Postponement

Actually I planned to start my long journey ”Nordkalotten 2015” on this weekend, preferably on Saturday, but I have to change plans a bit. It’s not the car that leaked fuel to blame for it, it will be repaired tomorrow. It’s not the parcel that arrived in Germany too late and was resent to Sweden, it already came on Monday. It’s not the planning or the fact that I have to buy some minor items for the journey.

No, it’s a viral infection with fever that has caught me since Sunday. It seems to be much more tenacious than other colds I caught over the last years and I don’t know when I’m safe and sound again. I just have to wait, which is hard for me because I never have had much patience.

Of course I’ll let you know, when I’m able to plan again. Stay tuned.

At high watermark

Today we had a really high watermark in the Baltic Sea: Up to one meter above sea level. You may laugh if you live nearby the Northern Sea or the Atlantic Ocean, but that’s a lot for the Bottenviken, the northern part of the Baltic Sea and hasn’t happened for several years. Despite of my cold I took the car and drove to several places to make pictures of the flooded shores. But I realised, that most motives were extremely boring. What differs a shore with high water of a shore with sea level? Almost nothing!

But the beach at Storgrundet was a bit different. The ice was covered with 60 cm water and slush and the whole sand beach was flooded and many of the small pines that grow beside the beach where partly or completely under water. What a pity, that I didn’t have my waterproof camera with me.

 

Just a normal winter

Living at the coast of the Bothnian Bay, the most northern part of the Baltic Sea can be a bit surprising, when it comes to weather. Let’s take the weather one year ago, for example. January started with rain falling on the frozen ground and the roads where so slippery that you hardly could use the car, even with spiked tyres on it. (German article: “Eisflächen”). One week later we had a lake effect in Skelleftehamn and got 83 cm of snow on bare ground within 24 hours! The city Skellefteå, hardly 20 kilometres away got a millimetre! (German articles: “Schneekanonen 2014”).

Just now we have winter. Just winter. It’s -5 °C – not too warm, not too cold. There a 30 cm of snow in the backyard – not very much but not very little neither. And it has been snowing for almost two days, not much, but anyway. That’s what the Swedes call lagom, a word that’s perhaps translated best with “just the right amount”.

The high water mark of the Baltic Sea sank from +104 cm to +40 cm within the last days, leaving the beach of Storgrundet covered with ice and fresh fallen snow making the high water completely invisible.

The lake Snesviken is covered with ice and snow, too and parts of the old boat that I photographed two month ago have been vanished in snow as well. The sky is grey and the trees on the other side of the lake look a bit blurred since it is still snowing. Not much, just lagom.

I’ve been ill since sunday but today is the first day where I feel better. Tomorrow I’ll start with the last preparations for the tour and I planned to depart on next Wednesday, the 14th. I’m really looking forward to travel way up north and will hopefully provide you with many articles and photos – as long as my laptop doesn’t freeze do death.

Winter intensifies

Did I write about the “just normal” winter two days before? Well that changed a bit. Right after I wrote the last article the snowfall intensified and brought 10 cm new snow within 16 hours. It got both windier and colder and still snowed a lot.

Today¹ I took a walk round the small lake Rudtjärnen. Snow fell in thick, heavy flakes and made it impossible to look farther than 100 meters. The squalls whirled up the snow morphing the view into a grey-white nothing. And it was even windier on the slope by the lake. The trees on the 2nd photo were hardly 50 metres away!

That was a nice and not so long walk (which was intended since I don’t want to overstrain myself right after the infection), but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to go out again. And so I did. This time with food and drink, (of course) my camera, my new flashlight and my new down clothes for some testing. I already guessed that I couldn’t drive to the small boat harbour because the way wasn’t ploughed and snow was too deep for my car. So I decided to continue to the peninsula Näsgrundet. What a piece of luck!

I dressed up for cold weather, lit my new strong flashlight and went to the rocky beach. Normally the shore descends to the open sea but not tonight where – I couldn’t believe my eyes – the shore was an ice shelf rising up at least one meter before dropping into a black nothing. I could hear the sea behind but I couldn’t see it. Where am I? What happened? Then I heard a rolling wave and – SPLAT! – I could see water and foam rising high up behind the brink and clashing onto the ice shelf! It took a moment or two until I realised what happened: The brisk northern wind presses the waves ashore where they rocket up into the air several meters. I guess that the water and foam first landed on the rocks where it probably froze almost instantly – remember, it’s -15 °C  out there. The rocks became more and more ice covered until they vanished under a growing layer of ice. When I came to this place this evening some parts of the ice were already two meters above sea level! And still some of the waves managed to toss a lot of water onto the ice where it froze and enlarged the ice shelf. What a fantastic experience!

