Abisko: White snow, white sky

Day 18

Another ski tour today, not up the hills but down to the lake Torneträsk, which ist the seventh biggest lake in Sweden and 168 metres deep. But on the lake there’s a layer of at least 50 cm ice and a bit snow. This snow was so low in contrast that you could see just a uniform white without any structure at all. When I came to the first small island I could hardly see where the slope began. White snow, white sky.

I went half around the first nameless island and half across. Then it was only some hundred metres to the island Ábeskosuolu which is bigger and higher. I didn’t dare to climb the top with my skis but went around here and there. After taking a rest I continued to Abisko Turiststation, the big tourist station in Abisko. I went over the ice straight ahead.

Even on land I tried to continue quite directly, which was both quite stupid and quite funny, because the labyrinth of steep small hills was full with a thicket of birches. A snow hare looked at me from a safe distance. I guess he thought, I’m mad and perhaps the hare is right. I continued plunging through the deep snow taking many detours to come uphills until I reached the station. Arrival 13:45 – just in time to get a late lunch. I enjoyed especially the salad bar. After a rest and eating a bit too fast and too much I went back to the village Abisko, but this time on the direct way near the road and the railway line. That’s only two kilometres and I was soon home again.

Meanwhile home: A snow storm has covered Skellefteå and around with huge amounts of snow. Some people wrote on Facebook, they’d been snowed in. I looked at the photos and – yes – I, as a snow fan would love to could have shared this experience. But on the other side we had much snow in Skelleftehamn the last years, especially because the nearness to the coast. For example:

Here in Abisko wind starts to increase and snow shall come tonight, but just some centimetres.

Abisko: Where are the mountains?

Day 19

Where are the mountains? I guess they’re still there, they are hard to move. But I couldn’t see them the whole day. When I stood at the edge of the lake I could see the island Ábeskosuolu, 700 metres away, but the rest of the terrain was hidden in a greyish white. I guess it was less the falling snow but the blowing snow that hid the surroundings, because the wind was quite fresh and gusty. SMHI, the Swedish weather office published a level 1 warning for today: hård vind med snödrev/nederbörd (high wind with ground blizzard/precipitation).

Two other images of today, the first showing one of huge snowbanks that were built up on the houses lee side. The other shows the restaurant and bar from the outside with blowing snow.

Photographers note: I like the last photo of the restaurant’s outside. And I took it without a tripod: ISO 3200 35mm f/2.0 1/320 sec

 

Small battery – big trouble

Day 20 – the car doesn’t want to start …

Why I didn’t make so much yesterday? It was less because of the weather but more because of my car. I wanted to drive to Tornehamn where I’ve been last year, but …

My car had its own plans and thought about taking a day off (or two or three). I was totally unable to start it. So I had to change plans.

I talked with a German friend and based on my error description and especially the fact that the motor started without problem, when I got a jump start some days before, he was quite sure that my old battery just died from one day to another.

So I solidarised with my car and took it easy, too yesterday. But I wasn’t relaxed at all, because I was quite nervous. T. who rented out the house promised to help me today. But what, if he couldn’t help? If it’s not the battery? If it’s the car electronic? Of something else that needs a replacement part that takes one week to ship in? How will I come to the next car garage in Abisko? Will I ever make it to Jokkmokk? And so on, and so on.

So my mood was not the best yesterday and I even fantasised of being home and taking a hot bath …

Today in the morning I rang up a car garage. They didn’t have the right battery and couldn’t help me, but they could give my another telephone number. The second garage did have the battery and even time to change it today. Great!

Later today T. found time today to help me. He connected a spare battery. I tried to start once, twice, three times, but I couldn’t start the motor.

T. connected another battery in addition to that. I tried again – and was almost successful, but just almost, the motor still didn’t start.

I remembered my start help that I bought for the journey and that I charged just yesterday. We tried that – again in vain. I started to get really frustrated.

Meanwhile the motor of T’s car was warmed electrically and T. turned his car to jump-start mine. And – YES!  – it worked! I was so reliefed! Now I just had to take care that the motor won’t stop on the trip to Kiruna.

It took round an hour to reach Kiruna where I took the way to the car garage. To make a long story short: Yes, they had the battery, changed it in short time and my car started again like a charm. Phew!

