Autumnal kayak tour

Today morning weather was calm with a grey sky, but later it brightened up a bit and I decided to take a kayak trip. Summer kayaking with just a life vest over your t-shirt are definitely past for this year, since both air and water where chilly. It always takes a bit of time before I finally sit in the kayak: Emptying the kayak from this weeks rain fall, dressing, fixing map and compass as well as the camera and finally dragging the boat into the water.

Minutes later I paddled round the northwest point of the island Storgrundet which lies off the coast of Skelleftehamn. The birches on the island where almost completely leafless, only the rowan trees still wear their many-coloured leaves and bright red berries.

On the outer side of Storgrundet the sea was a bit wavy and I tried to make pictures of the waves flooding the bow of my kayak. But I wasn’t lucky because when bigger waves came I felt safer with the paddle in both hands.  I landed on the small island Brottören, hardly more than a flat pile of stones, some birches, rowan trees and a shallow pond. On one of the bigger rocks I found a twig with rowan berries and I wondered if a human or a bird laid it onto this stone.

I continued in calmer sea between Brottören and Storgrundet where I had a nice view on the Island Norrskär with many coloured trees. Alas the sun hid behind clouds again.

Since weather was a bit dull I didn’t continue to other island but returned to the tiny sandy beach where my kayak has been laying since summer. The sharp tracks of the keel where the only tracks I left today.

Protected against wind and waterTo protected against wind and weather and – much more important – I use a dry suit. I bought it second hand, it is too big and not at all breathable. This could be a problem on longer tours since you start sweeting and getting means getting cold. The head was protected by a balaclava – there may be prettier things – because on the open sea it’s always a bit windy and chilly. And even if I love cold and even rough weather, I don’t like to freeze.

On my wish list: A neoprene balaclava – much better when it gets wet, and a better dry suit for kayaking, but those are extremely expensive and cost up to 1000 Euros.

Breaking the ice

6:15 rang my iPhone alarm and woke me up, far too early for a Saturday, but I made up a plan yesterday when I took pictures from the ice: I want to see the sunrise. From my kayak! I took a short breakfast, packed my camera, water, a snack and my immersion suit and drove to the small Storgrundet beach again. Half of the sea between the island and land was covered with ice.

immersion-suitSome minutes later I sat in my kayak and started my trip. It was harder to get ahead than expected. Even if ice was just three to five millimetres thick you could easily lay down the paddle without braking it. And so I had to prick the blade through the ice to force me forward. The cracking sounds of the ice smashed by my kayak reminded me on the tour with the “Arctic Explorer”, an ice breaker in Piteå. But I’m not sure if I would break as little as a single centimetre with the blade of my paddle. The immersion suit that I wore for protection in case of flipping over or falling into the icy water is quite alike the survival suits on the Arctic Explorer, too. You can lie in ice water for quite a long time without even freezing. But moving in it is hard because the neoprene is quite thick and stiff and the attached gloves are not very comfortable.

The sky was mostly clear, just some clouds in the east gleamed in warm early pre-sunrise colours. And far afield just over the horizon you could see a big wall of grey clouds. The locals call this clouds vinterväggen (The winter wall), since this is a typical cloud pattern in the winter months. It was awesome to be out, feeling the chilly air in the face, listening to the cracking sounds of the fresh ice and watching the changing sunrise colours reflecting on the icy surface.

But the ice gave me a quite hard time and so I decided after a while not to round another island but to head back to the beach and perhaps take another nap after the short last night. Therefore I turned my kayak and paddled back. I could see the channels of open water that the boat cut into the ice on my way there. I tried to use these channels to make paddling simpler, but it hardly help. Not the boat is the problem but the blade. Finally I went ashore again after one of the shortest kayak trips ever. But it was completely worth it!

Bog colors

The illusion of winter is past. The snow that fell two nights ago melted the next day and made place for warmer weather with a grey-white, cloudy sky and some rain.