I was both happy to be out there and a bit disappointed that I couldn’t share this moment. If I at least could take a photo, but how to take pictures of waves when it’s so dark. Wait a moment – dark? – My new flashlight was described as extremely bright – Let’s test. I switched the flashlight to the brightest mode, laid it onto my backpack and adjusted the beam to the waves. Then I took tripod and camera and started to experiment. And that’s the result:

I’m impressed. The new Flashlight is really bright. So bright that I can take such pictures at night time. (For the photo freaks: 1/20 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 1600. 35mm)

OK. The flashlight succeeded the test. But what’s with the rest? I was curious how warm the new bought down parka and down pant would be. I just wore a single layer of woollen underwear and my thin but windproof Norrøna-jacket, mostly to test the fur under the down clothes, that was all. (Not mentioning boots and gloves, of course). I’ve been out more than an hour, first taking pictures, then measuring wind and temperature, than taking my frugal evening meal. And yes – the Marmot down combination is as warm, snugly and cozy as it looks like. Almost too warm when sitting although we had an average wind speed of 10 m/s resulting in a wind chill of  -27 C. That’s good to know.

Now I’m longing to sunrise. I want to visit the spot again and take some daylight pictures. That’s perhaps evan a reason to postpone my journey another day. I’m not in a hurry. But tomorrow, when I’ll visit the place again I’ll wear something less water-sensitive than down, because tonight I always expected a huge monster wave would flood half the shelf and soak me completely.

Finally just two selfies from today, one when I walked round the lake, the other when I sat outside after the evening meal.

Foot note:

¹ As a matter of fact: Yesterday. It will already be Monday when I publish this article.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

squall – Windböe
down – (hier) Daune
foam – (hier) Gischt
flashlight – Taschenlampe
fur – Pelz

For equipment nerds:

Flashlight: Nitecore EA41 Pioneer
Down clothes: Marmot 8000M Parka, Marmot 8000M Pant. Older (or simpler) models.

Just for the archives:

Friday 2015-01-09 21:45 ca. 30 cm -4.6 °C
Saturday 2015-01-10 13:40 ca. 40 cm -7.1 °C
Sunday 2015-01-09 09:15 ca. 45 cm -8.6 °C
Sunday 2015-01-09 16:55 ca. 52 cm (47 cm backyard, 57 cm front yard) -15.0 °C

The magic ice world

Today I was in another universe. At least it looked a bit like it.

After my adventure on the “ice shelf” last night I longed to see the place by daylight. Breakfast was late but so was sunrise and right after I’ve eaten I drove to Näsgrundet again. We had -17 °C (more or less the whole day by the way) and some snow crystal fluttered out of the grey stratus clouds. I put on my grödels – simple crampons – to be able to go on the ice slope. Soon I stood at the rim and looked down into the calmed down sea. The view was quite impressive …

… but …

it would be great to see the ice walls with its icicles from the seaside. It’s not, that I didn’t think about it before, that’s why I had both my waterproof camera and my waterproof survival suit with me. I undressed a bit (not the funniest thing when it’s -17 °C outside) and slipped into the red suit. Then I took the camera and glided into the water. And that’s where I entered another universe. But enough words, the photos! Here they are:

I really loved to paddle in the ice water and to look at the ice walls that where decorated so beautifully wich icicles. Since the attached rubber gloves are waterproof, but not warm at all, my right hand index finger didn’t like the adventure as much as I did and got a bit of frostbite (it still hurts a bit but nothing serious, fortunately). And that’s how I looked like today when I took all these photos:

T minus 35 hours

Now I’ve made up my decision: I’ll start my journey on Thursday round 11 o’clock. That’s only 35 hours left! I’ll have to work all day tomorrow to manage my departure in time. Mostly it’s packing the zillion things I’ll want to take with me, but I have to continue and finish the installation of my travelling computer (my old MacBook Pro) and we all know: Working with computers always takes more time than planned and excepted.

Anyway, I managed to take a photo of the cement carrier Sunnanvik that regularly goes ashore in the bay nearby. Look how ice-covered the foredeck is! I would have preferred a wide angle lens shot from a lesser distance, but the whole bay was clear of ice some days ago and the new ice is much too weak to bear me.

That’s probably my last photo made in Skelleftehamn for long. When I’ll write the next blog post, I’m probably in the midst of Swedish Lapland already.

Just testing the travel computer

I just have to test the computer I take with my on my journey before I leave tomorrow.

Copying images to Lightroom: CHECK
Finalising in Photoshop: CHECK
Uploading photos to the blog: CHECK

And here’s the test photo from today: The fence in my back garden.

I’m almost a bit sad to leave this fine place but the pleasant anticipation prevails.

Oh yes.

Publishing a blog article: CHECK

Starting the journey

Day one and two

Round half past nine I started “Nordkalotten 2015”, my long journey through Northern Sweden, Norway and Finland. The first destination is Stokmarknes, which is 880 km away and according to Google Maps it takes eleven hours, nine minutes from my home in Skelleftehamn. I’m not a long distance driver therefore I divided the journey into three parts.

Day 1: Skelleftehamn – Solberget

When I started sky was completely cloudy and overcast but right after Vidsel the sky started to clear up and the temperatures dropped from -8 °C in Skelleftehamn to -21 °C in Solberget (with a daily minimum of -23 °C). On the journey I had to cross the river Luleälven three times and on one of the long bridges I could see the sun slowly going down.

