Two months ago – first aid course in Solberget

Day 31 – 38

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

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

Saturday

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

Sunday

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

Monday

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

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

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

Thursday

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

Friday

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

Saturday (again)

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

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

 

From Singi to Sälka and Nallo

This article is part of the series “2015-08: Kungsleden hike”.

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

This article is part of the series “2015-08: Kungsleden hike”.

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?

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Main course

This article is part of the series “2015-12: Short trip to Arvidsjaur”.

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.

Winter Swimming World Cup and Scandinavian Championship 2016

Last Saturday the 5th winter swimming competition in Skellefteå took place, this time not only as a Scandinavian Championship but even part of the world cup. The Happy Friends of Cold and Darkness (or in Swedish: Mörkrets och kylans glada vänner, which I’m a member of, was the organiser of this event.

I wasn’t part of the organisation team this year, but I was on the ice round the swimming pool and took many photos, both for me and the media.

The first winter swimming in 2012 was the coldest with temperatures round -32 °C. This year it was much warmer with only -1 °C, but the wind and the snow showers made the event to a chilly experience, too.

Here are some impressions:

Links to blog articles about the other winter swim championships in Skellefteå:

 

About a tough women

Last year our association Mörkrets och Kylans Glada Vänner (Happy Friends of Cold and Darkness) got a special request. Josefine Steenari from Lindome nearby Göteborg had the wish to take a winter bath.

For most people it sounds really crazy to enter a pool with ice cold water with temperatures between +0.1 °C and +0.4 °C. But some people just want to try it anyway, and so did Josefine. While most people just could go or drive to the next ice hole, undress, take a deep breath and go into the icy water, Josefine needs some help, since she is almost totally paralysed. She communicate with her eyes but she has no control about her extremities and is sitting in a wheel chair.

Mörkrets och Kylans Glada Vänner was glad to help. Our first plan was to let her ice bath be part of the Winter Swimming Championship on last Saturday, but unfortunately the gangway down to the ice covered river Skellefteälven was too steep and we couldn’t guarantee Josefine’s safety.

Fortunately we found another possibility. The association has an ice hole for winter bathing in Kåge, not far away from Skellefteå. Here we met Josefine and her team on Sunday evening and after a bit of thinking and planning we all were ready for her first ice bath. Josefine sat in a special sling (I’m not sure if it’s the right word), that was attached to a log and Hans and Jarkko lowered her slowly, while I was behind her in my waterproof immersion suit to turn her a bit. Tiina counted the seconds and after round 12 seconds she was lifted up again.

I heard, that Josefine loved the experience and that the ice water didn’t felt as cold as expected. I was glad and even a bit proud to be part of the team, that could help her to fulfil her wish. One more crazy ice bather in Sweden!

1st photo: Annika Kramer, 2nd photo: Norran, Karin Israelsson

Links:

Kungsleden: returning to civilisation

This article is part of the series “2016-02: Ski tour on the Kungsleden”.

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 …

A wet walk west from Ersmark

At this time of the year it can be quite interesting to go for a walk through the woods. A lot of snow melted in the warmth of the last week and every river, stream or brook is in flood. The heavy rain some days before provided an additional amount of water.

Annika and I started our walk west from Ersmark, seven kilometres north from Umeå. The whole area is a shooting range for the military, but a sign clearly shows, when shooting exercises take place and when it’s safe to hike. Today we were lucky – no military exercises this weekend.

We went along the gravel road. The road was clear of snow, but due to the night frost all mud puddles were covered with a thin layer of ice. We went ahead until we came to a minor path. This path was completely covered with snow. We continued this snowy path until we approached the brook Tavelån. This part of the path was covered with a splintered crust of ice that clearly showed, that this part of the path was flooded a short time ago. More and more water flooded our path and we had to wade to reach the wooden bridge, that crosses the water. The brook was so flooded that the water partly flowed over the planks of the bridge.

After the bridge there was much more water on the way. Parts of the flooded brook flowed over our hiking path, too. I tested the depth, but soon had to give up. The water was too deep for us to continue, although we both wore high rubber boots.

