Fjellheisen and Fløya

Today I was too lazy to hike up a mountain. So I packed warm clothes and camera equipment and the car to the mainland. There I took the cable car Fjellheisen. From the mountain station I walked up the nearest top Fløya. Not a lot of snow there but the temperature of -12 °C (and of course the wind) made it feel quite wintry.

Some photos:

Interval training in Vasstrand

Today I tried a tour on the mountain Stappen on the island Kvaløya, where I did most of my hiking tours the last months. In my book “På tur i Tromsø” it is marked as quite easy and that it would take 1½ hours up. Well, perhaps in summer …

Although sun does not rise anymore it’s already quite bright at 9 o’clock. I stop my car ride of 45 minutes to take this photo at 9:20 on the mountain passage.

At 9:50 I start my tour. No snow shoes, but spikes in case of icy patches. And a warm down jacket. And a tripod for making photos in twilight. Backpack is heavy.

First I walk along the road and then uphill through the snow. I use to manage to hike up mountains although it can take some efforts. I love to trudge through snow. The combination however is extremely exhausting since the snow today is often knee deep and especially the first part has some steep bits.

I have to rest many times and my heart is beating like a hummingbird’s. There are ski tracks but I’m wondering how to ski here where the forest is so dense. Well, while most Norwegians are excellent skiers, I’m not.

I arrive at the bog Vasstrandmyra which is described as being wet in the tour book. Now it is frozen and snowed over. It still goes up though more gently and I look for a route with as less snow as possible. Today’s destination has come into view, the mountain Stappen (570 m). It looks like having been painted by a toddler. A line up, a peak, a line down. I want to go up there but have the impression that I’ll probably not make it.

A second steeper passage through another wood lies ahead of me. I’m panting. Snow is mostly knee deep until I make a step that sends both legs completely into the white. The snow is hardly deeper but I found a mud hole well hidden under the snow. Thanks to the rubber boots I wear my feet stay dry.

With some more breaks I manage to hike up to a second plateau and start ascending the mountain.

On the photo it looks quite flat, but in reality it is steeper. That is not a problem. The problem is that there is no visible way and it is impossible to see, where there are holes between all the snowed over rocks. Quite cautious I hike up a bit but after 60 metres I realise that this kind of testing each step takes too much time.

I rest sitting in the snow with hood on, because it has become quite windy which makes the frost temperatures feel much colder. I even witness a larger snow devil – a mini-tornado sucking up snow –  just some ten metres from me and can feel the snow dust in my face.

Although I do not have a 360° panoramic view I cannot complain. The mountainous landscape in the warm colours of polar night’s noon is just beautiful!

I do not rest long, then I start my descend. As soon as I reach the plateau hiking becomes easy. Trudging through snow downhills is much faster and even on the not-so-steep bog my step length is 50% larger than on the way up. A snow grouse flees, it does not want to be photographed. It’s windy and snowy and wintry and an exhausting but an awesome tour.

Round one o’clock I arrive at the car glad about the car’s heating and a warm sweater.

On my way back I stop at the supermarket and delicacy shop Eidehandel where I eat some warm lunch. At 14:30 I’m almost home but I have to stop for another photo because now it has become dark. Not pitch black, but dark enough to see the stars.

Polar light at Tuesday night.

Thanks to a phone conversation with my wife Annika I was wandering around the apartment in Tromsø. I watched Orion rise behind the mountains and a faint something above. The something was a weak polar light. Within short time the aurora intensified and while I was walking to the shore I could see it moving over the whole celestial sphere. When I arrived at the shore some minutes later it already had weakened a lot (so typical!) and the violet parts were gone. Anyhow it was still a beautiful polar light worth being photographed.

 

It gets dark – it gets bright

This weekend the mørketid started in Tromsø. That’s the time when the sun does not rise above the horizon any longer. Literally translated it means “darkness time” but usually it is called polar night.

What do you do if it gets darker? You illuminate the town!

Have a look at the photo with the two deer. You see the red-white logo with the H to the left? That’s the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordlys. You see the lights above amidst the darkness? That’s the mountain station of the Fjellheisen cable car on the other side of the Tromsø sound.

Why I was in town and not on tour? Because today was the Christmas tree lighting in the center of Tromsø and I was singing there as part of the chamber choir Ultima Thule. The place was crowded with people that wanted to experience this annual tradition. Here’s a snapshot that I took from stage during the soundcheck:

Unfortunately there were many people that did not wear a mask. Please cross your fingers, that this event does not lead to another increase of Corona here in Tromsø.

Whale watching – second try

Yesterday Same meeting point, same tour, same boat as 6 days before. But completely different weather! No stormy wind from the north and clouds everywhere, but a clear and starry sky.