I’ve been in Solberget many times and I’ll be there again in February. This time I stayed only to sleep and continued the next day. I one woke up when Sesam, the tom cat and secret owner of Solberget lay down on my feet in the dead of night.

Day 2: Solberget – Abisko

The evening before temperatures increased and it started snowing. When I woke up almost 10 cm fresh snow covered the ground and my car and it was only -2 °C. Half past nine I continued my journey heading for Gällivare, Kiruna and Abisko. It was cloudy the whole time but fortunately almost no snow fell. That made driving as easy as on the first day. Just some kilometres before Abisko sky cleared up a bit. I was lucky and could hire the same nice room where I already stayed last February for a week.

Tomorrow I’ll enter Norway and continue to Stokmarknes.

Reindeers – many, many reindeers

Day three (part I)

Today I got up early, no wonder after more than 10 hours sleep. I packed my things, cleaned the room and left Abisko heading westwards. It was still twilit and I was quite alone on the road.

That changed after 18 kilometres: A huge herd of reindeers blocked the road. I slowed down and slowly, slowly drove through the reindeers. Right after the reindeer crossing I found a parking place. Good to exit the car and take some images of these beautiful and gentle animals.

The reason why the reindeers were hanging around was probably the pile of big bags lying beside of the road. I guess they contain reindeer food.

After half an hour of taking pictures and watching I entered the car again and continued my journey to Norway.

From Sweden to Norway

Day three (part II)

After leaving the reindeers behind I continued to the Norwegian border. But first I made a picture of the strange looking railway station in Vassijaure, the last photo from Sweden for some time. Soon I reached the village Riksgränsen and right after it the Swedish-Norwegian border. I took the first parking opportunity and made the first photo in Norway of my tour.

Just some miles (a Scandinavian mile is 10 km) later I could see the first fjord. And shortly after this another typical Norwegian happened to me: A construction site with a “follow me” car because due to work in the tunnel the road was only one-way.

I continued on the E10 to Bjerkvik. Shortly before Bogen i Ofoten I took a side road and took a picture of the beautiful sunset colours above the snowy mountains. Soon I reached Bogen and made two other pics:

… and another image in Kongsvika in the dusk:

The whole trip was amazing, mostly because of the varying landscape. Sometimes the road follows the coast line of a fjord, sometimes it crosses the fjell – the mountains. Once temperature dropped from 0 °C to -15 °C within two minutes just because I left the coast and entered the fjell.

I changed plans and made an additional stop in Lødingen where I am right now. When I arrived it was already too dark to take pictures, but I had a nice two-hour evening walk. First I followed the coast line (including wading, almost slipping on the ice and a bit of simple climbing) and then followed a forest path back to civilisation. It was great just walking through the lonely nature after having been sitting in the car for three days!

Tomorrow morning I’ll head to Stokmarknes and take a (late) breakfast with my friends. I’ll stay there for some days and I’m really looking forward to be outdoors instead of sitting in the car.

Arrival in Haukenes and greeting the sun

Day four

Today I only had 80 more kilometres to drive making it a total of 906 since my departure in Skelleftehamn. I started early and arrived in Haukenes on the Vesterålen at 9:30. The only picture I took was the view of the town Sortland seen from the Sortlandsundet.

The reason why I wanted to arrive so early was the plans of my friends that I’m visiting here. Today it’s the first day where you can see the sun again from their upland meadow Langbakken. The last day with polar night, that means no sun at all was 8th of January, but it took ten more days until the sun rose high enough to climb over the mountain tops of the Lofoten in the south.

We went up the hillside to the lavvu – a sami tent – where we first stood outside to greet the neighbours joining us and than sat in the tent round the fire altogether and ate and talked.

And finally – much later than expected – the sun found a gap in the mountain skyline! We all jumped out of the lavvu and looked at the first sun you could see from Langbakken since late November. Hooray!

The place where I am and will stay for the next days: Nøisomhed Gård, Haukenes, Vesterålen.

 

Two images of today

Day seven

After a demanding tour into the mountains yesterday I took it easy today. Some of my “activities”: talking with my friends, cutting vegetables for the soup, sleeping, walking the dog and taking some images at the seaside. One of the traditional Nordland boat of my friends and one of the coast itself.

A first mountain hike

Day six

Yesterday on Tuesday I stood up quite early to hike into the mountains. I packed my camera equipment, hot tea, nuts and raisins, compass, GPS and a down jacket. I considered first about taking my snowshoes with me but left them home, it didn’t look like much snow on the mountains.

I started the tour and headed to Langbakken, the place where we saw the sun two days before. I was greeted by the flock of sheep, some of them so tame and curious that they came to sniff on my hand. Then I climbed the fence and cut across country until I came to another fence with a gate. I went through the gate and followed the way beside of the fence until I came to a crossing where a way climbed up a forested hill.

The way didn’t continue but I just continued the direction until I came to a snow covered lake, the Dalvatnet.

