A new blog

Hello. I am Olaf Schneider, a German jazz musician, web developer and photographer having been living in Northern Sweden since April 2010.

It’s September 2014 and I just started a new blog. The main focus will be the great outdoors in Northern Scandinavia: about travelling, landscape, nature, weather and being outside afoot, with skis or kayak, but probably there’ll be many other articles, too: about swedish culture, events, photography, cute kittens and other bits and pieces. And a lot of pictures because I love outdoor photography!

I hope you’ll enjoy way up north. I’m looking forward to your numerous comments.

Have fun!
/Olaf

For nordwärts readers: why another blog?

Some of you might already know me in person or my German blog nordwärts, where I wrote more than 800 articles and published more than 3500 photos You’ll may ask “Why another blog?”

1. The language

nordwärts is German. There’re many Swedes that can speak a bit of German and understand more than they would admit. But only few of them can read it quite fluently. So I thought about writing nordwärts in German and Swedish. But beside of the increased time exposure writing bilingual I got more and more contact to people that neither speak Swedish or German whether they are from Finland or Dubai. Therefore I decided to write in English. (Yes, I’ll definitely make many mistakes.)

2. The topics

Four and a half years ago my new life in Northern Sweden was all amazingly new and exotic to me: The first snow in October, the Swedish language and culture, the reindeers on the inland roads. But many things got quite normal now. Still I adore my life in Northern Sweden, but it’s not new to me longer. I started writing about playing music on nordwärts or other things that are not at all Sweden-related. Should I write a public diary for the rest of my life? Probably not. Therefore I decided to shift focus away from “my (not so) new life in Sweden” to other topics as mentioned above.

3. Change

I love change. That’s all me!

Étude – making photos at the rocky shore

There’s nice autumn weather with blue sky and there’s today, a windy day with a clouded sky, but at least no rain. I took a tour to the rocky shore at Långhällan, one of my favourite places nearby. My plan was to practise. The musical pieces that provide you with practising material are called étude. That’s why I’ll call it “étude” when I practise photography.

Todays topic: Long time exposure which filters at daylight to blur the waves. I’ll show you the unedited snapshots of two motifs at the coast. That’s how it looks like, if you just do “click”.

Ok, that’s the motifs. They show some kind of chaos, because the windy weather created quite big waves (at least for the bottenviken – the most northern part of the Baltic Sea) and it’s hard to distinguish between the waves and the rocks. There’re several way to improve the photos. One: Wait for better weather. Two: Work with filters.

In the following images I used the Big Stopper, a filter that takes away 99.9% of the incoming light and forces you to exposure 1000 times longer than usual. Instead of 1/20 of a second for example you would expose 50 seconds, long enough to blur all the moving objects as the waves, but to keep the sharpness of the stable objects as the rocks. Additionally I used a graduated filter to avoid overexposure of the sky. And that’s the first motif with the filters, edited in Lightroom.

The long exposure transforms the waves in some kind of a foggy layer, making the photo look like flying over cloudy mountains. I’m not so happy with the shot. Waves are too high blurring bigger parts of the rocks and the sky is quite dull making the photo almost looking like black-white.

By way of comparison a photo of the same motif I made last year which I prefer instead of the todays shot:

The next photo I like much better. The rocks are looking rougher and the tuft of grass is a nice eye catcher giving the photo both a focus and a story. It will be the first image of my series “one”.

What do you need beside of the filters to make these photos: First of all a stable tripod, it’s a must. A remote release is quite handy to avoid shaky images. And last not least, warm and water proof clothes. I had chest waders to get to the big rock through knee deep water and to kneel without getting wet.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

exposure – Belichtung
expose – belichten
blur – weichzeichnen, verwackeln, verwischen
tripod – Stativ
remote release – Fernauslöser
chest waders – Wathose

Last not least, just another photo from today, perhaps my favourite:

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.

Faint polar lights

I wake up at 1:50 and stood up to drink a little bit and directly continue sleeping, but I made a mistake. I looked out of the window! Quite clear and colourful polar lights glowed on the northern sky.

Aurora photographers question number one: Shall I go out? Or continue sleeping?

