his year’s Fjällräven Classic Sweden was quite an experience for three members of Team Hanwag. Participating in adventures from this unique event, my colleagues Chris, Marcel and I have experienced the beautiful Swedish Lapland in different ways.
Chris joined a client group with International media and customers, climbing Kebnekaise along the trail and testing the new Bergtagen mountaineering collection. My mission was to hike the full 110 kilometers of Fjällräven Classic in 5 days with a group of girls, as part of the press trip #womenonthetrail. And Marcel had quite the hardest job of us all, overseeing the Hanwag “Clean and Care” station at the Fjällräven Classic finish line, taking care of the dirty shoes from 2,000 participants after the trail. One adventure, three different experiences. Let’s find out more…
Right in front of our doors a storm is blowing. The ice-cold wind comes straight from the north and hits our little hut at full tilt this night. Impossible to sleep all through the night. The Tarfala valley with its majestic glaciers at the foot of Swedens highest summit is famous for being the most windy place in the country. No one doubts that this night.
The next morning the situation hasn’t changed. Everyone was gathering at the breakfast – with tired faces, wrapped in warm down jackets. The tea helped us to heat up. Our Swedish mountain guides were bended over the map of the Kebnekaise massif. It’s quite clear that we won’t make it to the summit, not today. No person would go outside under those conditions. We did. They were just the right conditions to test the new Bergtagen collection and the new Hanwag Makra Combi GTX® for our little group of clients and journalists. Still in the hut we prepared ourselves with all the equipment we had – except the crampons, stored ice axe and helmet in the backpack and hided between our Eco-Shell membrane. Keeping our heads down and protected against the wind we started walking. Highly focused we crossed some slippery stones and an ice-cold glacial river.
Finally, we were at the point where we started enjoying ourselves. For some of us it was their first time ever on a glacier. It’s important to get used to walking with crampons. Ever step had to be made consciously and carefully. We kept going upwards to the point where the bare ice was covered with snow. Finally, the wind gradually died down and when we arrived at the north summit, we were lucky enough to spot the black cliffs from the other side of the valley. This is the highest point we were able to reach today. We gathered at the wind shade of some rocks for a little break. Despite the harsh conditions, I saw this special sparkling in everybody’s eyes. “We are Bergtagen”, we were all fascinated by the magic of the mountains, by their landscape above the treeline, where the trees don’t grow, but your spirit does.
Fjällräven Classic Sweden is quite an institution. So, a few colleagues that already participated in it, helped me with their stories, tips and tricks while packing and preparing for this year’s edition. No matter how high expectations were, they were –in the end- exceeded. Five days, 110 kilometers, four nights in a tent, 16 women from seven nations (+Sweden) and a dog, all of this I will never forget.
Let’s start from the beginning. When we arrived in Kiruna, we were shuttled to a lodge close to town. There, all #womenonthetrail participants received their equipment for the next days and some explanations along. After dinner, we enjoyed a visit to the sauna and a dip in the lake – team spirit was great, from minute 1. Then, the day had come. Thirteen excited women –bloggers and journalists from all over Europe, two guides, our trail herding-dog Vassi and me gathered at the first starting group of Fjällräven Classic Sweden. Each one of us packed with an approx. 15-kilo backpack, loaded withour tent, sleeping back, sleeping mat, Primus stove, food and whatever else was necessary.
What happened next? 101 exciting hours in the wilderness of Northern Sweden, hiking approx. 20 to 25 kilometers per day over hill and dale. No electricity, no mobile connection, no running water (except the one in the rivers, clean enough to drink), no toilets and no possibilities to stop. Every day, every hour, every minute had its challenges; Be it the attempt to cook lunch under heavy rain with temperatures below 5 C°, trying to hold the balance while walking on the narrow planks against the wind or pitching the tent during a storm while staying as dry as possible.
The nights were chilly, the muscles quite weak, but the mood was good. We kept the spirit up by telling stories from our lives and getting to know each other better on every meter, we walked alongside. Each one of us had to fight with herself, the weather, the conditions, the joints or the muscles – at a certain point. Despite or because of this, 15 out of the 16 participants that started together, hugged each other happily but exhausted after successfully walking through the finish line on day five. Thinking back, I must say I’m super happy having accomplished this great experience. However, I’m even more glad about the 15 new friends I made (oh, please excuse me, Vassi. Plus, one more friend) along the trail.
Since I’ve started my apprenticeship with Hanwag in Vierkirchen, Germany last year, I’ve already had the chance to support quite a few projects. However, my highlight so far has been my week of travelling to Sweden, to represent Hanwag at the event organized by our Swedish colleagues. The Fjällräven Classic Sweden 2017. Hanwag has been collaborating with this institutional event for years. Together, with our Swedish representatives, I’ve been on site for a few days as a spokesperson for the arriving participants at the finish line. There, we’ve built up a small Hanwag tent, our “Clean and Care” station.
Finishers of the trail had the possibility to clean their shoes and hand them to us for a special treatment. With a lot of shoe wax an even more handwork, our team made sure every single boot got its shinning back after walking those 110 kilometers. Our service was highly recommended at the finish line of the event and at “Trekker’s Inn”, the bar where the hungry and thirsty participants gathered. As a result, we cared and cleaned approx. 1,500 pairs of shoes by the end of the week. Hard work that was payed off with plenty of happy faces and positive feedback. After some more good talks and impressions from participants on site, I think we left Sweden having made a very positive impact for Hanwag. I’m very happy about this. Maybe just as much as I’m happy about joining the 2018 Fjällräven Classic Sweden again.