I started to regret that I left my snowshoes behind, because with every step I sank 10 to 20 cm into the hard snow. It wasn’t the last time …

I knew the direction and had two options: Either crossing the open mountain brook or to just go ahead. I chose the latter. I had to cross a field with huge rocks where I really had to by careful and check every single step. After that I went up the steep slope. And it was much, much steeper than expected. I measured 40° with my compass. I had to be careful not to slip and I took many rests to calm down. Sorry, no photos.

But finally I reached the first hill took and horizontal terrain again. Just some more steps and I took a longer rest with the tea and my nuts. I was glad about my down jacket because the -8 °C felt much colder in the wind.

I could have sat there for hours and just watch the colours change. When the sun disappeared behind a mountain top the snow looked cold and bluish. When it appeared some minutes later in a gap between two mountains the snow was illuminated in yellow, orange and purple pastel shades. I’m no poet, I cannot describe it with words. After a while I continued to another lake called Finnurdvatnet, as frozen and snow covered as the first. I love the landscape above the treeline, especially in winter when it is reduced to snow, ice and rocks and some scattered small trees.

I would have loved to go further but the hard and partly crusty snow – knee deep some times – slowed me down quite much and both my condition as day light where limited. So I started my way back and went to another lake, the Nils-Persavatnet. Starting feeling exhausted I took another rest and continued to the ridge of the Hovden. I was quite glad to hit a snowshoe track that I could follow. It made it both easier to go. But first I had to look again. The sunset in the southwest, the intense purple colour of the sky in the southeast, the Hurtigruten ship on the Sortlandsundet, The huge bridge to Stokmarknes and the white snow-covered mountains everywhere. Just wonderful!

I continued the treeless ridge of the Hovden to the peak. Then I started the descend through the forest. I don’t think I would have found the whole way down without the snowshoe track that I could follow so easy. After a while I saw the same way I took when I started the tour, but from within the forest and the other side of a ditch. No wonder that I didn’t find this path in the morning! I jumped over the ditch and headed to the house of my friends. When I crossed Langbakken the same flock of sheep – as curious as in the morning hours – came again and some sheep (the same?) sniffed on my fingers again. But I longed after taking a hot shower and a nap in my bed and that was exactly what I did when I was back.

Conclusion:

A great first tour with beautiful weather in a fantastic landscape that would have been much easier with snowshoes. I guess that even the blister on my left heel came just from the wet snow in my boots that I could have avoided with snowshoes. Lesson learned, Olaf? Lesson learned!

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

down jacket – Daunenjacke
flock of sheep
– Schafherde
cut across country – querfeldein laufen
mountain brook – Gebirgsbach
treeline – Baumgrenze
crusty – hier: verharscht
ridge – Gebirgskamm, Grat
ditch – Graben

Links:

Map with the lakes and the peak of Hovden

The first polar light

If you like your beauty sleep and travel way up north, do not look out of the window too late! I did it and lost 50 minutes sleep standing outside and another 30 minutes writing this blog article.

And that’s why I stood outside: A really bright, moving and colourful polar light covered half of the sky.

It’s still out there but I’m tired and I have plans for tomorrow. Hopefully it’s not the last one on my journey.

 

Whale watching in Andenes

Day eight

To cut a long story short: It’s been a great day!

After watching the beautiful polar light last night I got less sleep than preferred because I drove to Andenes to participate a whale safari. First I had to drive round two hours. After that I had to wait, time I used to put my cameras in waterproof bags. Finally we where equipped with overalls and live vests and entered the big rubber boat. We left the harbour and headed an area where whales have been seen some hours before. This part was a bit tough since we drove against the wind and some waves where quite huge letting the boat rise and fall some meters into the wave troughs again.

But finally we reached the area and directly saw the first whale fins and the first steam blown out through the whales blowholes.

The next two hours we saw a lot of whales, sometimes we where almost surrounded by them. Mostly we saw orcas (that are called killer whales, too) and humpbacks, but some fin whales as well. The orcas are following the herring and I probably came just to the right time to see so many of them. We even saw orca calves that are yellow or even orange instead of white as long as they are breast-fed.

(Oops, the room where I get internet is closing soon, I have to rush a bit …)

For me the most amazing view were the huge humpbacks diving down showing only there big tail fin. And the orca child swimming near its mother. And now to the photos:

As I said – it’s been a great day!

Links:

Sea Safari – Whale & Bird watching Andenes (under construction)

Photoing whales

It’s hard to take pictures of the whales. Sometimes there where quite near, less than 10 meters, but mostly there are farer away and you need a good system camera, a good tele lens and much practise in focussing. The most of my photos were out of focus, but alas not all.

Some of the photographers that joined the trip had real huge tele lenses and I guess the value of the total camera equipment onboard was the same as my house in Skelleftehamn.

Whale names

Latin English German Swedish
Orcinus orca Orca / Killer whale Orca / Schwertwal Späckhuggare
Megaptera novaeangliae Humpback whale Buckelwal Knölvalen
Balaenoptera physalus Fin whale Finnwal Sillval

Back to Haukenes

Day nine

Today I drove back from Andenes to my friends in Haukenes where I’ll leave on Sunday or Monday. I didn’t choose the direct way on the eastern side of Andøya (82) but the detour on the western side via Stave and Skogvoll. There where some fantastic views, mostly at places where I couldn’t stop. But anyway, some images of today (and two of yesterday):

Let’s start with some houses in Andenes build on stilts (The greenish colour on the second photo comes from the polar light).

