Autumn colours round the corner

Sunset in Skelleftehamn is 17:55 today. Therefore I didn’t have much time to shoot an after-job autumn photo today. But just some hundred meters away there’s a small boat harbour and I managed to capture the last sun beams on the coloured trees before the sun disappeared behind the opposite line of trees.

Probably not the best motive, but I love the autumn colours. As every autumn I have the impression that I soak up those bright colours like a sponge. Soon the trees will shed their leaves and even the first snow may fall in October or early November.

November: sun and ice

I love the combination of sun and snow, or sun and ice. Today I got the latter. I woke up 5:45 and after a short breakfast I drove to Långhällan, where I’ve been four weeks ago. First I tested my new lens, but quickly changed to my old wide angel lens, since I don’t have a 52mm filter adapter for the new one. It was quite cold for the first of November: between -8 °C and -9 °C. The sun slowly went up but was hidden behind a wall of clouds. Långhällan is just a big rugged rock but I could take photos again and again, always trying to find new and better motives. Today I tried to catch both the cold ice covered puddles and the sky with its warm daybreak colours.

After a while I turned the car and drove back a bit, but stopped at another shallow beach. In contrast to Långhällan which is quite exposed, this small bay starts to freeze over. The ice is still very thin and even small waves can break it into large, irregular pieces.

All grass and reeds where covered with hoarfrost which gave the landscape a quite wintry mood, even if it’s only first of November. First I was annoyed with myself because I left home the macro lens. But the new wide angle is surprisingly good for near shots, too.

Now it got cloudy and warmer, +1 °C. So I guess I can have a lie-in tomorrow.

Kajak home

Two photos from a small kayak trip today: Between these two photos lie round 2.5 kilometer, enough for a change from idyllic islands to grey industry, and 30 minutes, enough for a weather change with gathering dark clouds and increasing wind.

But it’s the same tour, the “bring-the-kayak-back-into-the-garage-tour”. Yes, I could have gone to the tiny private beach where my kayak lay under the summer, take it and just drag it homewards. But that’s boring. So I paddled it to the small boat harbour Killingörviken, which is quite nearby from my house. The tour is just 6.5 kilometer long but shows the different sides of Skelleftehamn: The beautiful small islands with forest and summer houses, the open sea, the industry on the peninsula Rönnskär, the small but active port and last not least the small boat harbour that probably won’t see any boat before April next year. Season is over.

We’ll see when kayak season will be over. As long as parts of the Baltic Sea are clear of ice I’ll try to be out, but that may change quite soon. At least the kayak is back in the garage where it is sheltered from the upcoming winter weather.

From bed to sun rise in 11 minutes?

Today I woke up 7:26, sun rise should be 7:37. That’s eleven minutes to get into warm clothes (-11 °C!), get the camera, change the lens, change camera mode, get the tripod, put all stuff into the car and drive to the peninsula Näsgrundet. This should be one of the last days where I can make a photo of the sun going up behind the light tower of the island Gåsören. Eleven minutes were slightly too short and I arrived two minutes late. So I was a bit in a haste but at least could capture the motif just in time, even if the light tower is not perfectly in the center of the rising sun. But anyway, it was really nice to be outside and I continued being outdoors.

 

Shortest day in Skelleftehamn

Sunrise 09:40, sundown 13:25 – that’s less than four hours sunlight with the sun hardly rising above the horizon. But you can add at least three hours dusk and dawn, so it’s not pitch-dark 20 hours and the snow that fell two nights before lightens up the scenery, too. The image below shows the river Skellefteälven which is almost completely ice covered, at least in Ursviken where the river is broad and the current is week.

Arrival in Haukenes and greeting the sun

Day four

Today I only had 80 more kilometres to drive making it a total of 906 since my departure in Skelleftehamn. I started early and arrived in Haukenes on the Vesterålen at 9:30. The only picture I took was the view of the town Sortland seen from the Sortlandsundet.

The reason why I wanted to arrive so early was the plans of my friends that I’m visiting here. Today it’s the first day where you can see the sun again from their upland meadow Langbakken. The last day with polar night, that means no sun at all was 8th of January, but it took ten more days until the sun rose high enough to climb over the mountain tops of the Lofoten in the south.

We went up the hillside to the lavvu – a sami tent – where we first stood outside to greet the neighbours joining us and than sat in the tent round the fire altogether and ate and talked.

