Wintry day trip to Vindeln

C. and O., my best friends from Munich have been visiting me for some days. Today we made a car trip to Vindeln via Burträsk.

Contrary to the weather forecast the sun was shining, when we started. Right after Örviken, hardly 7 km from home I had to stop the car to look at the bay Ytterviksfjärden. Larger parts had frozen over under the last two days and were covered with a thin layer of fresh snow. The first sunny “winter photo” of the season!

The road between Falmark and Hjoggböle – hometown of Per Olov Enquist – was snow covered and hardly any other car appeared. Mist lay on the snowy ground, illuminated by the sun in warm yellow and orange. The whole scenery looked extremely beautiful and a bit fantastical. I was really glad to share this special mood with my friends instead of a cold November rain.

When we approached Burträsk clouds had started to cover the sky and the sun was hidden. It was so foggy, that the lake Burträsket hardly could be seen. We continued without stopping and arrived in Vindeln round 11 o’clock. While O. vas visiting a business acquaintance, C. and I made a long promenade along the river Vindelälven. It was grey in Vindeln and sometimes it snowed a bit. So the scenery was wintry as well but completely different from the colourful hazy atmosphere some hours ago.

Retrospect: a rainy autumn

The day before yesterday a blog post on the weather page of Balderskolan caught my eye. The school Balderskolan in Skellefteå has its own weather station and has been collecting statistical data since 2002.

Here some statistics from August to October the last three years. The data is taken from the blog entry. And as you see – the last months have been very wet indeed compared to the two years before.

Number of days with rainfall

2015 2016 2017
August 7 st * 11 st 18 st
September 6 st 5 st 21 st
October 6 st 8 st 19 st
Total 19 st * 24 st 58 st

Precipitation in mm

2015 2016 2017
August 39 mm * 38 mm 59 mm
September 28 mm 18 mm 81 mm
October 4 mm 5 mm 79 mm
Total 71 mm * 61 mm 219 mm

(* data for the first seven days in August 2016 is missing)

Freezing over again

This morning was colder than the last ones: -6 °C. As a result the protected water area between the island Storgrundet and the mainland had partly frozen over in the night. The ice however is hardly some millimetres thick and probably won’t last long.

Late autumn paddling

It’s so nice to kayak on a sunny summer day, wearing just shorts and t-shirt, feeling the warm breeze, taking a bath and having dinner on a warm sunlit rock by the sea.

I wonder, why I hardly do that! This summer I paddled exactly twice – once in May, once in June. Now it’s November!

When I saw the thin layer of ice at Storgrundet this morning I was kind of alarmed – the days of paddling this year are numbered.

I fought a while with my weaker self but finally it was me who won. I put on my drysuit, neoprene boots, hood and gloves, took my little waterproof camera and fetched my kayak from the garage. The weather was still a bit sunny and temperature round -4 °C. (According to the weather forecast it should have been cloudy for hours, temperatures above zero and rain on its way. But well, the Swedish weather forecasts are hardly reliable.)

It took less than ten minutes till I reached the small bay Killingörviken where I launched my kayak. Within this short time period clouds have been approached from the sea covering half the sky.

The first 70 meters were hard work. Even when the ice is only 7 mm thick it’s not easy to paddle through because you have to break the ice not only with the kayak itself but with the paddle as well to be able to push forward. But soon I reached open water, crossed the street and reached the larger bay Kallholmsfjärden, home of the port Skellefteå Hamn. At the rear the sky was still blue but in front of me dark clouds approached and soon it started to snow …

No! Wrong! It didn’t snow. Snow stayed home and sent his asshole cousin: Freezing rain. (Rain indeed, sometimes the weather forecast is right.)

I thought back to the time, where I had lived in Essen. In that time I used to say “winter is coming, the rain is getting colder”. And so it felt today. It was chilly, wet, grey, twilit and dull. A typical autumn day in Essen. Or winter day. Or … . But I get off the point …

Anyway when I crossed all the bridges that traverse the channel Kejsar Ludvigs kanal, my mind wandered back again. Here it even looked like Essen.

