Sunday, September 29, 2019

Hemavan to Norra Storfjället, Kungsleden - August 2019

Ok, it's about time I started putting up my Kungsleden posts. Before I start though I want to throw in a bit of a disclaimer. Not only did I really struggle with the pronunciation of some of the Swedish place names but I also struggled typing them up on my blog, with the average place name having about the same amount of rock dots (umlauts) scattered above the letters as a 1980 hair metal band, along with a seemingly alphabet soup arrangement of the letters my old brain has struggled. So consequently I'm expecting quite a few typos, so go easy on me.

To all the wonderful fellow travellers and locals I met on this walk, I look forward to hosting you in Australia one day;)

The glacially carved Norra Storfjället.

So finally, after around a year of planning and sorting out the logistics my Kungsleden walk in Sweden was about to start. Before I could actually set foot on the track today though I still had a few hurdles in the way, the main one being getting from Stockholm to Hemavan and the start of the walk. Thankfully a series of planes, trains and automobiles trips went off without a hitch and just after lunch I touched down in the tiny northern Sweden ski resort town of Hemavan.

Flying into Hemavan. There appears to be a lot of trees and lakes in Sweden.

The good news when I arrived in Hemavan was that it wasn’t raining, the bad news being that it didn’t look like it would be long before it was, I was greeted in town by the kind of billowing black clouds that had accompanied me for a lot of my last long walk on the AAWT a couple of years ago. Still after grabbing some gas and a few last minute supplies in town, a hamburger at the takeaway caravan at the service station (recommended), and walking a couple of kilometres up to the start of the track at the Naturum I was still being blessed with mostly fine weather.

The forecast wasn't looking that promising.
After finding some gas and last minute supplies it was time for a hamburger!
I'd probably walked at least 2 or 3 kilometres today before I actually set foot on the Kungsleden.
If you ever find yourself in Hemavan and are looking for the start of the Kungsleden then aim for the big golden orb of the Nuturum, high on the hill above town.

Taking into account all the mucking around I’d already done today starting the walk at 1:30pm wasn’t too bad I thought. So after getting the obligatory start photo I shouldered my pack and took my first steps on my 450 kilometre journey north. My first impressions of the Kungsleden were that this was going to be a fairly well defined track, I was climbing fairly easily up above the town on a wide gravel path and already I was noticing the plethora of signs and track markers about, although the signs needed a little concentration as they didn’t always match up exactly with the place names in my guide book. The start of the Kungsleden is a little nondescript really as it has to climb up through the Hemavan downhill ski slopes, the sight of dormant ski lifts doesn’t exactly scream wilderness I don’t think.

Alright, I'm off then!
I walked around 20 metres before my first shower of rain.
Passing through the Hemavan ski resort.

Eventually I gained enough height and emerged out of the Birch trees onto fairly open ground, now passing above most of the ski lifts. With one or two minor exceptions the rain had missed me so far but climbing above the tree line it looked like things were not going to stay that way for much longer. I was now gently climbing and making my way into the high Viterskalet Valley of which I’d follow for many hours. Initially this glacially carved valley was fairly wide and gentle but the further up it I went, the grander the scenery became.

Climbing away from Hemavan it didn't take long for me to be impressed with the scenery.
Looking back down towards Hemavan (and the airport) from the open slopes above town.
The Kungsleden.

Initially I didn’t appreciate the grand scenery so much as the rain had now arrived, accompanied by thunder, lightning and hail. Pulling on all my wet weather gear in the meagre shelter provided by the veranda of a toilet I trudged of into the tempest hoping that this wasn’t an ominous sign of things to come. Shuffling my way up the valley I passed by the Viterskals stuga (hut), although being pretty well covered from head to toe with my wet weather gear I couldn’t be bothered taking it all off and going in to check things out this afternoon.

I was now contouring around to drop into the valley that was opening up ahead of me.
Conditions behind me were looking fairly ominous!
Heading up the valley towards Viterskals - it was about time for full wets!
I couldn't help but wonder if this was going to be my typical Kungsleden experience.

The valley that I’d been following swung from heading NNE to pretty well east after passing the stuga and the dark brooding cliffs started to close in a bit on me, well from what I could see through the low cloud anyway. I was now walking through Norra Storfjället which is known to be a bit of a scenic highlight on the Kungsleden, with mountains either side of the valley rising hundreds of metres vertically into the clouds and waterfalls cascading down the rock faces it certainly got my attention. It was along here that I also had another first for my Kungsleden walk, my first (but definitely not last, as it would turn out) Reindeer sighting.

Viterskals STF stuga.
I was still smiling so everything was going ok.
The wet boardwalks needed a bit of respect.
Overhead conditions were changing very quickly.

It wasn’t the Reindeer that was occupying my mind now though, I was starting to look for a place to camp. I wasn’t really that keen to camp up on the high ground at the end of the valley near the Syterkalet Emergency Shelter as I was guessing that the wind would be pretty extreme up there. Thankfully there was plenty of nice grassy camping spots in Norra Storfjället, although with the hail still sitting on the ground I figured that I might be in for a cold night. This was a fairly stunning camp, with tops of the black mountains on either side of the valley enveloped in cloud and any number of streams cascading down the rock out of the clouds. The scenery got even better just before sunset as the sun broke through the brooding clouds bathing everything in a golden light.

Norra Storfjället - I was looking for somewhere to camp now.
Camp was sorted!
I was lucky enough to get a rainbow at one stage.

The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 14.2 kilometres and climbed 539 metres on my first day on the Kungsleden. With the track fairly well defined and well graded I’d call today’s walk a medium grade walk I guess. There were numerous places to access water or camp and also the Viterskals stuga if you wanted to stay in a hut. I used the topo maps on my GPS as well as Ciccerone’s Trekking the Kungsleden book today.

Relevant Posts.

Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg, Scotland, 2015.
West Highland Way, Scotland, 2015.

Looking east towards the head of the valley from camp.
Late afternoon in Norra Storfjället.
It was well after 9pm and the sun was still going down.

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