Family Tour on Kungsleden:
Hemavan - Ammarnäs
(Part I: Hemavan - Syter)
by Kurt Bangert and Carola Bläsing-Bangert
When we talk about hiking tours with non-hikers in Germany, people often say "we cannot do such tours, because we have children, you know". I never found that conclusion very convincing, because we saw parents on hiking tours with their children, but we did not have own experiences. However, in the summer of 1999 Paula (9) and Daniel (11) Breitbach, our niece and nephew, and their parents Gisbert and Ute went on a Kungsleden-Tour with us.
You can see a map of the trail in a separate window. There were many reasons why we chose the Hemavan - Ammarnäs section. We had done it as a ski tour a few months ago and were familiar with the trail, though it looked much different in winter. The distances between cabins were short, and at two places we could use a boat taxi. I hoped that going with a boat would make it more interesting for the children. One could buy provisions in every cabin. It was not a strenous tour, but, as it was the first such trip for the children and their parents, it would probably still be kind of an adventure. Here is our report:
August 20, Bus Storuman - Hemavan
In Storuman we took the bus to Hemavan. Around 2 p.m. we arrived in Hemavan. There was an 80-m ascent from the regular bus stop to our hotel, and that would have been the first real test hike, but the driver had goods to deliver for the hotel, and so he brought us right to the entrance door. We carried our backpacks to the room and visited the nearby Fjällträdgården, a botanical garden specialized in the flora of the North. We went to the little village at late afternoon to buy a few missing things. We enjoyed a sauna and a dinner in the restaurant, then we were tired and went to bed.
It was Paula's birthday today, she was nine years old now. We had a few small and low-weight presents for her, because since yesterday we had to carry everything in our backpacks. After breakfast we were preparing our backpacks, when a helicopter landed right in front of our room. It took a group of hotel guests to a fishing camp. Paula, Daniel and I went outside to have a closer look. At 10 a.m. we were ready for departure.
At the portal of Kungsleden we lined up for a picture. The trail starts with a moderate ascent through forest. The weather was changeable, sometimes there was sunshine, sometimes it rained.
After an hour we had passed the treeline. We stopped for a while to collect blueberries, but that was not so productive, because probably others had been here before. We passed the highest point and hiked along the slope. The winter trail was much lower than our summer trail here.
On the way to Viterskalstugan
We entered a wide valley. Viterskalstugan was located at the end of it. Daniel speeded up, and Paula followed. They would wait at the next bridge. The terrain was open, so it was no problem that they were alone and far ahead of me. We made a rest at the bridge, as bridges are always interesting for children and adults, but it was windy, and so we did not stay very long. We continued our hike, Daniel and me ahead of the others. I wanted to reach the cabin early to find a good place for our group.
At 2 p.m. we arrived at the cabin, and Karl-Göran, the stugvärd, welcomed us. I knew him from our winter tour. He was happy about the pictures that I had brought as a present for him. Viterskalstugan is small, with just a ten-bed and a six-bed room. There were six neighbouring beds available in the ten-bed room. The cabin was crowded, but some of the people were day visitors.
The rest of our group arrived fifteen minutes later. We recovered on the beds for a while, but then it was time to open the first bag with freeze-dryed "Kaiserschmarrn", a kind of sweet pancake (add water only). I also added the blueberries. The pancakes tasted much better than expected, and soon we sat around the table with a coffee. An aluminum lid arranged with moss and nine candles replaced the birthday cake. I think that Paula liked her birthday party. Karl-Göran gave her three reindeer antlers as a present, fortunately small ones, because we had to carry them.
After coffee we went to explore the surroundings of Viterskalstugan. Snowfields, the river, reindeers, stones, there was a lot to see. Paula said that this was the first birthday with a snowball fight, and Daniel asked whether it was possible to do the tour, but stay several days at every cabin.
The Syterskalet (valley), which we had not really seen in wintertime because of bad weather, looked beatiful in the evening sun.
During all the afternoon more and more hikers arrived, but the regular beds in the cabin were occupied now, and so all the newcomers decided to continue their hike to either Syter or Hemavan, depending on their direction. Possibly, the fact that it was a Saturday was the reason that so many people were on this trail. Some had just started in Hemavan like us, for others Viterskalstugan was the last cabin before they would return home on Sunday. We had met just one skier in wintertime, and people had told us that very few people hike this trail even in summertime, but obviously, that may have been years ago. The cabin was crowded, our group being almost 30 percent of this crowd.
During the evening two soaked scientists arrived, who did research work for the University of Umeå on the nearby glacier. They occupied the area around the stove for drying their wet clothes and could sleep on matresses on the kitchen floor later.
Somehow, it was a chaos, but a very orderly one, and that was the merit of Karl-Göran, the stugvärd. He was present most of the time, talked to everybody, helped to solve all problems, and he managed to create the feeling that everyone here was a member of one big family. Though space was limited in this small sixteen-bed cabin with 18 hikers, everybody felt comfortable.
It was time for an elegant dinner at 7 p.m. We lighted the nine candles again, and as hors d'oeuvre, buttered tunnbröd was served with smoked salmon, while noodles with tomato sauce and a glass of Systembolaget's red wine in a paper pack made the main dish. Regarding the fact that the children had never hiked with a backpack, I thought we could be very pleased with that first day of our tour. And my backpack had lost 2 kg of weight. However, in the night I slept badly as I always do in ten-bed rooms. Once more I had forgotten to put earplugs on the equipment list.
At 4 a.m. the wind increased, but at 7.30, when Carola woke me up, it was quiet again. The scientists in the kitchen had got up early, had finished with breakfast and packed everything together, so we could get a table for us six. I started with my breakfast routine and prepared coffee, hot chocolade und the müsli-fruktsoppa mixture for all of us, added hot water to everything, and we soon had a breakfast for 6 persons. With mixed feelings I looked out the kitchen windows on Viterskalet, where the weather was bad and the snow line had almost come down to us during the night.
Already at nine everything was packed. A group picture with Karl-Göran, and then we left this cosy cabin.
A mixture of wind and snow was driven along the valley. We were lucky, as the really bad weather stayed on the other side of the broad valley, while we had even sunshine from time to time on our side.
One and a half hours later, we were at the end of the valley and found a protected place near a renvaktarstuga, where we could stay for lunch. From here the trail went down to a fork, then to an ascent of 200 m and then down to Syter.
Already at the end of the ascent, Paula and Daniel speeded up again, and on the descent they were still faster, even sometimes running. I followed at a distance and caught up to them at the cabin, while the others were again about fifteen minutes behind us. One four-bed room was left, and Daniel and Paula took it for the Breitbach family, while Carola and me took beds in the ten-bed room.
Syterstugan was fully occupied at the evening. With three four-bed and one ten-bed room the cabin was larger than Viterskalstugan, and overall, there was more space. I spent part of my time to walk to places where I had taken pictures in winter, just to compare how they would look in summer. But now it rained, and everything looked dull. I chopped wood for a while. Daniel and Paula played at the river, but it was so wild that one could not leave them alone. One of the adults had to stay with them, and that was not so pleasant in the drizzling rain. Eventually we returned to the cabin.
We had met Sebastian, a Swedish boy of seven years, already the day before. He was accompanied by his father and grandfather and obviously a passionate dice player. My Swedish was so good that I could understand when he asked his father for the permission to ask the "Tyska" if they would play with him. It was not very long until the children and part of the adults sat around the table and cast dice. There were no language problems, even the childrens spoke English well enough.
The name of the game was Superjazzi, and watching it was nearly as interesting as playing. The children had a lot of fun, and when it was dark and late, they still were playing in candlelight with no end in sight.