For me the colours of early autumn are the yellow and red leaves, but the colours of late autumn, that’s all these shades of brown found in bogs and swamps. Today I made a short tour in a bog nearby to catch these colours. Large parts of the bog were frozen and you could walk quite easily, other parts were wet and muddy. Therefore I left by big camera home and took my waterproof Nikon AW1 instead. A good choice, even if the quality of the photos is a bit poorer.

The last image shows the forest way I took, which was partly covered with soft ice. I was a bit nervous when driving, because I still have summer tyres on my car, but it was much easier to drive than I thought. When I was home I washed my muddy clothes and – luxury! – took a hot bath after this chilly and wet bog walk.

 

Kajak home

Two photos from a small kayak trip today: Between these two photos lie round 2.5 kilometer, enough for a change from idyllic islands to grey industry, and 30 minutes, enough for a weather change with gathering dark clouds and increasing wind.

But it’s the same tour, the “bring-the-kayak-back-into-the-garage-tour”. Yes, I could have gone to the tiny private beach where my kayak lay under the summer, take it and just drag it homewards. But that’s boring. So I paddled it to the small boat harbour Killingörviken, which is quite nearby from my house. The tour is just 6.5 kilometer long but shows the different sides of Skelleftehamn: The beautiful small islands with forest and summer houses, the open sea, the industry on the peninsula Rönnskär, the small but active port and last not least the small boat harbour that probably won’t see any boat before April next year. Season is over.

We’ll see when kayak season will be over. As long as parts of the Baltic Sea are clear of ice I’ll try to be out, but that may change quite soon. At least the kayak is back in the garage where it is sheltered from the upcoming winter weather.

Winter intensifies

Did I write about the “just normal” winter two days before? Well that changed a bit. Right after I wrote the last article the snowfall intensified and brought 10 cm new snow within 16 hours. It got both windier and colder and still snowed a lot.

Today¹ I took a walk round the small lake Rudtjärnen. Snow fell in thick, heavy flakes and made it impossible to look farther than 100 meters. The squalls whirled up the snow morphing the view into a grey-white nothing. And it was even windier on the slope by the lake. The trees on the 2nd photo were hardly 50 metres away!

That was a nice and not so long walk (which was intended since I don’t want to overstrain myself right after the infection), but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to go out again. And so I did. This time with food and drink, (of course) my camera, my new flashlight and my new down clothes for some testing. I already guessed that I couldn’t drive to the small boat harbour because the way wasn’t ploughed and snow was too deep for my car. So I decided to continue to the peninsula Näsgrundet. What a piece of luck!

I dressed up for cold weather, lit my new strong flashlight and went to the rocky beach. Normally the shore descends to the open sea but not tonight where – I couldn’t believe my eyes – the shore was an ice shelf rising up at least one meter before dropping into a black nothing. I could hear the sea behind but I couldn’t see it. Where am I? What happened? Then I heard a rolling wave and – SPLAT! – I could see water and foam rising high up behind the brink and clashing onto the ice shelf! It took a moment or two until I realised what happened: The brisk northern wind presses the waves ashore where they rocket up into the air several meters. I guess that the water and foam first landed on the rocks where it probably froze almost instantly – remember, it’s -15 °C  out there. The rocks became more and more ice covered until they vanished under a growing layer of ice. When I came to this place this evening some parts of the ice were already two meters above sea level! And still some of the waves managed to toss a lot of water onto the ice where it froze and enlarged the ice shelf. What a fantastic experience!

I was both happy to be out there and a bit disappointed that I couldn’t share this moment. If I at least could take a photo, but how to take pictures of waves when it’s so dark. Wait a moment – dark? – My new flashlight was described as extremely bright – Let’s test. I switched the flashlight to the brightest mode, laid it onto my backpack and adjusted the beam to the waves. Then I took tripod and camera and started to experiment. And that’s the result:

I’m impressed. The new Flashlight is really bright. So bright that I can take such pictures at night time. (For the photo freaks: 1/20 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 1600. 35mm)

OK. The flashlight succeeded the test. But what’s with the rest? I was curious how warm the new bought down parka and down pant would be. I just wore a single layer of woollen underwear and my thin but windproof Norrøna-jacket, mostly to test the fur under the down clothes, that was all. (Not mentioning boots and gloves, of course). I’ve been out more than an hour, first taking pictures, then measuring wind and temperature, than taking my frugal evening meal. And yes – the Marmot down combination is as warm, snugly and cozy as it looks like. Almost too warm when sitting although we had an average wind speed of 10 m/s resulting in a wind chill of  -27 C. That’s good to know.

