This travel diary has about 3 friends embarking on a 20-day desert hike in one of the most beautiful alpine areas in northern Sweden: Sarek National Park.
Sarek National Park
Sarek National Park is a national park in the municipality of Jokkmokk, Lapland in northern Sweden. Founded in 1909-1910, the park is one of the oldest national parks in Europe. It is adjacent to two other national parks, namely Stora Sjöfallet and Padjelanta. The shape of the Sarek National Park is approximately circular, with an average diameter of about 50 kilometers.
The most notable features of the national park are six of Sweden's thirteen peaks, over 2,000 meters, located within the park boundaries. Among them is Sweden's second highest mountain, Sarektjåkkå, while the Áhkká massif is located on the outskirts of the park. The park has about 200 peaks over 1,800 meters, of which 82 have names. Due to the long hike, the district's mountains are rarely climbed. There are approximately 100 glaciers in Sarek.
Hiking in Sarek National Park
Sarek is a popular area for hikers and climbers. It is recommended that beginners in these disciplines accompany a guide, as there are no marked trails or accommodations and only two bridges beyond those close to their borders. The area is among those that receive Sweden's heaviest rainfall, making the hike dependent on weather conditions. It is also intercepted by turbulent currents that are dangerous to cross without proper training.
Mine, Hendrik and Björn are teaming up for this incredible adventure. Mine and Hendrik had never explored the desert before. They never leave their comfort zone for longer periods. I myself have been exploring for many years and optimized my system, balancing comfort and weight according to my needs. Optimizing your configuration is something that happens over many years of use. Everyone is different, so there is no single solution to do so.
Mine and Hendrik both trusted my system and what I think is necessary for this effort. This can be a great starting point, as it will save a lot of money and time that would be spent looking for the right equipment to do the job. But it does not replace the use of the system and the knowledge of the limits and the limits themselves.
Everyone is different in many ways: You are in shape? How cold are you? What is your diet? How does your digestive tract react to high calorie foods? Do you like to bathe in icy waters? Do you feel comfortable sharing a tent with other people? Sharing a tent can mean that you will be trapped in a confined space with people for a long time in case of bad weather.
Comfort issues would also be: Do you feel comfortable wearing the same shirt for 2 weeks? Most people who have never done anything like this cannot answer these questions. Coming from the city, we are packed in luxury and used to having things like shelter, food, hot water and clean clothes on demand. Outside, everything is different. You have to make a lot of choices: simple things like when is the best time to wash my clothes.
There are days when I leave the shelter in the morning, thinking to myself: today is washing day! Obviously, you will want to wash your clothes when the sun is out to dry them quickly.
Overcoming doubts and fears
People who have never taken a long, unrestricted trip through the desert will have many things in mind when planning the trip. This can lead to excessive caution and can take a lot of equipment with you that you don't really need. External resellers will try to make money out of your fears. They will try to sell you the heaviest and most expensive equipment. Nature will surely devour you, if you don't have robust and super heavy equipment for your trip. Most heavy equipment is overloaded and is simply not necessary, even for off-road adventures.
Where do we start?
Creating the route
Usually, the first thing to decide is where to explore. Since we will use a GPS device for any adventure like this, it will usually start with creating a route. There are many different systems to use. I have used Garmin devices for a long time, which is why we’ll stay with it, as I’ll be the main navigator on that trip.
I explored Sarek many times. In good weather, I won't need a navigation device because I know where I'm going, but in adverse conditions with walking in clouds or thick fog, there may be no visibility. It is good to have, even if you know the area well. For this trip, we chose to use Garmin inReach because of its live tracking function. It can also serve as an emergency signaling device in case someone needs to be rescued.
"I hope the best, plan the worst"
When creating hiking routes in a specific area, I made it a habit to create lots of side routes, shortcuts and detours to choose from. You never know what will happen, and when planning different routes, you will have a better understanding of the area and it is also good practice. It is good to have more than one exit strategy. In Sarek, there is only an emergency shelter with a radio phone in the center of the park.
There are two main trails well outside the borders of Sarek: Kungsleden and Padjelantaleden are well maintained and have some infrastructure in terms of FTS cabins and emergency shelters.
STF stands for Svenska Turistförenigen and is the Swedish Tourism Association. If you plan to walk a lot in Sweden, consider getting a membership. With it, you will be able to use all the facilities of the mountain huts and will be able to stay there for free between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. You will also receive a discount on the rooms if you plan to spend the night drying your equipment.
Most cabins have a well-equipped kitchen with gas burners and even cooking utensils, which you can use. Many cabins also have a small shop, and if you are located near Sami settlements, you can also buy smoked fish or dried reindeer meat. Some cabins also have an emergency phone and a helicopter landing strip, in case you want to get in or out.
Helicopter transportation is organized by & # 39; Fiskflyg & # 39 ;. Transport costs 1450 SEK (SEK), which is equivalent to about 140 €, including 20 kg of luggage. You can check the times at fiskflyg.se. They also do custom drop-offs, but are not allowed to fly to Sarek. Only in emergency situations can helicopters fly here.
Plan emergency situations
It is a good idea to create landmarks for all shelters and emergency phones in the area where you are walking. When planning a route, I not only plan for myself, but also take into account that I can find someone who needs help. Help. With modern GPS devices, there are ways to share data wirelessly between two devices. If I find someone else, maybe I can help by sharing my data. It is fun to plan routes using satellite images and topological maps and then see how the route unfolds when you are actually on the ground. The more you do this, the more you will learn to interpret satellite imagery and it will get better with every trip you plan. I also made it a habit to book good camps. This will allow me to know how far the next camp is, in case I need to get out of the rain on my next trip. The river crossings are also good to mark after finding a good place to cross. There are many tutorials online on how to create routes and navigate them using the GPS system of your choice.
As soon as you decide where you want to walk and have planned a route using topological maps and satellite images, you will have a rough idea of what you are getting into. You can analyze the weather patterns of previous years in the area to get an idea of how cold it is at night and what temperatures and climatic conditions you will encounter in general.
This will help a lot in deciding what kind of clothes, shelter and sleep system to take with you. What type of backpack to use will be decided at the end, when you know exactly what you are going to take with you.