Walk in , ascent 1726m, length 110.7km
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mcrtchly: Track 3673 in area near Sweden, Norrbotten ()
'Off-Grid' in Arctic Sweden: Trekking the Dag Hammarskjöldleden
Length: 110.7km, Creator time taken: 171h23m, Ascent: 1726m,
Descent: 1824m

Places: Start at Lon 19.0164, Lat 67.8509, end at Lon 18.7836, Lat 68.3587 57km N from Start
Logged as completed by 1
We first visited Arctic Sweden in September 2016 and walked the middle section of the Kungsleden trail (MV track 3332). We subsequently returned to Kiruna in February 2017 en-route to Lofoten, Norway, for a week of photography and passed by the entrance portal to the Kungsleden at Abisko. Imaginations stirred for a new adventure, we planned to return, and indeed made it back in September 2017 to walk the Dag Hammarskjöldleden (Dag Hammarskjöld Way) which runs from Abisko to Nikkaluokta and in part follows the northern section of the Kungsleden.

The Dag Hammarskjöldeden is named after Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (1905-1961), Swedish diplomat and philosopher, who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations from April 1953 until his sudden death in a plane crash in September 1961. Described by President Kennedy as ‘the greatest statesman of our century’, following his death a series of religious, spiritual and philosophical musings were discovered in his New York apartment which were published posthumously as a collection named Vägmärken ('Markings'). Famous for quotes such as ‘the longest journey is the journey inwards’, in 2004 a 105 kilometre-long hiking trail between Abisko (where Hammarskjöld lived) and Nikkaluokta, was inaugurated to honour his memory. Along the trail which is intended to be a pilgrimage (‘a journey inwards’ perhaps?), are seven meditation sites with selected texts taken from 'Markings' that are inscribed in stone in both Swedish and Sámi.

The most popular way to walk the Dag Hammarskjöld Way is from north to south, starting at Abisko and finishing at Nikkaluokta. We chose to do the walk in reverse, partly because of logistics but also it means that you are not walking with the sun in your eyes for most of the day (if there is any sun!), and are subjected to a less punishing gradient up to the highest point of the trail (1,150m) which is the better option if you are carrying heavy packs. We travelled to Kiruna from Dublin via Stockholm and stayed for 2 nights in the STF hostel/hotel in Kiruna (STF is the Swedish equivalent of the Youth Hostel Association and runs hundreds of accommodation facilities across Sweden).

A morning start and a short bus trip from Kiruna took us to the start of the trail at Nikkaluokta; there is a restaurant and accommodation here if needed. From here a fast pace was needed to catch the 1.30 pm boat that crosses Lake Láddjujávri, saving us about 6km of walking through boggy terrain. A couple of kilometres from Nikkaluokta we encountered the first of many metal bridges that enable trekkers to safely cross the scores of ice cold rushing rivers in this region. We arrived at the lake fifteen minutes or so before the boat left, and at a small wooden kiosk paid the 350 kroner each (35 euro) for the 20-30 minute trip. Unfortunately, being the very end of the season meant we were denied the experience of a juicy ‘Lap Dånalds’ reindeer burger, the booth for which was closed for the winter!

Late-afternoon we arrived at a wooden boardwalk which brought us to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation, base camp for those climbing the mountain which bears its name, but which ironically cannot be seen from here. The Fjällstation has a restaurant serving sumptious three course evening meals and a superb selection of craft beers!

The next day we continued westward from the Kebnekaise Fjällstation, initially through dwarf willow and birch trees, somewhat reminiscent of terrain we have encountered in Greenland, before the trail climbed to the narrow rocky Láddjuvággi Valley enclosed by dark, foreboding cloud-clad mountains. Our mobile phone signals promptly died and we were effectively ‘off grid’ for the next week. From the pass we descended towards the Singi Hut were we wild camped on a plateau 1km above the hut.
Passing below Behemoths in the narrow Láddjuvággi Valley
At Singi the Dag Hammarskjöldleden meets the Kungsleden, and the route turns sharply northwards and heads towards the emergency shelter at Kuopperjåkka above the Tjäktjavagge River. It began to rain lightly just as we approached the triangle-shaped wooden shelter which is equipped with a small wood burning stove, table and benches. We stopped here for lunch before continuing on to the Sälka Hut where we wild camped near a river.

