A late winter ski tour

It has snowed the whole week and yesterday I finally took the opportunity to do a ski tour in the mountains. Since I’m not a downhill skier I chose the Fløyfjellet area on the mainland. There it is hilly, but not steep and you can take the cable car Fjellheisen to Storsteinen (421 m). The four-minute ride is expensive but worth it.

I’ve been there several times but never with skis.

I put on the skins and go outside. What are these funny snowed in thingies? The left one could be a slide. I remember the playground here. And behind that? Is it not a fence but a swing!? So much snow?

Note: Yes, it’s a slide and a swing. I found an older photo of mid-October 2020 for comparison.

I start my tour at Fjellstua, the mountain station of the cable car. It has stopped snowing and the sun comes out. I pass Steinbøhytta. It looks quite snowed in, but this cabin is built into the mountain.

Navigation to Fløya is easy when it’s clear because of the huge waymark with the wind vane. The summit itself is marked with the typical stone heap.

It’s just 12 o’clock when I reach Fløya and I continue skiing south. I am completely alone and beside of snow and some small, isolated rocks there is not much to see.

It starts snowing and gradually the snow fall intensifies until the visibility is between 50 and 100 metres. Not much in a snowy landscape. I see a small single rock, but nothing more.

Where is Bønntuva (or Romssavákkivárri), the next summit? I use compass and the Varsom app for navigation but I zigzag a bit anyhow. I realise that I go uphills. A good sign, when you want on a mountain. I’m almost at the top when I see the waymark. It’s a large but shallow pile of stones, almost completely snowed in. Time for a “summit selfie” and a break.

And then – all of the sudden – the clouds disappear and the sun comes out and instead of 50 m visibility it’s 15 kilometres and more.

After a short break I ski further south. Here I meet the first other people, two touring skiers. I enjoy the sun, the calmness, the view, the colours while skiing a long circle back.

And soon the next snow appears. As fast as the sky cleared up visibility is very poor again and I have some difficulties navigating again.

I head west and then north again. The snow depth is 50-60 cm in average and my skis sink 15–20 cm into the snow with every step. Visibility has become much better again but everything looks dull in the grey, snowy weather. I’m exhausted. Time to take a break.

Still an hour to go, but at least it goes mostly downhills. Step. Step. Step. Looking up. Step. Step. Step.

Not far from the station I meet three women. They sit on huge camping mats in the snow and are cooking something. Their skis stuck in the snow and serve as a backrest. This looks cosy! We exchange a few words, then I continue. When I arrive at the mountain station I take a souvenir photo of Tromsøya. Ten minutes later I stand in the cable car on my way down. Five minutes later I stand by my car and stop the parking because this is expensive as well.

In the center of Tromsø it is thaw and a mixture of wet snow, soft ice and brown slush covers ways and roads. I’m glad that I had this wonderful day in the mountains though photo motives were a bit rare due to the poor visibility. Now I think it would be a good time for spring!

Mai snow in Tromsø

2 May – shall it be spring soon?

With melting snow, slush and strawberries (from the Netherlands)?

Yesterday, 3 May – no.

Today, 4 May – definitely no!

8 cm of fresh snow fell over night. Beside the roads there’s even a layer of crusty, old snow.

If the weather forecast is right, a lot of rain will wash the snow away, but not before the weekend. Let’s see, how long you have to read those “still snow”articles, but when there’s snow, I’ll post about snow.

Spring day in Tromsø

After weeks of snowfall and cold rain some kind of spring came to Tromsø. Main feature: several hours of sunshine and two-digit temperatures. I take a promenade and see tussilago and primroses  blooming almost everywhere.

When you however do not crouch on the ground for taking photos of flowers but go to the beach and look west you see that winter is still remaining in the mountains. At least from the distance their peaks look as white and pure as weeks ago.

This article should have been published on Saturday, two days ago, but I was sick and slept a lot the whole weekend.

Now cloudy weather and temperatures round 3 °C have returned to Tromsø. Business as usual?


17 May aboard the ship Hermes II

Today it is 17 May, the Norwegian National Day. People say “Gratulerer med dagen!” (Happy Birthday!) to each other to celebrate Norway’s Birthday in the year 1814. The rest of the history I won’t tell here, you can read it better in the net, for example on Wikipedia.

While I was in Sweden last year I am in Tromsø today and so I was able to join the celebrations. Last week I got an ad for joining the boat parade on the wooden boat Hermes II, build 1917. That sounded fun and I directly bought one of the extraordinary cheap tickets. Would be nice to be outside on the water this day. And so it was, even in snowfall and sleet and temperatures round 1–2 °C.

Hermes II lies in the very center of Tromsø. I’ve passed it many times, today I entered it at 10 o’clock. Slowly the boat filled up. Some women were clad in bunad. These traditional clothes are very beautiful but I doubt that they provide the best weather protection. Check the video linked below. Other people choose more pragmatic clothes to stay warm and dry. At 10:30 we departed, headed north and met other boats there. In a group of fifteen boats – Hermes II, some SAR boats, the rest private ones – we then headed back to the center. Nothing extreme, just a especially nice way to be outside.

