Ice fishes, a deadly meteorite and an almost secret cave

The present day I spent with my friends Lasse and Martine. Well, not the first part because I was awake earlier and went down through the forest to a small bay of the river Skellefteälven. The bay was covered with several thin layers of ice. I fell through with each step and the only reason why I dared to go there, was that I know that the water is quite shallow. The atmosphere is always a bit spooky – decades ago this place was a forest but I was cut down because of the water regulation. In summer you can still see the cut-off trunks standing in the shallow water.

After an extensive breakfast – ok, let’s call it brunch – we made a trip to two special places. Look at the next image which is probably the awfullest photo ever I published. But the history is quite interesting.

Let’s go back to the 20th of May 1900: Ludvig Lundgren just left the house in Kvavisträsk to visit Fredrik, his neighbour. A bad idea, because just this day the place was hit by a meteorite. Ludvig wasn’t hit directly but found unconscious just 50 meters away. He died some days later probably of the consequences of the pressure wave. This is probably the only documented case of a deadly injury connected with a meteorite impact.

The next photo (back and white for technical reasons) is a place hardly known even to the locals. It is hidden in the middle of a forest and probably almost undiscoverable without knowing the GPS coordinates.

This cave is connected to World War II where it was used as a hiding-place for locomotives. Up to eleven engines found place in this hole in the mountain. It was locked for many years but now both the gate in the fence and the big folding doors of the cave are unlocked and you can enter it. We didn’t have any flash lights with us but the three LEDs of our smartphones where bright enough to see floor and walls. It was both fascinating to see this place as terrifying.

It is always great to travel with Lasse since – as a journalist – he knows so many fascinating stories and interesting places. Without him I’ll probably would have continued to make pics of ice and snow. A welcome variation!

On the way back (and what a way with frozen tracks so deep that the car was steering itself and occasionally hit the ground) we saw a lot of reindeers. They don’t pay attention to cars, but as soon as you open a window to make photos or even leave the car they probably will leave the place. But quite often they will stop again and watch you carefully. That’s the chance for photos. (None of the pictures became really good, but I’ll publish them anyway).

Thank you, Martine and Lasse for yesterday evening and for this nice day!

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.

Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part one

Since Saturday I’ve been in Äkäslompolo with Annika and Medi, a friend of hers. Äkäslompolo is famous for cross-country skiing and has a total of  330 km of cross-country ski tracks. And that’s what we are here for: Cross-country skiing. My first almost real sport holiday for a zillion years.

On Saturday we used the skis only for a shopping trip to the other side of the lake. I gave my old cross-country skis a quite suspicious look, they are so much thinner than my tour skis (not to mention the broad wooden Tegsnäs skis). Will I be able to ski on these sticks or will I fell right onto my nose after five steps? But the shopping trip (no ascents or descents at all) went well. And in the evening even the grey sky cleared up, patches of fog appeared over the snowy terrain and temperature dropped to -10 °C. We took an evening walk and watched the starry night in hope for Northern Lights, but unfortunately they didn’t come out.

Sunday. Our first ski tour to the cabin Kotamaja. It gave me a quite sportive feeling when I mounted the skis right before our lodge, crossed the road and entered the ski trail. The sportive feeling disappeared quite soon, because almost all other skiers were extremely skilled, extremely athletic and extremely fast, even the much older ones. I had the feeling of accidentally having got into an olympic training race, but it was fun anyway. Earlier than expected we reached Kotamaja and took a break. And we were not alone …

We continued and headed for Hangaskuru where we planned to take our lunch. And we were well equipped: We didn’t only have sandwiches, but sausages and extendable barbecue forks as well. Yummy!

When we headed home more and more skiers were on the ski tracks, it was really crowded and it got worse and worse. “That’s no fun anymore”, I thought but rather like driving on a German autobahn. Hopefully it would be less crowded under the week.

Monday. We took the airport bus that left us at Ylläs-Lainion. The track was in inferior condition, since it had started snowed a bit, but we were almost alone and that’s more the way I like being outdoors. With relaxed but steady movements we slid through the wintry Finnish landscape. However we did not hesitate to take short or longer breaks in the cozy little huts. After round about 20 km we were home again.

Tuesday. It hadn’t stop snowing the whole night and it should continue snowing the whole day. That was the view through our window this morning:

We decided not to make a longer tour, because cross-country skiing on tracks is less fun when the tracks are covered with snow.

I took a walk to the supermarket – partly with Annika, partly alone and tried to continue a snowshoe trail, but the trail was only prepared partly and the snow mobile track, that I followed instead a while, headed to the wrong direction. So I had to return the same way. Äkäslompolo is made for cross-country skiers.

