This year we at Mountain and Co wanted to try something out that we have never attempted before, a long multi day hike. This is something that is also on Dani’s 30 before 30 list and we thought we would give it a go. And what better place to start that in an organised hike by Fjallraven, known as the Classics.
What is the Fjallraven Classic?
Fjallraven, a brand that we both love, organise 4 hikes every year called the Classics. These are paid for hikes that are organised by the company currently in Sweden, Denmark, Colorado and Hong Kong.
The reason behind the classics is to get more people outside and to celebrate the outdoors. Around 2000 people attempted the Sweden classic this year, which has grown from around 140 participants since its inception. The Kungsleden is a famous trail. You will certainly get other hikers on the trail with you, including some that helicopter in for the day to attempt to climb Sweden’s highest mountain – Kebnekaise.
What you get included in the classic price
Included in the price you pay for the classic includes: your entry to the hike, transport from Kiruna Fjallraven check in area to the start point in Nikkaluokta, REAL Turmat food for the duration of your hike (you refill again around checkpoint 3), Primus gas, bread, bag tag (so people know you are on the classic), map and booklet (to be stamped along the checkpoints), trash bag, and of course if you complete you get your medal and patch!
The Fjallraven representatives also provide advice along the way at checkpoints in regards to bags, boots and even mental health if you are struggling. There is also some free food along the way at certain checkpoints, like cinnamon buns!
The big cost not included in the price involves you having to get yourself to and from the classic from whichever country you are travelling from. Other costs not included are: camping in Kiruna/Abisko, travel back from Abisko to Kiruna at the end of the hike and the costs of having to bail out like we did via helicopter.
Where to stay
Camp Ripan in Kiruna is the easiest option before you start the hike. They have both lodges and tent spots. We think most people stay here before the event and it is right next to the sign in centre. Also there’s no point booking in advance for camping in Abisko, just see when you get there and then you can pay for your tent pitch upon arrival. Same goes with camp Ripan, you can pay upon arrival. It does get busy there, but we arrived in the middle of the night before the event kicked off and there was plenty of spaces available.
What happens in the event of failure?
To cut to the chase this blog post is going to tackle what many others don’t do, what happens in result of failure. This year we attempted Sweden classic, the longest distance in a classic at 110km. Unfortunately for us our journey ended on day 1. The reasons are many and we are going to talk to you here about this experience and why this time around we didn’t succeed. We wanted to give new starters advice on what to do if they are interested in trying out the Sweden classic.
Give yourself enough time
First of all this is the longest classic and the most ‘wild’. For us we thought completing it in 5 days would be enough but as newbies to long distance hiking this was the wrong plan. Doing it again we would give ourselves the longest amount of time possible. Try and get a ticket for start group 1 and then you have 7 days to complete. If you finish early you can just camp and chill in Abisko.
Keep the bags light!
Both of our bags were around 15kg, which is considered light as you’re packing all the essentials to live for 5-7 days. However, there are some things we could’ve done without, that next time we won’t pack. Also make sure to take a spare bag with nice clothes and wash essentials for the end. Fjallraven will transport this from Kiruna to Abisko for you, plus it means less weight in your trekking bags.
Fitness is key
As we are newbie hikers our fitness levels were not enough to endure the trails of Kungsleden. Our advise, and something we would be doing if we tackled this again is to make sure to be going out way in advance and training on smaller hikes, with your full packs on you back. This will help train you for the endurance, and get you used to carrying heavy weight on your back properly before the main hike.
A healthy mental state is important
This may not be on top of your list, but this is something to focus on in preparation, not just for the trail but for life in general. It’s a topic that is not talked about enough. You have to keep your glass half full because if it flips to the other way around, completing the trail is going to be even harder. You need to think of the weather and how this will also affect you. Think of ways to keep positive. After a crazy journey to get to Kiruna as well as lack of sleep, we weren’t in the best place mentally. This did not help us on this attempt.
