By Jörgen Johansson
I have done Fjallraven Classic before, in 2007. Here is an article in Swedish about this. Briefly, this is a competition of sorts where you hike 110 kilometers from Nikkaluokta to Abisko in Swedish Lapland. For most people the competing part is not so important. Instead it is for many an opportunity to try on the real mountains for a first time in relative comfort and safety. My impression is that there is a bigger number of young hikers doing the Classic than you normally meet along the trails.
Here is yours truly "resting into shape" before the start. I was teamed up with another grizzled participant, journalist Jonas Hållén, who snapped the photo. He turned out to be a great companion on the trail and since he was an avid runner and swimmer taking part in multisport events he had my tongue hanging on my chest for much of the hike. Pretty lucky actually, since both of us for work and family reasons were on a tight schedule. The windshirt is on a test from Haglofs, an 85 gram hoodie that will be out on the market next year.
It is obligatory to have an orange cloth on your pack for all participants. Here is Jonas and some other hikers heading into beautiful Ladjtovagge with the classic Swedish Mountain profile of the "cauldron mountain", Tuolpagorni, in the center. It turned out Jonas and I both had similar packweights. He had a heavier tent than me and I hade more extra clothing than him. Something I would have needed on my longer hike earlier this summer and did of course not need this time :-)
When the mists lifted that morning it turned out to be the beginning of two days of hiking in 25 C degrees without a cloud in the sky. Obviously the marketing department at Fjallraven had good connections with the weather gods. We trundled up wide and glorious Tjakjavagge (vagge=valley in Sami) heading for the Tjakta pass, the highest point on the trail, but not particularly demanding for experienced hikers.
This turned out to be our longest day. In order to reach the goal in Abisko around 3 pm the following day we had to put in more than 35 kilometers.
At Alesjaure checkpoint Jonas took a cold, cold bath in the lake while I just cooled my heals in it, sipping a Coke. When we moved on around 8.30 pm Jonas was invigorated and I was just chilled and tired. Maybe I should have taken a dip myself. Around 10 pm we put up our tents and had our evening meal, both thoroughly tired after having added another 7 kilometers, making it a 46 kilometer day. I have travelled 35 kilometer days before, but the normal daily walk for me is 24-27 kilometers.
We were of course pretty tired and after cooking I made the mistake letting my sleeping bag curl up around the still hot pot rest on my Primus Express Ti stove. Well, nothing that could not be mended with some duct tape...
Morning did break with sunshine over Lake Alesjaure and our camp. We were on our way around 7.15 am and soon approached the long downhill stretch, past the excellent pancakes at checkpoint Kieron around 10 pm, where we entered the birch forest. And no, we did not pass the pancakes without taking suitable action...
Many hikers took advantage of the sun and the comparative coolness by one of the creeks we passed to soak up some sun and rest their feet. We were however on a tighter schedule and kept moving, skipping lunch and letting the pancakes do their duty. Being one of the last groups to start, Jonas and I had been passing hikers that enjoyed a more leisurely tempo than we did. We kept a good pace but did not rush or run since it now was obvious that we were on schedule and that Jonas would have time for a shower and a beer before his train left.
Reaching the goal in Abisko 2.45 pm we were clocked for 53 hours on the trail. A considerable improvement, if you want to call it that, compared to the 65 hours I hiked in 2007. That, however, was a really laid-back hike when I took more time than I really needed. So I guess for me the ideal pace would be somewhere in between. Anyway, we got our gold medal this time as well, which everybody did. For the first time in 2012 every hiker received a gold medal, and silver and bronze were relegated to being sold as souvenirs in Abisko which was a nice way of putting less emphazis on the "race" part of Classic. If you wanna race be aware that the fastest participant this year did it in 13 hours...
Chinese television was doing interviews in Abisko and we desperately tried to get into the picture but had to satisfy ourselves with getting the team into our own picture. Later that night I met reporters from both Backpacker and TGO Magazine, so Fjallraven Classic is becoming quite a thing in its eight year. Well deserved, it is a solidly organized event that brings new hikers from many countries into the mountains. It is difficult not to imagine that quite a few of those will be back in one shape or another. That's a very good thing in my book.