How I climbed Sweden’s highest mountain – with a wheelchair

This week's Swede of the Week is Aron Anderson, a 25-year-old man who became the first person to ever reach the top of Mount Kebnekaise, Sweden's tallest peak, with a wheelchair.

How I climbed Sweden's highest mountain - with a wheelchair

Aron Anderson is not your typical 25-year-old. After losing the use of his legs as a child when surgeons removed a tumour from his lower back, the Swede turned to exploration and tales of inspiration.

When writing a book on that exact topic, he met a like-minded adventurer and explorer in Johan Ernst Nilson and the pair decided to team up and climb the 2,106-metre high Kebnekaise. What followed was a three-day trek of endurance, impressive arm strength, and inspiration.

“Reaching the top was awesome. I was lost for words, just sitting up there,” Anderson tells The Local.

IN PICTURES: Follow Aron on his climb to the top

But climbing the mountain in far northern Sweden wasn’t as important to Anderson as being the first, he explains.

“It’s always special to be the first to do something. If something hasn’t been done, you don’t know if it’s possible. It’s like the four-minute mile – no one believed it could be done until Roger Bannister did it, now people break the four-minute mark all the time.”

But the climb was no easy task, and despite the climb itself being “not dangerous but just really tough”, Anderson had to train hard in preparation.

“I did a lot of work on my fitness beforehand,” he explains, adding that he wasn’t sitting in his wheelchair during the entire climb.

“I can kind of stand on my legs, but they’re very weak – so during the climb I was using crutches, my arms, I was even crawling a bit, anything really to get me to the top.”

“There are so many rocks up there, from loose little rocks to much larger ones. These were a big challenge for me, I had to be really careful where I put down my crutches so the stones wouldn’t dislodge.”

But the rocks weren’t the only challenge. Bad weather meant the trip, which usually takes people 12 to 14 hours, was delayed halfway through by 24 hours. Altogether, the climbers spent three days on the mountain, with 28 walking hours.

So, with the Kebnekaise trek done and dusted, what’s next for the motivational mountaineer?

“My next goal is probably to win a medal at the Paralympics in Rio – my events are the marathon and the 1500 metre run,” he told The Local.

SEE ALSO: A list of The Local’s past Swedes of the Week

And what about the next mountain? Everest perhaps?

“That’s crazy,” he responds with a laugh. “But it would be really cool to get to base camp. We’ll see. Someone’s got to be the first, I guess.”

Editor’s Note: The Local’s Swede of the Week is someone in the news who – for good or ill – has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

Oliver Gee

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Tourists to get more help in Swedish mountains

Mountain safety for tourists is set to improve in Sweden, with authorities introducing more signposting and guides in English as rising numbers of foreigners head for the hills.

Tourists to get more help in Swedish mountains
Hikers in northern Sweden. Photo: Fjällsäkerhetsrådet

Around 800,000 people are expected to visit Sweden's mountain areas this season, with up to 20 percent coming from abroad, according to the Mountain Safety Council of Sweden (Fjällsäkerhetsrådet).

Dutch followed by German travellers are set to make up the majority of foreign visitors.

The Mountain Safety Council of Sweden says it is increasing the amount of mountain safety information in English as a result of the influx of travellers.

All shelters in Sweden are set to get guidelines in the global language and will be provided with journals so that visitors can record their names and next planned destinations, to help authorities keep track of tourists who end up getting lost.

Mountain safety officials say the advice for backpackers will include advice on handling the long distances, colder climate and poor cell phone reception that can characterize expeditions in Sweden, where snow remains on the ground in some areas during July and August.

A hike in northern Sweden can include snow even during summer. Photo: Fjällsäkerhetsrådet

READ ALSO: Top five tips for climbing Sweden's Kebnekaise

“Visitors have to be able to choose suitable equipment, the right things to wear and not pack their bags too heavily,” Per-Olov Wikberg, coordinator at the Mountain Safety Council of Sweden tells The Local.

“They also need proper weather forecasts available in English and correct directions in order to follow the tracks…then they’ll be perfectly fine,” he adds.

According to Wikberg, the most popular summer activities in Sweden's mountainous regions include hiking along the Kungsleden track in the far north of the country, biking, and kayaking. Both camping and staying in the area's small hotels are popular.

“I believe people come here to explore the nature that you can’t find in most other parts of Europe,” he says.

“Apart from for example Sweden’s highest peak Kebnekaise, it’s the vastness of the land, peace and quiet as well as the differently challenging tracks that appeal to many.”

Some of the most popular summer hotspots in the mountains include Fulufjället next to eastern Norway, Sånfjället in mid-Sweden, Sarek in the far north and the area around Åre, which is also the country's biggest ski resort in winter.

Research by Elin Jönsson