Abisko-Kebnekaise

Sweden
2-10 of April 2010

Together with Sara, Lena (Sara's mother), uncle Ingmar, Soren and Bekker. Skiing from Abisko national park to Nikkaluokta, climbing the highest peak of Sweden (Kebnekaise, 2104 m) and enjoying "northern lights" several nights. Another highlight was meeting Lasse Sarri, one of the most fascinating persons I have ever met :)


 

Day 1: Abisko - Abiskojaure

We left the train at the Abisko Turist station, rented skis for Bekker and then started skiing.

 

Very warm and sunny!

 
 

 

 
 

A "permanent tipi" where the natives (sami people) spend the night sometimes

 
 

Northern lights during the night.

 

Day 2: Abiskojaure - Alesjaure

 

Near the Kieron hut

 
 

The mountains are getting higher and sharper

 
 

Crossing the Alesjaure lake

 
 

A herd of reindeer

 
 

The reindeer reaching a tiny sami village (notice the tipis between the houses)

 
 

Our sauna, overlooking the lake

 
 

Northern lights again!

 


Day 3: Alesjaure - Sälka


 

Crossing a frozen stream

 
 

Lena looking into the valley that we will go through

 
 

Northern lights again!

 
 

Northern lights

 
 

Day 4: Sälka - Singi

 

This day was short, only 12 km, to save energy for tomorrow's big climb.

 
 

It was a warm and sunny day, perfect for plenty of relaxing breaks.

 
 

Sören & Bekker looking at the backside of the Kebnekaise mountain.
From this side you can see how steep the mountain is...
The flat snowy area below the peak is the Rabot glacier.

 
 

The peaks in these mountains have so much character.

 
 
 
 
 

A lemming that was quite dead...

 
 

Typical interior of the huts in the Swedish mountains.
There is one hut for the staff, and a few small huts for the tourists.
Inside each hut there is a gas stove, a table and some bunk beds.
You have to chop firewood and fire up the oven yourself.
Water is fetched from the river with a bucket.
Most huts have a small shop selling food and basic equipment.
There is also a drying room and - most importantly - a sauna.

 

 

The Singi hut right after sunset

 

 

The toilet

 

 

The northern lights this night were just amazing.
And luckily I managed to figure out the settings of my camera to take some decent photos of it!

 

 
 

 

 

Growing and moving around...

 
 

...until it covered the whole sky!

 

 

Constantly changing into different shapes

 
 
 
 
 

A ribbon that crosses the whole sky...

 
 

...that suddenly bends...

 
 

...and twists...

 
 

One of the most amazing sights I've ever had!

Coming back we read in the newspaper that the sun activity during this week had increased dramatically after a long time of inactivity:
Newspaper article - so we were very lucky! :)

 
 

Day 5: Singi - Kebnekaise peak - Singi

The goal this day was to climb the highest mountain of Sweden. It's called Kebnekaise and its peak is a small glacier, shaped like a narrow pyramid. When I went to school I was tought that the peak was 2111 m high, but since then the glacier has melted some, and today it is estimated to be 2104 meters high.

Climbing the peak from the Singi hut is about 1400 meters altitude gain and 13.7 km one way according to my GPS. We would do the first 700 meters by ski, then the last (and most steep) 700 meters by foot.

 

Waking up we saw the first cloudy sky of the trip. Bad luck! But towards Kebnekaise it looks like a small portion of blue sky, so let's give it a try!

 
 
The Kebnekaise crew. Lena had climbed this peak several times before so she stayed in Singi, making a day tour there (on that tour she saw wolverine tracks).
 
 

The weather switched between sunny and foggy.

 

 

Reindeer walking on the slopes

 

 

After climbing 700 meters of altitude on skis, it was time to leave them and continue by foot. Now the sun was shining and all the clouds had disappeared or moved down into the valleys below. Perfect!

 

 

A 700 meters steep ascent by foot in deep snow. Luckily the snow was quite firm and our feet didn't sink very often.

 

 

This is the actual peak. It's very weird and looks almost artificial. From this side it looks very inviting, but sitting on the tiny top of the peak is very scary, since it drops vertically on two sides!

 
 

View from the peak

 
 

PANORAMA

Click the image to view a panorama from the peak.
To the right you se a bit of the small ridge that leads to the "north peak".
Lasse Sarri (see the bottom of this page) went by ski on this ridge back in 1935 at the age of 12! He was probably the first person ever to do this.

 
 

PANORAMA

Click the image to view a panorama from the peak.
In the middle the narrow ridge to the north peak, and to the right a large glacier.

 

Me and Sara on the peak.
You can't fit more than two people at the same time up there...

 

 

Walking down again, with enldless views.
This view is to the south, and the mountains in the distance to the left is the Sarek massif.

 

 

Continuing down, we were surprised how far we had actually walked.

 
 

The last 700 meters of descent was an hour long easy downhill skiing - pure joy!

 
 
 
 
 

Husky sleigh dogs outside our window.

There were some impressive northern lights this night as well, but I was too tired to bring out the camera...

 

 

Day 6: Singi - Kebnekaise Fjällstation

 

This day was cloudy, windy and a bit cold. After 5 days of sun it was actually nice with some harsher weather. Now we got to test our equipment and gain some useful experience for future trips :)

 

 

Having lunch behind a rock to avoid the wind.

 

 

Day 7: Kebnekaise Fjällstation - Nikkaluokta

The last day of skiing was another sunny warm day.
Very relaxing with plenty of breaks.

 

The mountian just to the right above my head is called Tolpagorni. It is situated next to Kebnekaise. Tolpagorni is the actual Kebnekaise, accordning to the sami people.
The word "Kebnekaise" means "the kettle mountain" in the sami language, and as you can see the top of Tolpagorni is a crater, hence shaped as a kettle. Swedish geographers mixed up the names of the mountains... the true original name of the peak we call Kebnekaise is uncertain. I will ask Lasse Sarri the next time I meet him.

 

 

Skiing on top of a river is not without its dangers...

 
 

In the evening we visited Lasse Sarri, a friend of Lena for 40 years.
Lasse is a native sami, belonging to the last generation who experienced the old ways of living. He is a living legend :)

As if it wasn't interesting enough that Lasse experienced the old sami culture and knows everything about the nature in the area, his life is full of amazing experiences and writing a book about his life would take a lifetime to write... :)

 

Day 8: Nikkaluokta

This day we spent mostly with Lasse, listening to his stories.

 
He told us about his efforts during WW2. As a sami he knew the Scandinavian mountains better than any military. He worked as a spy and pathfinder to help the allied soldiers to sabotage German objects on the Norwegian coast. Those of you who saw the Kirk Douglas film The Heroes of Telemark are familiar with the story. However, the true story was quite different from the film. The involvement of the sami was a secret and for 50 years he was not allowed to speak about it.
 
 

Here Lasse is out showing us animal tracks and teaching us how to see the difference between some different animals and genders.

 

When we were leaving he came to say goodbye. To show us his appreciation (especially for Lena and Sara!) he had dressed up in the traditional sami costume, worn only at ceremonial and important occations. We felt very honoured and were deeply touched by this.
Also, I must say, the coustume is very cool and decorative, and it definately beats the suit & tie of the modern society!

 

 

When the Dalai Lama visited Nikkaluokta, he and Lasse blessed this stone. The south part of the stone (visible on the photo) contains the holiness they applied to it. Did I not mention that Lasse had met the Dalai Lama? This guy never ceases to surprise!

 
 

Sara and Lasse.

 

See you again next time, Lasse!