Kungsleden ski tour: From Nikkaluokta to Singi

It was 2005 when I was asked by C. from Switzerland, if I wanted to join him on a ski tour on the Kungsleden – the King’s trail. That’s how I came to my first ski tour in the mountains of Swedish Lapland. More tours followed, but sometimes it was hard to find a tour mate. Same thing this year; that’s why I decided to do my first ski tour on my own.

Kungsleden would be ideal for that, since there’s infrastructure as mountain huts and I won’t be alone. Good to know, since even twisting an ankle could be a serious problem in winter if no one’s around. I wanted to start 19 February, the day, when the huts open.

After a long trip I reached Nikkaluokta (many thanks to A. for the lift from Kiruna!) on the evening of the 17th I had one spare day in one of the cosy cabins of family Sarri. This place can be very cold and I had a look at the digital thermometer in the cabin: -44.8 °C minimum since the last reset – brr, that had been a cold day!

I climbed the small church hill and looked west. That’s were I’ll go the next day.

From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise Fjällstation

19 February · 19 km · Link to map

Time: 7:40, temperature -17 °C, weather: cloudy. Time to start the tour. I mount my skis, put the belt of the pulka (a sled for transportation) round my hips and after some gliding steps I see the first mark of the winter way to Kebnekaise.

It’s the only mark for a long time, the winter way to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation is not marked, neither on the map nor in real. But it’s easy to find the way, since many snowmobiles take this way and you only have to follow their tracks. Soon I’m at the place where the trail crosses the stream Čievrragorsa. In summer I used the chain bridge, In winter the snowmobile goes right over the frozen and snow covered stream. I can hear the sound of water running underneath the ice – a strange feeling.

After some kilometers I come to the lake Láddjujávri. Here you can eat waffles with cloudberries or burgers at “Lap Dånalds” and even take the boat over the lake to shorten your trip a bit. Well – in summer …

Hardly imaginable that I took a bath here six month ago on a hot summer day, when I was here with Annika. Not it’s winter, all is closed down, the boats lie on land and are covered with snow and I’m completely alone. Anyway it’s not too cold and I take a first rest on my tour. Without waffles, without a refreshing bath, but with the same beautiful view as in summer, since the sky starts to clear up and one mountain top after the other starts to get free from clouds, fogs and haze.

When I continue my tour over the ice of the frozen lake I soon can see the same mountain range as I did in summer. And it’s as beautiful as in summer, too.

After some kilometres the trail leaves the lake and continues through scattered birch forests and over frozen swamps, some of them covered with ice. The weather is fine and sky is of a clear blue with some clouds.

Another rest, this time on top of a rock, with hot tea, chocolate, and a bit of salami. What a beautiful day! I could sit here for hours, but I shouldn’t. I have to reach the huts of the Kebnekaise Fjällstation. I do reach them, but before that I have to work. The trail ascends and I have to make wide V-steps with my skis to be able to pull the pulka uphills. Finally I arrive. This mountain resort is quite huge, since Kebnekaise is the highest mountain in Sweden and very popular among hikers, skiers, and climbers. Anyway it is not opened yet beside of the cabin Jägarn (“the hunter”). Here I’ll stay overnight before I’ll continue to the Singistugorna the next day. Twice I climb on the small hill with the radio mast, first after sundown, then at half past six – where I see the first polar light of the tour.

From Kebnekaise Fjällstation to the Singistugorna

20 February · 14 km · Link to map

When I wake up sky is blue again and -17 °C. I take a short breakfast with muesli and prepare for leaving. That means: packing all things – doing the dishes – cleaning the kitchen and my bed room – checking that I have everything with me – putting on skis and pulka belt. Meanwhile the sky is overcast and it has started snowing. Weather can change quickly in the mountains.

After I have walked some kilometres it clears up a bit, just so much, that you can see some mountain tops shining through the hazy fog.

When I enter the narrow passage of the valley the mountain tops hide again, which is a pity. The mountains here are so beautiful.

There is not much snow in the mountains this winter. Parts of the marked winter way lead over stony passages with no snow at all. I have to go round these passages to avoid ruining my skis and pulka. Mostly I follow the snowmobile tracks, hoping that the locals know the best way.

