The first ice on the Baltic sea

After a clear and starry night temperatures dropped to -6 °C. I was quite curious if there would be ice on the Baltic Sea already and drove to the beach of Storgrundet. Of course the sea is still open in the midst of October, but in some protected bays the first thin sea ice starts covering the water. While I looked around the sun rose and instantly changed the colours of the scenery showing a nice contrast between the bluish ice in the shadowy and the warm colours in the sunlit parts.

Even if it’s cold, some bluebells are still blooming. I guess there’re quite tough. They really look nice with the tiny hoar frost crystals on their blue petals. (I guessed I looked quite funny while taking this picture from below with my head lower than my feet …)

The sun rose higher while it was still quite cold. A small outboard motorboat with two people in bright red thermal suits and fur caps went by. I took another photo of the first motif, just ten seconds before the tiny bow waves of the boat reached the thin ice and crushed it into pieces. That was the time when I realised that it’s friday, no weekend yet and I definitely should start working. So I drove home and took the bus at 9:30. Still -5 °C – the first day where a down jacket came quite handy.

Now its a quarter to eight, -5 °C again and I want to go paddling tomorrow morning. But I’m still unsure how to dress. I’m not too experienced in cold weather paddling.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

starry – sternenklar
Baltic Sea – Ostsee
bluebell – Glockenblume
hoar frost – Raureif
petal – Blütenblatt
outboard – Außenborder
bow wave – Bugwelle

What a Diff’rence a Day Makes

Today (6th of November) was probably the coldest day this season by now. When I left the house the thermometer showed -11 °C. I was a bit in a hurry to get the sunrise photo in time. After that I had a bit more time and drove to the lake Snesviken where I made the boat photos yesterday and last night. When I looked at the lake I was stunned! Yesterday only a minor bay was covered with thin ice, today – just 24 hours later – the whole lake.

And we’re not talking about a tiny duck pond, but about a lake one kilometre long and up to 500 meter broad. Amazing, how a single frost day can change the surface from small gurgling waves into a solid ice cover.

The evening before I was a bit angry with myself that I already dragged the kayak home again some days before, but when I came to the little beach Storgrundet I realized, that even this sheltered part of the Baltic Sea was completely covered with ice. Ice you almost could stand on and therefore much too thick to break it with the plastic blades of the paddle without ruining them.

It will get warmer the next days with even some rain, but I guess that kayak season is over, at least as long as I want to set in the kayak at the beach Storgrundet or at the boat harbour Killingören.

Roller coaster weather

This December the weather is like a roller coaster, going up and down, bringing frost, rain, hail, sleet and storm. It’s not at all the winter you imagine when you think on Northern Sweden.

Monday started with sunny weather and temperatures round 1 °C – cold enough to cover the windscreen with a thick layer of window frost. (I prefer the German name “Eisblumen” which means ice flowers.) Then it got colder.

Tuesday it was quite clear and cold with temperatures round -7 °C with a minimum of -9 °C at 22:00. In the next three hours temperatures rose by 10 °C and the next morning we had +3 °C and heavy winds. I left my car at the car service station to get it checked before my winter journey and took some photos on the way back home. I attached spikes to my boots because the wet icy roads where extremely slippery. When I went back some hours later to get the car I was surprised at the high water level. This day the water level climbed 70 cm, that’s a lot for the Baltic Sea and only happened because of the storm pressing the sea water ashore.

The next two days were cloudy, temperatures round + 2 °C with some drizzle that instantly froze on the cold ground. Saturday evening – which was yesterday – it started to get colder and rain started to mix with snow and some soft hail. In the evening it finally started to clear up a bit und got colder.

Today it was quite clear, temperatures round -8 °C and I took a tour to the peninsula Örviken. Örviken has an area of 1 km², 400 people are living here. Even if it is quite near I hardly has being there, which is a pity since it’s a nice place, especially if it’s clear and you’re waiting for the sun rise.

And that’s what I did today. A good activity if you caught a cold and want to take it easy.

On the photos you can see the impacts of the weather: The storm destroyed the ice cover leaving a lot of floating ice floes, but in the cold night the surface started to freeze over again. Do you see the stacked ice in front of the trees? Its laying on land and I guess it was left there after the high water some days before.