Invest in good clothing
Keeping warm and dry is key. Wet = cold and that’s not great. Make sure to get a good sturdy pair of hiking boots as the kingstrail is basically 110km of rocks that you are constantly climbing over or in between. Your feet are going to get smashed to pieces.
Food, food, all the food!
Make sure to take a ton of snacks. Slow release trail bars as well as sugary hits are great. Hot chocolate sachets are a lovely treat in an evening while energy tablets and energy powder to put in your drinks will help to quickly overcome fatigue (at least for a short time). This will keep you going. Looking back at our time on the trail we didn’t eat enough as we were moving, so we lacked the energy our bodies needed to perform at the best. Another tip is to make sure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated as regularly as possible. There are many free flowing ice cold streams for you to fill a bottle.
Plan your time well. We took the train all the way from Stockholm to Kiruna the day before. It was due to take 13 hours. We experienced a broken down train twice along the route, meaning we were stuck in a town in the middle of nowhere for a time. We know this is a rare and unforeseen circumstance, but for sanity we would take the plane next time even though it costs a bit more. After this delay we didn’t arrive at camp until 1am. We had to pitch our tent and sort our bags out before sleeping and were then up at 5am. For us this wasn’t enough rest. Next time we would try and arrive early and check in to the classic a day before to pick up all our food, gas etc. Then in the morning all you have to do is pop into the Camp Ripan restaurant for a breakfast buffet to up your energy levels!
If you do decide to bail, what is your best option?
For us after 9 hours of walking to the first checkpoint (19km to Kebnakaise mountain station) was enough. We knew from the time it took us to get to there that we wouldn’t be able to complete the whole trail in 5 days before our flights home. It was better for us to end our journey here as attempting to go on beyond this point would make it harder to return. From here you can decide to turn back and walk the 19km back to Nikkaluokta or take a helicopter for around £90 pp. The helicopter was a great way to get out of the area and although it costs money, you got a free birds eye view of the trail and surrounding landscape from sky, which is just stunning!
Make sure to have a plan B. Think to yourself about what you would do if you had to bow out and have days left in Sweden? Options are to change travel plans and go home early, take a bus or train up to Abisko and explore the national park, or go back to Kiruna and do some day tours to the Ice hotel or the mines that the town is built around. Whatever you do, just make sure you have a plan B.
Failure is something that many don’t like to talk about with many people seeing failure as a weakness. The day we had to pull out was very raw for us and emotions were running high. With a mixture of exhaustion and pain we couldn’t go on and this did hurt! We must remember that sometimes bowing out is the correct, (and of course brave! Thanks Daniel for the support!) thing to do as sometimes going on can lead to injury or can be an unsafe option.
The one thing we really took from this experience is that our faith in humanity is restored. Along the way we met so many kind people. Not just our friends, but also strangers along the trail who helped us out. The two guys we met in the helicopter who ended up driving us from Nikkaluokta to Kiruna, it was a completely hilarious journey! The friend who put us up for the night and the people online who were supportive in our decisions and could offer advice. All of you have been so great and we are so happy to have you all in our lives.
We will be back to tackle the Sweden Classic, but first of all much more training is needed in the UK. We also want to try out the Denmark Classic first as a starting point as it is aimed at a more beginner/family audience. Just remember, none of these trails are a walk in the park. They will be difficult on your body and your mind so mentally prepare yourself for that. Make sure to really research into each classic before you do it, as this information will make you feel as prepared as possible.
The Sweden Classic is a difficult one and upon our return to the UK we heard many more stories of people pulling out. The weather this year was the worst its been in the past 14 years and people couldn’t take it. To those who completed it we salute you because it takes guts and raw determination to complete a classic in those conditions.
For all of those out there who have been lucky enough to spend time in this part of Sweden on the trails, it is such a magical, formidable place. You are always at the mercy of mother nature and this is why we should always respect it. Train hard, be prepared and leave nothing but footprints.
Feel like braving the classics? Then visit Fjallraven’s website.