A Trip to the North

Kebnekaise (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈkɛbnəˈkaisə]; from Sami Giebmegáisi or Giebnegáisi, “Cauldron Crest”) is the highest mountain in Sweden. The Kebnekaise massif, which is part of the Scandinavian Mountains, has two peaks, of which the southern, glaciated one is highest at 2,106 metres (6,909 ft) above sea level at the latest time of measurement. The north top (2,096 metres (6,877 ft)) is free of ice.

Kebnekaise lies in Lapland, about 150 kilometres (ca. 90 miles) north of the Arctic Circle and west of Kiruna near the popular Kungsleden hiking trail between Abisko and Nikkaluokta.

The glacier which covers the southern peak has shrunk, and therefore the summit is not as high as earlier. The top is traditionally said to be 2,111 metres (6,926 ft), and higher in the oldest measurement, i.e. 2,117 metres (6,946 ft). If the melting continues at the same rate, the south peak will sink below the north peak (which is the highest fixed point in Sweden) within a few years’ time.

A mountain lodge, Kebnekaise mountain lodge (Kebnekaise fjällstation), is located at the foot of Kebnekaise, ca. 19 km, 6–7 hours from Nikkaluokta. It is the starting point for an ascent via the western route (västra leden, ca. 13 km, 4–6 hours to the summit) or the eastern route (östra leden, ca. 10 km, 3–5 hours to the summit). The western route leads over scree slopes and the intermediate peak Vierranvárri to the glaciated summit.

View from Vierranvárri

View from Vierranvárri

Most of this route to the top is pure hiking, but there is a short exposed part that could possibly count as scrambling (YDS grade 2). The eastern route leads over glaciers and rocks and offers exposure (YDS grade 4). It is however equipped with fixed steel cables for protection, similar to a via ferrata.

The oldest of the cabins close to the peak; standing at an 1880 meter altitude, built in 1924. There is also a third, more uncommon route only marked with cairns – “Durlings led”, which branches off Kungsleden a few kilometers north of Singi, goes about two kilometers into the southern side of Singivagge, and then turns north into the valley between Kuopertjåkka and Singipakte (peak 1614).

Some people, such as those with acrophobia or wanting to summit with heavy backpacks, may see benefits with this route as not a single point on it is exposed. “Durlings led” eventually merges with the western route close to the summit.


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