This way leads over the frozen river, but sometimes it’s hard to see, since the snow under the overcast whitish-grey sky don’t show any contours. Wind increases, snow falls as well and the snow starts to drift in the increasing wind. In the narrow valley between the mountains Siŋŋičohhka and Liddubákti more snow lies on the ground which makes it easier to ski but worse to see.

That’s when you are really glad about the winter way marks: Red crosses set on long poles. Sadly plastic crosses are used nowadays. They are ugly, in my opinion harder to see and many of them are broken. But I’m glad to have them anyway. They do not only show you the way, they help you even in guessing whether it’s going up or down, which you cannot see, if visibility and sight are poor.

I always have compass and a good map with me on such tours. Anyway, if you cannot see any landmark these tools are of limited help if you do not count steps or know how fast you are on your skis. That’s when a GPS can be very handy. When I make another rest, longing for the mountain huts Singistugorna, the GPS revealed, that it’s only 970 meter to go. Easy!

Well, not really. The valley opens, wind increases and there are many rocks and snow-free parts on my way. I decide to circumnavigate a steeper passage and ski a bit to the right. To my big amazement I don’t go down but keep on level. Suddenly I feel part of the ground collapsing a bit and realise that I stand on the rim of a soft snow drift, about two meter high. It was absolutely impossible to see it. I’m lucky, that I didn’t fell down! I go back and circumnavigate my circumnavigation until I’m on the marked trail again. There I can see the cabins shining through the drifting and blowing snow. It takes some time to find a good way down to Singi but finally I arrive. Here the wind seems to be even stronger and the snow falls even more intense.

Stugvärd J. shows me my room, light fires in the ovens of the kitchen and my bed room and allows me to take my pulka inside since I’m the only guest. After doing some work he leaves and heads to his own cabin against hard wind and snow.

According to the forecast wind will increase even more and snow fall round 20 cm are expected. I’m glad, that I have time and plan to stay at least one other day in the Singistugorna, perhaps two.

The next article: Singi – from blizzard to clear sky >>

Kungsleden ski tour: Singi – from blizzard to clear sky

Singi day #1 – 21. February

That’s me on the picture above. It’s 3:45 in the night. I can hear the storm shaking the cabin and howling in all chimneys. When I look out through another window (this one is completely covered with a layer of snow), I can see that it’s still snowing a lot. But it doesn’t help, I have to go to the loo. And since the toilet is a utedass – an earth closet round 50 meters away, I have to dress for it: The headlamp to find my way through the blizzard, the parka to stay warm and the ski goggles for more comfort when I go back against the snow storm.

Some hours later: The blizzard lasts the whole day. Sometimes you cannot see the other cabins standing 50 meters away – just whiteout. Most of the day I stay inside, either in “my” cabin, which I have completely for myself or I visit J., the stugvärd, in his cabin. But I got out to make some pictures (all made with a 35mm lens):

Singi day #2 – 22. February

Still the wind howled, still snowfall from the sky the next day, but I could see some stars shimmering through the clouds above. And after a short while the snowfall stopped and the overcast sky started to clear up. It’s really nice if you’re able to see something again:

I left the cabins for a short ski tour to the near sami village Goržževuoli. Still some snow crystals fell from the clouds above, still snow was drifting over the white ground, but when I looked back, I could see the sun illuminating this landscape with golden and almost magical colours.

After a while sky cleared up and the weather went “normal”. I took some pictures in the village, which is abandoned, at least in winter time. The buildings are a mixture of wooden houses and traditional sami buildings called kåta.

After I while I headed back over white and untouched snow. I love making the first tracks on fresh snow!

When I came back to Singi, wind increased again. The stugvärd told me, that Singi is quite exposed to wind. I crouched behind a two meter high snow drift to make a photo of the drifting snow. After that I had to dry my lens since the snow dust was everywhere.

The blizzard of the last day created snowdrifts up to three meter high and up to 60 meters long behind the lee side of the cabins.

If you are in a mountain hut, you’ll experience big contrasts: Storm or bright sky – inside or outside – day or night. The following two pictures show the same day:

I was quite busy with keeping the hut warm. It has wooden stoves, one for the kitchen, one for each sleeping room. It takes a lot of wood to keep such a cabin warm, especially when strong winds cool it down (and even accelerate the burning). In the morning I had temperatures round 0 °C and was glad about my warm down filled sleeping bag. The wood on the King’s trail comes in long logs. The stugvärd will cut it up to one meter long logs, the rest is up the the guests. The guests? That’s me! I guess I sawed and hacked wood four or five times to keep the fire running and – even more important – to leave enough wood for those that will come after me.

