Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Björsjö to Smedjebacken

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The official Swedish E1 information website lists this bit of trail as part of Sméleden trail, and it is a short yet tricky hike at roughly 15km.  There is a road that runs fairly perpendicular to where the trail is supposed to be.  I would recommend skipping this bit of E1 for inexperienced backpackers and/or section hikers that are under time constraints.  One easy way to do that is to follow the small highway that connects Björsjö to Smedjebacken.  More on this later.

First let's start with maps.  I strongly suggest that anyone traveling the E1 here to buy a good map of this neck of the woods, such as the Lantmäteriet Terrängkartan 628 for the Ludvika area (Google it and buy it from your book/map shop of choice).  For a basic idea of the area this guide covers, here is a Google Maps page that shows you the route from the village of Björsjö to the small town of Smedjebacken if one were to strictly follow the asphalt road only.  

I was not able to find any maps of this trail online, though did find it mentioned on Smedjebacken's official website (in Swedish).  However, after attempting to hike this trail, it strikes me as though whoever wrote the general information on this site has not actually gone out and hiked the trail (at least recently).

Continuing southbound on the E1, you follow part of the Malingsbo-Klotenrundan looping trail, and you can read my guide for that section here.  Hiking northbound, you continue on what is supposed to be Sméleden, north towards Gyllbergen nature reserve, where the E1 changes trails to the Gagnefs Pasture Paths.  More reports on these trails coming soon.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.

Now on to the guide!

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Switching trails on the outskirts of Björsjö it became clear right away that this next section of trail was not as maintained as the last.  There where a few faint, old, weathered trail markers, but I still had to stop and search for the bridge that would take me over the river to the shelter marked on my map.  The bridge is past the small training grounds just past the road, and once I found it I again saw a few faint old markings--but past the bridge they disappeared entirely.  At least, I could not find any, so I just went to the somewhat dilapidated trail shelter for some lunch.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Kloten to Björsjö

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The official Swedish E1 information website lists this bit of trail as part of Malingsbo-Klotenrundan looping trail, and it is a short yet lovely hike at roughly 20km, depending on how you hike it.  There is a dirt road that runs fairly perpendicular to the marked trail, and this section is well marked and has some real golden high points for a woodland traveler--but also has some downsides as well.  I would recommend not skipping this bit of E1 for experienced backpackers or the rare E1 thru-hiker, however the end of this trail going northbound (in Björsjö) presents some challenges.  More on this later.

First let's start with maps.  I strongly suggest that anyone traveling the E1 buy a good map of this neck of the woods, such as the Lantmäteriet Terrängkartan 628 for the Ludvika area (Google it and buy it from your book/map shop of choice).  For a basic idea of the area this guide covers, here is a Google Maps page that shows you the route from the village of Kloten to the village of Björsjö if one were to strictly follow the dirt road only.  I was also able to dig up what looks like a decent if not basic map (in Swedish, but fairly easy to figure out) after some Googling, which you can check out here.

Going southbound on the E1, you reach the beginning of Bergslagsleden, and here you can read my guide on the first two stages of this longer trail.  Going northbound, the Sméleden "trail" (if you can call it a marked trail, I am not so sure) supposedly goes from Björsjö to the small town of Smedjebacken, and you can read my report on this section here.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.

Now on to the guide!

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Hiking this trail was generally very pleasant, although how things ended and the next section of the E1 presented some challenges and will certainly complicate things, at least how the conditions are at the moment.  I do intend on writing an email to the tourist offices of Smedjebacken shortly after writing this and the next trail guide.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cesar's Complete Guide to Bergslagsleden


Introduction


Bergslagsleden is the longest stand alone trail that is a part of the Swedish E1 trail system, and spans 280km.  It is a wonderful trail, one of my all time favorites in fact, so after finishing it I decided to write up a more detailed trail guide specifically for this trail.  It would be a great trail to do a short thru-hike of all on its own, and I plan to do this in the future.  

However if you would like to read more about the E1 trails and how Bergslagsleden fits into the E1, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to my other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress.   

Bergslagsleden has its endpoint in the south at the campground Stenkällegården, and the endpoint in the north is the village of Kloten.  For more general information about the trail in English, Swedish, and German, here is a link to the official trail guide.  The trail is divided into 17 stages, and the official site has PDF informational maps as well as topographical maps available to download free of charge.  You can browse them on the official site, but I will also provide direct links to the maps in question for each respective trip report.  

