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Approaching Tjäktjastugan

Northern Kungsleden and a Trip toNallo

(Abisko Turiststation - Kebnekaise Fjällstation - Nikkaluokta)

Part I: Abisko - Tjäktja | to Part II (Tjäktja - Nikkaluokta)

April 1998

If you want to see just a few pictures - I like those of Tjäktja.

In the past year we had planned the same tour, but had turned back on the second day at the ascent to the Alisvagge in stormy weather, and originally, I did not want to try it again this year. I had the vague feeling that we would get problems at the same place again, and as we only could go at the end of the winter season, I suspected that it would perhaps rain this time. The southern Kungsleden between Ammarnäs and Hemavan seemed to have advantages, provisions were available in every cabin, for instance, and that would reduce our pack.

But it was a problem to get there, flights at reasonable prices were completely booked and we did not have the time for two-day bus rides. And we did not have much time left to make plans for a different tour. So eventually, we decided to go on the Abisko - Kebnekaise trail again. It was easy to get there and we already knew everything that we needed to know. The date of departure was fixed for April 18, shortly after Easter, because I had work during the holidays.

The time before departure was dominated by job stress. Somehow we managed to retreat to Kiruna on Saturday. We bought provisions, on Sunday we visited the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi again, and we slept for the rest of the time or spent it in the bastu of the hotel.

On Monday at 8 a.m. we were sitting in the breakfast room and looked for the weather forecast in the newspaper. Today and tomorrow would be fine, but then it would get very warm and rainy in the mountain areas. I was shocked. I had been looking forward to this tour for months, and now the rain would get us at the highest point, the Tjäktja pass. A storm wold develop, probably, and we would get stuck there in the cabin. Perhaps we should stay in the hotel ? Carola was not impressed by the forecast. Whatever these big computers had calculated, in the last year the weather had been bad, and therefore it would be be fine this year, she was sure.

We mastered several dangerous icy passages between the hotel and the railroad station with our ski poles and boarded the train to Narvik. We arrived in Abisko Turistation at half past noon. We left the skis at the railroad station and went to the Turiststation to weigh our backpacks and to have a look on the weather report, which however did not have a long-term forecast this time. Carola had 18 kg and I had 20 kg without the camera bags. At least 3 to 4 kilograms less than last year. Exactly at 1 p.m., we went through the wooden Kungsleden portal

Carola had convinced me to try it with only a fleece pullover and thin underwear, and soon I even changed to a still thinner pullover. Temperatures were around zero degrees. Three kilometers later we reached the hilltop, where the trail from Abisko Östra joins Kungsleden, and the first descent gave an occasion for a short rest. There was not much snow, but it was still sufficient, and we passed some icy passages. We reached the Ballakjåkkå near the bridge and stopped for another short break.

 

 Between Abisko and Abiskojaure

We were faster than I had expected. Some of the ski tracks went down to a flat trail on the river now, but at these rather warm temperatures it should be safer to stay on the marked trail, until we reached the northern lakeshore of Abiskojaure. It wasn't a pleasure to go out on the lake, there was ice instead of snow, and crackles in the ice, though the ice seemed to be thick enough. A scooter passed us. Who had the higher pressure per square centimeter, the scooter or we ? At 6 p.m. we put off our skis at the cabin.

Some guests were already staying in the left half of Abiskojaurestugan. Together with an older Swedish skier we occupied beds in one of the rooms at the right side. I read in the guest book that yesterday a guided STF-group had stayed here, mostly Swedes, but also one man from Germany and one from the Netherlands. Until 7 p.m. it was rather quiet here, but then a group of French people arrived. They had been with us in the train and had rented equipment in Abisko before they went on the tour. They transported all their supplies in a single XXL pulka of "Fjellpulken". The second room in our half was just sufficient for the complete group. I suppose that it was kind of a guided Kungsleden tour, because when I chatted with some of the group members, they knew hardly more about the tour than how many days it would take. After lunch we were so tired that we soon retreated to our room, while the group still celebrated the first successfull day of the trip with red wine from the depths of the huge pulka.

We had not heated the stove in our room, but the group had overheated the living room, and the wall was too thin to keep our sleeping room cool. In the beginning I covered carefully with my down sleeping bag (wasn't that a winter tour ?), as I usually do, but soon I realized that the problem was rather to stay cool. I sweated and had to drink several times. In the early morning it was still warm. At 7 a.m. we got up, before anybody else was stirring, and at 8 a.m. we headed for Alesjaure.

Today's trip would be the longest with a distance of 20 km and the most strenous probably with an ascent of 400 m. The air felt cold, so I started with a thicker fleece-pullover, but the sun burnt from the sky, and so I soon changed to a thinner one. The trail leads along a flat and broad valley for 3 km to a fork where the winter trail to Unna Allakas leaves. The ascent began. So far, we had went together with five Swedish women. One of them was pulled by a husky, which, however, preferred to run by her side most of the time. In the year before we had walked up all of the ascent with our skis in the soft snow, but this time, they did not get a good grip on the hard and icy snow. The group of women also stopped.