And finally – much later than expected – the sun found a gap in the mountain skyline! We all jumped out of the lavvu and looked at the first sun you could see from Langbakken since late November. Hooray!

The place where I am and will stay for the next days: Nøisomhed Gård, Haukenes, Vesterålen.

 

A first mountain hike

Day six

Yesterday on Tuesday I stood up quite early to hike into the mountains. I packed my camera equipment, hot tea, nuts and raisins, compass, GPS and a down jacket. I considered first about taking my snowshoes with me but left them home, it didn’t look like much snow on the mountains.

I started the tour and headed to Langbakken, the place where we saw the sun two days before. I was greeted by the flock of sheep, some of them so tame and curious that they came to sniff on my hand. Then I climbed the fence and cut across country until I came to another fence with a gate. I went through the gate and followed the way beside of the fence until I came to a crossing where a way climbed up a forested hill.

The way didn’t continue but I just continued the direction until I came to a snow covered lake, the Dalvatnet.

I started to regret that I left my snowshoes behind, because with every step I sank 10 to 20 cm into the hard snow. It wasn’t the last time …

I knew the direction and had two options: Either crossing the open mountain brook or to just go ahead. I chose the latter. I had to cross a field with huge rocks where I really had to by careful and check every single step. After that I went up the steep slope. And it was much, much steeper than expected. I measured 40° with my compass. I had to be careful not to slip and I took many rests to calm down. Sorry, no photos.

But finally I reached the first hill took and horizontal terrain again. Just some more steps and I took a longer rest with the tea and my nuts. I was glad about my down jacket because the -8 °C felt much colder in the wind.

I could have sat there for hours and just watch the colours change. When the sun disappeared behind a mountain top the snow looked cold and bluish. When it appeared some minutes later in a gap between two mountains the snow was illuminated in yellow, orange and purple pastel shades. I’m no poet, I cannot describe it with words. After a while I continued to another lake called Finnurdvatnet, as frozen and snow covered as the first. I love the landscape above the treeline, especially in winter when it is reduced to snow, ice and rocks and some scattered small trees.

I would have loved to go further but the hard and partly crusty snow – knee deep some times – slowed me down quite much and both my condition as day light where limited. So I started my way back and went to another lake, the Nils-Persavatnet. Starting feeling exhausted I took another rest and continued to the ridge of the Hovden. I was quite glad to hit a snowshoe track that I could follow. It made it both easier to go. But first I had to look again. The sunset in the southwest, the intense purple colour of the sky in the southeast, the Hurtigruten ship on the Sortlandsundet, The huge bridge to Stokmarknes and the white snow-covered mountains everywhere. Just wonderful!

I continued the treeless ridge of the Hovden to the peak. Then I started the descend through the forest. I don’t think I would have found the whole way down without the snowshoe track that I could follow so easy. After a while I saw the same way I took when I started the tour, but from within the forest and the other side of a ditch. No wonder that I didn’t find this path in the morning! I jumped over the ditch and headed to the house of my friends. When I crossed Langbakken the same flock of sheep – as curious as in the morning hours – came again and some sheep (the same?) sniffed on my fingers again. But I longed after taking a hot shower and a nap in my bed and that was exactly what I did when I was back.

Conclusion:

A great first tour with beautiful weather in a fantastic landscape that would have been much easier with snowshoes. I guess that even the blister on my left heel came just from the wet snow in my boots that I could have avoided with snowshoes. Lesson learned, Olaf? Lesson learned!

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

down jacket – Daunenjacke
flock of sheep
– Schafherde
cut across country – querfeldein laufen
mountain brook – Gebirgsbach
treeline – Baumgrenze
crusty – hier: verharscht
ridge – Gebirgskamm, Grat
ditch – Graben

Links:

Map with the lakes and the peak of Hovden

Tromsø: In the mountains

Day 14

Today I was up in the mountains. I took the first cable car at 10 o’clock and had a beautiful view on the town Tromsø below.

The whole day was like a symphony in colours. Starting with deep bluish purple shades and pink pastel tones the light got warmer changing the light to this incredible colour between pink and light orange. Does it have a name? I don’t know.

This time I had snowshoes with me. They weren’t necessary today but after the last mountain hike I won’t go without anymore. I headed for the first small peak called Fløya (671m), just two kilometres away. The views of the multicoloured mountains in all directions were fantastic.

