Ice fishes, a deadly meteorite and an almost secret cave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reindeers – many, many reindeers

Day three (part I)

Today I got up early, no wonder after more than 10 hours sleep. I packed my things, cleaned the room and left Abisko heading westwards. It was still twilit and I was quite alone on the road.

That changed after 18 kilometres: A huge herd of reindeers blocked the road. I slowed down and slowly, slowly drove through the reindeers. Right after the reindeer crossing I found a parking place. Good to exit the car and take some images of these beautiful and gentle animals.

The reason why the reindeers were hanging around was probably the pile of big bags lying beside of the road. I guess they contain reindeer food.

After half an hour of taking pictures and watching I entered the car again and continued my journey to Norway.

Whale watching in Andenes

Day eight

To cut a long story short: It’s been a great day!

After watching the beautiful polar light last night I got less sleep than preferred because I drove to Andenes to participate a whale safari. First I had to drive round two hours. After that I had to wait, time I used to put my cameras in waterproof bags. Finally we where equipped with overalls and live vests and entered the big rubber boat. We left the harbour and headed an area where whales have been seen some hours before. This part was a bit tough since we drove against the wind and some waves where quite huge letting the boat rise and fall some meters into the wave troughs again.

But finally we reached the area and directly saw the first whale fins and the first steam blown out through the whales blowholes.

The next two hours we saw a lot of whales, sometimes we where almost surrounded by them. Mostly we saw orcas (that are called killer whales, too) and humpbacks, but some fin whales as well. The orcas are following the herring and I probably came just to the right time to see so many of them. We even saw orca calves that are yellow or even orange instead of white as long as they are breast-fed.

(Oops, the room where I get internet is closing soon, I have to rush a bit …)

For me the most amazing view were the huge humpbacks diving down showing only there big tail fin. And the orca child swimming near its mother. And now to the photos:

As I said – it’s been a great day!

Links:

Sea Safari – Whale & Bird watching Andenes (under construction)

Photoing whales

It’s hard to take pictures of the whales. Sometimes there where quite near, less than 10 meters, but mostly there are farer away and you need a good system camera, a good tele lens and much practise in focussing. The most of my photos were out of focus, but alas not all.

Some of the photographers that joined the trip had real huge tele lenses and I guess the value of the total camera equipment onboard was the same as my house in Skelleftehamn.

Whale names

Latin English German Swedish
Orcinus orca Orca / Killer whale Orca / Schwertwal Späckhuggare
Megaptera novaeangliae Humpback whale Buckelwal Knölvalen
Balaenoptera physalus Fin whale Finnwal Sillval

Jokkmokks marknad

Day 22 – the winter market in Jokkmokk

The first weekend in February is the traditional date for the winter market in Jokkmokk – the Jokkmokks marknad – that took place the 410th time this year. Quite a long history – the first market, long before Jokkmokk exists, was 1605.

I’ve been in Jokkmokk on Thursday, which is the quietest day. From Murjek, where I’m just now, it’s round an hour car drive to Jokkmokk. I arrived 9:00, quite early. Most marketers just started to unfold their market stalls or to unpack their goods. I went down to the lake where the dog sledging was prepared. Most of the dogs were still in their stables in the car trailer, but they longed to come out and to run. But it was only a matter of time until ten dogs where attached to the sledge and the first tourists could take a small tour over the lake.

Tore Sankari, FinlandI went back to the market and met Tore Sankari, one of the marketers that I already met in Byske some months ago. He has been trading fur and many other goods for more than 45 years. But he told me, that the market is smaller than usual this year. Some of the long-established marketers didn’t come. And I could see as well, that some of the streets, packed with stalls some years ago where empty this year.

I talked to some marketers. Many of them are old men, travelling around, buying and selling goods as fur products, knives, warm clothes and things for everyday life. I guess some of them had stopped their businesses, some other will do it in the next years. Will there be a younger generation to follow or will this half-nomadic lifestyle extinct? I don’t have an answer.

