Visiting the “Vindelälvsdraget”

Yesterday Annika and I went to Vännäsby , 25 km away from Umeå, to view the 30th Vindelälvsdraget which is the world biggest draught dog relay according to the organisers. It started in Ammarnäs in the Swedish mountains on Thursday and ended just in Vännasby on Sunday. That’s a distance of 381 km in three and a half days.

Some of the competitors used a sledge pulled by four to six dogs, but most of them skated on skis and had one or two dogs dragging (more or less). They came along on the frozen river Vindelälven, turned into the river Umeåälven, which they had to leave right after the bridge. Some of the teams managed it perfectly while others had to shout höger! (right) to the dogs several times until they obeyed. The river bank is quite steep and was a real challenge for the discipline of the dogs. One of them just rolled in the snow while the skier tried not to slip and fall, while some others were shortly distracted by the smell of the grilled sausage by the trail. However all teams managed to come up where there were only some 100 metres left to the finishing line.

The speaker at the finishing line was great. His talk was so “adagio”, laid back and completely free of any stress. I really enjoyed his almost zen-like moderation which was the total opposite of the normal sport presenters stressful reporting attitude. My kudos!

Some photos:

Links: Website / Information pdf (both in Swedish)

 

A short detour near Ånäset

On my way back from Umeå to Skelleftehamn this morning some of the birch trees were covered with white frost. At the departure to Ånäset I turned right and followed the frozen gravel path. The sun was blocked a bit by a layer of clouds but sometimes it could break through and lighten the wintry scenery.

 

Sunny morning at the coast

It’s a sunny morning today with temperatures slightly above zero. It’s windy too and I was glad that I’d been not too optimistic about the warmth and had a isolating jacket with me when I strolled along the wintry coast of Skelleftehamn today.

The Baltic Sea is covered with a thick layer of ice and snow and it looks like full winter, but when I crouched on the ground to make another photo I heard a bird voice high above me. I looked up and spotted two seagulls, floating high in the air. One of the seagulls cried again. Seagulls need open water and their appearance is one of my favourite signs of spring. When I looked at the horizon I saw a small but clear line of dark blue flickering in the warmed up air. Over there the Baltic Sea is already open. You can see it on the picture too.

À propos warmed up air: My winter garden – unisolated and unheated – has already 15 °C and the temperature is rising with every minute. The March sun has a lot of power.

 

 

Three times outdoor barbecue

This week vårvintern – “the spring winter” – really has been here. Some degrees above zero during the day, some degrees below at night and still a lot of ice and snow around.

On Tuesday Hans, a friend of mine, and I looked around Bureå’s surroundings. There are many places that are historically interesting or just beautiful and cozy. Some of the historical places however were either snowed in or hard to approach in winter time.

A fire had already been lit of two snowmobilers in the barbecue hut at Burehällorna, a natural reserve at the coast. How good Hans had everything for hamburger grilling with him!

Hans also showed me Bureå camping, his new camping ground right next to the E4. We considered to use the wonderful sauna next to the river Bureälven but postponed it to another day. Even if Hans is going to realise only a third of his plans, this will be a great place to be!

Yesterday I met my friends Annica and Martin and we went to their hut in Bygdeträsk. Anyway we didn’t heat the hut, we stayed outside. After shovelling away the snow to have a place to sit, Martin lit an outdoor fire directly on the icy ground and we grilled sausages. And warmed up apple pie! Sausages have never been my favourite meal of mine, but I really like them when they have been grilled above open fire – even if partly cold, partly burnt. Those who love outdoor grilling over open fire will know what I mean.

Believe it or not – I didn’t make a single photo!

Today Hans, his friend Stefan and I met at Kågehamn and we took a sauna jaunt. Kågehamn is situated at the bay Kågefjärden which has round a dozen islands. We skied over the snow covered sea ice to the island Bastuholmen were Hans has two cabins and a sauna on rafts. While Hans and Stefan started to saw a hole into the ice I fired the sauna oven.

While we waited for the sauna getting hot we grilled. After all the hamburgers and sausages of the week I preferred burgers with halloumi cheese today.

Then we went into the sauna that had been heated up to 60 °C and went into the ice hole several times. I cut my leg, because the ice at the edge is quite sharp. After two rounds of sauna we packed our stuff and skied back again.

If it comes to taking pictures I definitely prefer the cold winter in January, but if it comes to meeting friends and having fun outdoors, vårvintern is just great!

 

 

 

 

 

Mountaineering in Skelleftehamn

It’s a well hidden secret, that there are mountains in Skelleftehamn. They are completely snow covered and not a single tree is able to prosper on the rocky slopes under these harsh conditions.

