Kungsleden 2016: Day 10

15th August 2016
Walk in 6:30am-7:30am 4km
Kebnekaise 17km, 1700m, 10-hours!

Awaking in the Kebnekaise valley. Today I'm going up!
Awaking in the Kebnekaise valley. Today I’m going up!

An early 5:30am start meant I was packed away by 6:30am and had covered the 4km to the Kebnekaise STF Fjallstation for 7:30am.
A quick pitch later and I’m lobbing my sleeping bag, blown roll-mat, stove, main meals and spare clothes in to the tent.
Ditching what I didn’t need to take up Kebnekaise has dropped my rucksack weight well into single figures. It feels light and I hit the trail with gusto.

By the time I set off at 8am it felt like I was the last person to embark on the trail. In reality I wasn’t, but practically speaking most people were far ahead. I guess they must have started as early as 6am.
Within the first couple of hours I caught up a number of people who in all honesty looked unlikely to make it. Shortly after I was hitting the back of the determined strugglers. You could see through sheer determination that they were going to make it, eventually. I passed a few more on the way up the first peak and a few more again as I descended into the col around halfway.

Its surprising how quickly you gain height!
Its surprising how quickly you gain height!

The col is one of those unfortunate obstacles so often found on hill climbs. Having cleared the same height as Ben Nevis it felt a little demoralising to be dropping so much height so quickly. Nonetheless it was an obstacle to be grappled with. Onwards and upwards and all that! I kept my motivation up with the remainder of a packet of Singoalla , not dissimilar to Jammy Dodgers.

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Following the red dots through the grey.

Starting up the climb which would lead to Kebnekaise summit I quickly found an older gentleman who was walking at the same pace as I. It was helpful to settle into the same pace and rhythm, just around 15m behind. Whenever he stopped I would catch up and exchange pleasantries – a very gentlemanly climb.

Running out of biscuits I stopped further up the climb to have some lunch. Renost and malted bread again. As I set off I could tell that my lunch was going to provide good slow burn energy but I was lacking the instant energy hit. I needed a boost but had no more sugary snacks. I broke out the emergency “power chews”.
I have had these before when mountain biking. They are very much like jelly cubes and give you a good kick when your lacking energy. Over the remainder of the climb I popped five of the things. The other three disappeared on the way down. I was glad for the boost and the pomegranate flavour tasted great.

A hint of a grey view through the grey clouds ... onwards and upwards ...
A hint of a grey view through the grey clouds … onwards and upwards …

As I walked it was difficult to gauge what to wear. I was sweating profusely from the exertion and for most of the walk there was no wind. A thin fleece top was sufficient to keep off the chill from the altitude. The col and the climb out of the col were very windy and needed a jacket to keep off the wind chill. Overall I was very lucky with the weather.

A splash of colour in the grey!
A splash of colour in the grey!

The last pull up to the top was over a thin crust of snow, peppered with stones poking their heads through like little icebergs.
Reaching the top of the rise revealed a final small pinnacle completely covered in snow. The summit was at the top of the pinnacle.
Gingerly I crept up the last patch of snow and perched myself on the top of Sweden.
The cloud had lifted and you could see for miles in all directions. The views were stupendous.

Kebnekaise summit.
Kebnekaise summit.
The cloud cover added to the sensation of height - as though you could touch the ceiling
The cloud cover added to the sensation of height – as though you could touch the ceiling

Nervously I manoeuvred around taking a few photos. The drops on both sides were icy and beyond the slopes were vertical drops of hundreds of metres. Having satisfied my sense of achievement I descended with caution.

On top of Sweden
On top of Sweden
Steep drops on both sides require genuine care!
Steep drops on both sides require genuine care!
On the way back down
On the way back down
Chocolate brownies anyone!
Chocolate brownies anyone!
A peak of the valley floor - somewhere near last nights cap spot.
A peak of the valley floor – somewhere near last nights cap spot.
With the cloud lifted the views on the way down were ... vast!!
With the cloud lifted the views on the way down were … vast!!

The descent was steep and demanded your 100% attention as you stepped over rocks and down onto slippery areas of snow or loose gravel. I paused periodically to catch my breath and marvel at the view. As with the ascent, the climb from the col back up to the false summit felt like a poor use of my energies. Still it was all part of the experience. The last part of the descent tracked around the base of a neighbouring hill. It felt like an eternity as it dropped gradually.
Getting to the top had taken five-and-a-half hours of the suggested ten to fourteen hour round trip. On the descent I made good time and returned to my tent within ten hours from leaving it. Get in!! Arriving at my tent felt like coming home. I guess it has been my home for the last 10 days. Even my bulging camping mat will be welcome tonight.

I made a quick call to Nat and headed for a shower and sauna at the Fjallstation. Part of me is looking forward to getting home. The next few days are set to be to be a blast though – just need some careful planing of my route up to Abisko.

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