When I started planning the trip I never ever thought about how much room the car (including the driving) will take place in my journey and even in this blog. Sometimes I think, the car should write way-up-north, not me.

Other things my car got today:

  • An examination of the tyres: Yes, they are in really good shape
  • Correct air pressure in the tyres
  • A lot of fuel
  • A new light bulb
  • Cooling liquid

Perhaps I’ll take the bicycle next time. But on the other hand these might get troublesome as well:

Nice evening in Kurravaara

Day 20 – a nice stay over night

Finally my car was up and running again and my mood improved almost instantly. From Kiruna it is only a short trip to Kurravaara where a friend works on a campsite. It was so nice to see him and meet some of his workmates. We finished the evening with a short and hot sauna. So relaxing after the stressful day.

On the photos: First the bastu – the sauna, then my home for a night.

It’s great here but I want to visit the market in Jokkmokk and have to carry on tomorrow. But I’ll be in Kiruna again at the end of February and this could be an opportunity to make another visit.

We’ll see …

Winter wonderland

Day 21 – Deep, deep snow

Today I left Kurrovaara. The narrow street back to the main road is quite steep and covered with new snow. My friend and a teammate took the ATV to plough the snow away for me. After that I started the road up. First it went well but then came a steep passage with a bent. And there I stood and didn’t come any further. My friend had to help me. He, who is both much more experienced with car driving and knows the way by heart drove my car up to the main road. I was so grateful, without him I guess I would have been forced to wait until summer to climb this road. Yes – another argument for having a car with a four wheel drive …

The rest of the journey was quite relaxing: Kiruna – Gällivare – then not the Nattavaaravägen as usual, but via Purnu. I was curious how deep the snow was and stopped beside plain terrain – I guess a meadow or a field. I took some steps through real deep snow and stopped. I just moved my legs a bit and down I went. I was standing shoulder deep in snow until I hit firm ground. Unbelievable! I tried some other places to make sure that I didn’t hit a hole in the ground, but more or less it was all the same: Breast to shoulder deep and that means 140 cm snow in average!

So it wasn’t only the coast, that got a lot of snow (Luleå got 113 cm and broke the old snow record from 1966), but the inland as well, Many places in Northern Sweden have more than one metre snow now.

I continued the journey and made a short stop in the Wilderness Lodge Solberget, where I’ll stay a whole week later this month. Since last Thursday they have got huge amounts of snow  – a neighbour talked about 60 cm on a single day – and the wind created snowdrifts up to three metres height. So they had a lot of work to dig out doors, windows, cars and much more. Just some impressions from today (much snow is shovelled away already):

After having a fika (the Swedish coffee break) and making these photos I continued to the village Murjek where I’ll stay for some days, mostly for visiting the famous winter market in Jokkmokk but perhaps a ski tour as well if it works with so much snow.

 

 

Murjek: Through the forest, over the bogs

Day 23: Ski tour in Murjek

After seven hours winter market in Jokkmokk yesterday I was in need of being in nature again. And today it was sunny, wind was calm and it was not very cold. Perfect weather for a relaxing tour. Half past nine I’ve packed my stuff and clipped on my skis. I followed the snow shoe trail, continued and came to the scooter trail along the power poles that I followed a bit.

As usual in winter when there is a lot of snow, many trees are in camouflage, disguised as geometric figures, abstract objects or strange animals.

Quite soon I left the scooter trail and took a unploughed way in direction northwest. On the way lay at least 80 cm snow, beside of it even more. But with the skis I hardly sank more than calf deep into the powder. That changed where the way ended and I crossed a forest. Sometimes I was knee deep in snow, later occasionally even up the hip if a small birch tree hid under the snow layer and I broke through. But soon I left the forest and came to a huge swamp or bog.

I followed the open land still heading north west. I thought about going up the hill shown in the photo above but I could see that it was a bit further away than expected and in addition to this completely tree-covered. I hardly would get a nice view up there. So I decided to change direction. Sometimes I was in woody patches with big trees quite easy to traverse. Sometimes it was a thicket of birches. These fellows use to bow under the heavy snow load until their treetops are under the snow. There they will freeze so that the birch trees builds arcs and bows. That sometimes can give you a hard time to find a way and sometimes I had to go over the birch trees to get ahead. Tree climbing with skis …

I tried to avoid these thickets but that’s not easy, you cannot see it on the map. But I was glad when I finally reached another huge swamp where I started my way back to Murjek. Perhaps just in time because the sun slowly started to go down.