But there are differences. First of all I never paddled in Essen and then Skelleftehamn is a coastal town which means that you reach the sea in less than no time:

Near the coast there was another layer of ice and again I had to cut through. My plan was to paddle round the peninsula Kallholmen, meaning that I would have to cross the sheltered bay Kurjoviken. Would I manage it or would the ice shield be too thick to be easily crossed? Well, I’ll see …

I paddled along the southern side of Kallholmen. There was hardly any wind and hardly any waves. Time to stop photoing and just enjoying the motion. Kurjoviken however came nearer and when I went round the west tip my misgivings became true. The whole bay was iced.

I gave it a try and started paddling through ice a third time this day. Already after ten meters the ice was 10 mm thick and I knew that I had 500 meters more to go. I decided to give up my original plan and returned. Backwards since it’s hardly possible to turn in ice.

It was still grey and quite dark, but it stopped raining and there was a a silver lining on the horizon.

It started to rain again. The raindrops were so tiny that I hardly could see the drops impacting the water surface. The surrounding looked hazy and mysterious and it was hard to guess distance and size of other objects.

“Is there a man standing on a rock amidst the sea? Or is it just a rock? Did it move or not? It moved! Is it a bird? I’m not sure. Yes, it’s a seabird, perhaps a cormorant. And the four dark spots ahead? Is it small rocks? Or big rocks? Or seals? Or trees far away in the haze?” Probably it was trees, that spot was further away than excepted.

Finally I reached “Ice Shield II” were I used the ice-free channel that I created an hour before. A second time I paddled along Kejsar Ludvigs kanal and reached the harbour.

A second time I crossed the bay, reached “Ice Shield I” and soon went ashore.

Well, let’s say I tried to go ashore. It was easy to leave the kayak but hard to go up the shallow slope, since the cold rain had instantly become ice on the still frozen ground and it was extremely slippery. Did you ever tried to drag a trolley with a kayak behind on freshly frozen streets? With neopren shoes made for water, not for ice? One patch on the street was so slippery that I really felt stuck. I could not move in any direction but finally I made it and some time later I arrived home.

My plan for 2018: Much more kayaking. In sun or rain, night or day – doesn’t matter as long as it’s save.



Kayakvideo – my thing – winter kayaking in Skellefteå

Last summer I was asked by filmmaker Johan Granstrand if I would be interested in making a small film about my winter paddling. I felt honoured to be asked and gladly accepted.

Despite to this year we got a lot of snow already in the beginning of November last year. Since weather was nice (and cold) we decided to make the film on November 12, exactly one year ago.

I already blogged about this day in my post “Kayak – is it a boat or a sledge?”. Some weeks ago I got the permission to share the link to the video and that’s what I do today.

“Min Grej – Kayaking i Skellefteå på vintern” on Vimeo.

(I really like this film but I don’t like listening to me talking. My Swedish sounds awfully!)

The first cold and sunny days

It became colder the last days. Yesterday temperatures were between -10 °C and -6 °C. Today it was warmer but still below zero the whole day. Especially the night before last was cold: coldest in Nattavaara with -23.8 °C but even in Åliden, just 33 km west, temperatures lay round -17 °C the whole night.

This morning I took the car to the bridge Sundgrundsbron that leads over the river Skellefteälven and pleasured in the wonderful sunrise colours. The sky in the east was coloured of warm shades of bright orange, while the sky in the west was more blue and purple, looking much colder.

Due to the stream parts of the Skellefteälven were still open but many parts were already covered with ice. Noises of cracking and clicking echoed through the air, clearly indicating that the ice was still fresh and quite thin.

A family of mute swans paddled over the river. Did they decide to stay or will they fly south? I hope they’ll cope the cold weather in case of staying.

If you look closer at the first photo you see a layer of clouds hovering above the horizon. The locals call this phenomenon “vinterväggen”, meaning “the winter wall”. It’s quite typical for this season and sometimes the whole eastern horizon is covered by a thick layer of clouds. According to a neighbour it’s this type kind of clouds that brings snow.

But according to the weather forecast tomorrow’s precipitation will come more as rain than snow.

A short visit at the coast

Yesterday morning temperatures were +3 °C, it rained and the still frozen roads were wet and incredibly slippery. Half a day later temperatures had dropped to -3 °C and it snowed – much better in my opinion!

