Kungsleden: Hemavan – Ammarnäs

The end is close, I had few extra hours to catch up, and a new challenge popped up in my head 2 months ago. I’ve been skiing and walking in the Swedish mountains, but never running. That was planned with Centrum OK next September but can’t make it. I had to set my own trip. I heard/read a lot about the south part of the Kungsleden (the royal trail, 400km from Abisko to Hemavan). It was about time to check by myself how it looks like. Here are the figures:

  • Hemavan – Ammarnäs
  • 88km
  • 1700m uphill (+1000m for fun)
  • 48 hours

I looked for some volunteers, but nobody came up. Whatever, I’ll go alone at my speed, with my timing. And it went just awesome!

Day 1: 29km, +1500m, 5h40
Starting Friday morning from Stockholm, taking the plane to Hemavan in the morning. A really small plane (33 places), making first stop at another airport before Hemavan. But apparently safe. At 12.00, ready to hit the road, clothes changed, backpack ready and new shoes tied.

The first part is go up to the top of Hemavan ski tracks, then turning to a really nice valley, with a very flat trail leading to my first goal of the day:Viterskalstugan. Quite easy running all the way, going up and getting a better view every minute. The second part of the day would be quite short, and a top (Norra Sytertoppen) is calling me up there, in the clouds. I hoped the clouds would disappear when I come up. It didn’t… Only a couple of degrees up there, could barely see my feet, on the worst stony ground I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t thinkable of running the first downhill part, all alone in the clouds. It was already tough enough to localize the trail (cf. pictures below). 500m below, out of the fog, the grassy uplands, the sun is back and the way down is really awesome running, target locked visually on tonight home, Syterstugan. For the record, the top went out of the clouds two hours later… Bad timing!

Day 2: 29km, +500m, 3h50
Today’s first part will be easy, allowing myself a bit of morning sleep, while all the walkers are leaving the cottage. The first part is downhill, then flat alongTarnasjön, a big windy lake. After the first downhill run, the trail crosses some kind of mountain archipelago, incredible amount of islands. Seven suspended bridge are built here to go through that with dry shoes. The trail on the other side of the lake, towards Tarnasjöstugan looks like the jungle. A really wet and green forest, with a narrow track going through that vegetation, mostly on wood boards. The stage feels a bit longer than expected (14km on the signs, feels more like 16…). A long drinking and chatty break at the cottage, listening about Kungsleden stories from the cottage guard, and it’s time to start the second stage of the day. It is almost 2PM and the rain is expected around 4PM. This stage is one of the finest trail I’ve run on (with the one during the third day). A quick climb during the first kilometers, to reach a flat high plateau, populated with hundreds of reindeer, perfect trail for running, paving its way between lakes and mountainsides. It would have been even better without the rain that came ahead of schedule, as I ran the last hour under quite a heavy rain. A last small climb, and a nice downhill trail towards Servestugan. Really nice day, starting feeling heavy legs, but glad with a mind full of amazing pictures.

Day 3: 30km, +700m, 3h50
That last day was the tricky one. A long first stage (22km), with a long uphill first part (+700m), and a bus to catch after 30km in Ammarnäs, at 11.50 AM. I decided finally to start the day around 5AM, as the weather forecast was planning a degradation during the day. When I woke up at 5, the unexpected sun was out, shining, warming up the sleepy body. The long ascension went quite alright, as planned in my schedule, reaching the highest pass towards 7.30AM, after 14km. Half the day is over, and no more climbing! From that pass to the Aigerstugan (end of stage 1), it was the most fantastic view and feeling, with a shy sun, playing with the clouds to give an amazing shadow show. The trail, again perfect for running, slightly downhill, single track in the grass, “lost” all alone in the highlands… A.W.E.S.O.M.E. ! A long break at the Aigerstugan to drink and chat with the cottage guard, experienced mountains runner and orienteer. The last “downhill” part towards Ammarnäs is bit more technical, sliding as a rollercoaster on the mountainside, offering a nice view over the final destination. A couple of impressive waterfalls to drink and refresh myself. The bus stop is reached at 10.15, 1h35 before the bus, and with the last sunbeams for the day. Perfect timing. A nice and warm shower at the the STF hostel, followed by an early lunch, and it’s time to get the bus, 4 hours to reach Skellefteå, where I’ll take the plane home to Stockholm. Tonight (Sunday), I’ll sleep home! And it feels good!