Some photos from today:

Also on board was NRK, the Norwegian TV. I can recommend the video, even when you do not speak Norwegian.

Watch it here: 17. mai-feiring på båt i Tromsø (2:44, Norwegian).

Just a short afterwork mountain walk

19:00 – sun is shining. Too beautiful the evening to stay inside. 19:30 – I park at the lake Finnviksvatnet on the island Kvaløya. It is at 230 m altitude and covered with a thick layer of snow. You see the lake as the foreground on the first photo. Outside temperature +1 °C, colder than in town. The only other person I see comes dome the snowy slope, skis in the hands. I only have rubber boots. Let’s see, how far I’ll come.

Not very far (round 2.2 km and perhaps 200 m in altitude) because walking through old snow is exhausting and I’m still a bit groggy from being sick for some days. But alas, Tromsø and surroundings are so beautiful! At least on the rare occasions where the sun is actually shining – a rare pleasure in Tromsø it seems to me.


A sunny ski tour to Bønntuva

Three weeks ago I made a ski tour to mountain summit Bønntuva. There was a layer of half a metre of fresh snow and it snowed so much, that navigation was quite demanding.

This morning I decided to take a day off and do a ski tour to Bønntuva again, because finally the weather is sunny and warmer. No snowfall, no sleet, no stacked cloud layers, just a blue sky.

Same routine: Park the car, buy a ticket for Fjellheisen, the cable car and check, how much snow has melted away from the swing and the slide on the playground. Well, not much!

But you see the difference. Patches of heather and more rocks are visible. The cabin Steinbøhytta however is still snowed in, too.

The only other skier, that started with me – you see him on the first photo – is far ahead and so I have the mountains for myself.

Thanks to my short climbing skins that you can hook into the skis and the easy conditions I reach the the summit of Bønntuva earlier than expected. Time for a short rest and a photo with self-timer. (To the right the selfie from 19 days before ;-) )

The view is marvellous. It’s mountains everywhere. Some are rocky, some are snowy. Some are steep, some are rounded. Some are by the fjords, others amidst other mountains. So beautiful!

After the break I decide to ski back. I am pretty nervous because the snow is fast and I am a lousy downhill skier. Where other carve beautiful sinus waves into the snowy slopes I walk more zigzag. Anyhow I manage to ski down the Bønntuva (which is not steep at all). Now I start to meet other people. Some on skis, some with hiking boots, because the snow is quite compact. I use one track of a skier to bypass the summit of Fløya – a good track, that slowly leads downwards.

After I pass the cabin I unmount my backcountry skis to walk down a steeper passage. Then I mount them again and all of a sudden I feel a bit more comfortable. I have a bit more control and can even do some bends by ploughing. Nice! Next year I should stand more on my skis! But this I say every spring. We will see what next winter has in store for me.

I arrive at the summit station ten minutes before the cable car goes down. Time to take a photo of Tromsø on the island Tromsøya and the mountains of the island Kvaløya in the background.

Then it’s time to leave the winter, go down by cable car and then stop the parking timer in the app, because parking at Fjellheisen is expensive!

“Kayak daytrip to Skarsfjord with beach clean up”

… this was the Facebook event I was invited to some weeks ago. It was an event organised by people from TSI Trulle, the other kayak association, but it was open for non-members, too. The idea was to start a kayak tour in Skarsfjord on the island Ringvassøya, paddle to a beach, clean it, cross the fjord to another beach, clean it, too, relax and paddle back. We were eight people joining the tour from five different countries.

Our tour does not start on the water. It starts with carrying kayaks to a trailer, use lashing straps to fix them there, packing all equipment into two cars  and some driving.

After 50 km – one hour drive – we arrive at the parking place by the sea, where we unstrap the kayaks and get everything ready including testing the sprayskirts and the footboards. Things you can do on land as well as you see.

It always takes some time to put on the drysuit, check that everything is packed and working but then we all sit in our kayaks and are ready to paddle to our first destination: The islet Teistholmen.

We leave the kayaks there, take a huge rubbish bag each and start combing the shore of the island. Most of the rubbish is on the northwest side of the island that is most exposed to the elements. Mostly it is plastic from fishing. Parts of old green nets, buoys from small to football size and then of course all the civilisation garbage as empty (or half-full) bottles, styrofoam and some nasty stuff. But it’s not extremely much.

After collecting I take a stroll over the green island. Hard to imagine, that I did a ski tour the day before.

After a while and some lunch we continue our triangular tour, now crossing the fjord Skarsfjorden to another beach. You can see the rubbish bags on our kayaks. We were very lucky that there is no mentionable wind, because with side winds the huge bags would act as sails and turn the kayaks into the wind. But without any wind and waves it was easy to cross the fjord.