Now I’m longing to sunrise. I want to visit the spot again and take some daylight pictures. That’s perhaps evan a reason to postpone my journey another day. I’m not in a hurry. But tomorrow, when I’ll visit the place again I’ll wear something less water-sensitive than down, because tonight I always expected a huge monster wave would flood half the shelf and soak me completely.

Finally just two selfies from today, one when I walked round the lake, the other when I sat outside after the evening meal.

Foot note:

¹ As a matter of fact: Yesterday. It will already be Monday when I publish this article.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

squall – Windböe
down – (hier) Daune
foam – (hier) Gischt
flashlight – Taschenlampe
fur – Pelz

For equipment nerds:

Flashlight: Nitecore EA41 Pioneer
Down clothes: Marmot 8000M Parka, Marmot 8000M Pant. Older (or simpler) models.

Just for the archives:

Friday 2015-01-09 21:45 ca. 30 cm -4.6 °C
Saturday 2015-01-10 13:40 ca. 40 cm -7.1 °C
Sunday 2015-01-09 09:15 ca. 45 cm -8.6 °C
Sunday 2015-01-09 16:55 ca. 52 cm (47 cm backyard, 57 cm front yard) -15.0 °C

The magic ice world

Today I was in another universe. At least it looked a bit like it.

After my adventure on the “ice shelf” last night I longed to see the place by daylight. Breakfast was late but so was sunrise and right after I’ve eaten I drove to Näsgrundet again. We had -17 °C (more or less the whole day by the way) and some snow crystal fluttered out of the grey stratus clouds. I put on my grödels – simple crampons – to be able to go on the ice slope. Soon I stood at the rim and looked down into the calmed down sea. The view was quite impressive …

… but …

it would be great to see the ice walls with its icicles from the seaside. It’s not, that I didn’t think about it before, that’s why I had both my waterproof camera and my waterproof survival suit with me. I undressed a bit (not the funniest thing when it’s -17 °C outside) and slipped into the red suit. Then I took the camera and glided into the water. And that’s where I entered another universe. But enough words, the photos! Here they are:

I really loved to paddle in the ice water and to look at the ice walls that where decorated so beautifully wich icicles. Since the attached rubber gloves are waterproof, but not warm at all, my right hand index finger didn’t like the adventure as much as I did and got a bit of frostbite (it still hurts a bit but nothing serious, fortunately). And that’s how I looked like today when I took all these photos:

A first mountain hike

Day six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

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

Links:

Map with the lakes and the peak of Hovden

Tromsø: In the mountains

Day 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tromsø: At the shore

Day 15

Just strolling at the shore, at the seaside. Grey windy weather, the opposite of my day in the mountains yesterday. Just walking and letting the mind flow. My thoughts? I don’t know, i didn’t listen. A further step, balancing on stones, wading through shallow water, avoiding the ice, collecting some shells, looking around.

Just relaxing.

The bird is a Purple Sandpiper (Latin: Calidris maritima, German: Meerstrandläufer, Swedish: Skärsnäppa). My thanks to Patrick and Kevin for the identification.

The idea to stay another night in Tromsø and not to drive to Absiko today was good: Parts of the way to Abisko has been closed since yesterday evening due to the snow storm and are still closed. It’s still not clear whether they’ll be open tomorrow again. I guess I’ll give it a try.

Abisko: A first small ski tour

Day 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abisko: White snow, white sky

Day 18

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

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

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

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

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

Murjek: Through the forest, over the bogs

Day 23: Ski tour in Murjek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Leaving the comfort zone

Night 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

Um …

Well …

Boring!

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Outdoor details:

Some stories, thoughts and tipps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loma Vietonen – a special place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ski tour near Tornehamn

Day 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tack för turen, Annika – thanks for the tour.