In the afternoon I took a short circular ski tour. Since yesterday fell 10-12 cm new snow accumulating to at least 100 cm snow on the ground.

On the short tour I’ve been in Karilan Navettagalleria,  a nice café, that Medi discovered in the morning, but I took only two pictures and continued my tour. We already have planned another tour for tomorrow and included the café in our plans.

Now I’m sitting in a cozy couch in a typical Finnish bar. And what’s typical Finnish? Right – Karaoke! The Finns love it and I love listing to all these melancholy melodies. Next time I have to learn some melodies and join the singers, too. They probably will laugh their heads off when I try to sing in Finnish.

 

Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part two

Last Friday I travelled to Kittilä in Finland, to make a one week holiday with Annika and and Medi, a friend of hers. I wrote already about the first days in “Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part one”.

Wednesday. We took the ski bus to Äkäsmylly and we were not the only ones. Some busses arrived at the parking place and spit out round hundred cross-country skiers, most of them dressed in skin-tight racing suits. And if the children were too small to stand on their own skis, they were pulled behind in a pulka sledge. That looked really snugly.

We didn’t like to start within a crowd and so we waited, until the most skiers had started. But we didn’t go very far. The Äkäsmylly Café is just round the corner and it’s really extremely cozy. An old man played traditional Finnish songs on his accordion and yes – they all were in moll. We peeked into the text books to sing along, but even if we knew the melody the Finnish language with its long and unfamiliar words gave us a hard time. But it was fun anyway!

Finally we broke away from the warm Café and started the tour. As the days before it snowed most of the day. I made less and less photos each day but today I had to make a break and leave the ski trail for this lonely tree in the snow fall. It took some time, because the snow didn’t bear the thin cross-country skis and I was up to my knees in snow.

I didn’t have to leave the comfortable ski trail for the next photo, a bridge over a completely snowed in brook.

We made our last stop in the Karilan Navettagalleria, the beautiful café and gallery that I already visited the day before.

Thursday. With 25 km our longest tour from Totovaara via Tammitupa, Karhunkota Hanguskurun and again Karilan Navettagalleria back to Äkäslompolo, and by the way my birthday tour.

I think, this is the first day where we neither used the private sauna in our lodge nor lit the fireplace after the ski tour. Instead we went to a bar nearby and listened again to the karaoke. It was just wonderful, listening to the singers – some men had really nice voices. People browsed the set lists to see what they could sing next and at least one pair was dancing to the karaoke songs all the time. Unfortunately some of the people got extremely drunk quite quickly. One of them was so intrusive and pushy that we left the bar soon. I guess that’s also part of the Finnish culture, just as karaoke.

Friday. A short but more demanding tour in the south-west with some nasty descents. I was glad that the trails were in good shape and hardly icy, although it was so warm. I didn’t make a single photo, because I started to get bored of the cloudy sky and the forest, that looked more or less alike everywhere. I enjoyed the week, but since I’m more in nature for the landscape than for the sports, a week was long enough for me and I started to long home a bit. And again I had back luck with the weather; the two weeks before were cold and sunny.

Saturday. Phew, that was early! We stood up at 4:45 local time (that’s 3:45 Central European Summer Time) and 5:35 I said good-bye to Annika and Medi that took the early bus to the airport. Then I drove home. After 425 km and six hours (some ways were in quite bad shape) I was home in Skelleftehamn again.

Addendum:

I hardly saw any animals when I was on the ski trails. That changed on my way back to Skelleftehamn: I saw a fox, a mountain hare, two reindeers, two squirrels and some black grouses, all from my car. I guess, animals are seen best when driving ;-)

And the snow?

Winter may has gone, but still a lot of snow is left.

All streets in Skelleftehamn have been snow free for a while now, but you can still see the big snow piles from the winter. Some of them are still several meters high and they probably won’t be melted down before the end of May.

Yesterday I was invited by friends to join them in their stuga – their summer cottage – in Bygdeträsk. Some images from the way.

When I arrived at the summer cottage, the property looked like this:

In front the barbecue area and the grasslands, behind the birch trees the Sundet, part of the big lake Göksjön, still mostly ice covered, but you can see the first open patch, where a small stream enters the lake.

Deforestation in Skelleftehamn

When I moved to Skelleftehamn in July 2010 I directly fell in love with the nature around. The Baltic sea with the stony shores, the islands and the pine and birch forests. One place I really love is Storgrundet, which is name of both an island and the tiny sandy beach at the mainland. It’s my favourite starting point for kayaking, because you’re into nature directly, but I guess I have to wait some more days until I’ll be able to start there, since the sea is still partly ice covered. Two images of yesterday:

Storgrundet – a beautiful place. The way that leads to it however has changed. Last autumn it was framed of dense forest, now many of the trees are cut down and the way is framed by piles of tree logs. It brings to my mind that almost all forests in Sweden are no wild untouched primeval forests but commercial forests. There’re not only used for collecting berries and hunting moose, but for hugging down trees, too.