I love these monotonous wastelands, but now I wanted to came home. I was hungry (I had no chocolates with me), the water in the plastic bottle started to freeze, my gloves where wet and half frozen and I started to feel exhausted. But I had to go some more kilometres according to GPS and map. Finally I came to a crossing – a crossing of snow mobile trails with a signpost showing the way to Jokkmokk, Vuollerim, some other places and – finally Murjek. Guess which trail wasn’t used since the last snowfalls …

… yes: 100 points. Murjek!. Even if I could guess the trail it was no help, the snow under the skis was as deep as before. Larger birches formed an archway above the trail.

That’s the last photo, I wanted to reach Murjek before dark. I followed the trail for some time until I came to a fallen tree that lay across. But on the other side I could see fresh scooter tracks. And the snow was stable. Finally I just could glide over the surface – glorious.  Now I headed for the small kiosk in the train station to buy some food (and yes, some sweets, too) and continued the main road to my nice and cozy room.

Résumé: 12.9 km, most of the time pathless. Great weather. Always great to be outdoors. Next time: A thermos again, because it was a bit colder than expected: -8 °C, when I came home. Plus extra gloves plus extra socks. I didn’t need the socks today but some tiny patches of the bog are still a bit wet under the snow and you never know …

Now the sky is completely cloudy and it started to snow a bit.

Planning for the next seven days.

In eight days I will be in Solberget again – that’s only 40 km away. What should I do in between? I’m still unsure.

Option 1: A ski tour in the Muddus nationalpark. A nice place – I’ve been there once. Disadvantage: There is much forest in the Muddus, wonderful and real old forest as a matter of fact. I don’t have a big backpack with me, only the pulka (a sled for drawing things behind) and I’m not quite sure if it is smart to use a pulka in forests. I’ll have to check it.

Option 2: Finding some nice spots nearby and sleep in my tent, making some day trips with skis. This may be the easiest option.

Option 3: Driving back to Riksgränsen via Kiruna and Abisko. I would love to do it for some reasons, mostly the weather. But the same weather may make this option impossible.

Today smhi (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) published a warning class 2 (up to 25 m/s average winds in combination with dense snow showers). So I guess the roads will be closed again and I cannot get to Riksgränsen.

And the snow in Riksgränsen? According to the forecast of klart: Today 22 mm, tomorrow 19 mm, Sunday 5, Monday 21, Tuesday 35, Wednesday 19. That’s 120 cm in six days. In combination with the storms (more to come) probably neither weather for tenting or doing ski tours alone, not to mention taking photos showing something different than a greyish white.

Option 4: Driving to Kvikkjokk and doing ski day trips there. Hm, maybe …

Option 5: Driving northeast to Pajala near the Finnish border. Hm, maybe …

There are much more options than these five and I have to decide tomorrow. I would love option 3, since I love extreme winter weather. but it’s probably not realistic. I have to check the forecasts again tomorrow.

Addendum: Now the whole Northern Sweden got a weather warning class 1 for tomorrow: Wind gusts up to 24 m/s, that’s beaufort number 9.

Dear blog readers: Your comments? Ideas? Suggestions?

Jokkmokks marknad

Day 22 – the winter market in Jokkmokk

The first weekend in February is the traditional date for the winter market in Jokkmokk – the Jokkmokks marknad – that took place the 410th time this year. Quite a long history – the first market, long before Jokkmokk exists, was 1605.

I’ve been in Jokkmokk on Thursday, which is the quietest day. From Murjek, where I’m just now, it’s round an hour car drive to Jokkmokk. I arrived 9:00, quite early. Most marketers just started to unfold their market stalls or to unpack their goods. I went down to the lake where the dog sledging was prepared. Most of the dogs were still in their stables in the car trailer, but they longed to come out and to run. But it was only a matter of time until ten dogs where attached to the sledge and the first tourists could take a small tour over the lake.