Guess which ten minutes were the best of all? Right, those ten minutes in the beginning, where I put on winter clothes for a cold October night, got camera bag, flashlight and tripod, spend valuable minutes with scraping the ice from my windscreen and drove to the nearby beach. At the tiny beach of Storgrundet, same place where I took pictures of the first sea ice last morning I sat more than an hour on the frozen sand and looked at the faint and pale polar lights, that increased for some hopeful seconds just to fade again.

Aurora photographers question number two: Shall I go in again? Or continue waiting?

What did I do, while waiting for the polar light to become stronger? I took photos. It’s always a small challenge with night shots, but I think it’s fun, even if I’m tired and both motifs and results are mediocre. When it comes to polar light I normally try to catch as much scenery as possible by using a wide angle lens. This time I used a telephoto lens to go more into details. A new trick I learned tonight when polar lights where pail and formless.

I got frost (- 7°C), ice and Northern Lights. Now I’m looking forward to the first snow. It could come on Sunday or be long in coming. Stay tuned for the first photos of snowy landscapes.

The illusion of winter

No, no, it’s not winter yet, it’s October. Yes, it snowed a bit in Skellefteå last weekend. Yes, some frozen snow is left. Yes, the maximum temperature in Skelleftehamn was only + 0.2 °C yesterday. Yes, we even have snow storm this night (snow warning: 5 – 15 cm until tomorrow morning).

But after the snow storm it will get warm. And rainy! 4 °C at lunchtime and 6 °C in the evening. With wind gusts up to 60 km/h. Probably the streets will be full of wet slush tomorrow and I won’t leave the house without rubber boots. But, as I mentioned above, it’s not winter, it’s just plain old October.

Anyway, the snow covering the houses, the gardens and the streets and lighting up the whole nocturnal scenery gives a perfect illusion of winter, even if it’s only for a night and half a day.

Some photos made in the forest two hours before the snow arrived:

And some photos I made in Skelleftehamn just now, between ten and eleven o’clock:

 

Just testing the new Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D

Yesterday my new Nikon lens arrived: A Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D, which I got secondhand on Tradera (the Swedish Ebay) for less than 200 Euros. So I was out yesterday evening and today morning to make some more or less silly test shots. Today I had a workshop in Malå, which is 126 km in the inland. We arrived half an hour too early and drove onto the Tjamstanberget, where we had a view over Malå and the hilly landscape behind. “Click”, another test shot.

Tonight I left the house to make photos of the starry night, but it was a bit hazy and making pictures didn’t work well. So I made a photo of the copper smelter Boliden Rönnskär instead, which shows quite big but nice stars on the lighting. I’m quite happy with the new lens.

Then I headed back to the car looking at that stronge cloud, which was quite greenish … And if clouds get greenish you either smoked the mushrooms instead of photoing them or it’s no clouds but Northern Lights. And thus it was! I just managed to make some shots of the pilot boat with the aurora above before it got weaker again and faded to some kind of greenish glow, hardly visible. Not the best photo, but I like the motive.

Now I’m hoping for many starry nights and polar light, I need more practise.

Day and night boat

Today we had the first day with 24 hours frost and a maximum temperature of -2.8 °C. When I was out this morning both the sea and most parts of the lake Snesviken where free of ice. When I was out tonight, temperature dropped to – 9 °C, big parts of both sea and lake where covered with ice, the sea with very soft ice, the lake with a surprisingly thick layer where you could even stand on – at least near the shore and if you where really careful.

The first image got blurred because I pressed I stood on the thin ice, as well as the tripod, and pressed it down some centimetres with my weight. Then I continued to make photos of the same motif as in the morning: A frozen boat. I prefer the night shot with the full moon illuminating boat and ice, even if I dislike the blurred stars.

The night showed both an almost full moon and polar light, quite weak again. I made two shots neither focussing on moon light or polar light, but showing them anyway. The pictures are more experiments than good shots. But showing those is part of the blog, too.

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!

Northern lights and truthfulness

What a nice surprise: After 10 days of dull, cloudy and overcast weather sky cleared up this afternoon. You don’t have to go outside, just have a look at the thermometer: A temperature drop almost guarantees a cloudless sky. But you have to go outside if you want to check for the faint Northern Lights. And this evening I was lucky: a large pale bow of  the aurora borealis was visible in the sky.