And off we went.

It was just incredible how much brighter everything was although it was less daylight than last Sunday. After two hours the island Nordfugløya came into view. A cloud parked itself over the island.

Slowly the colours of the sky intensified and remained colourful the whole short day, because now it was the first day of polar night¹.

It took us round 3½ hours to reach our destination, the sea round Skjervøy. So we had only limited time before we headed back. Already at one, half past one o’clock it started getting darker again.

Eight hours after our departure we had returned to Tromsø.

I have been outside for round seven hours. I didn’t freeze because I was wearing my warmest winter parka. I was inside once to eat a bowl of soup and once when I stood at the ship’s bow and the sea spray soaked the whole foredeck (including me). So I was eager to take a shower not because of being cold but I wanted to get rid of the salt hands and face were covered with.

Resumé: It was a great boat tour and I enjoyed the air, the colours, the light.

And the whales? Oh yes, the whales! Almost forgot them ;-) Well, we saw some of them, mostly orcas and the first fin whale of the season. There were not many whales around and they were quite in a distance, so for photographing whales this tour was not ideal. Too little time and too high the boat decks above the water. I would love to paddle kayak there but I’m pretty sure that I never ever will dare to do that.

____

¹ Where I live in Tromsø we technically had 14 minutes of daylight yesterday but already 1.3 km north it was the first day of polar night.

 

 

No whales today

To the left the Brim Explorer, a boat located in Tromsø for amongst other whale watching. To the right the tourists waiting to be boarded. The boat is fully booked, I am not alone.

Before leaving an announcement: The crew will try its best but it’s not granted that we reach the waters where the whales are. Anyone is free to leave and given a full refund. Most people stay and so do I. First of all I’m not surprised, as another tour operator already cancelled today’s tour. And then I just want to be a day on the water. Whales of course would be a nice extra.

To the left Tromsøbrua, the bridge that connects Tromsø with the mainland. To the right the safety on board drill, that everyone had to join.

And then we’re off.

To make it short: What we didn’t get today was whale sightings. What we got today was rough weather in the open parts. The boat was rolling and pitching like a cork in the waves. More than one passenger got sea sick. The unpredictable movements of the boat and the dim light under the grey sky made photographing a bit adventurous. Several times I was forced in and one passage even the doors were locked. The rest I was outside, partly taking photos, partly just looking around and letting the wind blow around my nose.

Conclusion: an awesome tour even without whales. If you want to participate as well: take your warmest clothes with you. And those of you that just want to stay home and look at some whale photos may read my article about Whale watching in Andenes. Enjoy.

Note to myself: TromsøyaRingvassøya/ReinøyaVannøyaNordfugløyaArnøya/LaukøyaSkervøya/KågenLyngenReinøyaTromsøya

Not reaching the top of the Nordtinden

Today I hiked the last daylight tour this season. Next Saturday sunrise is 11:25 and sunset is 11:38. The following day a seven week period of polar night will begin.

I wanted to hike onto the top of the Nordtinden (640 m), which I assumed to have a lot of snow after last Sunday’s experience. But it turned out different than planned.

Let’s start with a funny selfie:

What’s that? Winter jacket and no snow? Aren’t you overdressed, Olaf? Well, first I was glad about the fur-rimmed hood, because it was quite stormy already in the lowlands and then I wanted to gain 600 metres in altitude. It would be colder and windier on the top of the mountain.

Part 1 – hiking the icy gravel road

At 9 o’clock – round one hour before sunrise – I parked my car in Skulsfjord on the island Kvaløya. There was enough light to start the tour. First I followed a gravel road for 2.4 km. Easy peasy when not the whole road had been covered with ice. I had snow shoes with me for later use, but no spikes for the shoes. Mistake.

Part 2 – following the trail up

After 2.4 km I turned left to follow the hiking trail up to the mountain Nordtinden. Well, mostly I avoided following it because it was very icy and slippery. I considered cancelling the tour but often I could walk on the bouncy patches of heather beside the trail and so continue the tour.

Part 3 – gaining height

A steep passage made me doubt again. Shall I return? Continue? Well, let’s go a tiny bit further, just ten other metres up. I was lucky. Now the terrain was less steep. First only a bit of snow covered the stones and the heather but soon more and more snow covered the ground.

Part 4 – coming to a dead end

I knew that I lost the regular way. The way itself was not visible anymore, but I could see on my interactive map that I was a bit lower than the trail. Maybe I could go up somewhere else.

It was stormy and gusty and the wind tried to blow me down several times. The snow was not fluffy but wind pressed and hard and therefore slippery. When I had to traverse a slope I mounted my snowshoes. It took a while because I had some issues with the bindings. Now it dared to traverse the snow field, but since I didn’t take my walking sticks with me (mistake) it was a bit hard to walk up in the wind and gain balance.