We turned and took the same way back, until we reached the car. Annika, who took care of navigation today, realised, that we could take the car to another starting point to experience the other side of the brook.

A short time later I parked the car on a muddy ground near a small nature reserve with the witty name “Natur 2000” – still the same military shooting range. Larger parts of our new hiking path were covered with ice, but at least the way wasn’t muddy. After a while we headed north trying to cross the Tavelån again, this time at another place. When we came to that place were we expected the bridge, all I could see was some kind of old concrete base – the bridge was gone. I laughed out aloud – another blind end again!?

But we were lucky: Ten metres away some railway sleepers lay across the Tavelån. After some wading again we could safely cross the flooded brook. Anyway, the continuation of the path was a bit challenging again. The snowy path was partly flooded and we had to wade several times, carefully balancing on the wet ground ice. But we succeeded: None of us slipped and we continued our tour – dry and warm, since the spring sun had a lot of power and warmed us gently.

The path ascended and soon we walked on a dry gravel way. The rest of our hiking tour was a bit boring: Broad and straight gravel roads through forest and heather. After a while we reached the car.

We tried to take the minor gravel roads to head back to Umeå but when we almost reached the big road, the last part of our way was prohibited for cars and we had to return.

When we arrived home at Annika’s flat, the thermometer of the car showed +10 °C. Another day in spring with remains of winter.

A cruise from Skelleftehamn to Bjuröklubb

It doesn’t happen often, that you can make boat trips from Skelleftehamn, were I use to live. Only one week once a year the Laponia Rederi from Luleå comes down to Skelleftehamn for some cruises. Last Saturday Annika and I took the opportunity to attend a five hour cruise to Bjuröklubb, where I’ve been quite a lot, but never by ship. When we arrived in good time before 11 o’clock people already started entering the small ship.

We boarded, too and thereby lowered the average age some years. I sniffed around the boat and got the permission to enter the bridge for some photos.

Five minutes before schedule the ship put out to sea, cruising along the industrial peninsula Rönnskär.

While Annika and I were standing on the top deck looking at the sea, the islands, the sky and the waves, all other people stayed inside and started focussing on the main topic: the lunch buffet. Anyway I have to admit, that especially the salmon was extremely delicious, and the bread as well.

I once thought about making a kayak trip to Bjuröklubb, an exposed peninsula and the easternmost point of the county Västerbotten. It would take me some days, since for one thing I’m slow and for another thing I would follow the coastline and never dare to take the much shorter direct route long away from the mainland. The ship, however was fast and took the “directissima”. Therefore it took only 90 minutes to cruise there.

At the small harbour we all went ashore and the ship continued to a larger harbour nearby where it waited for us. We got a guided tour and went up to the lighthouse where we left the croud for a good reason: Just that day was the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend, the only day where the lighthouse – which is still in use – is open for visitors. I went up, waiting for the other visitors – max 4 at the same time – to leave and made some photos. Not only the cut glass mirror construction was incredible but the colourful reflections of the sunlight, too.

Since we already left the group we took a hike to the other harbour, where we entered the ship again. Why it took us more than half an hour to walk for just some hundred meters? Well, there were blueberries, there were raspberries … and we picked and ate a lot of them.

The crew untied all the ropes connecting the ship to the land. I’m sure they are nautical terms for those ropes, you are free to post their proper names in the comments. Then the ship started, fetched the other passengers at the other small harbour and headed back to Skelleftehamn. Annika and I sat on the upper deck and enjoyed sun, clouds, wind, and waves as well as the view on the islands Skötgrönnan and Gåsören.

Ninety minutes later we arrived again in Skelleftehamn, where we came off the ship, while one of the crew played farewell music on the accordion.

Conclusion: A relaxed cruise and the opportunity to play tourist in my adopted homeland for one day.

ɥʇnos uʍop ʎɐʍ – part I

Although I already live quite up north (64° 41′ N) my most longer travels head even further north, not south. But not this time.

Having started in Umeå I took the train to Stockholm, another train to Malmö and in some hours a third train to Trelleborg, which is the southernmost town in Sweden. I’m travelling more than 1200 km and more than 9 degrees of latitude – a tenth of the distance between the equator and the North Pole!

