The illusion of winter

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

Over the storm-beaten Norwegian fjell

Day 16 – about storms, waiting long, a dead battery and Northern Lights

Today I left Tromsø and tried to reach Abisko. But I couldn’t say if I should reach it today since two parts of the mountain road were still closed.

The first part was extremely windy and I could feel the squalls shaking the car. Again the question – was it smart to drive a car in this weather? But soon when I came to Fagernes and started crossing the mountains – the fjell – it got much better. Then I arrived in Bjerkvik where one road goes to the Vesterålen and the other to Narvik and Sweden. Just after I left Bjerkvik, after a tiny bend the storm stroke again. I left the road to Narvik and turned left following the E10 to Sweden. The car climbed the steep passage up and than I saw a queue of cars. Stop.

I switched the car off (Bad idea, Olaf!) and waited. What’s happening? Are we waiting for a convoy? Is the road still closed? I waited. After half an hour it got cold in the car – outside it was stormy and -9 °C – and I turned the car key to start the car again. No reaction beside of half a second light on the dashboard and some disturbing noises. I tried again, and again. The car was dead! “Sh**!” was my thought.

I asked the car driver behind me. No, he doesn’t know anything about cars. The next one. Yes, I should check the contacts of the battery first. That’s what I did but they looked ok. While considering what to do next, the guy came to look as well. He checked the battery contacts once more and came to the same conclusion. Just seconds later a big red car approached from the back, stopped some centimetres beside of mine, a guy jumped out, two jumper cables in his hand, fixed them to the batteries of our cars, asked me to start and my Saab started like a charm! I just could say “tusen takk” – Thousand thanks and back in the queue vanished the red car. This guy is my hero today! I was both grateful and very relieved.

Now I focussed on not stalling the engine under any circumstances. As all other cars I continued waiting. After about two hours of waiting some really official looking cars came from the back and minutes later a guy picked all the “normal” cars to follow. We had to wait another fifteen minutes (“do not stall the engine!”) and then we could follow a snowplough.

Even now where the road was open and ploughed it was an adventure. You could see snowdrifts everywhere and the strong wind still blew loads of snow through the air. Sometimes you could hardly see the hazard lights of the car in front of you. Some new snowdrifts started to cover the road again. It took time until we crossed the Bjørnfjell – the Bear Mountains and came to the Norwegian border where another long car queue waited on the other side for their turn.

Now I was in Sweden and the other road segment was already ploughed and open so that we quite easily could continue driving, still minding the snowdrifts and the stormy wind. Finally I arrived in Abisko where I am in the same room like two weeks ago –it  seems like ages ago.

It really feels like home being in Sweden again – the Swedish language, the Swedish mobile internet without expensive data roaming and – last not least – the Swedish prices! After a short rest a went to a restaurant and ate and drank for 85 SEK, less than the half of what it would cost in Norway.

After that I took a photo tour. The sky had cleared up and a long band of Northern Light covered the sky over Abisko.

Translations:

EnglishGerman
squallSturmböe
dashboardArmaturenbrett
jumper cableStarthilfekabel
stall the engineden Motor abwürgen
ploughedgepflügt, freigeräumt
snowdriptSchneewehe
hazard lightsWarnblinker

Abisko: Where are the mountains?

Day 19

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

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

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

 

Planning for the next seven days.

In eight days I will be in Solberget again – that’s only 40 km away. What should I do in between? I’m still unsure.

Option 1: A ski tour in the Muddus nationalpark. A nice place – I’ve been there once. Disadvantage: There is much forest in the Muddus, wonderful and real old forest as a matter of fact. I don’t have a big backpack with me, only the pulka (a sled for drawing things behind) and I’m not quite sure if it is smart to use a pulka in forests. I’ll have to check it.

Option 2: Finding some nice spots nearby and sleep in my tent, making some day trips with skis. This may be the easiest option.

Option 3: Driving back to Riksgränsen via Kiruna and Abisko. I would love to do it for some reasons, mostly the weather. But the same weather may make this option impossible.

Today smhi (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) published a warning class 2 (up to 25 m/s average winds in combination with dense snow showers). So I guess the roads will be closed again and I cannot get to Riksgränsen.

And the snow in Riksgränsen? According to the forecast of klart: Today 22 mm, tomorrow 19 mm, Sunday 5, Monday 21, Tuesday 35, Wednesday 19. That’s 120 cm in six days. In combination with the storms (more to come) probably neither weather for tenting or doing ski tours alone, not to mention taking photos showing something different than a greyish white.