After that I drove to another place I already knew and took some photos of the last motif today:

Now it’s half past five and -7.4 °C outside. The weather tomorrow? +2 °C and rain! Probably the whole day! Onto the frozen ground! Sounds familiar?

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

roller coaster – Achterbahn
drizzle – Sprühregen
soft hail – Graupel
peninsula – Halbinsel
Ice floe – Eisscholle

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:

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.

Two sides of an autumnal morning

A cold side and a warm side. The difference? 19 Minutes and 500 meters.

It’s really fascinating that even larger water areas than mud puddles start to freeze over after just three mornings with temperatures below freezing; today round about -5 °C.

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Main course

This article is part of the series “2015-12: Short trip to Arvidsjaur”.

Yesterday morning was cold: The thermometer at the stuga – the cottage – showed -19 °C. Our plan for the day: Try to find the snowy mountain that we saw yesterday and make a snowshoe tour if possible. After breakfast we packed snowshoes, cameras, GPS, map and warm clothing and entered the car.

Meanwhile we knew the following:

  • The mountain area is called Vittjåkk (“white stream”) – samian: Vyöhtjage.
  • Arvidsjaur wanted to sell the ski resort last year.
  • There where two ways to Vittjåkk, but we didn’t know if any of them was ploughed.

We tried the direct way, which is more like a maze of forest paths. Fortunately almost all of them where ploughed. Thanks to Annikas great navigation we found our way to Vittjåkkstugan, the valley station of the ski resort where we parked our car. Beside of another car and two pedestrians walking their dogs the whole area seemed to be deserted.

We mounted the snowshoes and ascended the first mountain. The sun hadn’t risen yet but the whole horizon showed warm pink and orange pastell colours. While we ascended the slope on a snowmobile track parallel to a ski lift the deep orange sun rose above the hilly forest landscape around and started to illuminate the snow.

We continued the tour until we were on the first peak, enjoyed both view and sun and wondered why it seemed so warm. Hadn’t it been -19 °C in the morning?

We turned right and descended the first peak just to head to the main summit. I was really stunned that you could find such a mountain landscape just “round the corner”. There were many tracks. Snowmobile tracks. We didn’t see any ski or snowshoe tracks; people start to get lazy.

After a while we stood on the top of the main summit – don’t ask me for a name, I couldn’t find any – and made a short rest, both of us drinking tea and taking pictures.

On the descent we wanted to catch as much sun as possible and took a detour. As you can see we succeeded …

… but we had to leave “safe terrain” and had to plunge through snow – sometimes knee deep even with the snowshoes. After 2 hours, 45 minutes we arrived at the car. A short but fantastic mountain hike.

When I started the car engine the car thermometer showed -8 °C, but it dropped down to -18 °C when we drove down toward the valley to Arvidsjaur. A good example for atmospheric inversion.

When we arrived at our cabin, we had -21 °C, later the temperature dropped to -22 °C. Probably the whole day had been quite cold in the lowlands. The inside of the cabin was quite cold, only + 11 °C, since the main heating wasn’t build for those wintry temperatures, but on the other side it was still 33 °C warmer than outside. A huge difference!

The rest of the day: Calm and lazy – just perfect after such a great tour.

Hunting the cold – day #1

This article is part of the series “2016-01: Hunting the cold”.

Two days ago it looked like that it could by quite cold in Northern Sweden yesterday and today. I checked several places and their weather forecasts and Pajala with a forecasted temperature of -40.4 °C won. That’s good news, since Pajala is only 350 km away. Nikkaluokta for example is one of the coldest places in Sweden, is 537 km away and it will take more than 6 hours to travel to (when conditions are good).

Yesterday – 6 Jan, 2016 – I packed kamera, very warm clothes and all you need for ski tours into my Saab and started the trip. In Skelleftehamn it was -17 °C, but already 20 km away the temperature dropped to -20 °C.

I made a stop in Jävre. I’ve passed this place several times and every time I planned a future stop. Well, future was yesterday. Jävre -23.3 °C.

I continued the trip and the temperature continued dropping. Round half past ten I could see the sun – it was bright red (the camera couldn’t catch this) and because of the higher latitude it was even lower above the horizon. -27 °C.

