to fall.
It was a quick wrap up but we beat the rain and then began our estimated 18km hike south towards Sitojaure. It felt nice to get back on Kungsleden again and even nicer with the backpack continually weighing less and less as I get closer to Kvikkjokk.
By the time we got to the tree line, the rain had caught up to us but we were prepared. Rain pants and jacket equipped, we were ready for the worst of it. Surprisingly however, it only rained for a wee bit of time and then the sun came out. It continued like that until we reached our lunch location which was the small emergency shelter about midway between Saltoluokta and Sitojaure.
On the way there during one of the sunny breaks, we had an amazing rainbow location for a bit of a fun photo op.
When we arrived at the shelter, the Polish guy we met a few days prior was drying a few things so we caught up with him while we prepared lunch. We hung our wet clothes out to dry while we waited for the water to boil. Just as we began eating, two Swedes came in and we got chatting with them for a bit. It’s always nice to hear the reasons that someone chose to do this hike. In this case, it was a father and son from the island of Gotland out spending some quality time together.
It was nearing 12pm and with only 11km’s to go until Sitojaure, we thought at this point it would be better to get there by 5pm (17:00) so we could catch the ferry over to Swine. That way we weren’t on such a strict time schedule in the morning to catch the 9am ferry either.
The sun was still shining so we took some layers off, and began walking again. No lie, 50 metres out from the shelter and we got blasted by rain as we panicked trying to get out gear back on. It only lasted a few minutes but it was enough for us to get soaked. After that episode, the skies were back to their usual off and on like it was in the morning.
The next small stream we came across was where we decided to brush our teeth and clean up the pots we used for lunch. Perfect timing because when we set our bags down, another epic rainbow appeared!
We had to keep an eye on the clock and make sure we were still doing about 3km’s/h which is usually a safe bet. Dana felt like she needed to take off a layer of clothes so we stopped next to a big rock but what was only suppose to be a quick change of clothes turned into a bit of an episode. Her water bottle had come loose and dosed the entire interior of her hiking bag. We took a few minutes to figure out what needed to be out of the bag and I used that time to dry up the tent rain fly.
Even with that tiny situation, we were still on track to make it down to the boat by 4:30pm (16:30). When we were nearing the lake, we happened to pass Marie, the dutch girl who had taught me a thing or two about outdoor survival a few days prior. We had a short chat but ultimately knew we needed to get down to the dock pronto.
We made it to the private jetty by 4:30pm (16:30) exactly as planned. Enough time to boil a cup of coffee and wait. At 5pm (17:00), it was time to go. There was six of us all together taking the boat over and at 300kr (€30) a piece, there was definitely a profitable business taking place.
The cruise over was great and although the conversations on the boat were entirely in Swedish, Dana and I were in awe at the surrounding landscape. The journey covered 6km and took about 15 minutes but once we touched land, we had to be quick to set up our tent because the rain was closing in once again.
We got our tent set up in a pretty easy location just off Kungsleden and then decided to cook dinner inside the nearby shelter. There was nobody in it, so we made it home for a couple hours, cooked our dehydrated meals and played a board game called Mexican Train that was left behind. While we were playing, a Swedish guy rolled up and I had a good chat about photography and other various topics before he headed back up the mountain.
It was time to crawl into bed finally after a long day and lucky for us, the moment we got all cozy in the tent was the same moment the rain decided to come again. Let’s hope tomorrow has a bit less wetness.
DAY 13: August 20th (Sitojaure to Atkse) 23.7km's
The day started off with the sound of rain on the tent which had me a bit worried but the second it died down, we got to packing up once again. Today didn’t look to be much difficulty since we already had a bit of a jumpstart having taken the boat across the lake yesterday. When we reached the tree line a few kilometers up, the clouds were beginning to part and the sun was really starting to shine again.
We had a pretty steep uphill climb that felt similar to what it felt like hiking up Kebnekaise, except we didn’t have all our gear on when we were hiking Keb. Eventually, we made it to the top and thought that would be a good little place for a rest and some brunch. I cooked a Chicken Tikka Misala than mixed in whatever leftover oats I had taken from the free food section in Saltoluokta. This was also our opportunity to dry out the tent’s rain fly once again.