Option 4: Driving to Kvikkjokk and doing ski day trips there. Hm, maybe …

Option 5: Driving northeast to Pajala near the Finnish border. Hm, maybe …

There are much more options than these five and I have to decide tomorrow. I would love option 3, since I love extreme winter weather. but it’s probably not realistic. I have to check the forecasts again tomorrow.

Addendum: Now the whole Northern Sweden got a weather warning class 1 for tomorrow: Wind gusts up to 24 m/s, that’s beaufort number 9.

Dear blog readers: Your comments? Ideas? Suggestions?

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 …

Where to go? Undecided yet …

Day 27

On Sunday I left Murjek and continued my journey. To be honest: I would have loved to be in the Swedish-Norwegian mountains in the storm, and even another storm and masses of snow where forecasted. But …

  • … some roads were closed and other road were strongly discouraged to use
  • … beside of some expensive hotels no rooms were available in Riksgränsen
  • … and tenting would by suicidal (at least with my lack of experience)
  • … the avalanche risk could be extremely high
  • … I couldn’t make any photos in full snowstorm
  • … I couldn’t make any tours neither

So I had reluctantly decided not to drive to the mountains.

I left Murjek and went on to Nattavaara, where I turned right to Purnu (where I made the deep snow images some days before). I realized that I had not so much petrol left. Should I be forced to drive to Gällivare only to refuel the car? No, I was lucky – there was a small petrol station in Hakkas.

I continued a small road heading to Satter and Ullatti, and it felt nice to visit new places. I haven’t even heard the names. Sky was blue, with temperatures round -10 °C it was not so cold and you could see, that there’s much snow. But you could see the impact of the storm and quite warm weather, too: Almost all trees where bare of snow. As a matter of fact it looked like it was end of March – a typical vårvinter (spring-winter) day. As a photographer I dislike this weather. The snowless trees look a bit boring and there’s a lot of needles, bark, twigs and other things on the snow which doesn’t look nice on photos. But some pics anyway …

I continued to Tärendö, that has a town sign in three languages: Swedish, Samian and Finish. This shows that there are more languages spoken than Swedish in this area of Lapland. I liked the small petrol station that looked a bit “Wild West” in some way beside perhaps of the two completely snowed in cars.

I turned left and took the way to Saittarova. I thought about sleeping in the tent and looked for a parking place where I could go into nature a bit. But instead of finding a good place I found a moose. A moose that didn’t ran away when I backed the car to take a photo. But seconds after the photo the moose and another one paced with big, large steps into the forest.

After this nice incident I continued to the crossing and turned right into the 395 to Pajala. Shortly before Mäntykero I hit my place: A parking place and a flat swamp area with some pine trees.

I parked the car and left the comfort zone …

Appendix: Some words about Ole:

The storm Ole, that hit Norway and Sweden yesterday has been one of the strongest in the last ten years and had wind gusts over 50 m/s (that’s 180 km/h). For comparison: Beaufort number 12, “Hurrican Force” (orkan in germanic languages) starts already with 32.6 m/s.

Link: Så voldsom var «Ole» (yr.no, Norwegian)

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.

 

Nordkalotten 2015 – the weather

Let’s make it short: I feel betrayed by the winter this year! It was too windy and it was too warm! Much too warm. And when it snowed, I was far away.

First of all it was too warm – the average temperature of the whole February was 8 °C too high in parts of central Swedish Lapland. That’s about the same difference as between Stockholm and Rome! The whole february! And March wasn’t better. The “all journey minimum temperature” I measured was only -24 °C, I expected temperatures near -40 °C, at least once.

And it was very windy – Norway got its hurricane Ole with average wind speeds up to 36 m/s (that’s level 12 on the Beaufort scale) and gusts up to 53 m/s (that’s level 16 on the extended Beaufort scale!). But many others days were windy and stormy, too, even if not so severe as hurricane Ole.

Most trees where free of snow. Either the snow was blown away or it just melted and dropped down. That made not only the pine forests looking quite boring, but also the snow looking quite dirty, since it was covered with leaves, needles, small branches, bark and much more.

That didn’t look like the untouched, virgin winter landscape in early February but more like city parks in late April, a minor catastrophe for photographers who want to show impressive winter images. Luckily there were exceptions and I got at least some wintry images with snow covered trees, even if only a few.