Now I’m sitting a bit on the fence – on the one hand I like wooden houses and furniture made of wood and I love to fire a cabin or a sauna with birch logs. On the other hand I really loved the forest around and when I walked cross-country today, I felt a bit sad seeing the clear-felled areas. I’m glad that the terrain is not too easy to enter with forestry machines. There are some really big rocks and many shallow ponds and swamps. I guess that’s why there’re a lot of single trees left. But it’s not the same anymore.

Now, that many trees are gone, you can look much farther and I realised, how many swampy areas were hidden in the woods. Now they are quite visible and they look fascinating and desolate at the same time.

I do not have anything against using the forest and cutting down trees, but anyhow I felt sad, when I walked through the destroyed landscape today.

Two months ago – first aid course in Solberget

Day 31 – 38

Today when I look outside the window, I realised that winter finally has left Skelleftehamn. The patch of snow that I stood upon ten days ago to view the Northern Lights has melted away and some trees start to show their first little leaf buds.

Well – it looked different when I was in Solberget in Swedish Lapland two months ago, where a first aid course of the “Outdoorschule Süd” took place. The week was filled with many actions – both course units indoors and outdoors and leisure, too. If you are one of the course participant you will realise, that I left out quite much.  That’s because I tried to keep the text very short – it’s more keyword style – and focus more on the photos.

Saturday

Arrival day: an incredible starry night with even a bit of faint Northern Lights

Sunday

Course unit outdoors, training recovery position (“Stabile Seitenlage”) – course unit indoors, training cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“Herz-Lungen-Wiederbelebung”) – and a beautiful coloured evening sky.

Monday

How to move injured people: a lot of teamwork is needed – frost patterns again – Lars, the Sámi, tells us about the reindeer herding

Tuesday

How to evacuate injured people from an observation tower – reindeer sledge ride. (No people were harmed)

Wednesday

Ski tour to Polcirceln, where we’ll stay to nights. I slept in my tent since the two cabins are really small.

Thursday

A misty morning – another “real life case”: hypothermia – a beautiful dusk. (No people were harmed)

Friday

Ski tour back to Solberget – another fantastic dinner, this time: salmon.

Saturday (again)

The last day – many serious studies as: How many people fit into the igloo (Answer: all!) or who wins the snowball fight

Thank you, Angela and Stefan from the “Outdoorschule Süd” for a great week!

 

A small sightseeing tour in Norsjö kommun

One of the disadvantages of a long journey as I made it this winter is that you cannot meet your local friends for a long time. It felt like ages ago, that I was in Kusfors to visit my good friends Martine and Lasse, that I got to know the very first day when I arrived in Skellefteå five years and some days ago.

Kusfors is 70 km away from my home and it usually takes my exactly one hour car drive. Yesterday it took longer since I made some detours. There’s a nice minor road along the river Skellefteälven which still is partly ice covered – at the end of April!

Martine, Lasse and I made a short trip to Norsjö and Lasse showed us around. For example the beautiful wooden church:

Or the ski slope nearby. (We where quite lucky that we didn’t get stuck in the rough clay road when we went up and down):

Or the farm shop in Svansele, that is specialised in carrots and is open 24-7.

But my favourite spot and motive was the old abandoned mill near Norsjö – Norrsjövallens kvarn:

I definitely have to visit this place again with more time and better light, probably in the evening, or even in the night time. (Perhaps with some polar light? …)

Addendum: A black and white version of the last motive:

Valborgsmässoafton

Valborgsmässoafton, that’s the Swedish name of the Walpurgis Night, which is celebrated on April 30, which is today (or has been 15 minutes before). A friend invited me to celebrate valborgsmässoafton with her family in Aspliden and I accepted gladly.

Beside of nice people to celebrate with you need three ingredients for a typical valborgsmässoafton:

1. Good food.

In this case a so called “Smörgåstorta” – a sandwich cake which is a very popular dish for special days as today.

2. A big bonfire.

The bigger the better. It can be quite hard to light a bonfire, because the cut down trees, twigs and branches are mostly very cold and soaking wet.

3. Cold weather, preferably with wind and snow showers.

While the first half of the day was sunny, clouds came in in the afternoon and round 8 o’clock we got our first snow shower. Last year it snowed as well.

Most Swedish people don’t think at all that chilly and snowy weather must be a part of the valborgsmässoafton, put it’s quite typical.

And just an off-topic photo from today. Three whooper swans that I saw today at the same place.

