Seen today on the Ytterviksfjärden round about five kilometres from where I live.
People, who love watching auroras need, the higher the Kp, the better. The Kp index measures the disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field and therefore is a good indicator for the possibility of auroras a.k.a. polar lights. The Kp index ranges from 0 to 9.
When I moved to Skelleftehamn in 2010, I was on the look-out for auroras when the Kp was 3 or higher (and the first winter was extremely dull, when it came to Northern lights). Nowadays I consider looking out when the Kp is 4 or (better) above – or randomly if it’s dark and starry.
Today the Kp was (and still is) really high; between 6 and 7 with a forecast of 7⅔, which is really extraordinary!
When I looked out right after 6 o’clock, I already could see a bright band of Northern light above me. Keep in mind, that this was just 40 minutes after sunset, still in the time of civil twilight and the sky itself was still bright, too.
Ten minutes later I stood at the stony shore of Näsgrundet and took the first photo:
This is probably my favourite shot of today, since the polar lights look so delicate and fragile. I’ve seen such only once before, when the Kp index was as high as today.
Five minutes later: The moon illuminates the Baltic Sea, the island Gåsören is clearly visible at the horizon. The aurora weakened a bit and is not visible in this direction.
16 minutes later, now being 18:40: It became darker and there were enough stars shining to see the constellations. The aurora, that had weakened for some minutes, started to get stronger again.
And I mean stronger! Six other minutes later half of the sky was filled with a huge vortex of polar lights. My wide angle lens (14-24mm) could only catch a part of it.
I switched my place, from the rocky northern shore to the pier for the pilot vessels. Now it’s quite dark and the twilight colours almost had vanished. But now the aurora has weakened to a “nice” one, nothing impressive anymore.
I waited a bit, but nothing extraordinary happens any longer. I head home. Perhaps I’ll be out once more again later …
My nice Gitzo tripod broke some weeks ago. So I’ve been using another one which slows me down. When you take photos of moving motives – yes, polar lights do move – it can be important to know your equipment to be fast. Some shots weren’t made today just because of the unusual (and inferior) tripod.
Have a look at the last photo. Do you see the rainbow coloured arcs on the left side? Nice for you, because I didn’t. At least not directly after taking that photo. Otherwise I would have taken another photo covering the light source on the right side with my hand (making the hand part of the photo). Then I could have merged these two photos into one and got rid of these lens reflections. Well, perhaps next time …
… yells the alarm on my mobile. I open my eyes, still partly caught in my dreams. Then I realise: It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and I’ve planned a paddle trip today. Out there it’s still pitch black and reluctantly I get up and get some breakfast. I’ve already packed the day before: dry suit – neoprene boots, gloves and hood – camera in a waterproof bag – water and chocolate. The compass and the live vest are already in the kayak. I leave, pulling my kayak behind on its trolley and the temperature is -4.5 °C – the coldest day since April. Round half an hour later I’m ready to start the tour. The sun hasn’t risen yet and some pink clouds hang in the blue sky.
At the sandy beach I drag the kayak into the water, lay the paddle on both the boat and the shallow ground to avoid tipping and climb in. I do some strokes, unfold the rudder that helps my steering the kayak and turn right. It’s low water and much more stones and rocks are visible as usual. I turn right again to paddle between the island Brambärsgrundet and the mainland. After that I turn left again and see the horizon and an archipelago of stones. I have to make my way through and more than once I hear the typical clicking sound, when the sea is so shallow, that the rudder at the rear touches ground and is lifted up.
The colours start to change: From light pink to something you could call apricot to warm orange. And then the sun starts to rise. It’s not like I’ve never seen sunrises before, but still I love to watch.
The sun rises a bit higher and starts to illuminate the colourful trees on the island Storgrundet which I’m approaching. Before I reach that island I turn right again and head to the open water. All I see in front of me is water, waves, the sky, clouds and midmost: the horizon. It looks like I just could paddle straight ahead to the horizon for ages. Probably it would take ages: it’s round 150 kilometres to the Finnish mainland.
So I turn left again and paddle along Storgrundets outer shoreline, go round the western peak and to the same beach were I started my tour one and a half hours before. A quite short, but pleasant kayak trip.
I go ashore and drag the kayak to the beach. It’s still below zero. The spray water on the kayak is frozen and there’s hoar frost on leaves and wood, especially in the shadowy places.
Now I exchange the dry suit for pants and jacket and the neoprene hood for a woollen cap. Dry suit and such is great for protection in case of falling into the cold water, but the “normal” clothes feel much more comfortable. I make a last photo of the beach and the island Storgrundet in the back, then I return home dragging the kayak behind.
