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Explore new places: Kebnekaise 2018

Climbing on a Sweden´s highest mountain from a Sun Living campervan

Camper vans continue to increase in popularity and the large supply makes the proportion of younger users increase. More and more families go mobile but also younger couples or friends who are involved in developing outdoor activities and sports are attracted by the combination Van + active vacation.

In this article we are moving with a Sun Living Van from Småland in south of Sweden to northern Lapland and we are aiming for Kebnekaise top, the tallest mountain in Sweden. This year, there is a lot of interesst on various outdoor activities according to the STF - Swedish Tourist association. More and more people want to be active on their vacation and who has not had the idea that it would be exciting to visit a countries highest peak?

This can be done in several ways, which you can read about in the article , and for those who do not want to climb mountains but still want to be able to have a wonderful nature experience come several great tips. We have chosen to drive a Sun Living Van to Nikkaluokta and then walk to Kebnekaise mountain station. There we live in tents and then try to reach the top some time for three days completely depending on the weather. Follow the trip in our diary below and be either discouraged or inspired - we hope for the latter!

The Van we selected for this trip is a Sun-Living V60SP. It is well suited for the long transport stretches we are going to put behind us. For this type of mobile home there is a larger selection of accessories for transporting equipment such as bicycles, kayaking, windsurfing boards, etc. This, along with compact dimensions and a sensible operating cost, make it popular with active users, and many use it for everyday use as a second-hand vehicle .

The night before
It feels like we prepared for months, yet you are in the shop 5 minutes before closing and shopping for a "last" thing. The checklist has been checked for the fiftieth time and the large table in the living room is full of equipment when Andreas says: "How should all this fit into the bag?" Everything is still down after it'scompressed well and lands total weight of 15 kg.

Day 1
The clock rings at 6:00. After checking everything one last time and looking after wife and children, maybe for the last time (kidding), the last load is stuffed into the Van. At 6:30, we are rolling out, exactly at the time - we will see how the rest of the journey continues.

We have chosen to drive the main highway E4 today and the goal is way end, Luleå. Now we do not mean that Luleå is the end of the jurney without the road becoming E10. The navigator says 1230 kilometers and 12h 45min .

The traffic is flowing and we are moving at a fast pace. Stockholm is passing, a distance that usually feels slack but now only becomes a short stretch. After Uppsala, Gävle, Sundsvall and Härnösand we stay at the High Coast - the bridge for a icecream and beautiful view. If you travel with children there is an old game that they will try to hold the breath from one side to the other. Ask them try - unless you get to rest your ears for a while! After that we leave Örnsköldsvik, Umeå and Piteå behind us to arrive at the destination of the day, Luleå [ Luule ]. Here we stay overnight at camperarea a ”Ettans boat harbor” which has some 10places right next to the water with electric pole and water hose right next to the Van . Very nice and fresh facilities shared with the guest harbor. Aside from some celebrating students passing by, the night was calm.

Day 2
Early morning and we roll away with a view of Nikkaluokta, 70 kilometers west of Kiruna , a journey that will take us about 5 hours. For a while, we will stay at a local small gas station to buy us a coffee. We move into the door handle which is locked and we realize it's a minute left until they open. When we turn around, there is an older local resident in front of us smiling at the same time as we hear the door locked up behind us. In the broadest dialect, he says: - " Welcome to the cottage". We smile back and realize that we are actually quite far north , especially when we cross the Polar circle a moment later.

Already in Nikkaluokta , the road ends and we park the Van . There is relatively plenty of space here and it costs 30 SEK a day to stand. Nikkaluokta has a long history, where Sami had settlements for thousands of years. The first permanent settlements were restored in the early 20th century. Here is currently living 14 families all year round . One of them is the Sarri society, which started small-scale tourist activities by offering food and accommodation in the family's own residence. They are still involved most of the tourism in the area, but now in the 3rd and 4th generation . They have a nice building in the middle of the village with reception, restaurant and shop with traditional Sami products . It is here at the front desk that you will annonce your arrival at the parking lot and the hiking trail passes just outside the entrance.

We start our hiking after lunch. The distance is 19km and goes up and down but in total there is no major difference in height. However, it is uneven in the terrain and bitwise rocky. One passes a couple of larger watercourses with hanging bridges. After 5km you can choose to go boat . These depart many times a day and pay on site. The boat is not a shortcut, but you do not have to walk about 6km, which we still chose to do when some people think it's a cheat to use travel assistance. The boat traffic alongside Restaurang Enoks, located next to the water, is operated by the Sarri family. Here you will also find LappDonalds , probably the country's smallest hamburger resturant with the most doubtful opening hours.