And then I came to a dead end. A quite beautiful dead end, but still a dead end. I had to return.

Part 5 – returning, retrying and finally returning

So I walked back until I finally met the trail again, at least according my iPhone map. The way itself was hidden under the snow. Beside of that Norwegian hiking trails can be marked quite poorly, you have to navigate by yourself.

OK, I can navigate. I even had paper map and compass with me. But where the trail supposed to be there were only snow and rocks. And it was quite steep. And the snowshoes were a bit bitchy. And sun would set at 13 o’clock. Therefore I made the decision to not to try to reach the summit but abandon the tour and return. And so I did.

First I walked on snow but then I had to put off my snowshoes. In the lower part I ignored the icy trail and walked down on the heather. Much easier! Three and a half hours later I arrived at my parked car.

Résumé

It was a pity that I didn’t reach the top, but it was a fine though rough tour anyhow. From next week I have to find alternatives that are doable in twilight and darkness using a head torch.

For the records: 9.6 km, ca. 600 metres in altitude.

Hiking up the Grønnlibruna

Here I stand on top of the small mountain Grønnlibruna (401 m).

I crossed a river and followed a forest trail that sent me deep into the mud. I trudged through knee deep powder snow and then stalked through Styrofoam-like wind-pressed snow to reach the summit and see the mountains in the sun that yr forecasted. Here I stand on top of the small mountain Grønnlibruna and there is no sun. It is snowing. It has been snowing all day and the mountains are hidden by the clouds.

As yesterday I am alone. Apparently the locals do other things in November than hiking up snowy mountains. While I walk around on the plateau of the Grønnlibruna the weather is changing and slowly the mountain ranges come in view and so the bay Sørbotn and the island Håkøya. The sun however I do not see today.

The last photo is taken with my Nikon, the others are edited iPhone snapshots.

For the records: 8 km there and back. Round 400 m in Altitude. Temperature -1 °C … -5 °C. Next time: snow shoes.

Apropos next time: Today we had 4¼ hours of daylight. Next Sunday it will be 2¾ hours. Saturday after that 13 minutes. On Sunday in two weeks we will have polar night in Tromsø until 14 January 2022.

So next time I’ll not only take snow shoes with me but some powerful headlamps, too.

 

 

 

Tønsnesvarden

On Tuesday we got some snow in Tromsø. On Wednesday it already has melted away. But last night a bit of snow arrived.

Today I chose a shorter tour from my book “På tur in Tromsø” (On tour in Tromsø) because I just wanted an easy hike, not a full-grown mountain tour. The weather agreed with me.

By the sea only a bit of wet snow and sleet covered the ground but already 50 meter higher the gravel path was covered with 10 cm of snow. Deep tyre tracks were carved in the snow. This part of the tour was very easy. Just follow the road up until you reach the radio unit on the Tønsnesvarden (281 m) and try not to slip, because under the snow there are some icy patches.

This summit has a big radio station on its top. Even in the increasing snow fall is was quite visible. Now I walked through 20 cm of snow. After an hour I arrived at the radio station, where I met the creator of the deep tyre tracks: A six-wheeled ATV.

It wasn’t cold but a windy. It snowed more and more and the wet snow glued itself to my jacket. On my way back I left the main road and followed a small path on my digital map on my iPhone. I stopped in a forest of birches with thin and long stems. I loved the motive, but my Nikon camera gave up in this wet weather. The lens was fogged up in the inside and in the dense and wet snowfall I didn’t dare to change lens. One photo worked out ok anyhow:

Soon I realised that some of the paths drawn on the map did not exist in reality (at least not in winter) while others that exist were not part of the map. So I went cross-county through pathless terrain, partly dens forest, partly wetlands with many small streams to cross. It took only 15 minutes until I reached the other gravel road leading down again. Now the iPhone was in charge for making pictures.

I followed the path down. With each metre altitude I lost there was less snow on the ground and the snow fall became more and more sleet. When I arrived at my car my anorak was soaking wet. Having seat warmers in a car is a great feature after such a tour.

For the records: 6.5 km, round 300 metres in altitude. Temperature round 0°C.

Appendix 1:

When I show pictures of mountain tours and hilly hikes it is easy to forgot, that Norway has not only mountains but the sea, too. This is an iPhone snapshot I took from some metres from my parked car. What you cannot see is the mountains of the island Kvaløya, 3.8 km away. They are hidden in the snow clouds.

Appendix 2:

What do you do with photos taken with a fogged up lens? You start to experiment. I mean, the photo is spoiled anyhow. But the result of today’s experimentation turned out nice in my opinion.