At 9 o’clock I start my normal work.
“New Year’s resolution”: Be more outdoors in my everyday life, even if it’s short.
The day after our walk to and through the Torghatten we took a breakfast in our fantastic cottage Feriehus ved Lille Torgvatnet we hired for two days. After that we tidied a bit, packed our baggage into the car and continued the tour.
We took the 17 to the north to Horn, where we took the ferry to Andalsvågen. We drove 17 km to Forvik, where we took another Ferry to Tjøtta including some intermediate stations.
Have a look at the 2nd photo above: „Tricky stopover in Stokka“. You see the car with the trailer? Look closer. Did you realise, that the taillights are on? The car isn’t leaving the ferry, it’s entering it. Backwards! All cars in Stokka had to embark the ferry backwards – whether that car with the trailer or the camping van. I never expected that you have to enter a ferry like this. The next port we experienced an even bigger oddity: The car with the trailer even left the ferry backwards. Really strange!
We continued on the 17 – now without any ferries – but left the road near Leira to continue to Mo I Rana. From that town it’s just another 40 km to the Swedish border.
Annika and I enjoyed the incredible autumnal colours of the trees on our way back and I looked for a place to make some last photos of the tour. 2.8 km behind the border I found it:
After looking at these stunning and extreme colours we continued to Tärnaby, where we stayed over night. The next day we drove back to Umeå, where we arrived in the afternoon.
Two photos of the small wooden, floating boat bridge at Storgrundet, the nearest beach from my house in Skelleftehamn. Both are made today.
One is a snapshot, made 10:30 in broad daylight. The sky is bright blue, the birch leaves are still yellow, slowly turning brown. A boat has just put out to the near island. The sun still warms, but it is windy and the air is fresh. Tiny waves make the boat bridge wobble and you can hear the waves gurgle.
Almost twelve hours later, att 22:08 I make the second image, this time with a tripod and 10 sec exposure time. The sun went done at 6 o’clock and the temperature has dropped to 4 °C. A cloudless and starry sky arches above the near island and the rests of a polar lights are flickering above the horizon. Just as this morning the boat bridge is wobbling in the tiny gurgling waves – that’s way this photo is jittered.
I like either views, both the autumn leaves in the sun and the polar light in the night. However while I enjoy the autumn days just as they are, the polar light increases the anticipation of the coming winter – still months away, but coming for sure.
After our five day hiking tour in the Swedish Mountains a week of Annika’s and my holiday was left. We entered the car and left Storulvån. Shortly before we approached the E14 I asked Annika: “Back to Umeå or Norway?” The answer was: “Norway”. So we travelled to Norway …
After visiting friends near Mosvik we decided to drive north to Mo I Rana, but neither on the direct way, nor on a single day. We made a two-day stopover in a fantastic cottage between Torget and Brønnøysund. On the other day we drove to Torghatten, a mountain in the south of the same island. There’s something special with this mountain: It has a huge hole. From the parking place at the foot of the mountain a path leads up to the hole and through the natural tunnel to the other side. We slipped into our boots, took the cameras and went up.
We put ourselves on a large stone and looked at the landscape behind: The rocky slope, the tiny red farm house, the beaches and the sea with its many islands. We could have continued on that path, which leads further, but then we had to go round the whole mountain on a gravel path at the end. So we just returned the same way.
An impressive tour, that doesn’t take much time. Don’t miss it when you’re near Brønnøysund. And take your wide-angle lens with you!
After two days in Norway we headed back to the Swedish mountains.
Thursday, 15. September
We started our day with a breakfast.
The Norwegian lodge Nedalshytta is really beautiful, but doesn’t have a kitchen and sells only some snacks, when it comes to food. Luckily we had both own things to eat and a mug with us, so would could enjoy our own breakfast: oat flakes with frothy milk! How to get frothy milk on a mountain tour? Mix milk powder and water in an empty coke bottle, shake it vigorously and voilà: schiuma di latte à la Annika.
After packing our backpacks we started our hike to the Sylarna Fjällstation. It was the first cloudy day since we started our tour three days before and anything was moist and wet. Sometimes we had to take a break to pluck some blueberries, that still tasted fresh and sweet.
We went along the Templet, which is Swedens highest peak of the Sylarna mountain range (1728 m). (Storsylen with its 1762 meter altitude is higher, but on the Norwegian side, just 100 meters from the Swedish border.) Due to the weather we first couldn’t see that much but after a while it started to clear up and the clouds released the view on the huge and barren slopes of the Templet massif. We were so lucky, that we hadn’t to go this part of the trail in fog and clouds.
