Mt Kebnekaise

After a couple of days relaxing in Kiruna I started to get itchy feet (and no it wasn’t my socks, they’ve been washed, with soap and everything). Felt like I haven’t done any walking for a while, and to be honest real beds are just too comfortable. So I thought I would pop out of town and climb a mountain called Kebnekaise. At just over 2100 metres it’s the highest peak in Sweden, and it’s a beautiful climb.

Getting up early Sunday morning I jumped on a bus to Nikkaloukkta, from there it was a 20km walk to the mountain station at the foot of Kebne. After three months of pretty much non stop rain it seems that summer has finally come to Sweden, the sun was shining and the mountains looked amazing. I camped Sunday night a little way up the valley from the mountain station.

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I say “I” but I wasn’t alone, a had a wonderful companion, Lyka, who was not only great company but also kept the tent warm at night (though my kit is now covered in fur).

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Lyka was lent to me by Jenny, who I must also thank for lending me her amazingly ultralight tent, and letting me crash in her spare room for my time in Kiruna, a lovely person all round.

5:30 Monday morning we were awake, and by 7, coffee and dog biscuits had been had (Lyka loved the coffee, I wasn’t sure about the biscuits) and we were ready to go.

The day started off fairly easy, walking to the head of the valley, with a quick stop to fill the water bottle from a stream. There’s nothing more refreshing than fresh spring/melt water, still icy cold from the snow. Then the fun started, coming round a bit of a corner the end of the valley comes into sight…

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From here the hike becomes more of a scramble, large boulders and a lot of loose rubble, with a few patches of snow thrown in for good measure. Genuinely good fun, but I was thankful I had a nice dry day and a good pair of walking poles (thanks to Marcell for lending me those). Lyka loved the snow, nearly lost her a couple of times when she decided to go sledging on some of the steeper sections.

The peak on the right is Kebnekaise, but the path actually goes up the one on the left first, then down across that dip before going up to the peak. It’s hard to get a sense of scale from the photo so I’ll just say this. There’s a full sized cabin half way up the right hand peak, try and spot it if you can. The straight line distance between the two peaks is something like 4km.

At the top of the left peak was an amazing collection of Cairns. The stony, wind swept peak, covered in these strange little rock piles, felt almost spiritual (until you remembered they were built by day hikers whilst they stopped for a snickers and some water)

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From there it was down, through the dip then up the main peak. With a quick stop for some lunch at the cabin (I brought a rather expensive freeze dried chicken curry as a celebratory meal but it turned out to be German, full of sugar, banana and pineapple. Not great)

Finally reached the summit some time around 2pm. The last 40 or so metres are up a steep snowy ridge, slippy as balls to get up but great fun to slide back down again and absolutely worth it for the view. Here’s me trying to look casual and ignore the rather long drop to either side (the lady taking the pictures said I should fist pump or something, I said I was far too English)

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Then it was just a cheeky three hour walk/scramble/slide back down to the valley and a short walk to find a nice spot to camp for the night. This morning we got up early, walked the 20km back to Nikkaloukkta and got a bus back to Kiruna where both Lyka and I have collapsed on the sofa. Three of the best days hiking I’ve had all summer, and to anyone thinking of climbing Kebne, go for it. I won’t say it’s easy but it’s by no means impossible and its definitely worth doing.

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Kiruna!

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I made it, I got to Kiruna last night (I would have posted something then but in my enthusiasm I ran quite a bit of the last few miles and was rather knackered)

Thanks to everyone. My family, the friends who walked with me, the people I met on the trail, the people who have put me up for the night, shared their food and their stories, all those who helped me out, and of course to everyone who has donated to the British Heart Foundation.

It’s been a hell of a summer, time to start planning the next trip! (once I’ve had my boots put back together and my tent reproofed). Now, what do people do in Kiruna?

Pedestrian Ponderings

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So, walking upwards of 9 hours a day gives one a fair amount of time to think. Here is an insight into the mind of a long distance Hiker, I even included a picture of me doing my thoughtful face (I look great in exam halls). Oh and I tried to do bullet points but the wordpress app has foiled me at every turn so you’ll have to imagine them.

Sweden, a country with beautiful countryside and countless amazing trails, but no country pubs…

Why, after millions of years of evolution, are our knees better adapted to walking backwards?

Oh a shop! Better buy some chocolate

With our phone GPS tracking our every move, Google searching knowing our darkest questions and Facebook keeping tabs on everything we do, was Orwell a bit optimistically limited in his vision of Big Brother?

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow bloody shoulders.

I wonder if someone makes centrally heated boots.

