Martin Chambers

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Trekking Sulitelma

Each year for the last few years we have hiked in Nordic Lapland during the northern summer. In 2014 we did a circumnavigation of Sulitelma, taking two weeks to explore the Sulitlema Glacier and the peak that we nicknamed ‘Kong’, actually Kongen, just over 2000m high. The glacier is in fact several glaciers connected on the high ground ice sheet. The largest glacier is over 21 square kilometres.

It is an area we love it because the scenery is spectacular and the trails easy to follow as even the less well used ancient Sami trails are marked with standing stones. The weather mild (mostly) and there are no dangerous animals. The days are long - this area being north of the Arctic Circle - it has by August only a few hours of darkness each night. So there is never any rush and even after a long day you can camp with a view and spend relaxing time taking it all in. Oh, and if you are hungry, you can pick wild berries to eat. You might even find wild raspberries that taste just like lollies.

We started at Kvikkjokk, a town with little more than camping chalets and a Fjallstation. A Fjallstation is a hostel, the larger ones such as in Kvikkjokk run a restaurant and small shop but I’d recommend provisioning before you arrive. There are large supermarkets in connecting towns and daily buses into Kvikkjokk. Get to the area on the overnight train from Stockholm or fly into Gallivare.

Kvikkjokk is the southern end of the Pajelanta trail and a way point on the Kungsleden. I have previously written about the Padjelanta here. The town is also the starting point for many walks in the Sareks or Padjelanta National Parks so it is a great place to connect with other hikers. To head north on the Pajelanta or south on the Kungsleden you will need to catch the boat - it departs daily in the summer at 1pm and there is no need to book. Only two years ago he had some other people from Australia, and the fact that he remembers tells you something.

There are no roads and within the area. In fact, over Sareks and they do not even allow helicopters. In a crisis you could get help at the huts but you should plan to be self sufficient. If carrying a tent and supplies is not your thing, it would be feasible to simply walk into Njinjes to stay a night or two. There is a fee for staying in the huts, but again you do not need to book as this is not a very busy area. During the summer a warden is onsite at the Swedish huts, out of season an honor system applies and the huts are never locked. On the Norway side the huts are locked and if you wish to use them arrange a key from the Norwegian mountain club, and in that case it will be easier to start the walk in Norway. Fly into Boda and bus to the town of Sulitelma. Good luck with the walk up that hill!

Our route took us on from Kvikkjokk to Njunjes and Tarrekaise. Just before Staloluokta to turned left towards Sarjasjare and to what some say this is the most beautiful hut in Sweden. From Srjus Hytta we are in Norway, a distinction lost on the plants, reindeer and mountains, but apparent in the quality of foot bridges. From Srjus we climb higher beyond the vegetation line. Here, not even the grasses survive and ice patches persist through the summer. It is this variety of terrain, from forest, alpine meadow to rocky highland, that makes this such an interesting walk. Across the pass and we can look down on the town of Sulitelma. This old mining town is at the bottom of the valley, only a few km away but several hundred steep metres below us. Not needing supplies or wanting to descend, we followed a little used trail along the lake back into Sweden, completing the circuit via Pieskehaure and Viamok. We rejoined the Panjelanta trail near Tarrekaise.

For two weeks the only people we saw were the hut wardens. We took frequent walks up into the high ground to our left, to visit Kong or the glacier, or to see hanging lakes and spectacular views. We ate blueberries and blackberries and cloudberries, we saw reindeer and heard from one hut warden that only last week someone met a mother bear and her cub. Maybe next year we will have such luck.