Some minutes later I stood beside the small haven tjuvkistan and made the first photo. Click: 15,0 sec at f/2.5, ISO 800 35mm.

Whoa! The whole sky is green, it’s like diving into Fluorescein! Just too much green color! A great deal too much!

I made another photo, knowing beforehand it wouldn’t work. Click: 1,0 sec at ƒ/2.8, ISO 400 35mm, which means only 2.7 % of the light compared to the first photo.

Yes … um … interesting … . Is it art or may I trash it? Too dark! A great deal too dark! This image is just a dumb proof to the platitude I already knew: Cameras need enough light to make good pictures, even a Nikon D800.

Let’s take the 1st photo: I’ll show it again. And again – and again! I cropped it to the same 5:3-format, but processed it in three different kinds.

Version 1: The kitsch-version: I kept the extreme colours and increased contrast, especially in the center. Bang – that’s the photos you show on Facebook!

Version 2: The almost-real-version: I tried to adjust the photo to my memories of the real moment, which means for example that I reduces exposure more than 3 stops and removed saturation of the polar lights by 50%. Well, that’s the photos you won’t show anybody. They are more realistic but a bit prosaic.

Version 3: The in-between-version: I tried to find a version between kitsch and almost real. I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad compromise between the other versions.

What do you think? Which photo do you prefer? I’m looking forward to your comments.

Longest night in Skelleftehamn

After the shortest day followed the longest night this winter, because this night is the winter solstice. And when I went out an hour ago a long band of faint polar lights covered parts of the starry sky. -12 °C, snow under my boots and polar light – that’s my first real Swedish winter night this season.

But while I was out and made some photos I could see a wall of clouds nearing from the East.

I hope they’ll bring snow.

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 first polar light

If you like your beauty sleep and travel way up north, do not look out of the window too late! I did it and lost 50 minutes sleep standing outside and another 30 minutes writing this blog article.

And that’s why I stood outside: A really bright, moving and colourful polar light covered half of the sky.

It’s still out there but I’m tired and I have plans for tomorrow. Hopefully it’s not the last one on my journey.

 

Car trip to Tromsø – partly nightmare, partly relaxation

Day twelve

Today I said goodbye to my friends that I stayed with the last week and headed to Tromsø in the north which is round 400 km away. I thought about driving as long as I like, making a over-night stop and continuing the next day.

The weather was quite bad. The temperature has increased to +5 °C, it rained and it was quite windy. But travelling was relatively easy until I came to the first mountain passage. And this part turned out to be the most terrible car ride I had in my whole life!

The nightmare part

The rain – sometime mixed with wet snow – became more and more intense, until rain was just bucketing down on the frozen roads. Sometimes I drove through deep puddles, pushing a bow wave like a boat, sometimes deep slush covered the narrow roads that oncoming cars tossed onto my windscreen temporarily reducing sight to zero.

But mostly the roadway was covered with a thick layer of wet new ice that was slippery as hell. So slippery that I hardly could accelerate or break or steer or do anything without starting to slide. Thanks god for the traction control of my Saab. I wouldn’t have managed without it.

Do not forget, I’m not talking about broad Swedish streets, I’m talking about narrow Norwegian streets, that only consists of tiny bends and sharp hairpin curves, roads that constantly go left and right, up and down. And that’s the main road I’m talking about!

And I’m talking about other car drivers. Car drivers that don’t mind the weather but drive as usual: Too fast! And I was way too slow for them. If they were behind me, they glued their car to my rear bumper and I used every parking place or bus stop to let them pass.

I was stressed, I was frightened and I was frustrated! Was it a smart idea to make this winter journey or was it just stupid? Should I skip Norway and head back to Sweden, where roads are broad and straight? I started to understand why many Norwegian roads are closed when weather is bad. I decided not to continue to Tromsø, but to drive back to Abisko, where the streets are better and in addition to that weather is cold enough to avoid these awful wet and icy roads.

The relaxed part

But first I had to continue the same road, regardless whether of staying in Norway or driving to Abisko. But alas, the weather became better and better and so became the streets. Now it was not only easy to drive, it was fun! It felt like I could continue for hours and hours without any effort. And so did I. 19:45, eleven hours after the start in Haukenes, Vesterålen I arrived in Tromsø.