Soon we arrived at a place called Ekorrdörren – the squirrel door.
We started our tour at 780 m above sea level. Now we were on 1100 meter and would have to go up another 260 meters to reach the Ekorrpasset – the squirrel pass – which is 1360 m above sea level and so the highest point of our tour so long. We started climbing up the slope but had to look back over and over again. The undulating valley of the river Åeruvedurrienjohke with it’s many hills and ponds looked like from another planet.
Our trail got more and more rocky. After a while there was hardly any way left, we just went over angular rocks with gorgeous views of the Templet, including a small glacier and the Slottet, another peak of the Sylarna.
I really love the changes of the landscape you can have within just some hours: From autumnal birch forest with blueberries over to grass covered plateaus and finally up to an asteroid-like landscape that looks like a pile of stones.
Especially the squirrel pass looks both harsh and impressive. Anyway, when you go up a pass you’ll probably go it down as well and even 200 meters altitude make a difference. The Sylarna Fjällstation lies near the river Sylälven that flows through a wide grass covered U-shaped valley and when we came nearer we could see three reindeers standing in front of the cabins. Back to civilisation.
We had hiked four days in a row and were quite eager to take a day off. Sylarna fjällstation would be an ideal place, since it lies beautifully and you can leave that place in six different directions. Alas, there weren’t only reindeers, but people, too. Many people. The place was crowded! There were many hikers and mountain joggers. In the big dining room sat a large group of bankers that got their three-course dinner including candlelight and fresh salad, brought by helicopter. We were unsure, if this should be a good place to rest for a day.
The information we got in the evening shocked us a bit: There were already 100 – 125 booked sleeping-places for that night (in addition to all people that would come without booking). That means, that this place would be even more crowded. Even Helags, which is more in the South had just some single sleeping-places left.
That was the moment, where we decided to escape.
We would stay overnight of course, but the next day we would abandon the tour and hike back to Storulvån, were I parked my car.
Friday, 16. September
I was awake quite early, took my camera and tripod and walked out to wait for the sunrise. The valley Endalen was covered with fog. I looked at the glacier Storsylglaciären,that covers the eastern slope of the Storsylen and a lavvu – a traditional sami dwelling. The sun however showed up quite late, there were too many clouds.
I looked at the less beautiful parts of that place too: An excavator on a flat building site, a welcome sign surrounded by building material and waste.
We started the tour being content to leave Sylarna behind but a bit melancholy, too, because we didn’t plan to leave the mountains already after five days. Annika started to count the approaching hikers, there were quite many …
After half the way we approached something quite funny:
It’s neither a sculpture nor a church, it’s a WiFi-station including a recharging unit for smartphones! It is even marked in the hiking map: “WiFi och laddstn.”. There were many hikers and even some mountain bikers resting, but no one started the WiFi. The cellular network is quite good in that part of the mountains and I guess there’s hardly a young Swede without a mobile internet flat rate.
We continued our tour and slowly hiked down the valley Endalen. After a while we were below the tree line and the landscape got even more colourful.
And just shortly before we reached our starting point, were we had left four and a half days before I spotted a lonely birch tree – almost leafless. A symbol, that winter will come even this year. Fifteen minutes later we reached Storulvåns fjällstation, then the parking place, then my car. Annika has counted almost 150 people hiking, jogging and cycling to Sylarna, just from one direction! That confirmed our decision to leave Sylarna behind.
It has been a fantastic and varying tour with many different experiences in a short time. Tack för turen – Annika!
“Wait, wait …”
– “… wait, what?”
“How can it be the end? You had two weeks holidays, not only five days!”
– “well, ok, we did continue our journey.”
After changing cloth, using the bath room and drinking a coke we got in the car and I drove the way back to Enafors, that lies at the E14 which connects Trondheim in Norway with Sundsvall in Sweden. We considered some options but didn’t decide yet what to do next. Shortly before we approached the E14 I asked Annika: “Back to Umeå or Norway?” The answer was: “Norway”. So we travelled to Norway …
Stay tuned for the next article telling more about our trip in Norway …
Annika and I are in the mountains in Jämtland and have just reached our first destination: Blåhammaren, where we slept in a 14-bed room.