What is traded on the Jokkmokks market? I would divide it in three parts:

  • Traditional goods, Swedish and Samian. Shoes made of reindeer skin, woolen Lovikka mittens, fur products, knifes.
  • Modern everyday goods. Sweets, toys, fishing equipment, tractors.
  • Art handicrafts. Samian fashion, jewellery, paintings, thinks made of birch root and bark.

But have a look by yourself. Just some examples:

At two o’clock i went to the reindeer race. It’s always fun to see the reindeers galloping drawing a sledge with a man or woman cheering their draught animal.

Seven hours after arrival I left the winter market and drove back. Actually I thought about visiting the market twice but I left it with the impression, that I have seen all. Next day I wanted to be out in the nature again. And that’s what I did.

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)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascent of the Komsa

The second day in Alta. The afternoon I parked my car at the end of the street Tilfluktsveien. My plan was to go up to the top of the hill Komsa. The winter ways turned out to be ski trails and I since I went afoot, I went beside the trail. First I thought about getting my skis, but soon I found a trampled path that brought me to the top of the Komsa. Thank you, locals, for knowing the best way and tramping this path! On the top of the Komsa it was very windy and I sought shelter behind the radio station to change the camera lens. Nearby stood two sheds with parabolic antennas. The green camouflage pattern revealed the military usage. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous standing there with my camera and the long telephoto lens, especially when I aimed directly to the sheds to catch the mountain view above. I’m quite sure that it’s strictly forbidden to take pictures of military installations in Norway as in many other countries. After taking some images (landscape, no military installations!) three soldiers appeared and approached. They went into my direction and they seemed to be in a hurry. (Gulp!) But they just said “hoi”, passed by and entered the wooden house of the radio station. (Phew!) There were not at all interested in my photographing and probably just wanted to avoid the chilly wind. I was reliefed and wandered around a bit. The stormy wind was chilly but the views where so beautiful.

Two other photos of today.

One: The Nordlyskatedralen (The Northern Light Cathedral) in Alta, a remarkable building.

Two: Wakan, an Alaskan Malamute, that will participate the Finnmarksløpet, a 1000 kilometre dog sled race that starts in Alta in a few days. Good luck!

Kirkenes: A night in the snow hotel

This is perhaps the most special place of the whole Nordkalotten 2015 journey to write my blog: On the bed in the room of the snow hotel. Behind me a warm sleeping bag, beside me a snow relief of husky dogs running.

But its a perfect match to my afternoon, where my friend had a half day of and I got a wonderful private dog sledding tour. Parts of the trail where prepared perfectly, because they were part of the Finnmarksløpet – a 1000 km dog race from Alta to Kirkenes and back again that happens right now. First I sat and enjoyed gliding through the landscape effortlessly, but on the flat sea ice of the Langfjorden I could stand on the sledges blades and steer the dogs by myself – a really easy terrain for beginners like me – and I have to admit that this is much more fun than just sitting.

A great two hour tour, thank you, C.! The only disadvantage as a photographer, most of the time you see bums and tails, but if you ignore this, it’s great fun!

Later on we got a three course dinner which was very good. To be honest, that was almost the main reason, why I booked the snow hotel night. I’ve slept in igloos before, but of course not in such a huge one with a three course dinner before.

This night is a good end of my journey. Tomorrow I’ll head home. I’m stuffed with sensations and impressions and I’m longing home. But before I went into my room, I even got some polar light again after a quite long time of abstinence.

Now I have to close, the laptop runs out of battery and I start getting cold.

Good night!

 

Nordkalotten 2015 – the animals

Let’s see which animals I got to see under my journey Nordkalotten 2015:

Moose (Elch, älg)

Three moose. The first one I saw from the inside of a house. A big male that walked on the road with a car slowly following. The other two I saw from the car.

Article: Where to go? Undecided yet …

Reindeer (Rentier, ren)

Countless reindeers. Reindeers are so common that I saw them many, many times (and I don’t count the tame or the fenced in ones). Several times I had to slow down or to stop because of reindeers being on the road. Sometimes they do not leave the road but instead start to flee. It’s a bit funny to follow the tails of four galloping reindeers with the car but it must be exhausting for them and I’m always glad when they leave the road.

