Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Northern Europe: Kungsleden conclusion

I had chosen to hike the Kungsleden instead of the E1 mainly because I thought it would be easier - and because I wanted to see why it attracts so many people. I honestly did not expect to like it!
In hindsight I must say that my expectations were met - but to my big surprise I liked the trail nevertheless.
Hiking was indeed very easy! I didn't have wet feet because all boggy sections have boardwalks. All major stream crossings have bridges, scheduled motor boats run over the lakes and the trail marking is perfect. You wouldn't even need trail markers because you just have to follow the masses. Still I saw many Kungsleden hikers with PBL's ....

Most hikers I encountered where traditional "heavy weight" hikers - although not everyone carried as much staff as the guy in the picture. Still heavy boots were a common sight and every other hiker seemed to wear a Fjällräven G1000 trousers. Hilleberg tents were everywhere. But due to the perfect infrastructure you really don't need all this. I felt very comfortable with my ultralight backpack and trailrunning shoes - although most people told me that my gear was inadequate... But I carried all my food because I did not want to resupply in the expensive mountain stations whereas most people just do that.

Boat crossing to Kvikkjock
What most Kungsleden hikers do not talk about are the enormous costs. First of all you have to get to the Kungsleden which is time consuming and expensive. Then you have to pay for all the motorboat crossing which cost up to 35 EUR per ride!!!! Altogether you have to pay almost 200 EUR for all the boat crossings....
As nice as the huts are they are expensive - and you even have to pay a fee if you camp close to the hut. Because everything has to be brought in by helicopter of snow scooter I think these prices are justified - but I still did not want to pay them. On the plus side many hikers carry too much food and leave it in the huts. There was always rice, maccaroni and plenty of half empty gas canisters in the "free food" shelves.

Overused campsite
 And there is no way around it - this is a very crowded trail with all the negative side effects. Camp sites with old fire rings are everywhere and the vegetation has suffered tremendously from overuse. It is difficult to get any wilderness feeling if you see hundred hikers every day ... You can avoid the masses a bit by hiking northbound because the vast majority hikes southbound. Due to the boat schedule you will then meet people only in "waves". I wonder if the authorities are considering to install a permit system to regulate the masses.
But still the spectacular scenery compensates for a lot. This is your typical picturebook Scandinavian landscape and even I had plenty of "wow" moments. I can see that this is a very attractive trail for trekking beginners - IF you can afford it.
I am glad I hiked it and I have enjoyed it - but I would definitely not hike it again. For beginners this is great but more experienced hikers are better off on the Nordkalottleden which was next on my route.




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