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.

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.

 

Through the Finnmark to Alta

Day 47

After a nice stay in Palojärvi i continued my trip. Just 10 km later I crossed the Finnish-Norwegian border and entered the Finnmark, the northernmost part of Norway. It was still very grey, very windy and quite warm with temperatures round zero. And that’s how the road looked like in the open, where the wind covered parts of the roads with snow drifts.

Soon I arrived in Kautokeino, where the Sami culture is quite big. Most signs have the Sami language first, in some of the front yards are fenced reindeers, women wear traditional Sami dresses and on the outside of many houses are reindeer skins hanging for drying.

I made a short break to make some photos of the church and the graveyard.

After a short rest I continued northwards. The landscape was first as flat as a pancake but gradually started to become hilly. Almost all I could see was grey birches and white snow, almost like a black-white painting. The yellow central dividing strip of the road and here and there a traffic sign were the only visible colours.

After an hour the hills got larger and finally a found a parking place, that wasn’t in the middle of a birch wood. Even if the thermometer showed 0 °C it was extremely chilly due to the strong winds that even shook my parked car and I had to protect face and hands against the coldness. Just one picture into the valley showing a small village.

The hills got steeper and sheer rocks appeared, some of them covered with turquoise blue ice that seemed to glow from its inside. The landscape started to get a bit colourful.

Now the most interesting part of the road began. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t make any photos, but the road had so many curves and bends and not a single parking bay, that I didn’t dare to stop. Suddenly the road was bordered by steep black-brown rock walls, it was almost like driving into a canyon. Then the road went down, the landscape opened again and suddenly I was surrounded by a green pine forest. After some hours of seeing only black-white it was amazing and felt like driving into another country with another climate. Minutes later the cloud layer broke and the sun lingered through the gap illuminating a snowy mountain at the horizon making all finally colourful again.

This looked so nice, that I decided to stay to nights in Alta. Now I only needed a cheap room. The employees at the  tourist information had some difficulties in understanding that their job is to help tourists, but that’s another story … . Finally I could convince one of them to find a room for me. I drove back to the camping place in Øvre Alta, where I stay in a nice, small cabin without water but with internet (that’s more important!) for two nights. But before it went dark I returned into town and took two images near a partly frozen bay.

Hammerfest and Honningsvåg

Day 49

Quite early I left Alta yesterday and continued the E6 in direction Kirkenes. To the left I could see the Altafjorden but soon the street turned right and went a bit up. Half of the Finnmark is above the tree line and so are parts of the E6. But it’s still amazing that you leave the coastal area with green pine trees and wet snow and after a bit of driving up you are in an area with snow covered mountains and just some downy birches here and there.

But after a while the road went down again and I turned left to visit Hammerfest. I made a short stop in Kvalsund before I drove over the bridge onto the island Kvaløya where Hammerfest is situated at the western coast.

I know the name Hammerfest for ages, I guess it was mentioned in my children’s encyclopedia. As many other towns in Norway Hammerfest is a modern town, since it was destroyed almost completely in WW2. For me the name sounds quite German, both “Hammer” and “fest” are German words as well. When I had a look in the tourist information I thought, that Hammerfest is a German town, because all people talked German. But that’s probably only because the Hurtigruten was just in town and many tourists that make a cruise with one of these ships come from German speaking countries.

After a shorter strolling through town I continued the road to Forsøl in the north of Kvaløya. Again the road went through treeless, snow covered hills and mountains. But the rocks at the coast showed moss and other creeping plants due to the mild coastal climate.

I returned and planned to continue my journey to Honningsvåg, one of the northernmost towns in Europe. Driving back was not easy in the beginning because the streets where wet and it was hard to see something against the low standing sun, even with sun glasses and flapped down sun shields. But soon the road changed direction and driving became easier. Now I continued the E6 a bit and turned left into the E69 (that’s where I made the pictures of the Purple Sandpipers) that leads to the town Honningsvåg and to the Nordkapp. It started to dawn and even to snow a bit.

After a while it was dark. I could see grey snow, dark rocks and the dark sea. After a while I couldn’t see anything anymore, just the reflecting tape round the plastic marks and the tunnels. Meanwhile we had +3 °C and it rained. (I guess, it can be alike in summer …) Already from distance I could see the lights of Honningsvåg. The last tunnel went beneath the sea and came out again on the island Magerøya. Some minutes later I was in Honningsvåg.

