Another one from Open house weekend - the bar inside Shoreditch Town Hall. Been here many times before but wanted another chance to have a behind the scenes nosey. Best council motto ever - adopted by the former Shoreditch borough back in 1900 reflecting the fact it used to generate its own electricity.
Day 7: the last one. Kebnekaise to Nikkaluokta. Kebnekaise mountain station was a bit of a shock to the system with it showers, wi fi and sit down meal. It was full of people getting up early to attempt the summit - sadly off the cards this time around. Final day task - get to Nikkaluokta to catch the bus to Abisko for the night train. After miles of nothing but the odd post showing the route, this section had many signs of activity as we walked through the woods - more campers, some scientific equipment monitoring glaciers. A final coffee by the lake and then we caught the boat that cuts off a few km and is run by the Sami people. The water has been so low it involves a small boat for the first stretch and then changing to a larger one. There is much talk of reindeer husbandry. It rained quite solidly for the final 5km. Nikkaluokta is full of muddy hikers eagerly tucking into a late lunch.
Day 6. This was the first cloudy day of the trip and where we turned off the Kungsleden trail to make our way (over 2 days) to the ‘exit’ point for the northern most part of the trail. As we got near the Kebnekaise mountain station phone signal reappeared - though I tried to eke out a few more hours of blissful ignorance of the world beyond the trail. The valley towards Kebnekaise was much narrower - and with the clouds barely rising to half way up the sides, there was definitely a sense of an end being in sight.
Day 6: Singi to Kebnekaise. Woke up to find there had been a flurry of snow overnight - not enough to properly settle but a sign of the changing seasons even within the space of a few short days. Kungsleden is well marked with a summer and winter trail and after a lunch break we tried to take a short cut which resulted in the winter trail leading us through a marsh. Those signs are there for a reason! Most of Kungsleden is fairly easy going underfoot with conveniently laid (if somewhat rickety) planks to navigate the soggier bits. By this point there had been a few days of walking over rocks which was beginning to take its toll on my feet. Thankfully the views were still stunning and the perfect distraction.
Day 5. Water. Along the Kungsleden you can drink water from any of the streams. This felt very alien at first - the idea that crystal clear, cold water, running over rocks was fine to drink. But it soon became second nature. At the Singi cabin, options for cooking any meals were limited as our supplies were low. I got disorientated in the marshy heath trying to find the path to the river, and the water levels were too low for a proper dip. An American guy who had been doing the whole of Kungsleden joined us for dinner, with stories of other trails and inspiration. Thinking of other possibilities highlighted that this trip was drawing to a close. I think you can still see The Nose in the distance here.
Day 5: Salka to Singi. Maybe this was my favourite day. We got up early and after a quick porridge breakfast, we hiked 7km up a mountain by the Salka cabins called ‘The Nose’. Only possible without rucksacks as a lot of it involved scrambling over large boulders with a few slightly hairy moments. One of my earlier iPhone photos is from the top of that mountain. We then retrieved our bags and went onwards with the Kungsleden trail. I think we had our first sight of Sweden’s highest mountain (Kebnekaise) on this day - its peak covered in snow and the distant sight of a few climbers near the summit. I still felt proud of The Nose - pictured here pretty much in the centre.
Day 4. There were far fewer hikers on this part of the trail, as by this point, any access points are several days of hiking away. I think this was one of my favourite days in terms of the landscapes. More barren, but with the autumnal colours getting deeper. It hasn’t even crossed my mind that I’d not seen roads or cars for days.
Day 4: Tjaktja to Salka. The first part of day 4 involved a chilly short climb up to the Tjaktja pass - the highest point on the Kungsleden trail. It’s normally covered in snow, but the nice weather was still holding out. At the pass, there is a small shelter with emergency firewood. We stopped for fika - the importance of which was becoming increasingly apparent as the week went on, even though the cinnamon buns are long gone. From the pass, you can look back on the valley the trail has just gone through and towards what lies ahead... and feel very small indeed.
Day 3 at the end with the light moving from the opposite end of the valley. Tjaktja cabin is a short detour off the main path crossing a high bridge with an ominous sign indicating one at a time (why this bridge, I wonder? what do they know?) It’s the smallest cabin so far and the ‘no one turned away’ rule comes into force - I spent the night on a mattress on the floor as there weren’t enough beds. The cabin was also the scene of much food sorting as we worked out what has gone and what is left. A very tasty banana bread with chocolate chips in it has all gone and I calculated I’m probably largely responsible for this. Washing was down a steep cliff under a waterfall where the water was so cold a 10s splash was only just about bearable.
Day 3: Alesjaure to Tjaktja. By this point the days start to blur into one. All I know is we’re incredibly lucky with the weather. I’d expected zero degrees and snow, yet somehow it is still sunny and mild. There are snowy mountains in the distance - across the border in Norway where the Swedish say the mountains are more jagged and less forgiving. This photo was taken in the morning - as the shadows were slowly peeling through the valley revealing the autumnal golden light on the distant slopes. How glorious to wake up and know all there is to do that day is walk!
Day 2 view from the Alesjaure mountain cabins. Probably my favourite place we stayed as it was nestled on a hill with stunning views (and the bunk beds were a bit more spread out!) After a beautiful day of sunshine, the weather turned. I read by candlelight until quite late listening to the wind and rain outside and feeling very happy not to be in a tent.
Day 2 - walking from Abiskojaure to Alesjaure. The longest day of hiking but the point at which we emerged from the woods into the open valley of the Kungsleden trail itself hugged by the mountains on either side. The moorland and textures felt similar to the Scottish Highlands in places. Having left the National Park area it was beginning to feel more remote and any thoughts of London and work far behind. Main preoccupation of Day 2 was a niggling fear than an old blister was returning on my left foot. First sighting of reindeer too - though they were too far away to get a decent shot. They roam relatively freely for parts of the year but are then herded by the Sami people. Along the trail, hikers try to look out for antlers to pick up and take home. I didn’t think it was worth the hassle - could imagine Ryanair wouldn’t have been impressed and inevitably invented a spurious extra charge.
Day 1 end at the Abiskojaure mountain cabin. The largest on the route - and an introduction to 3 tier bunk beds and making meals with no running water or electricity. But the cabins are insanely welcoming - full of weary hikers, tales of the trail, temporarily shared stories about where you’ve come from and why you’re here, and a spot to sleep guaranteed for all. Some of them have saunas as well... this was down by the river behind the cabins as the sun was setting and any fears I had about the trail had long evaporated.
I’m going to attempt to choose 2-3 pictures from each day of the King’s Trail. A coping mechanism for being home! This was Day 1 - walking from Abisko to Abiskojaure. The first part of the route is through the Abisko National Park - with birch forests and walking along the river for a lot of the way. As it’s nearest to the STF Abisko tourist station the first day didn’t feel that remote and the path was very easy going - especially in the unseasonably warm weather. We had our first introduction to the Meditationsplats - seven sites along the trail with stones engraved with quotes from Dag Hammarskjöld - former UN Secretary General, Chairman of STF and secretary of Sweden’s central bank.