Ingvar Loco Nordin & Anna Nygren
Lisa's Helmet Hike
(Mårma - Three Pass Trail 2011)

Anna arrives at the train in Boden

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Chapter 2

Yellow line shows the distance covered in chapter 2, up to the first break on the first hiking day, while yellow and red lines combined show the total hiking distance of the day.

1 August 2011.

At about 7 AM the train pulled in to the Nortbothnian town of Boden and screeched to a halt. I leaned out a window and saw Anna approaching up the platform along the train, and I shot a series of pictures of her carrying her backpack, until we were reunited after more than a month of physical separation. It was wonderful to be together again, and as passengers departed the train in Kiruna, we had a compartment all to ourselves the last part of the trip up to Abisko.

The Ekelöf-quoting father and his young sons

When we got off in Abisko, we immediately set out on the trail – The King’s Trail (Kungsleden) – in solid, stable high-pressure weather. On and off we saw the timid father and his sons. They planned to hike to Kårsavagge (Gorsavággi) Valley via Abiskojaure. It was the premier hike for the teenagers, but the Ekelöf-quoting father had old experiences. Those apparently did not include mountain mist, though, because he had committed the deadly hiker sin of not bringing a compass!

When I stepped down to the Abiskojåkka (Ábeskoeatnu) Canyon to fill my water flask, I also photographed some interesting and beautiful patterns in the flat bedrock by the rushing waters. Lapland hikes contain numerous discoveries of opposite magnitudes, from seemingly unending sceneries across valleys and snowcapped mountains with hanging glaciers, to tiny, almost imperceptible flowers in all but nutrition-less cracks. Anna photographed me stooping wildly by the rushing current, photographing the rock face patterns.

The author photographing rock patterns

(photo: anna nygren)

The King’s Trail is the most common Lapland trail, very secure, with regular huts where you can stay, cook your food and sleep in a bunk with lots of other folks doing the same thing, and all huts also have a host from STF, The Swedish Tourist Organization, and an emergency radio link connection, plus a helicopter pad right by. This means that The King’s Trail is pretty crowded during the summer hiking season (July – September) and the winter skiing season (March – May), with a mixture of beginners and old folks that have decided on a relaxed hike thorough some of the most beautiful landscapes found in Sweden. The most common part of The King’s Trail runs from Abisko in the very north, down south via the huts AbiskojaureAlesjaureTjäktjaSälka and Singi, where most people diverge from The King’s Trail and conclude their hike with a dinner at The Kebnekaise Mountain Station, from where cheap helicopter bail-out to Nikkaluokta Village, where the road starts, is available. This most common section is called The Dag Hammarskjöld Trail, after the late Swedish General Secretary of The United Nations, who hiked these parts regularly, and also wrote a poetic and philosophical book with Lapland references, called Markings (Vägmärken). Some quotes from this book are engraved on rocks placed at so-called meditation spots along the trail.

One of the rock patterns by the rapids near Abisko

This nature of The King’s Trail makes the more experienced hiker a bit weary -(though it is well-suited for beginners!) - so most seasoned hikers trail off The King’s Trail into less traveled, more remote sections of Swedish Lapland, which is crisscrossed with rock desert valleys and high, glacier-shrouded mountains with steep passes, enough for a lifetime of discovery. In most parts there is no cell phone connection, so if you don’t carry a satellite phone, you are left to your own judgment, if accident strikes. This, however, is part of the experience, since a total cut-off from society hardly otherwise ever happens in this orderly land, and therefore can be seen as a valuable add-on to our role as human beings on the planet. A special feeling is bestowed on you as you realize that not even one single mistake is allowed when you tread endless fields of rocks, because if you break an ankle, for example, you are stuck, and there is no telling when anyone is going to discover you, and the nature of the weather might be the one factor that decides whether you survive or perish. Of course, this is a clear indication that you should not go into these less traveled parts of Lapland all alone. If you hike with a companion, it might still take him or her a couple of days to reach a hut with an emergency phone to call the mountain rescue. However, with this as a backdrop for your hike, you value the beauty of the land and the wild desolation all the more. It’s like reaching a long-lost condition of life, which, even though it is true also for the most urbanized fellow citizen of the world, is obscured and hidden in the modern world. This makes a good hike prime therapy for civilized man.

We stayed no longer than 5 necessary kilometers along The King’s Trail. That’s where an adjacent path diverts up to the left through the birch brush, zigzagging up the ascent. The day was warm; the sun was beating, so it became a sweaty endeavor. 3 kilometers up this trail we rose above the timberline and reached a place called The Tent Camp (Tältlägret). This used to be a place where people on short excursions from Abisko would go and camp the night in the 1940s, but these days it’s simply a fitting place for having a break and a meal, before continuing up in The Ballinvággi Valley, or, for that matter, camp on level ground near the canyon with the fresh, rushing waters of Ballinjohka. Of course, one decisive pre-requisite for these Lapland hikes is the pristine, clean, mineral-rich waters in all the streams, which liberates you from he heavy burden of carrying your drinking water. You just fill up a flask so that it will last you till the next stream. The only water you should refrain from in Lapland is non-flowing water and the water that comes directly from glaciers and show a grayish hue of too much sediment. Faucet water will taste lousy to you after a mountain hike!

Ingvar Loco Nordin

(photo: anna nygren)

Only last year – 2010 – the old but well-kept cot was still in place, with its photograph of the Swedish king visiting, but when Anna and I arrived, it was leveled, apparently by fire.


To chapter 3