The reindeers in Northern Scandinavia aren’t wild animals, they always belong to a Sámi family. You see them pulling sleds, posing for photos or even participate in sledge-races.

Articles: Reindeers – many, many reindeers · Jokkmokks marknad

Fox (Fuchs, räv)

The first fox I saw as a pair of eyes glimmering in the darkness while I drove car. The second one I saw from the car, too on my journey to Kirkenes. I took first same photos from the inside of my car. I tried to get nearer, but the fox went away and disappeared soon.

Mountain hare (Schneehase, skogshare)

I saw a mountain hare near Abisko. It looked at me from a hill above. I didn’t even try to follow, since mountain hares are a zillion times faster than me with skis in deep snow on hilly and forestry terrain. No photos therefore.

Seal (Robbe, säl)

We saw a seal in the harbour when we started the whale safari in Andenes. Since we were told to protect our cameras from spray and waves we all had our cameras in. No photo neither.

Whale (Wal, val)

Yes I saw whales and more than expected. A great experience!

Article: Whale watching in Andenes.

Eagle (Adler, örn)

Some. A pair sitting on the breakwater in Andenes. It was too dark for taking photos. I saw some flying here and there but too far away.

Ptarmigan (Schneehuhn, ripa)

Only two (which is a sign that I’ve been less out in nature as planned). One from the car, one in the valley Vistasdalen on a ski tour with Annika.

Article: A day trip into the valley Vistasdalen

Purple sandpiper (Meerstrandläufer, skärsnäppa)

Twice. Some at the shore in Tromsø and a larger group in Olderfjord. This was a short but awesome experience seeing them fly away and return to the same place again.

Articles: Purple sandpipers and Tromsø: At the shore.

Siberian jay (Unglückshäher, Lavskrika)

Twice. Some at the Polcirceln and two near Kirkenes. They were much to shy for me to get good photos, so I publish a bad one ;-)

Of course there are many, many more species in Northern Scandinavia but especially the big carnivores – bear, lynx, wolf and wolverine – are extremely rare to see. Most bears are seen from the car, but not in wintertime when they have winter rest. And to be honest, I don’t want to meet a bear when hiking in the forest.

Postscript: Husky

I didn’t mention the Huskies, of course they are animals, too. But I thought more about the animals found in the wilderness, when I wrote this article. Anyway, some links to articles with photos of huskies:

Articles: Kirkenes: A night in the snow hotel · Jokkmokks marknad

Postscript 2: The Old Norwegian Sheep

These curious, cuddly fellows belong to the Nøisomhed Gård in Haukenes, where I stayed right in the beginning of my journey.

Travelling back in time

Believe it or not, it is possible to travel back in time, at least some weeks.

Here in Skelleftehamn near the coast the ice on the Baltic Sea, the river Skellefteälven and all lakes is gone and all birch trees are bedecked with green leaves.

Yesterday I had a gig in the Skidstugan Stenabäck – a small ski hut between Norsjö and Lycksele. On the way there I could see the birch trees being less and less green until they were leafless again. As I said – like travelling back in time. But I was even more fascinated by the fact, that parts of the lake Stor kvammarn were still covered with ice.

Just at the driveway to the ski hut some reindeers were hanging around. I saw them again several times this weekend. The group was easy to recognise because of the white reindeer with the pale pink horns.

I stayed over night and so I got the opportunity to make a picture of the incredible evening sky. It looked like clouds burning in slow motion.

Today I took a short tour by car with R. who drove along some forest roads nearby. We saw a young moose standing in the forest and just beside the road a Western capercaillie probably looking for a hen.

Then I took my own car and drove home, not the fast and boring main roads but the smaller ones. I saw four more moose on three different  places. Five moose total – a new record, but there all were quite camera-shy, trotted away and hid in the dense forest – one even crossed a small river and even if I couldn’t see her anymore I could still hear her feet splashing through the water.

