Climbing Sweden’s highest mountain Kebnekaise is something many people dream about. But it is also a challenge that is out of the ordinary; a real adventure. There are two classic routes starting from the mountain station. For those who intend to ascend Kebnekaise without a guide, the obvious choice is the western route.
The western route – if you go on your own
The western route, the route you can go on your own, is a long and physically demanding hiking trail in steep, very rocky terrain. It is a return trip of about 18 kilometres. It also involves a total elevation gain of 1,800 metres, which means it feels significantly longer and tougher than the distance alone would lead you to believe. The tour usually takes between 10 and 14 hours, but that obviously depends on your level of fitness. It can take more time or less, depending on the weather conditions on the mountain.
Even though the route is partially marked with red-coloured stones and small cairns, this marking is so poor in many places that the route should be considered unmarked, particularly in snowy conditions or poor visibility. This, combined with the fact that large parts of the route are in a high alpine terrain where you are very exposed to weather and winds, means that undertaking this tour requires you to have previous mountain experience as well as knowledge of how to navigate using map and compass.
The eastern route
From the mountain station we conduct daily guided tours via the eastern route. The eastern route is somewhat shorter, a round trip of approximately 14 kilometres, and takes about ten hours. The route is unmarked. We hold a mandatory peak tour information session on the evening before at 20:00 at the guides’ office. We hand out all the safety equipment that you are able to borrow (helmet, poles, harness, backpack and, if necessary, crampons) which is included in the price.
Don’t forget to bring a hat and if you are ascending the peak, bring at least two pairs of gloves. At high altitude it may be cold even in summer and it is nice to bring dry gloves to change into. Bring a thermos with something hot. We have thermoses in the rental shop but we often run out in the peak season. Always bring a map and compass so you know where you are. Also remember to bring a water bottle that holds at least 1.5 litres.
To the peak from the eastern route
For those who are thinking about climbing the peak via the eastern route there is quite a lot of information it is good to have. We want your trip to the highest peak in Sweden to be as safe as possible.
On this route to Kebnekaise you pass Björling’s Glacier and you make your way up a climbing section above Björling’s Glacier using a “via ferrata”. Via ferrata means something like “iron path” in Italian. In the climbing section there is a steel wire bolted to the rock wall (the via ferrata). In winter there is a rope instead of the steel wire. The via ferrata is bolted into a steep rock face in an alpine environment where snow, ice and rocks fall down and sometimes damage the steel wire and its fixtures. Travelling over the glacier and climbing safely requires specific knowledge and equipment. If you do not have this knowledge, we recommend that you do not choose the eastern route without a guide.
- In order to guide on the eastern route you currently need safety approval from the Swedish Consumer Agency. We recommend that you do not choose the eastern route without using a guide from STF or a guide certified by the Swedish Mountain Guides Association (SBO).
- The eastern route to Kebnekaise contains even more sections where there are risks that require specific knowledge and equipment in order to travel safely, including sections that cross glaciers. STF Kebnekaise takes no responsibility for those who use the via ferrata outside of our own guided tours on the eastern route; all use without an STF or SBO guide takes place at your own risk.
- As Kebnekaise is an alpine environment, the conditions on the route can change rapidly from hour to hour and day to day; one moment you are climbing in sun, heat and clean dry crags and the next moment there is snowfall, storm and crags covered in ice that require additional equipment and knowledge in order to proceed in a safe manner.
- STF Kebnekaise owns the via ferrata, which is inspected annually and maintained regularly by our guides who check the condition of the via ferrata route during every STF guided tour on the eastern route, and we make the necessary repairs if there is any damage to the facility. However, it is not possible for us to check the condition of the facility at other times.
The type of equipment needed to safely ascent the peak may vary depending on the conditions. The county administrative board has put together a good list of equipment and things to consider. If you have any questions, please contact the sport department at Kebnekaise Mountain Station and also have a look at our questions and answers link on the website.
Folder: climbing Kebnekaise.
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