Areas of water

There’s a lot of water round Skelleftehamn. North and east lies the Baltic Sea, in the west and south runs the river Skellefteälven and in the forests around there are some lakes such as the one kilometre long Snesviken.

As several times before, winter came when I left the country for a visit in Germany. That figures! But it didn’t last long. In my absence Skelleftehamn got 20 – 30 cm snow and one cold day with a minimum of -12.9 °C. Then it got warmer again and rain melted away most of the snow. Since I came back on sunday it snowed a bit with temperatures round 0 °C.

Today I was curious, how much ice would lay on the waters. First I checked the Baltic Sea round the peninsula Näsgrundet. The water still was completely open. The same at the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan.

Next stop: Sundgrundsbron, a bridge crossing the Skellefteälven which is round 700 meters wide at that place. The eastern part – the mouth of the river – was almost completely open too, with some thin ice at the riversides, while larger areas of the river itself in the west were covered with ice.

Next stop: Rudtjärnen, a smaller lake in the forest nearby. It might look like waves, but the lake is completely iced, as well as the larger Snesviken.

Next stop: Storgrundet, which is both an elongated island and a small sandy beach. The Baltic Sea between island and main land is sheltered from wind and freezes over quite early. Round three-quarters of the water were iced too.

I would love to paddle at least one more time before the ice becomes too thick, but I’m afraid that I have to look for another starting point as my favourite Storgrundet.

And then I’m longing for cold weather that freezes over the Baltic Sea so that it’s possible to go or to ski to the islands.


Spying the land

Tomorrow I thought about paddling through the freshly snowy winter landscape. Is it realistic? Let’s check:

A: the snow warning

smhi (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) released a class 1 warning for tonight: 10 – 15 cm snow should fall at the coastal areas of Västerbotten. But actually it’s too warm, most of the precipitation has come as sleet and rain. Probably we will have a centimeter of wet snow tomorrow, not much more.

B: the sea ice cover

smhi has another warning, this time for the sea: “higher than 80 cm above mean sea level.” – I took the car to Storgrundet and smhi was right: Parts of the beach are submarine now. But unfortunately the high water didn’t break the sea ice. The ice near the shore is quite soft, I could paddle through. But the rest? Will I manage to break through or do I have to give up?

C: the forecast

At 7:00 it will be clear sky and -6 °C. Nice weather, but at this time it’ll be pitch dark; sun rise is round 9:15. According to the forecast it will be cloudy at 9:00 and start to rain at 13:00. Not enough with that, smhi had another warning for tomorrow: wind will be round 30 knots, that’s round 60 km/h – too much for my kayaking abilities.

Let’s summarise: Hardly any snow, the ice maybe to thick to break, windy + cloudy + some rain later on. I guess, my kayak will stay in the garage tomorrow.

Räven raskar över isen

“Räven raskar över isen”, which means “The fox rushes over the ice”  is a popular Swedish folksong which is performed as a singing game at midsummer.

Today I was out quite early, because the weather was still nice: -6 °C and not completely cloudy. And while I took some more images of the ice outside of Storgrundet, wondering when the ice will bear my weight I saw a fox crossing the ice and rushing from one island to the other. I immediately remembered the song.

(The photo itself is a cropped image, the fox was too far away for my 70-200 mm telephoto lens. By the way: the clouds were of an incredibly intense red – even more than the photos)

Soon more clouds came in and it started to get warmer. In the afternoon it started to rain transforming the cold roads into slippery, wet ice tracks. I would deeply recommend to wear broddar – spikes for your shoes when weather is like this.

Flood along the Skellefteälven

The river Skellefteälven had much water today. Water level was 87 cm above normal according to a hiker I met at the river today. The hiker had to turn because parts of the way were still under water just as the ground besides.

It was funny walking on this “way” – the ground was frozen, 15 cm water above, slightly frozen over, too. I even saw a fish fleeing my rubber boots under the thin ice cover. And I was so glad about my crampon-like spikes, that I had with me, since the ground was almost frictionless.