Tore Sankari, FinlandI went back to the market and met Tore Sankari, one of the marketers that I already met in Byske some months ago. He has been trading fur and many other goods for more than 45 years. But he told me, that the market is smaller than usual this year. Some of the long-established marketers didn’t come. And I could see as well, that some of the streets, packed with stalls some years ago where empty this year.

I talked to some marketers. Many of them are old men, travelling around, buying and selling goods as fur products, knives, warm clothes and things for everyday life. I guess some of them had stopped their businesses, some other will do it in the next years. Will there be a younger generation to follow or will this half-nomadic lifestyle extinct? I don’t have an answer.

What is traded on the Jokkmokks market? I would divide it in three parts:

  • Traditional goods, Swedish and Samian. Shoes made of reindeer skin, woolen Lovikka mittens, fur products, knifes.
  • Modern everyday goods. Sweets, toys, fishing equipment, tractors.
  • Art handicrafts. Samian fashion, jewellery, paintings, thinks made of birch root and bark.

But have a look by yourself. Just some examples:

At two o’clock i went to the reindeer race. It’s always fun to see the reindeers galloping drawing a sledge with a man or woman cheering their draught animal.

Seven hours after arrival I left the winter market and drove back. Actually I thought about visiting the market twice but I left it with the impression, that I have seen all. Next day I wanted to be out in the nature again. And that’s what I did.

The storm arrives

Day 26 – February 7

After the yesterdays ski tour I took it easy today and just made a minor car trip to Högträsk near Murjek. You could see that on some places snow mixed with wind has created huge snow banks.

And you could see as well drifting snow, because the wind started to increase.

In the afternoon the wind gusts became stronger and stronger. The roads in Norway and the Swedish mountains already were closed again due to a severe storm and even the Northern Swedish inland got a level 2 warning forecasting: Gusts up to 25-28 m/s. We almost waited for a power blackout and it came – but surprisingly only for a minute.

When I went out I was immediately covered with cold snow powder. Whether it fell from the clouds or was just whirled up from roofs and ground I cannot say. And I was still unsure where I should continue my journey the next day …

Where to go? Undecided yet …

Day 27

On Sunday I left Murjek and continued my journey. To be honest: I would have loved to be in the Swedish-Norwegian mountains in the storm, and even another storm and masses of snow where forecasted. But …

  • … some roads were closed and other road were strongly discouraged to use
  • … beside of some expensive hotels no rooms were available in Riksgränsen
  • … and tenting would by suicidal (at least with my lack of experience)
  • … the avalanche risk could be extremely high
  • … I couldn’t make any photos in full snowstorm
  • … I couldn’t make any tours neither

So I had reluctantly decided not to drive to the mountains.

I left Murjek and went on to Nattavaara, where I turned right to Purnu (where I made the deep snow images some days before). I realized that I had not so much petrol left. Should I be forced to drive to Gällivare only to refuel the car? No, I was lucky – there was a small petrol station in Hakkas.

I continued a small road heading to Satter and Ullatti, and it felt nice to visit new places. I haven’t even heard the names. Sky was blue, with temperatures round -10 °C it was not so cold and you could see, that there’s much snow. But you could see the impact of the storm and quite warm weather, too: Almost all trees where bare of snow. As a matter of fact it looked like it was end of March – a typical vårvinter (spring-winter) day. As a photographer I dislike this weather. The snowless trees look a bit boring and there’s a lot of needles, bark, twigs and other things on the snow which doesn’t look nice on photos. But some pics anyway …

I continued to Tärendö, that has a town sign in three languages: Swedish, Samian and Finish. This shows that there are more languages spoken than Swedish in this area of Lapland. I liked the small petrol station that looked a bit “Wild West” in some way beside perhaps of the two completely snowed in cars.

I turned left and took the way to Saittarova. I thought about sleeping in the tent and looked for a parking place where I could go into nature a bit. But instead of finding a good place I found a moose. A moose that didn’t ran away when I backed the car to take a photo. But seconds after the photo the moose and another one paced with big, large steps into the forest.

After this nice incident I continued to the crossing and turned right into the 395 to Pajala. Shortly before Mäntykero I hit my place: A parking place and a flat swamp area with some pine trees.

