Björkliden, Swedish Lapland. September 7, 2015.
We are just about to start our exploration in Kåppashålagrottan, one of the longest caves of Sweden.
I had just checked in to my hotel room and was reading the program for the first afternoon of our autumn excursion in Swedish Lapland. We would spend the first afternoon exploring one of the biggest cave systems in Sweden. How should I prepare for this expedition?
I would need good shoes, of course, and perhaps it would be a good idea to wear a warm set of long underwear. We are in the very North of Sweden after all, and it might be a bit chilly underground. But I guess that’s it. I won’t be needing too adventurous gear if we are just wandering in a huge cave for a while listening to our guide telling us about the history of the cave and nearby area. Interesting, but not very extreme. Although we had been warned the cave is wetter than normal, so we got to borrow wellies from the sports shop of Hotell Fjället.
I won’t be needing too adventurous gear if we are just wandering in a huge cave for a while listening to our guide telling us about the history of the cave and nearby area. Interesting, but not very extreme.
I could not have been more wrong.
After walking half an hour along the mountain tracks we arrived at a little waterfall. Our guide Amanda announced we have reached our destination. But where was the cave?
As you might guess, I had expected to see a huge opening in the mountain wall where we would step in to enter a wide but probably a bit dark cave system. Instead of a big opening, there was a small hole in the ground, right next to my feet, and it seemed endless.
Amanda instructed us to descend to the cave bottom first. Here and there the shaft was leading straight down. No steps, nothing. You just had to find a spot to grip for your hands and feet. Blinded, as you were entering the cave backwards and the shaft was too narrow for twisting your body to have a peek anywhere else than the rocky wall right in front of your face.
Amanda headed down first to show us an example. She said she would give a shout when the next one can start descending. That would be me. Amanda disappeared into the depths of the earth. It was completely silent. We couldn’t hear a thing for a while.
Suddenly I heard Amanda’s voice. It was my turn. Let’s go!
Photo: Teea / Curious Feet
My gloves didn’t help much as I kept them in my pocket. The first mistake. Cold, wet and sharp stones were scratching my palms but I couldn’t loosen my grip. I couldn’t see where I was going, so I just had to feel the rocky walls to find the next support for my hands and feet.
I felt relieved once I finally spotted the shimmering light coming from Amanda’s headlamp. I did it! I felt like a winner. Once I realized I had only managed to enter the cave. I guess that’s not much of an achievement, really.
Amanda was already on the bottom of the cave helping us with descending the last few meters.
That was quite an entrance.
Once we all were safely on the ground we were standing in the biggest space of the cave system called Silver Cave. Amanda told us that at least two happy couples have got married there. I would be extremely curious to know how the bride and the groom, the priest and the wedding guests have descended inside the cave with their fancy dresses and suits. Just a thought.
“I guess the worst is over now, this cave is so spacious”, thought Saana and Teija, when chilling out in the Silver Cave. Wrong again. Photo: Teea / Curious Feet
Kåppashåla cave is 2,1 kilometres long which makes it one of the longest cave networks in Sweden. Amanda told us she has gone through the whole cave system only once, and it took about four hours. So it was quite clear we would just have a little expedition inside the cave.
Normally at this time of the year, the cave is almost completely dry. Due to the cool summer, the snow on the mountains melted very late and the sun didn’t warm the cave enough to make it dry. Therefore during our excursion, the water was flowing wild and heavily on the bottom of the cave.
Water was roaring also above us. Do you remember the river and the small waterfall I showed you at the start of the post? The river was flowing right on top. We were between waters.
Moving forward into the cave required much more than tolerating narrow spaces. There were times you had to crawl, sometimes you had to balance on top of wet and slippery stones, as Amanda and Panu in the picture above. The water was so high that wearing wellies didn’t guarantee dry feet.
At some point, half of the group wanted to stop. It was enough. And it’s good to recognise when you need a rest and want to save your strength. We had to go back the same way after all. Among other obstacles we would need to finish our excursion climbing up the same shaft we descended in the very beginning.
Before going back the other half of the group wanted to continue a little further in the cave system. As you might guess, I was the first one to proceed, accompanied by Teea from Curious Feet blog.
It might take thousands of years for stalactites to form. These baby versions present quite clearly how stalactites are born.
Luckily climbing up the shaft was easier than we expected. Everyone survived the cave adventure and it was easy to smile as winners. Kåppashåla cave definitely lived up all my expectations. All the caves I’ve seen before were totally overrated. Apparently, I value a challenging adventure over spacious tourist caves with huge stalactite poles. The dirtier and more tired I am after the excursion, the better the experience.
Special thanks to our lovely cave guide Amanda who made this adventure unforgettable and made us feel so proud saying how extreme the conditions were in the cave compared to normal. After such compliments we felt ready for the following day’s challenge; a glacier hike.
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