I continued southward to the Bønntuva (776m), the next peak. I really love the patterns that the wind has cut into the crusty snow.

I continued a bit farther to a nameless peak (754m), mostly to make a photo of the pile of stones. Stone piles are used in Norway to mark ways, but I guess some of them are built of tourists just for fun. But the weather was perfect and the terrain quite simple so I didn’t mind the waypoints.

I was slow because I was more into looking and taking pictures, not into being fast. So I decided to turn and go back to the top station of the cable car. But not without taking some more pictures. One of them shows a ship, it’s the Hurtigruten heading Tromsø. I could see it far away more than an hour before it landed in Tromsø.

As you can see on the latter photo sun went down again and the shades turned into pink and purple again. When I came back to the fence protecting the tourists falling down the cliff it was dark enough to start the night photos. Tromsø looks really beautiful when it is illuminated in winter time and sky is still blue.

Half an hour later I took the cable car down and went back to the car. That took a while because the official parking place costs 20 NOK the hour and I was much to mean to pay 13,50 Euro just for parking.

My plan was to continue the journey tomorrow but I changed my mind because of the weather. The Norwegian region round Tromsø and Narvik will get a “liten storm” that matches level 9 on the Beaufort scale with gusts up to 35 m/s (level 12). The Swedish mountain region will get strong winds as well with poor sight and much snow. I’ll start a day later, on friday.

Just an image for the photographers: My cheap thermometer is Arca-Swiss compatible! – 7 °C today.

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.

A ski tour near Tornehamn

Day 40

After leaving Solberget together with Annika on Saturday, we drove to Abisko where we made a marvellous day trip on skis yesterday.

We started in Tornehamn north from Björkliden with quite cold weather (-17 °C) and deep blue sky. We were surrounded by the snow covered mountains and birch trees packed with hoar frost that sparkled in the sun. After some hundred meters on the lake Torneträsk we followed a winter path marked with red crosses. When we looked back into the sun we could see tiny ice flakes that gleamed goldenly in the sun.

Mostly the way was very easy to ski but some short parts were quite steep. No problem for the snow mobiles that left many tracks on and beside the trail but not so easy for us with skis.

After a couple of kilometres we followed the hiking trail Nordkalottruta northward. This trail isn’t marked in winter time but since all the tiny lakes were completely frozen we chose our own way northward to the bridge over the small river Niuoraeatnu. The terrain is hilly and mostly we want zigzag to avoid the steeper slopes. On a hill top after a quite steep ascent we made our first break and had a view over Lapporten.

We continued climbing small hills, skiing through birch forests along slopes with cornices until we finally came to a steeper slope down to the river Njuoraeatnu with the chain bridge overstretching the river.

While it was quite easy crossing the river that still was partly open it was quite difficult to continue our tour. We didn’t dare to go on the river, therefore we had to go up the hill. This part was so steep that we had to unmount our skis and go uphill without. Not too easy in metre deep snow …

Phew – that was exhausting but finally we were up on another hill ready for a lunch break. The wind increased and clouds gathered. Therefore we continued to a small bay of the Torneträsk where we found shelter from the wind for a longer break. We put on our down jackets, drank hot tea and ate sandwiches and chocolate. (Tip: Ham freezes, feta cheese works fine.)

Eventually we had to continue our ski trip; day light wouldn’t last forever. We went round the peninsula Stállobieskkenjárga against the wind. The wind increased and increased and slowed us down. I put on the fleece balaclava and tightened the fur rimmed hood to get as much wind protection as possible. The landscape lay grey in grey and all you could hear was the wind with its stormy gusts. It started to get dusky. What a contrast to the first part of our ski tour!

Slowly we continued to the southeast tip of the peninsula where we crossed the bay Njuoreanunjálbmi. Finally we reached Tornehamn again, entered the car and drove to the Abisko Mountain Lodge where we got our reward: A hot chocolate and a cool Coke.

Tack för turen, Annika – thanks for the tour.

 

Låktatjåkko – between ski tour and luxury

Day 43 and 44

Yesterday it promised to be a fine day with great weather. The mountain valley Lapporten was gleaming and glowing in the early sun.

