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

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!

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

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 7 to 9

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 13 to 15 of my winter journey 2018

(finally the last part about Jonas’ and my ski tour five weeks ago)

Tuesday, 13 February

I woke up in the cabin Tarrekaisestuga at 7:20. Some more centimetres of fluffy snow had fallen over night and it was still snowing slightly.

While Jonas and I had breakfast the snowfall intensified so that the mountains and the opposite shore of the lake Darrávrre were hidden by the falling snowflakes. Even the deep tracks of our pulkas from the day before had been snowed over and we couldn’t spot them anymore. We planned to gradually walk back on the other side of the lake and find a tenting place there. After breakfast we packed our equipment into the pulkas, cleaned up the cabin and started our tour by crossing the lake. It was still snowing quite heavily and on the lake it was quite windy, too.

It was not easy to find a path on the other side of the lake. The snow was soft and deep, some parts were forested quite densely and some passages were quite steep. At least for me, who lacked both power and general fitness for dragging a heavy pulka uphill through this sort of powdery snow where you sink in 20 to 40 cm with every step – with skis on!

Slowly and with many small detours we managed to ascent the southern hills until we reached the treeline where the terrain is more open and less hilly. We found a boulder where we found shelter against the wind. Here we took a snack: Chocolate, trail mix and hot tea.

We continue skiing slowly going uphill heading east. It stopped snowing and the wind dropped but the weather was still grey and dull. At least we could see the mountains again.

Suddenly we came to an abrupt stop. We stood at the edge of a deep, steep ravine impossible to cross. Such can happen if you do not make a detailed tour planning but just have a general idea of where to go.

After a while we started to look for a place to tent. First we followed the ravine that the river Áhkalmgårttje had cut into the landscape then we descended a bit to find a sheltered place between some birch trees. The snow was really deep and without skiers I sank up to my stomach into the fluffy snow.

Fortunately the snow was stable enough to build up the tent after we had trampling down it thoroughly with our skis.

Later in the evening: I wonder, why it is never completely dark. Is it still lights of civilisation reflected by the clouds? Suddenly something was flickering between the clouds. Is it a strong aurora? No, it’s just too vivid. But what is it? It was two snow mobiles that illuminated half the mountain landscape with their strong full beams. Slowly they passed on the lake below us.

Temperatures were round -10 °C, quite warm for a February night in the Kvikkjokk mountains. Soon I fell asleep.

Wednesday, 14 February

As usual I was awake quite early and I had a challenge: going on the loo. I just slipped into my warm mukluk boots, put on the down jacket and took toilet paper plus snow shovel with me. I went back on our track from our day before thinking it would bear my weight. It went well a few steps then I just fell through the snow and stood there, again up to my stomach in powder snow. This plan didn’t went so well. I climbed out of the hole, brushed off the snow of my long johns and looked for a better place. (I found it.)

This morning was even warmer with only -8 °C and quite foggy. Both wide angle lenses were completely fogged and it would take most of the day until I could make clear photos again. That’s what the morning  looked like:

As usual we took it easy and started only at 11 o’clock. We descended through the hilly open woodland until we met the winter trail. Snowmobiles had used this trail not long ago and now it was quite easy – even if a bit boring – to get ahead. And after some time even the sun tried to twinkle between the clouds. The first time after many cloudy days we casted shadows again. And it was snowing at the same time.

I skied fast on the snowmobile trail where I could use cross country skiing techniques. Too fast for Jonas and too fast for myself, too. I couldn’t hold the tempo and after some time I was really exhausted – not for the first time on this tour. On the other side it was already afternoon and we were already quite near Kvikkjokk, where I had parked the car. Jonas found a nice clearing in the forest were we tented the last time on this tour. And even the sky cleared up a bit.

Thursday, 15 February

We do not know if we missed northern lights while we slept. The morning however the sky was grey and overcast again and half a centimetre of dust-like snow covered the tent. (And my green anorak that I had forgot to put into the pulka.) Today we would have it easy. Just some kilometres skiing on the winter trail that means, following the snowmobile tracks, mostly on the river.

We passed the place where we had left the very same river the very first afternoon to find our tenting place. Here, in the “valley” much less snow had fallen and our deep tracks climbing up the steep riverside were still visible. Now it wasn’t long to the private shortcut that we had used on our tour start. When we came to this place, a snowmobile approached from that very shortcut, a man waved at us and made a turn to talk to us. It was Björn, the very same local that we met when we started our tour! He was quite eager to hear about our experiences even though he was a bit in a hurry. He also told us about two other Germans that he just had met at the very same parking place where I had parked my car.

The last kilometres, crossing a small frozen river …

… following the shortcut (which is quite long for being a shortcut) and finally we arrived at the parking place. We hadn’t much luck with the weather, we didn’t ski long distances, but it was an awesome tour anyway. Thank you, Jonas!

Plans for the next ski tour:

  • be better trained and exercised (!!!)
  • have less equipment (!!)
  • have (partly) better equipment (!)

