The most common way to experience King’s Trail (Kungsleden) is walking or skiing in a comfortable pace. But there are other ways – come along on an up-tempo journey through the scenic mountains of Swedish Lapland when Krissy, Luke and Fredrik takes on the challenge of spending a week running along this famous trail.

Krissy Moehl, Luke Nelson and Fredrik Marmsater are on a mission to document their trail running experience for the magazine Trail Runner and for the outdoor clothing and travel gear company Patagonia. They will run from Vakkotavare to Abisko via Kebnekaise Mountain Station. Fredrik is a Swedish photographer based in Boulder, USA, Krissy and Luke are two of the world’s most elite trail runners. Here’s their story.

Krissy’s first report from the trail

Two spectacular days on the trail leading up to our warm welcome at Kebnekaise. Swedish Lapland’s Göran kindly hosted our arrival in Kiruna and transported us to our start in Vakkotavare. We were in a bit of disbelief as we took off on our first couple of strides along the King’s Trail. So much anticipation up to this point, and now we were finally running in Sweden! At every turn we are filled with awe and amazement in the beauty that surrounds and swallows us. The landscape is immense with the mountaintops softened by the ancient glaciers that carved through thousands of years ago.

The hearty bushes of blueberry, moss and scrubby “ris” line the trail and cover the landscape as far as the eye can see adding color, texture and depth. The trail underfoot is surprisingly and continuously rocky making it crucial to watch your step while hopping rock to rock or on the precious dirt filling the gaps. It is easy to be drawn in for a break by the red leaves of the Blueberry plants illuminated in any light. We stain our fingers as we stop to indulge in the perfect blue orbs. The local, but unfamiliar to us lingonberries also dot the landscape and offer a simple flavor emphasized with sugar when made in the jams we sampled back in Stockholm.

The landscape is immense with the mountaintops softened by the ancient glaciers that carved through thousands of years ago.

Trail running is an amazing way to experience the King’s trail. With minimal packs our lighter loads and quick movement allow us to cover ground quickly, give time for pause and opportunity to take in the expanse. Everything in our packs has a specific use and there is nothing extra adding weight. It is possible to stay light with good gear but also having the ability to frequently resupply with the ample food options at the STF huts. These frequent huts also offer a kitchen to cook and bunks to sleep, only requiring a sleeping bag liner to supplement the provided blanket and pillow. A well fed and well rested runner starts each day excited for the next adventure.

In addition to the option of running the King’s trail point to point there are countless side adventures to explore. On our second day we departed the main valley for the option to explore Mt Kebnekaise and summit, the highest mountain in Swede, which will occupy tomorrow morning inspire of the ensuing weather. Looking ahead at the detailed map we are definitely in for a few more side trips.

Trail running is an amazing way to experience the King's trail.
It is possible to stay light with good gear but also having the ability to frequently resupply with the ample food options at the STF huts.
After starting our run in Vakkotavare on Sunday morning, we arrived at Kebnekaise fjällstation on Tuesday afternoon
The terrain varied from blueberry and lingonberry “ris” covered tundra to large scree and snowfields, low birch forests and high alpine glaciers and lakes depending on our chosen adventure.
A reindeer curiosly onlooking the runners.

Second and final update from the Kings Trail

Reluctance and excitement filled the space between our trio as we crossed under the Kungsleden gate Sunday afternoon. Our shortest day of running was met with light legs, quick feet and the best weather we had experienced since we started seven days earlier. Light in spirit and body we moved well and clicked off the first 5 miles of our day before realizing we were sprinting away our final moments on the trail. With strength growing in our legs after seven days dancing over rocks, fording streams, hiking through passes and enjoying a few off trail adventures, the smooth final miles leading into Abisko pulled us along quickly to find our finish. But our reluctance kicked in and we called for pause.

Pause to enjoy the quiet. Pause to enjoy being unplugged from the world, yet deeply connected to the moment. Pause to remain in the silly, goofy, carefree state that is easily found when bounding through wild spaces or standing on a rivers edge. Breathe. Presence. The ancient and knarled fjällbjörk (mountain birch tree) showing their autumn colors while lining the lakes and rivers and pouring down the valleys reminded me that the final steps of this trip also marked summer turning to fall and the end of another season of running and exploring. A year of travel that included Dholavira, India to run the Rann, La Palma, Spain to run the volcano, Juneau to run Alaska’s snowy peaks, California’s High Sierra to run the John Muir Trail and now Abisko to run the Kings Trail in Sweden.

Pause to enjoy the quiet. Pause to enjoy being unplugged from the world, yet deeply connected to the moment.

One year in a 14-year career that has taken me around the globe to experience the world through the lens of running. A new stamp in the passport when we landed in Stockholm, the Kings trail opened my eyes to all that Sweden has to offer multi-day running and how accessible amazing trail running is in the Arctic Circle.

After starting our run in Vakkotavare on Sunday morning, we arrived at Kebnekaise fjällstation on Tuesday afternoon. We relaxed, refueled and took advantage of the chance to connect with friends and family back home, to post social media updates to our extended networks and reported on the first third of our Kungsleden experience before disappearing into the wilderness again for our final four days on the trail. The alarm rang early on Wednesday in hopes of beating the weather looming over Kebnekaise peak. Despite the forecasted high winds and rain, we hoped for a lull in the storm to summit Sweden’s highest peak. We were unfortunately turned around by the gusts and wet roughly 300 m below the summit. Traveling with minimal gear narrows margin of error and our collective group experience resulted in the tough decision to turn around and return to the comfort of the Kebnekaise station – including a sauna and the amazing food at Elsa’s kitchen.

Get to know the authors/runners
Krissy Moehl
www.krissymoehl.com
facebook: /krissy.moehl
twitter: @krissymoehl
instagram: krissymoehl
Fredrik Marmsater
www.fredrikmarmsater.com
facebook:/fredrikmarmsaterphotography
twitter: @FredMarmsater
instagram: fmarmsaterphoto
Luke Nelson
challengeofbalance.com
facebook: /luke.nelson.568
twitter: @slukenelson
instagram: Slukenelson

That night, tracing the map with our fingers and we found that the natural weaknesses in topography typically also hosted a marked but sparsely dotted trail. This brought up the possibly of running the Kings Trail with many other side-route experiences – “choose your own adventure”. Kungsleden serves as a major thoroughfare and resupply point. From there we created a variety of loops off the main trail and reconnected further along the trail, often near a fjällstuga (hut) for dinner, three comfortable beds and a hot sauna. The terrain varied from blueberry and lingonberry “ris” covered tundra to large scree and snowfields, low birch forests and high alpine glaciers and lakes depending on our chosen adventure. The options seem endless from the well-traveled, reliable Kungsleden. One can count on the well-worn trail, marked with red X’s in the valleys. The off trail routes are more adventurous and solitary, and offer remote summits, glaciers and ridgelines.

Our final days hosted a variety of fall weather, challenging routes and laughable times as we moved through the days and miles. Our reluctance to leave the trail in Abisko stemmed mostly from the simple way of life trail time creates. It is hard to leave such a beautiful landscape, long days of moving through the mountains and the comfortable, easy evenings cooking meals in the huts, building fires to dry clothes and deep sleep to recover for the next day of running. Our reflection of the adventure continues on our long flights back to the States and we look forward to sharing more photos and quips through our personal social channels and a published story in Trail Runner Magazine.

We’d like to thank Swedish Lapland, STF, Flora, Clif Bar and Trail Butter for their support of this adventure.

#runthekingstrail on instagram
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