I parked the car and left the comfort zone …

Appendix: Some words about Ole:

The storm Ole, that hit Norway and Sweden yesterday has been one of the strongest in the last ten years and had wind gusts over 50 m/s (that’s 180 km/h). For comparison: Beaufort number 12, “Hurrican Force” (orkan in germanic languages) starts already with 32.6 m/s.

Link: Så voldsom var «Ole» (yr.no, Norwegian)

Leaving the comfort zone

Night 27

Last night I decided to tent and just before the village Mäntykero I hit a place. I started to pack my pulka with the most important stuff: Tent, stove, food, camping mat, warm sleeping bag, camera, head lamp and some more. My plan was to go into the snowy landscape some hundred metres to get some distance to the road.

But the way was hard! The snow hardly bore me and every time when I pulled the pulka I went down knee deep into the snow. With skis on! Then I had to climb up just to stand knee deep in powder again two meters later. I guess, it took me almost ten minutes to go 100 meters.

Earlier than planned I stopped and decided to erect the tent. I started to “bulldoze” an area 3 x 4 metres with my skis on to harden the snow and make place for the tent. Normally this snow should stabilise quite soon, but not this sort. It stayed loose for many, many hours. When I tried to put a tent peg (the huge ones for snow) into the ground I could easily push it down to the frozen swampy ground without meeting any resistance. Like pulling a tent peg into a basin of styrofoam pellets! I had to put on much more snow and tramp down again and again to harden the snow. I was so glad that it was only 80cm of snow at this place, not 150cm or even more. And I was glad that we didn’t had any wind at all.

Finally the tent stood – more or less erect. Two skies and poles in four corners and only some pegs – no wind to come. The next thing to do: Cooking, because it can take a long, long time in winter time.

The short version (some outdoor topics following later): It took much time to cook but finally I got my instant noodles with pesto. But I disliked them, they were overcooked and not far away from disgusting. Remember: When you eat warm food outside you will burn your tongue in the first half and eat cold or even half-frozen food in the second half. One of the lesser comfortable things of winter tenting.

Finally I wasn’t hungry and thirsty anymore. It was round half past six and beside of some lights from passing cars on the street it was pitch black.

Um …

Well …

Boring!

I had no book to read (could by a cold pleasure, too), I had no friend to talk with, it was quite dull and just boring. So I decided to sleep half past seven. It went just so-so. I woke up quite often and couldn’t sleep. The iPhone is useless in the cold so I used it diving deep down into my warm sleeping back but only for a minute or two.

I had to go out several times and that was the fun part of the tenting. I could see how it started snowing (only two cm), I could see the moon illuming the snowy flats, I could see the temperature drop down to -22 °C (almost record on this quite warm winter journey!) and finally after many one- or two-hour naps I could see the lilac clouds heralding the sun rise.

Again it took time to cook my “muesli” and some water for tea but because we hadn’t any wind at all I could cook outside – luxury! Eating was fast as usual before food starts to get cold or even freeze.

Then I packed my stuff, unpacked the tent, put it all into or onto the pulka and went back to the car. As I hoped, I could go in my old tracks without sinking to deep. Therefore I was back in the car quite soon. I tried to brush away all snow before loading my equipment into the car. Three hours later after standing up I started the motor and continued my journey to Pajala.

Conclusion:

I love winter tenting when I’m on a tour over several days, but I consider it time consuming and uncomfortable when I’m travelling by car and only use it as a cheap sleeping opportunity. But most of all do I prefer to do it with a friend, because that’s much more fun and even the time for erecting the tent, cooking and so one reduces dramatically.

Plan for winter 2015/2016: As many ski tours with old and new friends as possible!

Outdoor details:

Some stories, thoughts and tipps.

I asked myself, how should I tent, when there is much more snow, lets say two metres. Digging down? Fixing the tent to some trees. And what do you do, if you have deep and loose snow and storm. I don’t know.

I’m using a multifuel stove and use petrol as fuel. I have to admit, that I dislike my stove, it acts like a diva and it’s not so easy to find the right combination of pressure, opening and closing valves and preheating. And it always smells a bit petrol. Yesterday Lars from Vildmarksmekka gave me the tipp to use a common Trangria in combination with “Tenol”, a mixture of methyl alcohol and ethanol. He has used it without any problems with temperatures down to -37 °C. I have to check out this.