While we were refueling, we decided that we’d head up the famous mountain known as Skierfe today since the weather was so good. With only 3km’s until the side hike there, we pushed on until we found a good place to set up base for the night. Luckily, there was some high ground with beautiful views of the Rapa Valley that made for a perfect camping location.
It didn’t take long for us to set up and before you know it, we had our day packs ready and heading out onto the 6km trail to Skierfe. I had been wanting to see this view since I first starting looking at more serious hikes in Sweden back in November. It feels surreal to actually be this close.
The path we had been following ultimately lead us a bit astray into a muddy bog but after some circumnavigating, we managed to get through it and back on a much clearer and drier route. We estimated that it would take 2.5 hours from the camp but we were certainly wrong…
We passed a few people that we had chatted with on previous days including the father and son from the emergency shelter between Saltoluokta and Sitojaure, a Swedish couple who took the boat from Sitojaure to Svine with us and also the Swedish guy who stopped in the hut last night while we were having dinner.
After all is said and done, I came upon the marvellous view from the top of Skierfe in about 3 hours time and it was worth it. I’ve seen the photos and the videos of this place before but even still, the sheer drop of the cliff and the views for miles was downright magical. No photo will ever do this view justice in my opinion but you know I have certainly tried my best.
We stayed up on the top for quite a while and I used the reception we had up there to book a PCR-Test in Stockholm for when I arrived back there on the 26th since I’ll be flying to Ireland shortly after and would love to avoid any kind of quarantine. I had a few snacks and shot some more photos before we headed back towards camp.
On the way down, we came upon the Swedish guy from the hut once again. Found out his name was Oskar this time and that he was planning to pitch his tent just below Skierfe’s peak and then check it out in the morning. We wished him all the best and a proceeded back to camp.
We got back by 8pm (20:00) and quickly got dinner ready as we were both quite hungry by this point. We sat outside and enjoyed the views until it became just a tad too chilly to withstand anymore. We got back into our warm tent once again and got some shut eye for a more relaxing day tomorrow.
DAY 14: August 21st (Atkse) 11.4km's
Today will go down as the slowest start we’ll have on Kungsleden without question. I awoke at the normal time around 8am and the wind was howling with constant rainfall. Let me tell you that this will probably have been the worst sleep either of us got during the hike as well due to how windy the night became. I sat there for an hour or so until Dana woke up, and then we both continued to lay there until nearly noon for that’s when the rain decided to let up.
We knew today was a bit of a relax day anyway, especially since we knocked up Skierfe the day before. Our only intentions for today were to row across Látjávarre lake.
We hiked on down to the Aktse hut where we ended up taking an even longer break with a couple of Swedes names Marielle who invited us for a round of Yahtzy. It was a really close game between myself and one of the Marielles but she came out ahead with literally one last roll of the dice. Got to give her credit though, she’s a real good winner because she gave Dana and I a snickers bar each for the hike as we pushed on. Thanks Marielle!
It was still only 2pm (14:00) by the time we finished playing Yahtzy so we thought we’d give an attempt at making it down to the sacrificial site we had heard about at the bottom of Skierfe. It took us the distance from Aktse to the boats to figure out it was going to be a bit of a muddy journey so we opted to see how many row boats were on this side of the lake instead. There was two on our side which meant we only had to row across the 3km’s distance once so we went back up to the Aktse hut and grabbed our bags. Just like last time we were about to row, we saw a couple others rowing across in the distance. We chose to wait for them because the two boats on our side looked to be in rough shape and at least we knew theirs was floating.
Once the others made it to our side, we grabbed a couple life vests and set out in the boat. The views of the Rapa Valley were exotic but when we hit the halfway point, the skies decided it was time to let a bit of rain come our way. It took us about an hour to row from one side to the other but it saved us 200kr (€20) a piece. Speaking of money… The shop in Aktse doesn’t open till 4pm (16:00) so we weren’t able to buy any snacks this time around.
Once we reached the other side, we hiked for another good 5km’s until we reached a bridge over a small river that had some perfect camping locations next to it. We are now only 30km’s to Kvikkjokk, with two days in hand. Timing couldn’t be better!
We got our tent set up and prepared some dinner like usual. This must be my fourth Chicken Tikka Masala of the trip and I’m kind of over it by now. Gosh, I’m certainly ready for a burger!