Now I continued driving to avoid arriving too late. Right after Svartbyn (E10) the thermometer dropped below -30 °C the first time. Round 40 km later I turned right. Here temperatures dropped below -33 °C. Near Pentäsjärvi – 25 km before Pajala – it got even colder: -36.9 °C. I probably experienced colder temperatures, but never saw such low numbers on a thermometer.

I found a quite low-priced room in the Hotell Smedjan but I continued driving around looking for nice (and cold!) places.

One of the most fascinating things in my opinion is the light in wintertime. Twilight may last hours or even the whole short morning, day, and evening and there are always soft pink colours in the sky. Just beautiful, but cold to take pictures of if you don’t have warm clothes. But when I have one thing, it’s cold weather equipment.

I looked for the airport, which is a bit out of town and quite tiny. It was closed. It’s the first airport I saw with an own parking place for reindeers. Good to know!

On my way back to Pajala I found a side road that headed to a small national park. I parked the car and walked the 700 meters to the cabin and the grill place in darkness. Of course it wasn’t pitch black, the snow and some thin clouds reflected the light of the city, giving enough light to see and walk. (The selfie is made with the iPhone which can take two photos until it will shut down because of the cold.

On the way back it was even colder: -38.8 °C. Now I got really hungry, drove back to the hotel and walked to the pizza restaurant. (Pizza and burger bars rule the Scandinavian north). Pajala by night:

Then I went home. I was glad that I have all I need for such a trip: A camera, food and a warm winter parka.

After a while I considered if I could catch the -40 °C now. It was warmer than expected, but let’s give it a try.

This time I took the road to Käymäjärvi (the name proofs, that Finland is not far away). Yes, here it was quite cold – below -39 °C. Between a swamp and the lake I stopped, since these low lands can be cold traps. I didn’t get lower temperatures but a view on the village and northern light (quite strong until I was ready to take pictures …)

On the way back to the main road I got my new personal cold record: -39.6 °C (sorry, no -40 °C)! When it’s really cold in Northern Sweden people take pictures of thermometers and show them in the internet. I will join this tradition. Voilà:

>>> read about day 2 of the journey >>>

Hunting the cold – day #2

This article is part of the series “2016-01: Hunting the cold”.

Yesterday I travelled to Pajala to search the cold. With a minimum of -39.6 °C i missed the -40 °C.

Day #2 I stood up quite early, took a short breakfast and drove again to Käymäjärvi, where I measured the coldest temperature yesterday. It seemed to be colder than last night and directly after I turned left into the small road to Käymäjärvi, the thermometer showed -40.3 °C. First time below -40 °C – yay! At 08:37, nine minutes later it showed -40.7 °C , which turned out to be the coldest temperature I measured this day.

I continued the road to the end. Here a couple of lonely wooden building stand beside the road, obviously uninhabited, at least in the winter.

But now it was time to pack the pulka – a transportation sledge – and mount the skis. I wanted to make a ski tour, at least a short one. I parked the car at the place where I saw the aurora the day before.

I filled the pulka with warm clothes, hot tea, a bit of food, the camera equipment and such. Then I dressed for skiing. Here it was -37 °C and I dressed carefully to stay warm and avoid frostbite.

One of the telescope tracking poles was not possible to fix. I tried a workaround with the result, that it broke after 5 meters. I’ll have to buy new ones.

First skiing was easy, even with only one ski pole. The snow on the frozen swamp was hard and it was easy to pull the pulka behind.

But then I entered the forest. Of course pulkas are not made for woodland and this forest was like a thicket of birches which sometimes bend down and build low hanging arcs.

I tried to turn left to find more open land (I was quite unprepared and hadn’t any map with me) and had to cross several small brooks. One of them was a bit larger, a bit deeper and I could here water floating under the ice. I had to unmount me skis and was quite nervous crossing the brook that I probably would jump over easily in summer but all went well.

I continued and wanted to make another photo, but not the camera. It didn’t work any longer. The D-800 just showed an ERR on the display, that was all. Now I was a bit of fed up: Only one ski pole in the midst of a thicket of birch trees and the camera not working. I turned and went back. This probably was one of the shortest ski tours ever.

