Sunday, July 21, 2013


There is a constant balancing act between doing things that are not family friendly, e.g. demanding bike trips, and family activities. Mostly the family takes precedence, but this time I came up with a cunning plan to combine both things.

The plan was to go with the family to Ammarnäs and start riding in the evening while the rest of the family stayed one night there. I would then be away for two nights and arrive sometime in the morning on the third day. Meanwhile the rest of the family would drive the car to Hemavan, where we rented an apartment for a few days. After I had arrived, we would still have several days together in Hemavan.

We took the ferry from Vasa to Umeå in Sweden on the Sunday morning, drove the 360 km on less than great roads to Ammarnäs and arrived sometime before six in the evening. I packed my bike, ate a quick dinner and started riding a little over seven.

The route from Ammarnäs to Hemavan is the southmost section of the Kungsleden trail and the distance was around 80 km. I optimistically expected around 70 percent of it to be rideable, having hiked around the south part of it before. The book Kungsleden på Mountainbike is perhaps more realistic, but on the other hand I consider myself to have better riding skills than average.

The trail started with about two kilometers of gentle climbing on a forest road, before the actual trail started. The risk of getting lost is obviosly non-existent.

The trail was partly rideable, but mostly I pushed the bike. Either the trail was too stony or the climb to steep.

The air temperature was a rather pleasant 10°C (50°F) and the mosquitoes didn't bother me much even on the birch forest level. The vegetation was quite rich.


The leaves of the wood cranesbill don't know if it is summer or fall.

The very poisonous northern wolfsbane can be impressively high.

The trail continued. There were good bridges over the creeks.

Looking back at Ammarnäs.

Finally the landscape opened up.

After a while I saw the Aigert mountain hut. It is perfectly possible to hike or ride the trail with a very light backpack and stay in mountain huts during the nights. I prefer the freedom of having my own tent, though, and found a suitable tent spot away from the hut after a little over two hours and 8 km of riding and pushing the bike.

The route is shown on Garmin Connect.

There was some amount of rain and a rather strong wind during the night. I checked the mountain weather forecast with my smartphone through a sporadic internet connection and hard weather was expected for Tuesday morning, with wind speeds of 18 m/s (40 mph) and a little less for Monday.

The morning was nice, though. I ate breakfast and packed down the completely dry tent before it started to rain again.

On the move again.

Passing the Aigert hut a little over seven in the morning. No sign of life yet in the other tents.

The trail was now pretty easy to ride.

I'm nowadays very careful with the water after having contracted a Campylobacter infection from polluted water. Three days of very high fever and diarrea isn't really something you want to have when being out there. This water seemed to have a good enough stream to dilute potential pathogens, though the Campylobacter is known to infect with very small amounts. I did have purification tablets with me, in case I would be unsure.

Looking back.

I had now climbed up over the 1000 m level and the terrain was still mostly quite easy to ride, except for some stonier sections. The weather changed between a light rain and no rain, but the wind was quite strong.

Glacier buttercup, turned red from white.

At one point I encounter some surprisingly flat meadow terrain.


At 1100 m the terrain became mostly unrideable, but it was fun nonetheless.

Soon the trail started going downwards, with some 400 m of altitude loss. Now it also started to rain again. During this section I met a few hikers, but otherwise it was very quiet on the trail.

Closing in on and passing the Serve mountain hut.

Yellow mountain saxifrage.

Yes I will.

Going up again.

Lunch at one o'clock in the afternoon. Since breakfast I had eaten a flapjack and energy bar, so I was quite hungry.

After the short and not so cozy lunch break, I continued. The trail was rideable for the most part.


The final trail down to the Tärna lake was very nice. Fast and flowy and with an altitude loss of 200 m there was no need to pedal. A couple of very hard rain showers occurred, though.

The Tärnasjö mountain hut. I chatted a while with the hostess, and she had never seen anyone on a bike there, so I guess it isn't that common.

Now the section I feared the most followed. It would go some 8 km through the birch forest and over mires.

A bunting (not sure about the exact species) chick.

The south part of the Tärna lake consists of lots of small islands, and the route passes them via six bridges.

The bridges are visible in the middle of the picture.

The previous section turned out to be quite ok, but the trail between the Tärna lake and Syterstugen was almost completely unrideable. The first part would have been ok in the other direction, but it climbed enough that I couldn't ride much. The rest was just to stony for riding.

Moor-king (the Swedish name translates as King Karl's scepter).

Nice weather again, but Norra Storfjället is covered in clouds.

Looking back at the Syter mountain hut.

Continuing towards the last real climb over Sjulolsaxeln at 1000 m.

I was now rather low on energy after having spent 11 hours of actual time riding or pushing the bike, and despite the climb had some difficulty keeping warm. On the top of the climb the wind was very hard, it rained horizontally and the temperature was only a few degrees above freezing. I quickly continued downhill, hoping to get away from the worst of the wind and rain.

The beginning of the U-shaped valley of Syterskalet. By now my fingers were totally numb from cold and I had to figure something out. After warming the fingers against the body and putting a pair of Sealskinz socks on my hands, I started to get some warmth back. My feet were of course cold from being wet the entire day, but that caused no problems yet.

I was now ready to stop for the night, but remembering the forecasted 18 m/s wind, I didn't dare to put the tent in a totally unprotected place in Syterskalet. Valleys like this one can act as really good wind funnels, so I continued. 

Now the only technical problem of the trip occurred. The fifth sprocket suddenly just disintegrated, for no obvious reason. I certainly didn't have much strength left in the legs at this point.

I finally, after 13,5 hours of riding, found a suitable tent spot behind a small hill, which dampened the wind a bit. By now I was too tired to take any pictures. I just put up the tent, drank a little and ate a flapjack before crawling into the sleeping bag. It took some time to get the warmth back, but I was tired enough to sleep well through the night.

The gory details, including the track, can be found on Garmin Connect. Firstbeat Athlete, which I trust more than Garmin, calculated my energy consumption of the day to be 7124 kcal.

The night again saw some strong winds and rain, but the tent remained very stable. It was pitched to get the wind in the best possible direction. The morning was quite nice, though not very warm. I made a quick breakfast and then got out around half past eight. Note the new snow a bit higher up.

I got going again and felt quite fine, despite the previous rather hard day. The max power was long gone from the legs, though.

Some other tents a bit down the valley.

Closing in on the Viterskalet mountain hut.

By now the trail went mostly downwards. There was around 400 m of altitude down to Hemavan. The trail wasn't as rideable as I thought it to be, though.

Almost there. The top part of the Hemavan ski lift system is visible.


I arrived at Hemavan after two and a half hours and 14.5 km of riding, right on schedule. The map, track and everything else is on Garmin Connect.

This was a very nice little trip, but it was quite demanding. A little more time would have been nice, but this was part of the deal. The bike worked great and I really appreciate the stability of the Salsa Mukluk, even when fully loaded, on trails like these. I certainly can recommend the route for someone looking for a challenging ride in real mountain environment. A slightly easier version would take advantage of the mountain huts. Such a trip would also be very nice.