One photo through the windscreen – just for the records.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
western capercaillie, wood grouse, heather cockAuerhuhn/Auerhahntjäder

A curious squirrel

I love to take pictures from animals. Most animals doesn’t share this pleasure and flee – either from me or the camera with the big telephoto lens. Today I was lucky. A squirrel sitting in the tree stared curiously at me giving me time to change lens and make some pictures. It’s only after I went directly to the tree to come nearer, the squirrel scurried up the tree. But I got my portrait.

From Å to Rystad

This article is part of the series “2015-07: Lofoten and Vesterålen”.

Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuing to the Vesterålen

This article is part of the series “2015-07: Lofoten and Vesterålen”.

Our third day started with a lot of rain. We put the wet tent into the car and continued our tour to Kabelvåg where we visited a friend of mine. We took a small mountain hike but it was cloudy and wet. Only far away in the east you could see some sunny patches on the top of the snowy mountains.

After the hike Delle and I looked for a camp ground. But first I had to take a picture of the beautiful rainbow near Sildpollen.

This time we tented on a bigger campsite in Sandsletta. When I woke up quite early the next day I could see another rainbow over the Vatnfjorden, but later it started to rain and pour down again. And again we put the soaked tent into the car. We continued on the road 888 to Fiskebøl. The clouds were hanging low and you could hardly see any mountain, just some white and light grey schemes.

Soon we arrived in Fiskebøl where we waited for the ferry. Again we were lucky – we waited hardly half an hour until we entered the ferry for the short crossing to Melbu, the southernmost city of the Vesterålen. We visited friends of mine, this time in Haukenes were we tented near the friend’s house. The cocks tried to wake me up ridiculously early, but in vain. I continued sleeping until 8 o’clock.

Alas it was the first morning without rain (and the only one, too) and we could dry the tent. After a long and lazy breakfast with my friends we said farewell and continued our car trip. We got a tip to visit Stø at the northern end of the Vesterålen island Langøya. What a good tip and what a beautiful landscape – especially after the weather was nice and sunny. We made a short photo stop between Strengelvåg and Klo before we continued to Stø.

In Stø we parked our car and took a short hike over the mountains to a beautiful white sanded beach were we made a rest and I took a short bath. There’s a 15 km hiking trail as well; next time I’ll definitely will go it.

After our rest we slowly walked back and continued by car. First we had to head south to Sortland were we crossed the Sortlandsundet and headed north on the other side. The sky became more and more cloudy and we looked for a nice campground. Finally we found one in Bleik, quite near Andenes, a town at the northern end of the Vesterålen. We put up the tent and – guess what – it started to rain.

It had been raining the whole night and it continued raining. Again a soaking wet bunch of a tent lay in the back of the car. After a while of driving through the greyness we decided to head back to Skelleftehamn. It’s more than 900 kilometres and it took the whole day. Rain became less near Abisko and after we passed Jokkmokk the sky cleared up and we could see the full moon slowly rising. The next photo, which is the last of our car trip through the Lofoten and Vesterålen is taken near Storforsen, one of Europe’s biggest rapids. At 23:50 we were in Skelleftehamn again – and I was home.

  • 2296 kilometres in six days
  • a lot of clouds and rain, but two nice and sunny days, too
  • one night in the car, four in the tent (three of them on campgrounds)
  • two bathes and at least four rainbows
  • – a nice trip!

 

 

From Kebnekaise Fjällstation to Singi

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

August 24 and 25: Day two and three of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Kebnekaise Fjällstation – Singi

After the crowded Kebnekaise Fjällstation I really longed to continue our hike. Soon after breakfast (with real German bread!) we left and continued westwards. Soon a first wooden bridge over a small creek came into view followed by a larger bridge over the ravine that the stream Láddjujohka has cut into the rock. In the back: The mighty mountain Siŋŋičohkka.

It was as warm as the day before and the sky was incredibly blue. We continued westwards and went round the steep southern slope of the Siŋŋičohkka. Parts of the narrow valley lay in the shadow of the mountains Skárttoaivi and Liddubákti, but soon we came to a sunny place covered with soft heather beside of a small creek – the ideal resting place. It was hard to prevent dozing off and to pull ourselves together to continue after a long while of resting and being lazy.

