So, I finally went through all 4500 photos from Sweden and sat down behind my desk to write an article about what I had experienced at the polar circle about two weeks ago. Now, after writing just a few sentences, I already know that it’s gonna be the longest article so far. And if not this one, the next one will be:)
For those who didn’t read any of my previous articles, I’ll explain why I actually went to Sweden. I was invited by Fjällräven, which has been organizing these treks for the past several years. It started with Sweden and now it’s grown even to the US, Denmark or Hong Kong.
Well, it’s not just a trek! It is 110 km by foot through the Lapland wilderness and Abisko National Park, which can be generally done in about 4-6 days. We chose the middle option and tried to finish the trek in 5 days. It’s important to mention that the trek copies the famous Kungsleden (or King’s Trail), which is even longer, so we did just a part of it. I would say the best part of it! 🙂
We were a group of 14 girls – journalists and bloggers – from 7 different countries. I was the only one from the Czech Republic. The rest of the girls were from from Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Poland and France. It should also be noted that I was the youngest there! Everybody was around 35, however we had so many things in common, that I didn’t feel the age difference at all! The girls were just as crazy as me. Mostly hikers who are able to grab their backpacks and go to the Alps for a three-day trek. Alone. Just like that. At the same time, they were all fluent in English, so we didn’t shut up for a minute, haha:)
August 10th, at 10 am I was leaving Prague. Actually, it was a day after I came back from the Dolomites, so I just had time to do the laundry and I had to dry my clothes using a hair dryer because otherwise it wouldn’t be dry before it was loaded into the backpack. At midday, I got to Stockholm, where I met the rest of our crew for the first time. We all flew from Stockholm to the small town in the north of Sweden called Kiruna. Btw, Kiruna is about 200 km ABOVE the Arctic Circle. I’ve never been so high! I mean, even Iceland is under the arctic circle!
I was surprised that the temperature was not so low though. It could have been about 8-10°C, which is definitely warmer than everyone would expect. I was informed that this is due to the warm Gulf Stream, but in winter the temperatures usually get to -40°C. Ewwww! When I heard it, I got goosebumps, but on the other hand I would want to try it sometimes. Just for a few days though. I can’t imagine living in such a cold!
After arriving in Kiruna, a minibus took us to the Fjellborg Arctic Lodge just outside of Kiruna, where we were sleeping the first night. By the way, if you’re ever around this area, definitely book your accommodation here, this lodge was probably the most beautiful accommodation I’ve ever been to. The mood there was sooo cozy but fancy at the same time. I’m talking about the fireplaces, the fluffy blankets in which you wrap and chill, the antlers on the walls and the sauna overlooking the lake, which of course we didn’t miss! No wonder, we’ll be freezing the next couple of days!
We got all the equipment later that day – backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, stoves, clothes and food for the first three days. In the afternoon, we were supposed to repack our stuff. Did you know that if you’re going for such a long hike, you need to pack very efficiently? It’s quite a science! And every kg counts, so after my first attempt, I put my backpack onto a scale, and I nearly passed out, when I found out that it had around 26 kg. I had to pull everything out and start over, leaving the less important stuff in the lodge. At the end, I got to 22 kg with my 3 lenses, which wasn’t so bad afterall.
In the evening, we had fantastic dinner, of course, Swedish specialties, including salmon or lingonberry pudding. And that was the last night in a warm dry bed and with a proper meal in my stomach.
The next morning we got up at 5.30am to take a bus to Abisko, where the trek started. We were the first group that day, so we were standing at the start line exactly at 9:00am.
I can’t describe the atmosphere in Abiso at all. There were hundreds of people with huge backpacks, everyone was smiling and my heart was beating so fast. I couldn’t wait to start walking. I felt just great. I couldn’t even sit or stand, I was nervously walking around and counting minutes to the start.
Finally, it was 9:00am and we started to move. The first day we did crazy 24 kilometers, so we got a pretty killer pace. The first few miles were quite hard because there were still plenty of people. There was 2000 people in total, so it takes a while till they all spread on the trek.
Nikkaluokta -> cca 5 km beyond Kebnekaise
24KM IN TOTAL
The first day’s trail led half way through forest, which wasn’t so interesting, but as soon as we got past Kebnekaise station, it started to be pretty awesome. Suddenly the terrain changed into mountains and grassy plains, and it was also the first time to see the snow! The mountain Kebnekaise is often climbed by advanced hikers and I heard there is a beautiful view up there, so if you’re ever around, definitely go there! Unfortunately we didn’t have time for that.
The original plan was to get to Kebnekaise checkpoint, but the guides knew, how it would be crowded, so we did another five kilometers further into the valley, for which I was quite grateful after all despite my tired feet. We had a fantastic place to sleep with not so many tents around us.