Yes, it has been cold in January. Some days. In Sweden, but not in coastal Norway where I was at this time. Yes, it snowed ridiculously much in the first days in February, both in the coast and in central Lapland, but not in Abisko in the western mountain region, where I was at this time. It was a bit like being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later, when Ole arrived, big amounts of snow where forecasted in the mountains, but I considered the weather too dangerous to drive there. As in early February I only saw the results, never the snow fall itself.

And then came the warmth. Since the 24th of February I’ve measured temperatures above zero almost every single day. And this effect wasn’t local, it took place in the whole Northern Europe. In Norway, in Sweden, in Finland. Streets were icy, snow was crusty and I was just glad when it didn’t rain.

Yes, when it comes to weather I am really disappointed. It was the lousiest winter ever, that I experienced north from the polar circle, where I’ve been travelling round since January 2003 now.

Don’t get me wrong! The journey was great, but mostly it was great despite of the weather, not because of the weather.

Last winter was quite bad, too, this winter lousy, now I hope, that winter 2016 will be extraordinary cold and snowy and that I’ll find the time to travel around again.

Links

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.

 

 

From Singi to Sälka and Nallo

August 26 – 29: Day four to seven of the summer hike through the mountains of Swedish Lapland

Singi – Sälka

After three very warm and sunny days clouds came in over night and the sky was quite overcast that morning. Only at the northern sky a larger patch of blue was visible. That fits, we’re going north! The first two kilometres were very well known to us, we went them there and back the day before. The day’s walk was short – just 12 kilometres.

Soon the huts of Sälka came into view. It was funny to see the ads for the shop and the bastu – the sauna – amidst the extend mountain landscape. Only 300 meters left and we entered the reception to check in.

It’s a nice look from Sälka but we had another interest that afternoon: Overall on the ground the ptarmigans were running and there were even sitting on the huge pile of birch wood, so that me, the photographer and them, the models, were on eye level. They let me advance quite near – in fact so near that the tele lens couldn’t focus anymore. The first two images are younger ptarmigans, the last is a grown up – look at these fantastic white feathered feet.

Sälka – Nallo

The next morning there were so many ptarmigans around that you really had to watch yourself not stepping on one of them. I never saw so many and never saw them so near. Our plan was not to continue the King’s Trail but to go northeast to Nallo, a smaller cabin a bit higher up in the mountains. After the common breakfast (muesli with some milkish liquid made from dry milk – yuck!) we started our tour. Even shorter than yesterday: only 9 km but perhaps a bit more demanding since there’re streams to ford, while the whole King’s trail is equipped with Bridges.

We had to look for planks to cross the small rivers behind the cabins but soon we were on our trail.

One hour later we were on the moon …

… well, not exactly, but it was such a sharp contrast to the sweet and lovely landscape of the last days. We could hardly see any vegetation. Only moss, grass and some scattered flowers were left. And some reindeers on some of the tabular slopes. There were many small streams and brooks to cross and it was the first day where I was glad, that I walked in rubber boots.

After a while the lake Reaiddájávri that lies on 1056 meter came into view and we went along it. More and more clouds came towards us and swirled around as if they wanted to surround us.

We had to cross the stream that enters the lake at the northern shore. Annika had to switch to sandals and ford the stream, for the water was to high for her hiking boots. It started to drizzle, than to rain and it got windy. Navigation was less easy now since it started to get foggy, there were less marks and some streams and snow patches to cross. Mostly I navigated with the compass, but twice I took the GPS to ensure my navigation. Since wind and rain increased more and more and I was busy with the navigation I packed the camera into the waterproof bag and didn’t make any photo on the last two kilometres. In the end the small Nallostuga came into view and even the huge mountain Nállu in the back lingered through the floating clouds. We got a warm welcome of the stugvärd – the warden of the Nallostuga. And warm was the wood fired oven, too. A good opportunity to dry our wet clothes.

I only went out later that day to take a photo of the wooden signpost and the hut itself. The rest of the day was just gemütlich – the pouring rain outside and we ourselves warm and cozy inside.

Two days of at Nallo

One

We planned to stay a day in Nallo already two days ago. It looked like a good idea since the rain just poured down the whole day and it was very windy. All people out there looked very wet, whether they just crossed the stream – now twice as large and probably twice as deep – or if they just fetched a bucket full of water.

Time to make some photos within the house. Two typical views in Swedish mountain huts: Many of them have two rooms, each has a kitchen and two flanking bedrooms, only separated by a curtain. That make 20 beds in total. Plus one for the stugvärd who has his own little room. The Primus 2388 is a gas cooker, easy to handle and is found in almost each Swedish mountain hut.

