I travel to the Swedish highlands


A hike to the lake Rissajaure

It´s September 2018 and I'm heading up north to spend a few days in the area of Abisko national park and Riksgränsen. On the way up north i’ll stop half way and pick up a friend of mine that will join me on the trip. He grow up near that area we are going and have great knowledge of hiking and the outdoors.

Our plan. To hike up to Rissajaure lake, also known as "trollsjön", and spend the night while photographing the area. From where I live its roughly an 835 miles (1350 km) drive so I'm spending the night at my friend's house roughly halfway there. In true fashion, I had big plans for my trip. Hoping for amazing light and fall color. I have been waiting for this so long and finally, I'm on my way. The easiest way to go there for most people can be to fly either to Kiruna or to the Norwegian city of Narvik just west of the Swedish boarder. But I did grow up in the northern part of Sweden so I have no problem with putting some miles behind the wheel. It's kinda natural for me and somewhat enjoyable.

After getting a good night's sleep at my friend's house we were now on our way up north. Everything was perfect until a few miles outside the town of Kiruna we managed to hit a huge pothole in the road damaging the rubber of the left front tire crippling or progress forward. We didn't get a puncture but there was a big protuberance on the outside sidewall of the tire that could puncture at any time. So we needed to stop in Kiruna trying to find a replacement tire which would end up being impossible at that time. So we had to limp our way on wards hoping it will hold until the morning so we could contact a car repair shop procuring a replacement tire. Later on, we would find that there would be no such luck with that.

We finally made it to the spot where we would start our hike up to Rissajaure. It was late so we quickly set up camp. The planned scouting of the area was unfortunately out of the question. However, just down the road from our campsite, I spotted a small river with a waterfall that we decided to quickly explore. I manage to find a quite nice composition with a big rock as a foreground and the waterfall in the back as the main subject.

A small waterfall along the road just outside Abisko national park near our campingsite before the hike to Rissajaure

We then headed back to camp and ate some food before getting in the sack for some sleep. We woke up early morning putting down the camp and prepared ourselves and the gear for the hike up the mountain. There was a great morning with some ok and promising light in the sky but nothing major happened so we started to hike up the mountain. Between the road and the lake Rissajaure, it's about a four-mile hike with an elevation gain of roughly 350 meters. It's not a difficult hike and with an average physical condition, you will easily manage to do it in one single day. With tents and all the bells and whistles accompanying that it's a little harder but it’s in no shape or form unmanageable.

In between the lake and the road, you will find a beautiful area with giant stones. As it would turn out this area, in my opinion, is the best and most photogenic place of the hike. My mind at the time wasn't however totally focused on the hike and photographing because I needed to try to find a spare tire for the 835-mile trip back. So we soldiered on up the mountain hoping to reach the lake at midday. As the time went by the weather turned for the worse and when we were on the home stretch the rain started to fall and a thick mist rolled in over the area. We hoped the rain and the mist would eventually clear but it was steadfast and it kept on raining and the day started to get darker and darker. My hopes for finding great compositions and beautiful sunset light fell down the drain. I had also planned to try to capture the milky way over the lake but with the thick mist and rain clouds that was also out of the question. The only thing to do was to wait it out and hope for the best in the morning.

It's very hard to know exactly where to be when you find your selves in a new area. It´s hard to predict what the light will do and where it will be focused. I tried to prepare my selves before the journey studying google earth, flickr and 500px in order to get some idea on where the light would be. But its only when you are on location you can get a true sense of the area. Here is why previous scouting is so valuable. When the morning came it had cleared up somewhat and I opted for the obvious composition over the lake but the light never happened and the composition went bust. I tried to find a secondary and third composition where the alpine glow would show but it never really happened. The clouds wouldn't want to play ball covering the sun in the perfectly wrong area. So no images from the lake unfortunately but I'm super glad to have been there experienced the area.

We packed up the campsite and started to head down the mountain into the Stone Valley. It was still kinda cloudy and grey weather with very flat light but I manage to find a few shots in the area before it eventually shifted to very harsh light. The landscape photographers favorite topic and excuse for not photographing is the lack of light.. :D

A magnificent view of the Stone Valley from the path down from Rissajaure (Trollsjön)

Sweden has its own little troll tongue in Kärkevagge (Stone Valley)

Sweden has its own little troll tongue in Kärkevagge (Stone Valley)

Giant boulders in the middle of Kärkevagge (Stone Valley)

After spending a few hours in the area we started the final descent to the parked car. Just before the Låktajåkko train station, we came upon a single birch that had beautiful yellow colored leaves. So that “middle of the day” composition was the final one of the hike to Rissajaure.

Fall color on a small mountain birch in the beginning of the hike to Rissajaure (Trollsjön)

The lapponian gate

The Lapponian gate is one of the most familiar sights in the Abisko national park. It symbolizes the gate to the highlands and is also often associated with the start of the "King´s trail". We spent the night at a campsite in Björkliden. My plan was to photograph a sunrise panorama over the Lapponian gate. Being September it can be quite cold nights and we had near zero degrees Celsius during the night. It’s when those nights happen you will feel that your sleeping bag is to cold… :D Mine was.

We sat the alarm clock for early morning and when it rang we headed up the hill to the chosen spot. It was a clear morning so there were nearly no clouds in the sky. It´s a beautiful view over the Lapponian gate, Abisko area and Lake Torneträsk.

A sunrise view of the The Lapponian gate (Tjuonavagge) from the small village of Björkliden Sweden

The forces of nature

Now it was time to head back home. I had finally got in touch with a car service that should have a tire that would fit my car. The only caveat. It would be shipped during the day, expected arrival 4 p.m, by bus and we needed to be back at my friend's house before 6 p.m ish. That did not leave a big room for error. Because we had time to spare before going to the care service we stopped at Abisko national park north station and explored the clear water river Abiskojåkko. The area is very beautiful and you could easily spend a whole day here exploring the area for different compositions. I opted for the obvious compositions overlooking the river on both sides of the road. The tunnel under the road was previously used as an energy station from when they built the railroad between Kiruna and Narvik. One can imagine how life was in that time with harsh climate and working conditions.

But now our time and adventure in the Abisko/Riksgränsen area had reached it´s end and we needed to limp our way back home to Kiruna in the hope of getting a new tire before the old one gets a puncture. We reach the car repair shop in Kiruna just to find out that the tire has not yet reached the shop. It´s still on the way and will not arrive in time. So the only thing we can do is to continue our limp back home.

On a whim we decided to try to go to Gällivare, 75 miles from Kiruna, to try our luck there. And lo and behold we finally had some luck and found a tire that fitted my car. Finally... :D But I'm really glad to have made the trip and I would love to get back there soon again. It's a very beautiful place and there are thousands and thousands of great portfolio grade compositions to be had. This time I didn't really get there but with perseverance and patience, they will come. And that's truly the essence of landscape photography.

The upper part of the clear water river Abiskojåkka, Abisko national park

The mouth of the tunnel at the small clear water river Abiskojåkkat, Abisko national park