After a grey morning the weather was nice with blue sky and sun, but still much too warm for the season. I really wonder how the river succeeds in freezing over when it’s hardly frosty. I also wonder why the river ice can rise almost 90 centimetres without getting any visible cracks. Probably it’s quite soft.

Ten, fifteen centimeters above water level you could see ice round the branches and twigs of the smaller trees and bushes, marking the high water peak of last night. I had to crouch and lie down to make the next picture.

It was easier to make pictures of the beautiful frost patterns that covered the ground. By the way: These are colour photographs.

The first winter day in Skelleftehamn

After a period of weather with mild temperatures and rain it started to get colder yesterday and the last two centimetres of snow in Skelleftehamn didn’t melt away. Temperatures sank below zero yesterday afternoon and this morning the thermometer showed -7 °C. The morning was starry and above the western horizon the sky was already blue, even if sunrise was still two hours away.

A good day to make some winter photos.

The first one is shot at the kanotudden – the canoe bay which is a large bay of the Skellefteå river in Ursviken, 5km away. Parts of the bay are quite shallow and calm and so the whole bay is ice covered:

This photos shows the Skellefteå river near Stackgrönnan, 8km away. Even here the river is completely covered with ice. Sky gets brighter and some feathery clouds changed into light pink:

The next two photos are shot from almost the same place – Bergsbydammen (11 km away) – the only possibility to cross the river between Skelleftehamn and Skellefteå. The current round the dam is stronger and parts of the river are open. The first photo points west or upstream, the second photo points east or downstream.

Some hours later …

The next photo is made before sunset, which is hardly four hours after sunrise at this time of the year. This photo is made from the peninsula Rönnskär in Skelleftehamn. Probably my favourite photo of today.

That was my first winter day in Skelleftehamn. Now I’m longing for a long, cold winter with much snow and time for making more photos.

Långhällan – some kind of another world

Today it was even a bit colder as yesterday. When I left the house to make some photos, the thermometer showed -10 °C and it hardly became warmer today.

This time I drove to one of my favourite places nearby, Långhällan, where the coast is quite rocky. When I left the car to walk the remaining 250 meters I could already hear the waves breaking ashore. The first view of the rocky coast was like from another world. The higher parts of the rocks were covered with a bit of snow, while the lower rocks were crusted with a layer of ice. This layer will grow with every wave rolling ashore.

The next hour(s) I spend sitting and crawling on the ice covered rocks and tried to make pictures of the incoming waves. I took more than a hundred pictures but I’m not completely content yet. Anyway, it was just fun being outside and experiencing this fine weather.

Finally the sun came out and started to fill nature with light – first of soft pink, then of intense yellow and orange colours.

I made another “photo session” and took even more pictures of the waves, this time illuminated by the low sun, but time was short and the waves were less impressive.

Soon the sun vanished behind some trees and I walked along the coast were I spotted the next motives: Last day high water has surrounded the lower parts of the small bushes with a solid layer of ice, that gleamed and sparkled in the sun.

After a while I had enough of taking pictures and slowly returned to the car. Two photos from the way back through the forest. It got colder – down to -15 °C and the soft-edged snowy landscape made me feel, that I left the world Långhällan and I was back in my home world again. The only thing that lacks for a real winter: A bit more snow.

Appendix 1 – Things that I was glad to have today

  • Warm cloths: insulated jacket and warm thermal pants, as well as warm gloves. I love winter but I don’t like to freeze.
  • Warm and waterproof “Muck Boots” rubber boots that kept my feet warm and dry.
  • A good camera, a good tripod and my favourite lenses.
  • Spare batteries – a must-have when it’s cold.
  • Most of all: My crampon-like spikes from Snowline – without them I wouldn’t have any chance to climb on the ice covered rocks.

Appendix 2 – making of

Another polar light

Just three-quarters of an hour ago on the near lake Snesviken.

Some notes: -12 °C outside of the house, probably colder on the lake. The jacket was not too warm. First time this winter, that I made some steps onto the ice of the lake. I just dared because of the many other footprints and the knowledge, that water is less than a meter deep at this place.

In between the seasons

Today is winter solstice which means that it’s the shortest day of the year. For the astronomers winter starts today, for the meteorologists it already started on 1st December. But winter, well …

It has been a special winter so long this year. Again.