Two solo hikers planned to continue their tour that day but after a while they decided to stay. Perhaps not the worst idea when you looked at the young hikers, that came in. They were completely soaked. They poured the water out of their hiking shoes and hang up the dripping-wet sleeping bags for drying. All was just soaking wet! We we’re quite glad to be inside. But finally I took my camera and went out for some photos. Brr, it was really cold (7 °C) and so windy that the spray of the brooks was blown upwards again. Some photos:

I was glad, when I came into the inside of our cozy hut again. Only Simba, the warden’s dog endured the weather stoically.

Later that day: The sleeping bag already has dried, but other clothes were still hanging on the clothes line.

Two

Next day we wanted to continue our trip but I changed plans. Unintentionally. I got ill. I got fever that night and problems with my stomach and intestines, that I definitely don’t want to describe in detail. Otherwise there’s nothing much to report. I didn’t make a single photo (a certain proof that I was really ill) and slept almost the whole day.

Later in the evening, when I felt a bit better I was able to communicate again. I heard about others that went Singi–Sälka, the very same way we went three days before. The trail has been so flooded that the water poured over the wooden planks of the minor bridges making them very slippery and it was so windy that the hikers were really frightened to be blown from the bridge right into one of the swollen rivers. Illness never fits, bit I guess I chose a quite good day for being sick.

I slept the night before, I slept almost the whole day and I slept the next night. That sums up to round about 30 hours of sleep without any larger interruption. That probably was the best medicine and the next day I felt sound and healthy again. The plan for the coming day: Hiking to Vistas.

Kungsleden ski tour: From Nikkaluokta to Singi

It was 2005 when I was asked by C. from Switzerland, if I wanted to join him on a ski tour on the Kungsleden – the King’s trail. That’s how I came to my first ski tour in the mountains of Swedish Lapland. More tours followed, but sometimes it was hard to find a tour mate. Same thing this year; that’s why I decided to do my first ski tour on my own.

Kungsleden would be ideal for that, since there’s infrastructure as mountain huts and I won’t be alone. Good to know, since even twisting an ankle could be a serious problem in winter if no one’s around. I wanted to start 19 February, the day, when the huts open.

After a long trip I reached Nikkaluokta (many thanks to A. for the lift from Kiruna!) on the evening of the 17th I had one spare day in one of the cosy cabins of family Sarri. This place can be very cold and I had a look at the digital thermometer in the cabin: -44.8 °C minimum since the last reset – brr, that had been a cold day!

I climbed the small church hill and looked west. That’s were I’ll go the next day.

From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise Fjällstation

19 February · 19 km · Link to map

Time: 7:40, temperature -17 °C, weather: cloudy. Time to start the tour. I mount my skis, put the belt of the pulka (a sled for transportation) round my hips and after some gliding steps I see the first mark of the winter way to Kebnekaise.

It’s the only mark for a long time, the winter way to the Kebnekaise Fjällstation is not marked, neither on the map nor in real. But it’s easy to find the way, since many snowmobiles take this way and you only have to follow their tracks. Soon I’m at the place where the trail crosses the stream Čievrragorsa. In summer I used the chain bridge, In winter the snowmobile goes right over the frozen and snow covered stream. I can hear the sound of water running underneath the ice – a strange feeling.

After some kilometers I come to the lake Láddjujávri. Here you can eat waffles with cloudberries or burgers at “Lap Dånalds” and even take the boat over the lake to shorten your trip a bit. Well – in summer …

Hardly imaginable that I took a bath here six month ago on a hot summer day, when I was here with Annika. Not it’s winter, all is closed down, the boats lie on land and are covered with snow and I’m completely alone. Anyway it’s not too cold and I take a first rest on my tour. Without waffles, without a refreshing bath, but with the same beautiful view as in summer, since the sky starts to clear up and one mountain top after the other starts to get free from clouds, fogs and haze.

When I continue my tour over the ice of the frozen lake I soon can see the same mountain range as I did in summer. And it’s as beautiful as in summer, too.

After some kilometres the trail leaves the lake and continues through scattered birch forests and over frozen swamps, some of them covered with ice. The weather is fine and sky is of a clear blue with some clouds.

Another rest, this time on top of a rock, with hot tea, chocolate, and a bit of salami. What a beautiful day! I could sit here for hours, but I shouldn’t. I have to reach the huts of the Kebnekaise Fjällstation. I do reach them, but before that I have to work. The trail ascends and I have to make wide V-steps with my skis to be able to pull the pulka uphills. Finally I arrive. This mountain resort is quite huge, since Kebnekaise is the highest mountain in Sweden and very popular among hikers, skiers, and climbers. Anyway it is not opened yet beside of the cabin Jägarn (“the hunter”). Here I’ll stay overnight before I’ll continue to the Singistugorna the next day. Twice I climb on the small hill with the radio mast, first after sundown, then at half past six – where I see the first polar light of the tour.

