This southern part of Kungsleden is much less frequented than the northern parts. The trail is wintermarked and there are cabins in distances between 11 and 22 km. You can buy provisions in every cabin. The total distance is 78 km, and the tour usually will take 5 days.
This report starts with the tour. We had a lot of job stress and other problems before the tour. If you would like to read about job stress and other problems, you can click here.
We fix the climbing skins to the skis already in the hotel and walk the few meters to the trailhead of Kungsleden. In a slow and steady pace we ascend on the trail through the forest. There is a speed limit of 30 km/h. The wind is as strong as the day before.
A nice view on Umeälven, its valley and the mountains in the west, and we take off the climbing skins. The uphill part should be over.
But there is only a short while of gentle downhill skiing, before we have to cross several small ravines. Two are so steep that we put the skis off and walk, step for step. Will the whole tour be like this ? If we turn, we could be back in an hour. After we have crossed all the hills and viewpoints, we discover that the scooters have a much easier trail further down in the valley.
We are the only people today that make the way with skis and backpacks. All others use the skilift to get up, a scooter to get along, are pulled by a scooter, sit in a bandvagn, are pulled by a bandvagn, or are just on a day trip without a backpack.
Eventually, we are down in the valley, and the trail is much easier now. This is the type of trail that we know from the northern Kungsleden, and we finally start to enjoy the tour. After two more easy kilometers, we reach Viterskaletstugan.
Carl, the stugvärd, welcomes us, and he is happy to have us here. The ten-bed room is heated, so we chose two beds there. No other skiers are expected for today. We chat a lot in a mixture of Swedish and English. Carl is experienced, he has spent several years in Såmmarlappa on the Padjelantaleden, he shows pictures and we hear a lot of stories. The thermometer is at -11 C.
Evening comes. The thermometer shows -17 C now, and there is a strong wind. At home I would call it a storm, but here it seems to be quite normal weather. Snow drifts along the valley, though the sky is clear. We expect -21 C for tonight. We are out for a short walk and to take some photos, but this is really not the weather where you stay out for more than half an hour. Except, perhaps, when you are on a ski tour.
Day 2 (Viterskalet - Syter, 11 km)
From the sound of the wind around the cabin I know that conditions are about the same as the day before. I get up and look out of the window. Snow drifts along the valley. A dark grey sky, and -14 C. The weather forecast reports about winds of 2 to 4 m/s, but I would rather estimate around 10 m/s from ahead. The wind is a local phenomenon here, explains Carl, there is always strong wind in the Syterskalet valley, independent from the weather forecast. Will it get better in the next hours? No. Around 10 a.m., we are ready, put on all the warm clothes and leave the cabin.
The track soon turns into Syterskalet valley with a moderate ascent. The trail is easy, the snow soft, and we try to proceed in the same slow and steady pace as yesterday. Carola is short behind me, and due to the sound of the wind, it is impossible to talk with each other except when we stop. I look to the ground mostly to avoid the wind, just check the direction of the markers from time to time and have a short look back to see if Carola is still behind me. Conditions are bad, but not too bad. One and a half hour without much of a change. No scooter today, we are quite alone here.
But now the end of the valley is reached, and we see a renvaktarstuga at the highest point. For a moment, the wind is better, and we take a short break and eat something. We expect that the wind will get worse again when we pass the stuga and step from the valley to the open plane, but when we have reached it, all the wind is suddenly gone. This local storm only builds up in the valley, because the valley acts like a wind tunnel, and outside the air is quiet.
A view back on Syterskalet valley shows the perfect form shaped by ice-age glaciers. The trails descends 150 m for about 2 km and leads to a fork in the valley, where it turns left to an ascent of about 200 m. Carl had advised us to stay on the upper level and take a shortcut, but there is no track, and so we follow the marked trail.
A long downhill slope, on short parts too steep for our skills, leads down to Syter now. The stugvärd guides us to our room, which is already heated, as he somehow was informed about our arrival. It is sunny, though -14 C. Like in Viterskalet, we are the only guests here. There is an estimate of totally 300 guests in winter and about twice as much in summer, not very much compared to the 12000 guests in Abisko per year. The evening is peaceful and quiet, no thoughts of wind and weather, just the feeling that a ski tour is the best way to forget all the job stress and the troubles of civilization. A few more pictures show the beauty of this place.
We awake to sunshine and -14 C. A moderate descent of 150 m and a some 10 km on a lake await us, we suppose it will be an easy trip. Not far from Syterstugan we meet the Ammarnäs - Hemavan - Ammarnäs dog sledge race and a number of scooters. We mostly step out of the way and let them pass on the narrow parts of the trail. But it costs us a lot of time. So after sledge number 10, we try to proceed on our own track beside the main trail. I count a total of 21 sledges and probably as many scooters.