Lars tipped me off that I could use much longer skis to avoid sinking into the snow. Much longer means at least three meters! I think that’s great for open terrain, but I don’t want to get stuck in a birch thicket with them.

Note to myself: Buy better food! Food preparation takes a long time outdoors and it’s disappointing, if it doesn’t taste well. Avoid “Snabb makkaroni”.

I have a extremely warm sleeping bag and an Exped Down Mat as a camping mat. The sleeping bag was always too warm for -15 °C, but fine and cozy when temperatures dropped below -20 °C. First I thought, that the down mat was broken because It lost all air after some minutes. Fortunately it was only a valve, that I didn’t close properly.

Next time I would avoid making photos in the tent. Too much moisture so that the lens got fogged and the moisture froze on the lens.

I didn’t want to leave my laptop in the cold car and put it down in the sleeping back while sleeping. Not so comfortable, but it worked. Anyway should MacBook-Pro-computers cope coldness down to -25 °C without any problems, at least as long they’re off.

Clothes can get wet and all things that got wet will freeze. I had a hard time to use my gaiters the next morning. Putting on the ski trousers was like putting on cold planks and the gloves were frozen as well. I have to check for solutions …

I had the luxury that I used the tent only for one night. I could dry both tent and sleeping bag the day after. Otherwise I would use a vapour barrier liner, a plastic bag you wear inside of the sleeping bag to prevent moisture going into the down filling and freeze. Anyway you will have ice round the hood where you will breeze into in the night.

Plans: Learn to erect a tent in deep snow. Learn to erect a tent in storm. Check the Trangia stove with tenol. Check how I can prevent clothes from freezing or how I can minimise the effect.

Loma Vietonen – a special place

Day 27-28 (and day -4372 to -4357): To the origin of my love for being way up north.

Yesterday morning I was in Pajala, which is quite near to Finland and since I had some days left before I would spend a week on Solberget, it felt quite logical to cross the border to Finland. And I already had a destination in mind, just 150 km away.

But before I continue let’s enter a time machine and go 13 years and 17 days back in time.

That’s when I flew from Düsseldorf, Germany to Rovaniemi, Finland where I got a lift to a place called Loma Vietonen. It was the first time that I was way up north (The north peak of Denmark was the northernmost place before) and it was the first time that I experienced a real winter. The first meter-deep powder snow, the first temperatures round -35 °C, the first skiing on snowmobile tracks, the first time standing on the big lake Iso Vietonen and watching my first northern lights. I saw my first reindeers, ate my first cloudberries and took my first tours with snow shoes. I tried ice fishing the first time and made a dogsled tour the first time. And I was so touched by these experiences, that I probably would have moved to Finland if not the Finnish language would have been so hard to learn. That’s when my way-up-north story really began.

Back to yesterday: I was cheerful and in high spirits when I entered Finland, turned right and headed to Iso Vietonen. I just wanted to see this place again. When I parked the car it was a bit like coming to an old aunts house – so long ago but still familiar. I entered the main building and asked for a room. And I was lucky, they had exactly one room left for me including breakfast. Great!

I sniffed around, went down to the lake, took a picture of the house I was accommodated at 13 years ago and finally took my skis and just went on a snowmobile track. It was fun just gliding smoothly without thinking. What a difference to my 100 meters some days before! A Finnish folk song came into my mind.

And in the evening I even met Aira and Mikko, who ran Loma Vietonen when I was here the first time. The same Aira who sang that Finnish folk song and I played the piano.

Today weather was warm with temperatures round zero but it was sunny and quite calm. I did a ski tour, both following the trails, loosing them accidentally or on purpose, climbed the hill Sompanen, went down again and had fun.

But it’s funny because so many things became normal since I moved to Skelleftehamn in Sweden almost five years ago. Yes, we have snow, too, and snowmobiles and Northern Lights. The next ice fishers use to sit less than 200 meters away from my house, I use my skis in the forests we have. I eat cloudberries and even try to collect them. Last winter we got 83 cm snows in 24 hours. Some things I still love, others became part of my everyday life.

