A small part of Kungsleden (Winter 1997)
Abisko-Abiskojaurestugan (15 km), Abiskojaurestugan - Kieronstugan
(locked, 4km, and back)
During winter season 1997 we planned a tour on the northern
part of Kungsleden, our first ski tour with backpacks. To say
it in advance, we did not get much farther than Abiskojaure.
We were engaged in preparations for our first ski tour
for several weeks. We had chosen this part of Kungsleden, because
we had already hiked it in summertime and because it was a short
distance between cabins. In our part of Germany, where snow is
very rare and where skiing is mostly understood as "downhill",
it was not easy to obtain the equipment. We were equipped very
well for summer tours and had a lot of experience. But, winter
tours are very different, especially for beginners. Finding appropriate
skis was not so easy, but we found them in a shop that specialized
in cross country skiing.
Finally the departure date had come, we left all the everyday
problems behind and flew to Kiruna on a Saturday in the middle
of April. We met with Peter and Annika, visited the "Kirunaspelen",
a World-Cup competition in various skiing disciplines with classic
stars like Vladimir Smirnow, we bought the last provisions, and
the time passed very quickly. On Monday we took the train to
Abisko. Originally we had planned to start the tour on this day,
but now it was after 2 p.m., and it was simply beautiful here
So we took the cableway up to Njoulja. The views were magnificent
due to the excellent weather. The wind was very strong up here,
and we could test our winter clothes once more. After dinner
in the fjällstation we listened to the two-man-band "Pinch
Bag", which started to play in the Storstugan at 9 p.m.,
and we stayed to the end, when they played "Knocking on
heaven's door", one of my favorite songs.
On Tuesday at about 10 a.m. we stood in nice sunshine at
the scale. It showed very objectively that Carola's backpack
weighed 20 kg and mine 23 kg. 1,5 kg drinking water was included.
I had originally planned to stay far below 20 kg, but it was
too late for such reasoning. The 15 km to Abiskojaure should
be rather easy.
The weather and snow conditions were fine. The sky was
blue, the temperature a little below zero and the snow not too
hard and not too soft. In expectation of the coldness I was probably
dressed much too warmly and started to sweat immediately, when
we had to go a short distance uphill. The winter trail guided
us through hills east of the summer path. After 3 km we had reached
the highest point, and the trail from Abisko Östra joined
We enjoyed a short distance downhill now, but, the washboard-like
surface needed concentration. We were rather exhausted when we
reached the bridge across the Ballajakka and decided to take
a longer rest. I had far more thirst than we had carried water,
and so I ate snow lumps, mixed with sour drops.
Unfortunately, a look at the map showed that we had only
come half way. We had reached an average speed of only 2.5 km/h.
The backpacks felt like a package of lead. Now there were some
smaller inclines, and then we could chose between going out on
the river or follow the marked trail through some hills. We took
the river, we could not miss the Abiskojaure. It was comfortable
to go on the river, but after a while the track lead back to
the marked trail.
We reached the northern lakeshore with a few locked huts
and took another rest. The tracks crossed the lake now, and four
more kilometers would bring us to the southern end of the lake,
where the Abiskojaure cabins were situated.
The knowledge that no more ascents would come, not even
small ones, gave us new motivation, and we tried to proceed as
steadily as possible. At the end of this day, we had needed six
hours for the tour, and so the average remained to be 2.5 km
per hour. Without doubt, the heavy backpacks were the reason
for the slow speed, and we would have to reduce the weight in
the future. We placed our skis near the cabin door and entered
to look for two beds.
One part of the hut was occupied by a group, whose white
skis were signed with the letters "JÄR". I interpreted
this correctly as a sign for "Lapplands Jägerregiment",
the name of a military division stationed in Kiruna. They transported
their luggage on snow-scooters, and it seemed to be a recreational
tour. We chose our beds in the other part of the cabin, where
so far only Mark was staying. We had already seen him in Abisko,
and soon we sat together with a cup of coffee. Later a group
of sports students arrived and it was rather busy. They were
here to get experience with snow bivouacking, and everybody had
a big shovel strapped to the backpack.
We mostly chatted with Mark during the evening. He had
been on tour for quite a while during this winter. He was from
the United Kingdom originally, but he lived in Uppsala, Sweden.
He had considerably more experience with ski tours than we had,
and I continued to put questions. I found his pulka especially
interesting, which he had built out of a child's sledge (see
link at the bottom of the page). We found various interesting
themes, and finally we exchanged our Internet adresses. It was
late now and time to go to bed.
