This is the third and last blog about my hike on the Kungsleden Trail in Swedish Lappland last August. I posted a blog about ‘Planning a hike on the Kungsleden’ on 3 March 2015, so if you’re after practical information that’s the one to read.
DAY 5: Singi to Kebnekaise – 8 miles
We set off about 9.45am to walk 8 miles to Kebnekaise Mountain Station. Ian had marked this as an easy day on the itinerary so I expected we’d be there in time for lunch … I later discovered he had marked the wrong day!
We walked across familiar terrain, through another valley with a river running through it and tall mountains either side, but for the first time we had to climb hills and cross rivers. The weather was cold, wet and windy and we could hardly see the mountains for mist. On top of that, I was feeling tired and hiking just seemed like hard work.
The weather cleared about three quarters of an hour before we arrived at Kebnakaise at 2.45pm. Kebnakaise is a massive place but gets very busy. As well as accommodating hikers on the Kungsleden, nearby Mt Kebnakaise attracts climbers who often helicopter in. By the time we arrived all the smaller rooms were booked so we ended up in a 22 bed dormitory, which cost 460SEK (£40) a bed. We also booked dinner and breakfast, which altogether cost 986SEK (about £85) for two. This is definitely not a budget hike!
We had our first shower for five days then went down for dinner, which was a posh affair. The menu was almost entirely fish –rollmops, salmon and smoked salmon for starters and mackerel and potatoes for main course. We sat next to two Swedish guys who had come to climb Mt Kebnakaise but hadn’t managed it because of the weather. They told us that the Sami (the indigenous inhabitants of Sweden) own most of the land in the north and run the helicopter and boat businesses.
Later in the bar, we caught up with some of the UK hiking group. They had climbed Mt Kebnakaise today, but the visibility was very poor and only a couple of people had made it to the top. We saw photos, taken in the few minutes the weather had cleared, and it looked amazing.
DAY 6: Kebnakaise to Nikkaluokta – 12 miles
We got up at 7am for a massive buffet breakfast in readiness for our final day of hiking. Just before we set off at 8.30am we ran into George (the Scot). He was about to catch a helicopter to Nikkaluokta because of blisters … so maybe putting talc on your feet and wearing ‘1,000 mile’ socks is not a good recommendation!
We had 12 miles to walk to Nikkaluokta where we were catching the 4.20pm bus to Kiruna. The hiking on this section was not very scenic, mainly through scrubby bushland and along boardwalks, and the only wild life we saw was a lemming and a few small birds.
There is a boat service some of the way, but it drops passengers 5.6km from Nikkaluokta. A French couple we met at a Sami café near the boat terminal were very disappointed when they realised they still had to walk that distance. The café sold reindeer burgers but we had a salmon open sandwich instead.
As we neared Nikkaluokta we met Lee and Jonathon, the two British guys, walking in the other direction. They had reached the end of the trail, dropped off their packs and were hiking back to the Sami restaurant for a reindeer burger. Jonathon was still wearing his trusty moccasins and work socks and hadn’t developed any blisters.
We arrived at Nikkaluokta at 2pm so spent a couple of hours devouring tea and cake and looking at the art in a small Sami-run café / art gallery near the bus stop. Lee and Jonathon easily made it back in time for the bus despite walking an extra 11.2 km.
The bus dropped us off in Kiruna and we followed the big British group to the youth hostel. By the time they had checked in, all the hostel beds were taken, but it worked in our favour because we got ‘hotel beds’ which turned out to be much better value. A double room with our own ensuite and breakfast included cost 850SEK (£63), while the others were paying 300SEK (£22) each for a dorm and shared bathroom with no breakfast.
That night we went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant. A massive pizza and a big glass of wine seemed like a fitting way to celebrate the end of our hike on the Kungsleden.