Storberget

Storberget – “The big mountain!” A bit more than 90 meters high, which sounds completely ridiculous, if you live in Norway, near the alps or another place that has real, big mountains. But Storberget is a mountain, too, with a lot of rocks, a small ravine and a view on the near Baltic Sea and some islands. And it’s near, just fifteen minutes by car and a walk through the forest.

From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise Fjällstation

August 23: Day one of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

It’s hardly imaginable that it was only two weeks ago, that Annika and me started our tour through the mountains of Swedish Lapland.

On Saturday, August 22 I shouldered my packed backpack and travelled from Skelleftehamn to Nikkaluokta, this time not by car but by bus and train: The bus to Skellefteå, the bus to Luleå, the train to Kiruna, the bus to Nikkaluokta. The journey took the whole day – hardly surprising, it’s more than 550 kilometres and travelling in Northern Sweden takes time.

The most popular way through the Swedish mountains is the kungsleden, the “King’s trail”. It’s not only possible to sleep in cabins, you even can buy food in some of them to keep your package small. We however preferred another route on the Norwegian side. There’re cabins, too, but you cannot buy food. That’s why we started with quite heavy backpacks that included food for more than a week. (It included my camera, three lenses and a tripod as well, but that’s another story …)

Sunday morning was a sunny morning and already very warm. Our destination today: The Kebnekaise Fjällstation, 19 km away. We started our trip right behind the cabins of Nikkaluokta and soon we left “civilisation” and were out in the beautiful Lappish nature.

But we were not alone. Some other hikers were on their way but most of all there were a lot of helicopters flying there and back. Soon we gave up counting them, they were too many. We were glad that the aerial traffic calmed down after a while.

Our first stop was the beginning of the lake Láddjujávri, quite popular for two reasons: Here you can take a boat over the lake to shorten your trip to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation and you can eat a reindeer burger at “Lap Dånalds”. We neither took the boat (too lazy) or a burger (too early), but we ate waffles with cloudberry jam. Tasty!

The day was really warm: 24 °C. You even may call it hot when you carry 20 kilos on your back. Beads of sweat ran down and before we ordered our waffles, I took a bath in the fresh and cool water of the lake.

After a quite long and relaxed rest we continued our tour. The path is extremely well marked and changes between rocky and wet parts. Almost all wet and muddy passages are bridged with spångar – wooden walkways – but there are exceptions …

After 6 km walk we came to the other pier. Time for a rest, some water and food and another bath. This part of the lake was much colder and the bath was merely a dip into the icy water.

What a nice resting place: Warm, quite and not too many mosquitoes. It was hard to get up and to continue, both because of the great weather and our heavy backpacks that felt quite uncomfortable on the very first day of our hiking trip. But finally we managed to pick ourselves up and continued.

After a while the first chain bridge came into view: The bridge over the Darfáljohka. That meant, it was less than two kilometres to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation where we would stay over night. But before that I saw the first patch of snow. As a snow lover I just had to take a picture of it even though I knew it wouldn’t be the last snow on our journey.

Finally we arrived at the mountain lodge which is quite huge. The Kebnekaise is the highest Swedish mountain and so the lodge is used by many people: Hikers, climbers, mountaineers, and fly-in tourists – remember the helicopters?

Annika invited me to dinner – thank you, Annika! – but sadly it was a bit disappointing. The restaurant changed the menu without letting us know in advance and the cod was so soaked in butter that it hardly had any own taste left. Anyway the starters were great!

But anyway – a really nice first day of our tour.

From Nallo to Vistas, Alesjaure, Abiskojaure and back to civilization

August 30 – September 2: Day eight to eleven of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Nallo – Vistas

After two days in Nallo Annika and I were eager and keen to move on. After our breakfast we said goodbye to stugvärd Janne and started to ford the stream behind of the hut. Fortunately the water level dropped to normal again and quite easily we could cross the stream.

Then we went along the Nallú, a fantastic mountain that changed its appearance every other second because of the moving clouds and the changing light situations. We never tired of looking at this big mountain that seemed to accompany us a long way.

After a while another stream that we had to cross, came down from the lake Nállujávrrit. While I managed to splash through with my high rubber boots, Annika decided to take of her shoes and wade through it in her sandals – brr, the water was really ice cold!

We continued the hike through the fast-changing scenery. Quite soon we saw the first trees and realised that the big mountain ahead was the Vássačorru, that lies behind the valley Visttasvággi, where our next destination, the Vistasstuga is located.

Soon we crossed the Visttasjohka on the chain bridge and arrived at the cabin to meet the stugvärd – the warden.

