First Steps.

Posted by Ettienne Montzka-Caceres on

Dusk Descended on their first night in the mountains and the sky was painted pink as the sun slipped down behind Tuolpagorni. Under this colourful display, five tents could be seen on the side of the mountain, about an hour's trek from Kebnekaise Mountain Station. The atmosphere that first day was almost tangible: Laughter, excitement, and anticipation were thick in the air. Come evening, realisation had begun to sink in about how they were actually going to spend the next four days.

The peaceful babble from the nearby Kittlebäcken river mixed with chatting and giggling from inside the tents, as they organised their warm clothing and freezedried meals.

“It was cold that first night, I had a sore back and was scared the tent was going to fly away in the wind. But the second night I fell asleep straight away, I was that tired!” says student Ghasem Jafari with a laugh. Ten youngsters aged between 18 and 21 from Uppsala made 2018’s Classic their first multi-day trek with tents. For some of them, it wasn't only the trekking that was new, but also the company they were trekking with.

The perfect initiative 

The Swedish Outdoor Association celebrated 125 years in 2017 and was given ten start numbers for Fjällräven Classic by Fjällräven. They were open for anyone to apply for and here we are! I've been a guide on the Classic for three years and last year I felt that it would be a great activity for the young people I work within Uppsala,” says Sara Beckman, who is a certified mountain guide, and the initiative behind the trek.

To prepare, the group met with Sara, so she could tell them all about Classic. After that, they went on a two-day test trek with tents, which was great for both Sara and the group. Ghasem had wondered beforehand if he could handle a trek like this, but after the test trek where they cooked using a camping stove and practiced putting up their tents, he relaxed. And Sara got the chance to explain to some girls in the group that ballerina shoes were not really an appropriate alternative when trekking in the mountains, even if they were comfortable. No one wanted to pull out after the test trek – everyone was still excited about the big trekking adventure in the far north.

Day 1

That first morning, they woke up to a beautiful sunrise. From their tent openings, they could see many other tents further down the valley. The wind had dropped and the sun's warmth could be felt all morning as they trekked the breathtaking passage between Singitjåkka’s and Skárttoaivi’s steep mountain walls. Once they reached Kungsledenthe King’s Trail – they headed towards Sälka along the Tjäktjavagge valley’s lush meadows and glistening river. Despite their weary legs from many hours of trekking, the beauty of the surroundings escaped no one. Late that second night, big raindrops could be heard splattering against their tents. 

Day 2 & 3

The days rolled into each other. Wake up, boil water, eat, pack up the tent, trek, pitch the tent, eat, sleep. The group grew closer and closer. Everyone found their own routines, and as soon as anyone needed anything, there was always someone to give support or help. Packs were repacked so that the strong carried a little more and the tired carried a little less. Trekking over the Tjäktja Pass was the most challenging part of the five-day journey, there was no argument about that. The rain was coming in sideways, and many were getting cold. To get warm again, they decided to walk a little faster and get their body temperatures up.

Before they set out, they had agreed that those who were hurting a little or who walked a little slower would go first and set the pace. This turned out to be a winning concept. Sara tells us how they sorted themselves out after a day or two, organising the slowest people to lead the group. Everyone helped out and the group bonded.

Sara’s greatest worry before the trek was that several of them had brand new boots, so she told them to speak up as soon as they felt even the slightest hint of a blister. If they did this, they would be rewarded with extra cookies when they took a break. And it worked! Another concern was how they would handle the long days with heavy packs – these were long days even for the fittest of trekkers. But there was no problem. They took lots of short breaks that helped them make it to their goal each day.

Day 4 

On the evening of the second-to last day, when they had hiked their longest stretch of 25 kilometres, Sara was convinced the group was totally exhausted. She wondered if they would make it through the last day. But once the tents were pitched, the chat and laughter started again, and Sara realised that it wouldn’t be a problem.

”I’ve been thinking,” Amina Hassan said to Sara when they were saying goodnight on the last evening. “Trekking is like doing homework. If we had only trekked ten kilometres the first day, we would have so much further to trek the other days. Just like if I can’t be bothered to do my homework one day, I have so much more to do the following days.”

Day 5 

On the last day, they arrived at the long queue of people waiting for pancakes at the Kieron checkpoint. All the young trekkers wanted at least one (but preferably two) with cream and jam - a real feast after days of eating only freeze-dried food. And with that, they trekked the final 17 kilometres to the finish in Abisko, all ten of them.

“The best bit for me was actually the day after we crossed the finish line,” says Sara. “When the whole group sat together in the finishing area. We all just sat down, no one cared who they sat beside, we joked with each other and laughed. We were like a really bonded group, it was so amazing to see how relaxed everyone was with each other, no one gave any thought to if they were girls or boys, or what country they came from. It was definitely the best group trek I’ve been on. It was the atmosphere between them that made it for me,” says Sara.

Jafar Haidari has three tips for anyone who wants to trek the Classic for the first time. The first is to prepare for it beforehand, to get fit. The second is to choose good clothing and footwear. And the third is to pack a lot of chocolate!

“The best thing about this trip was that we all helped each other all the time. We were happy and we laughed a lot,” says Jafar. “If I didn’t have to go to school, I’d go trekking all the time. But I’m planning on applying for nursing school, so I have to study a lot,” he adds with a big smile.

Text & Photo: Anette Andersson 

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