This morning it was -6 °C and 5 cm of white fresh snow covered the ground. Not enough for skiing but enough for looking nice and most of all for brightening the day.

That’s a photo of the coast line at Näsgrundet this morning. While the sky is still clear in the south, a thick layer of clouds approaches from the north. Unfortunately the clouds doesn’t bring any snow, but according to the weather forecast more snow is to come as from tomorrow.


Lagom winter

It’s probably not the first time, that I use the word lagom in this blog. You could translate it with “just right”. Not too hot, not too cold – not too much, not too little. That’s lagom.

Just now the winter behaves lagom, too. Om Friday evening 5 cm of snow covered my garden, tonight it’s round 20 cm. Not 76 cm as last year, not 2 mm as the year before, just 20 cm. That’s lagom! Even the temperatures are quite moderate, lying round -5 °C.

I didn’t have much time to enjoy this winter, because I’ve worked quite much the last time. Today evening however I managed at least an evening promenade through the near forest, first along some ways and paths, then across country. It was snowing a bit and everything was quite. I could hear neither bird nor car, only the scrunching of the snow under my feet. Today I went afoot but I got my back-country skis from the garage hoping for more snow to come.

Stormy farewell

Today I sold my Saab 9-5 – the first car I ever had in my life. I bought it in March 2011 when I realised that a life without car is quite limiting in Northern Sweden.

Since then I have travelled to many places as e.g.: Abisko · Alta · Arvidsjaur · Bodø · Gällivare · Hammerfest · Höga Kusten · Jokkmokk · Kirkenes · Kiruna · Kusfors · Lofoten · Loma Vietonen · Luleå · Mosvik · Narvik · Nordkapp · Pajala · Senja · Solberget · Tromsø · Umeå · Vesterålen · Äkäslompolo · Örnsköldsvik

Do you know, how many places in the list are in the south of Skellefteå? Exactly three and Höga Kusten is the southernmost place I have gone by car because normally I head northwest or north.

Today however I sold my car to H., a friend, who lives in the county of Kalmar, more than 1000 km in the south. Funnily enough it’s the very same friend who visited me in 2011 and test-drove the car before I bought it. Back then he said “Well, if you do not buy this car, I’ll take it”. Well – now you got it H., with only six and a half years delay.

Since the Saab is a great winter car – it started without any problems in -35 °C – the elements bade it a stormy farewell with heavy wind gusts and squalls plus round 20 cm of new snow.

My new car is a Subaru Outback, which I bought half a year ago. Less comfortable than my Saab and a bit shorter but equipped with All Wheel Drive. Today I could test it and can confirm that the Subaru had no problems with driving through 20 cm of snow and crossing snowdrifts twice as high. I took some photos but soon drove home again since it was so stormy that it was almost impossible to take photos in the snowstorm. In addition to that I considered the weather potentially dangerous, at least near trees or power lines.

Some winter tours are already planned: A trip to the winter market in Jokkmokk and a longer trip to Kirkenes and the Varanger Peninsula, the northeasternmost part of Norway. And there’s probably much more to come …

Some hours later. It still was snowing. 40 to 50 cm of snow cover my back yard. The snow flakes melt on the lens and create funny plankton-like reflections. In Umeå it already had started to rain and here the temperatures were raising as well. A pity!


The river Umeälven freezes over

I’ve been in Umeå for some days. Mostly I was inside and worked for Once Upon, my current developer project. The weather was mostly ghastly these days. It rained, partly with snow at temperatures round 1 °C on half frozen ground leaving a mixture of very slippery roads and half frozen water puddles. That’s great weather for working inside!

Today however the weather has been completely different. It’s -9 °C outside and the sun is shining. Time to leave work and go for a walk along the river Umeälven. Transparent ice floes are drifting on the surface and at the shore the river has started to freeze over. The low sun shines on the ice and let it sparkle in many colours. What a pleasure after these dark, dim and colourless days.

Tomorrow I’ll return to Skelleftehamn. Hopefully the forecasted snow will come – I’m eager to test my new back country skis I bought some weeks ago.