Kungsleden 2016: Day 12

17th August 2016
9:30am-8:15pm 26km

The morning light gleamed low over the glassy lake. The surrounding mountains were mirrored in its surface with barely a ripple of wind to disturb its stillness. From my tent door the lake looked like a luxurious infinity pool. Idyllic!

Another "Wow" moment!
Another “Wow” moment!

Once again, a slow start to the day with a double coffee, breakfast, packing away and many many photos.
The weather today is perfect. Warm but with a gentle cool breeze.
The difficulty here is deciding which photos to post … let’s go with … lots!

Snow capped mountains remind you that this is the Artic.
Snow capped mountains remind you that this is the Artic.
Taking in the view.
Taking in the view.
Water, fresh from a mountain stream.
Water, fresh from a mountain stream.

Leaving at 09:30am I wandered over to the rise from where the trail would drop steeply to the valley floor. Heading down the other side I was ‘off-piste’. Taking markers from the opposite valley I placed my position on the map and worked out that I needed to head further west to pick up the official trail. The terrain got steeper and steeper. Still my position indicated I should be heading further west. I got to the point where the terrain was too steep, where a tumble could result in a sprained ankle or worse. Still here was no sign of any cairns or worn turf that mark the way. Clearly I had descended too quickly and nervously I decided to track back up a few meters to find the path. Following the same height I figured if I were to just trace a contour round the mountain I should hit the path sooner or later. As I edged round three ridges appeared running straight down the mountain. These seemed to coincide with three ridges on the map which should be directly opposite a bridge on the other side of the valley. If this were correct I could follow the ridges down, head through the woods on the same trajectory and meet a bridge that would cross the river.

Off-piste navigation.
Off-piste navigation.

As I climbed onto the first ridge to my relief there was a cairn, a second and a third cairn led me down through the woods. Marvellous! I had spent too long descending steeply and checking the map. Now I could just follow the path and pick up a little more speed.

Wild blueberries are so much juicer off the beaten track.
Wild blueberries are so much juicer off the beaten track.

Arriving at the bridge the view was stupendous. A roaring mountain river thundered underneath.
The water was crystal clear allowing you to easily see to the bottom. It looked inviting. Having lost time descending and knowing I had a big day ahead I decided that a dip was not to be. In any case the fast flowing water was ‘glacial’ and probably less than advisable to go dipping alone in such a remote location.

Crystal clear and so inviting!
Crystal clear and so inviting!
Following the riverside path to Vistasstugan.
Following the riverside path to Vistasstugan.

Munching through a snickers bar I powered my way up through the winding, muddy, rocky forest and reached the Vistasstugan STF cabins in a little over an hour. I was pleased with my time but realised I could not keep this pace up all day.
The cabins were nestled in a forest grove and looked to be beautifully kept. I had assumed that these back-country cabins would have little use but the wardens assured me that they had been full for the last couple of nights. I could see why with these views.

Vistasstugan STF hut. One of the finest settings Ive seen.
Vistasstugan STF hut. One of the finest settings Ive seen.

The next leg of my journey would take me eighteen kilometers up to the Alesjaurestugorna cabins. If I kept a good pace this would take six to eight hours.
I wasn’t sure if I had the legs to do this. Certainly my knees were sore after the descent from Kebnekaise, the ‘moon’ walk yesterday and the last few days of hard walking. I decided that as long as I completed more than thirteen kilometers then I would just have two days of twenty kilometers each.
As I headed off into the valley the sun shone and I swung the peak of my cap round to protect my neck. I must have looked an odd sight to the few people who passed, with my cap on back-to-front, looking like an eighties rap star.

Elk feeding along the edge of the marsh.
Elk feeding along the edge of the marsh.

The terrain and view constantly changed from woods, to sheer rocky cliffs to marshy wetlands. At two points along a large area of wetland there were moose (or elk) wallowing in the reeds. They looked up as they heard me across the valley and scarpered to hide in the scrub. In one area of woods just thirty yards from me a tree moved and thundered away. I only caught a brief glimpse but am fairly sure that too was a moose. Reindeer don’t tend to hang around on their own.

A good stiff ridge, acting as a dam wall to a couple of lakes behind.
A good stiff ridge, acting as a dam wall to a couple of lakes behind.

A good stiff walk took me through to 5:15pm by which time my feet and legs were sore and my stomach was telling me to refuel. Sitting on the edge of a river between two lakes I cooked the last meal from my pack. A good old full English breakfast. As I was eating two ladies wandered by and suggested that there was less than four kilometres to go. I had thought more than six but it appears the old derelict ruins of a traditional Sami hut I had passed were what I thought was going to be a cabin. Winner!

A perfect spot for an evening meal.
A perfect spot for an evening meal.

Having washed up and packed away I decided to carry on a little closer. Every step closer being a step less tomorrow. I sauntered on, hands in pockets, in a nonchalant fashion that surely portrayed the sense of a good days work well done. In no time at all I stumbled upon the Alesjaure lake where a modern day Sami village resides. On the waters edge there are a quaint mix of traditional red and white wooden buildings and ‘teepee’ style tents. This did not seem to be a respectful place to pitch my tent so I pressed on a little further.

Sami village.
Sami village.
Spot my little friend ...
Spot my little friend …

The next couple of kilometres consisted of scrubland and wet streams with very little choice of camping spots. I soon found myself at the end of a swing bridge which would take me to the STF cabin.
I tracked back up the hill where a gaggle of tents were pitched and found myself a suitably remote pitch. Unfortunately the whole area was over-run by mosquitoes. Far and wide I could see tent occupants wrapped in layers of clothing with minimal skin showing, making blind swatting actions into the air as they munched their evening meal.
Pitching my tent as swiftly as possible I headed up to the cabin to restock on food for tomorrow. I was pleasantly surprised to see Bullens (hot dogs) at only thirty crowns and bought a tin along with some Heinz baked beans. Tomorrow’s lunch will be epic!

I’d hoped to grab a beer but unfortunately only the canned variety was available. I should try it but can’t bring myself to do so! It dawns on me that I have become an ale snob – no bad thing mind! I grabbed some snacks to munch and settled to use my iPad from the comfort of a table.

So that was another full day today with some of the most outstanding scenery I’ve seen.
I’m hugely grateful to John and Janna for that detour tip.

Tomorrow is my penultimate waking day with just an easy twenty-one clicks. It feels like I’m on the home stretch – still enjoying it but I’ll be glad to see the family in a few days.

Oh go on then … one more piccy …

Another image firmly wedged in my memory bank ...
Another image firmly wedged in my memory bank …
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