Last night rain poured down in Umeå, where I already arrived yesterday. How will I come to the rail station without becoming completely rain-drenched? Goretex jacket, pants and rubber boots? No need for it, I was lucky: The rain had stopped and the sunlight was reflected by the wet asphalt, when I went to Umeå Central.

I was way to early and had to wait. Anyway, the weather was fine, the air fresh and the train arrived 20 minutes before departure. When I went to carriage 1 I realised, that it’s a 1st class coach. First I was a bit puzzled, but then I remembered, that I did book 1st class tickets. They were hardly more expensive and now I was glad to have a bit more comfort on the long journey. And there was coffee, muffins and fresh mandarins, too. For free!

First I took another seat (my window seat hardly had any window …) and had a look at the Swedish landscape rolling past.

In Sundsvall many people got on and I had to take my original seat again. 2 hours 19 minutes to Gävle

… and then 1 hour 26 minutes to Stockholm, where I left the train. One of the disadvantages of living in a small town is the increasing inability to be comfortable in crowded places. And for me, Stockholm Central Station is really crowed! The photo may fool you, all people were in the very same shop, where I bought a photo magazine.

I longed to get on the next train to Malmö, were I just could sit and relax, but first I had to wait with the other zillion people for the train to arrive …

(to be continued …)

ɥʇnos uʍop ʎɐʍ – part II

Two days ago I started a journey southwards. After half an hour in Stockholm, where I changed trains, I sat in the X2000 to Malmö – a four and a half hour trip. I looked out of the window to have a look at Stockholm and saw the train crossing the Årstaviken on a high rail bridge.

Then I got tired and tried to fell asleep. Then the landscape got a bit boring. Then it got dark. That’s why my camera stayed in its backpack for a long time. Then our train started to delay more and more. Will I be able to catch my connecting train in Malmö? I knew, there were later trains the same day in case of missing this one, but I was a bit nervous anyway. I was tired and just wanted to end this part of my journey as soon as possible.

Two or three minutes before the departure of my connection we arrived in Malmö. I left the train, and started to run: Where’s track 2B? To the left – to the right – holding left – running down the looong escalator. Where’s the train? Oh – the track changed. Where’s track 1A? The other end of the same platform. Jogging again. Where’s the train? Oh – not here yet. Phew!

Some minutes later I entered the local train to Trelleborg where I finished my 12 hour 40 minute journey and took the short way to my hotel. I checked in, went to my room, took a shower and a photo and soon I was fast asleep.

Ten hours later: I stand on the huge ferry to Sassnitz, Rügen, Germany. The ferry crossing will take a bit more than 4 hours. Twice I am inside to buy small things to eat and to drink, the rest I sit or stand outside having a look at Sweden leaving behind, the open Baltic Sea with nothing in view beside of an offshore wind park and some other ships far away. Some places on deck were quite windy, other were wind-protected so that I can sit in T-shirt enjoying the sun. Two and a half hours later Kap Arkona, the northernmost tip of Rügen comes into view and later the outstretched chalk cliffs of Jasmund. A good hour later the ferry goes ashore in Sassnitz and I am in Germany – for the first time after Christmas 2014.

I think, travelling by ship could be my favourite style of travelling. You are not bound to your seat, you can walk around, you get food (if you want) and you can look at the sea. What a pity, that there’s no ferry from Skelleftehamn to Sassnitz. Come on, shipping companies, it’s both the Baltic Sea, it cannot be so hard …

Some images of yesterday:

4×4 winter impressions of Kirkenes

This article is part of the series “2017-02: Northern Norway”.

Kirkenes – the harbour

While Annika and our friends in Kirkenes enjoyed their breakfast in the Hotel Thon I took a short promenade along the Johan Knudtzens gata to take some pictures. Already the view from the hotel terrace over the fjord is quite impressive and shows the beauties of the arctic nature while the harbour shows the more practical sides of living here: fishing, both commercially and just for fun.