The official Bergslagsleden informational maps are very functional, having especially good symbols and information for useful or interesting things on the trail (shelters, fresh water, views, etc.).  Yet these info maps are a bit sparse, and roads often lack much information and are mostly just black lines that intersect with the trail.  These are not the best maps to use on their own for backpackers that are section hikers and/or like to bushwhack/explore.  

However a few weeks before I began this trail more detailed topographical maps were added to the trail's official website.  They are listed in the Swedish section that you can find here--you can find the links that say "Karta" next to the Swedish informational maps on the table to the right.  These terrain maps are of very good quality and I highly recommend you take both type of maps for each section (or for the whole trail if you are thru-hiking).


Below I will provide links to each of my 6 trip reports for the section hikes I did to complete this trail, which can also be found in my E1 trail guide.  Full disclosure: roughly two thirds of stage 15 was skipped due to illness, all of stage 6 was skipped due to excessive snow, roughly two thirds of stage 1 was skipped also due to snow, and a few stages got a few kms trimmed off due to public transportation.  After these links is a brief epilogue on my final thoughts on the trail, how I would plan a thru-hike of the trail in the future, and other tips and observations from the trail.


The Trail Guides

--Part 1 (79km), Karlsborg - Laxå (hiked in September 2014)

--Part 2 (58km), Laxå - Leken (hiked in October 2014)

--Part 3 (49km), Leken - Mogetorp (hiked in November 2014)

--Part 4 (47km), Mogetorp - Uskavi (hiked in January 2015)

--Part 5 (46km + 6km), Uskavi/Lindesberg - Stjärnfors/Kopparberg (hiked in February 2015)


--Part 6 (38km), Kopparberg - Kloten (hiked in April 2015) 


Epilogue

As I've already made clear in the reports themselves, I really enjoyed this trail as a whole.  However I feel like I could improve on my experience of this trail significantly next time I hike it.  The first thing that I would do differently is to hike it in the summer or perhaps late spring.  There are areas on the trail that get a lot of snow, which makes things more challenging, as a few of my reports pointed out.  Another issue is fog and mist during the autumn months, which while they can be quite beautiful, ruined a lot of good views for me during a few trips.  

It's only 280km total, which I think I would have no problems doing a thru-hike of in about two weeks or a bit less.  Though I wouldn't want to go on a thru-hike of this trail for less than two weeks so that I would have time for a few zero days and/or exploring of side trials and other cool sights to be found on or slightly off trail.  I've already given a fair amount of thought of how a thru-hike of this trail might be planned, so here is how I'd try and do it:

*At the height of summer, around July-August, I'd pack up my summer gear (around 2-3kg base weight) and 5 days of food.  Then I'd catch a train to Kopparberg, hike west from town, find the trail, and start hiking southbound.

*I'd resupply another 3 days of food in Nora and continue hiking southbound.  

*At the E18 highway at Leken, I'd take a bus west to the town of Karlskoga (resupplying as needed), where I'd then pick up the side trail Tiosjöarsleden.  Following this side trail south-west, I'd make my way back to Bergslagsleden and continue southbound.

*After finishing stage 14, I'd hike or hitchhike to Laxå to resupply as needed, and then return to the trail to continue southbound.

*Finally after finishing the trail at the end of stage 17, I would continue hiking southbound on Västra Vätterleden, resupplying as needed on the way in Karlsborg, and ending the trip in Hjo, which is a lovely little town on the shores of the massive lake Vättern.

Yup.  Something like that, and if I'm lucky sometime soon.

In general the trail is very well maintained, there are plenty of trail shelters and places to fill up on tap water; yet at many parts of the trail you feel pretty isolated and cut off from civilization, a more raw and wild terrain.  I can't comment much on bugs and other pests, as my travels on this trail were not during high bug season--but even during the fall and early spring, there were a fair amount of bugs out.

That's all I can think of adding to this trail guide at the moment, but surely in the future I will give updates and additions.  Until then, and as always, feel free to ask questions or give feedback. 

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 6

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This is Part 6 of my 6 part series of trail guides for Bergslagsleden.  Please read my introduction and epilogue to this trail here if you haven't done so yet.  This entire trail is also a part of the E1 trail system, and you can read more about that in my E1 trail guides here.  Please keep in mind it is still a work in progress.