We reach Kebnekaise mountain station at 19 o'clock and raise quickly our tent before the compulsory meeting with the guides at. 20. We have chosen to walk up the eastern side and then this meeting is required. There are 2 roads from the mountain station to the south tip . The western trail, which is slightly further, is a well-marked hiking trail that you can go for yourself. The eastern trail requires a guide and some safety equipment that you can borrow on site. This passage passes glaciers and some climbing is required which makes it technically harder than the western side.

After the meeting, we go to bed for a good night's sleep before the top attempt. However, there will be no deeper sleep as it is a little windy, nervous and also midnight sun.

Day 3
We wake up to blue sky and sun. The wind has slowed slightly and the walk upwards starts at 07:20. After a lighter breakfast and fully equipped we start off the mountain station. Our group consists of 9 people and 2 guides and everyone is now walking in a quiet but even pace. The first bit is easier walking slightly up.We pass a larger watercourse with meltwater called ”Jökelbäcken”. It runs partly under the first snow cover we walk over.

Now it is most uphill and the surface varies between rocky areas and snow.. After a while, we approach the ”Storbacken”. The rule says that those who can not keep the group's pace must turn and this usually shows up here. The whole group is still along and we take a shorter break for drinking water. We pass ”Kebnetjåkkaglacier” and after a while we reach the front edge of Björling's glacier, 1500 meters above sea level. Here we stay and take the day's first lunch break and then put on our harness. The group is divided into two and are tied into ropes. The glacier has a smooth snow cover, but it can still be foolish because cracks in the ice can be hidden below. Therefore, you can incorporate ropes at even intervals when others can stop a case if someone would go through.

On the other side of the glacier we stop and unload the ropes. Now you have to put on the helmet and even cramons underneath the shoes for the best possible grip as it starts to get really steep! The first part is a side shift on the mountain wall with a cliff below us all the way. There is a steel wire mounted as we secure ourselves, but even if it stops a fall, it would be quite bad to fall here.

At the end of lateral movement, the steepest part begins on the whole climb. It's a snowy wall where the feeling is that it is vertical. We are secured in a rope that we also hold in order to even get up. Small snowballs that dissolve further roll over us at high speed and bounce over the edge further down and disappear down to the glacier. Well up above the wall everybody breathes out and now we get the feeling that this will probably go the way. The weather is still perfect with blue skies, sunny and faint winds. We see the old cottage just outside of us and we are now 1880 meters above sea level . We have 1km of hiking left to the top, but now it's a bit flatter again. When the top starts to appear above the edge above us, we unconsciously increase the tempo and the guide will slow us down. We come to the new security cabin just below the top and here is a group that just have been up at the top. It's currently empty at the top so the guide says : - "Take off your bags , get up right now!".

The highest part of the mountain is a steep hill with a narrow oblong peak. We must secure ourselves in a rope last bit so as not to risk falling into any direction. A small comb at the top is the highest point and the feeling when you stand on it and lifting your eyes is phenomenal: WE DID IT!

Whichever way you look, you'll see mountains and valleys, but everything is further down, we're on top! To the north you can see the north peak, which is not far away but the road consists of a narrow comb with steep slopes on both sides. Guided tours are also possible, and the peak is expected to be highest within a couple of years when the southern tip is a glacier that slowly melts due to climate change . The northern tip is massive and at measurements it has separated as little as 70cm between the peaks.

After a few minutes of enjoyment and photography, we walk down from the top and take our bags back on. We walk back to the edge of the steep part and take today's second lunch break. Everyone is happy about the amazing experience you just had to come along in and in splendid weather, which is not very common as there are often fast weather conditions in the area .

Now we are going to take the steep part in the opposite direction and if you do not get scam on the way up, it's a fact now. We are secured in rope but you can hold it with both hands and step down bit by piece. All the way down the glacier edge, everyone breathes out, now "just" a normal walk remains, and downhills. When we get further down the mountain we put on raincloths and slides down the slope closely followed by each other.

The last bit to cottage feels in the legs. It's hard to be on a constant walk, but an even and reasonable pace nevertheless makes it all possible. Down to the base camp we find that it took us a total of 9.5 hours which is a good time according to the guide. Probably good weather made the motivation and pace held up. After a little talk and rest, the group dissolves and everyone goes on to their own, satisfied with a nice day and a great experience.

Day 4
Really tired but after better sleep than the night before the clock rings at 06. Time to pack up and walk back to Nikkaluokta. Today it is cloudy and rainy but we are prepared with good rainwear and, despite many long days, are in a happy mood. After a steady breakfast, we leave. After 19 km of hiking the day after the peak climbing we thought it woul feel significantly worse but the legs actually feel perfectly alright . We manages the distance of just under four hours, which we are very pleased because we have 15kg pack on our back. No, we did not take that boat either and, as proof of that, we photographed it on its journey towards the mountain station.

