Kungsleden – Black and blue

Views down to the Lájtávrre delta from Skierffe.

I’m writing this blogpost from the comfort of log cabin in the tiny hamlet of Adolfström with heavy rain clattering off the roof. A fitting setting for this post, I find.

Out of the blue…

It all started so good though. When I left Saltoluokta Fjällstation sun and rain were doing battle in the sky above. To the east, dark clouds shrouded the snow capped Sarek mountains. To the west, sun glittered on the many Swedish lakes. In the end the sun won out and I got to enjoy three days of sunshine.

The last clouds giving way to the sun.

The timing couldn’t be better as I planned to do the popular detour to the Skierffe mountain, offering stunning views to the Lájtávrre delta below. I camped at the path junction and the next morning made my way up the dorito shaped mountain.

Damn! What. A. View. From the summit the mountain drops eight hundred vertigo inducing meters down to the unique and multi hued delta below. Even if you’re not interested in hiking the Kungsleden, this view is worth a trip north.

Sunset on the dorito shaped Skierffe.
Impossibly blue lakes and many hues of green in the Lájtávrre delta.
Hikers on their way to Skierffe.

After the summit I made my way down to the valley for a boat crossing and then hiked another 10 kilometers through lovely forest and high fjäll to camp at an unmanned hut. It was late when I arrived and the evening chill had me cold to the bone.

The next day was supposed to be an easy one. Just 24 kilometer through forest before arriving in Kvikkjokk with enough time to read, edit my photos, blog, eat and sleep. Boy was I wrong.

The entire day was spent on seriously rocky trail, making progress slow and exhausting. The summer warmth grew hot and humid and the mosquitoes were out for blood. They got me dozens of times, but I’m proud to say that I took many of the little buggers with me.

Dappled light on a the forest trail.

When I arrived at Kvikkjokk I was weary to the bone. The next day, I vowed, would be a short one. After dinner, I got to talk with two fellow hikers named Jan and Björn from the Chzech Republic and Germany. They gave me beer, which went to great lengths to improve my mood.

…into the black

The next day I started the middle and most challenging section of the Kungsleden. It’s not as well traveled as the north and south. Consequently, the path is less maintained. A lot of it leads straight through bogs or through dense birch shrub. The section stsrts with a boat crossing over one of the many lakes crossing the Kungsleden path.

Dark clouds swirled around the lake and a lazy thunder rumbled overhead as I stepped on board together with Jan and Björn. Immediately after departure the rain swallowed us, cold drops pelting our hands and face. For the reminder of the day the sky was steel grey and it became oppressively warm. Light showers and fog moved in and out at will.

We camped at an unmanned hut next to the Tsielekjåhkå river. Throughout the afternoon, more hikers arrived from the other side and in the end, the campsite looked like a basecamp for an oddball expedition.

Late in the evening, looking south, I saw black fog shrouding the high fjäll. The thought of hiking into that felt akin as jumping into a monsters jaws. Nevertheless, that’s where I had to go.

Dark and scary clouds over the Tsielekjåhkå river.

The next morning I woke early from a restless sleep and made my way up the mountainside. Before long I was swallowed by the black clouds. Despite the darkness, it remained surprisingly warm.

Halfway through the day, the rain started. As I descended off the high fjäll, thick birch forest closed in on the narrow trail, soaking me with their wet leaves. As the path grew muddier by the step, the day seemed to drag on way longer than it was supposed to.

Together with Jan and Björn, I made camp on one of the few dry spots, right next to the Piteälven lake. As I set up my tent, the rain finally cleared and the sun came out. Again, it grew oppressively hot. The lake tempted me and I couldn’t resist. ‘What the hell’, I thought. ‘The lake is only frozen for eight months of the year. How cold can it be?’

My bold move inspired Jan and Björn to dive in as well. As we were drying ourselves I said: ‘The weather doesn’t look too bad now. Maybe the weather for tomorrow will be alright’.

It didn’t. As if by cue, it started to rain. Soon, a heavy thunderstorm moved in. The lighting struck so close that I could feel the thunder reverberate in my chest.

It kept raining for the better part of 24 hours. It soaked the path, the plants and trees, my backpack, eventually even my rain gear and my shoes. Mud was the name of the game as the summer heat finally dissipated, turned into fat raindrops. It got cold and windy as the path lead me over a high fjäll plateau, my steady gait the only thing warding off hypothermia. Views were non existent. Eventually I had to wade through a stream turned torrent. Normally too shallow to need a bridge, now the water came up to my knees. I ushered a well rounded assortment of curses before stepping in.

Eventually I descended off the plateau into the forest. I overtook Björn and together we hiked the remainder of the day to Vuonatjviken. There, a small shop owner sold us deep frozen pizza. He was kind enough to heat it for us. A simple meal perhaps, but never tasted pizza better!

The next day the sun was out and it was glorious. I felt a new appreciation for the light and warmth of that beautiful yellow ball. It was an easy 17 kilometer to the small town of Jäkkvik and Björn and I hiked together the entire way. Despite only having twenty-something inhabitants, Jäkkvik felt like the center of civilization to us as it boasts both a hostel and a supermarket. Needless to say, we ate like there was no tomorrow.

Lovely weather between Vuonatjviken and Jäkkvik.

The next morning (yesterday), I said goodbye to Björn as he had to leave the trail to attend a wedding back home. After Jäkkvik, the trail remained quiet but as it’s much better maintained, the hard bits were behind now. In good spirits and good time I made my way to Adolfström, where I’m now. I rented the aforementioned tiny but lovely log cabin to take my rest day and sit out the relentless rain predicted for today.

Fog in the forest on the way to Adolfström.

Tomorrow I’ll set out on the final 150 kilometers of my Kungsleden. That’s it for now. Here’s to dry trail and dry boots!