Should we use the climbing skins now ? We never had tried them before. It would surely take time to fix them. Much easier was it to put on light winter boots and fix the skis to our backpacks. With the shoes we went really fast and easy on the trail. Wasn't that a ski tour ? Walking was obviously much faster and easier than skiing.

Ascent to Alisvagge

Soon we did not see the others any more behind us. I Would it make sense to continue hiking in shoes ? The only disadvantage was that we had to carry the skis together with the heavy pack. So we changed back to skis, when the ascent was behind us.

 Ascent to Alisvagge

 

For quite a while we went on a broad scooter highway with a slight incline to the left. It was annoying that the skis did not have any side stability, they kept sliding to the left and it took effort to pull them back. Though, we proceeded, passed a reindeer fence, and after a while we could see the wind shelter that has been built in 1997 about 8 km from Alesjaurestugan at the winter trail.

In the Alisvagge

It looked quite near, but there were still 2 km to go. Short before the shelter the women passed us again, they had speeded up considerably. We rolled out the mats and lunched in the heat of the sun. After a while the French group also arrived, the must have been rather fast. Well, the group members did not transport much equipment and no supplies by themselves. The remaining 8 km did not have bigger height differences, and soon we could see the cabins.

The French group rested for awhile, but then they took the direct and shorter way across the lake. We stayed on the marked trail. At the end, the winter trail ascended gradually. We felt a bit tired now, not astonishing after that day.

The Alesjaure cabins are quite comfortable, and we took beds in a four-bed room, hoping to stay alone. The French group arrived shortly after us and took the ten-bed room again. I admired the perfect organization, which was coordinated by the group leader. Minutes after arrival two of them were chopping wood, two others poured the water from the buckets into the big pots and went to get more water, some arranged the table for lunch, and a few stood outside to smoke selfmade filterless cigarrettes.

Being together with the group in the cabin had its advantages, as they managed everything so perfectly that nothing was left to do for us. Though, we would not have needed much water and heating. More skiers arrived during the late afternoon, but the cabin was large enough so that every small group could get a separate room. We rested until 7 p.m., when the mixed bastu time began, after after bastu and a Lapinkulta from the butik we slept deep and quiet.

I got up at 7 a.m. to prepare breakfast. The sky was blue at minus 2 C. A new weather forecast was posted at 8 am, there was no sign of a change. Today we just would do teh 13 km to Tjäktja. Instead of resting a day, which would have been fine in the luxury of Alesjaure, we then had a day without greater efforts at least. We carried the skis to the river and put them on. Because I had expected that it would be cold in the morning, I had used a thicker fleece pullover, but soon I was sweating in the heat of the sun, and changed to a thinner one.

View back to Alesjaure

The path leaded along Alesvagge, and we looked back to enjoy the view and to make fotos. The french group had passed us, the women with the dog were also ahead of us. The landscape, the weather, our mood, everything was perfect. The sounds of the ptarmigans were everywhere.

 

Near Tjäktastugan

About three km from Tjäktjastugan is an ascent, which finally ends at the Tjäktja pass. We had a lot of time, and some rocks in the sunshine were tempting for a break. The first one was occupied by a ptarmigan, so we took the third one. I refrained from pursuing the bird with the camera, it obviuosly enjoyed the sunshine, just as we wanted to do, and I did not grudge him the pleasure. We prepared a soup from hot water in the thermos, and cambined it with Knäcke bread and chees. The bird was corious and approached by one rock. We observed the other skiers while they ascended to the pass and vanished from our view. Everybody was going to Nallo or Sälka today. Nallo was surely nice, but I wanted to see the Tjäktja pass, so that was not an option for us.

To get to Tjäkjastugan, we had to go on a short but rather steep ascent that was strenuous. When we realized that it would have been easier with shoes or climbing skins, we were almost on top.

Final descent to Tjäktjastugan

A short descent, and we were at the cabin. It is advisable to stay on the marked trail, because on the shorter direct way it is difficult to cross the canyon of the small river passing Tjäktja.

We took a room in the empty cabin and felt comfortable. Under the nearby bridge was a hole in the ice, and a sign informed that it was easier to get water there with pulka an canister than to melt snow.

Except for the stugvärd women, who collected the fee in the evening, we did not see any people at all during the rest of the day. Yesterday the STF group had been here, they also had done this short trip only on their third day. The afternoon went by with foto excursions, eating, reading and the necessary kitchen work. Some impressions of Tjäktja are on a separate page.

Suddenly we noticed that it was 11 p.m. already, we had to go to bed. We gave up the hope for seeing northern lights, it still was not really dark. And the computers had been wrong three days before, there was no rain, but clear sky. A sudden wind calmed down after a while, and so we spent a quiet night in the cabin. Some impressions of that evening at Tjäktja can be seen on a separate page.

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Bridge near Tjäktjastugan