But it’s great to be able to visit this special place, where it all started. Probably the origin of my life in Northern Sweden A good reason to feel a bit nostalgic today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Arctic SnowHotel

I’ve seen the famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, the SnowCastle in Kemi, Finland, but I didn’t know the Arctic SnowHotel near Rovaniemi, Finland. Today morning I saw tourists at Loma Vietonen showing photos and since it wasn’t so far away I made a detour today and visited the Arctic SnowHotel. It’s much smaller than the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi and perhaps less impressive, but I liked it anyway. The ice bar is a beautiful room and much cosier than the bigger pendant in Jukkasjärvi. Behind the main building you can find something really unique: An ice sauna. Beside of the stove and wooden benches this steam sauna is completely build of ice. Each usage will melt away 3mm of ice, therefore each sauna can be used only 50 – 70 times until the walls get holes or just too thin. But there’re spare saunas waiting to be used.

Some images:

The tame reindeer by the way was extremely curious. It came directly, sniffed with its soft nose at my hand in hope for some goodies. It poses there some hours a day for tourists and lives the rest of the day with other reindeers nearby. I came in time, it will loose its antlers within the next two weeks.

A week on Solberget in Swedish Lapland

Day 31 …

Just a short note: Yesterday I arrived at Solberget in Swedish Lapland, a place where I’ve been many times before. Since internet is slow and Solberget is not connected to the power grid I’ll take a break and
probably won’t blog, as long as I’ll stay here.

Yesterday we had an incredible starry sky so clear like I’ve hardly seen it before. Temperatures dropped down to -24 °C (still not really cold for Lapland in February but this winter is quite mild). A very faint polar light was visible above the northern horizon but vanished soon again.

Now, the next morning, the sky became cloudy and temperatures rose to -14 °C. Why I’m here for a week and what I’ll do, I’ll write later in another blog article.

A ski tour near Tornehamn

Day 40

After leaving Solberget together with Annika on Saturday, we drove to Abisko where we made a marvellous day trip on skis yesterday.

We started in Tornehamn north from Björkliden with quite cold weather (-17 °C) and deep blue sky. We were surrounded by the snow covered mountains and birch trees packed with hoar frost that sparkled in the sun. After some hundred meters on the lake Torneträsk we followed a winter path marked with red crosses. When we looked back into the sun we could see tiny ice flakes that gleamed goldenly in the sun.

Mostly the way was very easy to ski but some short parts were quite steep. No problem for the snow mobiles that left many tracks on and beside the trail but not so easy for us with skis.

After a couple of kilometres we followed the hiking trail Nordkalottruta northward. This trail isn’t marked in winter time but since all the tiny lakes were completely frozen we chose our own way northward to the bridge over the small river Niuoraeatnu. The terrain is hilly and mostly we want zigzag to avoid the steeper slopes. On a hill top after a quite steep ascent we made our first break and had a view over Lapporten.

We continued climbing small hills, skiing through birch forests along slopes with cornices until we finally came to a steeper slope down to the river Njuoraeatnu with the chain bridge overstretching the river.

While it was quite easy crossing the river that still was partly open it was quite difficult to continue our tour. We didn’t dare to go on the river, therefore we had to go up the hill. This part was so steep that we had to unmount our skis and go uphill without. Not too easy in metre deep snow …

Phew – that was exhausting but finally we were up on another hill ready for a lunch break. The wind increased and clouds gathered. Therefore we continued to a small bay of the Torneträsk where we found shelter from the wind for a longer break. We put on our down jackets, drank hot tea and ate sandwiches and chocolate. (Tip: Ham freezes, feta cheese works fine.)

Eventually we had to continue our ski trip; day light wouldn’t last forever. We went round the peninsula Stállobieskkenjárga against the wind. The wind increased and increased and slowed us down. I put on the fleece balaclava and tightened the fur rimmed hood to get as much wind protection as possible. The landscape lay grey in grey and all you could hear was the wind with its stormy gusts. It started to get dusky. What a contrast to the first part of our ski tour!

Slowly we continued to the southeast tip of the peninsula where we crossed the bay Njuoreanunjálbmi. Finally we reached Tornehamn again, entered the car and drove to the Abisko Mountain Lodge where we got our reward: A hot chocolate and a cool Coke.

Tack för turen, Annika – thanks for the tour.

