Externsteine bei Detmold

Sabrina’s grand E1 dream

– The Swiss blogger, Sabrina Gurtner, reports on her hiking experiences in her blog at unterwegs-zuhause.com (with an address that translates as ‘At home on the road’). Her dream is to walk the E1 long-distance hiking trail from one end to another, and, as a “thru-hiker” to do so all in one go, all the way from the North Cape in Norway to Sicily! As she gears up for this adventure, the Fjällräven Classic is an ideal preparation, and she has reported on her hike on the E1 through Abisko National Park along the border between Sweden and Norway, around 200 km north of the Arctic Circle:

To prepare for my epic hike along the E1, I spend a lot of time travelling in Switzerland (my home country) and elsewhere because, although I see other people’s tips as helpful, there’s no substitute for gaining your own experience and when it comes to planning stages, I’m best placed to work out what I can achieve.

I first heard of the Fjällräven Classic at the end of 2016 and immediately decided to take part in this event. I thought that I’d be able to experience what it’s like to walk through the wilderness in a foreign country, yet to do so for my first time in a safe environment. Fortunately, I was also lucky enough to get a ticket for this sought-after event.

It was only a few weeks before the start that I realised that a portion of this stretch also runs along the E1 – something that really cheered me up. However – the unexpected often happens – and before I set off on holiday I could no longer find out when I would actually also be on the E1 during the Classic. Once I arrived in Sweden, I immediately made so many new acquaintances that I still didn’t manage to find that out when I was there. I didn’t let it stress me out and thought that I’d take loads of photos anyway so that I’d easily find out after the fact when I’d been on the E1 during my travels.

We started on Friday, leaving from Nikkaluokta – not walking along the E1 for the first few days. Anyone who is interested in this stretch can find some posts about it on my blog, but here are my experiences of the E1 in the Swedish-Norwegian borderlands:

Through the Abisko National Park on the E1

Abisko is derived from the Sami word ábeskovvu = sea forest. The park has been a conservation area since 1909 and covers an area of 77 km2 and, in my view, the term “sea forest” describes the park very accurately. As someone from landlocked Switzerland, the lake here appears gigantic – although, at this stage in my hike, I have no idea that I will soon be encountering an even larger one – although the landscape here really does feel like a sea of trees.

As another participant had mentioned a few days earlier that we wouldn’t actually be making our way along the E1 at all, I was somewhat bemused at the outset and unsure of whether I could really trust my gut. However, as I entered the Abisko National Park, something changed and, from the very first step, my gut intuitively understood that I was now making my way along the E1. When I checked my route afterwards, my assumption was confirmed.

The weather also put its best foot forward almost as soon as I joined the E1. The sun was shining and only a few light clouds were in the sky and, to top it all, it was even significantly warmer than it had been in the past few days.

My first day’s hiking took me over a distance of fourteen kilometres straight through the national park in Abisko. In contrast to most hikers, I was walking from Abiskojauestugorna to Abisko (i.e., from south to north). I had spent the night before in a tent Kieron, just a few metres outside the national park — just like the previous few days. I got going early in the day and enjoyed this part of the hike even more intensely than before, and also in the full knowledge that half my time in Sweden was now behind me. The hiking trail through the national park was highly accessible, and the nature around me was simply stunning. Over the last few days, I had spent a lot of time clambering over really stony trails, and the soft, woodland floor was a blessed relief for my feet. What impressed me the most, however, is the overriding sense of space: no matter where you look, there’s nothing to see but nature. Eventually, I saw a single house in the distance on Lake Abiskujàvri, and this typically Swedish, red house provided a startling colour contrast to the lake – but my feeling is that, here in the far north, even nature delights in being colourful.

Hej Hej

As I walk, I’m constantly meeting other hikers, who greet me with the traditional Swedish greeting of “Hej Hej.” This “Hej Hej” sound will stay with me long after my adventure is over and long after I’ve returned home. Anyone who’s ever been hiking in Sweden will recognise this confident greeting, and everyone who’s experienced this special “Hej Hej” and learned to love it will understand what it means.