Today I decided to climb up two of the snowy summits. I guess I’ve been the first person that conquered these mountains in wintertime. Not easy to achieve, since the slopes are quite steep and I slipped back several times due to bad equipment. The view from the top however rewarded the efforts.

Wait, whoa! Mountains in Skelleftehamn, what’s that all about?

OK, I have to confess, that I didn’t write anything about the altitudes yet. Those mountains that I “conquered” today, are barely 10 meters high and just huge piles of rocks and rubble that were dumped near the shore last year. In summer they were quite ugly but covered with snow as now they appear quite beautiful from some perspectives.

Of course the ascent was short and took hardly a minute, even if it was quite steep indeed. To add some drama after this anticlimax I want to point out, that there had been avalanches rolling down the steepest slope:

Skiing from Skelleftehamn to Skellefteå

In summer 2015 I tested the Kraftleden, which connects Skelleftehamn, where I live, with the town of Skellefteå. I’d found it not worth to go, since it was both a bit boring and in bad shape (thickets, boggy ground …).

Anyway Kraftleden was originally a cross-country ski trail, not a hiking trail and when I read that the trail is well-prepared for the Kraftloppet – a cross-country ski competition that takes place next weekend – I thought about giving it a second chance, this time on skis.

I started at the very same starting point as 20 months before. Temperature was round -13 °C, perfect for skiing.

After I followed the scooter trails some hundred metres I reached the electrical power line, name giver of the Kraftleden and starting point of the well-prepared ski trail.

(Power line in Swedish is “kraftledning”, which sounds quite similar to “Kraftleden”, meaning “the power trail”.)

And that’s what the first part of the Kraftleden looked like: A straight on ski trail under a power line. As in summer I found it a bit boring but the fantastic prepared ski trail compensated the slightly dull surrounding. I cursed a bit, because my own cross-country skis are really old and sooo sloooow. So I decided to ignore the fact, that I was slow and moved like a troll and to enjoy the great weather instead. And weather was just great!

Perhaps two hours later I could see the first houses of Morö backe, a district of Skellefteå, but it took me almost another hour (including finding the right way), until I finished my tour at Vitberget, Skellefteås ski centrum.

Now I unmounted my skis and took a promenade into the center, where I visited a friend, had a lunch and then took the bus back to Skelleftehamn.

Conclusion: The Kraftleden is nice to ski in winter, when prepared. Today I went it the first time, but definitely the last time with my ancient skis. I have to buy new ones.

 

Home again

After a fantastic two week journey through the wintry Northern Norway Annika and I have arrived in Skelleftehamn today. But before I could park my car on my property we had a bit work to do: skotta snö – snow shovelling. A lot of snow came the last days and especially the 70 cm high plogkanten – the hard pressed snow of the snowplough – gave a good workout. I guess that 60-70 cm of snow lie on my backyard now, but I didn’t have measured yet.

In Sweden people use to say “borta bra men hemma bäst” which means “being away is good, being home is best”. I however like to be home but I’m fond of travelling at least equally and one of the reasons why I live in Northern Sweden is that it simplifies travelling to all known and unknown places in Northern Scandinavia.

Addendum

We arrived too early. We had an appointment in Skellefteå in the evening and when we came back two hours later, someone has taken away all the snow on and round my garage driveway. I guess, it was a neighbour. I have to find out who it was to thank him or her.

Winter on the Vesterålen

I’m sitting in a small mobile home in Nordnes near Røkland, Saltdalen, Norway. This morning Annika and I left Haukenes on the Vesterålen, where we had visited friends for some days. It had been gorgeous days, not only because it’s always fun to visit friends, but because of the fabulous winter weather we got those days.

Arrival

Last friday we left the Hurtigruten ship in Stokmarknes that we entered in Vardø two days before. My friends told us that there hadn’t been any snow one week before, but since then almost half a meter snow had fallen and snowfall hadn’t stopped yet.

Saturday

It snowed another ten centimetres the night and it continued snowing in the morning.

Sometimes the Norwegian weather forecast is right and so it was this day: As predicted it cleared up and promised to be a nice and sunny day later on. Annika and I took our skis and joined J. and B. together with Frits, the dog, on a ski promenade right behind their house . J. and B. returned after a while, we continued through the forest to the boggy valley Dalmyra over which we returned. Two small streams we had to cross with our skis but they were narrow enough to be crossable without problems.

Back again I looked at the snowy mountain range of the Lofoten that you can see from my friends house. The sinking sun changed colours of the snowy peaks every moment, from bright white to pale yellow, to “peach”, to orange, to colour shades I’m not able to name.

Sunday

Another sunny day awaited us. Annika and I planned to ascend the Hovden, a mountain, not high (285 – 323 m) but steep. So we left home our skis and took snowshoes, first to hike on snow covered ways and paths to Marka, were we went up the Hovden. Phew, that was quite exhausting.