Later in the evening the full moon rose behind the snow covered mountain chain, surrounded by a halo. I just love standing out in the wintry mountains when the moon lights the scenery. Just beautiful.

The next article: Sälka >>

Kungsleden ski tour: Sälka

From the Singistugorna to the Sälkastugorna

23 February · 12 km · Link to map

After I stayed in Singi for two days, I continued to Sälkastugorna (or short Sälka), the next mountain hut. The sky was overcast but the sight was good.

The first part took a bit of time, since there were some quite steep snowdrifts to cross, which is not so easy with the pulka always dragging down. After a while the clouds declined, it started to snow and the sight worsened a bit.

Soon the tiny hut Kuoperjåkka came into sight. You can rest in this hut and it even has a little oven, but only for emergency situations. I shovelled away the snow in front of the door, entered the hut and took a small break. Not that I already was tired after five kilometres, but it’s nice to sit there sheltered from snow and wind and look through the window – even if you hardly can see something. (Taking away the door of the toilet would take longer time as you can see on the second photo.)

After the break I continued the tour. Wind increased and I put on the fur rimmed hood. There was not much to see. When I looked down I could see the blue tips of my skis, when I looked up I could see some waymarks, perhaps some rocks or a tuft of grass. Looking down – looking up – the movements are repetitive, even meditative. Looking down – looking up – what’s that? Sälka is already in view. It’s not a long way from Singi to Sälka, just twelve kilometres.

Arriving in Sälka was like a culture shock. In Singi I was the only guest, here I could see a bunch of pulkas standing outside and when I entered the kitchen of the open hut, it was stuffed with people! 18 people fit in this hut (plus two extra in a tiny locked room) and 18 people we were. 18 people firing the oven and drying their shoes … . Jungle climate! But I got my bed and a place to cook, that’s all you really need.

… and a sauna. It’s not essential to have a sauna, but it’s great, especially, when you can pour a bucket full with hot water over yourself feeling refreshed and clean again.

After the sauna I sat inside, prepared and ate my pasta and chatted with the other people, that came from Belgium, Germany and the US. The weather once again became bad. Wind became stormy and it started to snow more heavily. When people went to the utedass – the earth toilet, 200 meters away, they were clad like for an arctic expeditions: face masks, ski goggles, heavy mittens, headlamps – all for a walk to the toilet.

But as fast weather can worsen, it can improve as well. One hour later the snowfall stopped, the wind fell asleep, sky cleared up and the moon lightened the valley and the nearby mountains. It’s these contrasts I love!

A short day trip into the Stuor Reaiddavággi

24 February

The next day I made a short trip up into the Stuor Reaiddavággi. “vággi” is the sami name for valley and this valley leads to Nallo, another mountain hut that was still closed. You can sleep in closed huts, too, they always have an open emergency room, but you’re completely on your own. I didn’t plan to go to Nallo, even if it’s only 9 km.

(Today I think, I should have done it, since Nallo is one of the huts with the most beautiful location I know.)

Anyway, I just went up – first to a ravine, then I climbed up the slope following the Stuor Reaiddavággi. The sky cleared up more and more and all mountain tops came into view. Sälka was miles away and I was alone by myself amid of this great mountainscape.

After a while and a short break with tea and raisins I returned “home” to the Sälkastugorna. The plan for the next day: Continuing my ski tour to Tjäktja.

The next article: Tjäktja >>

Kungsleden ski tour: Tjäktja

From the Sälkastugorna to Tjäktjastugan

25 February · 12 km · Link to map

This day could be a more demanding day. It’s only 12 km to Tjäktja, but first of all i goes up 300 meters and then there’s Tjäktjapasset – the mountain pass, which I remember as being quite steep. In 2005 I skied down the slope, now I have to go up, dragging the pulka behind.

That’s why I started quite early this day. In my pulka: a parcel with food from the shop that stugvärd Z. gave me for stugvärd P. – one kilo more or less doesn’t count so much if you doesn’t have to carry it on your back.