My God, this country does have a lot of pine trees.

Some mad fool just told me there’s a place where it doesn’t rain and everything is made warm by a giant ball of fire in the sky. I mean I respect people’s right to believe in their religion but some things are a bit far fetched.

Is it possible to have ones legs surgically replaced with giant springs?

We are nothing more than the sum of our experiences, yet our memories have been shown to constantly rewrite themselves. Can it be argued that we are in fact an entirely new person when we wake up each morning? Do we even remain the same person from moment to moment?

Should have bought more chocolate.

If I swat enough mosquitos, leaving alive only those that don’t land on me, will they eventually evolve to avoid all Freds?

I remember when I used to eat food that didn’t come from a tin, those were the days.

Is anyone even reading this? It’s been so long since I read the news London could have been hit by an atom bomb and I wouldn’t know…

Maybe I’m the only person left alive….

Wait no, there’s someone peeing behind that tree.

Only three more hours till lunchtime!

If each kilo you carry burns ten calories per mile, how many many more miles can I lug this pasta around before it becomes nutritionally void?

Hmm, I should write all this down for a blog post.

Two Years Today.

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Its two years today since my mother died (I hate saying she “passed” she wasn’t playing football, or that “I lost her” like she was a set of keys) and its been an odd day. It probably won’t ever be a a good day, but this year I do feel strangely positive. At least I’m out here doing something constructive, and after having all summer to think about everything, it feels like I’ve finally managed to straighten things out in my head a little bit. So, though it hasn’t exactly been a happy day, it hasn’t been entirely sad either. Mostly it’s been thoughtful.

Really I just want to send my love to my family, and to my friends who have helped me when things have been rough (and laughed with me when things have been good) and to say a big thank you to everyone who has sponsored me. You’ve all helped take something shit and make it just that little bit brighter.

And lastly, just a little piece of music that I remember Sussie loving and that always makes me think of her.

http://www.justgiving.com/Fredrik-Ahlburg-Keate1

The Fairy Godmother of the Kungsleden

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So, after finding out my poor old tent hasn’t aged too well, and now offers about as much shelter as a steel helmet in a thunderstorm, things weren’t looking too great. Especially with this being Swedens wettest summer in 100 years. However, I’d come too far to give stop now, and there’s no point getting grumpy about these things (no matter how hot and bothered you get it won’t dry off your socks) so I kept going, on to the next mountain station at Tarnasjön where I spent the last of my cash on a bed for the night. Which turned out to be one of the best decisions ive made all trip.
This is where I met the Fairy Godmother of the KL, Gun Bindström. The Hut warden of the Tarnasjön station, who after hearing about my tent problems, asked around the folks in the station to see if anyone knew about waterproofing/repairing tents. No one did, but there were two absolutely legendary lads who were at the end of their walk and gave me their tent! Not only that but they popped up later in the evening with packets of freeze dried hiking food and even a self inflating sleeping mat and wouldn’t even let me buy them a beer to say thanks. Also a thank you to the hut warden at Servastugan, who was lovely to chat to and gave me even more camping meals, they were delicious. I genuinely can’t say how grateful I am to these amazing people.
Big Brother is now slightly larger and heavier than I am, but I’m dry at night and I’ve never had such comfortable sleep in the field.

A quick hello to, Milla, Ellen, Juang Moon and all the others I’ve met so far on the KL. Great people, but damn it why are you all walking the wrong direction?!

Despite the 5 days of non stop rain the Kungsleden continues to be beautiful and the wind on the mountains is great for blowing away the mosquitos.

“The Crazy Englishman”

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So apparently I’ve earned my trail name from the other hikers on the Kungsleden. I heard about this morning when I bumped into two swedes who, when they heard my accent, exclaimed “oh so you’re the crazy Englishman”. Not going to lie, slightly flattered.

The Kungsleden so far has been absolutely amazing. Bleakly beautiful mountains, crystal clear rivers and bloody treacherous snowfields (already put my foot through what looked like solid snow but turned out to have a good 2 foot void below it, slightly sphincter clenching moment). Plus, finally, I’m meeting other hikers. Loads of them, and there great. Found a beautiful spot in the middle of a valley to camp last night, had a nice big dinner and settled down to some reading, lovely evening. Though the overall atmosphere was slightly spoilt by the discovery that my tent is about as waterproof as a sieve… Had to pack everything up quickly at about 11pm and leg it a couple of miles to the nearest Hut. Looks like I’m going to have to plan my route around where I can find stugas to stay in. Just stopped off at a mountain station for a sit down but it’s time to crack on, at least the sun is shining today!