Andenes next morning and Bleik, where I took a long walk on the large sandy beach.

A small graveyard and a real tiny light house.

A man hanging up fish heads for drying (for the african market).

And last not least some landscapes when sun went down again.

That’s today in a nutshell.

Weather changes

Day ten

Today the clouds came, it became warmer, wind increased and some fresh snow fell. The perfect weather for a quite lazy day with only one shorter walk.

On the other side of the Sortlandsundet mountain range after mountain range vanished in the low clouds leaving only the nearest mountains visible to eye and camera.

I plan another lazy day here in Haukenes, then I’ll continue my journey, probably heading to the island Senja and the town Tromsø. It will take much longer time as in summer because the most ferries are closed in the winter time.

Car trip to Tromsø – partly nightmare, partly relaxation

Day twelve

Today I said goodbye to my friends that I stayed with the last week and headed to Tromsø in the north which is round 400 km away. I thought about driving as long as I like, making a over-night stop and continuing the next day.

The weather was quite bad. The temperature has increased to +5 °C, it rained and it was quite windy. But travelling was relatively easy until I came to the first mountain passage. And this part turned out to be the most terrible car ride I had in my whole life!

The nightmare part

The rain – sometime mixed with wet snow – became more and more intense, until rain was just bucketing down on the frozen roads. Sometimes I drove through deep puddles, pushing a bow wave like a boat, sometimes deep slush covered the narrow roads that oncoming cars tossed onto my windscreen temporarily reducing sight to zero.

But mostly the roadway was covered with a thick layer of wet new ice that was slippery as hell. So slippery that I hardly could accelerate or break or steer or do anything without starting to slide. Thanks god for the traction control of my Saab. I wouldn’t have managed without it.

Do not forget, I’m not talking about broad Swedish streets, I’m talking about narrow Norwegian streets, that only consists of tiny bends and sharp hairpin curves, roads that constantly go left and right, up and down. And that’s the main road I’m talking about!

And I’m talking about other car drivers. Car drivers that don’t mind the weather but drive as usual: Too fast! And I was way too slow for them. If they were behind me, they glued their car to my rear bumper and I used every parking place or bus stop to let them pass.

I was stressed, I was frightened and I was frustrated! Was it a smart idea to make this winter journey or was it just stupid? Should I skip Norway and head back to Sweden, where roads are broad and straight? I started to understand why many Norwegian roads are closed when weather is bad. I decided not to continue to Tromsø, but to drive back to Abisko, where the streets are better and in addition to that weather is cold enough to avoid these awful wet and icy roads.

The relaxed part

But first I had to continue the same road, regardless whether of staying in Norway or driving to Abisko. But alas, the weather became better and better and so became the streets. Now it was not only easy to drive, it was fun! It felt like I could continue for hours and hours without any effort. And so did I. 19:45, eleven hours after the start in Haukenes, Vesterålen I arrived in Tromsø.

Wait a moment, eleven hours of driving? For 400 km? No, not really. First of all I stopped at two different bays and walked at the sandy, muddy and ice covered shore lines. I love these walks and consider them extremely relaxing.

In addition to that I made a detour. OK, I’ll be honest: I missed the road to Tromsø and had to head back 19 kilometres to Breivik.

And I made a stop and ate a big burger with fries and drank a coke. Driver’s junk food!

Now I’m sitting in my tiny cabin on Tromsø camping and I’m writing this blog article. The radiator tries to heat the cold cabin but it will take some time until it is warm. But I’m wearing my down suit and even my sleeping bag, both are extremely warm and cozy. A cheer for good equipment and overdressing!

A day in Tromsø

Day 13

Today I woke up in our seal trappers hut which is located in East Greenland. First we sat outside and did our daily work as for example making firewood, then we took our wooden boat and rowed out to hunt seal. The other guys are nice but they’re quite stiff and don’t talk very much.

Ok, back to reality! Today I woke up in my small cabin outside of Tromsø. I went into the city crossing the Tromsøysundet on the big Tromsø Bridge. The weather was anything but a photographers dream: Dull, grey, windy and with showers of wet snow. Anyway, if I’m in Tromsø, I have to take some pictures …

Even in Tromsø thaw has set in and parts of the streets were very slippery. I was glad to have my “snow chains” with me that I can easily attach to my boots if it gets too icy. But I was inside, too: First in the big library, then in the Perspektivet Museum where they had a great photo exhibition: “Kom, for alt er ferdig”. Finally I visited the Polarmuseet and that’s where I took the photos of the seal hunting and the hut above.

At 14:20 the Hurtigruten ship Vesterålen arrived and landed in Tromsø.

I already was on my way back and when I took the photo of the church Ishavskatedralen 15:22, it started to get dark again.

