I hopped onto a night train to Kiruna, which is 15 hours north of Stockholm.
This is arriving into Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden at 67 degrees 50 latitude. This means
that it is above the Arctic Circle and hence doesn't see dark for several months.
The 15 hour train trek is sufficient for the Swedish state to name this train the Svenska Orientexpressen.
So, after partying all night in London on Friday night, then touring through Stockholm during the day on Saturday,
then hopping on a 15 hour night train to Kiruna, I finally hopped onto a bus out to Nikkoluokta.
The town has a permanent population of 10 people, and acts as the trailhead for the route to Kebnekaise,
the highest mountain in Sweden, at 2114m.
Pretty cool signs on the hiking trails in Swedish.
Yours truly enjoying the Swedish countryside. Mount Kebnekaise is barely visible in the background.
One of the many rivers that is draining away glacial runoff due to the 24 hour sunlight.
Again, no idea what this means, but it's in Swedish.
A really nice waterfall across the valley from the Kebnekaise approach trail.
The view of the northern range in Sweden. The mountain on the far right is Kebnekaise, but the cool-looking
one (sharp-peaked) is called Tuolpagorni.
A great sign midway to the Kebnekaise Fjellstation. A local Sami herder runs boats from here to the
end of the lake, in order to cut 6 km off the hike in.
Great view from that same lake, looking towards the massif.
Ladjojaure is the name of this particular lake. Jaure means lake in Sami.
Great rock I found along the trail. Again, no clue what this says. My guess is it reads
"Welcome to Northern Sweden. We eat foreigners here. Thanks for coming."
I thought this sign was just great. Check out the toques (or hats as these Americans call them) that
the sign people are wearing. Except for the girl hiker, she looks like Lisa Simpson.
Better view of Tuolpagorni (which until I got to the base camp, I thought was my end destination).
Paul gives a big stamp of approval to any mountain hostel with a sauna, full meals, a great fireplace,
and who will rent you gaiters!
So, having arrived by bus to the trailhead at 1pm, hiking the 19 km into the base station, renting
gaiters (the guy said there was lots of snow), and reloading on water, I decided to attempt the 12 km
1500 m summit solo, leaving at 6pm. After all, I wanted to come north to see the midnight sun, and
what better way to see it than from the highest mountain in the country? Right??
This is looking back towards the trailhead from the summit trail. Thinking about it now, I should've
seen those clouds coming in...
This is the ascent up the Kittelbacken. Not too terribly difficult. You can see some hikers
electing to take the snow route down instead.
Not sure which plant this is, but it sort of looked like a weird little cactus to me.
Once I got to the bottom of the Kittelglaciären, I started to see clouds move in. This did not bode well
and began to pull at my resolve. That's the summit behind that mess of fog. Here are my thoughts
at this point in time. AUDIO That fog brought in some cold air,
some wind, and not a lot of confidence.
This turned out to be my last real view of much of anything until late the next day. This is
looking out into the valley from which I just came. You can see Ladjojaure in the distance.
As I'm attaching gaiters to my Garmont light trail hiking shoes, I'm thinking to myself,
"Hmm, did I ever waterproof these shoes?" I bet I wasn't planning on taking them into
snow when I bought them.
A little snow wasn't quite enough to deter me. When I got to the saddle of Vierremvare and Tuolpagorni,
the wind didn't seem that bad, and seeing as I was going to have light all night, what could possibly
go wrong? My thoughts at 8:45pm: AUDIO .
Through a bunch of loose scree or "Ostra leden" and loads of snow, I made it to the top of
Vierramvare, only to discover I was now going to have to descend 300 m, so I could get to the point
where I could approach the summit. Brrr, leaving that toque and mitts at home seems like a
bad idea at this point. Those are cairns marking the trail behind my left shoulder.
When visibility, snow, and other hazards made it nearly impossible to stay on trail, thankfully
there would be a brightly-painted red marker stone. These marker stones seriously saved my bacon
and they earned the "Hero of the Trip" award from this guy.
About 400 m vertically from the summit, there are two little huts that serve as great shelter. I
took a little breather in one to get my nerves up for the last push. The water bottle you see
is courtesy of Miss Avie Meadows, so one could say that I was almost sponsored to do the trip... or not.
When I finally saw the sky break right before the summit, I just about cried. This is actually blue sky
at around 11:30 pm. My thoughts at this point: AUDIO .
So, alas, the weather did NOT break, and this is me right at the summit. Those are socks on my hands
since this idiot didn't plan to bring gloves. I did have the presence of mind to purchase a small toque
when I was buying the topo for the area. Good call on that one!
The summit of Mount Kebnekaise, 12:02 AM, 28 June 2004. My notes for posterity. AUDIO .
What this photo journal doesn't convey is the sprained ankle I suffered while postholing on the way down the
mountain, arriving wet, tired, and extremely humbled at the mountain hostel at 5 in the morning, having
travelled 43 km for the day, 9 of those mostly hobbling. I then slept for a few hours on a bench inside the hostel
until someone woke me up and asked if I wanted a shower and some food. Needless to say, I slept for a while,
warmed up in the shower and sauna, and eventually came back to being human. This picture is of the Swedish
game of Alphapet (my favourite game of Scrabble!), being played at the hostel.
Because I was still hobbling like a cripple, and because I had a train to catch to Stockholm, and because
I loathed the thought of another 19 km to get out of the mountains, I hitched a ride back to civilization on the
local chopper. I figured the price of 500 Swedish kronar might be enough to convince me to not be a complete
idiot on my next trip, and maybe plan my treks a little better. Call it the price of humility.
Ladjojaure from the sky.
This is a small church in the town of Nikkoluokta (remember, population 10).
When I got back to Kiruna, I was just in time to catch a tour of an underground iron mine, which
employs roughly one in every five Kirunians. The quality of the iron in this mine is
so high grade, that they could weld steel pipes directly to the ore body. No kidding! This picture
shows the ore body sloping ~65 degrees into the ground. The mine operation actually blasts out the ore
from the right side, and then lets the earth simply landslide in to fill its place.
So, as it turns out, my tour of Sweden only served to reinforce one thing: the Lebanase are taking over the
world one kebab stand at a time. Even in the northern-most city in Sweden, the only take out I could find
was a greasy kebab with garlic sauce. Mmmm!
On to more Stockholm fun!
Back to the first Stockholm experience
Fun in Ireland
More of England with Jon and Des
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