Sunday, December 8, 2019

Nissonjokk to Abisko, Kungsleden - September 2019

The Abiskojåkka River passes through a spectacular gorge as it approaches Abisko.

I slept pretty well last night, no doubt being a bit more relaxed than normal as my Kungsleden journey was almost over. Wanting to give myself plenty of time to sort out and clean all my gear before I left Abisko I’d been keen to try and arrive fairly early in the morning, the theory was that it would give me the best part of an extra day to organise everything. Once I boarded the train at Abisko on Thursday afternoon it would be the start of a journey that would only end when I arrived back home in Melbourne late on Sunday night, so I needed to clean my gear up here in Abisko before trying to get past our border security back in Australia.

Leaving Nissonjokk this morning I stopped to admire the picnic table....they make them to last in Sweden!

It had been a fairly humid and dewy night last night so I once again had a fairly damp tent to pack up this morning, not that it mattered as all going well I’d be sleeping indoors on a comfortable bed tonight. Once I’d eaten breakfast and packed up I pulled on my boots for the last time on this walk and shuffled off towards Abisko. Almost as soon as I left camp the Kungsleden crossed the Nissonjokk River on the last suspension bridge of my walk, up until I’d done this walk I’d thought that New Zealand had a lot of suspension bridges, the Kungsleden is next level though!

I'm about to cross the Nissonjokk River.
Nissonjokk River.
The bush was a riot of colour up here.
Another early morning on the Kungsleden.
I followed the Abiskojåkka River for most of this mornings walk.
Now I’d had my share or inclement conditions on the Kungsleden so I suppose it was only fitting that trudging the last few kilometres into Abisko I once again felt drops of rain falling on my head. Not that this mornings shower even had me thinking of pulling on my wet a wether gear, really only causing my to reminisce about wetter days;) After a bit more forest walking the Kunglseden once again broke out onto the bank of the Abiskojåkka River, which I’d now follow all the way to Abisko.

It wouldn't be a day on the Kunglseden without some rain;)
The big mountains were now receding into the distance.
Abiskojåkka River
Abiskojåkka River
Another of the meditation spots.
The river walk was a good one too as the track followed the river downstream above a very rugged rocky small gorge. Wish the rushing water of the Abiskjåkka River being funnelled through this rocky choke it was one of the more impressive river views along the whole walk. With not much further to go I rock hoped along the huge rock slabs beside the river checking out at the different view points, if anyone reading this waffle actually ends up in Abisko one day then even if you are not walking the Kungsleden head south along it for ten minutes or so to check out this gorge.

Whilst I was rocking hopping my way downstream I started to run into a lot of day walkers. Figuring that must mean that the end must be near, I looked up to see the slightly surreal sight of a huge iron ore train crossing a bridge over the river a few hundred metres ahead of me, yes my walk was quickly coming to its end. The water gushing through the gorge was a beautiful turquoise colour and the wet granite was also multi coloured which reminded me a little of the gorges over in the Pilbara back home in Australia…well maybe I was a bit homesick!

Abiskojåkka River
I even squeezed a bit more boardwalk walking in this morning. was a loooong 5 kilometres!
The Kungsleden approaching Abisko.
Abiskojåkka River
Strangely enough the red paint markers that I’d been faithfully following all the way up from Hemarvan now seemed to disappear and I meandered the last few hundred metres north not 100% sure that I was still on the Kungsleden (talking to other walkers I wasn’t the only one to notice this, a few of the other walkers emerging from the bush at Abisko by other routes and having to back track to reach the official end point). Thankfully I managed to stay on track though and soon arrived at the impressive monument that marked the finish (or start) of the Kungsleden. They certainly know how to celebrate the milestone of finishing the track in Sweden, the finishing spot had me walking through what was virtually a long curved tunnel of wood, the sides decorated with information and places that I’d passed over the last three weeks on my journey north, this tunnel was virtually an art installation. I’ve done longer and more famous walks over the years, however the end of the Kungsleden with this monument really gave the ending a sense of celebration, something that our track managers back in Australia and New Zealand could learn from I think.

Abiskojåkka River
Abiskojåkka River

I guess the end is near....

Standing at the end of the walk taking a selfie I had an old timer wander over for a bit of a chat. The old bloke was working as a guide out of the fell station and he was very interested in my Kungsleden experience, after reassuring him that I’d loved the Kungsleden and I was loving Sweden he kindly took a decent end photo for me, complete with me holding his dog!

Check out this little gorge if you ever find yourself in Abisko.

