I love the very north of Sweden. This is the mountain area called "Fjällen" and home to some of Swedens most amazing National Parks (Abisko, Padjelanta, Sarek and Stora Sjöfallet). Endless areas of wilderness, perfect for making multi-day hikes.
We love to go to this area and hike, all from a week up to two week-long hiking trips. On average you can find us in the very north of Sweden each other year putting on our hiking shoes and strapping on our backpacks ready to absorb the vast landscape. This is our a story about our first trip to the Fjällen.
July 10th....9:30: The tent is packed, hiking shoes are on, had a good breakfast... yes, we are eager to go on our way again! Today we are hiking from Abiskojaure towards Alesjaure. The whole trip will be about 21 kilometres.... mmmm..... sounds long to us. So we decide to split it up in two days, hahaha, I am 'almost' feeling lazy doing that ;-) But maybe it is not such a bad idea to take it a bit easy on day 2. It feels good to take a bit of time to get into our 'hiking' rhythm.
The muscles don't hurt as much as I was afraid they would do, so that's good news! But I do feel a bit stiff though after having slept on a thin sleeping mat. For sure not the same as the luxury mattress at home! The newly bought sleeping bags are perfect though! A good investment. They still keep you nicely warm and comfy at minus temperatures, something that might be needed here in the mountains.
Hanging bridge at Abiskojaure
We wave our campground goodbye and with a smile and happy look on our faces we go on our way....
Only a few metres from the campground we come to our first obstacle: the hanging bridge over de "Kamajċkka". (Jċkka in the Sámi language means brook or creek). The bridge is quite new and feels safe. One of the easiest bridges to be found around here for sure! It does wave a bit from left to right when crossing it and even more when it is windy. It also makes some complaining noises, hahaha, not good for the nerves! But the views from the bridge over the rushing river are so nice that you soon forget about those little worries you might have.
Crossing a little stream
The first part of the hike is gradually going up, through a forest of birches. The trail is easy and mainly leads over walking planks. We cross a little stream, no problems until now! Maybe the mosquitoes a bit, but they are not as bad as I feared it would be. A bit of "Djungle olja" (Swedish anti repellent) works wonders.
I heard so many people warn me about the mosquitoes in this area, but really.... it wasn't bad! Maybe I had an enormous amount of luck. Some tricks to prevent the worst: Don't forget your bottle of "djungle olja", it really works! Wear long sleeves and try to cover up your body as much as you can. Light colours and loose-fit also helps.
The trail from Abiskojaure to Alesjaure is part of the "Kungsleden", the famous hiking trail in Sweden. Being a famous trail has its clear pros and cons. This trail isn't as quiet as other trails... relatively speaking of course! You can hardly call meeting 20 people during a whole days hike very busy. But compared to the side trails it is a lot. The pro on the other hand is that this trail is very well kept; as you can see in the picture.
I only wonder though, why they always take the reindeer-route when they build these hiking trails!!! Hahaha, none of them is straight! Instead they zigzag through the landscape like a reindeer would do. Maybe it is not the quickest way to get from A to B, but it does have much more charm :-) See that peak in the distance? That's where we are heading for now......
After having hiked up slowly we start getting above the tree line. No more forest from now on, only small shrubs, plants and flowers. It is still a very green landscape in front of us though. There are not many flowers during this part of our hike, but there are many 'hidden' flowers to be seen everywhere.
The shrubs surrounding us are filled with these flowers. I think they are rather pretty with their fluffy outside. They are the flowers of the Woody Willow / Salix lanata L or Ullvide in Swedish. The Woody Willow or Salix lanata L is one of the most common shrubs in this area.
We are leaving Abisko National Park. It is said to be one of the sunniest places in Sweden. And I can believe that as we have had some amazing sunny weather here! The Park is protected from the winds and rainy weather by the high mountain range between Sweden and Norway, creating a wonderful micro-climate. But..... we are leaving that all behind us now! Although, I must say the landscape in front of us looks just as inviting and beautiful as in Abisko National Park. Maybe even more, as we are now out of reach from the day tourist that are so plentiful in Abisko. From now on it is just nature as far as the eye can see....
We have now entered in what you can call Sámi country. And we see traces of that right away. About one or two kilometres after the leaving Abisko National Park we pass a reindeer fence. These fences are put here by the Sámi people, which are known for making a living on keeping reindeers. Although I have to add that nowadays only a small part of the population does. But lets get back to the trail.....
On the right I hear the sounds of the "Sillajohka" river, which gets louder and louder the further along the trail we hike. It can't be long now before we reach the bridge to cross this river. Hahaha, and I am already getting nervous: I heard about these bridge crossings.... they are not always what you can call 'perfect' bridges, LOL :-)
Tip for a nice camping spot:. If you don't want to stay in Abiskojaure campground, this might be a good alternative for you. We are now outside the National Park, so the "Right of Public Access" applies. This means that you don't need to stick to an official campsite. Here on the bank of the river are several nice spots where you can set up your tent and stay for the night. It is only about 3 to 4 kilometres from Abiskojaure. And perfectly located as it is in the middle between Alesjaure and Abisko.