Wait a moment, eleven hours of driving? For 400 km? No, not really. First of all I stopped at two different bays and walked at the sandy, muddy and ice covered shore lines. I love these walks and consider them extremely relaxing.

In addition to that I made a detour. OK, I’ll be honest: I missed the road to Tromsø and had to head back 19 kilometres to Breivik.

And I made a stop and ate a big burger with fries and drank a coke. Driver’s junk food!

Now I’m sitting in my tiny cabin on Tromsø camping and I’m writing this blog article. The radiator tries to heat the cold cabin but it will take some time until it is warm. But I’m wearing my down suit and even my sleeping bag, both are extremely warm and cozy. A cheer for good equipment and overdressing!

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.

Abisko: Where are the mountains?

Day 19

Where are the mountains? I guess they’re still there, they are hard to move. But I couldn’t see them the whole day. When I stood at the edge of the lake I could see the island Ábeskosuolu, 700 metres away, but the rest of the terrain was hidden in a greyish white. I guess it was less the falling snow but the blowing snow that hid the surroundings, because the wind was quite fresh and gusty. SMHI, the Swedish weather office published a level 1 warning for today: hård vind med snödrev/nederbörd (high wind with ground blizzard/precipitation).

Two other images of today, the first showing one of huge snowbanks that were built up on the houses lee side. The other shows the restaurant and bar from the outside with blowing snow.

Photographers note: I like the last photo of the restaurant’s outside. And I took it without a tripod: ISO 3200 35mm f/2.0 1/320 sec

 

Winter wonderland

Day 21 – Deep, deep snow

Today I left Kurrovaara. The narrow street back to the main road is quite steep and covered with new snow. My friend and a teammate took the ATV to plough the snow away for me. After that I started the road up. First it went well but then came a steep passage with a bent. And there I stood and didn’t come any further. My friend had to help me. He, who is both much more experienced with car driving and knows the way by heart drove my car up to the main road. I was so grateful, without him I guess I would have been forced to wait until summer to climb this road. Yes – another argument for having a car with a four wheel drive …

The rest of the journey was quite relaxing: Kiruna – Gällivare – then not the Nattavaaravägen as usual, but via Purnu. I was curious how deep the snow was and stopped beside plain terrain – I guess a meadow or a field. I took some steps through real deep snow and stopped. I just moved my legs a bit and down I went. I was standing shoulder deep in snow until I hit firm ground. Unbelievable! I tried some other places to make sure that I didn’t hit a hole in the ground, but more or less it was all the same: Breast to shoulder deep and that means 140 cm snow in average!

So it wasn’t only the coast, that got a lot of snow (Luleå got 113 cm and broke the old snow record from 1966), but the inland as well, Many places in Northern Sweden have more than one metre snow now.

I continued the journey and made a short stop in the Wilderness Lodge Solberget, where I’ll stay a whole week later this month. Since last Thursday they have got huge amounts of snow  – a neighbour talked about 60 cm on a single day – and the wind created snowdrifts up to three metres height. So they had a lot of work to dig out doors, windows, cars and much more. Just some impressions from today (much snow is shovelled away already):

After having a fika (the Swedish coffee break) and making these photos I continued to the village Murjek where I’ll stay for some days, mostly for visiting the famous winter market in Jokkmokk but perhaps a ski tour as well if it works with so much snow.

 

 

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.

A week on Solberget in Swedish Lapland

Day 31 …

Just a short note: Yesterday I arrived at Solberget in Swedish Lapland, a place where I’ve been many times before. Since internet is slow and Solberget is not connected to the power grid I’ll take a break and
probably won’t blog, as long as I’ll stay here.

Yesterday we had an incredible starry sky so clear like I’ve hardly seen it before. Temperatures dropped down to -24 °C (still not really cold for Lapland in February but this winter is quite mild). A very faint polar light was visible above the northern horizon but vanished soon again.

Now, the next morning, the sky became cloudy and temperatures rose to -14 °C. Why I’m here for a week and what I’ll do, I’ll write later in another blog article.