Beside of some colder days it has been too warm with more rain than snow. All minor streets are covered with a shell of wet ice and the thin leftover snow cover is icy, too.

It’s almost the same as last year. Or 2013. Or 2011. Perhaps it’s just the normal weather anomalies, but perhaps it’s already the ongoing climate shift and we will call that a normal winter twenty years from now. Future will show.

The water level in the Baltic Sea has been high for several weeks, today with +60 cm; +95 cm are predicted for Christmas Day. That’s what it looks like:

On other parts of the ice you could see wet snow mobile tracks, but I wouldn’t dare to enter the ice without asking the locals.

According to the forecast the weather won’t change much the next days and on Christmas Day it probably will rain. But there’re places way up north, where it will be even warmer this year: The forecast for Montréal in Canada predicts +17 °C for Christmas Eve!




winter solsticeWintersonnenwende

Christmas flood

Yesterdays Christmas was still a bit white and snowy but then – déjà vu – it got warmer and started to rain. At the same time the sea level was extremely high again: More than 100 cm above normal. I did the beach walk with chest waders and spikes and took the picture of one of the small pine trees with my underwater camera:

The locals that have their summer cottages on the near island Storgrundet came with their cars to check the sea level. They were a bit nervous because just now they cannot reach the island; neither by boat nor by foot. The ice itself is still thick but not at the borders where the warm weather melted it away.

Same day, another place: Skellefteälven – even more water than some weeks ago. The waterside promenade along the river had a layer of ice on the bottom and was flooded with up to 30 cm water.

Interesting weather, but I miss the snow.

Did anyone of you had a white Christmas?

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Starter

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

On the day after Christmas Annika and I thought about making a short trip to the “inland” where weather is colder and snow depth is bigger. What about Arvidsjaur for example where I’ve been six weeks before. It’s only two hours away. We looked for a room to stay overnight but we weren’t lucky in finding a room that was (a) affordable, (b) nice and (c) free.

Therefore I asked on Facebook if someone would have a tip or even better a stuga – a cottage. Ten minutes later Pär, a friend in Skellefteå, answered and offered us his private stuga for as long as we want to stay. What a great offer!

The next day we packed the car with warm cloths, food, snow shoes, camera equipment, bed clothes and a lot of water (which the stuga lacks) and drove to Arvidsjaur. Round 9:30 we arrived and were glad that neighbours already started the main heating, since it was -12 °C outside. After unpacking the car and switching on the others electric radiators we made a short trip by foot. Days are still short – 3 hours, 12 minutes this day – and as short was our trip. Mostly we walked in the shadow of the pine trees, first on the small road, than on a snowmobile track, but sometimes the low sun shimmered through a gap in the trees.

When we stood at the lake we could see Arvidsjaurs local tree-covered mountain with some ski slopes cut into the wood. Left of it was another mountain, that was completely treeless and snow covered. It looked quite high. How far it might be? Round the corner or many miles away? We planned to check this the next day.

Evening was calm – inside as outside. Stars twinkled above the frozen and snow covered lake right behind the house. The next photo is taken from the terrace. The photo reveals to types of light that were invisible in real life: The pink gleam of Arvidsjaur and a the greenish glow of a very faint polar light.

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Main course

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

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

Meanwhile we knew the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Dessert

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

Monday afternoon at our cabin near Arvidsjaur: -22 °C. How cold will it get the night. Well, not so cold, since the sky overclouded and it got gradually warmer. The next morning the thermometer showed mere -11 °C. The sky was overcast and the diffuse light seemed hardly able to light up the scenery.

Annika and I took a small snowshoe walk on the lake Arvidsjaursjön. Last night’s fog has covered all trees with a thin white layer of hoarfrost and the nature looked more like an old black-white painting than real.

What a contrast to yesterdays mountain hike in full sunlight!

Two other pictures of the same day:

These images were taken on a minor side road. It felt like being hundred miles away from civilisation, but the main road was just 500 meters ahead.

When it darkened the sky cleared up again, but now we were ready for our way back to Skelleftehamn where it was quite warm compared to Arvidsjaur: -1 °C.