A hike onto the top of the Lyngberget

After the breakfast we took the car to Jakobsnes and a bit further to take a promenade up the mountain Lyngberget, which lies on the other side of the Bøkfjorden. Here you can have a wide view over the whole town of Kirkenes – at least as long it doesn’t snow, as it did on our way back. I just love these wintry landscapes where you have views over fjell and fjord, but the wind was quite chilly and soon we looked like the participants of an arctic expedition.

The Huskies of the Kirkenes Snowhotel

Today we played tourists and visited the Kirkenes Snowhotel, which is just some hundred metres away. The Snowhotel has 180 Huskies including the seniors plus 30 puppies. The huskies are like we humans – some are working, some are resting, some are curious and some are shy. But they are all very kind and friendly.

Inside the Kirkenes Snowhotel

I slept in tents, in igloos and outside in wintertime. I even slept in the Kirkenes Snowhotel two years ago. This time Annika and I enjoy sleeping in the inside of our friends house (Thank you for your great hospitality, Christine and Ørjan) but gave the Snowhotel a visit. And it was worth it – especially the lounge with it carved ice blocks is very impressive.

Tomorrow we’ll leave this fine place, take the car to Vardø in the North (yes, that’s still possible!) and take the Hurtigruten from there to our next destination.

Three times outdoor barbecue

This week vårvintern – “the spring winter” – really has been here. Some degrees above zero during the day, some degrees below at night and still a lot of ice and snow around.

On Tuesday Hans, a friend of mine, and I looked around Bureå’s surroundings. There are many places that are historically interesting or just beautiful and cozy. Some of the historical places however were either snowed in or hard to approach in winter time.

A fire had already been lit of two snowmobilers in the barbecue hut at Burehällorna, a natural reserve at the coast. How good Hans had everything for hamburger grilling with him!

Hans also showed me Bureå camping, his new camping ground right next to the E4. We considered to use the wonderful sauna next to the river Bureälven but postponed it to another day. Even if Hans is going to realise only a third of his plans, this will be a great place to be!

Yesterday I met my friends Annica and Martin and we went to their hut in Bygdeträsk. Anyway we didn’t heat the hut, we stayed outside. After shovelling away the snow to have a place to sit, Martin lit an outdoor fire directly on the icy ground and we grilled sausages. And warmed up apple pie! Sausages have never been my favourite meal of mine, but I really like them when they have been grilled above open fire – even if partly cold, partly burnt. Those who love outdoor grilling over open fire will know what I mean.

Believe it or not – I didn’t make a single photo!

Today Hans, his friend Stefan and I met at Kågehamn and we took a sauna jaunt. Kågehamn is situated at the bay Kågefjärden which has round a dozen islands. We skied over the snow covered sea ice to the island Bastuholmen were Hans has two cabins and a sauna on rafts. While Hans and Stefan started to saw a hole into the ice I fired the sauna oven.

While we waited for the sauna getting hot we grilled. After all the hamburgers and sausages of the week I preferred burgers with halloumi cheese today.

Then we went into the sauna that had been heated up to 60 °C and went into the ice hole several times. I cut my leg, because the ice at the edge is quite sharp. After two rounds of sauna we packed our stuff and skied back again.

If it comes to taking pictures I definitely prefer the cold winter in January, but if it comes to meeting friends and having fun outdoors, vårvintern is just great!

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting the “Vindelälvsdraget”

Yesterday Annika and I went to Vännäsby , 25 km away from Umeå, to view the 30th Vindelälvsdraget which is the world biggest draught dog relay according to the organisers. It started in Ammarnäs in the Swedish mountains on Thursday and ended just in Vännasby on Sunday. That’s a distance of 381 km in three and a half days.

Some of the competitors used a sledge pulled by four to six dogs, but most of them skated on skis and had one or two dogs dragging (more or less). They came along on the frozen river Vindelälven, turned into the river Umeåälven, which they had to leave right after the bridge. Some of the teams managed it perfectly while others had to shout höger! (right) to the dogs several times until they obeyed. The river bank is quite steep and was a real challenge for the discipline of the dogs. One of them just rolled in the snow while the skier tried not to slip and fall, while some others were shortly distracted by the smell of the grilled sausage by the trail. However all teams managed to come up where there were only some 100 metres left to the finishing line.