When I started the tour the sky was still cloudy, but soon the clouds disappeared, sun was shining and the sky was blue. I was happy, since according to the weather forecast I expected the whole week being grey and cloudy. Far away in the early sun I could see a chain of mountain – there’s the Tjäktjapass, still far away, and it looked high and steep.

This was the first time that I had skins under my skis that help going up, especially if you carry a pulka that always wants to slide down. The trail led through a hilly landscape and I had to climb many small hills just to go down on the other side of the hill. I asked myself how I should gain altitude going just up and down. Anyway, the landscape was gorgeous, just as the weather, and when I looked back after some time I could see, that I gained more height than I thought. First I could see small brown boxes laying behind – the Sälkastugorna – but after some time they disappeared behind the hilly landscape.

I continued my tour and saw a black bird ahead. It cawed and landed on a dark spot beside another bird. Crows. I remembered, that one of the skiers that I met in Sälka, told me, that he saw a dead reindeer on his way from Tjäktja. This reindeer was killed by a wolverine, one of the biggest carnivores in Scandinavia. I approached the dark spot, the craws cawed again and flew away. There was a heap of something and beside of some patches of reindeer skin it was hardly recognisable. The sight of a frozen hump of meat is neither nice nor beautiful, but it is part of a country, where predators as wolves, bears, lynxes or wolverines still exist.

After taking some photos for this blog I continued my tour. Two other skiers approached from the other side – they just slided down in long, relaxed steps. I however had to climb up. Now, where the pass was near, it was visible that it was neither as steep nor as high as expected. After a bit of effort (I’m not well trained …) I stood on a plateau just below the highest point of the pass. And the view back into the huge valley Tjäktjajåkka (sami: Čeakčajohka) was incredible. The sun shone from a bright blue sky, a rainbow coloured sundog nearby. Ice dust fell from the blue sky that glittered and sparkled against the sun. The broad valley seemed to be endless, the further away mountains looked hazy and I had the impression, that you could walk through this valley forever.

It’s not the first time, that I stood here and gazed in amazement. I’ve been here on my first ski tour in april 2005, too, when I went from Abisko to Kvikkjokk. And now I was just as amazed as at the first time.

I could have stayed for ages, but after I while I broke away from this special place and ascended the last meters of the pass until the small hut Tjäktjatjattja came into sight. I took a break, but instead of seeking shelter in the hut I sat outside in the sun with chocolate and hot tea. It started to snow a bit – always a bit strange if you cannot see a single cloud.

After this sunny break I continued the trail to Tjäktja. The skiers I met left a nice track and the only think I had to do was sliding downwards effortlessly until I arrived in Tjäktja, the smallest mountain hut on my journey. Stugvärd P. got my parcel with food and goodies and I got a room in the stuga.

The sky was clear the whole day and it started to become a bit colder. -15 °C, when I arrived, -19 °C short time later. Time to fire the oven and to eat something warm. But later I went outside again to look at the starlit sky that arched above the Lappish mountainscape.

A day in Tjäktja

The next morning the weather was perfect for skiing: -22 °C, hardly any wind and again an almost cloudless, blue sky.

I stayed a day in Tjäktja and went up the mountain Tjäktjatjåkka, but only half the way. First of all I’m not the most experience skier, and then I was afraid of avalanches. But even going up halfway in this outstanding weather was great.

Going downhill was much faster than uphills. When I arrived in Tjäktja, the thermometer show -18.5 °C, exactly the same temperature as when I started my short day trip and the sun shone from a cloudless sky over the ravine of the stream Čeavččanjira. The next day I will continue to the next mountain hut: Alesjaure.

The next article: returning to civilisation >>

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
wolverineVielfraßjärv

Already spring or still winter?

Yesterday I found the first blooming flower in Umeå – a tussilago, one of the heralds of spring in Sweden. On the other side I did something, that is quite typical for the winter season: I took a winter bath (and swam twenty meters).

Is it spring or winter? The Swedes have an own word for it: vårvinter – “spring-winter”. It’s the season round March and April, when snow still covers the ground – at least in Northern Sweden, but it’s less cold as in January or February.