With the official walk over I climbed up to the huge Abisko Fellstation and thankfully got myself a private room, complete with my own bathroom and comfortable bed! The fell station at Abisko sleeps well north of 100 people and has all the usual facilities like a shop, a restaurant, drying rooms, bastu and plenty of communal lounge areas. With my own room I was able to successfully sort out all my gear before my long journey home in a couple of days, well sort and clean my gear in between snoozing on my comfortable bed and chatting to my trail friends who continued to filter in over the next couple of days. Life was very, very good!

Well that's me finished!
It was a very impressive way to mark the end of my stroll.

I even found myself a friend :)
Heading into the huge Abisko Fjällstation - I was ready for a shower and a soft bed!
The Dirt.
I walked around 5 kilometres and climbed 10 metres (yeah, but it was a hard 10 metres!) on today's very easy walk on the Kungsleden. Over the 21 days I’d been walking the Kungsleden I’d walked 447.2 kilometres and climbed 10,584 metres, these stats were mostly collected from my GPS however when the GPS occasionally dropped a cog I took the statistics from maps. The distance doesn’t include kilometres covered on boats or in a bus, they are just the kilometres that I walked. There was no camping or accommodation options today except for those at Abisko. Once again I used Cicerone’s Trekking the Kungsleden guide book and the topo maps from my GPS.

So, what to make of the Kungseden? Well it was a slightly unusual walk for me in that it required sorting out a lot of logistics like accommodation, boat crossings and bus trips. Now if it had of been back in Australia it would of been easy enough but in Sweden, with me not having a phone it proved a little more problematic. As it turned out though it all seemed a lot more daunting than it actually was, as I progressed north I was generally able to nut out each obstacle fairly easily as I approached it. There were a couple of things that made this easier for me, the first one being that most Swede’s speak better English than me and they are generally happy to help out a walker, the second one being that the overwhelming majority of walkers on the Kungsleden are from Europe and they all had their phones with them, so it was normally possible that another walker could make a call for me.

Speaking of logistics I lived off the land (so to speak) on the Kungsleden. By that I mean that I didn’t bring any food from home and just bought my supplies on trail. With most of the stugas having a little shop, the fell stations also having a shop and small grocery stores in Hemervan, Ammarnäs, Adolfsström (limited for walking supplies though) and Jäkkvik it wasn’t hard to buy some food on the Kungsleden. The longest section that I did between supplies was the 88 kilometre section between Jäkkvik and Kvikkjokk, I did that section fairly easily in 4 days and that was the most food that I carried along the total length of the Kungsleden (you can actually buy some very limited supplies at Vuonatjviken at the boat operators office if needed).

I guess I’d rate the Kungsleden as a medium grade walk. While I haven’t done a lot of multi day walking in Europe the Kungsleden would sit in-between the West Highland Way and the GR20 when it came to difficulty of the walks that I have done I guess. The track itself is extremely well way marked with a combination of red paint, stones and winter markers. While there are no super steep grades or huge hills to cross there was enough in the way of ups and downs to keep my heart beating. The track itself can get a bit rough and rocky in spots, especially on the lakeside walks, the track above the tree line was generally pretty good. I never got really wet boots on the Kungsleden, managing to cross the wet areas either rock hopping the creeks or using bridges to cross the bigger streams. Most of the very swampy sections had boardwalks across them. You need to watch the boardwalks a bit though as they can be extremely slippery when they are wet.

If anyone is reading this waffle and thinking of retracing my walk then keep in mind that due to work commitments I did the walk fairly quickly, a lot of people would take an extra week to complete the Kungsleden and indeed I would of too if I’d been able to get the time off walk. All that said though I really pulled the handbrake on a little on the last third of the walk. Now don’t forget this story is told through the eyes of a mid 50 year old, overweight and unfit man, obviously there would be plenty of punters out there that could complete the Kungsleden quicker than me if that was their goal.

So what were the highlights…well I’m glad you asked! I think for me the fell walking and wild camping, along with the great people I met along the journey were the things that I’d look back fondly on. There wasn’t really a lot in the way of negatives, if I was going to be very fussy then I suppose that I’d say that the crowded fell stations didn’t fill me with joy. The popular northern sections of the Kungsleden were also starting to show some environmental problems, particularly relating to peoples toileting habits out on the track, I was very careful where I grabbed my water from up here. Once I finish a walk I always run the question ‘would I do this again?’ through my head, the answer when it comes to the Kungsleden was that if I’m ever lucky enough to get back to Sweden then I’d do the Kungsleden at the start of season in order to see some more snow and ice.

Relevant Posts.
Day 1 on the Kungsleden, 2019.
Previous Day on the Kungsleden, 2019.

