My cousin Georg and I went on a 3 week long hiking trip in the north of Scandinavia. After Georg wrote me one day that he booked the plane tickets some time passed by where I was quite occupied by university stuff and the ending of the term. I wasn’t really able to plan something and Georg wasn’t either. I was quite relieved when we skyped the first time and decided to walk from Abisko, Sweden to the Lofoten islands, Norway, that there is an actual trail going over from Abisko to the Norwegian coast. Abisko is mainly known for being the end of the Kungsleden, Sweden’s most famous trail. Both areas are well-known among hikers, but the pass over to the Norwegian coast is not that popular, at least we didn’t find any report about it. Here it is!
The map is generated afterwards and doesn’t show the exact way we took but the direction. Don’t use it to navigate! The straight lines across the sea are ferries!
As usual, we packed too much and we took a lot of unused stuff with us, but to be fair, we had some bad weather in the beginning and were quite well packed&prepared for those situations at least.
Georg arrived in Umeå on the 2nd of June, just when I finished all my school work + some complimentary that I had to do (which wasn’t planned and fucked up the preparation a bit). The day after the end of the year party I was knocked out and Georg had to get the remaining things for the trip as we started early on the following morning, the 5th of June.
Our main things were:
– 2 men tent (eureka autumn breeze 2)
– later we found a tarp for underneath that was quite useful & maybe even necessary – it’s simply not a hilleberg…
– sleeping bags (for around +-0°C)
– camping kitchen by primus (gas stove + windshield)
– raincovers for the backpacks (don’t buy mckinley!) – the raincovers are extremely important!
– shoes & clothing (it’s always better to have the better ones)
– knives (obviously ;-))
– rope (20m, very thin but thick enough to hold one of us eventually)
– folding bowl (super cool thing and even more useful if there is not as much water as in norway)
– maps (the battery dies too fast below 0°C – maps are better, waterproof is quite handy too)
– camera (a quite heavy combo with the sony a7 + 2 lenses + 3 batteries, but still better than a bulky dslr)
Totally useless were:
– torch / headlamp (it was light 24/7)
– gorillapod (mini tripod that I used maybe 3 times and all of these times I could have done it without)
– solar-pv-charger (might be useful, ours was just crappy)
All of the useless things we had didn’t weight that much anyway, so we never had the feeling that we have to get rid of them. Georg found some stuff along the way that he considered worth carrying, but he had a lighter backpack anyway, as his gear is way more advanced than mine.
As far as I remember we started around 4.30 AM and arrived just in time as the bus left around 5.00 AM. Unfortunately there was no direct train connection available as it is usually from Umeå to Abisko (Arctic Circle Express), so the bus brought us to Luleå and from there we were able to take the train to Abisko/Narvik. We arrived around 5.00 PM and after an useless information-detour via the youth hostel we finally started with the hike with the entrance to Kungsleden.
The entrance was one of the few public “shelters” we found in Sweden & Norway. It was a bit surprising as it is completely different in the alps, where you have at least a basic shelter for emergencies. In Abisko was even the emergency phone mounted in a place that wouldn’t give shelter to more than 1 standing person, quite useless in an emergency.
After around 15km we found a nice place at the lake with huts from Sami I guess. We made a little fire, had spaghetti and wine from Georg’s girlfriend and simply camped without a tent. The nights could become cold and in summer there are more mosquitos than anything else, we had a mild night with no mosquitos! Pitching a tent in the national park is only allowed in marked areas.
Our daily average was supposed to be between 25-30 km and with our later condition we definitely could have easily done it, but we usually hiked 20-25 km in the first days as far as I remember, also because of the weather. While the first day was perfect for hiking on the second day it started to rain a bit and we didn’t find a spot with wind shelter – the first test for my tent. We already left the national park in the morning and were able to camp everywhere now.