That’s what I looked like. The first photo is taken 10 minutes after beginning, the second right after the end of the tour. That was not easy: The Nikon D-800 was out of order, the iPhone is not made for cold temperatures and the batteries of my auxiliary camera were left in the car and didn’t work neither. But at last I found a battery that worked for the moment.

You see the fur cap? Some equipment that I have is really expensive, for example by Canada Goose down parka (not on the photos above). The fur cap however is from H&M and costed only 10 Euros. You can hardly call this professional equipment but it worked extremely well.

When you exhale in this cold the air flickers as it does over open fire. No surprise, the temperature difference is round 75 °C. When you inhale you should wear a buff or a scarf to protect your lungs. Remember the temperature difference?

I was so glad that the car copes with the cold. It was -36.9 °C outside and -35.1 °C inside when I started the car after the tour. It took only two seconds and the motor was running. Only changing gears is heavy as long the system is so cold.

On the way back temperatures dropped again below -40 °C. Time to many another selfie – a ridiculous one: The camera inside, holden by a long arm, me outside in front of the car. To my big relief the Nikon camera worked again. The motive: The temperature at the left, me outside with my parka at the right. It didn’t work as excepted. Where’s my face?!

Back in Pajala I admired the fragile birch trees covered with frost beside of the river Torneälven. In the background the clear sky with colours from pink to azure. It seemed to be even colder on the bridge that led over the river back into the city. I could feel the wind through my gloves and mittens and even the nose started to freeze together with the camera when taking photos! I closed my hood completely which looks a bit ridiculous, but I stayed warm.

I took my anemometer (A birthday present to myself) and measured the wind: 20 km/h. The temperature: -36 °C. That makes a wind chill of -51 °C! That’s what I call coldness!

I took a lunch and headed home since weather in this region should worsen, while the forecast for Skelleftehamn looked quite good. It was hardly warmer than -25 °C on the whole journey back home.

At 7 o’clock I arrived home. -28 °C outside – time for a hot bath!

Hunting the cold – appendices

This article is part of the series “2016-01: Hunting the cold”.

Some tables for lovers of cold temperatures and numbers.

The journey

These are the coldest temperatures I found on my journey, starting with -17 °C in Skelleftehamn. From -35 °C on I use decimals.

Temperature Time Place
-17 °C Skelleftehamn
-18 °C 6 Jan, 08:09 km 2.4
-19 °C 6 Jan, 08:19 km 14.3
-20 °C 6 Jan, 08:25 km 20.0
-21 °C 6 Jan, 08:50 km 57.8
-23 °C 6 Jan, 09:24 km 72.0 (Jävre)
-24 °C 6 Jan, 09:52 km 115.3
-25 °C 6 Jan, 10:14 km 153.5
-26 °C 6 Jan, 10:22 km 168.4
-27 °C 6 Jan, 10:51 km 202.7
-28 °C 6 Jan, 10:55 km 209.1
-29 °C 6 Jan, 11:10 km 230.0
-30 °C 6 Jan, 11:12 km 232.3
-31 °C 6 Jan, 11:50 km 277.7
-32 °C 6 Jan, 11:51 km 279.9
-33 °C 6 Jan, 11:52 km 280.3
-34 °C 6 Jan, 12:09 km 304.0
-35.1 °C 6 Jan, 12:34 km 334.2
-36.9 °C 6 Jan, 12:39 km 334.5 (Pentäsjärvi junction)
-37.4 °C 6 Jan, 14:09
-37.5 °C 6 Jan, 14:17
-37.7 °C 6 Jan, 16:27
-38.9 °C 6 Jan, 16:30
-39.1 °C 6 Jan, 21:23 near Mukkakangas
-39.4 °C 6 Jan, 21:31 Käymäjärvi junction
-39.6 °C 6 Jan, 22:41 near Käymäjärvi
-40.3 °C 7 Jan, 08:28 road to Käymäjärvi
-40.4 °C 7 Jan, 08:33 road to Käymäjärvi
-40.7 °C 7 Jan, 08:37 road to Käymäjärvi