This is the stuff that I carried 450 kilometres without using....not too bad I don't think as I'm not going to do the walk without a compass or without patches for my thermorest. The bowls and cup maybe could of been left at home...but then again hindsight is 20/20!
It was so nice to have my own bathroom....although the sink might never be white again!

There are plenty of communal areas around the fell station.

Being a little creative I was able to knock up a nice breakfast - they even had bacon here!
The fell station restaurant.
The views from the restaurant were 5 stars.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Alesjaure to Nissonjokk, Kungsleden - September 2019

Today was the day that I left the high mountains behind.

Waking up today on what was going to be my penultimate day of walking the Kungsleden I was greeted by a dry, partly cloudy morning. With my camp last night above Alisjávri Lake being fairly exposed I found that the wind had kept my tent fairly dry, so for one of only a couple of occasions on my walk I was able to pack up fairly dry tent. With only around 30 kilometres to go now I was fairly sure that I’d finish my walk tomorrow, the only real unknown left was where I’d camp tonight, I had the shorter easier option of Abiskojaure and the longer and harder option of Nissonjokk to choose from.

I was able to pack up a dry tent this morning, something that had only happened a couple of times on my Kungsleden journey. 
My journey along Alisjávri Lake continued first thing this morning.

Earlier on my Kungsleden walk I’d sometimes been packed up and walking before 6am but now I was up north and the nights were quickly lengthening, 7am was my more normal time to set off. 7am was still early enough that I’d normally have a couple of hours pretty well to myself on the track though. So setting off first thing this morning I pretty well had the Kungsleden to myself for awhile as I continued to shuffle my way along the western shoreline of Alisjávri Lake. The Kungsleden along here was not only fairly level but also pretty easy when it came to rocks and other assorted obstacles. Maybe because it was getting fairly late in the season or maybe because there wasn’t a surplus of camping spots but whatever the reason I didn’t pass many tents this morning either.

Alisjávri Lake
Early morning on the Kungsleden.
There wasn't any other walkers about first thing this morning but I wasn't lonely.

After half an hour or so I past the spot where Alisjávri Lake cascades down through a rocky choke to become Rádujávri Lake. Apart from the stunning turquoise lakes I was also enjoying what I was guessing would be my last day surrounded my snow capped mountains this morning, while the mountains were now a little further away they were still mightily impressive to me. The light this morning was a little on the strange side too, if I’d been back home I’d have been thinking that their was a few bushfires burning in the surrounding area as the atmospheric conditions were a bit on the hazy side, being well north of the arctic circle I don’t think the haze was caused by smoke though, so I’m not sure what the go was?

The Kungsleden breaks out onto the shoreline in a couple of spots.
Rádujávri Lake
Rádujávri Lake
The big mountains were starting to get a bit further away.
I'd been walking down this valley since lunch time yesterday.

On reaching the northern end of Rádujávri Lake the Kungsleden veered away from the next lake in the chain, Áhpparjávri Lake, and started to head across a high valley. The track itself now got a lot rougher as I headed away from the lakes, I was back walking on an uneven rocky surface again, not that I was too worried as the rocks were pretty dry and the there was virtually no climbing involved. After passing through another Reindeer fence and shuffling past another small Sami settlement down in a shallow valley to the left of me the Kungsleden started drop gently into a steeper valley, the headwaters of the Šiellajohka River rushing through a gorge below me.

Overhead conditions.....
...were somewhat variable early this morning.
I was aiming for a valley between the two peaks in the middle of the photo.
I passed another small Sami settlement.
I'd met more Reindeer than other walkers so far this morning.
The Reindeer never seemed overly concerned with me though.
Eventually I started to drop down beside the headwaters of the Šiellajohka River.

Eventually, with Abeskojávri Lake coming into view in the distance way down in a valley below me, the track started to descend a bit more seriously. I was now dropping down towards the suspense bridge that would safely get me across to the other side of the Šiellajohka River, the upper part of this descent dropping through an area of open country before eventually I descended into the trees. Once below the tree line it was only a few more minutes of steeply descending before I arrived at the river. There is a toilet and lots of camping on the eastern side of the Šiellajohka River however I was more interested in finding a rock to sit on beside the cascading water to enjoy my lunch.

There always seems to be a convenient rock to park on the Kungsleden.
Garddenvárri Mountain.
That's the Šiellajohka River cascading through the gorge below me, Abeskojávri Lake has just come into view in the distance.
The Kungsleden dropped steeply in parts to cross the  Šiellajohka River.
 Šiellajohka River

It was with some reluctance that I shouldered my pack again after lunch, sitting on a rock in the warm afternoon sunshine definitely had a certain appeal to me today. The Kungsleden now started to swing around into a big broad valley, a valley that I was guessing that I’d be following all the way into Abisko sometime tomorrow. Not long after leaving the Šiellajohka River the Kungsleden crossed over into the Abisko National Park, what that meant for me was that my days of camping wild and free on the Kungsleden were now over, my camping options between here and the end of the walk at Abisko were either at the Abiskoaure Stuga or the official Nissonjokk Campsite.