This report covers stages 2-1, or from roughly the town of Kopparberg to the end/start point of the trail in the village of Kloten.  These stages combined are only 38km.

Stage 2 goes right past/through Kopparberg to the west, and the town offers limited but good resources for hikers, such as restaurants, supermarkets, hotels/BBs, public transportation, etc.  Kloten has a hostel and is on the 233 highway, but that's about it.  North of Kloten the closest town is Smedjebacken, which is roughly 35km away.  However there are some issues with the E1 trail that I will address in a trail guide to come, but in short it is not exactly easy, straightforward, or perhaps entirely pleasant getting to Smedjebacken.

Below are links to PDF informational maps in English and topographical maps for these three stages that make up this section of the E1:

Stage 2 info map, topo map 2

Stage 1 info map, topo map 1

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my previous guide from stages 4-3 here.  Hiking northbound you continue onto two different trails going north towards Smedjebacken, and you can read my report on the first trail from Kloten to Björsjö here.

Now on with the show!

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I arrived by train once again to the town of Kopparberg in early April.  The weather was nice--sunny and about 7C during the day--and I was looking forward to finishing up Bergslagsleden on this trip.  I gave snow little thought, because I thought that most of it would be gone.  Not all of it, of course, and I saw plenty of patches of snow in the woods on the train ride up.  But surely there wouldn't be any knee-high snow on the trail or waist-high snow drifts.  As you can probably guess, I was of course very wrong.  So snow would once again pose a big hindrance to my travels, but in the end I didn't allow it to slow me down.  More on this later.

To find the trail from Kopparberg there are many options, as it's fairly close to town.  You could even hike south down the highway that goes through town and go to the very beginning of stage 2 (if you're going northbound), or just pick a dirt road just outside of the tiny town center and walk west, which is what I did.  Shortly after arriving, I was back on the trail again, and very much enjoyed the path that goes past the big lake Ljusnaren.  The trail passes a beach and swimming area, a few dirt roads, but is mostly nice, woodsy trail until it reaches the shelter on the shores of lake Olovsjön.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 5

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This is Part 5 of my 6 part series of trail guides for Bergslagsleden.  Please read my introduction and epilogue to this trail here if you haven't done so yet.  This entire trail is also a part of the E1 trail system, and you can read more about that in my E1 trail guides here.  Please keep in mind it is still a work in progress.

This report covers stages 4-3, or from roughly the town of Lindesberg to the town of Kopparberg.  These stages are somewhat longer at 23km each.
The southern end of stage 4 is somewhat close (~12km) to the town of Lindesberg, and is also close (~2km) to the 50 highway to the east, which has daily bus connections (e.g. Fanthyttan bus stop nearby).  The end/start point of the Stjärnfors area at the northern part of stage 3 is about 6km from Kopparberg, but in stage 2 the trail goes right past/through this small town as well.  Both Lindesberg and Kopparberg offer limited but good resources for hikers, such as restaurants, supermarkets, hotels/BBs, public transportation, etc.  But do note that Kopparberg is smaller than Lindesberg, and will have less options and such.

Below are links to PDF informational maps in English and topographical maps for these three stages that make up this section of the E1:

Stage 4 info map, topo map 4

Stage 3 info map, topo map 3

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my previous guide from stages 7-5 here.  Hiking northbound you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my guide on the last two stages here.

Now on with the show!

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This was one of my more memorable and challenging hikes, but that has a lot to do with the seasonal conditions.  This section hike was in end of February of 2015, and presented some unique challenges that I think I ought to describe first before getting to the rest of the report.  In doing preparations for this trip, I did as much research as I could think of beforehand.  I checked the weather reports several times a day a week before the trip, I called and spoke to some locals (such as the director of a cross-country ski club in the area), and even looked at some webcams in or around the area.  I did all this because of the snow.  As I have spoken about in some of my Youtube videos, this year has been a rather warm winter here in Sweden.  2014 was the warmest year on record for Sweden, actually.

I don't own snow shoes or skis, and didn't want to buy them just for this trip (though in the future I am strongly considering it, but don't want to rush things).  And in many parts of southern Sweden, the snow had long since melted away by the middle of February.  Plus all my research suggested that there wouldn't be that much snow around a significant part of the trail... however I knew going into this trip that some parts of the trail, due to elevation in particular, was going to have snow.  In some cases, lots of snow.