 

Riksgränsen – not my cup of tea

Day 41

Today Annika and I drove to Riksgränsen, a place near the Norwegian border. I was curious because this is a place with a lot of snow, 151 cm were measured yesterday. Riksgränsen is 36 km away from Abisko, so we took the car. Our plan was to take a shorter ski tour but to check first if we could get a lunch afterwards. We turned right and were on a minor road with a parking place to the right and a grocery store ahead. Behind the store a sign: No trespassing. First I thought that I missed the way to the village, but no, that’s the only road.

I entered the store to ask for the way to the hostel. I should ignore the sign and continue the road. I see. We found the hostel behind a bend, but all entrances were blocked with locked metal doors. No doorbell, no way to come in. Luckily an employee left the hostel and told us that the reception is in the hotel nearby where we would get a door code. I see. We could take a brief look in the hostel that looked more like a prison with its dark corridor and the many doors. We left the hostel, continued by car and mostly I saw snow, some buildings and prohibition signs.

The hotel looked nice inside but didn’t had any lunch. Lunch was served on two places, one nearby and another only reachable by skis because that’s what Riksgränsen is made for: Taking the chairlift uphill and ski downhill.

To be honest, I never ever saw a place in Sweden that I disliked so much and that was so uninviting as Riksgränsen. It’s not about the people, there are nice as in most places all over the world. It’s about missing way signs, locked doors, key codes, outdated information and a general ugliness. What a contrast to the yesterdays ski tour through the fantastic Swedish landscape.

First we thought about driving back to Abisko directly, but then we took the readymade 3.4 km cross-country ski trail. I don’t know if it was the weather, my dislike for the place or the fact that I prefer following my own route, but I was quite bored by just following the loipe through the Swedish fjäll. I was glad to leave the place and return to Abisko were we took a lunch in the Abisko Mountain Lodge.

If you love downhill skiing, Riksgränsen could be an option for you, otherwise I would recommend to avoid this place in winter time.

 

Lapporten – Fire and ice

Today Annika and I are in Björkliden, a real nice place in our opinion. But I fell into some kind of tourist mode and was much too lazy to take many pictures today. Just two pictures of the famous Lapporten from the inside of the Hotell Fjället:

OK, one more picture, the upper storey of the hostel:

That’s all for today, a lazy day. Tomorrow we’ll be driven up to the Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge, 1228 meters above sea level, for a overnight stay.

Låktatjåkko – between ski tour and luxury

Day 43 and 44

Yesterday it promised to be a fine day with great weather. The mountain valley Lapporten was gleaming and glowing in the early sun.

Annika und I planned to go to Låktatjåkko, the highest Swedish mountain lodge, where we planned to stay overnight and even to eat a three course dinner. It’s not far away from Björkliden where we started, but parts are quite steep. Therefore we decided to take the snow cat, that drives to Låktatjåkko every day. And I could sit in the front to take pictures.

After the first steep passage we left the snow cat, took our skis and backpacks and continued the way on our own. The view over the snowy mountains and the lake Torneträsk was just amazing.

But some steep passages waited for us and after the first longer part we made a longer rest enjoying the sun, food and our warm down jackets.

After a while we continued our tour, short in kilometres but still quite steep, at least without skins. But finally the Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge came into view.

We were greeted by the two women running the Lodge. We asked how many people would stay over night. “Just you two”. And how many people will eat the three course dinner? “Just you two”. Now the pure luxury part began. We had a sauna, we sat in the fireplace room the fire already lit and at 7 p.m. we got a fantastic dinner, just the two of us! And we just did nothing for it. Almost a bit crazy!

After a snowy and quite windy night I went outside to take some pictures. The light was so diffuse, that it was hard to see where terrain went up or down. Therefore we took a quite relaxed morning waiting for the snow cat to come and bring us down into civilisation again.

Thank you, Ulrika and Yanina for the great service and the fantastic food. This is a place where we would love to be snowed in for a while.

 

A day trip into the valley Vistasdalen

Day 45 – a ski tour into the valley Vistasdalen

Today Annika and I made a shorter ski tour into the valley Vistasdalen. Some sun, some clouds and a beautiful views on the snowy mountain scenery. 6 km into the valley, 7 km back, partly on snow mobile and ski trails, partly cross country on soft and loose snow through small birch forests, over bog, lakes and small frozen rivers. Four barking dogs, a snow grouse, a lonely cabin and many, many moose tracks.