Disclaimer: The usage rights of most of the images in this blog are for sale, but I have to exclude the first three photos that I made in the polar museet, because I’m not allowed to use these photos beside of publishing them in this non-commercial blog.

Tromsø: In the mountains

Day 14

Today I was up in the mountains. I took the first cable car at 10 o’clock and had a beautiful view on the town Tromsø below.

The whole day was like a symphony in colours. Starting with deep bluish purple shades and pink pastel tones the light got warmer changing the light to this incredible colour between pink and light orange. Does it have a name? I don’t know.

This time I had snowshoes with me. They weren’t necessary today but after the last mountain hike I won’t go without anymore. I headed for the first small peak called Fløya (671m), just two kilometres away. The views of the multicoloured mountains in all directions were fantastic.

I continued southward to the Bønntuva (776m), the next peak. I really love the patterns that the wind has cut into the crusty snow.

I continued a bit farther to a nameless peak (754m), mostly to make a photo of the pile of stones. Stone piles are used in Norway to mark ways, but I guess some of them are built of tourists just for fun. But the weather was perfect and the terrain quite simple so I didn’t mind the waypoints.

I was slow because I was more into looking and taking pictures, not into being fast. So I decided to turn and go back to the top station of the cable car. But not without taking some more pictures. One of them shows a ship, it’s the Hurtigruten heading Tromsø. I could see it far away more than an hour before it landed in Tromsø.

As you can see on the latter photo sun went down again and the shades turned into pink and purple again. When I came back to the fence protecting the tourists falling down the cliff it was dark enough to start the night photos. Tromsø looks really beautiful when it is illuminated in winter time and sky is still blue.

Half an hour later I took the cable car down and went back to the car. That took a while because the official parking place costs 20 NOK the hour and I was much to mean to pay 13,50 Euro just for parking.

My plan was to continue the journey tomorrow but I changed my mind because of the weather. The Norwegian region round Tromsø and Narvik will get a “liten storm” that matches level 9 on the Beaufort scale with gusts up to 35 m/s (level 12). The Swedish mountain region will get strong winds as well with poor sight and much snow. I’ll start a day later, on friday.

Just an image for the photographers: My cheap thermometer is Arca-Swiss compatible! – 7 °C today.

Blackout

Day 15

After a longer walk at the shore I returned to my tiny hut on the camping place and slept. It’s pure luxury to sleep on daytime while being in holidays. When I woke up it was dark. Really dark. I checked my mobile phone for incoming mails. No WiFi/WLAN. I stood up and switched on the light. No effect. It was chilly in the hut. I looked outside and couldn’t see much. Some warm tiny lights in other huts and cabins, a flash light. That was all. Looks like electricity is down.

Due to a technical failure in a transformer in the Ofoten (some hundred miles southwards) major parts of Northern Norway have been without electricity since three o’clock including parts of Nordland, Finnmark and Troms including Tromsø. It’s not clear when electricity will be back. I’m glad that I have a warm sleeping bag because this hut is heated by electricity, too and the temperature is already down to 11.0 °C sinking fast.

Both laptop and iPhone still have power and the mobile net is working, that’s why I can sit here and write a blog article even with a blackout in Tromsø and around. But now I’ll switch off them, I need them for checking the news and the weather forecast.

Addendum [18:17]:

Electricity came back, first for half a minute, now for already five minutes. Looks like I’ll get the hut warm again quite soon.

Addendum [20:27]:

WiFi is still down, I’m still using mobile internet and data roaming.

Tromsø: At the shore

Day 15

Just strolling at the shore, at the seaside. Grey windy weather, the opposite of my day in the mountains yesterday. Just walking and letting the mind flow. My thoughts? I don’t know, i didn’t listen. A further step, balancing on stones, wading through shallow water, avoiding the ice, collecting some shells, looking around.

Just relaxing.

The bird is a Purple Sandpiper (Latin: Calidris maritima, German: Meerstrandläufer, Swedish: Skärsnäppa). My thanks to Patrick and Kevin for the identification.

The idea to stay another night in Tromsø and not to drive to Absiko today was good: Parts of the way to Abisko has been closed since yesterday evening due to the snow storm and are still closed. It’s still not clear whether they’ll be open tomorrow again. I guess I’ll give it a try.

Over the storm-beaten Norwegian fjell

Day 16 – about storms, waiting long, a dead battery and Northern Lights

Today I left Tromsø and tried to reach Abisko. But I couldn’t say if I should reach it today since two parts of the mountain road were still closed.

The first part was extremely windy and I could feel the squalls shaking the car. Again the question – was it smart to drive a car in this weather? But soon when I came to Fagernes and started crossing the mountains – the fjell – it got much better. Then I arrived in Bjerkvik where one road goes to the Vesterålen and the other to Narvik and Sweden. Just after I left Bjerkvik, after a tiny bend the storm stroke again. I left the road to Narvik and turned left following the E10 to Sweden. The car climbed the steep passage up and than I saw a queue of cars. Stop.