During my walk through the national park, I keep my eyes peeled, hoping to see elks, reindeer or predators such as arctic foxes, lynx, or wolves. Unfortunately, none of these shy animals show themselves during my hike through the woods of the national park.

I spent the entirety of the first few kilometres walking along the lake’s edge, where hikers have to struggle with mosquitoes somewhat due to the area’s damp climate. Thanks to the mosquito spray I’ve bought, however, the annoying bloodsuckers leave me alone – so mosquito spray gets my wholehearted endorsement! After an hour, I reach the mouth of the River Abiskojokka, where it feeds into the lake. The trail continues northward along the river for several kilometres. Alongside the river, there are small areas of marshland, but the hiking trail is protected by wooden planks in the swampier areas. Nevertheless, waterproof shoes are recommended if you want to keep your feet dry. Along this stage of the E1, there’s no need to carry large stocks of water with you, as you can drink directly from the various small streams at any time. After a slight ascent, I reach a stunning viewpoint, with views that extend over a small canyon. I can’t help myself from taking a break here to enjoy the moment. Naturally, I get my camera out here and start using it. Since I’ve been travelling through Sweden, I’ve begun to experience inner peace: I sit down on one of the stones and let the surroundings work their magic on me.

A short time later, I reach Abisko, bringing the Fjällräven Classic to an end but, for me, the journey continues a little further along the E1.

The second-highest mountain in the Abisko National Park

On the next day, I indulge in a detour on Nuolja, a mountain that is located directly on the E1, and which is well worth a visit. If you want to take a break from all the walking, you can also climb the mountain by chairlift. From Nuolja you have a view that extends over the national park and far into the distant landscape where the E1 wends its way towards Norway. The mountain overlooks the lake, Torneträsk, which is the seventh-largest in Sweden and the country’s largest mountain lake. This lake is even more impressive than the lake in the national park, and I spend half a day on the mountain taking countless photos. So that I can really make the most of the stunning views into the distance, I also shoot a video, which is already up on the E1|R1 Photo Award Facebook page for viewing – and the detour on Nuolja is definitely worth it.

I then spend the evening in the company of other hikers at the comfortable Abisko tourist camp.

Another stage of the E1 from Abisko to Pålnostugan

The next day brings with it more hiking along the E1, with today’s trail taking me from Abisko towards Pålnostugan, a simple hunting cabin which is open to the public where you can pay to spend the night. This stage of the E1 extends over 21 kilometres, with a climb of 900 metres, and the entire hike follows the shores of the lake. I’d forgotten to apply the mosquito spray, which I regret quite badly after just a few metres – but I don’t let the suckers spoil the mood!

As I walk along the lake, I continually find amazing beach locations, and it’s just a shame that the temperatures aren’t the most inviting for swimming in the waters! I’d have absolutely loved a quick dip in the lake, but it’s not to be. However, at least I know that there are plenty of opportunities to pitch a tent if I need to in future, as the overnight stay in the Abisko tourist camp is rather expensive for a dormitory. The hiking trail goes by at a fairly relaxed pace and doesn’t present any major challenges for me, but nonetheless, I can’t quite make it all the way to the cabin. According to what one of my fellow hikers, a Swede, you could also take a boat for this stretch – albeit only if enough hikers take up the offer. I can well imagine that this could be an option for me when I complete the entire E1 in the very near future.

Although I only spent a few kilometres walking along the E1 this time, it’s nevertheless left a great impression on me for the future. As such, the desire to complete all the E1 has grown even stronger, and I’m currently working on making my dream come true in 2018. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you plenty more reports about the E1 then.

If you would like to support Sabrina in her plans to walk the entire E1, you are welcome to contact her. One way to get in touch with her is via her Facebook page UnterwegsZuhause.
All pictures in this article ©Sabrina Gurtner