Now I had three wishes: Food, internet and a room. It took a while to find the only open restaurant, a pizzeria. Check! There I was allowed to use the private WiFi to get internet. Thank you, guys! Check! And there, with the help of Annika who was online I found a room in a hostel. Expensive but hey, we’re in Norway. Check!

Now, the morning after, I will have breakfast and then I will pretend to be a real tourist and visit the Nordkapp, the northern most point in Europe you can reach by car.

A short trip to Umeå

I have to admit, that it felt a bit strange to travel to Umeå. For one thing it’s a big town and for another thing it’s south from Skellefteå and that’s not my usual travel direction.

You may laugh at me calling Umeå a big town. Umeå has 80000 inhabitants and that may not sound very much, but the whole city with its many big buildings and streets feels much bigger, especially if you compare it to Skellefteå – the next town nearby – which is less than half as big and appears only a tenth as busy as Umeå.

I stayed over night in a hotel in the 12th floor with a nice view over the town and the river Umeälven. What a pity that it rained almost the whole time.

Today it still rained a lot and I didn’t have any interest in city sightseeing. So I fled the town and took a long walk in nature. That’s much more my cup of tea.

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 Å to Rystad

Day 2

Next morning when we woke up in Å we could see blue sky through the fogged car windows. The rain has stopped. We made a walk through the little fishing village and had breakfast on the cliff with a fantastic view on the mountains and the sea.

After that we continued our trip through the incredible landscape of the Lofoten. We had to stop several times to take pictures, for example of this small mountain lake near the road to Nusfjord:

Later we came to a place that became quite famous over the years: Uttakleiv – a beautiful sandy beach that just invites you to jump into the turquoise-coloured water. It almost looks Caribbean but as soon as you enter the ice cold water you’re reminded of being in Northern Norway, not in the south. The bath was fun, anyway.

Here we stayed for a while and enjoyed the sun. But after a while we continued our road trip to Brenna on the island Austvågøy. We didn’t find a camping ground at the end of the road and turned, but soon we stopped the car again. Actually because I wanted to take pictures of the sheep that lay at the sandy beach, but some children nearby discovered something much more interesting: A fox cub. I changed to the telephoto lens and I came quite near. Probably the fox hadn’t made any bad experiences with humans yet.

After that we stopped at a camping ground near Rystad that we already saw on the way to Brenna and decided to stay overnight. Soon the tent was put up on the grassy ground. Slowly the sun went round the mountains and sank down. The next hours were incredible – the light was so wonderful, both the sunlit main land in the south and the sea in the north glowed in the most fantastic colours. But have a look by yourself:

Round one o’clock we lay down in our tent, but only because clouds came and it started to rain a bit. What a wonderful first day on the Lofoten!

From Singi to Sälka and Nallo

August 26 – 29: Day four to seven of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Singi – Sälka

After three very warm and sunny days clouds came in over night and the sky was quite overcast that morning. Only at the northern sky a larger patch of blue was visible. That fits, we’re going north! The first two kilometres were very well known to us, we went them there and back the day before. The day’s walk was short – just 12 kilometres.

Soon the huts of Sälka came into view. It was funny to see the ads for the shop and the bastu – the sauna – amidst the extend mountain landscape. Only 300 meters left and we entered the reception to check in.

It’s a nice look from Sälka but we had another interest that afternoon: Overall on the ground the ptarmigans were running and there were even sitting on the huge pile of birch wood, so that me, the photographer and them, the models, were on eye level. They let me advance quite near – in fact so near that the tele lens couldn’t focus anymore. The first two images are younger ptarmigans, the last is a grown up – look at these fantastic white feathered feet.

Sälka – Nallo

The next morning there were so many ptarmigans around that you really had to watch yourself not stepping on one of them. I never saw so many and never saw them so near. Our plan was not to continue the King’s Trail but to go northeast to Nallo, a smaller cabin a bit higher up in the mountains. After the common breakfast (muesli with some milkish liquid made from dry milk – yuck!) we started our tour. Even shorter than yesterday: only 9 km but perhaps a bit more demanding since there’re streams to ford, while the whole King’s trail is equipped with Bridges.

