Anna hiking in Hardangervidda, Norway. Photo ©
Why I'm solo hiking 1400km through the Swedish Wilderness
Anna Gustafsson currently lives a 9 to 5 life as an engineer in Stockholm. A Third Culture Kid, Anna was born in Sweden and grew up in Germany, having also lived in France, Switzerland and Italy. She has an international spirit and is currently learning her sixth language. The last time she took a break from daily life, she went to Rome for three months to learn Italian. And being based in Stockholm for the past three years, she has taken the opportunity to explore her homeland and has traveled north in both Sweden and Norway several times.
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You're hiking solo for 1400km from Grövelsjön in Western Sweden, right up to Treriksröset up in The Arctic Circle, on the Norwegian border. Why did you choose this specific route?
After two weeks of hiking last summer I felt I needed to see more of the Scandes, the Scandinavian mountain range. Walking along the border will also give me a lot of variety in terms of nature, from forests and lakes to rivers and vast, wide open mountain areas, and "kalfjäll" (which is a Swedish word for the mountains above the tree line). What is also interesting is that there is no marked track between the two points, you have to choose your own way, and it will include both marked tracks as well as legs with no tracks at all, where you have to find your own way through nature.
How many long distance hikes have you done previously?
This is my first long hike of this size. My longest before was 150km in one week, last summer over Hardangervidda in Norway together with a group of friends. It was a great hike and we also had good weather. We hiked rather early in season and encountered some snow, which made it partly challenging, but never dangerous.
Is this your first solo hike?
I hiked solo for 10 days last summer in Padjelanta National park above the Arctic circle in northern Sweden. Although the weather was mostly rainy and grey, it was a great experience. Both for the people you meet and connect with, as well as for the strong feeling of freedom that I experienced. Carrying my home in my backpack, I was free to walk, stay, and sleep wherever I wanted. In Sweden there is something called "Allemansrätten" - the freedom to roam, which protects everybody's right to enjoy nature, under the prerequisite "Don't disturb, don't destroy". It can be compared to the English "Take only photos, leave only footprints".
How long do you envisage the hike taking to complete?
I am preparing for 80 days on the trail. If it takes longer, there will be possibilities to resupply in villages and mountain lodges. If I do it in 80 days, it means around 17km/day on average. Terrain and hiking speed will vary a lot, so a day's hike will probably be between 10km and 30km.
Will you be camping all the way?
I will carry a tent all the way and camp most of the nights, but I will definitely stay in huts every now and then. Some legs will be on existing trails, such as the King's trail, and the huts along here are frequent. Also the last leg, through Norway is well equipped with huts. Those are both very nice, social and dry(!), so I am also looking forward to these stays!
How will you be carrying all of your food and water for the trip?
I am going to send care packages to villages and mountain lodges, so each leg will be 1-2 weeks long. Food will weigh around 800g/day, which I have prepared and partly also dried myself during the last two months. There is no need to carry water when hiking in Sweden, as all moving water (streams, big lakes) is potable. I will just carry a water bottle and a "guksi", which is a kind of drinking cup which was traditionally crafted by the Samis, and drink and refill from streams I am crossing - which is by the way the best tasting water you can imagine. Cold and clear, no tap water or bottled water can ever win that race.
How heavy will your pack be?
The weight of the backpack will depend a lot on the amount of food, at heaviest it will be around 25kg, Without any food it will be around 15kg - optimisation is still ongoing, but I am not an ultralight hiker - I love my spacious tent and some extra comfort when out hiking, such as an inflatable mat and an extra pair of socks, and my camera and a few extra lenses together with spare batteries add to the weight. But apart from that packing will be minimalistic, e.g. with only one set of clothes, just enough to keep warm and dry if wearing all clothes on cold and/or rainy days.
What kind of training have you been doing to prepare yourself?
I filled my backpack with 22kg and have been going for longer and shorter walks with it in the parks of Stockholm. Over Ascension day I did a 4 day hike on Sörmlandsleden, which is a trail south of Stockholm, both to test myself and my equipment. This hike felt reassuring, no major problems encountered! Hills were maybe unnecessarily tough, but I will have enough time to train my legs during the summer. Most importantly, my feet, knees, hips and back were strong and happy during those four days.
Why does solo hiking appeal to you?
Oh, there are so many factors of hiking, thruhiking and solohiking, just to mention a few:
When it comes to hiking, I just love the simple life. Everything I need to live is in the backpack. There is a very nice minimalistic and thus light feeling. Daily life on the trail is also very basic. You walk, eat and sleep. Hiking has a large component of mindfulness, which I find difficult to maintain in my busy Stockholm life. When I hike, I do one thing at a time: when I cook, I cook, when I wash my clothes, I wash my clothes. I don't check Facebook, plan the next day and think of all the other things I should do at the same time. I just wash my clothes, feel the cold and clear water flowing around my hands, the wind, maybe the rain. Take in the scenery. That is also a lot of things at the same time, but all things that happen there and then.
One of the reasons I want to hike for such a long distance is that I would like this trail life to become my daily life. Not just for a week of holiday, but for an extended time. I am curious as to what effect it will have, both during the hike, but also in the long term. I will also hike through different seasons. I will start in late spring and end the hike in early autumn, experiencing all different kinds of light and weather. And the light of the Nordics is especially amazing with white nights (I will not have midnight sun though, as I start too far south), sunsets that set the sky on fire and sudden changes of weather.
To hike solo will of course be challenging at times! But it also gives me the opportunity to really live with nature's, and my own, rhythm. To fully tune in. But also to build confidence; I will be the one to make all decisions and their consequences, to solve problems that I will eventually meet. And I will be the one to handle my own thoughts, both positive and negative ones. I am curious to find out how I will react and what I will learn!
Are you taking any home comforts with you?
Oh yes, I have packed 1400g of chocolate into the boxes. 1g/km is not so much in the end, even though it felt odd to pack such an amount of chocolate! I will also bring home made hot chocolate powder and pancakes for breakfast. But chocolate and pancakes is also energy, so it is by no means unnecessary weight. I will not bring any music or books however, as I am looking forward to "hearing my own thoughts", and also to have that time to reflect, to just be, rather than doing things.
Best of luck Anna! You can follow Anna's progress on Instagram here.