The speaker at the finishing line was great. His talk was so “adagio”, laid back and completely free of any stress. I really enjoyed his almost zen-like moderation which was the total opposite of the normal sport presenters stressful reporting attitude. My kudos!

Some photos:

Links: Website / Information pdf (both in Swedish)

 

Ice fishing in Skelleftehamn

When it’s as warm and sunny as today many ice fishers enjoy sitting on their little folding stools on the ice, that still covers a small part of the bay Kallholmsfjärden in Skelleftehamn. I guess it’s both the glorious springlike weather as well as the knowledge that there may not be many opportunities left to set foot on the ice and do “pimpelfiske” this season. The open water in the background is quite near.

Some hours earlier: I stand at the very edge of the peninsula Näsgrundet and look at the Baltic Sea, which is partly ice covered and partly open. As it looks, I could both walk and paddle to the island Gåsören. I do neither nor. I don’t dare walking since the ice may be weak and I’m just too lazy to take the kayak today.

It’s summer

When you look out of your window and see long green grass in the urgent need of being cut, where 4 weeks ago a snow shower covered the whole garden with white

When you go along the river Skellefteälven and finally other flowers started to bloom than only tussilago

When nights are no dark nights any longer and it will take many weeks until you can see the first stars again …

When you paddle on the river Skellefteälven, barefoot, just with t-shirt and shorts, not with a drysuit as three weeks ago and you even enjoy becoming wet by some breaking waves, because it’s so refreshing …

… then it’s summer in Northern Sweden.

And summer is more than welcome after the long winter. By the way, summer solstice is just 10 days away.

20 August: Kungsleden day 1 – Vakkotavare—Teusajaure (16 km)

This article is part of the series “2017-08: Kungsleden hike”.

The idea to walk the Kungsleden with my sister Katrin and my brother-in-law Andi had been existing several years. This year we put our plan into action and went this famous Swedish long-distance trail from Vakkotavare to Abisko, which is round about 110 kilometres. Fortunately Annika had time to join us.

We started our tour on 20 August, exactly two weeks ago. As many hikes our tour started with public transport: The bus 93 from Gällivare to Ritsem. The last 130 km of that route are famous for being Sweden’s longest dead-end road.

We however left the bus at Vakkotavare where we immediately started the tour. We had no time to loose since our destination – the Teusajaure hut – is located on the other side of the lake Teusajaure and we hoped for a lift with the motor boat at 19:15 to avoid rowing cross the lake.

The first part of the trail is quite steep and leads along a mountain brook with some waterfalls. 500 metres in altitude can be exhausting, when it’s the first day and the backpacks are still packed with some extra food.

Finally we were on the plateau on the “kalfjäll”, the alpine region above the tree line. I really love that bleak but wide landscape where you can look so far.

Until then we were quite lucky with the weather. It wasn’t sunny but at least it didn’t rain. But the weather worsened. The clouds became darker and it started to rain, first lightly then gradually intensifying. We could see some patches of old snow far away but soon all mountain peaks vanished in the thick layer of clouds.

The last part of the trail descends again. This was probably the most dreadful stage of our whole hike: it rained more and more and the steep stony path downwards was muddy and slippery. Despite of the rain there was not a single wisp of wind. So every second we stopped we were immediately surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes that landed in our eyes and nostrils or tried to get into our ears to suck our blood. Anyway we hardly rested anyhow since we tried to reach the boat.

We managed to reach the landing stage at the lake Teusajaure in time, wound up the signal for the boat (a white plastic jerry can) and waited. At least we were glad that the hut Teusajaure was in sight.

I felt disappointed and frustrated. It was the first hiking tour in Sweden for Katrin and Andi. What would happen if the weather would stay like that? And the muddy trails? And the mosquito clouds? Would we continue or abandon the tour? What would they think about hiking in Lapland? Would they ever come again …?

Soon we could see the boat leaving the other side of the lake. Minutes later it arrived. We put the backpacks onboard, jumped in, put on live wests and soon brought across the lake.