Day no#3 was one of the worst throughout the whole trip, we had snow and strong head winds, shooting the frozen snow directly in the face. Apparently we were the only idiots who decided to walk that pass apart from one person whose footsteps where visible in the snow from time to time, but in different directions and we couldn’t tell if they were really old or just a few hours old. The mountains in that area are not high and the climb was really flat. Considering the weather we thought of staying in a cabin for a night on the Norwegian side, it didn’t matter if they are super expensive, we didn’t know if we could find a better place during “day”. But you should know: the cabins are all closed up during pre-season and offer no room at all. We heard about it, but didn’t really believe that there would be no open chamber or similar, there was nothing! So we kept hiking without really knowing if we find a place to pitch the tent – the map showed the path as swamp-land. It was swamp-land, including rivers to cross. And this time there were no bridges or anything, just some randomly placed stones that we had to conquer.
The end of the day was surprising though, after some more hours of hiking we reached a dam by the Norwegian water power company “StatKraft” and there was a holiday cabin by StatKraft as well which wasn’t open, but the entrance area had a huge wind shelter where we managed to pitch the tent. The surprise was that after I made some jokes about having Wi-Fi everywhere we actually had free Wi-Fi in front of the entrance. We were able to send some useless messages and more importantly check the weather forecast – back then we still believed in reliable forecasts.
Nobody was interested in us, I guess that nobody noticed our stay in the cabin after all. We met the first people at the end of the next day’s hike down the pass towards Skjomenfjord (gesprochen: Schomenfjor(d)). They are apparently building more water power stations and extend the infrastructure in the valley till 2018. Those where the first people that we met since we left the train – we didn’t spoke a word with them.
Our camping spot for the night was a properly equipped fishing-spot. We didn’t fish due to a lack of gear and good that we didn’t because the river is protected fresh-water and especially restricted from June to August, while the salmon is coming home (to die). After a couple of kilometers, the snow changed to rain and when we arrived at the place we were soaked by water from the past two days.
Skjomenfjord was amazing, an exceptional landscape with glaciers at an altitude of slightly over 1000m. But the view was one thing, the missing trails/paths/sidewalks another. In Skjomenfjord we realized that hiking down to the Lofoten isn’t something you enjoy when there are only major roads (they call it highway) and not even sidewalks next to it.
Hitch hiking was our best option for the trip south to the Lofoten, a cluster of islands close to the mainland. The islands are famous for their ruff and dramatic mountains reaching down to little fjords and the sea.
Before we arrived on the actual Lofoten there are the Ofoten further north – and we heard different storys about where they begin&end. The Ofoten have characteristic mountains as well and they are actually higher than the ones on the Lofoten, but the area is less known to tourists and there are mostly caravaning people stopping here as the Lofoten are quite easy to cover in a week, when you sit in one of these white ships.
We found fishing rods in an abondoned camping wagon and tested our luck in a Efjorden. The results where two cod within 15 minutes that we tried to grill on the fire which led us to buy aluminium foil the next day 😉
The weather on the Ofoten wasn’t the best, there are no pictures of our arrival in Lödingen and the horrible hike to the other side of the island. We finally realized that Norwegian maps aren’t really reliable. And here we started to go on shorter trips and hitch hike the rest. One of our main targets on the Lofoten was a bikers shelter at Grunnfjord. If you’re interested in the project you can read about it on the architects homepage here.
Kvalvika is one of the well known and most visited beaches on the Lofoten. It got another push in the last years after two norwegian surfers decided to stay on the beach for the winter. They made a documentary about it which toured with the EOFT-Festival all over Europe. We had a beautiful “midsommar” there. It wasn’t the real Midsommar and apparently nobody celebrates it really in Norway anyway, but it was the 20th to the 21st – the longest day of the year – another day without night.
The following picture is the only picture of the rainiest day on our trip. Everything was wet and we had to cancel our plan to hike another mountain on this trail. The weather was supposed to stay bad, but eventually it became better for a while in between, simply super unstable.
After leaving the Lofoten, Georg left from Trondheim by plane and I took the train back to Umeå. In Trondheim we got hosted by Cathy where I stayed the last time I was in Trondheim as well. She was a wonderful host and thanks a lot again! The student village she lives was quite empty this time and only the core people were hanging around. As there where no people we could dumpster dive quite well and even found 3 beer that where expired for a reason, but still drinkable. We had our first proper food after using the camping stove for nearly three weeks.