Hike Sweden, Day 5: Hell is other people (and #FakeWeather)

Day 5: Singi to Kebnekaise mountain station

“What’s the weather forecast tomorrow?” I asked a hut warden at Singi. It had been bright and sunny all day, despite a prediction of cold and rain, so I had grown to become skeptical of anything I read (Fake Weather!).

“We didn’t receive the nightly read-out as we don’t have battery at the moment in this hut. But we might again in 20 minutes.”

“It’s just that, I heard it will be terrible weather tomorrow,” I persisted.

“Why do you want to know? You can’t do anything about it, and in any case you’ll be leaving here tomorrow before 11am and going on to your next hut.”

I couldn’t fault her logic. It’s like what they say about England: everyone loves talking about the weather, but no-one can do anything about it.

I discussed my encounter with Swedish fatalism back in the dining hut. “She said the same thing to me,” replied a French guy.

The forecast was clearly dry on her humour front.

3am at the Kebnekaise mountain station
Up next at 3am, it’s… dawn.

But the weather was playing on my mind. On Day 5 we had not secured accommodation at the Kebnekaise Mountain Station hut, which meant we would have to camp.

The last forecast I’d seen was for showers all day, and overnight temperatures just above zero. This did not sound like fun.

We decided to make the 14km walk as quickly as possible, and hope for a free room. The route had a short, sharp incline, then a steady descent past small mountain lakes, dark cliffs with high, narrow waterfalls at regular intervals. The sky was overcast, but it never rained beyond light drizzle.

We entered a rocky valley, following a river, where we cooked some noodles on our fancy stove on a rock. The ramen noodles cost 3 euros, and the stove 120, so I calculated the cost of the instant noodles to be 63 euros per serve. So it was basically like eating out in Stockholm.

Small shrubs began to reappear (the plateau had been rocks covered in lichen and moss), and we passed an increasing number of hikers.

About 2kms from Kebnekaise station, the first tents began to appear. Soon these would become a feature of the landscape. A helicopter buzzed back and forth, carrying heavy loads affixed with a cable underneath. There was no doubting that Kebnekaise was a popular place.

We finally reached the mountain station. In contrast to the modest huts we had stayed in the past 4 nights, the station was expansive, comprising numerous lodgings, a large hotel area with dining rooms and reception area, and another building dedicated to hiring out gear, equipped with separate male and female saunas, each the size of a large Parisian apartment. We had been prematurely brought back to civilisation.

At reception we were lucky: there were two beds that had become free. What luck! The lodge could take upwards of 200 people, though in bad weather they found a way to put the campers indoors (though in-hallways or in-corridors would be a more apt description).

“It’s not like you can just go to the next place down the road,” the receptionist explained.

We would be in a 4-bed dorm in 16-bed cabin. The price? 1000 kronors per night. Per person. This was twice what we’d paid in Stockholm. So, what did the price of luxury entail?

As far I could work out, the difference between huts on the Kungsleden trail, and at Kebnekaise station were:

  • Running water
  • Induction stoves
  • Flushing toilet
  • Kitsch art on the wall

The clientele was also different. Whereas Kungsleden had hikers and outdoor types typically spending 5-10 days and sometimes more, most of the lodgers at Kebnekaise had come for the weekend, with one goal in mind: to reach the summit of Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise…

Our cabin mates were either upwards of 40, or pretending they weren’t yet 60. The style was best described ‘carrion dressed as mutton’. Broad-shouldered, bald guys, with thick biceps covered in tribal tattoos. Remember that craze? I can now inform you it didn’t age well.

“Do you have any scissors I could borrow?” one guy asked me.

“No, but I have a knife.”

“Is it sharp?”

“Yes,” I said as I passed it to him.

“Thanks. I need to perform some surgery on my foot.”

I vomited a bit in my mouth, but it was too late to take the knife back. I had been using it to cut sausages all week. Now it sounded like he was going to remove a gangrenous toe.

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