The illusion of winter

No, no, it’s not winter yet, it’s October. Yes, it snowed a bit in Skellefteå last weekend. Yes, some frozen snow is left. Yes, the maximum temperature in Skelleftehamn was only + 0.2 °C yesterday. Yes, we even have snow storm this night (snow warning: 5 – 15 cm until tomorrow morning).

But after the snow storm it will get warm. And rainy! 4 °C at lunchtime and 6 °C in the evening. With wind gusts up to 60 km/h. Probably the streets will be full of wet slush tomorrow and I won’t leave the house without rubber boots. But, as I mentioned above, it’s not winter, it’s just plain old October.

Anyway, the snow covering the houses, the gardens and the streets and lighting up the whole nocturnal scenery gives a perfect illusion of winter, even if it’s only for a night and half a day.

Some photos made in the forest two hours before the snow arrived:

And some photos I made in Skelleftehamn just now, between ten and eleven o’clock:

 

108 free days

Yesterday I worked the last day for a long time. Now I have holidays. Long holidays! The first day I’ll work again will be the day after Easter Monday and that means that I have (just a moment, I’ll have to check it again to believe it: 12 + 31 + 28 + 31 + 6), that I have a 108 day holiday starting today!

108 days – isn’t it great? Um – err – I don’t know! The last months were quite tough with much work (both privately and on the job) and I’ve been in “survival mode” for many weeks – and still I am. I don’t realise yet, that today my longest period of free time since pre-kindergarden times started. Probably it will take some more days until I really understand.

Yesterday it was sleeting – a bit of snow, quite much rain. But in the afternoon it got colder and rain changed into snow. Today it’s round -5 °C and we have ca. 8 cm fresh snow. In contrast to the last weeks the snow will probably survive, since the weather forecast promises temperatures below zero for the rest of the month.

My friends know my passion for winter and snow and of course I went out and took a walk round the lake Rudtjärnen. The whole lake is covered both with ice and fresh snow and I saw the first two skiers today. They tried to cross a part of the lake but they had to stop to scrape the freezing slush from the bottoms of their skis. The ice under the snow is still wet. No surprise after yesterdays rain.

Later this morning I took the car to the peninsula Näsgrundet where you can see the island Gåsören with its red-white lighthouse in two kilometers distance. It still snowed and long waves rolled on the beach, broke on the shallow shore and flushed away the snow of the nearest rocks. And in the background lay Gåsören covered with the first noteworthy amount of snow.

It took more than 60 shots of this motiv, until I found the right place and – much harder – the right time with surf in the air and the red spotlight of the lighthouse on. I’m still not content, but it’s the best shot today.

The rest of the day: Celebrated laziness – it’s my first day off!

In round about three weeks I will start my long trip through Northern Sweden and Northern Norway – the reason why I took such a long period off duty, and by the way the reason why I started this blog.

Shortest day in Skelleftehamn

Sunrise 09:40, sundown 13:25 – that’s less than four hours sunlight with the sun hardly rising above the horizon. But you can add at least three hours dusk and dawn, so it’s not pitch-dark 20 hours and the snow that fell two nights before lightens up the scenery, too. The image below shows the river Skellefteälven which is almost completely ice covered, at least in Ursviken where the river is broad and the current is week.

Just a normal winter

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

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

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

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

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

Just testing the travel computer

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

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

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

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

Oh yes.

Publishing a blog article: CHECK

Starting the journey

Day one and two

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

Day 1: Skelleftehamn – Solberget

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

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

Day 2: Solberget – Abisko

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

Tomorrow I’ll enter Norway and continue to Stokmarknes.

From Sweden to Norway

Day three (part II)

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

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

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

… and another image in Kongsvika in the dusk:

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

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

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

A first mountain hike

Day six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

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

Links:

Map with the lakes and the peak of Hovden

Tromsø: In the mountains

Day 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abisko: A first small ski tour

Day 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abisko: White snow, white sky

Day 18

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

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

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

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

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

Abisko: Where are the mountains?

Day 19

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

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

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

 

Winter wonderland

Day 21 – Deep, deep snow

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Murjek: Through the forest, over the bogs

Day 23: Ski tour in Murjek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The storm arrives

Day 26 – February 7

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

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

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

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

Where to go? Undecided yet …

Day 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I parked the car and left the comfort zone …

Appendix: Some words about Ole:

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

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

Leaving the comfort zone

Night 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

Um …

Well …

Boring!

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Outdoor details:

Some stories, thoughts and tipps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loma Vietonen – a special place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ski tour near Tornehamn

Day 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tack för turen, Annika – thanks for the tour.