 

Kungsleden: returning to civilisation

From the Tjäktjastuagn to Alesjaurestugorna

27 February · 13 km · Link to map

This day I continued to the Alesjaurestugorna, the last mountain hut in the kalfjäll –  the treeless mountain landscape in Lapland. Perhaps that’s why I was a bit sad, because I love the bare mountains and I felt that I had to say farewell to this outstanding landscape soon. I said farewell to quietness a bit, too, since I knew, that Alesjaure would be quite crowded:

But first of all I had a nice trip of thirteen kilometres to go. Weather was good and the way was short and easy, even if there were some patches with hardly any snow that I had to bypass. So I arrived in Alesjaure already at a quarter past one, being the first guest.

Other guests came, from Austria, from Germany, from France and from Denmark – many interesting people. And in between five scooters arrived – all with a trailer loaded with figures dressed in huge black down parkas and ski goggles – the Englishwomen. Their plan was to go back to Abisko on skis in two days with some detours to make it a full marathon distance.

The rest of the day was relaxed and easy-going. First I sat the sauna, then I made dinner (an outdoor meal called “Rice with basil” – quite boring). After that I sat together with all those kind and interesting people. At half past nine one of the Danes started to make pancakes – and I was invited! The Danes told me, that each of them has a surprise for the others on their tour and the pancakes were the first surprise. What a great idea (especially, since I benefitted from this surprise). I went to bed at half past ten – much later than the last days.

From Alesjaure to Abiskojaure

28 February · 20 km · Link to map

The next day I wanted to continue to Abiskojaure, that’s the longest part of my journey. The last tour days had quite short distances between 12 and 14 km and I was rather slow. As a photographer I have a good excuse: It’s making photos, that takes time, not my slow speed! Anyway, today I planned to start very early and decided to go a bit faster to avoid arriving in darkness. But first I had to get water, there was hardly any left.

If you tent in the winter, you’ll have to melt snow in most cases – this takes a lot of time and doesn’t taste well. The mountain huts on Kungsleden have ice holes to get fresh water, either in lakes or rivers. The ice hole of Alesjaure lies exactly below the summer bridge. It is covered with a wooden look to reduce freezing over, but I had to break the fresh ice anyway. It’s almost impossible to fill a 25 litre container with water (lowering the bucket into the small hole – pull it up again – pour water through the funnel – de-ice the funnel – pour water through it again) without getting wet hands. Oh, what I longed for waterproof gloves. My fleece gloves were completely soaked and my fingers got so cold that they itched when I “defrosted” them above the gas oven.

That’s why I started a bit later than planned and at the same time as the marathon skiers. They followed the official winter way, I took the short cut over the frozen lake Alisjávri. Although I took pictures I was faster than the skiers – some of them probably stood on skis the first time – and when I left the lake to join the winter way they already lagged behind.

I tried to go a bit faster, but stopped for some photos:

After I went more than half the way I took a break. It’s quite warm: -5 °C and even the cloud-covered sun warms a bit. For me it was a bit like saying good-bye. Good-bye to the treeless kalfjäll. Soon I will enter the narrow valley Gárddenvággi where terrain declines. And soon after I finished my break and continued the tour I saw the first small birch woods. The sun has disappeared behind a cloud layer and the landscape got monochrome. Dark birches, white snow, only interrupted by some red waymarks.

The last descend to the woodlands is quite steep. I decided to unmount my skis and go on foot. Even so the pulka tried to push me down towards the valley and I had to lean back to avoid being knocked over. After some minutes I was almost level with the Abiskojaurestugorna and went the rest of the tour through denser birch forests on skis again. I have to admit that I found this part a bit boring – we have snow and trees in Skelleftehamn, too, but soon I arrived at the mountain huts, where I spent the rest of the day.

In the evening I met C. who wanted to go to Abisko the next day and we planned to do this last part together.

From Abiskojaure to Abisko Östra and home

29 February · 15 km · Link to map

Let’s make it short: This day was travel day. C. and I woke up at 6 o’clock. Not by our own will but because we had the loudest snorer ever in our room. Jet engine level! We took a short breakfast, packed our pulkas and started our tour. Not to Abisko Turiststation, the classical start and end of the Kungsleden, but to Abisko Östra, the station of the village Abisko. I went on skis, C. just with normal boots, since the snow on the snow mobile tracks was packed and easy to walk on. C. was much faster than I use to be, but we headed for the 12-o’clock-train and I was keen to get it, too. We took two breaks: One for elevenses (or some kind of pre-lunch), one for the reindeer posing in front of the kåta.