We had to look for planks to cross the small rivers behind the cabins but soon we were on our trail.

One hour later we were on the moon …

… well, not exactly, but it was such a sharp contrast to the sweet and lovely landscape of the last days. We could hardly see any vegetation. Only moss, grass and some scattered flowers were left. And some reindeers on some of the tabular slopes. There were many small streams and brooks to cross and it was the first day where I was glad, that I walked in rubber boots.

After a while the lake Reaiddájávri that lies on 1056 meter came into view and we went along it. More and more clouds came towards us and swirled around as if they wanted to surround us.

We had to cross the stream that enters the lake at the northern shore. Annika had to switch to sandals and ford the stream, for the water was to high for her hiking boots. It started to drizzle, than to rain and it got windy. Navigation was less easy now since it started to get foggy, there were less marks and some streams and snow patches to cross. Mostly I navigated with the compass, but twice I took the GPS to ensure my navigation. Since wind and rain increased more and more and I was busy with the navigation I packed the camera into the waterproof bag and didn’t make any photo on the last two kilometres. In the end the small Nallostuga came into view and even the huge mountain Nállu in the back lingered through the floating clouds. We got a warm welcome of the stugvärd – the warden of the Nallostuga. And warm was the wood fired oven, too. A good opportunity to dry our wet clothes.

I only went out later that day to take a photo of the wooden signpost and the hut itself. The rest of the day was just gemütlich – the pouring rain outside and we ourselves warm and cozy inside.

Two days of at Nallo

One

We planned to stay a day in Nallo already two days ago. It looked like a good idea since the rain just poured down the whole day and it was very windy. All people out there looked very wet, whether they just crossed the stream – now twice as large and probably twice as deep – or if they just fetched a bucket full of water.

Time to make some photos within the house. Two typical views in Swedish mountain huts: Many of them have two rooms, each has a kitchen and two flanking bedrooms, only separated by a curtain. That make 20 beds in total. Plus one for the stugvärd who has his own little room. The Primus 2388 is a gas cooker, easy to handle and is found in almost each Swedish mountain hut.

Two solo hikers planned to continue their tour that day but after a while they decided to stay. Perhaps not the worst idea when you looked at the young hikers, that came in. They were completely soaked. They poured the water out of their hiking shoes and hang up the dripping-wet sleeping bags for drying. All was just soaking wet! We we’re quite glad to be inside. But finally I took my camera and went out for some photos. Brr, it was really cold (7 °C) and so windy that the spray of the brooks was blown upwards again. Some photos:

I was glad, when I came into the inside of our cozy hut again. Only Simba, the warden’s dog endured the weather stoically.

Later that day: The sleeping bag already has dried, but other clothes were still hanging on the clothes line.

Two

Next day we wanted to continue our trip but I changed plans. Unintentionally. I got ill. I got fever that night and problems with my stomach and intestines, that I definitely don’t want to describe in detail. Otherwise there’s nothing much to report. I didn’t make a single photo (a certain proof that I was really ill) and slept almost the whole day.

Later in the evening, when I felt a bit better I was able to communicate again. I heard about others that went Singi–Sälka, the very same way we went three days before. The trail has been so flooded that the water poured over the wooden planks of the minor bridges making them very slippery and it was so windy that the hikers were really frightened to be blown from the bridge right into one of the swollen rivers. Illness never fits, bit I guess I chose a quite good day for being sick.

I slept the night before, I slept almost the whole day and I slept the next night. That sums up to round about 30 hours of sleep without any larger interruption. That probably was the best medicine and the next day I felt sound and healthy again. The plan for the coming day: Hiking to Vistas.

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?

Strange skies

Three days ago Aurora Alerts by Soft Serve News showed a forecast for very strong polar lights, first for last night, than for tonight.

That’s why I took camera and tripod with me when I drove to the rehearsal with the Chamber Choir. When we had finished and I left the building it was cloudy – as expected – but you could see the green light of a quite strong aurora shining through the spots were clouds were less dense.