From Kebnekaise Fjällstation to the Singistugorna

20 February · 14 km · Link to map

When I wake up sky is blue again and -17 °C. I take a short breakfast with muesli and prepare for leaving. That means: packing all things – doing the dishes – cleaning the kitchen and my bed room – checking that I have everything with me – putting on skis and pulka belt. Meanwhile the sky is overcast and it has started snowing. Weather can change quickly in the mountains.

After I have walked some kilometres it clears up a bit, just so much, that you can see some mountain tops shining through the hazy fog.

When I enter the narrow passage of the valley the mountain tops hide again, which is a pity. The mountains here are so beautiful.

There is not much snow in the mountains this winter. Parts of the marked winter way lead over stony passages with no snow at all. I have to go round these passages to avoid ruining my skis and pulka. Mostly I follow the snowmobile tracks, hoping that the locals know the best way.

This way leads over the frozen river, but sometimes it’s hard to see, since the snow under the overcast whitish-grey sky don’t show any contours. Wind increases, snow falls as well and the snow starts to drift in the increasing wind. In the narrow valley between the mountains Siŋŋičohhka and Liddubákti more snow lies on the ground which makes it easier to ski but worse to see.

That’s when you are really glad about the winter way marks: Red crosses set on long poles. Sadly plastic crosses are used nowadays. They are ugly, in my opinion harder to see and many of them are broken. But I’m glad to have them anyway. They do not only show you the way, they help you even in guessing whether it’s going up or down, which you cannot see, if visibility and sight are poor.

I always have compass and a good map with me on such tours. Anyway, if you cannot see any landmark these tools are of limited help if you do not count steps or know how fast you are on your skis. That’s when a GPS can be very handy. When I make another rest, longing for the mountain huts Singistugorna, the GPS revealed, that it’s only 970 meter to go. Easy!

Well, not really. The valley opens, wind increases and there are many rocks and snow-free parts on my way. I decide to circumnavigate a steeper passage and ski a bit to the right. To my big amazement I don’t go down but keep on level. Suddenly I feel part of the ground collapsing a bit and realise that I stand on the rim of a soft snow drift, about two meter high. It was absolutely impossible to see it. I’m lucky, that I didn’t fell down! I go back and circumnavigate my circumnavigation until I’m on the marked trail again. There I can see the cabins shining through the drifting and blowing snow. It takes some time to find a good way down to Singi but finally I arrive. Here the wind seems to be even stronger and the snow falls even more intense.

Stugvärd J. shows me my room, light fires in the ovens of the kitchen and my bed room and allows me to take my pulka inside since I’m the only guest. After doing some work he leaves and heads to his own cabin against hard wind and snow.

According to the forecast wind will increase even more and snow fall round 20 cm are expected. I’m glad, that I have time and plan to stay at least one other day in the Singistugorna, perhaps two.

The next article: Singi – from blizzard to clear sky >>

Kungsleden ski tour: Singi – from blizzard to clear sky

Singi day #1 – 21. February

That’s me on the picture above. It’s 3:45 in the night. I can hear the storm shaking the cabin and howling in all chimneys. When I look out through another window (this one is completely covered with a layer of snow), I can see that it’s still snowing a lot. But it doesn’t help, I have to go to the loo. And since the toilet is a utedass – an earth closet round 50 meters away, I have to dress for it: The headlamp to find my way through the blizzard, the parka to stay warm and the ski goggles for more comfort when I go back against the snow storm.

Some hours later: The blizzard lasts the whole day. Sometimes you cannot see the other cabins standing 50 meters away – just whiteout. Most of the day I stay inside, either in “my” cabin, which I have completely for myself or I visit J., the stugvärd, in his cabin. But I got out to make some pictures (all made with a 35mm lens):

Singi day #2 – 22. February

Still the wind howled, still snowfall from the sky the next day, but I could see some stars shimmering through the clouds above. And after a short while the snowfall stopped and the overcast sky started to clear up. It’s really nice if you’re able to see something again:

I left the cabins for a short ski tour to the near sami village Goržževuoli. Still some snow crystals fell from the clouds above, still snow was drifting over the white ground, but when I looked back, I could see the sun illuminating this landscape with golden and almost magical colours.