We mad it, we even had an hour time until the train arrived. 14 km in 3 hours, 8 minutes (including the two breaks) – that was the fastest part of my tour. Thank you, C. for helping me leaving my comfort zone a bit.

The rest of the tour: Train from Abisko Östra to Luleå. Bus from Luleå to Skellefteå. Bus from Skellefteå to Skelleftehamn. I was home at 21:30 – 13½ hours after starting on skis in Abiskojaure.

Now it’s midnight. I’m sitting in the living room of my house in Skelleftehamn. I really like this place, but I’m already longing to the Swedish Mountains again. Perhaps another ski tour later in April?

Well, we’ll see …

Vårvinter

Where are we – Annika and I? In the Arctic on our way to the North Pole?  Looking for polar bears?

Well, not really! We’re on the frozen Baltic Sea on our way to the island Gåsören, enjoying the blue sky and the warm sun.

But we didn’t only enjoy the warmth of the sun, but the warmth of the sauna, too – even if we didn’t fire it as hot as it should be for a real sauna experience.

We were not the only ones on the ice of the Baltic Sea yesterday.

There were ski tracks and skiers.

There were snowmobile tracks and snowmobile drivers.

There were moose tracks …

… and there were moose on the ice, too. Far, far away, but clearly visible.

“vårvinter” means “spring winter” and describes this season, where the land is still covered with snow and ice, but the temperatures aren’t longer as cold as in January or February.

Colourful sunset

After a really warm day (+12 °C!) we got a colourful sunset. Unfortunately I was too late to catch the most colourful period.

The ice on the Baltic Sea is still thick, but the snow melted and left many ice water puddles between the snowmobile tracks.

Thaw

When it’s more than 10 °C in mars for two days a lot of snow thaws and transforms normal streets into a proving ground for jeeps. Soft slush, sheer ice, deep tracks and huge puddles cover the streets and crossings and I wait for the day where I’ll get stuck twenty metres from home.

On the other side the scenery can look almost nice, at least when you lower your camera as much as possible:

Magnitude 4.3

Things you can experience in Skelleftehamn:

Ice fishing · heavy snowfall · northern lights · moose · frozen Baltic Sea · earthquakes · cold …

“Wait a moment, did you say “earthquakes”?”

“Yes.”

“In Skelleftehamn?!”

“Yup.”

Yesterday evening, when I stood in the bathroom, I heard a noise and felt a shaking like the biggest truck ever would speed through the streets. But it was a short event, I forgot it quite soon and lay down to sleep.

Today, when I browsed through my Facebook timeline, I realised that so many people from different places wondered, if this could have been an earthquake, that it really had to be one. And it was!:

GEOFON Program

According to GEOFON, Potsdam, the earthquake had the magnitude 4.3 and the epicentre was in the Baltic Sea, 19 km deep, round 60 kilometres from where I live.

Fortunately 4.3 is a quite weak earthquake and I don’t believe, that it had any impact at all.

By the way, this was not the first earthquake I experienced in Skelleftehamn, there was another one in June 2010, two months after I arrived here.

First day of spring

Today it’s the first day of spring. In the forest you could see the first snowless patches of soil covered with blueberry plants and the first birds sang their spring songs. But if you continued your walk through the woods until you reached the shore and had a look over the Baltic Sea, it looked like winter would be endless and continue forever:

But if you went on the ice and looked closer you could see, that the frozen surface only covered parts of the Baltic Sea. There was open water ahead. Blue open water. Blue open water with tiny little waves.

Oh, what I longed for my kayak – I would have loved to paddle on the crystal clear sea to the icebergs that you could see near the horizon.

The first day of spring in Skelleftehamn – still wintry but with a promise of spring coming soon.

Långhällan again

Two days ago Annika and I walked on the sea ice outside of Långhällan and had a view on large patches of open water.

Today I visited this place once more, but the whole area was covered with ice again. Some areas were covered with dark solid ice, some with ice floes that have frozen together. You could see walls of broken ice and dark channels between the different parts.