We've finally reached the bridge: the only real obstacle on this hike. And this bridge is worse than I expected.... mmmm..... I would hardly call it a bridge! Two planks hanging high above the rushing water, no railing to hang on to.... oops, I guess it is time to do a real balancing act and not think so much about that water below me! Hahaha, an adventure park is Childs play compared to this bridge! But we made it! Without getting our feet wet :-)
Directly after the bridge it is going uphill quite steep. Exhausting! Gasping for air I climb my way up, but it is worth it! From here the views are wonderful. Right below is the rushing Sillajohka river, on the left we have Mount Giron (1543mtr) and on the right Mount Gárddenvárri..... the mountain we are now climbing up. We continue our way until we reach about 8oo metres high. We often look back, the views are so enjoyable. The valley is below us, the mountains surrounding us. Often a sigh, it is so beautiful.... a happy look, a smile, no words, just enjoying.
Higher up the mountain it gets a bit colder, and windy. Grey skies and a threat of rain. The weather conditions seem to change quickly. I guess you never know in these mountain areas what the weather will bring! So with our wind- and watertight sweaters on we continue our way.
The trail seems to go on and on forever. And slowly we start to get tired. Time for a break and some lunch! Let's stop at the next river, so we can have some hot soup! Sounds good in these weather conditions :-) But where is that river??? We are out of luck. Or maybe better said, we didn't plan it so well. On this part of the hike we don't pass any fresh running water. This is quite unusual as there is mostly some fresh water around. So there is no other option than to hike on.... and on... and on.... But there it is! A small stream, and beside it a big rock! Perfect! The fresh water is our ingredient we need to make some soup and the big boulder gives us some shelter from the wind. I feel so tired and wonder how long I can go on hiking on this day. But the soup made by Ċke gives me new energy. And I start noticing the landscape around me again. It is so beautiful. Maybe our lunch is rather primitive, but the view..... well, judge for yourself! The photo is the view from our lunching spot :-)
Something special happened in this valley behind us. It is now known as "The Tale of The Dancing Crane"
"The Dancing Crane" is a local custom for this area. Although I have to admit it 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, LOL). 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! LOL
If the Qigong exercise helps against aching shoulder muscles will forever stay a mystery, since it was discontinued instantly ;-)
The lunch was good, the energy is back and the backpack seems to feel much lighter than before. We are on our way and I am happy that it is going good. The landscape opens up in front of our eyes. The view is over a big lake, stretching all the way through the valley to the left and the right as far as the eye can see. The lake is surrounded by mountains that seem to flow into the lake. The landscape is so beautiful.
By being able seeing such long distances, we also can see rain clouds coming our way, and it goes quickly. A grey curtain is falling down from the sky into to the lake at the horizon. It is clearly raining there! I almost feel like panicking! There is no place in these surroundings to take a hide from the rain!!! We take the odds and decide not to put on our raingear, but make a run for it.... hahaha, for as far that is possible with a heavy backpack ;-) Ċke goes in the lead and I follow behind. We see our shelter in the distance, it is still far, but so is the rain. The big question is, who will be first..... we .... or the rain......
A little house in the distance; our shelter for the night. We are at Radunjarga. We start to calm down; we seem to make it on time before the rain hits us! The last bit of the trip is off the official trail. The shelter is located next to the 'winter trail', a trail not so suitable for hiking. These winter trails are used during the cold winter months by snowmobiles when this whole landscape is covered in a thick blanket of white snow. During the summer it is the low shrubs that thrive here. And this last bit of hiking is through this shrubby landscape. I must say it is much more difficult to hike off the trail, but it is only a short bit, so it's not so bad. And the reward: a nice dry shelter, a fireplace and a place to cook some good food :-)
Quickly we put up our tent next to this idyllic place. I know it doesn't look much, but for me it felt like a 5-star hotel... or maybe even beter. The place is so idyllic, so quiet, pieceful, so... so.... mmmm, no words for it really. An experience that I have never felt before in my life. An experience that is impossible to explain. The solitude, the hugeness of the landscape the pureness of the nature, being able to drink water directly from a stream, to just sit there and stare at the surroundings, watching the birds, seeing the impressive waterfall across the lake.....
This primitive little house, with no beds, no sofas, no kitchen..... nothing more than an empty room with a bench attached to the wall and a little fireplace..... for me this place was better than any 5-star hotel I have been to. So strange how quickly you get used not having anything in modern comfort. No running water, no electricity. Just a woodstove to get warm and a little stream with running water as your water supply. And yes, you can drink this water right from the stream, it is so pure. And it is one of the best water I have ever tasted in my life. The only disadvantage.... the water is very, very cold, LOL.
Not the best of photos, but for me a wonderful memory. It is early morning, it is so quiet. There are only a few birds out there and I hear the sound of the rushing water of the waterfall on the other side of the lake. Weird to realize that there is really no one here.
It's time to wake up and what better way to do that than have a wash with the freezing cold water of the river. An idea, that I have to admit, wasn't really looking forward to. So I cheated a bit and warm some water on the woodstove ;-) Just standing here taking in the sounds, smells and breathtaking views...... I know we will continue hiking soon, probably within the hour. And I know I am going to love it. But part of me doesn't want to leave this place. I just want to enjoy it a bit more. The other part of me is excited to move on. I know there is much more wonderful moments ahead of me. I think I am already hooked on this Mountain Hiking thing! I will be back, I know it.... It has already stolen my heart after such a short time....
Simone & Ċke, Radunjarga, Sweden, July 2005
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