 

Låktatjåkko – between ski tour and luxury

Day 43 and 44

Yesterday it promised to be a fine day with great weather. The mountain valley Lapporten was gleaming and glowing in the early sun.

Annika und I planned to go to Låktatjåkko, the highest Swedish mountain lodge, where we planned to stay overnight and even to eat a three course dinner. It’s not far away from Björkliden where we started, but parts are quite steep. Therefore we decided to take the snow cat, that drives to Låktatjåkko every day. And I could sit in the front to take pictures.

After the first steep passage we left the snow cat, took our skis and backpacks and continued the way on our own. The view over the snowy mountains and the lake Torneträsk was just amazing.

But some steep passages waited for us and after the first longer part we made a longer rest enjoying the sun, food and our warm down jackets.

After a while we continued our tour, short in kilometres but still quite steep, at least without skins. But finally the Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge came into view.

We were greeted by the two women running the Lodge. We asked how many people would stay over night. “Just you two”. And how many people will eat the three course dinner? “Just you two”. Now the pure luxury part began. We had a sauna, we sat in the fireplace room the fire already lit and at 7 p.m. we got a fantastic dinner, just the two of us! And we just did nothing for it. Almost a bit crazy!

After a snowy and quite windy night I went outside to take some pictures. The light was so diffuse, that it was hard to see where terrain went up or down. Therefore we took a quite relaxed morning waiting for the snow cat to come and bring us down into civilisation again.

Thank you, Ulrika and Yanina for the great service and the fantastic food. This is a place where we would love to be snowed in for a while.

 

A day trip into the valley Vistasdalen

Day 45 – a ski tour into the valley Vistasdalen

Today Annika and I made a shorter ski tour into the valley Vistasdalen. Some sun, some clouds and a beautiful views on the snowy mountain scenery. 6 km into the valley, 7 km back, partly on snow mobile and ski trails, partly cross country on soft and loose snow through small birch forests, over bog, lakes and small frozen rivers. Four barking dogs, a snow grouse, a lonely cabin and many, many moose tracks.

 

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!

 

Opening the kayak season

“4:45” showed the clock when I woke up this sunday. Seventy minutes later I stood at the shore – just on time to see the sunrise. My kayak still was fixed on its cart with paddle, camera and dry suit inside.

I put on the dry suit, pushed the kayak into the water and started the tour. When I left home it was -6 °C and parts of the sea where covered with thin new ice. Thin enough to melt under the day but thick enough to give me a hard time to break through with the kayak.

I’m always a bit nervous when I stick my paddle into the ice. Will it break one day? But until now it went well. Sometimes it was easier to take the hand and pull the kayak ahead. And sometimes, when the ice got really thick I used the paddle to hack small holes into the ice that I used as handles for pulling me forward.

But after a time I reached open water and paddled along some old ice floes that were much, much thicker.

And a bit later I came to the huge icy surface, that lays between the mainland and the islands Norrskär and Bredskär. I got out and stepped onto the ice. I think, this is the first time that I stepped onto the sea ice from my kayak. I wasn’t nervous, first of all is this old ice really thick, I should guess at least 30 centimetres, probably more. Then I always wear my completely waterproof immersion suit when I make a kayak trip in winter.

After a short break I continued the tour and headed to the island Gåsören. On the outer shore there were some impressive ice floes left.

It took a while until I could go ashore, because I had to cross another field of new ice. I took a longer rest and took of the dry suit. Ugh! Like always I sweated in the thick neoprene suit and now I smelled like a dead Puma. I took on some other clothes and first it was quite chilly. The spring sun however had enough power to warm me up and soon I took of my gloves and cap.

Most snow has melted and beside of the ice covered rocks at the eastern bank Gåsören almost looked like spring was here.

After a while I dressed for paddling again, entered the kayak and returned to the starting place. With the last ice behind I had a beautiful view of the islands Klubben, Flottgrundet, Gråsidan and Nygrundet. With the blue sky and the blue sea I had the feeling of leaving the winter behind me and paddle into the spring.

When I was home again the thermometer showed +7.3 °C. Almost spring!