Martin Chambers

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Walking the Padjelanta

First published 2010 Bibbulman Track Newsletter.

Those who enjoy multi day walking on the Bibbulman Track might enjoy walking in northern Sweden, where last year we spent twelve days on the Padjelanta Trail, north of the Arctic circle.  

The Padjelanta trail runs for approximately 150 km to the west of and parallel with a section of the more famous Kungsleden, and forms part of the 800km long Nordkalottru trail running from Finland through Sweden and into Norway. In Winter, these are Nordic ski routes and the huts are left unlocked for skiers but in the summer they are popular and accessible walking trails. 

In the way that all walks are the same this walk is entirely different from The Bibbulman Track. There are the obvious differences. Views across alpine heath to the mountains of Norway, for example, or the fact that you don’t carry water, just a cup. And there are the similarities. Every second person you meet has a German accent and they are all friendly and like minded and will share stories of the trail, never knowing just yet if you will meet again or if they are about to become a lifelong friend. And the binary question is the same- ‘are you walking North or South?’  

The area is national park, but it is also the traditional alpine pasture of the Sami peoples who bring their reindeer herds up for the summer, following a planned seasonal migration as they have done for centuries. At the summer villiages along the way they provide huts for walkers. Unlike the Bibbulman huts they are substantial buildings, more like a hostel. Charges are around $50 per night. Some even have a sauna perched on the edge of a glacially cold lake and can sell you supplies of Sami bread and smoked Reindeer meat but I wouldn’t rely on these for nutrition as it is easier to get your mouth around one of their place names. Låddejåhkå 

Other huts along the way are owned by the Swedish Youth Hostel association and managed by a warden who lives on site. As with the Bibbulman track, it would be wise to carry a tent in case the huts are full, or book ahead, although booking ahead restricts you to a certain itinerary and, as with all trails, the desire to loiter is great. Huts are always available for use during the day if the weather is poor.  

We camped along the trail each night and ate blueberries with our morning porridge. Often we would stop on a sunny hillside and snack on wild fruit. There are also wild strawberries, rare wonderful things called jusberries, and blackberries. We had vivid dreams one night, and read later that eating too many uncooked blackberries causes hallucinations. The moose look on unamused and the bears hide unseen in the forest. 

The trail itself is well marked and easy to follow. Footbridges cross major streams, boardwalks cover boggy ground, there are steep climbs and wooded valleys and exposed ridges, but none of it any more challenging that our own Bibbulman track. We walked late in the season, August, and had everything from beautiful sunny days to cold blizzardy nights and a morning of snow dusted mountains. Something for everyone and a great escape from our winter.  

This area, despite being half a world away, is so accessible to us. Fly to Stockholm, catch the overnight train to Gallivare, stock up, catch a bus and a ferry, and you are on the trail in three days from Perth. There is an outdoor shop and good supermarket in Gallivare and they do have camp stove gas. 

Check it out at www.padjelanta.com