I switched the car off (Bad idea, Olaf!) and waited. What’s happening? Are we waiting for a convoy? Is the road still closed? I waited. After half an hour it got cold in the car – outside it was stormy and -9 °C – and I turned the car key to start the car again. No reaction beside of half a second light on the dashboard and some disturbing noises. I tried again, and again. The car was dead! “Sh**!” was my thought.

I asked the car driver behind me. No, he doesn’t know anything about cars. The next one. Yes, I should check the contacts of the battery first. That’s what I did but they looked ok. While considering what to do next, the guy came to look as well. He checked the battery contacts once more and came to the same conclusion. Just seconds later a big red car approached from the back, stopped some centimetres beside of mine, a guy jumped out, two jumper cables in his hand, fixed them to the batteries of our cars, asked me to start and my Saab started like a charm! I just could say “tusen takk” – Thousand thanks and back in the queue vanished the red car. This guy is my hero today! I was both grateful and very relieved.

Now I focussed on not stalling the engine under any circumstances. As all other cars I continued waiting. After about two hours of waiting some really official looking cars came from the back and minutes later a guy picked all the “normal” cars to follow. We had to wait another fifteen minutes (“do not stall the engine!”) and then we could follow a snowplough.

Even now where the road was open and ploughed it was an adventure. You could see snowdrifts everywhere and the strong wind still blew loads of snow through the air. Sometimes you could hardly see the hazard lights of the car in front of you. Some new snowdrifts started to cover the road again. It took time until we crossed the Bjørnfjell – the Bear Mountains and came to the Norwegian border where another long car queue waited on the other side for their turn.

Now I was in Sweden and the other road segment was already ploughed and open so that we quite easily could continue driving, still minding the snowdrifts and the stormy wind. Finally I arrived in Abisko where I am in the same room like two weeks ago –it  seems like ages ago.

It really feels like home being in Sweden again – the Swedish language, the Swedish mobile internet without expensive data roaming and – last not least – the Swedish prices! After a short rest a went to a restaurant and ate and drank for 85 SEK, less than the half of what it would cost in Norway.

After that I took a photo tour. The sky had cleared up and a long band of Northern Light covered the sky over Abisko.

Translations:

EnglishGerman
squallSturmböe
dashboardArmaturenbrett
jumper cableStarthilfekabel
stall the engineden Motor abwürgen
ploughedgepflügt, freigeräumt
snowdriptSchneewehe
hazard lightsWarnblinker

Abisko: A first small ski tour

Day 17

Finally – my first time on skis! I didn’t dare to use them in the Tromsø mountains, they are too steep for my mediocre skiing abilities. The mountains – the fjäll – in Abisko however is not so hard.

EquipmentWhat do I need for a (short) day trip? Let’s see …

  • windproof clothes
  • a down jacket for resting
  • warm woolen mittens
  • hot tea
  • goodies
  • a compass
  • a good map
  • my GPS with spare batteries
  • first aid kit
  • headlamp
  • camera equipment
  • bivy bag
  • some money (just in case)

I love it when I can start a ski tour just from the doorstep. Weather was fine, partly blue sky, partly clouds, -15 °C and no wind at all. The first time in this winter I put on my ski shoes, attached the skis, unattached them again to get the other mitten that still was in the house, attached the skis again, took the backpack and ski poles and started the tour. First the tunnel under the railway (Stockholm–Narvik) then up the street and into the open woodland. First I followed the snowmobile tracks. That’s easy because the snow is solid and it’s easy to go. But it’s a bit boring, too. So I left the trail after a while and went cross-country. The snow is new – it snowed 30-40 cm the last days and quite soft. Soon the skis were more under than on the snow, mostly calf deep, later sometimes more than knee deep.

In average the snow was 70 cm deep – that’s not so much for the fjäll, but I was quite glad that I could continue cross-country even if it was a bit exhausting. Again and again the snow around me slumped down under my weight sometimes snapping like a whip, sometimes growling like thunder. This is what avalanches are build of. It was clear that I had to avoid all steeper terrain today.

Soon the valley Lapporten, that you can see from Abisko as well, came into view again.

I hit another snowmobile tracks and followed them. An a slope ahead a snowmobile approached and I stepped aside to make place – sinking into snow almost knee deep again. The snowmobile was followed by eleven tourists that booked a dog sledding tour. I laid down into the snow to make pictures and since the dogs came to a stop I could make a photo of the husky with its snow-covered nose.

The dogs continued and so did I. But now I had a minor challenge. The track on the slope was quite steep and so narrow, that I couldn’t make V-steps big enough to go up on skis without sliding back. So I left the track and tried to go up zigzag beside the track. But after ten steps I was bogged down into the snow more then knee deep. I tried to go up, but impossible, at least for me. I returned to the hard snowmobile track, unmounted the skis and went up afoot.

Up on a bleak plateau I left the snowmobile trail and continued cross-country again in direction Lapporten. On the treeless plateaus it has been much windier and the snow was pressed and beared my weight. I continued a bit further and enjoyed the beautiful views and impressions.