We cooked our fantastic dinner, about which I have to write a little more, because it really stuck in my memory. You know what they say about instant meals into which you just pour hot water …. Hahaha:) But this was something incredible. I swear to God that the food was even better than my cooking from fresh ingredients! There were such awesome meals, like pulled beef with mashed potatoes, salmon with couscous or chilli con carne. These meals are made by some Norwegian brand and the preparation is really based on hot water. They’re so good probably because of the fact that everything is freeze-dried and not chemically. It’s pretty expensive though, I found them in a store in Norway, and one bag was worth about $17, but those who care about good food on treks should definitely try this.
At night, it was really windy and neither me nor my ten buddy was used to the loud rustling of the tent, so we didn’t sleep much. In the morning we got up at 6:30am.
Cca 5 km beyond Kebnekaise -> Sälka
22,5 KM IN TOTAL
The next day I got my photographic orgasm. Not only did I walk slowly as hell, but I was always the last one, so I had to run & catch up frequently.
That day we crossed an incredible number of bridges, and most of the way was on wooden footbridges that were built in the largest swamps.
Our feet were a bit tired from the previous day, but we still had a decent pace. After every hour, we took a twenty-minute break, during which we were able to eat some energy bars and take off the boots to let our feet relax. We were on our feet for about 11 hours, which was one hour less than the first day.
It was raining for most of the time, but thanks to the great equipment we were all dry. Just cooking in the rain was a pain in the ass.
Sälka -> Alesjaure
28,5 KM IN TOTAL
We had a little crisis the third day, and it was also the longest part. We got up an hour earlier to be sure that we get there. We walked slowly and my legs were getting really tired. Already at the beginning, my injured ankle began to hurt a little bit. In other spots than usually, which surprised me, but I didn’t pay attention to it anyways. I could still walk. By the end of the day, the pain began to spread to my calf as well and in the evening I couldn’t stand on my tiptoes.
Alesjaure -> Kieron
18 KM IN TOTAL
On the fourth morning, one girl had to be taken to the finish line by a helicopter, simply because she couldn’t go any further. She had blisters of the size of a coin. Which I don’t want to scare anyone, but there was really a lot of walking. The route was not difficult, we practically didn’t go to the mountains, but we were walking for 12 hours a day. And if you don’t have good shoes (or have brand new ones), the helicopter ride is guaranteed haha:)
I thought about it and we had to burn around 5000 kcal every day, so some girls were already saying that their pants are loose. Which was not my case, because I was supplied by several dozens of Snicker bars, haha:)
Our backpacks were by that time a bit lighter thanks to all that food we ate. Also we never carried much water, because we drank directly from the local streams. They were crystal clear, so I trusted them:)
Kieron -> Abisko
17 KM KM IN TOTAL
On the fifth day we got some energy again and the walking wasn’t so bad either. Maybe because we knew we were almost there. Those 17 km seemed like 5, which was probably also due to the fact that we got some PANCAKES!!!! They were served at the checkpoint at Kieron. With jam and whipped cream! Omnomnom! 🙂
Approximately five kilometers before the finish line, we passed an incredible canyon with a turquoise water, where we had our last break.
Around 2 o’clock, we made it to the finish with a huge applause of people from Fjällräven and those who came before us.
The last few kilometers I was limping a bit, because the pain in my ankle was quite unbearable, but…
WE MADE IT!!!!!!!!!!! WE DID 110 KILOMETERS HIGH ABOVE THE ARCTIC CIRCLE!!!!
And my feelings in the finish? As we passed the finish line, of course I started to cry. When I turned around, we were all crying haha:). It was really touchy and I was happy as hell. It was not easy easy at all, but everything was definitely worth it!
And do you know what I was thinking at that moment? That I will do the Pacific Crest Trail once. I don’t know when, but I’ll definitely try it sometimes. Because these moments are absolutely unforgettable.
I thought I could write this year’s statistics of Fjällräven Classic Sweden, because I found them quite interesting 🙂
Fjällräven Classic Sweden 2017 had 2,000 starters from 38 countries in total. The biggest countries represented were Sweden (26%), Germany (15%) and South Korea(13%). There was 40% of women, which is the highest percentage of women represented ever at the Fjällräven Classic. The oldest trekker was 74 yrs old, the youngest one 3 yrs old. 1 person started and finished on crouches and we actually saw him a couple of times! He was incredible! Approx. 4% of trekkers abandoned the trek, which is a normal rate. 82% did their first Fjällräven Classic Sweden, 18% did their second start or more.
Well, and I also promised a lot of you guys to give you some info about what the equipment, so here it is! Since I was walking for 5 days in a row, the backpack had to be packed effectively, because every pound counts! I’ll start with the most important stuff:
- Trekking boots – that is the most important part for everyone because it is them who decide whether you finish the trail or not. I was wearing the Hanwag Banks II GTX. link HERE! If I can recommend something, never wear new bots for these multi-day treks, always break them in before on a few shorter ones. And no, you can’t wear your sneakers, haha:)
- Backpack – the second most important thing on which you shouldn’t save money, because it will affect whether you get to the finish line with cramps in your back or in no pain at all. We had the opportunity to try Fjällräven Abisko 65, and as the name suggests, it was a 65-liter backpack. Link HERE!