When I entered the terra incognita I half expected to fall through the ice and was equipped with the following:

  • my immersion suit, which is completely waterproof (and warm due to the thick neoprene)
  • isdubbar – handles with sharp peaks for pulling oneself out of an ice hole
  • my Nikon AW1 – a waterproof camera

To my big surprise all ice was thick and stable enough to bear my weight.

I couldn’t see any open water, but I could hear the sounds of ice and water below me. The cracking and clicking, the low, sonor pulsing drones echoing under the icy surface and sometimes even rhythmical beeping noises – like the Baltic Sea sending Morse code. An experience both fascinating and frightening.

Some impressions of today:

Torneträsk and Port of Narvik

On thursday – three days ago – Annika and I drove to Abisko to enjoy some winter days in the Swedish mountains. Skelleftehamn is in Northern Sweden, Abisko is in Northern Sweden, but it’s still 570 km to go by car.

Yesterday I stood up quite early, because the sun was shining and I wanted to go onto the lake Torneträsk (one of Sweden’s biggest lakes – 70 km long) to make some photos. The whole lake is covered by a thick layer of ice and a thin layer of snow.

In the front you can see stacked up ice that builds along the fissures in the sheet of ice, in the background you can see Lapporten – the landmark of the region.

After a while fog came down and when you looked against the sun you only could see vague shades and pale colours. It looked more like standing in a sandy desert, not on the icy surface of the Torneträsk.

Some hours later: Annika and I had planned to do a ski tour near the Swedish-Norwegian border. We packed the car with our skis, cameras and hot tea and set off. It’s 38 km to the border. Behind that border – on the Norwegian side – there’re a lot of cottages and since it’s Easter and probably every single Norwegian is in his cottage there were a lot of parked cars, too.

We looked for a parking place as well. The most parking places were stuffed with cars and were furthermore only for private use. I continued driving and we looked for a public parking place. Well, we found one but the surrounded mountains were too steep for skiing. We stopped anyway to check our position on the map. After that we helped some Norwegians to dig out their car that was completely stuck in the packed snow – on the very same parking place! There’s a reason, that most of the locals have all-terrain vehicles or at least cars with all-wheel drive.

My Saab doesn’t have such and from now on I was even more cautious in choosing a potential place to park. To make a long story short: We didn’t found a single parking place that was (a) available, (b) public, and (c) not too snowy. That’s why we changed plans and continued to Narvik, which is 46 km behind the border.

There’re (at least) three signs for leaving the mountain plateau and approaching Narvik:

  • The road is narrower
  • The road has much more curves and bends
  • It gets much warmer. (down to -9 °C in Sweden, +5 °C near Narvik)

Soon we saw the first fjord, the Rombaken:

We continued to Narvik that seemed to be completely closed due to the Easter Saturday. Therefore we headed to the Port of Narvik and looked around there. Most ports I know are locked and fenced off. Not in Narvik. Here it’s possible to walk around, enter the piers and have a closer look to the ships. And we were completely alone.

Narvik is a huge contrast compared to Abisko! Even if I prefer landscape and nature to towns, I like this place.

But anyway we drove back to the wintry mountains of Swedish Lapland quite soon and round an hour later we arrived again at our fine and cozy room at Abisko Cabin.

Wintry Scandinavia in a nutshell (without the skiing).

A day trip in direction Lapporten

Start at 10:00 – up through birch forests – against the sun – looking through sun glasses at the multicoloured clouds – gaining height – over the treeline – less and less snow and more and more stones and rocks – fantastic views over the lake Torneträsk and the Swedish and Norwegian mountains – too rocky (and too late) to continue – skiing down – birch trees again, first some solitary, then denser and denser woods – back at 17:15 – too lazy to write more …

The ice weakens

The Baltic Sea is still covered with ice. The warmth of the last days however has not only melted away a lot of snow on land but also warmed up the ice on the Baltic Sea. The layer of snow has vanished and you can see the first open water round the stones.

Parts of the sheet of ice look soft and unstable. Probably it’s still thick and solid and probably it’s still possible to walk the two kilometres to the island Gåsören, but I wouldn’t dare to do it anymore.

I’m waiting for open water and the first opportunity for a kayak trip instead.

Almost spring …