We can hardly wait for the start anymore, that explains the atypically early alarm clock at 7 o’clock and the fact that we are the second at the very rich breakfast buffet shortly afterwards. We enjoy the breakfast, knowing that the next days we have to cut down on culinary delights.
After breakfast we clean up our hut, shoulder our backpacks and are ready to leave at 9:15 am. Start-selfie – do you see our joyful anticipation?
After the start we walk on a broad path through the birch forest, the sun laughs from the sky and at 18° we are short sleeved. Soon we meet the first small boardwalks – oh, how we missed the boardwalks!
The Fjäll already wears its autumn dress, while the birch forest is only at the beginning of transformation, we are still a few days too early. But that doesn’t matter at all, at the end of this year’s tour we will hike through the Abisko National Park with its extensive birch forest. Sneak preview: it was an extraordinary play of colours!
Thanks to the well-trodden path we make fast progress and soon reach a bridge, Swedish comfort, in Iceland there would have been only a ford. While we are still photographing at the bridge, we are caught up by a couple, which we already saw yesterday at dinner on the other side of the room and as it turns out, the two of them also come from Lower Austria, what a coincidence! We chat briefly with the two, they photograph us on the bridge and then we – each at our own pace – continue.
At 11am we reach the eastern edge of the lake Láddjujávri. Here there is a lot of tourist infrastructure, new cabins, a new restaurant and the Swedish edition of the yellow M – but we are probably too early and we have to be content with cinnamon snails and cheese baguettes. The two Austrians already sit comfortably in front of the hut and drink coffee, we walk on with a planned lunch break at the next scenic spot.
This is, by the way, the place where you could shorten a few kilometres across the lake by boat – which of course we don’t do:
On the picture above you can see the Kebnekaise massif and the snow-covered pyramid of Kebnekaise, which is Sweden’s highest mountain at 2,102m. Last year we climbed Kebnekaise through a side valley coming from the west, an absolutely great tour and one of our most beautiful mountain experiences. You can find both the ascent to the base camp at 1.000m as well as the summit day in last year’s travelogue.
Unfortunately, the picture also shows that we haven’t really arrived in the wilderness yet. The power lines actually go to the Kebnekaise mountain station, the hub for climbing the mountain on the normal route or east over the glacier.
The path is now not quite as wide and worn out as it used to be, you notice that many take the boat. Apropos: there is still an increase in decadence: you can also fly in with the helicopter from Nikkaluokta to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation and obviously business is good, the helicopter flies over us again and again.
The time flies by and when we take another short break – now it’s time for the cheese baguettes and Snickers, the backpacks have to get lighter after all. Couple of minutes later the two Austrians overtake again. Unaware of their names we call the two internally “Team NÖ II”. 🙂
Now comes one of my favorite pictures of this day – a panorama based on single shots with 70mm. Endless birch forests with small open spaces and swamps in between, framed by this great mountain scenery. Do you remember the first day? The round-shaped mountain in the middle of the picture, which we will pass on the left hand side tomorrow? Now we have already come a good bit closer. Kebnekaise is in sight again and we think about the ascent last year.
Did you know that the name “Kebnekaise” – in North Sami “Giebmegáisi” – comes from “giebmi”, which means (big) kettle or pot and from “gáisi” with the meaning of big mountain? Well, Kebnekaise has a pyramid a the top and absolutely no resemblance to a cauldron. A look into the surroundings brings us closer to the mystery, there is actually a mountain that has a distant resemblance to a kettle/cooking pot: the Tolpagorni, in North Sami Duolbagorni.
We have picked up this story on a hut and now tried to verify with the support of the volunteer Lustwandler Swedish-German translator Ylva. There are estimates ranging from myth to fact, one theory I have found is that this mountain nearby originally bore the name Giebmegáisi and on a map from 1832 it was also so marked or even highlighted. Later cartographers might have made a mistake and assumed by the marking that the more important one – from their perspective the higher mountain and not the one with the special form – was highlighted. And so the highest mountain of Sweden today bears the name of a kettle/cooking pot and the smaller mountain (1662m) was simply renamed.
In the Swedish version of [Wikipedia] the Swedish National Encyclopedia is given as a reference. It states that the name Kebnekaise probably originally referred to today’s Tolpagorni, but the name was later transferred “for some reason” to the main massif, which until then had been called Passetjårro or Passevare. Tolpagorni is not mentioned by name on the general staff map of 1889, the name “Kebnekaisse” is written near the main massif.
The mountain station Kebnekaise comes into our field of vision at about 15.30 o’clock, but until then it is still a nice bit. We take a last short break, eat dried beef and give our feet a little freedom, a little barefoot promotes the recovery immensely!
The further way leads now along the Darfaljohka and then over a bridge. Straight on goes the path to Tarfalastugan.
At 17:00 we reach the Kebnekaise Fjällstation after a little more than 19km. Fjällstation is almost an understatement, that’s a giant hut with a lot of buildings. Of course we don’t have a reservation, with about 200 beds there shouldn’t be a problem, right? Well, Elisabeth manages to get one of the last bunk beds. However, in a totally nice hut: 3 rooms, 6 beds each and lots of Swedes in it. Perfect! 🙂
After showers and sauna and a bit of laundry we have time to write our diary in the hut and chat with the others. A small group of Swedes came here today from Sälka with a “shortcut” through the Sinnivággi. After the ascent from Sälka into the high valley he was so overheated that he jumped into the lake 953. 🙂
The descent along the Šiellajohka on the steep mountain slope of Sinničohkka was a real challenge. The story didn’t sound as if it had to be copied, it was more like a hussar ride with risk of falling (they had heavy trekking luggage) and it took them a very long time for the descent.
Of course we didn’t miss dinner at the Fjällstation, trekking luxury is a must. Large starter buffet, mousse au chocolat as dessert and salmon as main course. My “no fish” at resercation and the desire for a hearty moose or reindeer didn’t work as expected, my main course was a poor vegetarian stuffed onion. So sad! 😢
We shared table with a Swedish couple who wanted to hike in a guided group over the Västra to Kebnekaise. She turned around after 2.5 hours, the speed of the group was too high for her, he reached the summit, but was very very tired.
At the Kebnekaise Fjällstation there is a notice which I would like to share. It should be noted that the western path to Kebnekaise is currently being extended to increase the safety of hikers. Now hold on: the work will be done by Nepalese Sherpas(!), the supervisors are Norwegians(!?), who have a lot of experience in creating trails. Work carried out: Planning, selecting and moving stones, organizing helicopter transports.
Certainly a controversial topic, but I think that one should not always make mountains more accessible, each mountain has its own specific requirements for the mountaineers and if it is above your own level, you just have to find a mountain that is easier to climb. To simplify ways and to develop mountain tourism further and further I consider the wrong access [with the exception of fixed steel ropes at single exposed parts with risk of falling].
Don’t be scared, that the place is so crowded and touristic – that’s just the hotspot and the hype around Sweden’s highest mountain.
You’ll see, starting with the day after tomorrow we’ll be almost alone, even tomorrow there are not really many other hikers. Anyway, we are very happy that we climbed Kebnekaise last year on the barely used Durlings led, where only the last part is identical with the Västra leden. The Östra leden excites me, so I took a picture of the maps hanging in the mountain station. There was also a very detailed topo map of Kebnekaise and its surroundings hanging next to the picture above, for copyright reasons I can’t add the photo here, but for your information, the map is from Colazo, 1:15.000.
If you have hiked the Östra leden, please tell us about your experiences below!