Starting the journey

Day one and two

Round half past nine I started “Nordkalotten 2015”, my long journey through Northern Sweden, Norway and Finland. The first destination is Stokmarknes, which is 880 km away and according to Google Maps it takes eleven hours, nine minutes from my home in Skelleftehamn. I’m not a long distance driver therefore I divided the journey into three parts.

Day 1: Skelleftehamn – Solberget

When I started sky was completely cloudy and overcast but right after Vidsel the sky started to clear up and the temperatures dropped from -8 °C in Skelleftehamn to -21 °C in Solberget (with a daily minimum of -23 °C). On the journey I had to cross the river Luleälven three times and on one of the long bridges I could see the sun slowly going down.

I’ve been in Solberget many times and I’ll be there again in February. This time I stayed only to sleep and continued the next day. I one woke up when Sesam, the tom cat and secret owner of Solberget lay down on my feet in the dead of night.

Day 2: Solberget – Abisko

The evening before temperatures increased and it started snowing. When I woke up almost 10 cm fresh snow covered the ground and my car and it was only -2 °C. Half past nine I continued my journey heading for Gällivare, Kiruna and Abisko. It was cloudy the whole time but fortunately almost no snow fell. That made driving as easy as on the first day. Just some kilometres before Abisko sky cleared up a bit. I was lucky and could hire the same nice room where I already stayed last February for a week.

Tomorrow I’ll enter Norway and continue to Stokmarknes.

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.

 

 

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.

The storm arrives

Day 26 – February 7

After the yesterdays ski tour I took it easy today and just made a minor car trip to Högträsk near Murjek. You could see that on some places snow mixed with wind has created huge snow banks.

And you could see as well drifting snow, because the wind started to increase.

In the afternoon the wind gusts became stronger and stronger. The roads in Norway and the Swedish mountains already were closed again due to a severe storm and even the Northern Swedish inland got a level 2 warning forecasting: Gusts up to 25-28 m/s. We almost waited for a power blackout and it came – but surprisingly only for a minute.

When I went out I was immediately covered with cold snow powder. Whether it fell from the clouds or was just whirled up from roofs and ground I cannot say. And I was still unsure where I should continue my journey the next day …

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.

Two months ago – first aid course in Solberget

Day 31 – 38

Today when I look outside the window, I realised that winter finally has left Skelleftehamn. The patch of snow that I stood upon ten days ago to view the Northern Lights has melted away and some trees start to show their first little leaf buds.

Well – it looked different when I was in Solberget in Swedish Lapland two months ago, where a first aid course of the “Outdoorschule Süd” took place. The week was filled with many actions – both course units indoors and outdoors and leisure, too. If you are one of the course participant you will realise, that I left out quite much.  That’s because I tried to keep the text very short – it’s more keyword style – and focus more on the photos.

Saturday

Arrival day: an incredible starry night with even a bit of faint Northern Lights

Sunday

Course unit outdoors, training recovery position (“Stabile Seitenlage”) – course unit indoors, training cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“Herz-Lungen-Wiederbelebung”) – and a beautiful coloured evening sky.

Monday

How to move injured people: a lot of teamwork is needed – frost patterns again – Lars, the Sámi, tells us about the reindeer herding

Tuesday

How to evacuate injured people from an observation tower – reindeer sledge ride. (No people were harmed)

Wednesday

Ski tour to Polcirceln, where we’ll stay to nights. I slept in my tent since the two cabins are really small.

Thursday

A misty morning – another “real life case”: hypothermia – a beautiful dusk. (No people were harmed)

Friday

Ski tour back to Solberget – another fantastic dinner, this time: salmon.

Saturday (again)

The last day – many serious studies as: How many people fit into the igloo (Answer: all!) or who wins the snowball fight

Thank you, Angela and Stefan from the “Outdoorschule Süd” for a great week!

 

The Sunmountain

I have stopped counting the times I was in Solberget, the beautiful wilderness retreat in Swedish Lapland. This time I was asked if I want to join a three day first aid course in Solberget. Since my last one was long ago I accepted gladly.

The course, arranged by the German Outdoorschule Süd, was both intense and fantastic and I’m glad that I was able to participate. I stayed another day after the course to make a ski tour. It has snowed quite a lot in Lapland in November and round about 60 cm of snow covered the forest soil. I started the tour at 8:30 – an hour before sun rise. The air was crisp and cold with temperatures round -15 °C. I borrowed a pair of wooden Tegsnäs skis. They are long and broad and fit to every boot which makes them ideal for the powdery snow in the Northern forests. I crossed the street and entered the narrow forest path that leads to the hill which bears the same name as the wilderness retreat: Solberget – the Sunmountain. I crossed the Solbergsvägen, which was covered with a half metre of snow and soon went slightly uphill through the old forest with its mighty spruce and pine trees.

Even though I didn’t take the smoothest way up it didn’t take long until I arrived at the top of the Solberget, which is 459 meters above sea level. I ignored the cozy mountain hut and went straight to the old fire lookout tower which provides a unique 360 degree view over the landscape.

As fastly as I arrived at the tower as slowly I climbed it, since the handrails and the steps of the three ladders were covered with a thick layer of hard and crusty snow. Finally I was on the top of the tower, just in time to see the sun rising above the hilly horizon.

I stayed on the tower for more than an hour, happy to see the snow covered trees in the warm and ever-changing light of the low hanging winter sun. First the sun got free of the clouds and started to illuminate more and more of the scenery. The colours changed from a pale pink to shades of orange and many other colours I don’t have any name for. After a while a cloud layer approached from the north changing the mood of the landscape again. At the end almost the whole landscape was shadowy beside of the fog that still hung above the swampy areas in the southwest.

Finally the sun vanished behind the cloud layer. I climbed down the three ladders of the tower and continued my ski tour. First I headed southeast, then I turned more and more to the right while I descended the hill. After a while (and a bit of squeezing through the pathless thickets) I reached the Solbergsvägen again, however more in the south. This part of the path was completely untouched beside of a track of a hare that you still could guess under the fresh snow of the last day.

After a while I came to the turn-off to the swamp Solmyran which I followed a bit. The sun was low again and illuminated the snow in bright orange colours, while the snow in the shadows looked more blueish. There are many colours in winter, you just have to go out to spot them.

The photographer and his studio:

Links

I can highly recommend both a stay at Solberget and the first aid courses of the Outdoorschule Süd. In February you can combine the two, if you can speak and understand German.