It was nevertheless pleasing to see the Sun Living Van in the parking lot. Off with all the equipment, damp clothes and change to dry soft clothes. We have 1650 km to drive so we roll away immediately and make a quick stop in central Kiruna. We choose to drive inland road home to see more parts of Sweden. Time-wise it only takes a couple of hours and the distance is basically the same, but we "avoid" highways. After a while we arrive at an extremely long roadway where all asphalt has been removed. Mil after miles we go on a dumpy dirt road, and despite the fact that it's weekday, few people seem to work along the way. Somewhere in the middle of this, we still feel that highways are good in their way. After passing through both raindeers with calves and mooses we realize that we have chosen the right path for the experience.

We pass the polar circle once more and the goal of the day is Dorotea. After passing through fine resorts like Gällivare, Jokkmokk, Arvidsjaur, Storuman and Vilhelmina , we park the Van at a nice resting place a few miles before the community and it feels good to sleep.

Day 5
Early morning and we roll on. Strömsund, Östersund and Sveg passes and the rain is now over to the sun. We drive through Mora and then we will stay in Vansbro and have a nice coffee at Vansbro patisserie. Homemade at is best and there is a lot to choose from. The patisserie has good parking facilities and is located right next to the E16 in the center.

We continue south passing Filipstad, Kristinehamn, Mariestad and Skövde, and finally we reach Jönköping and Tenhult. We note that our expedition was successful in all possible ways and what a wonderful trip we had with the weather and everything worked out fine. The choice of Sun Living Van was successful and the model fits very well for this type of travel.

Experience Kebnekaise in easier ways
This trip can be done in many different ways for entirely by one's circumstances. You can experience nature around Kebnekaise without trying to reach the top. Here are beautiful hiking trails in a fantastic setting. Kebnekaise mountainstation can, in addition to being seen as a protection for hikers, also be described as a smaller hotel by the mountain. Here you can stay with full board and make small day trips. The service level is very good and the staff is nice and helpful .

If you drive with a motor home or Van, you park in Nikkaluokta and it costs 30kr / day. From the mountain station you can go 19 km and take it as a day trip. Save 6km by taking the boat a bit or air helicopter all the way. It takes 6 minutes and costs 850kr single trip incl. 20kg luggage.

You can also visit the peak by helicopter if desired. In other words, you can experience the whole area without even wandering .

If you want to camp with tent, you can do it according to the law, but at least 150m from the buildings of the mountain house due to fire risk. You can pay a service fee and can use all facilities such as kitchen with dining room, toilet, shower, sauna and drying room.

Restaurant Elsa Kitchen
The food at the mountain station is of high quality and the restaurant has its own little history. Here worked Elsa Göransson as matron. At that time, only the first part was built 1907-1908 , called the Old Cottage . The cottage really consisted only of the kitchen and a large family room. Here Elsa cooked food to hungry mountain hikers who gathered in the cottage and told about their experiences. Elsa became immensely popular and she stayed here for almost 30 years. Today, they embrace Elsa's tradition and serves a lot of pickled food, both as a starter but also as an accompaniment to main dishes. It was that times way to preserving food for long periods. Even the tradition of gathering the wanderers around the same table to talk about their experiences still exist so do not expect to put yourself where you want in the restaurant in the evening's dinner.

How to prepare yourself
If you intend to wander in these areas, good shoes with a shaft over the knees are recommended. This because the terrain bitwise is quite uneven and it is easy to trample on a rock. One important thing is to get in to the shoes properly so your needles do not hurt. Double socks should be used, synthesized closest to the body that leads away the moisture from the foot and then a wool sock on the outside. The double socks also make the foot filler shoe better and it's slimmer, which is important to avoid sore wounds. Always use spinal cord patches and use them for prevention in places that you know are sensitive.

Good rainwear that breathes, kind of scarf, is also recommended. Other equipment depends entirely on what you intend to do in the area. Should you stay at the mountain station and make small straps from there, only simple packing with clothes, etc. is required. Should you cook yourself, a larger packing will probably need to weigh around 15kg.

To climb Kebnekaise 's peak is no ordinary walk. Even if you do not have much experience, it is still a tough strap that requires good fitness and the right equipment . There is good information about this on the internet, both tips and equipment lists.

If you prepare well and read tips and information, you will have a wonderful experience in Sweden's highest mountain range!

Ps. By the way, we saw 1 mosquito on the whole trip and the one he did not bite, so the question is if it counts !?

Text & Photo
Jonathan Larsson
Andreas Briland

Guides
Kristin: The first season at Kebnekaise. Has previously guided ice climbing at Abisko
Matti: Fifth season at Kebnekaise. Have been on top over 100 times !!