Kungsleden – five highlights and ten important lessons learned

Aktse with Skierfe in the background
                         Aktse with Skierfe in the background

July 2013: First time out on a multiday, camping hike: The Northern (and most popular) stretch of the Kungsleden from Abisko to Kvikkjokk – approximately 160 km walked in 10 days.

Highlights:

  1. The wilderness of Laponia in general. Although you are never far away (10 km max) from a staffed hut, there is a true sense of wilderness, which furthermore comes without virtually without a risk of predators.
  2. Aktse. An old, now abandoned, settlement, where the spirit of the settlers remain and a mountain lodge now is established at the old settlers lodge.
  3. The endless forest between Laitaure and Kvikkjokk.
  4. The midnight sun. In July it never really gets dark.
  5. Kebnekaise and around (I climbed Kebnekaise  on another trip in both 2014 and 2016).
Camping close to Sälka
                                   Camping close to Sälka

Lessons learned:

  1. Bring a map. Not only for safety but also to learn about the landmarks on the way.
  2. Do not buy too small hiking boots. It took me two years and 6 lost toe nails to realize this.
  3. Check your sleeping mattress. My sleeping mattress was not insulated as I had bought an air-mattress by mistake.
  4. Hiking in Laponia requires a four-season sleeping bag as snow may be encountered at any time, especially in the higher areas, such as at the Tjäktja pass.
  5. Merino wool, merino wool. Merino wool is unsurpassed for base layer/underwear.
  6. Even though the midnight sun is on, it may not be enough to charge a solar charger.
  7. Bring hiking poles, not only for hiking but also for river crossings.
  8. Do not overdo it in the beginning. The 20 km I did on second day between Abiskojaure and Alesjaure was clearly too much.
  9. Bring a GPS watch – not for navigation but for monitoring distances hiked and ascents done.
  10. The mosquitos are ferocious. The mild Danish mosquito spray does not work up here: Buy the local mosquito repellent.

    Walking on planks through birch forest at the beginning, right after Abisko.
    Walking on planks through birch forest at the beginning,         right after Abisko.

Schedule:
Abisko – Abiskojaure (camping) – Alesjaure (camping) – Tjäktja (hut) – Sälkka (camping) – Singi (camping) – Vakkotavare (camping) – Before Sitasjaure (camping) – Aktse (camping) – before Pårte (camping) – before Kvikkjok (camping).

The complete photogallery of the Kungsleden hike is available on flickr.

With these lessons, I went to the Alps in France, to hike the Tour de Mont Blanc.

The Laugavegurinn trail in ten paragraphs

  1. The volcanic landshapes are unlike anything else in the world, and for this reason alone, this is one of the worlds top hikes and easily the most popular multiday hike on Iceland.
  2. The hike itself is only medium difficulty and thus requires only medium fitness. Furthermore it is both very well marked and well prepared.
  3. Laugavegurinn is traditionally scheduled as a four-day hike from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk, but could be done in two (staying at Álftavatn). I did it in three (doubling the first two stages thus staying in Álftavatn the first night) plus one additional day for the Fimmvörðuháls.

    Between Landmannalaugar and Hraftinnussker
    Between Landmannalaugar and Hraftinnussker
  4. The main challenge is the weather: Four-season gear is needed as snow may fall anytime a year and/or fog may obscure visibility especially on the snowfields.
  5. The 20 km-extension over Fimmvörðuháls next to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano (responsible for the the 2010 ash cloud) and down to Skógar and the Skogafoss waterfall is not to be missed. Though slightly harder than the previous days, the main challenge remains the weather, especially:
  6. The snowfields. One large before Hráftinnusker and one at the Fimmvörðuháls pass (where I got lost).
  7. Even in high-season, the trail was not overcrowded. In addition if one follows a general rule of leaving late (10 am)- arriving late you may find yourself virtually alone on the trail. There are plenty space at the campsite and the sun is out until 10 pm.

    Crossing the deepest river on the Laugavegurinn
    Crossing the deepest river on the Laugavegurinn
  8. Camping gas, maps, basic food supplies may be bought in Landmannalaugar.
  9. It is well worth it to spend at least half a day at Landmannalaugar, hiking or bathing in the natural hot springs. Right next to the hot springs the water source is so hot that one may cook dinner/boil eggs there.
  10. Hráftinnusker is a very cold and windy place. Therefore, and especially for those camping, it makes sense to double the first stage and camp at Àlftavatn.

    Close to Landmannalaugar
    Close to Landmannalaugar

The coplete photogallery of the Laugavegurinn trail is posted on flickr.

General information and trip reports: FrugalfrolickerWall Street Journal. Beautiful photogallery from Northern Adventures.

Landmannalaugar, start of the Laugavegurinn Trail

Landmannalaugar Campsite
                             Landmannalaugar Campsite

What is it: Location in Iceland, the Northernmost and usual starting point for the Laugavegurinn Trail.

How to get there: Bus from Reykjavik, app 4-5 hours. Several companies, such as Trex (leaves from Adalstræti, outside the Tourist office) or Reykjavik Excursions(leaves from the Reykjavik Bus Station).  Both companies accept online bookings and have several departures daily in summer. Landmannalaugar is accessible roughly from end of June to September, and only  by 4WD (the last 40 km). Even with a 4WD skills the road is not straightforward to drive.

Facilities: Camping, toilets, shop selling maps of Laugavegurinn trek as well as gas (screw) canisters. Credit cards accepted. Hut accomodation also available (advance booking needed).

Around Landmannalaugar
                               Around Landmannalaugar

Activities: 1. Plenty of day/half-day hikes to do. Maps available in the small service shop. 2. Natural hot springs. The landshape formations around Landmannalaugar are quite exceptional (see photos below).

I was there: On July 17th, 2016 traveling by bus (Trex) from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar, departing Reykjavik at 8 am, arriving at Landmannalaugar at 1 pm. I did a half-day hike and spend the night camping before commencing the Laugavegurinn hike.

Map and other info: On the Landmannalaugar info site.

Notes: Landmannalaugar is not a city, rather it is a camp-ground and parking space in the middle of nowhere.

The complete photogallery of the Laugavegurinn hike is available on flickr.

Hot Springs, Landmannalaugar
                     Hot Springs, Landmannalaugar