Sunday, 10 August 2014

Reflecting on my walk from Kebnekaise Fjällstation to Nikkaluokta

I am back from what has been perhaps, my most enjoyable trip above the arctic circle. Over the coming weeks I will write up the trip, sift through the photos and of course provide comments on gear usage. For those that cannot wait all the gear performed as expected..

Sinncohkka and Duolbagoml-imp

For now I will provide a some what light hearted commentary on my observations as I walked from Kebnekaise Fjallstation  to Nikkaluokta. 

Some preliminary information about the trail, depending on which sign you read, the distance between Kebnekaise Fjällstation and Nikkaluokta is about 18 kms. The trail is undulating one and is at least a metre wide with many boarded sections over rocks and watercourses. Where there maybe mud or rockier sections many sidetracks have been established by walkers.  With this context in mind I offer my views on the gear required to complete such a walk, these views are gleaned from the hikers passing me as they headed to the Fjällstation whilst I headed in the opposite direction to Nikkaluokta.

Gear you need
For such an arduous journey there appears to be items of gear that are necessary for the trip, the items are listed below and are not necessarily in any particular order.

Leather boots given the challenging nature of the trail, leather boots are compulsory, and ideally go up to well above the ankle (Medium High). The benefit of wearing such boots is clear they will keep your feet dry as well as protecting you from the snakes that roam the area. 

Bush knife ideally with a blade of not less than 20cm. The knife can be used to further widen the trail and may even be useful in obtaining a campsite near the Fjällstation. Furthermore if you do not have a tent then maybe you will be able to persuade someone to lend theirs to you for the night (you would of course allow the owner to use the tent during the day) 

Small hand axe, has similar applications as the bush knife, as well it could be used to bash tent pegs into the ground (if you have a tent) or it can be used to clear a new path altogether and if you are desperate you can turn the boards on the boardwalks into wood chips.  

Teapot every group needs a teapot, preferably a silver one. But please make sure it hangs on the outside of your pack so we know how big it is. 

Flip flops (sandals) if you are going to pack sandals make sure they are a bright red it makes them easier to see. 

Fluro colors bright green and pink are "in" ensure that you wear as brighter coloured shirt as possible and have as many brightly colored water bottles attached to your pack to ward of dehydration.

Sleeping yes you may want to sleep, it appears that you should have the thickest foam mat you can find then have it loosely tied to your pack so that it floats along the trail with you. 

Too much gear?, never fear, find 2 backpackers and ask them to carry a large duffel bag between them, the trail is wide enough to them to hike 2 abreast with a duffel bag in between. Of course you could just book the helicopter from Nikkaluokta if required.

Please always carry your mobile phone in your hand so that you will never miss a message on Facebook. Who knows you may even read that you have climbed Kebnaikaise while you were texting. Jonas?

There are those who prefer iPad’s (or equivalent), perfect, carry one in your hands and you can take movies as you cross the bouncing suspension bridge. If the trail is a little monotonous you can always put on a movie to watch as you stumble along the trail. 
And don't forget to walk with earplugs as it helps you to focus on the trail without having to hear any of those strange sounds such as birds, waterfalls, as well as complaints from fellow hikers. Indeed you can ignore them all together.

People you meet
There will many people you will meet along he trail and some of the ones that stand out in my mind are as follows.
The Men In Black (MIB) yes they were there, MIB1 wore black running tights black T-shirt, sunglasses and used a black Haglöfs pack cover (in brilliant sunshine). MIB2 wore black shorts, black T-shirt, sunglasses and used a black Haglöfs rain cover (in brilliant sunshine) they both used hiking poles. The MIB passed me as I stopped to look at the view, however, I soon met them again when they had both stopped for a “communal pee", interesting I thought, which was quickly followed by wondering what else they did together. I did not stop to ask. 
Man from Vienna. This gentleman has reached the pinnacle of lightweight walking and would even challenge Jörgen. I noticed as he approached he was carrying an umbrella and wearing a small daypack with a sleeping bag attached to the outside. He asked me how long it was to the Fjällstation station and I indicated 2 hours. After which he asked realistically how long would it take to climb Kebnekaise and I suggested about 10 hour round trip. He then asked about accommodation at the hotel and I indicated it was fully booked especially with the Fjällräven Classic on. He said "but I don't have a tent what am I going to do?" It was at this point I decided it was time to say "enjoy the challenge" and walked on. Sometimes traveling XUL will provide challenges that will need to be overcome. I did wonder what happened to him but I suspect he did just fine. 
There were many young couples on the trail and often there was the tough strong male and the female looking equally tough but always wearing the shorter shorts complimented by a brighter colored top. One particular couple who attracted my attention, were the couple where the female clad in leather boots looked on sympathetically as the guy patched the blisters on both feet. By the way he was wearing trail shoes and I have no doubt if he had worn leather boots he would have been fine ;)
Taking your mother (or father) whilst your mother may be an unwilling accomplice in your adventure, when it comes to steep climbs she may even decline to climb,  but never fear you can always “push” her up the hill by placing your hands on her backside. 

Final Thoughts
The above comments are my interpretations of people, items and events that I witnessed along the trail. They may of course bear no resemblance to the truth but I hope you have enjoyed this tale 
Above all else it should be recognized that each person I passed was out there hiking, they were in the outdoors and all carried a backpack. Seeing all these people of all ages I find it difficult to accept that backpacking is dying, as suggested by some authors. As a consequence I wonder if the decline in backpacking in some communities is a culturally dependent phenomenon. 
In closing I will introduce you to a friend I met along the banks of Cievrragorsa.