We awoke in the morning and found that the weather had
changed completely. The stugvärd already had received a
new weather forecast at the help telephone. He reported it to
the people in the cabin. There was strong wind from the south
and it was snowing. On the way to Alesjaure we would have to
ascend about 300 m. Up there the weather would be stormy, and
because we wanted to go south, we would have it against us. To
save weight, we left behind a package with food and only kept
provisions for one day, hoping to buy food in Alesjaure.
Mark had already left an hour before. Now it was time for
us to put on the skis. The tracks lead in southwesterly direction
along the valley, before they turned south and the uphill part
began. With a short break we continued to ascend for 300 metres.
The backpacks were 1,5 kg lighter now and that made already a
very comfortable difference to the day before.
Not far from the tracks we could see the locked Kieronstugan
on the opposite slope. Here we had to make our decision. To proceed
further would only make sense if we did the complete trip to
Alesjaure, and we were in doubt whether we would be able to finish
it under these weather conditions. There was a new shelter at
about half-way, but it surely was not very attractive to spend
a night there.
We looked back to Abiskojaure, which was down below us.
It had cleared up a bit. But out on the Alesjaure lake the wind
would still be stronger. We thought it would be wise to turn
back. Perhaps the weather would change and we could try it again
The way back was easy and downhill skiing was fun. In Abiskojaure
the stugvärd proposed that we use the smaller of the two
huts, which had only four beds and was dedicated to tourists
with dogs. At the moment, there were neither tourists nor dogs
We watched the weather from inside the hut, and this was
quite comfortable while we drank a cup of hot chocolate and sat
near the wood stove. It was not boring at all, it was quite recreational
just to care for the basic things of life. There was a hole in
the ice of the Abiskojaure, where we had to fetch the drinking
water. Together with a Swedish tourist we chopped firewood and
stored it in the shed.
Late in the afternoon I looked for a place where I could
test my new shovel. I wanted to find out for myself how long
it would take to dig a snow bivouac. It started snowing again,
and Carola decided to read "Miss Smilla" instead of
watching the progress of my work.
Only a grouse seemed to be curious about my activities.
At the following day the weather was worse still. During
the night about 20 cm of snow had fallen. "Varning för
hårt väder i kalfjäll", that was the forecast
for today. The wind speed above tree line would reach up to 17
m/s. The decision was easy, we had to stay at the hut. It was
still more quiet here than the day before, only around noon the
first snow-scooter came in from Abisko. We spent our time with
just relaxing and doing nothing, and in the afternoon we made
an excursion in the vicinity of the hut.
Since no dramatic changes of weather conditions were expected
for the next day, it made no sense to continue the tour. We had
used up most of our time and our provisions, and we had run out
of espresso powder. So we decided to return to Abisko. This easy
section should not be a problem, since we knew it and would have
the wind from behind.
At seven in the morning I filled the small stove with chops
of birch wood and lit them fire. Soon the little room warmed
up. We drank the last cup of espresso and ate the last mug of
cold cereal. We packed our backpacks, filled the buckets with
fresh water and cleaned up the hut. Carola talked to a Swedish
couple, which had come down from Alesjaure. They brought greetings
from Mark. He had... , but that is a different story, and Mark
will tell it himself. And they had met two Germans at the wind
shelter, who had been rather exhausted and had stayed there for
the night. "I've never seen people so exhausted in the fjäll",
said the man. So, we had probably kept on the safe side and therefore
we should not be disappointed.
A group of about ten people had set out from the hut half
an hour before. Now we followed them across the lake. Their tracks
were already covered with snow, but we could still see them far
away on the wide area of the lake. From time to time they vanished
in a whirl of snow.
I found it fascinating to move along the lake. Like in
a slow-motion film, there were no changes to notice. It took
forty minutes until we reached the lakeshore. We changed between
the marked trail and the river, depending on what seemed to be
the easiest way. Much faster than expected we had reached the
bridge where we had rested three days before. Today, we were
in much better condition. In good temper we prepared a mushroom
cream soup with croutons. After a while we reached the group
that had started before us and was taking a rest. Now they were
following behind us.
One of them took a photo of us at the sign-post to Abisko
Östra. It started to snow again, but soon we had reached
the fjällstation. We heard that the weather had been still
worse here than in Abiskojaure, the road between Björkliden
and Riksgränsen had been closed for three days due to snowdrifts.
This time the trip had taken only four hours instead of
six, including the breaks. We weighed the backpacks again. Mine
had 19 kg now and Carola's 16.5 kg. Sitting in the dining room
of the Abisko Fjällstation, we felt we were pleased with
our tour. It did not seem to be of importance that we had not
been successful with our plan to go to Kebnekaise. We never had
experienced a winter vacation like this one, we had enjoyed skiing,
living from what we carried in our backpacks, we had met people
and we had learned a lot. We would surely be here again next