Some cold temperatures in my life

These are some days that were especially cold including some old records

Temperature Time Place Comment
-25 °C 2005-12-30 DE-Zugspitze Germanys highest peak
-32.0 °C 2012-02-04 SE-Skelleftehamn Coldest since I live here
-34.9 °C 2003-01-31 FIN-Meltosjärvi Coldest temperature display before this journey.
cold! 2009-02-19 SE Lapland ski tour with tent, approximately between -38 °C and -40 °C
-40.7 °C 2016-01-07 SE-Pajala New personal record

The coldest places that night

This table contains all temperature minimums lower than -40 °C and what was forecasted the day before. The -42.9 °C in Naimakka was the coldest temperature since 2001. (All data comes from smhi, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute)

Place Forecasted minimum Measured minimum
Pajala -40.4 °C warmer
Esrange ? -40.3 °C
Vittangi ? -41.5 °C
Karesuando -34.7 °C -41.6 °C
Nattavaara -35.5 °C -42.3 °C
Nikkaluokta -32.3 °C -42.4 °C
Naimakka -32.8 °C -42.9 °C

The last kayak tour?

The evening I came home from my trip to Pajala I didn’t drive home directly but made a small detour to the pilot station. As expected the ice floes that I saw two days before already froze together and built a solid layer of ice. I took my flashlight and checked a more exposed place. To my surprise I could see open water and tiny waves rolling ashore. The whole water surface was steaming of sea smoke. I was quite keen to make a last kayak tour before even this part of the sea freezes over.

The next day: I was really tired and scrapped the plan of an early morning kayak tour. But at least I wanted to have a look. I took the car to the same place, got out, went to the shore and looked amazed and flabbergasted. Where was the water? That’s what it looked like:

The whole sea was ice covered. Not only near the shore but almost the whole way to the island Gåsören! Did I dream the evening before or is it possible, that such a large area freezes over in a single night? It was still -26 °C so who knows?

I told my story to the sjöfartsverket on Facebook and asked, if such could happen. They answered that it’s possible that larger areas freeze over in a single night. I guess it will take some time until I’ll canoe again on the Baltic Sea.

Colourful frost and sea ice

Some people think that’s it’s just dark in Northern Sweden the whole winter. There’s no sun and – since it’s pitch black – there’re no colours at all. I hope you know better, otherwise have a look at these pictures.

Yesterday Annika and I went over the sea ice the first time this season. Our destination was the offshore island Storgrundet. It’s always special to go onto the Sea. We dared to cross the ice for three reasons:

  • It has been very cold the last days
  • Many tracks showed that people have already crossed the ice. By snowmobile, with skis, with ATVs or just by foot
  • B., who has been living at this coast for ages, knew how thick the ice was and that it’s safe

We went by foot, crossed the sea ice in a diagonal line until we came to the island Storgrundet. We crossed the island – it’s hardly 200 meters broad – and turned right to go round the southeastern part.

What should I say – it was just amazing since the changing light of the setting sun illuminated the whole landscape in wonderful colours – both intense and fragile. Here are some pictures – just a feeble attempt to catch these fantastic impressions.

I was so enthusiastic that I stood up quite early today to do the same small tour again, this time with skis. Partly the skis were helpful but on the uneven ice at the outer rim of the island it was harder to ski. Anyway, I got wonderful pre-sunrise light and finally a gorgeous sunrise that started to colorise all frost covered trees and ice – first a pale pink fading more and more to a warm orange. Again some pictures, this time taken with more time and a tripod.

A little expedition to the island Gåsören

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home. Unknown sea ice can be dangerous just as very cold temperatures.

Today I had the plan to cross the ice and go to the island Gåsören which is one of my favourite places nearby. The challenge: Parts of the Baltic Sea were open five days ago due to the low water. How thick would the ice be and would I be able to go to the island?

I started at the little boat harbour Tjuvkistan and planned to go to the island Bredskär where I’ve been with Annika two days ago. This time I chose snow shoes and pulka to transport all clothes and equipment. I changed plans and didn’t head to Bredskär, but followed the ski tracks to the island Klubben instead – a better direction. In the dim light of the daybreak I could see Gåsören ahead.

It was quite cold, round -27 °C and I was glad about my fur rimmed hood, that protects the face against wind and cold air.