On the other side we unpacked the wet trunks and the stugvärd – the mountain-lodge keeper – gave us four beds to sleep. While Annika and I had hiked in Sweden many times it was brand new to Katrin and Andi and felt like a culture shock:

No electricity, no water tap and no water toilet neither! Instead of that: candles, a wood fired oven, two gas cookers and some buckets with water – partly fresh, partly used. And the earth closet somewhere out in the dusk. Again I felt a bit guilty that I persuaded Katrin and Andi into that Kungsleden hike.

Anyway the first tour day that was long away from being ideal came to a nice end: We had pasta, fresh chanterelle mushrooms and sour cream with us for the first day and therefore could enjoy a dinner far above standard. Now we only hoped for the rain to stop. It didn’t take long until we went to bed and soon we all slept.

What do you do if you don’t want to get a motor boat lift? You row by yourself. That’s round 1 km one way.

There are three rowing boats total. If you have two boats on your side, you’re lucky: Just take the boat and row across the lake.

If you have only one boat on your side, you have to row three times: First you take the boat and cross the lake. Then you row back with the same boat and a second boat in tow. Then you leave that second boat and row again a third time. So it’s ensured that there’s always at least one boat on each side.

24 August: Kungsleden day 5 – Singi—Sälka (12 km)

This article is part of the series “2017-08: Kungsleden hike”.

The morning in Singi was cold. The temperature was just above freezing point and again it had snowed onto the higher mountain tops.

Good to have a stove to fire and a gas burner to prepare hot tea!

Each day we got out of our beds earlier and earlier. This day we stood up way before seven and started our hiking day already at half past eight. Hejdå, Singi!

It’s only twelve kilometres to the Sälkastugorna, so we could take it easy. We planned to take a rest in the small emergency shelter Kuoperjåkka which is 6 km away from Singi but it was already occupied. So we rested outside. Despite to the cold weather there were many mosquitoes that tried to bite us. Some succeeded, some died …

We continued our trail to the north and crossed many small mountain rivers and alpine brooks. All of them were bridged. The smaller ones with wooden planks, the larger ones with metal chain bridges.

First the sky was grey and the air chilly but little by little it was clearing up and the mountain tops that first were hidden by clouds and haze started to reappear.

At 13:30 we arrived in Sälka where one of the three stugvärdar – the mountain-lodge keepers – gave us four beds in a 10-bed-room. A lot of people stayed overnight and some of the latecomers had to sleep on mattresses on the floor or in the sauna.

I took an afternoon stroll and peeked into the Stuor Reaiddávággi, the valley that we would hike through the following day.

The kitchen was both too small and designed in the most impractical way. So we moved into our room after dinner and avoided that kitchen. Quite early we climbed in our beds (it’s always bunk beds with two or in some huts even three beds on top of each other), but we didn’t get much sleep that night. Eleven people were sleeping in that room and it was noisy and the air was hot and fuggy. Anyway I managed to fall asleep after a while.

In the night some of us were woken up by a bright flashing light. It held on for minutes without stopping and I realised, that it came from the outside. The light was attached on an antenna on top of a roof and illuminated the whole area. I put on some clothes, went outside and woke up a stugvärd by knocking at the window. He told me, that the police would call. (Every hut on the Kungsleden has a satellite telephone, but only the police can phone the huts from the outside.) I went into bed again, realising once more the bad air  in the room, but I didn’t dare to open a window since it was cold outside. Finally I managed to fall asleep again.

Next day the stugvärd thanked me for waking up him. The police was asked to look for a hiker, that indeed had been in Sälka the day before but already had continued his trip.

There are summer trails and winter trails. Partly they are united and partly they run differently. Summer trails mostly are marked with piles of stones. The upper stone is often painted red to increase the visibility of the waymark. Winter trails are marked with red crosses sitting on the top of long poles. Nowadays many of those crosses are made of plastic. That’s a shame since they are ugly, probably less ecological and quite fragile, too.

Don’t follow a winter trail in summer if you don’t want to swim through lakes or find yourself sinking deeply into the mud of a bog.