In July we went trail running on Kungsleden, from Vakkotavaara to Nikkaluokta. A distance of 78 km. We spent five days on the trail, mostly in heavy rain and strong winds. But even if the weather wasn’t all too good, I came home with a feeling of calm and happiness. As I always do when out in the mountains. The fact that we couldn’t run the full distance as planned didn’t make me disappointed at all. That’s just the way it is in the mountains. Unpredictable. You should make up a good plan, but then be prepared that the weather can change dramatically and you’ll have to reconsider.
The days before we left, the weather reports promised rain, rain and lots of rain. But as the weather can change for the worse, it can also change for the better. So off we went on a Tuesday morning, with warm summer air filling our lungs and hearts with hope. The bus trip from Gällivare to Vakkotavare takes about 3 hours including a 30-minute stop in Stora Sjöfallet.
The closer we came to the mountains, the more our spirits rose. When we jumped off the bus in Vakkotavare we felt like we could conquer the world, and that the sun would shine as we did it.
We arrived to Vakkotavare around noon and made the last preparations (ie. Peeing, throwing away lunch leftovers, drinking water etc) before we started walking up the steep hill on the King’s Trail towards Teusajaure. We walked happily in sunshine for another 2 hours before the sunshine gave way for clouds and rain.
There was still a lot of snow up on the mountain between Vakkotavare and Teusajaure. And lots of snow that has just started to melt equals plenty of water on the trails. Unfortunately the two combined did not create great conditions for running. We walked almost the full first 10 km. Then we ran a couple of kilometers before the wet and slippery downhill towards Teusajaure begun and we had to walk again. Since we weren’t in a rush, we rather walked than risked falling and getting hurt.
When we reached the lake we had to wait for the two couples before us to return with one boat. Lucky for us, the man who came back with the boat offered to take us with him so we didn’t have to row – not even once. When we came to the cabin at Teusajaure we bought dinner at the small shop, this first day called for meatballs and mashed potatoes.
Since we only had small, 8 and 12 liter backpacks, we had to plan our food carefully. We bought all of our dinners, except one, in the small shops in the mountain huts. With us we had breakfast, lunch, snacks and one dinner (for Singi where there is no shop). We refilled our snack and breakfast-supply in Kaitumjaure, apart from that we didn’t feel like we had forgotten or brought too little of anything.
Actually, not a single time on the road did we feel like we had forgotten anything, or that we should have had something more with us. What we had in our small backpacks was just enough. And then we had to hike in heavy rain and strong winds – still there was nothing missing. My bag only weighed 4 kilos, not 20 as I have been hiking with before. Reality check.
Once we had dinner that first night we took a nice and warm sauna before going to sleep. I fell asleep in about half a second and didn’t wake up until 12 hours later.. (!)
We had decided to run between the cabins each day, even though some distances were short and wouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. Both my cousin and me like to really enjoy nature – so having time to stop, sleep and enjoy was important. The second day we only had 10 km to go so we left the cabin around lunch and reached Kaitumjaure around half past three. This distance was easy to run – not so much stones on the trail and no rain.
The most common question I have gotten before and after we went on this adventure is “What race are you running?” Today trail running races are getting more and more common and we have learned to compare minutes, distances and performance. Doing something only for fun and enjoyment seems further away to people than doing it for competition. I’m telling you – we should do more of these things just for fun. I love the feeling of being out there because of no other reason than that I want to.
KAITUMJAURE. Let’s talk about Kaitumjaure. The most beautiful mountain hut I have been to so far. Located on a hill overlooking the river. The warden at the mountain hut was so kind and caring, asked where we were going and how it went. Asked all the people who came to buy food where they were heading next and how prepared they were for the bad weather. One woman from Germany decided to stay another day at the hut after consulting with the warden. If you’re not used to the mountains, it’s a good decision to take when the weather is getting worse.
It’s about 13 km from Kaitumjaure to Singi. We partly walked and partly ran the whole distance without stopping. It was windy and raining heavily, about an hour after we left Kaitumjaure we were completely wet. We just inhaled some raisins and nuts on the way and didn’t stop, apart from a couple of pictures, until we came to Singi.
Even though our backpacks were small, we both had first aid kits and other things that are good to have if you fall or in any other way end up in an emergency. In Sweden we see an increase in rescues made by the Mountain Rescue teams, and they are expensive. Many of the rescues wouldn’t happen if people were prepared for the worst and knew what to do if things get tough.
You should always be prepared for the worst when you’re out in the mountains. We didn’t need any medical supplies, except for a few plasters, but I would never have left without it. Because you never know when you might need it or what might happen when you’re out there. And if you get hurt, help might be hours away.
On day four we left Singi for Kebnekaise in rain and did the same as the day before, walked the whole distance almost without stopping. Walked, because the trail was so slippery and wet that we didn’t want to risk falling. Also, this distance is covered in sharp stones that force you to focus like crazy on where you put your feet, even when walking.
The small jokks that are usually easy to jump or walk over, without getting wet, had all grown into big rivers. Or at least that’s what it felt like. After the first two we didn’t even care about trying to choose the best way over, we just walked straight through them.
At one part we accidentally ended up on the winter trail and walked for about 20 minutes in a swamp, with water up above our ankles. After that I had to run and jump like a crazy person – just to get my feet back into this universe. They were so cold I couldn’t feel them at all, it was like walking on stones attached to my legs. Once we reached Kebnekaise and the mountain station, we were drenched and we headed right for the shower and a sauna. This last distance of 13 km took us about 4 hours.
It was packed at the mountain station. Because of the heavy rain, people tried to dry clothes, tents and gear everywhere. Just as we sat down for our three-course dinner, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We enjoyed the amazing food and went to bed early. Then we got up at 5.30 am and ended our trail running adventure in sunshine.
The last 19 km from Kebnekaise to Nikkaluokta went by so fast I hardly took any pictures and didn’t film a single thing. We took the boat over Láddjujávri and then ran the last 5 km to Nikkaluokta, all in sunshine.
Even if these five days in the mountains consisted mostly of rain and strong winds, we managed to stay positive all the way through. There is something about being up in the mountains, far away from your everyday life and totally out of reach, that makes you see life in a new perspective.
I think it might be feeling so small compared to the enormous power of nature around you. It could be the way you focus your energy on one thing and one thing only. Or it’s the monotone movement, putting one foot in front of the other, for hours and hours. Or maybe it’s the fact that you are following a plan you made, reaching a new destination every day. A feeling of completion, empowerment, accomplishment and happiness as you manage to do what you set out to.
No matter what it is, I know I will do this again and again. Running from cabin to cabin, buying food along the way, gets a little more expensive than bringing a tent. But it’s nice as a change to walk with light feet and a light backpack. Even though we walked large parts, I felt like I was flying. And as we sat on the bus back home we already started planning for our next adventure! I had suddenly forgotten all the cold hours, the drenched clothes, frozen feet and sideways rain.
All I could remember when we got home was the sunshine in my face and all the laughters we had along the way. That’s what sticks!