DAY 15: August 22nd (Atkse to Pårte) 15.4km's
This was probably our coldest night yet but at least we didn’t have gusting winds throughout the night. My sleeping bag is rated for 5 degrees comfort and then my additional inner liner brings me down to around 0 degrees. It’s still cold but when I get all cozied up inside, it’s bearable.
While we were slowly waking up, we heard “Excuse me, sorry to bother you.” from outside our tent. I answered him and it was a guy who had spilt carbonara sauce in his tent the night before. He was out of toilet paper, so we gave him a bit of ours to help clean it up. That was pretty much our wake up call so we got a bit of a plan together as to how we were going to go about the next few days.
We decided we would hike about 14km to the Pårte Hut and camp there in order to have progressingly easier days until we finish up in Kvikkjokk. Our aim for lunch would be the emergency shelter just 5km’s from where we pitched the tent.
That whole plan went down the drain about 3km’s in as we saw a mountain to the west that we just couldn’t pass by without summiting. There was no name on our maps for this summit but it looked easy enough to navigate so we dropped our bags and swapped over to our day packs once again. Just as we were ready to go, the rain decided it wanted to play with us a bit more. 15 days straight with rain! I honestly can’t even believe it, but hey… That’s camping bud.
We didn’t change course and kept on going over the wet moorland until we found some rocks to jump across. Luckily, the rain didn’t last too long and the sun came out to say hello. The hike was steep but that meant the views came quick. Before too long we had reached the fake summit and saw what was left ahead of us. I always got a bit of a jump when hiking up hill, not sure if it’s because I’m excited for the view or I just want to get it over with, but either way I made it up to the top just a couple minutes before Dana and was blown away with the entire landscape.
The view over the valley was incredible and the sun was slowly taking over, lifting the clouds up off the tops of the glacial filled mountains that were in the distance. I stayed up top for quite a while trying my best to capture its beauty before racing down after Dana who had left a few minutes before.
I caught up to her about halfway down and we found our bags together. There was so many blueberries around that we thought it’d be a good idea to pick a bunch for breakfast tomorrow morning. The weather was perfect so we did that for a few before we got back on track for the shelter.
Just a few hundred metres from the shelter was a beautiful lookout point that grabbed our attention so we set up our lunch break there at 2:30pm (14:30). It was a bit later than usual but the quick side hike was totally worth it! After the bite to eat, we stopped by the shelter just to take a quick look and then continued on. We knew at this point we wouldn’t be making it to Pårte hut so our goal was just to sleep anywhere that looks nice.
The trek went on for another couple kilometers until we passed over a bridge with a cute little waterfall underneath. Another small break was in order but who are we kidding, this whole day seems like it’s been a break full of excitement.
There was a French group that got ahead of us while I was taking photos of a little bird jumping around and as we slowly caught up to them again, we overheard them talking about trying to find a place to set up. Eeek, they had the same idea as us we thought but I noticed a small little nook in the rocks a bit off of the trail that looked like a potential spot so we quickly scrambled over to it and just as we did we saw the French group looking at it. First come first serve baby!
It didn’t take us long to set up. Believe it or not, by day 15 we could probably do it with our eyes shut. We organized everything and began writing in our journals before dinner since we had a bit of a late lunch to begin with.
For dinner I chose to eat my shamshuka breakfast that I had been saving for no particular reason and it was delicious. That and a tea were the picture combination. While making dinner, the wind started to come and go like a few days prior except the air temperature was much cooler than before too. Looks like we may be in for another cold one…
DAY 16: August 23rd (Pårte to Kvikkjokk) 19.9km's
As expected, the previous night was chilly but the wind died down throughout the night. My head was racing with different ideas of what I need to do when I get back to Stockholm in just a couple days so I couldn’t sleep well. At one point, I woke up and it was still dark so I poked my head out of the tent to see if it was a clear sky but unfortunately the clouds took over yet again. By 6:30am, I could feel the sun on the tent and decided to wake up ahead of the usual 8am in order to have a coffee on the mountain edge. It was magical!
I met a Swiss girl who had started hiking northbound early in the morning and had a short conversation with her before we parted ways. Dana woke up shortly after and we took our time packing up whilst enjoying the views and sunlight. This could be the first day of our hike without rain, I can’t even believe it…
Once we started walking, we didn’t get very far before a small pond’s reflection caught my attention. There was a small little hill next to it which made for some fine reflective shots so we had ourselves a little photo session. A group of people showed up, a guy from Austria, two Americans and a South African who were all living in Innsbruck at the moment. We got to know them a bit and told them some hints for what’s to come while they travelled northbound.