We have about eight more kilometers to go on the lake. I think a tour on a lake is the easiest way to experience that Northern Sweden is a wide country. We meet a few more scooters, but for about an hour we are alone. It is getting cold on the lake, the sky is covered with clouds. We proceed quietly, checking the distance to the cabin from time to time with the GPS. At 3 p.m. the weather changes to sunny and we reach the cabin.
Henk, the stugvärd in Tärnastugan, is from the Netherlands. He has done a lot of hiking and skiing in Scandinavia, and this is his first job as a stugvärd. We chat a while, but he has work to do. A group with scooters is announced for the evening. We do our cooking before the scooters arrive. They come well prepared with a sixpack of beer for every member of the group and several bottles of flammable liquids - no, not gasoline.
We don't want to have the sauna heated up for us three
skiers, but the Norwegian group also would go to the sauna, and
so Henk will heat it anyway. At 8.30 p.m. Henk, the other skier
and we sit in the sauna and rub with snow afterwards.
I heat the oven in our room at seven, we get up at 7.30, have breakfast at 8, and we are ready for the tour at nine. The scooters will go to Ammarnäs today and back to Tärnaby in the afternoon, on a separate trail for the first four kilometres north from the winter marked ski track. Our goal is modest, just 14 km through a highland. Unfortunately, Henk has to announce that we will have strong wind in the kalfjäll. We will see.
It is cold, -14 C again, but sunny, and we have the impression of a really warm day. There is no wind down here in the forest, but we have an ascent of 300 m and then we are above treeline.
The ascent takes about an hour, and as we pass the treeline, the strong wind comes from straight ahead. We have a nice view on the mountains. I put on an additional layer of clothing, Carola waits, she has sweated during the ascent and wants to proceed for a while, hoping to get a bit drier. The sky is blue and the sun is shining, but the wind is worse than two days before in Viterskalet. We still have climbing skins on the skis, and they are so helpful against the front wind, so that we don't take them off even when we have reached the flat highland. We can do not more than 3 km/hour under these conditions.
Inger, she is the stugvärd in Serve, shows us to our room, where the oven is already heated, as she had heard about our coming. Everything is well organized and really nice here.
"Motionera även armena", a sign near the wood shed, is mainly for motivation of summer hikers, but I chop some wood. Only one other couple stays here, they are hunting for fjällripa. They are pulled by two big hunter's dogs and when they go out for a trip, they reach more than twice the speed as we do.
One branch of Kungsleden leads up to the mountains again from Serve, 19 km to Aigertstugan with a sequence of +300, -60, +160, -300 m ascents and descents. The weather is not good, the forecast predicts hard wind again in the kalfäll, and we don't see tracks, because no one has followed this trail during the last days. I suppose the stugvärd in Aigertstugan doesn't have many guests in these days.
So we chose the longer, but easier tour along the lake. After 4 bad kilometers along a worn-out and bumpy scooter trail through the forest we arrive at the lakeshore. Again, the marked Kungsleden trail is not in use, but the trail across the lake is marked so that we are in no doubt. It is easy to proceed on the lake. The sun is shining, scooter traffic is low, and we go along without big effort. One needs patience to go 12 km on a lake.
An hour later, the sky is covered and there is a little snowfall. It is getting colder. Another hour passes. We arrive at the parking lot 7 km from Ammärnäs that marks the end of the street, and we have the choice now to hike on the street or continue on the lake. We stay on the lake.
The lake, however, ends in a river and the river is not frozen. The trails ascends into the forest now, on a bumpy scooter trail again.
Uphill and another worn-out scooter trail downhill. Ammarnäs is on the other side of the river, and somehow we have to get back to the village side . The village looks like a loose assembly of buildings that stretches several kilometers along the river, and we don't know where the Vandrarhem is.
We meet a prepared ski track that seems to lead to the village. If we don't find the best track here in the forest, we could easily add two or three extra kilometers to the regular 22, and that is not an attractive idea. But it is the right track, and now there is a sign to "Bensin Macken". Though we don't need gas, we follow the sign, and after a short time we are at the street and not far from the Vandrarhem.
We like to enjoy the comfort of a Scandinavian style hotel after a tour, and probably the Ammarnäsgarden Hotel would be a good place to relax. But aren't we STF members ? And Inger from Servestugan already announced our coming to the couple that manages the STF Vandrarhem. So we make our way to the Vandrarhem. It also turns out to be a really fine place. All the people that one meets on such a tour are usually friendly, but these here are still-more-than-usual- friendly people. We go to the sauna for a warm-up, walk through the little village, go to the ICA and have a really fine dinner for just 50 SEK. We don't try the whiskey, though Jonsstugan is famous for its selection. We have to get up early the next day to get the morning bus, and so we go have to bed early.