But soon I headed back and skied down again through the untouched terrain. Downhill skiing was a bit thrilling: Some patches where hard and the skis ran fast but soon a patch filled with deep soft snow waited for you. It was pure luck that I didn’t fell. Four hours later I was in front of the house – right before the doorstep. A nice tour.

Retrospect one

Today is the last of January and day #17 of my current journey “Nordkalotten 2015”. Time for a litte retrospect. Thoughts. Opinions. The good and the bad parts.

1. The activities

I loved all days where I was outdoors, especially in the mountains. The walking tour in Stokmarknes, the snow shoe tour in Tromsø, the ski tour in Abisko today, all were great fun! I could do that again and again.

The whale watching tour in Andenes was a great experience, but that’s a thing I don’t need to have every week.

It was great to spend time with my friends J and R in Haukenes. Thank you so much for your hospitality and for the great ecological food. Caution: I’ll come again!

I love Tromsø, but the weather was dull and I wasn’t in the mood to visit a city. I seem to prefer the outdoors more and more.

It was great to see so many Northern Lights. I think I saw them 8 times already, but I didn’t take photos every single time, only in Stokmarknes and Abisko up to now.

I enjoyed many other things: Meeting people, short walks, long talks, good food, much sleep and other things that may not be newsworthy but are part of a long holiday.

Conclusion: All fine but I’ll try to travel less by car and be more outdoors in the nature.

2. The car driving

The landscape is so beautiful and that’s the fun part of the car driving. But always when you have the most beautiful view you can bet you’re not allowed to stop to take a photo. Furthermore I think it’s a bit boring to drive alone.

To be honest: Driving car in Norway in wintertime is not favourite thing and I underestimated the difficulties. I really wish I’d have a car with four-wheel drive!

The car ride cross the Norwegian mountains in rain storm on wet, icy roads was awful! I never want to experience such again.

The car ride in convoy cross the Bjørnfjell to the Norwegian-Swedish border was really exciting. But driving in storm was exhausting and I was glad to arrive in the cozy room in Abisko after the long trip from Tromsø.

I love my new roof box, many things are out of the way and even the loaded car with the roof box on top doesn’t consume more fuel than the empty car home. A real surprise to me!

Conclusion: Definitely less driving in Norway when weather is bad! Or is there anyone out there that will give me a big jeep for free?

Kilometres so far: 1968.9

3. The accommodations

Should I feel guilty or have a bad conscience? I planned to tent quite often. But how many nights did I sleep in a tent by now? 0 – zero – nil! I should mention that I had good reasons: My tent needs tent pegs to stand erect. I even have special snow pegs that are great – if you have snow! Most Norwegian ground was snowless but deeply frozen, I would have needed a pneumatic hammer to ram in the pegs, and since we had a quite a lot of wind it was just impossible to erect the tent safely.

Now I’m back in Sweden, we have enough snow and I start thinking about the tent-thingie again. But on the other side: It’s so comfortable to sit in a chair, to take a hot shower, to use the laptop with wireless internet, to cook standing.

But I have to start to cut costs as well. I only have some friends on the way, most often I have to pay for a room. And that adds up within 82 days of travelling. I’ll guess you’ll read some tent stories in the near future …

Conclusion: Starting to tent but enjoying houses and huts, too.

4. The weather

First of all: I love winter! I adore winter!

I love snow. Huge amounts of snow. All less than a meter is a nothing!

I love crisp cold air, the colder the better (at least for some days). All above -35 °C is not really cold, is it?

I love bright clear blue sky in daytime and a starry night with or without Northern Lights.

I even love snow storms, especially if I’m inside in the warmth … . Being out I’m not too fond of strong winds and consider stormy weather as exhausting.

Let’s see: There was nothing for record hunting yet. The all-journey minimum was -23 °C, that’s nothing, I was looking for -40 °C below (That’s why I have a huge down parka, down pants and an extremely warm sleeping bag with me).

And the snow? 70 cm in Abisko? I’ve had more snow in Skelleftehamn every single winter the last years. And even now there’s much more snow in for example Älvsbyn (130 cm now, more to come) which is less then two hours away from my home. It feels a bit strange to make a long, long journey and have more snow near home.

On the other side there where many days with clear sky day and night, especially on the Vesterålen. Let’s see what the next weeks will bring …

Conclusion: Wait for two metres of snow, wait for -43 °C. Curse if it doesn’t happen and repeat the journey next winter …

5. The equipment

All equipment works great. I just have  to attach a new lace to the zippers of my photo-backpack, that’s all. But neither was it cold enough to use the expedition-style down clothes, nor did I use tent or petrol stove. But pot, bowl and spoon came in handy in the hut in Tromsø that had an electric cooker but no dishes and cutlery at all.

Camera works like a charm and so does the laptop. The iPhone hates the cold and even when battery is on 80% it will switch off itself when its below zero. That happened just today.

Conclusion: Make an equipment retrospect after the journey to be able to travel more lightweight next time. Ignore the learnings completely and stuff the car again.

6. Your thoughts?

As always, feel free to comment. I’m looking forward to your thoughts, your questions and your options.