Lake Waikaremoana Track

Panekire Bluff
Panekire Bluff

In brief: The Lake Waikaremoana Track is the least popular of the New Zealand Great Walks, probably due to the difficult access. On the  contrary it is this relative remoteness, which none of the other Great Walks has,  that makes the walk exceptional:
40 km (GPS, officially it is 46 km) between the Onepoto and Whanganui huts circling part of the Waikaremoana lake, the highest point being the Pankire Bluffs overlooking the lake. Most of the walk is undulating through ancient forests next to the lake side which is quite tough at times.  The Korokoro falls side-trip is a must!
The Lake Waikaremoana track could probably be walked in two days, spending the night either at Waiopaoa or Korokoro Campsite.

Forest, Lake Waikaremoana
Forest, Lake Waikaremoana

The biggest challenge of this walk is organizing transport from  the trailheads. Even with a car, it can turn out a nightmare as the last 50 km of the road driving from Rotorua is unpaved.

Highlights:
The view from the Panakiri bluffs; walking through the ancient forests; the Korokoro falls.

Difficulty: 3

Lake Waikaremoana Itinerary, camping, January 2016:
Onepoto Landing-Waiopaoa Hut-Tapuaenui Campsite-Whanganui Hut-Onepoto Landing (boat).

Information, bookings (all accomodation incl. tent spaces must be booked in advance) and maps: DOC (Department of Conservation).

The complete photogallery of the Lake Waikaremoana (February 2016) is available on flickr.

The Heaphy Track

Bridge before Kohaihai
Bridge before Kohaihai

In brief: The Heaphy track, one of New Zealands Great Walks, is a  multiday hike between Brown´s Hut and Kohaihai on the Northwestern tip of the South Island. An easy walk and probably the easiest of all the New Zealand great walks. While the landshapes are not spectacular like those of the Tongariro Northern Circuit or the Fiordland tracks such as the Routeburn Track, it is nevertheless a very pleasant walk. With one exception: The last day, between Heaphy Hut and Kohaihai, walking along the Pacific coastline, is spectacular and one of the best day hikes in all of New Zealand.

Heaphy Track on the Goulands Downs
Heaphy Track:  The Goulands Downs

Difficulty: 2

Highlights:The walk along the Pacific coast from Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai.

Heaphy Track Itinerary, camping, February 2016:

Nelson (minibus)-Brown´s Hut-Perry Saddle Hut-James Mackay Hut-Heapy Hut-Kohaihai- Westport (minibus)

Information, bookings (all accomodation incl. tent spaces must be booked in advance) and maps: DOC (Department of Conservation) and Heaphy Track.

The complete photogallery of the Heaphy Track (February 2016) is available on flickr.

The Padjelanta trail – a photogallery

Padjelantaleden: 140 km in 7 days from Ritsem to Kvikkjokk through the Padjelanta national park in Laponia in early July 2014:

Traveling on the Storlule from Ritsen to Áhkká
Traveling on the Storlule from Ritsen to Áhkká
The first night: Camping near Kisuris
The first night: Camping near Kisuris
The second night: Camping next to Låddejåkka
The second night: Camping next to Låddejåkka
Between Låddejåkka and Staloluokta
Between Låddejåkka and Staloluokta
Best camping in Tarradalen near Såmmarlappa
Best camping in Tarradalen near Såmmarlappa
Near-tropical vegetation of the Tarradalen
Near-tropical vegetation of the Tarradalen
Nest of eggs, Padjelanta
Nest of eggs, Padjelanta

The complete photogallery of the Padjelanta hike is available on flickr.
Overview map of the Padjelanta Trail.

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.

Global surgeon and traveller