The Fjällen, Sweden
My travels around the world

Northern Sweden

What is life really like when hiking in the Fjällen??

I really love to hike in the "Fjällen" in Sweden. This is the Mountain area of Sweden, and the part I use to hike is in the very north of Sweden, located above the Artic Circle, and where the most fanstastic National Parks are (Abisko, Sarek, Padjelanta, Stora Sjöfallet). This is also where you can find the famous hiking trail "Kungsleden".

I've started writing a bit about my travels to this region and the hikes I have made. But what is life 'really' like when hiking in the Fjällen??? This is what I want to show you here as a sort of local custom tips: A bit of truth with a wink and a big smile about life in the Fjällen ....

The photos and text are from my very first hike in the Fjällen area in 2005, where I hiked part of the Kungsleden at the time. I've been back here quite a few times since. And returning from another trip in 2019, memories popped up about this page and which fun I had writing it at the time. And above all: how recognizable it still is, even when having hiked so many more times in the same area, as all local customs below still apply :-)


Life in the Fjällen ;-)


The "Mountain Walk"

On the evening after my first hiking day, I sat on a little bench just looking around and enjoying the sun. It is here that I noticed this local custom everyone seemed to have. It is best described as “The Mountain Walk”

The walk resembles the one of a goose, waggling from left to right. This “typical” movement is caused by blisters and the unavoidable “first day muscle pain” :-)

Note 1: The smile (as seen in the picture) is mostly not present during the "Mountain Walk". This is often replaced by a more painful and worried look.

Note 2: The photo has been taken for demonstration purposes only and is not a 'real life' situation :-)

The Mountain Walk

A "typical" Mountain Walk ;-)

The Confused Chicken

The Confused Chicken

The Confused Chicken

Newcomers to the campground are a joy to watch as well. I would like to describe this behaviour as the “Confused Chicken”.

Main characteristics are the confused look on their face, head sticking out forward, quickly moving from left to right, and back again. The newcomer moves over the campground in irregular patterns, clearly without having any plans, scanning the whole place in search for the perfect camping spot.

The Balancing Act

It is day two and I am on my hike towards ‘Alesjaure’. It is here I discovered that I as well suffered from some strange local behaviour. Hahaha, so strange how quickly we seem to adapt to changing circumstances ;-)

When walking around on the Fjällen, your hiking trail may often go over in a comfortable ‘footbridge’ or ‘walking plank’. This is mostly two planks beside each other leading over water and/or swampy areas. But there is one problem...... Not always are those ‘walking planks’ so stable! They lean to the left or the right and sometimes one or more planks are missing. These situations call for the “Balance Act”

The Balancing Act is really simple and looks like a circus act. Stick your arms out to the left and right. Carefully place your one foot in front of the other until you have crossed the obstacle.

Important note: Don’t forget the sight of relief at the end of the “Balancing Act” to make the total effect complete. Remove the serious concentrated look from your face and replace it by a relieved smile before you continue your journey through the Fjällen :-)

The Balancing Act

The Balancing Act

Men (not ladies) first

Men (not ladies) first

Men (not ladies) first

Some crossings seem very doubtful if they will hold a person and you will probably start to worry if you might fall in the water. The best way to solve this problem is to let the men always go first. Why? Well…. Men often have a heavier backpack with them than you do. This means that if they are able to cross the obstacle without falling into the water, you most certainly can too :-)

Note 1: Is the male victim doubtful about this local custom and wants you to go first? Just smile and say please :-)))) This often works very well in these ‘critical’ situations ;-)

Note 2:This tip is written solely for the female reader. Male readers are requested to ignore and more important.... forgot about this tip altogether ;-)

"Bad jokes" is a must!

The hikes on the Fjällen are long and chances of meeting other human beings to talk to are limited to a few hikers per day. So you are out there with only the two of you! Good conversations will be plenty on these walks but somehow after a few hours there is no avoiding the “Bad Jokes”

Prepare yourself well at home and learn some bad jokes by heart. But don’t worry too much about it. It doesn’t really matter if they are funny or not. These are desperate times! Every joke seems to be good at the Fjällen and will with 100% proof produce smiles and a laugh :-))

Bad jokes are a must

More Bad Jokes?!

The Wind qmill

Mosquito repellent

Mosquito repellent, the better alternative to the 'Windmill' :-)

The Fjällen are “famous” for their mosquitoes and black flies. I found that it wasn’t so bad when we were here, but we had them zooming around our heads so now and then. One desperate action you will probably try is to wave your arms around in a desperate attempt to chase them away → this movement is called “wind milling”

Note: Wind milling is a trendy thing and can be seen often here on the Fjällen. Unfortunately it doesn’t work → try mosquito repellent instead. Maybe less trendy, but will for certain have more effect :-)

The "Friendly Hitter"

Don’t get upset when someone starts to hit you on your head, back or arms without any warning. You might be the target of the “Friendly Hitter”.