I hoped for the sky to clear up and drove to Långhällan – a favourite place at the seaside. Unfortunately however the sky hardly cleared up and finally the clouds became even denser. Suddenly I could spot a bright red light at the horizon. Is it a strong spotlight of a ship? But why is it so red? It took a minute until I realised that it’s really the moon rising above the horizon. I cannot remember seeing the moon in such an extreme red colour – even redder than at the total lunar eclipse five weeks ago.

The next photo is a bit special. It is much more edited than I use to edit photos to show the colder green colours of the Northern lights behind the clouds and the warm, now bright orange colour of the moon. I lit the foreground with a flashlight to make it visible. Not very easy to light it evenly without overexposing it. Even here I had to edit some spots that were too bright or too dark.

There may be less clouds at 4 or 5 o’clock. Ant perhaps still polar lights. But I guess I’ll be sound asleep … .

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.

Långhällan – some kind of another world

Today it was even a bit colder as yesterday. When I left the house to make some photos, the thermometer showed -10 °C and it hardly became warmer today.

This time I drove to one of my favourite places nearby, Långhällan, where the coast is quite rocky. When I left the car to walk the remaining 250 meters I could already hear the waves breaking ashore. The first view of the rocky coast was like from another world. The higher parts of the rocks were covered with a bit of snow, while the lower rocks were crusted with a layer of ice. This layer will grow with every wave rolling ashore.

The next hour(s) I spend sitting and crawling on the ice covered rocks and tried to make pictures of the incoming waves. I took more than a hundred pictures but I’m not completely content yet. Anyway, it was just fun being outside and experiencing this fine weather.

Finally the sun came out and started to fill nature with light – first of soft pink, then of intense yellow and orange colours.

I made another “photo session” and took even more pictures of the waves, this time illuminated by the low sun, but time was short and the waves were less impressive.

Soon the sun vanished behind some trees and I walked along the coast were I spotted the next motives: Last day high water has surrounded the lower parts of the small bushes with a solid layer of ice, that gleamed and sparkled in the sun.

After a while I had enough of taking pictures and slowly returned to the car. Two photos from the way back through the forest. It got colder – down to -15 °C and the soft-edged snowy landscape made me feel, that I left the world Långhällan and I was back in my home world again. The only thing that lacks for a real winter: A bit more snow.

Appendix 1 – Things that I was glad to have today

  • Warm cloths: insulated jacket and warm thermal pants, as well as warm gloves. I love winter but I don’t like to freeze.
  • Warm and waterproof “Muck Boots” rubber boots that kept my feet warm and dry.
  • A good camera, a good tripod and my favourite lenses.
  • Spare batteries – a must-have when it’s cold.
  • Most of all: My crampon-like spikes from Snowline – without them I wouldn’t have any chance to climb on the ice covered rocks.

Appendix 2 – making of

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Main course

Yesterday morning was cold: The thermometer at the stuga – the cottage – showed -19 °C. Our plan for the day: Try to find the snowy mountain that we saw yesterday and make a snowshoe tour if possible. After breakfast we packed snowshoes, cameras, GPS, map and warm clothing and entered the car.

Meanwhile we knew the following:

  • The mountain area is called Vittjåkk (“white stream”) – samian: Vyöhtjage.
  • Arvidsjaur wanted to sell the ski resort last year.
  • There where two ways to Vittjåkk, but we didn’t know if any of them was ploughed.

We tried the direct way, which is more like a maze of forest paths. Fortunately almost all of them where ploughed. Thanks to Annikas great navigation we found our way to Vittjåkkstugan, the valley station of the ski resort where we parked our car. Beside of another car and two pedestrians walking their dogs the whole area seemed to be deserted.

We mounted the snowshoes and ascended the first mountain. The sun hadn’t risen yet but the whole horizon showed warm pink and orange pastell colours. While we ascended the slope on a snowmobile track parallel to a ski lift the deep orange sun rose above the hilly forest landscape around and started to illuminate the snow.

We continued the tour until we were on the first peak, enjoyed both view and sun and wondered why it seemed so warm. Hadn’t it been -19 °C in the morning?

We turned right and descended the first peak just to head to the main summit. I was really stunned that you could find such a mountain landscape just “round the corner”. There were many tracks. Snowmobile tracks. We didn’t see any ski or snowshoe tracks; people start to get lazy.