After a while sky cleared up and the weather went “normal”. I took some pictures in the village, which is abandoned, at least in winter time. The buildings are a mixture of wooden houses and traditional sami buildings called kåta.

After I while I headed back over white and untouched snow. I love making the first tracks on fresh snow!

When I came back to Singi, wind increased again. The stugvärd told me, that Singi is quite exposed to wind. I crouched behind a two meter high snow drift to make a photo of the drifting snow. After that I had to dry my lens since the snow dust was everywhere.

The blizzard of the last day created snowdrifts up to three meter high and up to 60 meters long behind the lee side of the cabins.

If you are in a mountain hut, you’ll experience big contrasts: Storm or bright sky – inside or outside – day or night. The following two pictures show the same day:

I was quite busy with keeping the hut warm. It has wooden stoves, one for the kitchen, one for each sleeping room. It takes a lot of wood to keep such a cabin warm, especially when strong winds cool it down (and even accelerate the burning). In the morning I had temperatures round 0 °C and was glad about my warm down filled sleeping bag. The wood on the King’s trail comes in long logs. The stugvärd will cut it up to one meter long logs, the rest is up the the guests. The guests? That’s me! I guess I sawed and hacked wood four or five times to keep the fire running and – even more important – to leave enough wood for those that will come after me.

Later in the evening the full moon rose behind the snow covered mountain chain, surrounded by a halo. I just love standing out in the wintry mountains when the moon lights the scenery. Just beautiful.

The next article: Sälka >>

“A spring day in Skelleftehamn”

Yesterday smhi – the “Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute” – issued a snow warning level 1 for Northern Sweden’s coast. Yesterday evening it changed the warning to level 2: 5-10, locally 15-20 cm of snow in a short time.

Well, Skelleftehamn didn’t get that much snow this time, only 5 – 10 cm, but it snowed crazy between 11 and 16 o’clock. That’s what it looked like directly at the seaside:

In Skelleftehamn it was a bit less windy but still a lot of very wet snow poured down. It wasn’t easy to take pictures, because not only the outside of my clothes, but also my cameras and lenses were soaking wet almost instantly.

Now it’s + 1°C and the snow starts to melt. But still my backyard, that was free of snow this morning shows just a plain white surface of snow.

A wet business

It’s not often, that Västerbottens coast – where I live – is involved in three different weather warnings, two of them of class 2:

  • Land: Warning class 2 snowfall that can lead to strong snowdrifts – snowfall up to 15-30 cm
  • Sea: Warning class 2 very high water level – ca 110 above average
  • Sea: Warning class 1 gale (strong wind) – southeast ca 15 m/s average wind speed

I was out this morning to make some pictures of the high water mark. A wet business …

1. Storgrundet – not so wet

First I took the car and drove to Storgrundet. Big parts of the beach were under water – or rather slush. Some boats hibernating on the sandy beach were so surrounded by the sea again, but since they were safely tied they didn’t swim away.

2. Skellefteälven – wet

I continued to a parking place by the riverside of the river Skellefteälven. Here I had to change to chest waders since there was 50 cm of water and wet slush on the way – to much for my rubber boots. You should know where to go since the river bank is quite steep.

Since the parking place is lower than the street and covered with at least 15 cm fresh snow it took me five minutes to drive up the snowy slope. Again and again I sticked fast and had to roll backwards to give it another try. My next car definitely will have an AWD.

3. Näsgrundet – very wet

Näsgrundet is a small peninsula in the Baltic Sea and quite exposed to the elements. I stood in a mixture of ice slush and water and tried to keep the lens dry since the wet snow came just from ahead with great speed. At least the waves were not too high (I only had rubber boots on). This is probably my favourite motive from today.

4. Näsgrundet again – extremely wet

I love the motive on the photo above but wasn’t completely content with the image composition. So I went to the same place again, this time equipped more waterproof: Chest waders again and a rain coat over the fur trimmed winter anorak. While I shot the photo above with a 35mm lens I now used a 14-24mm wide angle lens and tried to get nearer to the motive.

Snow fall had increased and so did the wave height. It was impossible to keep the lens dry for half a second and after some minutes of trying anything was wet from a mixture of wet snow and sea spray. The ice-covered tripod started to freeze and I was afraid for my camera that looked quite soaked, so I abandoned this “photo session” and returned home.

Tomorrow the water level will be half a meter less, so these images cannot be retaken. I have to learn more about photography in really bad and wet weather.