This daily stage was quite relaxed: only 14 kilometres. Soon the Singistugorna – The Singi cabins – came into view.

We hardly saw any animals yet but round the cabins we saw two quite typical species commonly found in Lapland: The lämmel or lemming and the ripa or ptarmigan (sometimes called snow chicken). They came quite near but gave me a hard time photoing them. I only had a small 100mm-lens with manual focus instead of my great but huge and heavy 70-200mm-lens, so I’m not really content with the results. However, the experience to have these animals so near was more important.

(Later on the journey I got a much better opportunity to take pictures of ptarmigans …)

Singi – Hukejaure – Singi

This day was planned to be a long one! Instead of following the Kungsleden – the King’s trail we planned to go to Hukejaure in the west and then to cross the Swedish-Norwegian border. From Singi to Hukejaure it’s 20 km and it’s just a path, only partly marked.

We started quite early, went north along the stream Tjäktjajåkka and crossed it after two kilometres on another chain bridge.

We had to “climb” over some rocky parts until we came to a beautiful alpine pasture. Do you know the film The Sound of Music? It almost looked alike – without the dancing and singing. Instead of that we got some snow fields and some shallow bogs and ponds. Beautiful anyway:

After a while the path was gone and we had to go up some hundred meters. It was as warm as the other days plus we were on a treeless southern slope – a matter that makes one sweat. We made a rest after 7 or 8 kilometres. It was later than expected and we just made the easy part of our way today. Will we come to Hukejaure in time? Or will it get dark? Is it safe and reasonable to continue? We both didn’t like the decision but since we weren’t sure to reach Hukejaure in time we decided to go back. Next time we have either to start even earlier or take a tent with us. We’ll see …

After 5 kilometres we came to the Tjäktjajåkka again but the light was completely different.

The last two kilometres felt a bit boring and we were glad when we arrived at the Singistugorna that we left the same morning. Other people walk there dogs, we walked our backpacks. After a two-course dinner (noodle soup and tortellini) I went around in the dusk and took pictures of the landscape reflecting in the oxbow lakes of the Tjäktjajåkka.

I was glad that I had my mosquito jacket with me, they were many of them seeking my blood that evening. And when I came back I was glad that all windows are equipped with fly screens to keep out those little bloodsucking vampires.

On the one hand it was a disappointment that we had to change plans, on the other side the tour itself through this side valley was awesome. We probably would never have thought about it without our Hukejaure-plans. Next stop tomorrow: Sälka, only 12 kilometres.

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?

Winter journey in a nutshell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Räven raskar över isen

“Räven raskar över isen”, which means “The fox rushes over the ice”  is a popular Swedish folksong which is performed as a singing game at midsummer.

Today I was out quite early, because the weather was still nice: -6 °C and not completely cloudy. And while I took some more images of the ice outside of Storgrundet, wondering when the ice will bear my weight I saw a fox crossing the ice and rushing from one island to the other. I immediately remembered the song.

(The photo itself is a cropped image, the fox was too far away for my 70-200 mm telephoto lens. By the way: the clouds were of an incredibly intense red – even more than the photos)

Soon more clouds came in and it started to get warmer. In the afternoon it started to rain transforming the cold roads into slippery, wet ice tracks. I would deeply recommend to wear broddar – spikes for your shoes when weather is like this.

Kungsleden ski tour: Tjäktja

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

From the Sälkastugorna to Tjäktjastugan

25 February · 12 km · Link to map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day in Tjäktja

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

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

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

The next article: returning to civilisation >>

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
wolverineVielfraßjärv

Vårvinter

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

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

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

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

There were ski tracks and skiers.

There were snowmobile tracks and snowmobile drivers.

There were moose tracks …

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

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

A weekend in Söråsele – rich in variety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other stops followed but – sorry folks – no photos.

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

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

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

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

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

Appendix

i. Animals on the journey:

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

ii. Northern lights:

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