Annika went back while I continued a bit, first along the waymarks, then using my GPS.

I just love being above the treeline in Norway, where the view is wide and includes snow covered mountains and solitary trees just as blue coloured open fjords.

I descended the top and came to the small lake, where I took a break with water and „Kvikk Lunsj“ chocolate.

The descend from the lake was far from being optimal, I chose a very steep passage and it took a while and some concentration until I was on sea level again, were I walked back to my friends house, first on a minor road, than across a snow covered bog.

Monday

I might bore you, but even this day the weather was fantastic. Annika and I followed a tip of J., took the car to Sandnes and skied to Årneset, a place by the bay Årnesbukta. Here’s a cosy cabin were you can seek shelter, when weather is bad and a row of beautiful sandy beaches. I never ever skied along sandy beaches and open water and I really enjoyed this ski premiere.

Tuesday

Our last day on the Vesterålen and guess what: Weather was great again! Anyway I was quite lazy, so Annika and I didn’t use skis or snow shoes but the car to drive round the southern part of the island Langøya on which my friends – now our friends – live. Some impressions:

That was our last day on the Vesterålen. Thank you, J. and R. for your hospitality. I hope, you’ll visit us in Sweden someday. You’re more than welcome!

Tomorrow we’ll continue our return journey, first 40 km to the Norwegian—Swedish border, than round 380 km home to Skelleftehamn.

 

Two days on the Hurtigruten

On Wednesday we left Kirkenes and started our journey to the next destination: Stokmarknes on the Vesterålen where we planned to visit good friends of mine.

KirkenesStokmarknes would be 1000 km by car and take at least 14 hours, if you take the faster way through Finland and Sweden. Anyway there’s an alternative: The Hurtigruten express route, which connects many coastal towns, among others Kirkenes and Stokmarknes. That’s why we took the Hurtigruten ship instead of driving for at least two days. In Vardø we entered the vessel Trollfjord and 16:45 we started our two day long tour.

The first night we went to bed quite early and I only took some pictures in Berlevåg. Since the ship already was moving again I decided to make a longer exposure with the camera on a tripod. That’s Berlevåg by night seen from the Hurtigruten:

We missed Mehamn, Kjøllefjord, Honningsvåg. The first place with a landing stage I saw was Havøysund, were we anchored from 7:45 to 8:00. Shortly after we met the Lofoten, the oldest and smallest ship of the Hurtigruten fleet today. It was tiny compared to the much bigger Trollfjord (which is tiny compared to modern cruise ships).

I tried to be as much outside as possible. It was cold and quite windy, not only because of the airflow, but the gusty wind, too. First I thought, that I would be extremely overdressed in my Canada Goose expedition parka, but soon I found it quite comfortable to wear it in the chilly weather.

In Hammerfest we left the Hurtigruten, looked round in town and bought food. In Øksfjord it started to get dark and the black-white mountain ranges became blue.

… and blurred if you wanted to …

… and it got darker …

Then it started to snow. Sometimes the snowfall was quite heavy especially with the wind and I was even more glad about my warm parka.

In Tromsø we arrived at 23:35 and I made some night shots of this favourite town of me.

We could have left the ship for a visit of Tromsø but we preferred sleeping. We’ll probably visit Tromsø this summer.

The next morning came and the last day aboard began. Good for me, because even if I was glad to slip the car ride it’s not my world to be on a large ship looking at the landscape rolling by. Last night snow fall has brought much snow on the top deck. I never waded through snow drifts on a ship before.

At the same time the Trollfjord anchored in Harstad, a town on the island Hinnøya.

On our way to the next destination Risøyhamn it got extremely windy, the stabilised ship started to roll and to pitch and heavy snow showers appeared, reducing the view to some hundred metres.

Suddenly the wind calmed down, the snow showers were left behind and for the first time of the whole cruise patches of blue sky and finally the sun came out. We approached Sortland, the last stop before our destination Stokmarknes where I gazed at the beautiful mountains of the Lofoten archipelago in the south.

I generally dislike the last 30 minutes of transportation, if it’s by train or by plane. I just want to arrive, and so it was on the Hurtigruten. Impatiently I waited in the inside of the Trollfjorden for its arrival in Stokmarknes, then another fifteen minutes for the allowance to enter the car deck and another ten until I was allowed to drive the car onto the very same car elevator which I used to enter the ship almost 46 hours ago.

I could write a lot more about the Hurtigruten and its passengers, but that’s another story. Short résumé: I love those ships for transportation, but cruising is not my cup of tea. (Anyway, the outside jacuzzi on the top deck is really great!)