- Tent – I never thought the tent was important until I tried the Fjällräven Abisko Shape 2. With its 2.3 kilos it’s one of the lightest tents and I didn’t understand how such a huge tent could be so light. Not only that three people could sleep in it, but it also has a huge hall where you can safely hide 5 big backpacks, two bicycles, or three people on a chair. Link HERE!
- Sleeping bag – we tried the Fjällräven Abisko W Three Seasons sleeping bag, which was suitable down to -2°C and I must say that it was not enough. At night the temperature dropped almost to zero, so I sometimes had to bury my head in it too, just to get warmer a bit. But I’m always cold, haha:) link HERE!
- First layer of clothing – the layering method usually works on the treks. My first layer consisted mostly of thin t-shirts (HERE or HERE), and under my trousers I wore my basic thin cotton leggings from H&M because I’m always a little bit colder than the others, hiihi 🙂
- Trekking pants + leggings – when it didn’t rain, I was switching between two kinds of pants along the way. The first ones were wider and slightly warmer (link HERE!), the other ones were actually trekking leggings that finally came to the stores! I don’t understand why nobody invented these tights earlier, because it’s the most practical thing ever and I can recommend them to everyone! This piece is probably my favorite one from Fjällräven 🙂 🙂 (link HERE!)
- Fleece sweatshirt – most of the time we spent in a fleece sweatshirt because it was definitely not a t-shirt temperature, the warm jacket was not suitable for walking and the waterproof jacket doesn’t breathe. We also had special Fjällräven Classic Sweden 2017 patches on it, but unfortunately they are not sold anywhere, you only get these when you participate on this trek. The basic version without the patches is right HERE!
- Waterproof Jacket – in Sweden it rains every twenty minutes, so it was necessary to have a waterproof jacket within a quick access. We tried the Fjällräven Abisko Eco-Shell Jacket, which didn’t let in any water, even after three hours of heavy rain. Link HERE!
- Waterproof pants – waterproof jackets are a must-have but people tend to forget about waterproof pants. I had the same experience with these as with the jacket. Not a single drop. Their wider cut is due to the fact that they are mostly put over regular pants. The great thing is that they can be unzipped from the bottom to the knees, so you don’t have to take off your shoes when it suddenly starts to rain. Link HERE!
- Warm puff jacket – once we had a break or camped in the evening, it got, of course, supercold because we stopped moving. On these occasions we put on the Fjällräven Abisko Padded Pullover, which was great. I honestly don’t like the puff jackets, but I have to admit that they’re effective. They are light and incredibly warm. Link HERE!
- Kitchen – Our instant kitchen consisted of a stove & gas & small water pot (link HERE), spoon (link HERE), water bottle (link HERE), three different bowls & plates (link HERE!) and a knife. Everything was from Primus and I can recommend it as much as I can. Can you believe that the stove brought 5-degree water to boil in about two minutes?!??
- Food – all hot meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) was provided by a Norwegian brand called DryTech. I talked about their products called Real Turmat earlier. Unfortunately, their website is mainly in Norwegian. Link HERE! The rest of the food consisted of energy bars, chocolate and dried (often reindeer) meat.
- Trekking poles – they should be part of your gear as well, but they are the only thing of which I don’t remember the brand, but I don’t think the brand actually matters. I have Lekis at home and I’m very happy with them, but as I say, the quality of the poles is not as important as for example the sleeping bag.
- Camera equipment & electronics – so again and again, I write it all the time and everywhere, and I get twenty questing a day about my camera. I use a Canon 80D and I took three lenses this time. Canon 50 mm f1.4, Canon 10-22 mm and Tamron 17-50 mm f2.8, which I continually switching. The video is shot mostly the fifty mm lens. I took my GoPro as well, but I didn’t use it at all. Then I carried four spare batteries for my camera (there is no electricity on the way) and a very strong power bank, I think it has 40,000 mAh, but it weighs about half a kilo.
- Other – the rest of my backpack was filled with a quick-drying towel, a couple of extra cotton t-shirts, repellent, sunglasses, caps, gloves, underwear, a small cosmetic bag with deodorant, toilet paper (there are no toilets on the trek), a toothbrush, a paste and a comb (which I didn’t use haha). You don’t need anything else from hygiene. I knew we wouldn’t be having a shower for 5 days (hahaha!), so I didn’t even bother to bring a shampoo. If we didn’t go with the guides who had a first aid kit, I’d pack Ibalgin and some bandaids as well.
UGHHHHH! So this is it! It really is the longest article in the history of my blog! And if you’re reading this, you probably read the whole article, which is unbelievable! 🙂
If anything else gets on your mind, let me know, I’d be thrilled to answer all your questions! But if anyone asks me what camera I’m using, I’ll kill him! Hahha:) And by the way, a few pics were from the official photographer Anette Andersson, and she was awesome! <3
Anyways, I would like to thank Fjällräven and Hanwag once again for having me and letting me experience the most beautiful week (actually two!) this summer. I really appreciate that they invited me, an ordinary Czech girl, to such a great event:)