Climbing Kebnekaise (2013)
Climbing the Kebnekaise would be a relatively easy task. The highest mountain in Sweden is “only” just above 2,100 meters and the combination of a clear blue sky and a well-maintained trail makes it easy to do. “You need crampons at the top 30 meters from the top,” we hear from other hikers along the way. My companion and I look at each other somewhat surprised and exchange thoughts about whether or not to reach the top with our hiking boots. After we climb the last few meters, without aids, on the snowy summit, we are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the surrounding peaks, glaciers and green valleys. Around us we see one of the wildest and unspoilt natural areas of Europe, where reindeer and Sami live together for thousands of years and where the sun does not set for weeks in the summer.
In search of an adventurous hike in an unspoilt and mountainous landscape, I came to Northern Sweden. My research started at home with reading and viewing photos of the draw in the book “Trekking atlas of the world” (J. Jackson). I was sold immediately. The trail through this area of Sweden is very remote and what makes it attractive. Here, 150 km above the Arctic Circle, is the land of the Sami who were the first inhabitants of Europe since the last ice age 10,000 years ago. There is a walking route in this area that traverses 4 national parks, the Koningspad or Kungsleden in Swedish. I am accompanied by a physiotherapist and a care expert for children with a behavioral disorder and together we walk part of this path that goes from Nikkaluokta to Abisko with the climb of Sweden’s highest mountain, the Kebnekaise. We run the route of more than 105 km at the same time as the Fjallraven Classic. The Swedish outdoor brand Fjallraven organizes an annual walking event for around 3,000 participants who try to complete the route as quickly as possible, which is quite a burden on the vegetation and flora in this habitat.
The Kungsleden is a household name for the Swedes. The Swedes grow up with cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking with the family in the summer and as a true Swede you must have walked the Kungsleden. The route is snow-free and accessible for hikers for 2 months a year. The path runs from Abisko to the southern Hemavan and is a total of about 425 km. The paths are well marked with red-painted dots on stone heaps, boards over swampy areas and red wooden crosses for snowmobiles and cross-country skiers. Every 10 to 20 km there is a number of cabins from the Swedish tourist organization SFT where you can spend the night with limited facilities such as a toilet and sometimes a small shop with canned food and of course Knäckebröd. Where you can recover from the arctic cold here in Lapland is the traditional sauna. In an area with 2 inhabitants on every km² this is also a meeting place for the Swedes. After a day of walking with an 18 kg pack and the lack of a shower, the warmth for the muscles feels particularly pleasant. Experiences about the route are extensively exchanged by the foreign guests and so I hear that there has been a participant of the Fjallraven Classic who has walked the 105 km shortened route in 9 hours (!).
The last day we walk along the beautiful Abisko Jauremeer to Abisko. This reserve is the habitat of the Scandinavian “big four”, namely the bear, the lynx, the wolf and the glutton. Unfortunately, these shy animals do not show themselves in contrast to the reindeer and moose. The route ends for us in the village of Abisko which is known as the place to see the natural phenomenon aurora borealis (northern lights) in winter. The tour is a wonderful introduction to a special and untouched nature reserve that invites you to return.
Postscript March 22, 2019:
In 2013 Abel founder, Daan Remijnse, climbed Sweden’s highest mountain to gain inspiration and explore Lapland. The motivation to undertake these journeys is to get out of the comfort zone. Then life becomes interesting. Pushing boundaries means abandoning but also enjoying. You learn how to deal with obstacles and how to overcome obstacles. Nature works like a mirror to (re) discover our own powers.