Oh look: Coke and beer are priced down! That’s because the season only lasts three other weeks. After that the huts are closed down until their reopening for the skiers in February or March. But because none of the cans would survive the frost, all liquids has to be drunk in the next three weeks or poured away. We decided to save some cokes from this cruel destiny.

We were placed in the outhouse – the main building was in the act of being renovated. There we sat on the front stairs, ate, drank and looked on the river Visttasjohka. And we took a bath in this cold river. Chilling but refreshing! Finally the sun came out. I crossed the bridge to make a photo of our cabin.

Later – it started getting dark – we got a visitor: A big moose stood beside the river. I went out, where I could observe this huge animal, how it ate leaves and grass, less than 10 meters away. It looked at me but wasn’t disturbed by me at all, it even passed quite near until it vanished between some trees. This was one of the moments were I was glad and touched as a “normal person”, but a bit grumpy with myself, that I was too lazy to carry my big tele lens for better and sharper pictures. I never experienced a moose so near and so fearless.

Vistas – Alesjaure

The trip the day before was short: only 9 kilometres, this day it would be twice as much: 18 km. The first kilometres were a bit boring since they went through birch forests and quite muddy passages. But after a while the landscape opened and we could see the mountain Siehtagas with its glacier Siehtagasglaciären. In front of the mountain there were alpine meadows and small birch forests. In front of that the turquoise water of the Visttasjohka glimmered in the sunlight.

We went up again until we again were over the treeline. This part of the valley Visttasvaggi is beautiful and very varying. The first rest we made in the lee side of a huge cuboid rock. We weren’t the first – someone built a bench by laying a plank over two stones. The second rest we made at the Tjatjajaurekåtan (there’s not much left of it).

After a while I saw some reindeers grassing. There were shy and quickly went away when I came nearer. We saw (probably) them again when we had a view at the sami village Alisjávri that lies at the lake with the the same name. From that it’s not far to the mountain huts of Alesjaure – the Swedish version of Alisjávri. The Alesjaurestugorna are the biggest mountain huts of the STF – the Swedish tourist association. I prefer the smaller ones as e.g. Nallo, but it’s fine to have a shop, a drying room and especially a sauna. And we used it all! It’s nice to go to sleep after being in the sauna and having a wash in the river Aliseatnu.

Alesjaure – Abiskojaure

I didn’t make many pictures of this part of our tour. I was a bit bored of this part of the trail and found nothing special in the landscape. Just some photos of human evidence: Tent poles for a lavvu and a crossing over a long reindeer fence.

It was the first time, that I was really impatient and just wanted to arrive. Some kilometres before Abiskojaure we came below the treeline. Most of the birch trees still were green but you could see, that autumn is near. No wonder, it was the 1st of September, beginning of autumn for the meteorologists.

Finally we reached another chain bridge and shortly after it arrived in Abiskojaure. The sun came out and even though it was much colder than one week ago we could sit and lie on the short-cut lawn in front of the hut. I took the last bath of the journey and strolled around making some photos. After crossing a small swamp I came to a quite huge sandy beach beside the lake Ábeskojávri. A beautiful place!

The evening it started to become chilly, hardly 3 °C. I was curious if we would get the first frost of the season next morning …

Abiskojaure – Abisko Östra

… and yes, we got frost. -2.5 °C showed the scientific thermometer of the swedish weather service, when I had my first look. On the water surface of the buckets lay a layer of ice and round the leaves of lower plants I could see the first autumnal hoarfrost.

I was up very early that morning and I went to the beach at the lake again. First it looked quite normal but then it started to get foggy and misty while the sun rose behind the mountain Giron. What a beautiful sight! I stood there for at least an hour and only walked back to get another full battery for my camera. Later I met Annika, showed her the place and was glad that I could share this awesome experience.

I was a bit sad – this would be the last day of hiking through the wonderful mountain landscape of Swedish Lapland. But each journey has some kind of end and so had ours. We started our tour through the birth forests along the lake Ábeskojávri, than along the river Abiskojåkka.

After a while a famous landmark came into sight: Lapporten – “The Lapponian Gate”, a U-shaped valley framed of two mountains that give this valley its specific and recognizable shape. However, since this photo is taken from the backside, it hardly shows this special shape.

Since Alesjaure we followed the Kungsleden – the King’s Trail, but right after the bridge over the stream Nissonjohka we left the main trail that leads to the Abisko Mountain Station and turned right to Abisko Östra, the village, were we planned to stay for two other days. The way, however, was not much fun to go. A lot of all-terrain vehicles has turned the way into mud. Since I lost my lens cap and I was afraid that mud would splatter my lens, I packed the camera into its waterproof bag long before the worst mud patches. And that’s why this is the last photo of our hiking tour:

Thank you Annika, för trevligt sällskap – for nice company. Where should we hike next?

