Monday, 8 October 2018

Northern Europe: Southern Kungsleden 2

Orange trail marker in a confusing boulder field
So far I had been following the European long-distance trail E1 which continues all the way to the North Cape. But around Grövelsjön the E1 veers into Norway, whereas I stayed on the Southern Kungsleden for two reasons: Sweden is a lot cheaper than Norway and because the Kungsleden is still a relatively popular trail it is well maintained and has a good infrastructure. But coming out of Grövelsjön I first had to master a very rocky stretch full of large boulder fields. I was so happy about my new trekking poles because balancing over and around these huge rocks without them would have been even more stressful.

Two British paddlers in the Rogen lake area
Weather was still not great and therefore I was shooting for one of the wind shelters for my first night after Grövelsjön. But when I arrived there late in the evening camp fire smoke indicated me even from far away that the shelter had already been taken. My first indignation changed to enthusiasm when I met the people in the shelter: two young British doctors who were out for a two week long paddling trip! Over several cups of tea in the evening and morning we traded "war stories" of emergency rooms and outdoor adventures. Alas, as doctors they were not overly impressed by my dog bite! They had seen much worse in their short professional career and I was told to be thankful that I had not been bitten by a human. Human bites, for example in pub brawls are much more widespread than I had thought and are a lot more dangerous than dog bites ...

My cold weather sleeping attire
Now the weather changed for the worse. High winds and a temperature drop down to freezing end of June made me hike alternate routes in the valley instead of high up in the exposed mountains. Because of the wind I set up my tent inside shelters and I put on all my clothes at night. Still, I wondered how I would survive all this if the weather did not improve ... Luckily this turned out to be the only really bad spell of weather during this 4 months long hike!
Unfortunately, from now on I could no longer rely on the huts and shelters along the trail. Hiking season had started by now and the Northern part of the Southern Kungsleden is far more popular than the Northern end. I met several hikers per day and when I arrived at a rest shelter in the evening on a really windy and rainy day it was already taken by a German couple.

Bad luck - but this incident made me realise that I had to change my camping strategy. Instead of heading for the numerous shelters from now on I tried to end the day at a sheltered and low lying area suitable for camping. I became a specialist for finding sheltered sites even in the most impossible areas. For example on this evening I grumpily hiked on in the wind and rain and found this wonderful campsite next to a little stream which was cut into the landscape and provided perfect shelter from the wind. Despite the rather soggy ground I slept like a baby ...

Blahammaren Fjell Station in the fog

Along the Southern Kungsleden there are also several mountain stations. Although very comfortable they were way too expensive for me on the long run! Still I was very glad they existed because they are all equipped with a cell phone tower and free wifi ....
Despite the bad weather I enjoyed the Southern Kungsleden - are at least what I saw through the fog ... I can especially recommend it for novice hikers because the trail is well marked, there are plenty of shelters and huts along it and it is not as overrun as its more popular Northern counterpart. There are bridges over most rivers and board walks in the swamps so it is technically not too difficult - a very nice introduction to hiking in Scandinavia.

Summer bridge on the Kungsleden
This section ended in Storlien, the terminus of the Southern Kungsleden - and for me with a big shock! I had ordered a new GPS from Amazon with delivery at the post office in the big supermarket in Storlien, but when I got there there was no package waiting for me. On the contrary, the post master told me that this office does not accept general deliveries at all .... He also couldn't tell me where my package had gone instead! This was a huge problem for me: The Kungsleden had been marked very well so I hadn't really had to use a GPS but next was a difficult section on the Norwegian side. I still had my smartphone as a back up for navigation but I really needed a new GPS now.

Nidaros cathedral in Trondheim
I took the train to Trondheim in Norway where I checked into the youth hostel and immediately started research on outdoor shops. Downtown outdoor stores did not stock GPS devices but finally I found one in a big sports chain store in the suburbs. I nearly kissed the sales guy when he handed me the new GPS and it worked with my micro SD card containing all the maps and tracks for this hike! After I had solved this problem I had a relaxing stay in sunny, but expensive Trondheim and even treated myself to an AYCE sushi buffet. And of course I visited the world famous Nidaros cathedral! You have to pay to get in - except when you are pilgrim!

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