Hikers on high coast winter classic

High Coast Winter Classic


10 steps forward. I stop exhausted to catch my breath and my heart is pounding so hard and fast in my chest that I can both feel and hear it. 10 seconds later my puls and breath gets back to normal and I can continue. 10 more steps. Then the puls is back on top again and I have to go through the same procedure again. And again. And again. I’m on the final strech of the High Coast Winter Classic’s last section. I’m on my way to the top of the almost 1000 ft (300 m) high mountain Skuleberget.

Three days earlier I’m sitting in a community center below the mountain. This is where I will spend the night before the adventure begins. The center is just next to the outdoor village Friluftsbyn, a project that started in 2012, aiming to serve as a meeting point for outdoor enthusiasts. The village has several cabins, camper- and tent sites and all year round they arrange different kinds of adventures and events such as the High Coast hike, the festival Utefest and the one that I’m on right now, the High Coast Winter Classic. It’s a 3 day snowshoe hike with about 200 people from more than 10 countries, that goes along 20 miles (30 km) in Skuleskogen National Park in the World Heritage High Coast.

I’ve just arrived and started to unpack my sleeping bag when the founder of Frilyftsbyn, Jerry Engström, gently but energic opens the door and whispers euphoric, ”for those of you who are awake, there’s some amazing northern lights going on outside right now!”. Suddenly the sleeping bags that´s scattered around the hall starts to move and people I didn’t even know were there crawls up and runs out in their baselayers and untied boots, hoping to get a glimpse of the impressive natural phenomena. And there it is, playing against the dark sky. But it’s over soon and unfortunately this is the only northern light we’ll see under our stay in the High Coast. But it’s far away from the only amazing nature experience.

Northern lights over Skuleberget

Jerry’s enthusiasm can not be mistaken when he the next morning holds an almost three-hour lecture about outdoor life in wintertime. He tells us about the most common traps, gives us various tips and tricks and the most repeted one, ”Don’t get moist!” (hastily translated from swedish) is jokingly repeated like a mantra by the participants in the coming days.

After we have been given advises, taught us about how to put safety first, listened to the outdoor kitchen manufacturer Primus talking about cooking in the winter, it’s time to try out our snowshoes. You strap the snowshoes to your usual boots and it has big spikes of metal that make it easier to get a grip in the snow. They also has a frame of plastic around them so that your body weight is distributed over a larger area than just the soles of your feet. This eliminates the risk of stepping through the deep snow and you can easily wander at a steady pace.

Snowshoes

With faltering steps I walk towards one of the buses that will take us to Skuleskogen National Park’s north entrance. From there, it’s a 7 mile (10 km+) hike towards the first camp at Tärnättvattnen. I get used to the snowshoes surprisingly fast, but soon there will be a new challange. Walking in the dark. ”I hope you brought your headlamp” says a man who has helped me pick up my thermos from one of the side pockets on my backpack, when I’ve stopped at a rest area at Tärnättholmarna. The temperature is a few degrees below zero and when it’s this cold the water quickly turns into ice in the water bottle. But with a thermos, I can occasionally stop and fill it up with hot water so it doesn’t freeze. And fortunately I have my brought headlamp, because very soon it gets pitch black on the trail under the trees.

Resting area at Tärnättholmarna / Trail lighted by my headlamp in the dark.

To hike in the dark isn’t that hard either, but it’s way more tedious. When the beautiful views no longer can be seen, I find myself thinking more and more like a child, ”Are we there yet?”. But after a mile or so, when I lost count over how many times I’ve asked myself this question, I suddenly start to feel the smell of smoke and behind the next hill, the fires where the smokes comes from shows up. My steps immediately feel lighter when I walk into the camp and connects to the numerous headlamps that dances around between the lighted tents. I’m there!

Campsite at Tärnättvattnen

When I wake up the next morning it’s bright inside my tent. The night has gone better than I expected. The trick to fill your heat resistant water bottle with boiling water and bring it into your sleeping bag worked perfect and it was easy to fall a sleep in the warmth it was spreading.

Outside the tent I can hear people talking and packing their backpacks to set out for the second day hike towards Kälsviken. The air is fresh and I can see some tiny streaks of light shine in through the gaps between the tent and the snow. It’s sunny outside! And indeed, when I get out of the tent and looking out over the frozen lakes Tärnättvattnen, I get dazzled both by the sun and the sparkling snow. I sit down in front of the lake and start cooking my breakfast while I’m going through the day’s hiking route. It start through the parks probably most famous part, Slåttdalsskrevan. It is said that part of the movie Ronja Rövardotter (Ronia, the robber’s daughter. A well-known children’s tale by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren) was filmed here, but with some research it seems to be mostly roumors. The filmmakers however, could probably have drawn some inspiration from it. Slåttdalsskrevan is a 650 ft (200 m) long and 100 ft (30 m) high crevice that is formed by the sea and cleaves the mountain Slåttdalsberget in half. Just as the lightning did with Ronias home in the tale.

