What better way to spend a Sunday morning than waking up in the great outdoors! (Well we think so anyway, especially when you are lucky enough to have great weather and impressive views, whilst being able to share it with good company!) Today’s hike along the Kungsleden, although arduous at times, was one of those really memorable days on the trail, predominantly as the route north took us past several scenic lakes that gave us the opportunity to capture some stunning reflection shots.
The grandeur, colours, and patterns offered by nature can be breathtaking, and for us, there is nothing better than the essence of this reflecting upon a serene lake. Whether it be snow-capped peaks, a vivid sunset, moody skies or vibrant foliage, using reflections in photography can lead to some amazing effects and beautiful images and as such, the environment and physical features of the Kungsleden today did not disappoint. On feasting our eyes upon the panorama below, there is no better way to describe it than the gentle, simplicity of what lay before us simply took our breath away!
Taking time out to enjoy magnificent reflections on the Kungsleden. What a wonderful moment to behold!
Day 9 – Wild Camp next to Bartek River (Vuonatjviken +2.5km) to Wild Camp (near Tjaurakatan) (11.7 miles/ 18.9 km, 8 hours) – Sunday 21st August, 2016 – ‘The Wow Factor!’
Our choice of camp spot late last night proved successful as we awoke with the sun directly on our tent around 7am. As the day seemed particularly promising with lovely blue skies and the sun overhead, we decided to stay put for a while to ensure that the tent was fully dried out and really make the most of this beautiful spot next to the Bartek River. For once, the weather forecast had been pretty true to its word!
Excellent weather… Waking up to blue skies and a dry tent for once!
Nature at work. Cobwebs twinkle in the early morning dew.
Breaking camp at a more leisurely pace this morning to make the most of the beautiful surroundings.
View of the Bartek River we couldn’t see last night as we set up camp when it was almost dark.
Wayne prepares a typical camp breakfast…
On today’s menu: chicken soup with bread rolls and a cup of black tea.
When we set off after breakfast however, the ground was still sodden from the previous couple of day’s rain. So again on the trail we had to treat rocks with caution as they were still very slippery, so too was the mud, and careful navigation over several boggy sections was also needed. It was tiresome having to pay due care and attention to where we placed our feet, but having already slipped over, both of us lucky to get away with just scrapes and bruises, we knew every step we took could be potentially hazardous.
The river was swollen and fast flowing after a few days of heavy rain.
We enjoyed wonderful views but had to pay attention to our footing whilst crossing several waterlogged sections of the trail.
The blue sky lifted our mood and took our minds off our soggy boots.
Therefore we found the first 6km quite tough going, especially with the added weight of our packs and after pushing ourselves yesterday to reach the boat crossing by 5pm. This was compounded even more by having to go uphill whilst side-stepping around cumbersome roots and rocks. Yet this tiresome section of trail was instantly made more pleasurable by passing several large lakes that perfectly mirrored the sky above. With such wonderful cloud reflections we stopped instantly to take photographs and soak up the view.
The scene in front of us just looked like a ‘Windows’ screen saver image!
The raw beauty of the trail…
We enjoyed several ‘wow’ moments walking alongside the rivers and lakes on today’s segment of the Kungsleden.
Moody skies above are reflected in the calm waters below.
A while later, we paused by a little stream and enjoyed the views once more, then sat on the bridge to eat our lunch without the threat of mosquitoes or heavy rain. We enjoyed sandwiches filled with mackerel in tomato sauce – one of our favourite ‘camp rations’. Just as it became our mainstay on the GR20 last year, so too here on the Kungsleden we are eating a tin of mackerel a day as it is one of the cheapest food stuffs to buy in the supermarkets and mountain huts.
Heading north with a spring in our step as we enjoy a day of sunshine and warmer weather.
A rare sight… Apart from reindeer, we had not spotted much wildlife on the trail so far.
We found that we were never short of fresh drinking water as water sources are frequent along the trail.
Using the bridge as a ‘rest stop’ to sit and enjoy our lunch.
But all this stopping and starting made it seem like forever to hike up and out of the tree line today. It was worth it though for what we were treated to next! When we finally got up onto the open plateau we were wowed with extensive views of the surrounding mountains and lakes, autumnal colours of red and orange taking hold and sweeping through the ground cover as far as the eye could see. There were some reindeer grazing on the plain, whom we tried to film but they were very skittish and kept running away. Wayne took the opportunity to fly the drone in ‘follow me’ mode capturing various angles of us hiking across the plateau to show that we really were just a tiny speck crossing some vast wilderness.
The ground was still boggy in places but much better than earlier, so we managed to stride out and cover a good distance at a faster pace. We came across a hiking couple who were completing the ‘Green Ribbon Trail’ – remarkably for such a feat they were ultra lightweight with minimal gear, walking the distance in trail shoes. They had already been hiking for around 20 days and had given themselves 6 weeks to complete the trek from the point where Sweden, Norway and Finland meet in the north, to Grövelsjön in the southern Swedish mountains. Part of their journey brought them here along the Kungsleden.
