Packrafting from Abisko to Nikkaluokta

Turer I discovered packrafting, a nice combination of backpacking and paddling this summer. The maiden voyage in the Swedish mountains did not turn out quite the way I expected. Here you will find some photos. The full story was published in the Swedish edition of Outside Magazine September 2009. You can download the article in Swedish here.
by Jörgen Johansson

The packraft is born in Alaska, where forest, mountains and rivers are plentiful - and bridges are scarce. It only weighs a couple of kilos and can be carried inflated or deflated, depending on circumstances. Starting out with an ultralight pack is good, since my packraft including paddle and personal flotation device added 4 kilos to my load.

Practising close to Abisko Mountain station the day before I took off on my hike.


On my way through the birch forest towards Kårsavagge from the Mountain station.


The sun was beating down, so minimising my clothing to my combined merino tights and underwear felt really nice whilst climbing out of Kårsavagge on my way to Håiganvagge.



Crossing the mountains from one valley to another I walked along this shelf with a magnificent view of the land around the northernmost part of Kungsleden (The King's Trail) in the valley below.


My packraft in it's blue bag was not a large packet, especially not compared to my size 45's. The raft was an Alpacka Denali Llama weighing 2,9 kilos. This loaf fitted nicely along the spine of my pack, with the sleeping bag in the bottom and the rest of the gear tucked around it.

Late evening sun floating over my camp in Håiganvagge.

With my raft under my arm, heading from camp in the morning for a place with a decent flow of water some 500 meters downstream.


I fastened the pack with a couple of ordinary packstraps of about 2 meters each. Bungy cords with hooks is another way which makes for faster attachment and detachment.

You can strap the pack in different orientations. This is one, but smarter is to twist it 90 degrees with the hipbelt pointing forward. That way you can just shoulder your pack for a portage and the raft will be attached like in the first photo.


With a NeoAir inflated you insulate your butt from the cold water and keep it reasonably out of reach from water spilling in collecting at the lowest spot. I got some deciliters of water sloshing in every now and then, since the less than professional floating device I used made it difficult to cinch everything completely tight around my waist.

Launching the third morning at Bieggeluoppal, about a kilometer before Alesätno starts for real.

This kind of whitewater was pretty common in Alesätno and was easy as pie to handle even for an amateur like me.

This kind of whitewater I happily left to the pros and did in fact pack up my raft and start the hike towards the alpine regions around Mårma.

On my way towards Mårma I look back towards Alesvagge and Alesätno. An impressive valley, unknown to me and also I believe to many others inspite of the nearness to Kungsleden. Or maybe because of that.


On my way from the alpine Mårma region down to the valley of Vistasvagge and Vistasjåkkå, which does look tempting to a packrafter...
Vistasstugan mountain hut waited in the birchforest, with the valley of Stuor Räitavagge och and the spike of Nallo in the distance.

Ready to go from Vistasstugen, looking forward to an exciting trip downstream to Nikkaluokta and the bus on the following day.

This narrow arm of water with the "sweepers" along the shore ended my rafting. I was dunked and the paddle was swept away in the resulting mess.

Drying out the worst of my gear (everything that needed to be dry was dry) and repacking with Nallo as background. From here on I walked to Nikkaluokta, where I was just in time for a cup of coffee before boarding the bus at 1600 hours the day after.

Discuss at the Utsidan forum (in Swedish)

9 comments:

Holdfast said...

Jörgen - thanks for sharing this report. Packrafting is something I'm very interested in giving a go next summer. It looks like a great way to see the wilderness from another perspective.

Hendrik M said...

Excellent story, Jörgen! I'm also interested in giving packrafting a try, so it will be interesting to hear more about it next spring!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jörgen

very exciting und informative report! Do you have a pack list of your trip? What was your tarp / tent, you were using?

Daniel

Anonymous said...

Dear Jörgen

very interesting report! do aou have a pack list of your trip? What tarp /tent did you use?

Daniel

Anonymous said...

Hi Jörgen! Thanks for report. Also interested in your gear for this trip. Is that the ULA OHM backpack your using - you haven't abandoned your beloved jam now have you? ;-)Your thoughts on the OHM would be highly appreciated. Also that light green/yellowish (?) jacket you got on looks interesting!

warm regards
Magnus

Jörgen Johansson said...

Just got back from my packrafting course, which was super. I would have kept a lot drier this summer if it had been possible to do the course first.
I'm using a Terra Nova Laser Photon tent on this trip. And yes, it's also a ULA Ohm. I will write about my impressions of them both in a while. A complete packlist can be found in Outside Magazine. I will probably post it also.

Jörgen Johansson said...

Forgot...
The green/yellowish rain jacket is Haglöfs Oz. Later models are black I believe. Had it for a couple of years and like it a lot. 196 g for an XL.

Alastair said...

Fantastic story!
Here's my account of packrafting across Scotland - http://vimeo.com/9085238
Al

Jörgen Johansson said...

Hi Al,
Looked at your video and that sure looks like a great trip. The Spey looked quite lively. What packrafting trip is it that you are planning?

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