Annika und I planned to go to Låktatjåkko, the highest Swedish mountain lodge, where we planned to stay overnight and even to eat a three course dinner. It’s not far away from Björkliden where we started, but parts are quite steep. Therefore we decided to take the snow cat, that drives to Låktatjåkko every day. And I could sit in the front to take pictures.

After the first steep passage we left the snow cat, took our skis and backpacks and continued the way on our own. The view over the snowy mountains and the lake Torneträsk was just amazing.

But some steep passages waited for us and after the first longer part we made a longer rest enjoying the sun, food and our warm down jackets.

After a while we continued our tour, short in kilometres but still quite steep, at least without skins. But finally the Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge came into view.

We were greeted by the two women running the Lodge. We asked how many people would stay over night. “Just you two”. And how many people will eat the three course dinner? “Just you two”. Now the pure luxury part began. We had a sauna, we sat in the fireplace room the fire already lit and at 7 p.m. we got a fantastic dinner, just the two of us! And we just did nothing for it. Almost a bit crazy!

After a snowy and quite windy night I went outside to take some pictures. The light was so diffuse, that it was hard to see where terrain went up or down. Therefore we took a quite relaxed morning waiting for the snow cat to come and bring us down into civilisation again.

Thank you, Ulrika and Yanina for the great service and the fantastic food. This is a place where we would love to be snowed in for a while.

 

Home in Skelleftehamn

I’ve been home again for some days. The weather in Skelleftehamn is between winter and spring. The sky is clear and the nights are cool (last night for example -7 °C) but as sun the sun comes out the temperatures rise soon to degrees above zero.

Parts of the ground are covered with hard snow – in my backyard i measured 45 cm – but other parts are completely free of snow and I’m waiting for the first flowers to come out and blossom.

The Baltic sea is mostly free of ice, but near the shore and in some sheltered harbours there is still a thick layer of ice covering the water. And since the night was quite cold, parts of the near harbour that was completely open yesterday was covered with thin new ice this morning.

Two photos that I made near the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan this morning:

I could walk over the ice to some islands that still are connected to the mainland or I could take the kayak and paddle to some islands, too. But to be honest – I’m quite lazy after the long journey and I guess I stay home today and take it easy.

Opening the kayak season

“4:45” showed the clock when I woke up this sunday. Seventy minutes later I stood at the shore – just on time to see the sunrise. My kayak still was fixed on its cart with paddle, camera and dry suit inside.

I put on the dry suit, pushed the kayak into the water and started the tour. When I left home it was -6 °C and parts of the sea where covered with thin new ice. Thin enough to melt under the day but thick enough to give me a hard time to break through with the kayak.

I’m always a bit nervous when I stick my paddle into the ice. Will it break one day? But until now it went well. Sometimes it was easier to take the hand and pull the kayak ahead. And sometimes, when the ice got really thick I used the paddle to hack small holes into the ice that I used as handles for pulling me forward.

But after a time I reached open water and paddled along some old ice floes that were much, much thicker.

And a bit later I came to the huge icy surface, that lays between the mainland and the islands Norrskär and Bredskär. I got out and stepped onto the ice. I think, this is the first time that I stepped onto the sea ice from my kayak. I wasn’t nervous, first of all is this old ice really thick, I should guess at least 30 centimetres, probably more. Then I always wear my completely waterproof immersion suit when I make a kayak trip in winter.

After a short break I continued the tour and headed to the island Gåsören. On the outer shore there were some impressive ice floes left.

It took a while until I could go ashore, because I had to cross another field of new ice. I took a longer rest and took of the dry suit. Ugh! Like always I sweated in the thick neoprene suit and now I smelled like a dead Puma. I took on some other clothes and first it was quite chilly. The spring sun however had enough power to warm me up and soon I took of my gloves and cap.

Most snow has melted and beside of the ice covered rocks at the eastern bank Gåsören almost looked like spring was here.

After a while I dressed for paddling again, entered the kayak and returned to the starting place. With the last ice behind I had a beautiful view of the islands Klubben, Flottgrundet, Gråsidan and Nygrundet. With the blue sky and the blue sea I had the feeling of leaving the winter behind me and paddle into the spring.

When I was home again the thermometer showed +7.3 °C. Almost spring!

 

 

 

Watching the solar eclipse

The solar eclipse 2015Today I would have loved to be either in Longyearbyen on Svalbard or on the Føroyar, the Faroe Islands. Then I could have seen the first total solar eclipse in my life. But at least we had fantastic weather with clear blue sky and I could watch the partial solar eclipse.