I continued to the next island Flottgrundet, which is hardly 300 meters away. A tiny ice rim encircled the island and I took a small break. Normally I take breaks mainly for taking pictures, but this time I had another reason, too:

Beside of the tracks of a lonely hare I couldn’t see any track or trail to Gåsören. Is the ice safe and will it bear me? Since I already expected such, I brought along my survival suit, which is completely waterproof and has attached socks, gloves and hood, so that only the face would be exposed to the ice cold water in case of breaking through the ice. All other equipment such as camera, extra clothes and food was in waterproof bags.

I looked like a Teletubbie, (and probably moved like one too) but I felt safe. Round my head I had my camera bag and so-called isdubbar, that’s ice picks, that would help me to pull myself on land, if I had broken though. I put the snow shoes into the pulka and started crossing the ice.

Round 700 meters later I reached Gåsören. I went ashore and was quite glad that the ice bore me without any problem. I unmounted the pulka but continued wearing the survival suit. I wanted to discover the ice rim on the eastern side of Gåsören and didn’t dare to do that without it. First of all I climbed onto the two meter high ice to get an overview. The risen sun started to light parts of the landscape in warm colours, while the snow in the shadows still looked cold and bluish.

The next two hours I strolled around east from the island to take pictures from the amazing ice formations round the island. Some of them were up to three meters high. It’s interesting to see, how many different colours ice can have, both the ice itself and the sun light as the day progresses. While I walked round I could see the light houses of Gåsören, the new one (the red tower to the left) and the new one (the house to the right).

Meanwhile I protected even my nose that started to get cold. The danger is that you won’t realise, when the nose gets too cold and you really have to be careful to avoid frostbite. The neoprene survival suit is surprisingly warm, but not comfortable at all. Since it’s not breathable I started to sweat and become wet. I longed for warm tea and other clothes. I went back to the pulka, undressed the suit and slipped into the cold boots. Then I took tea, crackers, camera and a huge bin bag that wrapped my down coverall. I went to the other side of the island, this time on land and put on the coverall over the other jacket. Now I really looked like a polar explorer, but was just 5 kilometres away from home. It took a while, until I got warm again and another while to realise, that this suit is almost to warm for temperatures between -26 and -28 °C. But at least I got my hot tea, some cookies and I didn’t freeze at all.

Of course I continued making photos on land. I went round, took images of the big welcome-sign, the red-white light tower and even more ice. But after a while clouds came in and started to cover the sun.

So I undressed my down coverall, went back to the pulka, packed all stuff into it and started my walk back to main land. I chose almost the same way to be sure, that the ice is stable. The sun vanished behind a layer of clouds, only a bright orange light pillar was left.

When I looked left I got reminded, that this fantastic tour was not in the arctic wilderness, but near home. The smelting works on the peninsula Rönnskär was within sight. The chimneys gave off clouds of smoke that racked southwards below the inversion boundary, but northwards above. When I was almost back on the main land I could see the red solar disk setting behind Rönnskär.

When I entered the car, it was still -26 °C below – one of the coldest days that I experienced in Skelleftehamn until now.

Conclusion: a great tour with a touch of expedition due to the coldness and the unsafe ice. Should be repeated when ice is safer and weather is warmer.

Addendum (2016-01-20)

This tour was more dangerous than I suspected. Not because of the weak ice but because the rubber gloves of the survival suit didn’t isolate good enough. Today – two days after – I got small blisters on all fingers but the thumbs, a clear sign for a second degree frostbite. My nose is a bit reddish and itches, probably a first degree frostbite.

I have full tactile sense in all parts of the fingers and the nose, but it probably will take some time until the skin heals completely.

The danger was, that I didn’t feel any pain in the fingers while being out. I just felt the cold when I removed the wool mittens. I never will make such an extended photo tour in the survival suit when it’s so cold.

Take care, photographers. Don’t risk your health for just some nice photos. It’s not worth it.

 

A bit of cold

Tomorrow I want to canoe. So I checked the potential starting points today. Where could I set in my kayak?

Näsgrundet

That’s where Skelleftehamn’s pilot station is. As expected the Baltic Sea is completely open. Here it would be possible to start the tour, but I had to go 2.5 km.