Any suggestions?

Two sides of an autumnal morning

A cold side and a warm side. The difference? 19 Minutes and 500 meters.

It’s really fascinating that even larger water areas than mud puddles start to freeze over after just three mornings with temperatures below freezing; today round about -5 °C.

Winter journey in a nutshell

It snowed in Skelleftehamn tonight. It’s hardly a secret, that I love winter, snow and coldness. In Skelleftehamn however it would be too warm, because the Baltic Sea is near.

Therefore I decided yesterday to take a day off today, take camera and car and travel towards winter. In the inland the climate is colder and hopefully there would be more snow. I started at 6:45 in darkness. The first part was no fun to drive. Road salt is used on the big road to Skellefteå and the road further west. With temperatures slightly below zero you always have a film of muddy saltwater on your windscreen while the wipers still are partly frozen and will not work properly. That in combination with approaching cars with bright lights makes it hard to see and much concentration is needed.

That instantly got better when I left the big road 95 (that would bring me to Bodø in Norway) right after Jörn. The smaller roads are covered with ice and hard snow – much easier to drive and the windscreen stays clear. And it looks much more like winter than a wet road. And while in Skelleftehamn even the duck pond is open, here the lakes and some small streams are ice and snow covered.

I continued the road and drove to Storklinten, a small ski hill. Well, it wasn’t so interesting yet with only round about 10 cm snow, but the lake nearby – Lill-Klintträsket – was really nice. It started snowing and the tree covered hills farther away seemed to vanish into a white nothing.

The way to Storklinten is a dead-end road and I had to return. I continued the larger road to Myrheden looking for motives. And I found one. The small river Ålsån:

I was glad I had my chest waders with me, so I could come quite near to the motive. And there were a lot of motives this day. For example reindeers. The first small flock was extremely shy and cautious. It didn’t dare to pass my car and left the road starring at me suspiciously from behind the small trees. You can see that they digged for food in the snow, the noses are snow covered and one of the reindeers even had a twig hanging in its antlers.

Further on the road: Town signs with funny looking names (there was even a village called Hej, which is Swedish for hello), more snow covered roads and trees and two extremely well educated reindeers going beside the road in single file.

I’m looking for motive especially, where there are crash barriers beside of the road – there the street will probably cross a river or a creek. Some of them are open, many broader ones with less current are already covered with ice. And on one of them – far away – I could see a reddish animal and some dark spots. A fox? Birds? I looked for the next parking opportunity – sometimes a real challenge – and walked back.

I was right: There was a fox. And some kind of skeleton, perhaps a roe deer or a reindeer. And some crows. And an eagle! It doesn’t happen often, that I see eagles nearby where I live. I made some photos with my tele lens. Zooming in I could even see some magpies hopping around hoping for a snack. The scene was much too far away to get good pictures, but anyway, I want to show you this one:

After a while I started to get hungry. My car too; the red R-lamp has been glowing for a while. Anyway, the town Arvidsjaur, todays destination, was not so far away anymore. As people in former days first fed their horses before eating themselves I first tanked my car with E95, then myself with beef, mashed potato, mushroom sauce and salad. Then I looked around in the city which I think is really nice. Especially in winter with snow – round 20 cm today.

Even if the “real winter” is not here yet the days are already quite short: Sunset in Arvidsjaur was a quarter past two! At three o’clock I started to use the car’s full beam, half an hour later it was quite dark. Time to head home. I couldn’t see any motives any longer and I navigated to the main road. Now driving became exhausting again for a while since it started to snow quite heavily. And if you use full beam while snowing you just see a tunnel of snow flakes swooshing towards you. It’s a big like old televisions science fiction series, when the spaceships activated their warp-drives. And as in space there is no up or down. The second photo may give you a faint idea.

Luckily the snow shower ended soon and the rest of the trip was just about coming home.

400 km and 500 meters – 11 hours 30 minutes – a straining but great one day trip winterwards.

Back again in Skelleftehamn: Snow is gone, it’s pitch black and it’s raining cats and dogs.

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Starter

On the day after Christmas Annika and I thought about making a short trip to the “inland” where weather is colder and snow depth is bigger. What about Arvidsjaur for example where I’ve been six weeks before. It’s only two hours away. We looked for a room to stay overnight but we weren’t lucky in finding a room that was (a) affordable, (b) nice and (c) free.

Therefore I asked on Facebook if someone would have a tip or even better a stuga – a cottage. Ten minutes later Pär, a friend in Skellefteå, answered and offered us his private stuga for as long as we want to stay. What a great offer!