Slåttdalsskrevan

The hike to the crevice goes fast and is a clear contrast to the hike in the dark yesterday. The weather is perfect and the nature feels almost unimaginably beautiful. After Slåttdalsskrevan, the trail continues up the mountain and from here the view over the archipelago and national park is at least as dazzling as the sun. I stop for a moment and drinks a cup of coffee before I continue down the mountain with energetic steps.

View over Slåttdalsberget

Slåttdalsberget

Trail with a view

By the lake Skrattabborrtjärn, I take a little detour down to the lake where I can sit all by myself and prepare my lunch. Since almost all water sources, including the lake, is frozen, I have to melt the snow on my stove to get water for my food. It takes a while, but with this view I’m not exactly in a hurry.

Cooking food at Skrattabbortjärn

I walk into the camp at Kälsviken just when the sun has set and swiched position with the moon. I’ve met my travel companions from Stockholm and we put up our tents togheter by the sea. ”Bring your cup and come over here and get some glühwein and a chocolate ball!” shouts Jerry from the center of the camp. He doesn’t have to wait long and soon there’s a long line of people queuing between the tents, fires and the sponsors outdoor showrooms. Primus and Fjällräven is here and Joppe Ranta gives us some additonal tips on wilderness life during the winter.

Joppe Ranta gives tips on wilderness life during winter

Campsite at Kälsviken

While the moons travels across the sky, we gather around the camp fires to get some heat and hopefully dry some of our clothes. We talk about our days on the hike and exchange experiences. One by one drops off and by eleven there’s just a few of us still standing by the fire. As the level of our humor gets lower and lower, so does the wood supply and soon it’s time to go to bed.

Sunrise from tent opening

The last day gets a hard start. Despite an amazing sunrise, the weather soon gets cloudy and some snowflakes starts to fall. The temperature is higher which you can feel on the snow that has become heavier and harder to walk in. Already after the first 1300 ft (400 m) from the camp up to the trail I’m almost breathless. I pass one of the organizers that looks at me and shouts encouragning, ”How’s it going?! You look strong!” I smile gently and say thanks, but I think to myself that that’s probably something he says to everyone to cheer us up.

Snow covered bridge

And the day continues to be hard. Sections that’s usually pretty easy becomes tough when the snow is so hard to walk in. Sometimes it feels like the trail will never end, but the beautiful environment keeps the spirit up. The snow is deep and the magical, quiet forest feels almost magical.

And suddenly it appears. Skuleberget. A steep massive that towering in the distance and I have to lift my chin to get a proper overview of it. ”My God… Is this the mountain that I’m gonna walk up for?!” But after a second my temporary hopeless feeling changes and I feel how my fighting spirit starting to take over. The corners of my mouth wanders up and a smile spreads on my face. I say to myself, ”Well hello Mountain. It’s just you and me now. I know you gonna try to make it hard for me, but I will conquer you.” And so I start.

The hike up the mountain isn’t really that hard, it’s actually way more easier than I had expected. But it is tough. My 10-steps-forward/10-seconds-rest tactic works fine and eventually the trees starts to disperse and the silence is broken by something that sounds like a helicopter’s rotating blades. I look up towards the empty sky and when I turn my head a little I see what causing the noise. It’s the Swedish flag next to the top cabin. The goal. The flag flutters loudly in the strong wind and when I walk around the next group of trees I also see the red flags with High Coast Winter Classic written on them that marks the finish line. Towards me comes Jerry, smiling and is just as psyched as always. ”You made it! Well done!!!” I smile and takes a deep breath. ”Thanks!!!”

View from Skulebergets finish line.

Then he say those words again, ”You look strong!”, and just as before I’m thinking ”Yeah right. I bet you say that to everyone”. But then it hits me. We are goddamn strong. All of us. We’ve been hiking miles over snowcovered mountains in northern Sweden with dozens of extra kilos on our backs. We have been sleeping outside in temperatures below freezing and prepared our own water from boiling snow. We have hiked the High Coast Winter Classic! We’re not only looking strong, we are strong!

Read more

High Coast Winter Classic

Friluftsbyn

Map over Skuleskogen National Park

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3 kommentarer

  • Ibrahim Demir
    26 februari, 2016 at 23:19

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for for your wonderful blog reminding me memories.
    Hope to see you HGWC – 2017

    • lindaakerberg
      28 februari, 2016 at 13:04

      Thank you, I’m glad you appreciate it! 🙂 Hope to see you there too!

  • mymissouridentist.com
    1 augusti, 2016 at 01:31

    You always have some awesome posts. My friend from work reads your blog
    and she is the one who introduced me to it. Love what you
    do, keep it up!

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... is Linda Åkerberg. I'm a 32 years old photographer based in Stockholm, Sweden. Read more about me here

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