As described in the previous tip, mosquitoes and black flies can be a problem. The “Friendly Hitter” is a person that tries to kill the mosquitoes on a fellow hiker. These mosquitoes are just having lunch on one of your body parts and are best to be removed as quickly as possible.

Instead of getting angry at your “Friendly Hitter” just smile and thank him or her for this friendly gesture :-).....Or even better: adapt this friendly behaviour and hit back a few times :-))

The Friendly Hitter

The Friendly Hitter

The "Dancing Crane"

 The Dancing Crane

The "Dancing Crane"

This is a very VERY local custom. It is only known to be tried by two people so far (no names mentioned because of privacy reasons). It is called “The Dancing Crane”.

At one point during the hike we..... ooops, I mean “they”..... tried to relax their aching muscles a bit. The shoulders felt stiff after carrying the backpack for hours in a row, so they thought some Qigong exercises might help. The movement chosen is called “The Dancing Crane” in Qigong. They assumed to be totally alone on the Fjällen, not having seen any people for a long time. So it would do no harm in doing these strange looking “slow flying crane” movements. But as you can guess.......in the middle of the Qigong exercise people seemed to pop up from everywhere!

If the Qigong exercise helps against aching shoulder muscles will forever stay a mystery, since it was discontinued instantly ;-)

The "Elephant Landing"

During your hike you of course need to take a break from time to time. With a heavy backpack this isn’t always an easy thing to do, as getting off the backpack from your back can be hard work. But here is the solution → Do the “Elephant Landing”!

How to do the perfect Elephant Landing:
a. Find a good steady stone, about sitting height. This will be your landing area.
b. Turn your back towards the stone so that the backpack hangs over the stone.
c. Slowly bend through your knees until the backpack lands on the stone.
d. Sit down as gracefully as you can.
e. Point D will obviously fail, hahaha → this one is only for pro’s

Instead the backpack will draw you backwards because of the heavy weight. The end result will look like an elephant trying to sit down on his behind. Hence: “The Elephant Landing”. Keep your arms forward, legs slightly from the ground, lean backwards a bit (dragged down by your backpack) and you will have done the perfect Elephant Landing.

f. Try to un-strap the backpack as quickly as you can and smile, pretending you made the perfect ‘pro’ landing.

Personal observation:
• You probably will feel too tired after your hike to really care how you landed. An overwhelming happiness will overcome you just because of the fact that you can finally rest.
• Your partner feels undoubtedly the same and couldn’t care less how you landed :-)

 The Elephant Landing

The "Elephant Landing"

The "Upside-down Turtle"

The Upside-down Turtle

The "Upside-down Turtle"

The inexperienced might suffer from the “Upside-Down Turtle”. This is however a thing to be avoided at ALL times!!!!

The Upside-Down Turtle is a totally failed “Elephant Landing” (see previous tip). It is caused by a far too heavy backpack, inexperience and probably a stone that is too low. Instead of landing in a graceful elephant way, the backpack will drag you backwards even more than usual. The backpack is like the turtle shell, and you are like the helpless turtle on top, with hands and legs in the air.

When your partner has stopped laughing, ask him friendly to unbuckle you from your backpack and release you from this helpless and not very graceful position.

If the laughter keeps on for more than 5 minutes, it might be wise to figure out a way to unbuckle yourself from your “turtle-shell-backpack” ;-)

The "Chocolate Monster"

The amount of food you can carry with you is limited, resulting often in a boring selection of food. And maybe more devastating is that you don’t get very large portions for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Coming to a “Fjällstation” (mountain hut station) with a little store is like being like a kid in a candy store! :-) So much food and candy, chocolate bars, peanuts, etc, etc, .... Oh yes, hahaha, and some ‘real’ food too of course, like rice and pasta.

Having been without chocolate for a few days and ‘luxury’ items like jam and coffee, we went crazy here. Stocking up for our dinner that night was fun. And you can spot the "Chocolate Monster” at once... hahaha, which is me :-))

Important advice: Don’t buy just one piece of chocolate: buy more!!!! You never know when your next chocolate-stop will be ;-)

 Chocolate Monster

The "Chocolate Monster"

I hope you enjoyed reading this little page, writen with some truths, but certainly with a lot of fun, showing a bit of those small fun moments when hiking in the Fjällen :-) I certainly enjoyed writing it in 2005, and just as much enjoyed recreating it on my website so many years later.

Simone & Åke, Fjällen, Sweden, July 2005



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:-) Simone


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