Photo #6 and #9 in this blog article are made by Jonas Balbasus.

At the parking place we met Dan and Helen, also from Germany, who just were on the point of starting a much longer tour within less than two weeks: Following the Padjelanta, crossing the Sarek, returning on the Kungsleden. A very ambitious tour in my opinion. But they made it as you can read in Helen’s blog:
Winter ski tour through Sarek National Park – Sápmi / Swedish Lapland

 

 

 

 

#escapism – an icy camp site

Yesterday

Yesterday at 17:40 my tent was set up on a snowy plane near the sea ice where I planned to stay for the night.

The dinner was part luxury (a really cold coke), part pragmatism (some instant curry chicken of dubious consistency) and part necessity (chocolate!). After the dinner I walked along the shore, which was completely covered with ice and snow. First I walked on land, then on the sea ice. You may think, that a landscape that solely consists of snow and ice must be quite colourless, but no, when there’s light there are colours!

When I came back to my tent, it already had become dark and the almost full moon hovered over the tent. And that was my view from the tent, too: The moon, some stars, snow, ice and the icebound sea.

You might wonder, where I am. Good point, I’ll explain. Let’s go back half a day.

Yesterday I worked only half a day and was home early. I had a plan in my mind: as long as the sea ice is as thick as just now, why shouldn’t I ski over the Baltic Sea to the island Gåsören and spend the night there. I’ve done that in summer twice by kayak but never in wintertime. So I picked myself up, packed skis and pulka and took the car to the small harbour Tjuvkistan.

While the Baltic Sea was open one year ago it is still covered with thick ice this year. Instead of open water one can spot only a snow covered plane and some tracks – made by hare, a moose, another skier, but mostly by snowmobiles, the favourite winter vehicle of many locals. I however do not own such a snöskoter but prefer skiing anyway.

The linear distance between Tjuvkistan and  Gåsören is only 2,3 km and so I arrived at the island soon. In summer it’s hard to find a tenting place (I know only one), since almost the whole island is covered with stones and rocks. This winter however Gåsören is covered with at least 50 cm of snow and so it was easy to find a good place to tent. Scroll up to the first photo and you see it.

OK, back to the story …

At nine a clock it was quite dark and a layer of clouds approached. Good arguments for cuddling up in my warm down sleeping bag and go to sleep. Good night, world.

Today

At five a clock I woke up and felt fairly well rested. I got up for taking some photos. Although it’s already the end of March the nights can be quite chilly and I guess that we had temperatures round -10 °C. I put on more or less all clothes that I had with me and made some photos. The moon had wandered on its orbit to the west and hovered above Gåsören’s old lighthouse.

That photo looks like being shot at the dead of night, doesn’t it? So let’s turn around and look to the east:

It’s less than 8 minutes between the previous two images and it’s more the cardinal direction than the time difference that is responsible for the different light and colours. I walked around for two hours and was just happy to be there at that fantastic place that fantastic morning and to experience all these different kinds of ice and light.

I became hungry so I returned to the tent. or tried … . Just a photo of the lighthouses behind the ice. And another one of my camp site.

But now: finally breakfast. Water, crisp bread and cheese. That may not be the most exciting food, but I didn’t care, I enjoyed the  incredible view over the icebound Baltic Sea in winter.

After breakfast I walked around another time and took some more photos.

Another break. This time just pure luxury. Since I wasn’t in a hurry the tent was still set up. So I could cuddle up in my cozy sleeping bag again and took a long daytime nap. The temperature was still below zero but the sun was high up in the sky and warmed the tent. And there was even chocolate left. Just “gemütlich”!

When I woke up an hour later a layer of stratus clouds had approached and the light had become dull. A good time to pack anything back into the pulka, to put on my skis again and to start the “long” way home. Good bye, Gåsören. Next time when I visit you it will probably be with the kayak. I love winter, but paddling in summertime is great, too.

When I had arrived at the car after Jonas’ and my previous ski tour, it was in Kvikkjokk, 400 km from home. This time the car was parked less than 3 km from my house. I’ve been living in Skelleftehamn for many years now but still I’m happy about the beautifulness of it.

This article is the first one of the new series #escapism. It’s about being outdoors and leaving civilisation behind in excursions that take less than 24 hours. Everyone should have time for such!

My packing list (excerpt)

tent with snow pegs · inflatable camping mat · down sleeping back (a warm one!) · clothes for skiing · spare clothes · winter anorak · thermal pants · warm boots · woollen cap · 2 pairs of gloves · down west · skis with poles and boots · pulka with hip belt · water (both cool and hot) · food (a lot!) · knife · camping stove · matches · kitchen stuff · mobile phone · power bank · headlamp · sunglasses · thermometer (it broke) · compass · isdubbar (essential emergency equipment in case of breaking into the ice) · toilet paper · snow shovel · camera equipment · tripod · grand piano (just kidding)