When we reach the beautiful sandy beach it turns out that this is not the beach to be cleaned. The location that the organiser has in mind is a bit further away. So we continue a bit to arrive at a rocky shore that looked much less inviting than the sandy beach and a bit more difficult to land.

But it looks like that we would collect a lot of more trash here, and so we do. There is a lot of plastic trash, scrap metal (that we left alone) and driftwood for making fires for months. Some of us are collecting large amounts of plastic. It is obviously too much to be transported on our kayaks. But we are lucky and get help by two locals living on an island nearby. They load their whole boat full with our filled rubbish bags to take care of it. You can hear the motor of their boat for a while after they departed. Tusen takk – thousand thanks!

While others have collected more rubbing some of us have started a fire. Time to tell stories, eat a second lunch or just relax.

Anyhow, it is a day trip and so we leave this place, some of us with extra rubbish bags that didn’t make it on the motor boat. We pass the ship wreck, that we already spotted on the way there. It was washed ashore this winter while the captain was asleep because the anchor did not hold. He was not harmed but the ship was totally destroyed.

We are so lucky with the weather! Not much sun, but hardly any wind, no rain and much warmer than the weeks before. We paddle back to the parking place, the cars are visible as a small grey and a small white dot. The water is extremely clear and of a turquoise colour that makes the sea look Caribbean – until you put your hands into the water and realise how cold it is. This is, why drysuits are a must on such tours even under perfect conditions. Safety first!

And then we are back. Some of us train rescue manoeuvres, some of us relax, some collect trash (oh my, here you could collect for days :-( ). Then we put all kayaks back on the trailer, drive back to the boat house where we put all kayaks back in the boat houses. Then we are ready to leave.

Thank you guys for inviting me, letting joining me and having a great day together. Hopefully I meet some of you again. Would be a pleasure!



Mountains, sea and midnight sun

Yesterday at 18:00 I took the car to Elvenes on Kvaløya to start a small mountain tour. Well, mountain or hill – the summit of Grønnlibruna is only 401 metres above sea level. I chose this destination in the hope that it was not completely snowed over as the higher mountains still are.

I parked the car, walked the gravel path and stood before the first obstacle, the stream Finnelva. I did the same tour last November, where it was easy to cross. Now in the thawing period the water was at least 50 cm deep and quite fast . Too deep to cross here, even with rubber boots. Luckily I found a better place to ford a bit upstream. Soon I was in the forest. A very wet and muddy forest where I was not always sure whether I followed the way, crossed a swamp or waded in a brook. But this stopped when I gained a bit of altitude where old snow covered the forest floor.

As soon as was above the tree line the landscape changed again. There were some large snow fields but most of the ground was bare of snow and easy to walk on.

After 4 km of hike and some hundred metres in altitude I stood on the summit enjoying the circular view while the weather cleared up more and more.

I did not take a break but hiked down again. I enjoyed the weather and the fact that the birch trees start to turn green, at least in the lowlands. I crossed Finnelva a second time, now with a sturdy stick that I had found on my way. It’s much easier to keep balance with such a “third leg”. From there it was not far to my parked car that I reached round 21:30.

When I left the supermarket in Eidkjosen it was 22:00 and the sky was blue. It won’t get dark because the last sunset in Tromsø was more than a week ago. Since then we have polar days with 24 hours of daylight. I could drive home or …

I turned left. Left to the road 862 that leads to Sommarøya. Maybe I catch the midnight sun. Sometimes I had to drive slow because of the reindeers, sometimes I had to stop to take a photo …

… but round 23:00 I had crossed the bridge to the island Sommarøya and shortly after I parked at the sandy beach Steinsvika. I was not alone. People stood at the beaches, some lit a fire, some paddled kayak, some camped in the hills.

I checked an app when sun would be lowest. What? 0:45!? I forgot, that we had daylight saving time, so clocks were one hour ahead. I took my camera bag, some water and an old jacket, that I use to have in the car and walked to the northern tip of Kvalneset. Now I had a lot of time to just observe the sun hardly going down. After one and a half hour it was time: 0:45 – the sun was at its lowest position: 1.55°. The photo is completely unspectacular because it only shows a low sun, not the fact that the sun would not get lower than that this night.

I was glad about my jacket because it got a bit colder, I was tired and I sat there for almost two hours in total. At least I had chocolate! I waited for the sun to disappear behind the prominent silhouette of the island Håja.

Then I went back to the car and had about an hour drive back home. I wasn’t in bed before 3:30 but it was completely worth it. For a very good reason: I never ever saw the midnight sun in my life before! Although I have lived in Northern Scandinavia for more than 12 years I hardly was above the arctic circle in summer and then it was cloudy.

But it was more than just checking another item of my bucket list. It was just gorgeous to sit there and enjoy nature. I should do that more often and put the old sleeping bag back into my car. Just in case …