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.

From Å to Rystad

Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

An overnight stay on the island Gåsören

Saturday

The advantage of short kayak trips with overnight stay: you can start quite late. It was 7 p.m. when I started pulling my loaded kayak from home to shore. A quarter later I sat in the kayak and started paddling. It’s only four, five kilometres to the island Gåsören that shone in the warm light of the evening sun.

The first thing to do: Put up the tent before sundown. The second thing to do: Taking a picture of the lighthouse before sundown. The stomach reminded me of thing number three: Preparing food and eating. Todays dinner: Graved salmon on fire roasted bread à la plein air.

I was quite curious if I would catch the first polar light. The short term forecast of Soft Serve News wasn’t too bad. But even if the sun already went down round 9 o’clock – two and a half hours earlier than eight weeks ago – I still had to wait for the sky getting darker. After a while however I could see the first faint greenish garlands. My first Northern Lights of the season 2015/16! Great!

But then I saw something in the sky that I thought was much more fascinating: Right above the red coloured northern sky I could see a layer of lucent clouds. They looked really strange because there weren’t red or purple – they were pale white! I never saw something like that before. They looked extremely far away, almost extraterrestrial. I wondered if this perhaps could be noctilucent clouds – clouds that are found in extremely high altitudes of round about 80 kilometres. I stayed awake for a long time, I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from this wonderful phenomenon. Two pictures of the clouds:

Of course I checked my hypothesis directly, when I went home. Yes – I guessed right. My first noctilucent clouds ever. I was really lucky and I’m happy that I could see them just from my tent.

But let’s leave the Mesosphere and go back to earth again. If you tent on the island Gåsören, you can see other lights, too. Lights of civilisation: The peninsula Rönnskär is quite nearby. On Rönnskär there is Boliden Rönnskär, one of the most efficient copper smelters. You think industry is unsightly and ugly? Well, not Rönnskär by night in my opinion:

Sunday

I woke up in broad daylight although it was only half past five. I took one halfhearted picture out of my tent and then I started reading.

I started the book “Norwegen der Länge nach” written by Simon Michalowicz that was published just some weeks ago. Simon hiked from the Southern tip of Norway to the North Cape – round about 3000 kilometres.

I read in the tent – I read sitting in front of the island’s sauna — I read sitting or lying on a floating boat bridge, only interrupted by a short bath in the Baltic Sea. I followed Simon’s tour and just couldn’t stop reading. It was noon when I finally finished the book. If can warmly recommend it to all German readers that love Scandinavia or are interested in hiking. There’s a website as well: www.simonpatur.de.

I wasn’t alone on the island. Some people hired the old lotshus – the pilot’s house for an overnight stay. The first motor boats came in for a day visit. And both summer cottages – there’re only two on Gåsören – were used, too. From T. who owns one of the cottages I learned that it was international lighthouse day today. So before I packed all my stuff together and paddled home I went up the two stairs in the old lighthouse and made a last photo.

I was home again half past two. Many experiences and a good book in less than twenty hours – that’s a fine weekend.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
Noctilucent cloudsLeuchtende NachtwolkenNattlysande moln