Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday, July 30

My location is now in Sweden, in fact I’ve been here for the past week unable to Internet access since we were climbing Sweden’s tallest mountain. 

A hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle is Kebnekaise, reaching up to a lofty height of 2104 meters, which translates into around 6500 feet.  Now being from Utah where the mountains reach up to 13,000, that elevation is nothing to really consider.  The town hall on Main Street in Park City is probably at that height; so any mention of that elevation to the folks back home and they would be saying “Well don’t strain yourself too hard”, in a sarcastic tone. 

Now what one soon realizes is the remote location, the massive elevation gain and the fact that it is located in the cold arctic; make it a challenging mountain to climb.  And for most Swedes it is considered a Mecca of sorts to get up the peak once in their life. 

Since my wife is Swedish it was on the list of things to do. Last Tuesday we took the over night train up to Kiruna in the north, then a bus to a small outpost called Nikkaluokta.  There you put your over weight backpack on and start walking along a rocky and often muddy path for five kilometers to a boat dock.  The Saami, or indigenous people from the area have a very expensive ferry service that will shuttle you six more kilometers along the lake, from there you have to walk another eight kilometers to the Base lodge.  Not far from the lodge we found a camping site in the rain and set up.  The biggest problem up there is the extreme weather. It snows in July!

The next day it was overcast and we meet a few Swedes that tried for the top but were turned back because of the thick cloud cover, they just could not see a thing and in an area where hundred meter cliffs are on both side of you it was the smartest choice to head back.

We tried for Friday and for some odd reason the clouds were less that day. Others told us that the start time had to be around six or seven in the morning or else with the twelve hours required to do the trek you would not make it.  We started around seven thirty; the entire family on the endless trail expedition; the walking just never seemed to stop.  Up and up we wend in a long preside of people, feeling like the journey to Mecca. The elevation gain was over six thousand feet, including a nine hundred foot descent down the ridge only to do it again on the summit itself.

At two thirty in the afternoon we finally made it to the top; the last hundred meters were up in the clouds and you couldn’t see a thing.  It was a winter wonderland with everything covered in ice and snow.  The view was actually quite nice below that elevation, there you had the mountains to look at all the way into Norway, but above that point it was all in a fog.  Your only guide was the occasional rock or person in the distance.  Finally we made it to the knife-edge top with steep inclines off to either side, a place not to do the wrong step off the side.  The entire family had made the epic journey to Kebnekaise summit.  The trip down was mixed with snow glissades and knee crushing rock descents.  Eleven hours later we were back at the lodge ordering a rain deer burgers.

We flew out the next day for Stockholm. It was a trip well worth it, an adventure out of the norm and I feel glad to have done it.

This evening I met Robert Duncan and Rick Graham at the train Station in Stockholm. For the next couple of weeks we will be visiting museums and painting. Should be fun!

Richard Boyer

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