Sweden!

Panorama from Luelp Kierkau

Panorama from Luelp Kierkau

Hej! Or ‘hello’ from northern Sweden, where we are currently writing from my student housing room. Three days ago Ben and I arrived back in Umeå after spending a week exploring the Swedish Lappland with my brother Bob, expert gädda fisherman, and our German amigo Martin, who the Helms siblings adopted this past April in jungles of Colombia (seriously).

We originally arrived in Umeå on August 17th after a couple of painful connections in Reykjavik and Stockholm; the former where we experienced our first European celebrity spotting of Noomi Rapace in the food terminal, and the latter where we embarrassingly went through security twice because we didn’t clear our bags at customs. We spent our first two days in Umeå with beautiful 70 degree F weather, complete with sun and blue skies. Initially, Ben and I were only going to meet up with my brother, but the day before Bob flew into Stockholm he invited Martin, who within an hour had booked his flights with the efficiency only a German can accomplish. The following day, in a moment of ‘Helms excess,’ Bob and Martin picked Ben and I up in Umeå in a Audi A5 rental, whereupon we proceeded to our first camping, not glamping (glam+camping), site outside of Luleå.

Glamping outside of Luleå

Glamping outside of Luleå

Camping outside of Luleå

Camping outside of Luleå

Camping outside of Luleå

Camping outside of Luleå

Camping outside of Luleå

Camping outside of Luleå

After one night in Luleå we headed further north into Stora Sjöfallet National Park to Saltoloukta. We spent two nights camping at STF Mountain Station Saltoloukta, a gorgeous lakeside establishment with friendly employees and great facilities. It’s hard to say what was the highlight of Saltoloukta, the beautiful vistas of Lulep Kierkau, the smoked trout from Cafe Pietsaure, or The Fish Dinner from our second night. On our first full day, Ben and I hiked to the top of Lulep Kierkau while Bob and Martin went fishing. After a moderately difficult hike to the summit, Ben and I returned to camp to find them with Bob’s two prize catches, the ‘big’ and the ‘bigger’ gädda, or northern pike fish (the ‘biggest’ fish would later be caught inbetween Nikkoloukta and Kebnekaise by Martin). That night, Martin scaled and gutted, Ben seasoned and cooked, and I ate and documented the fish that Bob caught.

Reindeer! Rudolph?

Reindeer! Rudolph?

View from boat to Saltoloukta

View from boat to Saltoloukta

Hike to Lulep Kierkau

Hike to Lulep Kierkau

Panorama on hike to Lulep Kierkau

Panorama on hike to Lulep Kierkau

Hike to Lulep Kierkau

Hike to Lulep Kierkau

Hike to Lulep Kierkau

Hike to Lulep Kierkau

Bob with the 'bigger' gädda

Bob with the ‘bigger’ fish

For the strong stomach crowd, you can also view a VERY brave Martin post gädda gutting.

Fish post scaled and gutted

Gädda post scaled and gutted

Preparing the fish in the camping station and cooking over the fire

Preparing the fish in the camping station and cooking over the fire

Eating the gädda

Eating the gädda

Following Saltoloukta, we headed to Nikkoloukta, the entry point for the 19 kilometer walk to Kebnekaise base camp and the Lap Dånalds Big Lap Renburgare (reindeer + burger). At 2106 meters tall, Kebnekaise is not a high mountain relative to world standards, but is nevertheless an extremely difficult hike to the Sydtoppen (south summit) of one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Sweden and the world thus far. Due to a knee problem from a previous hike, Bob wasn’t able to join us on the hike up the west route, or västra leden, and instead took a helicopter back to Nikkoloukta in search of gädda. Ben, Martin, and I began the 1800 meter vertical ascent at 5:45am equipped with ample knowledge from the friendly Swedish guide Emil we met in a couple days prior. The hike was a very grueling 5 1/2 hours to the summit. Fortunately, the icy glacier summit was coated with snow, otherwise we would not have been able to climb the steep top as we were without climbing crampons and gear. The resulting view was beyond breathtaking, both in beauty and in fright.

