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.
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).
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…
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)
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)
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.