After a while we stood on the top of the main summit – don’t ask me for a name, I couldn’t find any – and made a short rest, both of us drinking tea and taking pictures.

On the descent we wanted to catch as much sun as possible and took a detour. As you can see we succeeded …

… but we had to leave “safe terrain” and had to plunge through snow – sometimes knee deep even with the snowshoes. After 2 hours, 45 minutes we arrived at the car. A short but fantastic mountain hike.

When I started the car engine the car thermometer showed -8 °C, but it dropped down to -18 °C when we drove down toward the valley to Arvidsjaur. A good example for atmospheric inversion.

When we arrived at our cabin, we had -21 °C, later the temperature dropped to -22 °C. Probably the whole day had been quite cold in the lowlands. The inside of the cabin was quite cold, only + 11 °C, since the main heating wasn’t build for those wintry temperatures, but on the other side it was still 33 °C warmer than outside. A huge difference!

The rest of the day: Calm and lazy – just perfect after such a great tour.

South from Umeå I – Norrmjöle

Normally I head north, but not today. Annika and I were at the beach near Norrmjöle – 30 km south from Umeå, 150 km south from Skelleftehamn. The sea is still open beside of some pancake ice near the sandy beach.

Pancake ice occurs when a layer of solid ice is broken by wind and waves. The ice floes rotate and the edges are crushed by the other floes. That’s why this ice floes are always round and circular. Parts of the pancake ice on the photo was washed ashore (or left there by the flood).

Many rocks and stones near the shore were covered with a layer of ice – the nearer to the sea the thicker the ice. Sometimes the whole rocky beach was coated with ice and we had to go around to avoid slipping.

When I took the car back to Skelleftehamn it started to snow. First it was hard to drive since the snowless streets are so dark and the falling snow itself so bright. It’s like travelling faster than light through a cloud of stars. Fortunately the streets were covered with a thin fresh layer of snow after a time. That made the driving much easier.

Today we got 5 cm new snow in Skelleftehamn and it became colder. Looks like winter is coming next week with snow and temperatures down to -20 °C. I hope that it’s not too windy, that I can make a last trip by kayak before the sea freezes over.

 

The light, the light, the amazing light

More and more it’s not the snow and ice that fascinates me by winter, or the coldness that tickles in my nose. It’s the light, the amazing light! It’s incredibly beautiful, but – at least for me – hardly photographable. Too delicate and subtle are the colours and shades.

I tried it anyway, when Annika’s and I made our ski tour to the island Bredskär today.

After a snow fall of 12 cm last night the sea ice was partly covered with snow and skiing was nice and easy. However, we changed our plan to go round the whole island Bredskär, since the ice on the outer side was much too soft and weak. I don’t want to get wet feet or legs, when it’s -17 °C. However a wonderful little ski tour because of the light, the amazing light!

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 …

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 …

Furuögrund

Today Annika and I took the road E4 to Byske to visit Byske Havsbad, one of the largest sandy beaches nearby. But I was curious about the other side of the river Byskeälven and took another departure. That’s how we came to Furuögrund, which is a small coastal village north from Skelleftehamn. 39 kilometres by car; 20 kilometres if you can fly. Outside of Furuögrund there’s a peninsula with a small boat harbour and a café (that unfortunately won’t open before next weekend). The peninsula is surrounded by two bays – one with a sandy beach (and still some old leftover ice).

On the northeastern side there’s an old dock for timber, build in 1874 together with the sawmill. The dock has or had three different names: Massahusdockan, Norrdockan or “Nööl-dockan”. As you can see on the images, there’s hardly anything left beside of a mikado-like stack of old timber.

After strolling along the shore we took the car again and turned into a small side road to Svartnäsudden. I just had to stop when I saw the smooth granit rocks with the clear water puddle. In front of the rocks there was some boggy ground, partly covered with ice, surrounded by pine trees. And behind that a beautiful view over the blue Baltic Sea – that’s Coastal Northern Sweden in spring in a pocket.