Lap Dånalds

Lap Dånalds

Big Lap Renburgare

Big Lap Renburgare

Kebnekaise Base Camp

Kebnekaise Base Camp

Kebnekaise hike early morning start

Kebnekaise hike early morning start

Kebnekaise glacier and view

Kebnekaise glacier and view

Near Kebnekaise Sydtoppen (south summit)

Near Kebnekaise Sydtoppen (south summit)

Kebnekaise Sydtoppen (south summit)

Kebnekaise Sydtoppen (south summit)

Kebnekaise Sydtoppen (south summit)

Kebnekaise Sydtoppen (south summit)

Martin below Kebnekaise Sydtoppen (south summit)

Martin below Kebnekaise Sydtoppen (south summit)

Unfortunately after the summit, we then had 5 1/2 hour descent of 1800 meters back to base camp. It’s safe to say upon our return, we all had a serious hitch in our giddy-up.

Kebnekiase descent

Kebnekiase descent

After a 13 hour recovery slumber, 19 kilometer hike back to Nikkoloukta, and additional Big Lap Renburgers, the three of us reunited with Bob for one last night of tent camping before arming ourselves with Waylon Jennings and CCR, endless bags of candy, and Martin’s lead ‘autobahn’ foot for the long drive back to Umeå. I think its safe to say the past 10 days was an excellent introduction to Sweden.

Return to Nikkoloukta (19km)

Return to Nikkoloukta (19km)

For many more images, head over to my Lapland Photo Diary.

Stay tuned for an upcoming video montage!!!

A few observations and notes:
– Swedes are very gracious drivers, always stopping for pedestrians and letting cars pass
– The bulk candy selection in grocery stores and gas stations is phenomenal
– Camping is an excellent way to explore Sweden on a budget
– Approximate sunrise/set times during our trip were 4:30am and 11pm
– Buying liquor in duty free is a must before entering the country
– The mosquitoes in northern Sweden are RELENTLESS, yet massive and slow
– Martin owns Chinese black water buffalo eye glasses (unrelated to Sweden, but interesting nonetheless) – UPDATE: Martin also designed the glasses himself!
– In Kebnekaise base camp I had my first real sauna experience, non-American style (aka sans clothes), a European right of passage

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3 Comments

  1. Nancy Darnell Helms
    Aug 30, 2012 @ 00:34:50

    Clear, breath taking photography and a superb,clear journal of your trek!
    I understand the expert fisherman is a proficient, kayaker too 🙂
    I bet your team was glad to have a Chef while preparing and grilling the pike!
    Thank you! My heart was/is warmed 🙂

    Reply

  2. alissa
    Aug 30, 2012 @ 14:51:44

    Wow, these pictures look great! You are defiantly having fun. ^_^

    Reply

  3. Martin
    Aug 30, 2012 @ 19:42:23

    Very well arranged and lovely pictures Karey, good work! Thanks updating the paragraph with my handmade glasses which has actually nothing to do with the trip, but at least a little bit: thanks to Ben when he picked them from the changing room Sauna floor, because one of the Swedish (beer drinking guys in the Sauna) accidentally pushed them on the floor and they could have been broken now…and I would have to wear sunglasses all the time. Note: better no beer in the sauna.

    I liked the comment about the fisherman. I remember when I did all this ugly work gutting this slimy fish and Ben prepared it afterwards, the chef was responsible for the fire which beside fishing, kayaking is another great skill and added value to the trip. A total pile of wood was required to make the charcoal. The taste of the fish was awesome and all this hard work of catching it (and making the fire) 🙂 was forgotten.

    Bob and me had a very long trip back to Stockholm…with a lot of doped like Swedish drivers crawling on the highway. If somebody is sometimes choleric or have a kind of anger management problem, the Swedish interstate is a very good confrontation therapy. The funniest situation happened at a construction traffic light on one of the most important Interstates on a Monday afternoon. After 15 min. of red light and waiting, a little car with a signal on top emerged from the construction with a huge queue behind it. It turned and after we were allowed to follow in our direction. Due to 3 lanes highway ( 2+1 alternate changing to 1+2 ) unfortunately the only option to manage the traffic. Lucky that Bob has 20.000 songs on his ipod (10% unknown Rolling Stones which I was not able to recognize). After 45 min. we passed this 2 km construction. Very happy that this was the only construction, otherwise we definitely haven´t had any chance to make it to the Radission ***** hotel at the airport in Stockholm by evening, even with breaking some speed rules. After 2 beers at the hotel bar and one last famous Kentucky Bourbon the sleeping was not a problem at all.

    One last comment to fishing which I enjoyed and wanted to continue in Germany. I nearly got addicted. I found out that I have to go on a 30h course, have to do a fishing examen and after I can apply for a license. I will not catch any fish by end of the year and my fishing rot is broken too because of another Swedish crowd on the boat.

    So I may have to come back to Sweden for fishing then. 🙂

    Reply

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