Sälka Hut has a small shop and we stopped by the following morning for some supplies: drinking chocolate, sachets of coffee, a few extra packets of dried food and some salted liquorice (it’s impossible to visit Scandinavia without trying this!), before hitting the trail towards the Tjäktja Pass, which at 1,150 metres is the highest point along the Kungsleden. Near the top of the pass we paused at the fourth mediation spot which offers grandstand views down over the valley we had just traversed.
The overwheling majesty of the Swedish Arctic
The landscape is very much like the Highlands of Scotland. The mountains share the same geology, the land has undergone the same glacial transformations, and the flora bears similarities. But in Arctic Sweden everything is amplified; the mountains are bigger, the corries still hold ice. We descended quickly from the pass across a boulder field of glacial debris in fading light towards the Tjäktja Hut where we wild camped overnight. The weather forecast had predicted clear skies but bitterly cold weather, and this proved to be correct as we were amazed by spectacle of the Northern Lights as we shivered in our tent!
Memorable celestial light show
From Tjäktja we walked northwards along the Alisvággi Valley, at times chilled by the icy blasts of cold air coming off the surrounding side valleys and glaciers. After 13km we arrived at the Alesjaure Hut. Perched high on a rocky promontory between Lake Alisjávri and the Alisvággi Valley it is surely one of STF’s most spectacularly placed on the whole Kungsleden. We decided to stay in the hut with half a dozen other trekkers, mainly Scandinavian. We raided the well-stocked shop and our haul included fresh eggs, salami sticks and chilled beer which were greedily consumed after days of freeze-dried food!

We decided not to trek the 21km to the next hut at Abiskojaure, opting instead to wild camp somewhere near the emergency shelter at Lake Rádujávri. The first part of the route offered easy walking close to the shore of Lake Alisjávri and passed several small inviting beaches. Eventually we spotted the emergency shelter but decided not to camp near it, but instead to find a site higher up with better views of the lake and nearby mountains. We bushwhacked uphill through dwarf willow until we found a level shelf of rock with pillow-soft mosses and lichens, offering grandstand views. Opposite were the three peaks of Miesákčohkkas, great knuckles of grey rock thrusting skywards, with the conical peak of Kåtotjåkka gleaming pearl-white behind and the Godu Glacier just visible through the cloud.
Mountain magic: sunset view from our wild camp
The following day after a long slog across a bleak wind-blasted mountain moor of crowberry shrubs, dwarf birch and willow (where we saw our first reindeer on the trek), we descended steeply to Lake Ábeskojávri, crossing over the seething, foaming Šiellajohka River by a metal suspension bridge. Here we encountered a sign delineating the Abisko National Park. Established in 1909, camping is not permitted inside the park away from specially designated areas, and crossing a wide tract of marshland via a boardwalk, we made for the Abiskojaure Hut on the shore of the lake. We stayed the night in the hut which, like the previous one at Alesjaure, was well-provisioned (by helicopter). We especially appreciated the chilled cans of beer!!
These reindeer escaped becoming IKEA meatballs
Our final day saw us follow the trail which traverses a gorgeous riparian setting through the Abisko National Park. The highlight along this section must surely be the stunning and highly photogenic canyon carved by the Abiskojåkka River not far from Abisko. Warm bands of honey-coloured rock contrast with the aquamarine body of rushing water as it funnels its way between the narrow cliffs of the canyon with a deafening roar.

To get to the Abisko Fjällstation we had to cross the E10, an arterial route running between Sweden and Norway. As we approached the road, the sound of an oncoming vehicle assaulted our ears. The Volvo estate was the first car we had seen or heard for over a week, and we were stunned by the amount of noise it made as it thundered past us on the highway.

We had ample time to relax at the excellent Abisko Fjällstation for a few hours where we enjoyed celebrating over a few craft beers a truly wonderful trek in Arctic Sweden, and plotting our return in 2018, before catching the bus outside the Fjällstation on the E10 back to Kiruna.
For more details see our blog on http://purplepeakadventures.com/blog/2017/12/off-grid-in-arctic-sweden-trekking-the-dag-hammarskj-ldleden.
Watch our video on https://youtu.be/qn0AYCHQTtA or https://vimeo.com/247436966

Uploaded on: Sat, 16 Dec 2017 (23:36:28)
Trackback: https://mountainviews.ie/track/3673/  
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