Västerbotten’s highest mountain range, with its glaciers and high alpine nature, is surprisingly easy to access.
Norra Storfjället is certainly worth touring for a few nights spent in cabin and tent. Experience it all during a couple of days.
The easiest to reach is Norra Storfjället. Västerbotten’s high-alpine region, complete with glaciers and the county’s highest peaks. Wild nature in the form of plants, animals and birds. This range is part of the Vindel Mountains Nature Reserve, one of Europe’s largest protected areas of natural beauty, covering 560,000 hectares of forest, mountain and water. The easiest way to get here is via Hemavan.
Hemavan is a tourist resort located 60 km from the Norwegian border on the E12 motorway. It can be reached from Stockholm by plane, from Umeå by bus or by driving. The resort is increasingly becoming a hiking hub for Västerbotten’s mountains. It is ideally located for resupplying, resting in a hotel or taking a shower after a hike.
It’s easy to hike into the wilderness directly from the Hemavan Airport or simply jump off of the bus along the E12, the Blue Highway. After a few kilometres of hiking, you will find yourself in the midst of magnificent mountain scenery with high peaks and glaciers. An excellent beginning to a couple of days hiking.
Kungsleden, the King’s Trail, begins in Hemavan and continues all the way to Abisko, some 400 kilometres to the north. One suggestion is to follow Kungsleden out of Hemavan, stopping along the way in cabins and spending a few nights camping.
There are two cabins on the mountains around Norra Storfjället where you can spend the night. Both are manned and are on the trail itself. The Swedish Tourist Association runs the two cabins, Viterskalsstugan and Syterstugan. Here, you can stay, buy food and shelter from bad weather. Many people use the cabins as a base for day hikes. In addition to the cabins, there are also a number of wind shelters located in the mountains. These are equipped with wooden bunks and wood-burning stoves for emergency situations. Wind shelters are useful in the wind and rain when you need to gather your energy and have a snack and a hot drink.
Norra Storfjället has Västerbotten’s highest peaks, Södra and Norra Sytertoppen. The norra, or northern, peak is highest at 1,768 metres above sea level. This is the one that everyone wants to climb, and a marked trail leads to it. The södra, or southern, peak is best accessed by hiking in through Kobåsen; a steep, narrow valley over the tree line above Hemavan.
This magnificent massif offers something for everyone. Were I to be visiting for the first time, I would probably choose a hike with overnight stays in the cabins and a couple of nights camping; a three to four-day hike with a little of everything and with Hemavan as the point of departure. Whether arriving by car, bus or airplane, it is then simply a matter of shouldering one’s backpack and setting off along Kungsleden and onwards through Viterskalet. After a night in the cabin, weather permitting, perhaps day two would be well spent climbing and descending Norra Sytertoppen before returning. On day three, resume your hike along Kungsleden through Syterskalet then hike south along Tärnaleden, the trail that follows the Tärna River. Passing the Tärna Glacier, continue either past the wind shelter at Stabre or hike up towards Marinstugan, another small wind shelter. Either alternative will lead you along beautiful hiking trails.
The hiking trail past Marinstugan, the High Road or Vallentjåkke as it is called on the map, leads up along a more barren trail above the tree line and from the wind shelter this becomes a winter trail to Laisaliden. There is also a more demanding hiking trail across the Murtser peaks. If you want to hike the ridge, you can follow the trail straight back to Hemavan. It is also possible to hike down the winter trail, with its red cross markings, down to Laisaliden, from where you can end your hike by taking Drottningleden, the Queen’s Trail, back to Hemavan.
There are three unmissable photo opportunities as you hike through the region. These are the Syter peaks, Syterskalet and a glacier. Syterskalet is the first that must be documented. This is an impressive glacial trough with high peaks and vertical walls on both sides. Then, take a picture of the Syter peaks. A tip is to take a photograph while heading south along Tärnaleden, close to Stabre. From here, you can get both the north and south Syter peaks and the Tärna Glacier in one image.
I hope you find your way to the mountains of Västerbotten. This is the mountain range for those who want a feeling of being the first to explore the wilderness, even though you know full well that many were here before you.
A hiking tip: acquaint yourself with the history of the area
Irrespective of which valley and massif you choose to visit in the mountains of Västerbotten, you will get the most from your hiking by doing a little historical research before your begin. This will make your trip that much more enjoyable. There may be experiences that one passes by, knowing nothing of them. Get your mind off of your blisters, tired feet and heavy pack. Learn a little about local history going back to ancient times. Even in the mountains, there are many hidden stories where people have trampled and traversed to trails for hundreds of years. Visit the Swedish National Heritage Board’s website and click on Fornsök. Here, you can look up the area of the mountains you intend to visit to discover old settlements and remains. Most of these are to be found close to waterways and in valleys. Places where it feels right to set up camp.
For further information
If you would like to know more about hiking in the area, it would be appropriate to contact the Tourist Office in Tärnaby. Their website is at www.visithemavantarnaby.se. They will be happy to suggest literature and maps in preparation for your visit. The site also contains information about accommodation, flights and bus timetables. Another website worth visiting is www.vindelfjallen.se. This site offers information on the wildlife and nature around Norra Storfjället and the Vindel Mountains Nature Reserve.