The next day we packed the car with warm cloths, food, snow shoes, camera equipment, bed clothes and a lot of water (which the stuga lacks) and drove to Arvidsjaur. Round 9:30 we arrived and were glad that neighbours already started the main heating, since it was -12 °C outside. After unpacking the car and switching on the others electric radiators we made a short trip by foot. Days are still short – 3 hours, 12 minutes this day – and as short was our trip. Mostly we walked in the shadow of the pine trees, first on the small road, than on a snowmobile track, but sometimes the low sun shimmered through a gap in the trees.

When we stood at the lake we could see Arvidsjaurs local tree-covered mountain with some ski slopes cut into the wood. Left of it was another mountain, that was completely treeless and snow covered. It looked quite high. How far it might be? Round the corner or many miles away? We planned to check this the next day.

Evening was calm – inside as outside. Stars twinkled above the frozen and snow covered lake right behind the house. The next photo is taken from the terrace. The photo reveals to types of light that were invisible in real life: The pink gleam of Arvidsjaur and a the greenish glow of a very faint polar light.

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Dessert

Monday afternoon at our cabin near Arvidsjaur: -22 °C. How cold will it get the night. Well, not so cold, since the sky overclouded and it got gradually warmer. The next morning the thermometer showed mere -11 °C. The sky was overcast and the diffuse light seemed hardly able to light up the scenery.

Annika and I took a small snowshoe walk on the lake Arvidsjaursjön. Last night’s fog has covered all trees with a thin white layer of hoarfrost and the nature looked more like an old black-white painting than real.

What a contrast to yesterdays mountain hike in full sunlight!

Two other pictures of the same day:

These images were taken on a minor side road. It felt like being hundred miles away from civilisation, but the main road was just 500 meters ahead.

When it darkened the sky cleared up again, but now we were ready for our way back to Skelleftehamn where it was quite warm compared to Arvidsjaur: -1 °C.

Hunting the cold – day #1

Two days ago it looked like that it could by quite cold in Northern Sweden yesterday and today. I checked several places and their weather forecasts and Pajala with a forecasted temperature of -40.4 °C won. That’s good news, since Pajala is only 350 km away. Nikkaluokta for example is one of the coldest places in Sweden, is 537 km away and it will take more than 6 hours to travel to (when conditions are good).

Yesterday – 6 Jan, 2016 – I packed kamera, very warm clothes and all you need for ski tours into my Saab and started the trip. In Skelleftehamn it was -17 °C, but already 20 km away the temperature dropped to -20 °C.

I made a stop in Jävre. I’ve passed this place several times and every time I planned a future stop. Well, future was yesterday. Jävre -23.3 °C.

I continued the trip and the temperature continued dropping. Round half past ten I could see the sun – it was bright red (the camera couldn’t catch this) and because of the higher latitude it was even lower above the horizon. -27 °C.

Now I continued driving to avoid arriving too late. Right after Svartbyn (E10) the thermometer dropped below -30 °C the first time. Round 40 km later I turned right. Here temperatures dropped below -33 °C. Near Pentäsjärvi – 25 km before Pajala – it got even colder: -36.9 °C. I probably experienced colder temperatures, but never saw such low numbers on a thermometer.

I found a quite low-priced room in the Hotell Smedjan but I continued driving around looking for nice (and cold!) places.

One of the most fascinating things in my opinion is the light in wintertime. Twilight may last hours or even the whole short morning, day, and evening and there are always soft pink colours in the sky. Just beautiful, but cold to take pictures of if you don’t have warm clothes. But when I have one thing, it’s cold weather equipment.

I looked for the airport, which is a bit out of town and quite tiny. It was closed. It’s the first airport I saw with an own parking place for reindeers. Good to know!

On my way back to Pajala I found a side road that headed to a small national park. I parked the car and walked the 700 meters to the cabin and the grill place in darkness. Of course it wasn’t pitch black, the snow and some thin clouds reflected the light of the city, giving enough light to see and walk. (The selfie is made with the iPhone which can take two photos until it will shut down because of the cold.

On the way back it was even colder: -38.8 °C. Now I got really hungry, drove back to the hotel and walked to the pizza restaurant. (Pizza and burger bars rule the Scandinavian north). Pajala by night:

Then I went home. I was glad that I have all I need for such a trip: A camera, food and a warm winter parka.

After a while I considered if I could catch the -40 °C now. It was warmer than expected, but let’s give it a try.