Out of the treeline the trail was much drier and easier to navigate so we could stride out and set a good pace.
Making the most of better weather, Wayne flies the drone to capture some aerial footage of the trail.
The Kungsleden Trail from the air. Climbing out of the forest we hiked over the Barturtte plateau, which at just over 1000 metres offers a splendid view over the surrounding moorlands.
The colours of autumn begin to take hold.
Trailing over heather-covered moors, through dense birch forests, to fells covered in wild flowers, the Kungsleden showcases a range of lush and dense vegetation despite its harsh mountain climate.
Reaching the highest point of the day, which was well over 1000 metres, we commented that this was taller than any mountain in England! From this spot we could see one massive expanse of moorland rolling out ahead to a series of lakes, with a row of giant peaks dominating the skyline way off in the distance – the direction we’d be heading tomorrow. It was amazing to think that we were here in the middle of this arctic tundra with literally no one else for miles around!
Plants have been able to adapt over time to the harsh conditions. The change in season between summer and autumn brings a change of colour making it one of the best times to see the flora on the Kungsleden in all its glory.
We set off hiking downhill, heading for the little emergency shelter marked on our map. It had been recommended that we should aim to stay high on this section as we would find good camping spots along the river, either before or after the hut. We soon spotted the emergency shelter – this one truly rustic in the ancient Lappish style, with a little wooden door and roof made out of stones, moss and mud. Inside it was minimalist to say the least with just a fire pit in the centre, but we were in no doubt that the shelter would be a godsend in heavy rain or extreme cold.
Blending in with the Arctic tundra stands a traditional grass covered Lappish hut that can provide respite in the event of severe wind and rain.
Taking a look inside the shelter before continuing further along the trail.
As we neared the stream, but before we got to the bridge, we spotted an excellent pre-used campsite – complete with fire pit and wooden planks on stones already set up as seats. We still really had over a kilometre to go to reach where we had planned on camping, but as this spot looked so inviting and as it still had the sun on it, we decided to make the most of this wonderful spot and set up camp early. We erected the tent in no time, then both went on a mission to find some wood for the fire.
We were advised to start looking for a wild camp spot after passing the Lappish hut as there are several pre-existing campsites close to the various river channels that flow through this part of the valley.
Good weather and scenery keeps up momentum. We were thoroughly enjoying today’s walk.
We started looking for a place to camp, which was quite difficult as the ground was both rocky and covered in low scrub.
Boardwalks provided assistance over the rockiest areas.
We discovered a pre-used campsite on a flattish spot close to the river, complete with makeshift benches and fire ring.
Shot from the drone to show our wild camp location.
With regards to camp fires in Sweden, lighting fires is permitted under the Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten), but you must follow certain precautions to minimise damage and the risk of an uncontrolled fire. Many people do not think of Sweden as a hot country, but in fact during the summer, the forests and heathlands can become extremely dry and large forest fires are a very real danger. Therefore, if you intend on having a camp fire you must site your fire where there is no risk of it spreading and where the fire will not cause damage. You are permitted to gather fallen cones, twigs and branches for your fire, but you must not cut down trees or shrubs or remove twigs, branches or bark from living trees. As dead trees are extremely valuable habitats for wildlife, they must be left intact and not used for fuel.
The Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten) is an exceptional piece of legislation in Sweden. It allows much greater freedom and access to the outdoors than what we have experienced previously in any other country during our long distance hiking expeditions.
Collecting fallen branches and twigs to get the camp fire going.
Smoke from the camp fire generally kept any biting bugs at bay, but Wayne had extra protection with what he nicknamed his ‘bug hood’!
Wayne prepares a filling camp dinner of instant noodles, re-hydrated vegetables, and salami with spicy tomato sauce before the light fades.
We watched a beautiful sunset to end a very special day on the Kungsleden.
Whilst gathering fallen twigs, I noticed that the blueberries were now looking much bigger and had been ripening ready for harvest. I couldn’t wait to pick some more and eat them as an addition to muesli at breakfast time. It was a lovely sunset, one of the first we had really seen where the sky had a pink glow all around. But after the sun had disappeared it got cold quickly, so we soon escaped to the tent to get warm and enjoy some rest.
We also had to fully prepare ourselves for a 30km mammoth day tomorrow where we would be pushing on to Kvikkjokk, a small village situated in Jokkmokk Municipality, Norrbotten County, complete with an STF fjällstation with full amenities as it is considered the halfway point when hiking the entire Kungsleden. We were certainly looking forward to having a shower and washing some clothes after all this wild camping! We were also excited to discover what the rest of the Kungsleden had in store for us after such a wonderful day on the trail…