Tuesday, 13. September
Sleeping in a 14-bed room can be quite demanding, especially if you have this kind of snorers in your room, that could awake a frozen mammoth. However Annika and I were really lucky, no snorers at all! After our breakfast we had to decide where to continue our tour. From Blåhammaren you can hike back to civilisation or continue to two other destinations. Most of the hikers continue to Sylarna which is very central and part of the Jämtland Triangle, a very popular three-day-tour, that connects Storulvån, Blåhammaren and just Sylarna. We were keener to cross the border and hike to the Norwegian lodge Storerikvollen and so we did.
With an altitude of 1086 m Blåhammaren is the highest tourist station of the STF – the Swedish Tourist Association – so first the trail ran over the treeless mountain plateau, over rocks and moss, crossing some swamps and brooks. After a while we descended and the first yellow coloured birch trees came into view again.
Swedish summer trails are marked with red coloured dots on rock or tree, while winter trails are marked with poles bearing red crosses. You really shouldn’t follow the winter trails in summer unless you want to stand in front of a lake or find yourself deep in a bog – both are easy to cross only in wintertime. But quite often there’s a year round trail which makes navigation extremely easy even on less walked routes.
One kilometre behind Endalen, an emergency shelter, where we rested for a short while, the Sweden-Norwegian border came into view. It’s hard to mark a border less spectacularly than this one: A sign amidst of a pile of yellow painted stones, that’s it. The large bridge that crosses the river Enan (Sami: Äjnänjohke) directly after the border offers far more spectacularity.
We detected a real nice resting place on the other side of the river, where we planned to enjoy the warm summerly weather, but two other hikers – by the way the first ones we met that day – coming from the other side chose exactly the same slab of rock to rest. Luckily we found another place, at least as nice as the first one. We unmounted our backpacks, took of our boots and dangled our feet into the ice-cold water.
(I like the photo with the drifting yellow birch leave and the dead mosquito. It illustrates, why I prefer the autumn to summer: Beautiful colours and no biting insects left!)
In Norway the summer trail marks change, now the trail was marked with big bright red T-s. The red T is also the logo of the DNT, the Norwegian Trekking Association.
Do you see the dark piece of something on the top of the stone? It’s animal droppings, but I’m not sure of which species. I asked for help on Facebook and the favourite answers are reindeer and (arctic) fox.
We continued our tour until we came to another swing bridge, this time crossing the river Djupholma. On the other side of that river lies a nice sandy beach where I took a refreshing bath (the only one of the whole tour). It was only two other kilometres to walk to our destination, the cabin Storerikvollen, where we arrived round six o’clock.
Oh, so nice these Norwegian lodges are. They seem less “funkis” (the Swedish functional style) and more “hyggelig” (the Norwegian word for cozy, snug, or homelike). Just gemütlich! And we got a two-bed-room for a good price. The only thing you should know, when you visit the Norwegian side: These cabins hardly sell any food and there is no public kitchen as in the Swedish cabins. So you have three options: (1) take a camp stove with you and cook outside. (2) cold dishes! Hopefully you have all with you. (3) eat the dinner and breakfast provided by the lodges (and pay the Norwegian price).
We chose (2) and had a nice dinner with salami, crisp bread and fresh water outside in the evening sun, enjoying both our simple meal, the warm air and the beautiful view. Later the almost full moon rose above the reddish mountain chain – what a beautiful evening!
Wednesday, 14. September
The next day would lead us to the Nedalshytta, which is between 20 and 24 km away, depending on which map or sign post you rely on. So we got up quite early.
We had to go back yesterdays route 2 or 3 km where the trail divided. Now we turned south and had to ascent. Soon again we were above the treeline. When we looked back, we could see parts of the big lake Essandsjøen and even spotted – beside of some reindeers – the now tiny Storerikvollen, that we left some ours ago.
After a while we came to the river Fiskåa, where we had to ford. My rubber boots were high enough and I just splashed through the water, whereas Annika changed boots with trekking sandals and waded through the river.
Since rivers use to flow through valleys we had to ascend again and walked up along a reindeer fence. The weather was still warm and sunny, but you could see a cloud layer approaching afar. Would it rain in the evening as the forecast told us?
Only the map showed us the progress of our longest tour so far. We went a bit up, a bit down, a bit to the left, a bit to the right, down a small valley and up again. But finally trees came into view once more and soon we stood on an exposed plateau not far away from the yet invisible Nedalshytta.
Come on, just less than a kilometre to go … . Final spurt! A short while later we arrived at the beautiful lodge. Again we got a nice two-bed room, this time right below the grass roof. And we got: pizza! Perhaps not the best I ate in my life, but walk 20 – 24 kilometres with a backpack by yourself and you’ll know, how delicious a warm pizza slice can be!