 Šiellajohka River
I'd be back below the tree line for the rest of my Kungsleden journey now.
Easy...but slow walking on the Kungsleden.
No wild camping from here on.

It was still fairly early in the afternoon when I arrived at the turnoff to the Abiskoaure Stuga. I’d already pretty well decided to keep walking to Nissonjokk this afternoon, however with plenty of time still up my sleeve (and the bought or a cold drink) I decided to go in and check out the stuga. The Abiskoaure Stuga is situated at the southern end of the vast Abeskojávri Lake and would make for a very pleasant spot to spend a night or two, apparently quite a few walkers head in for the night from Abisko so it can be quite a popular place. After buying a drink and a packet of my customary Kungsleden afternoon snack, some jam filled biscuits, I enjoyed a bit of a break sitting in the sun chatting to some other walkers.

I went left here over the bridge to Abiskojaure Stuga.
Abiskojaure Stuga
Enjoying the afternoon sun on the deck while chatting to other walkers from around the world...I'm gunna miss the Kungsleden.

After filling my stomach with biscuits and my soul with great conversation I reluctantly grabbed my pack again and set off on the rest of the afternoons hard work. After retracing my route back out to the Kunglseden I turned left and started the long walk up the length of Abeskojávri Lake. The Kungsleden now walked between the lake on one side and the brooding black cliffs buttressing Giron Mountain on the other side, with the sun now getting fairly low the scenery was once again pretty sweet this afternoon.

Heading for Nissonjokk beside Abeskojávri Lake.
Abiskojaure Stuga receding from view.
Double barrel boardwalks this afternoon on the Kungsleden.

The walking was not only fairly scenic now but it was all pretty easy as well as the Kungsleden followed long sections of double barrelled boardwalks, no doubt built to allow ATV to get closer access to Abiskoaure Stuga. So with the nice light and pleasant scenery my walk up to Nisonjokk was a fairly slow one this afternoon, it was only after leaving the lake and starting to track down the Aiskojåkka River that I sped up a little, although this wasn’t really because the scenery was any less impressive, but more the fact that it was starting to look like I might not make it to Nissonjokk before dark.

Giron Mountain.
Abeskojávri Lake

Well to cut a long and boring story short I did end up making it to the Nissonjokk Campsite before dark and soon found a patch of ground that wasn’t to rooty to get the tent up. My camp at Nissonjokk was second only to my rough camp way back at Rávgga when it came to averageness I think, the damp claustrophobic forest not doing a lot for me, although I’d definatelly been fairly spoilt with some of the absolutely stunning spots that I’d camped at on my long journey up from Hemarvan I think. The biggest positive about Nissonjokk for me was that I got to share it with the lovely young lady that I’d first met back at Sälka a few days ago, it was nice to share my last night with someone who had experienced the same things as me over the journey.

It was another afternoon of slow progress as I took photo after photo.

It was about now when I started to think that I might not make it to Nissonjokk before dark.

The Dirt.
I walked 22 kilometres and climbed 55 metres on what I’d call a medium grade days walking on the Kungsleden (the stats today are a combination of figures from my GPS and those calculated from my map). Over the 20 days of my Kungsleden journey so far I’ve walked 442.2 kilometres and climbed 10,574 metres. The track today was a story of two parts, the walk down to Abiskoaure Stuga from Rádujávri Lake was a pretty rough and slow one however the walk from Abiskoaure Stuga to Nissonjokk was pretty easy. The main camping spots today before entering Abisko National Park were around the spot where the Kungsleden crosses the Šiellajohka River, as I’ve mentioned once inside the national park the camping options were limited to those around the Abiskoaure Stuga and then those at the official Nissonjokk Campsite. Nissonjokk was a little dark, damp and rooty for my tastes but like I said the Kungsleden had pretty well spoiled me so far, so maybe my opinion isn’t worth that much here. Once again I used Cicerone’s Trekking the Kungsleden guide book along with the topo maps on my GPS.

Relevant Posts.
Day 1 on the Kungsleden, 2019.
Previous Day on the Kungsleden, 2019.

Nearing Nissonjokk the Kungsleden got close to the Abiskojåkka River...
...very close!
The official Nissonjokk Campsite.

Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I was heading out and doing a snow walk next and indeed that's how it turned out. The weather in Me...