This time I took the road to Käymäjärvi (the name proofs, that Finland is not far away). Yes, here it was quite cold – below -39 °C. Between a swamp and the lake I stopped, since these low lands can be cold traps. I didn’t get lower temperatures but a view on the village and northern light (quite strong until I was ready to take pictures …)

On the way back to the main road I got my new personal cold record: -39.6 °C (sorry, no -40 °C)! When it’s really cold in Northern Sweden people take pictures of thermometers and show them in the internet. I will join this tradition. Voilà:

>>> read about day 2 of the journey >>>

Hunting the cold – day #2

Yesterday I travelled to Pajala to search the cold. With a minimum of -39.6 °C i missed the -40 °C.

Day #2 I stood up quite early, took a short breakfast and drove again to Käymäjärvi, where I measured the coldest temperature yesterday. It seemed to be colder than last night and directly after I turned left into the small road to Käymäjärvi, the thermometer showed -40.3 °C. First time below -40 °C – yay! At 08:37, nine minutes later it showed -40.7 °C , which turned out to be the coldest temperature I measured this day.

I continued the road to the end. Here a couple of lonely wooden building stand beside the road, obviously uninhabited, at least in the winter.

But now it was time to pack the pulka – a transportation sledge – and mount the skis. I wanted to make a ski tour, at least a short one. I parked the car at the place where I saw the aurora the day before.

I filled the pulka with warm clothes, hot tea, a bit of food, the camera equipment and such. Then I dressed for skiing. Here it was -37 °C and I dressed carefully to stay warm and avoid frostbite.

One of the telescope tracking poles was not possible to fix. I tried a workaround with the result, that it broke after 5 meters. I’ll have to buy new ones.

First skiing was easy, even with only one ski pole. The snow on the frozen swamp was hard and it was easy to pull the pulka behind.

But then I entered the forest. Of course pulkas are not made for woodland and this forest was like a thicket of birches which sometimes bend down and build low hanging arcs.

I tried to turn left to find more open land (I was quite unprepared and hadn’t any map with me) and had to cross several small brooks. One of them was a bit larger, a bit deeper and I could here water floating under the ice. I had to unmount me skis and was quite nervous crossing the brook that I probably would jump over easily in summer but all went well.

I continued and wanted to make another photo, but not the camera. It didn’t work any longer. The D-800 just showed an ERR on the display, that was all. Now I was a bit of fed up: Only one ski pole in the midst of a thicket of birch trees and the camera not working. I turned and went back. This probably was one of the shortest ski tours ever.

That’s what I looked like. The first photo is taken 10 minutes after beginning, the second right after the end of the tour. That was not easy: The Nikon D-800 was out of order, the iPhone is not made for cold temperatures and the batteries of my auxiliary camera were left in the car and didn’t work neither. But at last I found a battery that worked for the moment.

You see the fur cap? Some equipment that I have is really expensive, for example by Canada Goose down parka (not on the photos above). The fur cap however is from H&M and costed only 10 Euros. You can hardly call this professional equipment but it worked extremely well.

When you exhale in this cold the air flickers as it does over open fire. No surprise, the temperature difference is round 75 °C. When you inhale you should wear a buff or a scarf to protect your lungs. Remember the temperature difference?

I was so glad that the car copes with the cold. It was -36.9 °C outside and -35.1 °C inside when I started the car after the tour. It took only two seconds and the motor was running. Only changing gears is heavy as long the system is so cold.

On the way back temperatures dropped again below -40 °C. Time to many another selfie – a ridiculous one: The camera inside, holden by a long arm, me outside in front of the car. To my big relief the Nikon camera worked again. The motive: The temperature at the left, me outside with my parka at the right. It didn’t work as excepted. Where’s my face?!

Back in Pajala I admired the fragile birch trees covered with frost beside of the river Torneälven. In the background the clear sky with colours from pink to azure. It seemed to be even colder on the bridge that led over the river back into the city. I could feel the wind through my gloves and mittens and even the nose started to freeze together with the camera when taking photos! I closed my hood completely which looks a bit ridiculous, but I stayed warm.

I took my anemometer (A birthday present to myself) and measured the wind: 20 km/h. The temperature: -36 °C. That makes a wind chill of -51 °C! That’s what I call coldness!

I took a lunch and headed home since weather in this region should worsen, while the forecast for Skelleftehamn looked quite good. It was hardly warmer than -25 °C on the whole journey back home.

At 7 o’clock I arrived home. -28 °C outside – time for a hot bath!

Short trip to Bjuröklubb

Yesterday I went to Umeå by car, but I took a detour. In Övre Bäck, where I made the photo from the “Winter tree” I left the E4 to drive to Bjuröklubb, a salient that reaches wide into the Baltic Sea.

In summer, you can walk up from the parking place, eat in the Café Fyren or follow the wooden walkway up to the light house. In winter time this place is abandoned. I took my snow shoes and went first along the shore and then up to the light house.

Temperatures were between -25 °C and -30°C and the sky was totally clear. Another wonderful winter day.