 

A weekend in Söråsele – rich in variety

Both Annika and I had some days off round last weekend and so we could visit friends of her, who live in Söråsele. That’s in Åsele municipality, 260 kilometres west-southwest from Skelleftehamn. We started our three-day trip on Friday. While all lakes in Skelleftehamn are completely free of ice, many of the lakes in the inland are still covered with soft ice, as for example the southern part of the lake Bjurselet between Bastuträsk and Norsjö. You can still see the numerous snowmobile tracks.

The ground, where I parked my car was quite soft. I left up to 10 cm deep tracks in the muddy ground. But luckily we didn’t get stuck and could continue out tour to Lycksele, where we had a dagens lunch – the lunch of the day. With some other detours and rests – here we met the first mosquitoes of the year, but they didn’t bite us – we proceeded and headed to Åsele. From this town it’s just five other minutes to Söråsele, where M. and F. – Annika’s friends – live.

After saying hello to M. and F. and their dog we said hello to the sheep: six cute adults and three even cuter lambs. I never experienced sheep, that were so cuddly as those little flock – they all came to us, not for begging for food but for being petted and tickled. One of the males bumped the head against my leg every time, when I dared to stop stroking and cuddling him.

Finally I could break free from the sheep to get the camera. I was lucky, none of the sheep licked my wide angle lens, although I came quite near  as you can guess from the pictures:

The next day we moved the fence and the wooden shelter for the sheep. We – that’s four people, a smaller farm tractor and a trailer. Moving the shelter took some hours of thinking and doing, but we succeeded. Anyway, that’s another story …

After a fika – the swedish coffee break, we took the car and drove to Sörnoret to go up the the mountain Bergvattenberget (“the mountain water mountain”). At the northeastern side there’s a 120 meter high steep cliff called Offerhällan where according to old legends Sámi people where pushed down when they were too old to follow the reindeers. Hopefully just a myth.

When you want to hike in May, it’s always a good idea to wear rubber boots, since the ground is still very wet after the snow melt.

The evening we ate home made Lasagne. A lot of home made Lasagne! Especially I was quite stuffed and so we took a small evening promenade along the coast of the lake Söråselesjön which lays right behind M.’s and F.’s beautiful house. The air still was quite warm and the sunset coloured the feathery clouds.

The next day we made another trip, this time to different places. First stop: Torvsjökvarnar, a group of old water mills that form an open-air museum today.

Annika and I already saw some frogs or toads crossing the streets the day before, but here I saw the first frogs from close up. Another spring sign.

Other stops followed but – sorry folks – no photos.

At half past five Annika and I said goodbye and started the way back. We decided to choose another route and took the 92 to Fredrika. A good choice. Here’s one of the artworks of the Konstvägen Sju Älvar (“Art way seven rivers”). It’s called Poem för en imaginär älv  (“poem for an imaginary river”) and is erected on a big rock in the midst of an archaic landscape build of rocks, mud flats and tiny lakes. beside of the road the area looks like ice age would have ended just some hundred years ago.

Just some kilometres later there’s a thing you wouldn’t expect in Northern Sweden: A Thai Buddhist temple called Buddharama Temple. The giant statues of the sitting and standing Buddha and the live size elephants made of stone really look a bit strange in the middle of the Lappish woods. In Thailand 95% of the people are buddhists, but in Norra Norrland …?

(Sorry for the bad photos – the sun was definitely at the wrong place when we visited this temple.)

After that we continued our trip back to Skelleftehamn. I drove the car and Annika guided me along the small roads: BaksjölidenVargträskÖrträskOttonträskVindelnBubergetBotsmarkÅkullsjönBygdsiljumFlarkenÅnäset and than the E4 northwards until the turnout to Skelleftehamn, where we arrived at 22:54.

Thank you, M. and F. for your kind hospitality. We’ll looking forward to come back some other time. Perhaps there are other things left to be moved ;-)

Appendix

i. Animals on the journey:

Among others: Reindeers, four moose, a fox, cute sheep, cranes, Canada geese, swans, some western curlews and a short-eared owl.

ii. Northern lights:

Yesterday the aurora was really strong with a Kp index between 5 and 6, which says it is visible even in Denmark and Scotland. Now it’s a disadvantage to live as up north as I do. The sky is just too bright even in the dead of night to watch the Northern Lights. I guess, we’ll have to wait until August.