OK, the eclipse photo first. As a matter of fact it’s a composition of two images. The sun itself, that I photoed with a so called “big stopper” that takes away 99.9% of the visible light. Also a good eye protection, even through the tele lens. But the sky is pitch black on this filtered photo, that’s why I made a shot of the blue sky and merged both images in Photoshop.

Even if it’s quite fascinating to watch the solar eclipse I want to mention the surrounding as well: I stood on the thick ice at the rocky shore of the Baltic sea. Water is open, most ice floes are away, but the shore is still covered with thick ice that is underpinned by large rocks. Therefore the ice is hovering above the sea water and the tiny waves created funny-looking icicles underneath the ice.

Back to the solar eclipse. I never saw a total solar eclipse in my whole life and I’m really longing to see one. I had checked the next total solar eclipses, to check where I can see one.

  • March 9, 2016 – Indonesia, Micronesia, Marshall Islands – nope, I want to have it way up north
  • August 21, 2017 – USA. Come on, what did I say?
  • July 2, 2019 – Argentina and Chile …  – That’s not north at all, but at least it’s winter in South America
  • December 14, 2020 – Southern Chile and Argentina … – Again? What about Europe or Canada or Siberia?
  • December 4, 2021 – Antarctica – I know, it’s hard to find a place on earth that’s even still less way up north, but for Antarctica I’m willing to make an exception. It would be great to see a total solar eclipse in Antarctica.

I have to check if there’re any opportunities to travel to Antarctica to see this eclipse. But I guess, it’s coming to be expensive! Are there any rich people out there? Who is willing to sponsor me a trip to Antarctica in December 2021? Or parts of it? Please contact me, I have a warm jacket.

Sun rise 5:16

If you love to witness the sun rise you have to rise up early. Today I managed to stand up round 4:15 and half an hour later I stood at the sandy beach of Harrbäckssand to see the sun coming up. Well, sandy beach it is in summer, now the shore is covered with snow and ice. And today it was even quite cold with temperatures round -12 °C. This may be the last “real” winter day this season, but you never know, last year it snowed in May.

5:16 the first bright orange beams of the sun appeared behind the island Medgrundet.

Minutes later the sun illuminated ice, snow and pine trees with warm colours between orange and pink.

I loved the swirly ice patterns on the half frozen water of the shallow beach.

After a while I drove home again and took an additional nap. 4:15 is too early, even for me.

 

Yes, we can waves

Strange weather we had today. Sky was blue and the warm sun warmed up the air, but it was really stormy. Even if the wind came from west, we had a lot of waves on the Baltic Sea, that sprayed sea foam high up into the air, where storm gusts blew it ashore.

selfie-at-the-shoreThe last photo was shot against the sun, which was against the wind as well, so that a lot of foam landed on the lens of my camera. Not so ideal for photos, because each drop of water blurs parts of the image. I have to think about a method how I can avoid this. The camera itself is waterproof and so were my clothes and boots, that I used today, when I sat in the midst of the waves.

Why I called the article “Yes, we can waves”? Well, many people – sometimes including me – smile at the Baltic Sea and say, that it’s more like a big lake and no real sea at all. That it is shallow and never has big waves. Partly they may be right, because the Baltic sea is hardly affected by tides and the northern part – the Bothnian Bay – where I live, has a very low salinity. But at least we got some waves and sea foam today.

 

 

Almost like summer

For me it’s not the warmth, that makes a Swedish summer, it’s the colours! Blue sky, green birch trees and meadows with yellow flowers – dry ones with dandelions or very wet ones with marsh-marigold – both are just beautiful.

Translations:

EnglishGerman
DandelionLöwenzahn
Marsh-marigoldSumpfdotterblume

Midsommer colours

Finally it’s summery and warm in Västerbotten! Yesterday the car thermometer showed  20 °C for the first time this year, if only for two seconds. All people were out yesterday to celebrate midsommar. All mosquitos were out as well; there are a lot of them this year because of the wet May. Today I didn’t drive the direct way home but took some detours. It’s like loading the batteries with fresh colours and save them for the winter to come. The photos below are all taken in Kvarnbyn, a nice village near Burträsk.

Just beautiful!