Killingörviken

The nearest place, only 600 metres away, but this small bay has been already ice-covered for some days.

Storgrundet

We’ll, this should rather be frozen over, too, but to my surprise there was a broad band of open water left. I guess that the water level, that changed several times the last days prevented parts of the water surface to freeze over. The distance to Storgrundet is 1.6 km and I think I’ll try out this place tomorrow.

Anyway I’m not completely sure, if there will be open water tomorrow in the morning, too. Today has been the first day, where the temperature dropped below -10 °C and maybe there will be ice on today’s open water tomorrow. Either a bit that cracks when you traverse it by kayak or a bit more making it impossible to squeeze through.

Seasons are a bit in between. The open sea is completely free of ice beside of some sheltered bays having a thin, but solid ice cover. When such an ice cover breaks in the waves, pancake ice is formed. Pancake ice are ice floes that move, twist and turn, scrubbing each other until they are round, like pancakes. I found some of them when I drove to the peninsula Rönnskär to have a look at the sundown. They floated in the sheltered boat harbour near the shore.

Kayak – is it a boat or a sledge?

Today I was out and did some canoeing. There was a special reason for that: Johan from Sweet Earth wanted to make a short film about kayaking in wintry conditions for Skellefteå kommun, the municipality of Skellefteå. He asked me whether I wanted to be the canoeist and I accepted gladly. Since the weather forecast looked good for today we planned to make the film today.

And the weather was good – it was fantastic! When I woke up at 6 o’clock, the sky was still dark but starry and completely free of clouds. The thermometer showed -13.8 °C – the coldest temperature in Skelleftehamn this season. I was curious about Storgrundet, where it happened to be open water the day before. How would it look like today?

Some minutes later I stood on Storgrundet’s boat bridge and lit my strong flashlight. As almost excepted the water has completely frozen over last night and the rim of the new ice was about 3 cm thick. Too thick to break through with my kayak. Anyway, it could be less thick a bit farther away, I considered.

At 7 o’clock Johan arrived and we discussed the possibilities:

  • Plan A: starting at the Lotsstation farther away, where there’s open water and probably no ice at all, but perhaps less motives.
  • Plan B: trying to start at Storgrundet, where it might be impossible to kayak, but it would look nicer. And there would even be a Plan B2.

We decided for Plan A. I fetched the kayak from the garage and pulled it through the deep snow to the street where I put it onto the trolley. I pulled the kayak to the beach while Johan followed by car filming. Soon I arrived at Storgrundet’s parking place, but not Johan. Some minutes later my phone rang: Johan’s car got bogged down in the snow and he had to shovel it free. I returned to give him a push. Luckily his car was free soon again and we arrived at Storgrundet for sunrise.

I took off my winter anorak and slipped into my waterproof immersion suit – ugly but vital. I removed the kayak from the trolley and pulled it to the end of the boat bridge. Near the shore and round that boat bridge the ice was white, it was older and thicker. Some metres away it was transparent and you could see the sea bottom. That ice was less than 12 hours old. I positioned the kayak at the rim of the white ice that bore my weight and entered slowly the fresh ice. It took just some steps and – Splat! – the ice broke and I stood in chest deep water. Well, that came not unexpected. That’s why I had the waterproof suit on and my isdubbar round my neck.

“Isdubbar” or ice claws are sharp spikes with handles. These are attached to a cord to be worn round your neck. If you fall through the ice you can use the spikes of the ice claws to pull yourself out of the ice hole back to safety. A must have when going onto the ice in early winter or unknown terrain!

I managed to crawl onto the ice even without the ice claws, because the immersion suit has so much buoyancy. I put the kayak onto the little ice hole and climbed in. Unfortunately the kayak wasn’t heavy enough to break the ice. I tried and pushed, wiggled and jiggled until I managed to forge ahead perhaps ten meters. Anyway I only succeeded into bending down the fresh and soft ice, instead of breaking it. Since the paddle had zero grip on the wet ice I couldn’t steer at all and turning was completely impossible. Finally I gave up and pushed myself backwards with the glove protected hands.

