Col de Pause

Planned to drive up to Col de Pause but the road was closed (boo) so had to walk up.

Parked up in Serre and met a really huge mountain dog (I got back in the car – still shook up by my fave terrible twosome across from the gite).

Ate some nice ham and salami baguettes (thanks Dan) and set off up the rocky road.

Didn’t particularly enjoy the hike upwards – not really sure why. It was very beautiful though!

Took some little paths that cut out some of the road. Much shorter but much steeper!

Then we arrived at a little plateau, and decided to climb a small (but again, steep) hill to get some really beautiful 360° views. Even saw some vultures up in the sky.

Took some dorky photographs of us. Sat down and enjoyed the natural sounds around us – birds, insects, the river / waterfall running down the mountain. It’s the kind of place you can stay for a really long time as there’s no end of cool things to look at. And a straight line distance of 4km from Spain. Definitely not crossing over this time!

Met some people who had also walked up with their cute snowy white dog (a nice one!)

On the way down we saw a snake and a lizard (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wild snake before?). We got the beautiful views that had been behind us on the way up.

Fjallraven Classic 2018 -Day 1 and the return

Day 1:

So it’s Sunday, we’re in Start Group 8 which sets off at 1pm. I wake up in my nice bed in Kiruna, sort my pack out, and go to breakfast. I feel a little bit like a did before sitting exams. Nervous. Particularly the ones I hadn’t prepped for too well…

One last toilet break, check out, and we make our way to where the buses leave from.

I’m feeling pretty nervous at the check in – there are so many people here that will be on the walk with us.

The bus leaves in half an hour. The good thing is I can look at all the different Fjallraven trousers colours and make up my mind which ones I want when I finish this hike!

And the coach arrived in Nikkaluokta, and there are dogs! We need one so I can sleep next to it.

We have 90 minutes until start time.

Weighed my bag, at 17kg. What. The. ****.

We have done the first few kilometres of the hike! Doesn’t feel too bad at the moment. I’ve got my waterproof on over my midlayer and though it’s a bit sweaty my bag fits a bit better with it on.

So the first 11km or so were great. Then everything kinda started to hurt and it rained alot and it was pretty scary to think we were walking 19km into nowhere with 91 left to go.

But I’m here at the checkpoint now, and what more can I do except breathe, and put the tent up after a big rest, and sleep?

Dan looked up the weather, and every day for the rest of the trail was rain, snow, intense gale force winds and below freezing temperatures. Someone even said that this was the fourth time he’d done the trail and someone recommended he turn back for the first time. (Later found out this was the worst weather in all 14 Fjallraven classics – a lot of people got helicoptered out).

So our other option is turn around and go back. And given day 1 consisted of a nose bleed, hyperventilation and being soaked through to my pants, this is what we have chosen to do.

I’m gutted, honestly. With warmer weather and less rain I’d have probably made it. The thought of camping in below zero temperatures later on makes me feel ill. I think it’s sensible to turn back and for us to enjoy what is left of our holiday. Maybe we will get to explore the Lofoten Islands which we didn’t have time for before. Or nip across to Finland for another country! All I know is feeling like this isn’t worth it.

Some people will say they have unfinished business with the Fjallraven Classic, but that’s me done. It really is a challenge, with unpredictable weather and relentlessly rocky paths. Much respect to everyone in Start Group 8 who finishes this year.

Having walked back 2km in the dark pitched a tent just before a downpour, and having my freshly warmed legs warm up my sleeping bag, I feel much better.

Day 2: walking back

Well proud of mine and Dan’s tent putting up last night – it got really gusty even though our position is pretty sheltered!

I walked 21km yesterday after only starting at 1pm with almost a third of my body weight on my back. That’s my furthest distance in a day ever, even with a small pack. And I actually feel okay this morning! (Probably thanks to Dan lending me his sleeping mat which has a better rating than mine so my feet and legs didn’t get cold).

Took my first big bag tumble, fortunately didn’t hurt myself.

I mean, it happens to the best of us!

This terrain is awful and though my backpack feels lighter I’m making more footing errors. Can’t wait to get back to Nikkaluokta whether that’s to camp or to get the bus back to Kiruna.

The scenery is lovely though (now we can actually see it without clouds).

My poor boots aren’t up for all this rock! My feet hurt. Alot. We’ve got 7.2km left of today. It’s honestly a beast. Decided to stop rushing for the bus and just camp at Nikkaluokta.

Looking through my photos when we sit down for a break makes me happy! We’ve been lucky enough to see this place, experience it, and in my case, nose bleed all over it.

Back at the strange wobbly bridge with 3.5km to go. It has been better on less rocky paths and it is nice that it is wide enough for us to walk side by side and have chats.

Made it back! Had a good sing along to Let it Go and Country Roads and we made it! My feet hurt but that is two big walks with my backpack and I’m so happy to be done!!!

Nikkaluokta seems to be pretty much in a different weather system. The sun is out, putting up the tent was actually fun and there is a shower and sauna.

And that’s it for my Fjallraven classic. I’m disappointed not to finish, but sometimes you just have to be sensible. Given I sit in a winter cardigan in the office air conditioning, I think we made the right decision.

Now to enjoy a camp and work out what we can do with our remaining days in Scandinavia!

From Narvik to Kiruna

Day 3 – end

So thankfully I wasn’t wrong with my bus timings from the polar park to Narvik, and we got on the coach!

Again, the views from the bus were stunning. We even got to see the new suspension bridge being built!

Arrived in Narvik about 8:30pm and found the way to our hotel. Having thought over the whole not camping thing, I’m going enjoy the next few days. Starting with a shower with excellent water pressure!

I mean why make an already ambitious challenge more difficult, right?

Day 4

Had a hotel breakfast! Omelette and weird sausage thing…and little pancakes!

Today we’re exploring Narvik in the downpours – including the war museum because Dan’s a history nerd and I really should know more.

The war museum was really cool! There was world war 2 history and a strange philosophical future warfare exhibition that was really interesting. It’s a really thought provoking place and it was interesting to read about world war 2 from a different perspective.

Then I had my first actual hamburger that wasn’t a beefburger, which was pretty good.

It’s weird to spend time in a city. Saw some hikers sorting out their sodden tent and I’m pretty happy that’s not me right now.

Making the most of an off day by reading (finished Children of Blood and Bone and it ended on a huge cliffhanger – urghhh!). Also checked Instagram for people starting the Classic today. Looks like they’re having fun and I’m getting excited. Still, the prospect of snow is terrifying. Wish I had Dan’s capacity to produce heat.

Oh – and I napped a fair bit. Still shattered from the previous days and have the worst eye bags I’ve ever had in my life.

Went out for dinner in the evening, not too much to choose from in Narvik but had some good pasta. And took more silly photos.

Now to sleep before heading off to Kiruna tomorrow! First time on a train in another country! (Minus the Eurostar but I’m not counting that!)

Day 5:

All packed up. Had breakfast. Now it’s off to Narvik train station to make our way to Kiruna, Sweden.

The train journey is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been on. So many gorgeous views of mountains, rivers, fjords and waterfalls.

Arrived in Kiruna! Registered for the classic, picked our trekking pass that we have to get stamped at each checkpoint.

Ate reindeer for the first time. This is all getting very real!

Checked in at our room for the night, which is really awesome!

Walked in the rain to The Bishop’s Arms for dinner – British style pub in Kiruna that is very busy! I’m having fish and chips because why not. Fuel for the hike.

Then it’s off to bed for the last time, and we’ll see how I get on from there!

Rebecca