Some more “Enjoy the adventure!” took place and we were eventually on our way down towards Pårte Hut. We were going at an incredibly slow paced compared to what we were use to walking but our destination for today would stay the same, a little campsite near a bridge 14km’s away. Before we got to Pårte hut, we stopped at a bridge crossing for brunch. It wasn’t anything special but I did cook my noodles instead of eating them raw for the first time.
We arrived at Pårte hut about 1pm (13:00) but even from there, we knew we had another 9km’s to hike. A little bit of a pause took place and we chatted with the hut host for a few.
After a few photos and videos, we continued on down the trail but we were determined to make up for lost time with a bit of a hustle. Our tempo certainly increased and before we knew it, we arrived at Stuor Dáhtá. It was a good size lake but cold at only 10 degrees. Dana felt like she needed to take a dip, so I did a bit of laundry. Basically, I just washed the clothes I knew I’d be travelling back to Stockholm in so I wouldn’t stink up the other passengers.
I’d say we spent a great deal more time than expected at the lake but it was so worth it. The sun was perfect and it feels like forever since we really got to relax and feel the warmth of the sun on our faces.
From the lake, we had 5km’s to go and it was around 4:20pm (16:20) so we figured if we kept the same pace we had just been doing that we’d make it to camp by 6pm (18:00). No problem, we cruised through the last stretch without a hitch and made camp just as expected. I tried one last time to get a fire going while Dana cooked up our meals but it turned out to be a flop yet again. Maybe I should try something different next time…
When all was said and done, we squeezed on in to the tent and prepared for one last night in my Hubba Hubba before we make the remaining 6km hike to Kvikkjokk in the morning. One last night means one last look for a clear night sky…
DAY 17: August 24th (Kvikkjokk) 10km
Pretty much all my hopes and dreams came true last night. For the first time all trek, the skies stayed cleared of clouds and the aurora borealis showed itself. My first ever trip to Sweden in 2015 was the first time I saw the gorgeous lights for myself and with only one day remaining here in the Lapland, I’m so blessed to be able to relive that experience. I had to endure the cold for quite some time for a bit of a show but as always, worth it!
I managed to crawl back in the tent around 12:45am to get a few hours of sleep. Sleep didn’t last too long because of the cold and once the sun began to rise around 4am, it would prove even more difficult. By 7am, I had given up and decided to start packing up all my stuff to prepare for the final 6km’s.
Dana was still trying to get some sleep while I packed and once I was ready to go, I woke her up. We got an early start on the day even though there wasn’t much distance to cover. The hike was quite easy and we only stopped once for a bit of a breakfast break down at the river that runs beside the town of Kvikkjokk. We showed up at the Kvikkjokk Fjällstation at 10am looking forward to a coffee and cinnamon bun. We used this time to charge up a bit of electronics and then go for a walk around the town.
Once we got back to the fjällstation, we checked in and organized all our gear. I had everything charging once again so I had plenty of things to keep me entertained on the transit back home the following day. A hot shower was warm welcomed and then we waited until Nico’s bus arrived at 5:50 (17:50). The rain was really coming down at this point so we directed him to the fjällstation where we'd meet before our 7pm (19:00) dinner reservation.
I had been eager to try reindeer meat since we started this hike and they had it on the menu! Perfect. Dana went with the vegetarian option and Nico went with reindeer as well.
After our delicious meal, we went back up to the room because the weather was looking terrible outside. Dana and Nico organized and prepped themselves for the beginning of their hike together and I relaxed before getting to bed at a decent time in order to wake up at 4:45am for the bus to Stockholm.
It’s hard to really comprehend that I’m sitting on a bus back to Stockholm and my Lapland adventure is all but over. 280km’s were covered over 16 days, including four summit hikes and a ton of amazing encounters. There was some inspiring conversations with many others throughout the hike and it’s safe to say at this point that German was the unofficial language of the Kungsleden.
If you’ve managed to read this far, then I want to say thank you! It’s always fun to relive each day of adventures on paper and even more so if it’s able to entertain, inspire and/or help others in someway or form.
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