When I came to the older and slightly higher ice I was kind of trapped. I couldn’t push myself backwards hard and fast enough to come up onto the safe ice surface. I tried several times and at last I just left the kayak – Splat! – went through the ice again, crawled onto the safe ice and dragged the kayak back to the boat bridge.

The result: Paddling on ice: round 25 m. Paddling in water: 0 m. Baths taken: 2. Photos taken: zero. I hope, that Johan filmed my abortive efforts. It will make me laugh watching it.

But as I said, there was Plan B2:

500 meters to the northwest the Baltic Sea is not in the lee of the island Storgrundet anymore. Here at the bay Flunderviken it usually takes much longer for the water to freeze over. While Johan had to take the save way on land I could go straight ahead by crossing the ice with my kayak in tow. First I had to plunge through soft ice and water again but then the ice was of the older and stronger kind and it was easy to get ahead. I knew, that Johan would be slower and I would had time to make some pictures.

Anyway even Plan B2 was in danger: Flunderviken was iced, too. At least I could see open water 100 or 150 meters ahead. Perhaps the ice would be weaker and I could go through the ice howsoever and reach open water. But first I had to wait for Johan who had to stomp through more than knee-deep snow to arrive. Time for another photo, time for going through the ice again, this time only knee-deep. Even here the ice was 3 cm thick – too thick to paddle.

Soon Johan arrived and I made my reservations. I didn’t believe in “ice-paddling” that far. Johan got an idea: Wouldn’t it possible to use the ice claws to push oneself forward? Well, I could try. The idea appeared to be brilliant. It was quite easy to push oneself forward, even it was hard work for my non-existing arm muscles. It went great until the ice got weaker and the kayak started to break it. Here it was hard to reach ice solid enough to pull oneself forward with the spikes. It took a long time and I had to take breath several times until I reached the last meters of the ice cover where ice was so thin that I could use the paddle again and finally I was free. Hip, hip, hooray!

Now I was able to paddle freely as on a warm summer day. Beside of the floating ice needles. Beside of wearing my heavy immersion suit. Beside of the snow that covered all shores. Beside of the ice crust on my kayak …

And beside of my exhaustion because of the struggles traversing the ice. Anyway I wasn’t here for a long tour but for being filmed. I didn’t want to get too far away from Johan who was landbound. Therefore I took just a short round and made some more photos before I started back.

I followed my old route where the ice already was cut and it was much easier to get ahead. Soon I reached the thicker ice – first still cracking under the weight of me and my kayak, then thick enough to bear us without any complaints – and then the shore where I had to plunge in into knee-deep water for the last time before I went ashore.

Conclusion

It was great fun testing out the limits of winter paddling in Skelleftehamn today. It won’t be the last time that I do such. However this is only possible with proper equipment. Without immersion suit or dry suit, isdubbar and such this tour wouldn’t have been possible at all.

So, folks: Be crazy and be safe!

I’ll post the film when it’s ready in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

The Baltic Sea freezes over

Yesterday the Baltic Sea was open and a lonely goosander paddled through the cold, gusty wind. Meanwhile the air got colder and colder.

This morning the temperature has dropped to -25 °C and I wondered whether the Baltic Sea froze over last night. And so it did.

Since it was not only cold, but also windy I was glad about my warm parka. The highest temperature I measured here in Skelleftehamn today was -22.5 °C, but in Örviken, hardly 7 km away the car thermometer showed -30 °C.

In Kautokeino (Norway) it was much colder: -42.4 °C was measured already yesterday evening. The coldest day of this winter season in Northern Scandinavia.

If the Swedish weather forecast is right, we’ll expect -23 °C this night and -3 °C the following night. That’s 20 °C warmer within 24 hours; almost springlike. Good news for the goosander. I hope, he’s well.

A short look at Storgrundet

I woke up at 5:45. That’s quite early even for me. On the other side it would be much too late for photographers who love sunrise, because the sun had been risen already at 3:36.

I took the car to Storgrundet to check the ice. I guess, half of the ice is gone, the other half is grey and instable. I guess, the remaining ice is soon gone. Then I can start paddling without being surrounded by ice.

Anyway temperatures were down to -3 °C and it was quite windy at the coast. This still felt more wintry than springlike.