A wintry weekend in Saxnäs

If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.

While the coastal weather has still much too warm (last night it rained again onto the icy roads) you can still seek winter in the Swedish mountains. Annika and I used the long weekend to visit Saxnäs (and my piano tuner who owns a house there). Some days ago it had rained even there but fortunately it snowed afterwards and everything was white when we arrived there Friday evening.

Seven impressions of Saxnäs

1 – wind and snow

The night and the first day in Saadteskenjuana/Saxnäs was very windy with squalls round 20 m/s. That’s why we chose the car to look around, not the skies. The bay Faepmienloekte/Fatmomakkeviken, part of the large lake Gåaltoe/Kultsjön was partly open. Maybe because of the current of the stream Jeanoe/Ransarån, maybe because of the stormy wind and the warm weather. In the back the wind blew the new snow over the ice and highly into the air. It was not cold, but windproof clothes were necessary to feel comfortable.

A comment on the naming of the locations: The first part is the Sámi name, the second the Swedish name. The headlines and repetitions have only the Swedish names to keep it short.

2 – Fatmomakke

Faepmie/Fatmomakke is an old Sámi meeting point. In 1781 the Swedes erected a first chapel. Both Sámi and Swedish people lived here. Since 2014 it is a “kulturreservat” – an area to protect the culture of that place. I loved the old wooden houses by the lake Gåaltoe/Kultsjön.

3 – lake and mountains

When we drove back we still could see snow blowing over the lake. Above the whirling snow dust the risen sun had started to illuminate the mountains of the Marsfjäll.

Step by step we drove back to Saxnäs and I used every parking place to take pictures.

4 – polar stratospheric clouds

A rare phenomenon had been observed the last days: polar stratospheric clouds. I already could see some the days before on my way from Skelleftehamn to Umeå. Now in Saxnäs they were spread over half the afternoon sky. If they are near the sun the light is diffracted and the clouds are very colourful. I have seen such clouds before but never as intense and colourful as that day.

5 – skiing through the dark

In 2005 I bought my first fjällskidor – backcountry skis with steel edges. I had used them on many tours – from short half-day trips to multi-day winter tours with pulka and tent. They had become quite worn and battered, therefore I bought a new pair some weeks ago, including new boots. Now it was time to test them.

The test went very well, but the ski track around the lake we didn’t find. So we went cross-country and returned after a while. The way back was much faster because we could follow our own tracks and didn’t have to navigate.

6 – cross country skiing

The next day was grey but quite calm. We took the car to the Bagarstugan, starting point of the ski tracks in Saxnäs. The ski tracks weren’t prepared yet but some minutes later we met a man that was about to start the preparation. The classical tracks are prepared by snow mobile, the broader skating tracks by snowcat. So finally we were lucky to have our cross country ski premiere on a freshly cut track. Great!

7 – Saxnäs by night

Annika invited me to dinner and we decided to walk the 2 km from my piano tuner’s house to the hotel. Good to have some motion before and after dinner. We passed the closed village shop and soon approached the hotel. Urgently recommended: reflex vests to be seen by the cars.

Beside of the employees we were completely alone in the large hotel restaurant. It’s still pre-season.

Now I’m back in Skelleftehamn. The road is icy and wet from last night’s rain. The average of the max temperature forecast for the next 9 days: +1.3 °C. Come on, winter, where are you!?

Translation:

EnglishGerman
polar stratospheric cloudPerlmuttwolke

Thaw

After spending Christmas in Southern Germany I started travelling back to Skelleftehamn in several stages.

28.12. – Augsburg—Bremen

First a local train to Ingolstadt, then a 1st class seat to Bremen, where I spent the night. In the North German Plain it was really foggy.

Both trains were in time and the journey was comfortable. Sorry folks, no Deutsche Bahn bashing.

29.12. – Bremen—Mölndal

The next day my friend Delle picked me up by car. He wanted to visit me in Skelleftehamn and I took the opportunity for getting a lift home. The first day we travelled to Flensburg, through Denmark and then to Mölndal near Gothenburg, where we took a hotel room.

30.12. – Mölndal—Umeå

Why Mölndal? There is a tyre dealer where you can hire winter tyres with spikes. After breakfast we drove to the garage and Delle’s car got spiked tyres. Then we headed east to Gävle and then north to Umeå which took the whole day.

Did we need the tyres? Not yet – the temperatures were extremely high. 10.5 °C in Vesterås and 6.5 °C in Sundsvall. Especially the first half of the journey was quite boring. Trees to the left, trees to the right. A house. A bus stop and again. Trees to the left, trees to the right. Later there was more to see – even in the darkness.

I think it was 22:30 when we arrived in Umeå, but I’m not sure. I was soo tired!

31.12. – Umeå

Finally a nice day with sun and even a bit of frost! First Annika, Delle and I bought some side dishes for the lamb chops that Delle brought from home. Then we took a short tour to catch some wintry impressions before it would get warm again.

And then: New Year’s Eve – A happy new year to you all!

1.1. – Umeå—Skelleftehamn

The last stage of the journey was short – just 130 km and I was home again after eleven days with seven different overnight stays. I’m very glad about being home again but also disappointed.

The weather is just awful. It is warm and grey, last night it rained. The roads are extremely icy and slippery. Today I took a bend on a minor road and the car just slid sideways despite the four-wheel-drive and the “Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9” – one of the best spiked winter tyres you can buy. Luckily nothing happened to the car since I took the bend quite slow (but apparently still too fast).

The whole of Scandinavia is much too warm – up to 16 °C warmer than normal and Norway broke several warmth records. It was warmest in Åndalsnes with 18.6 °C! Even though it will become a bit colder there is no stable cold winter weather in sight.

We know that the man-made climate change will lead to much warmer winter weather in Scandinavia. Maybe we have already started to witness the effects. It might be only the beginning of more drastic changes in the future.

Addendum (3.1.)

Another record: 19 °C were measured in Sunndalsøra, Norway yesterday. This is the highest winter temperature ever measured in all of Scandinavia.

12 + 31 + 29 + 31 + 13

Exactly five years ago I posted an article called “108 free days”. I was still working as an employer but I was on leave for a while with the result of having 108 days on vacation – almost the whole winter!

Yesterday was the last day of a quite tough project I was working on since early August. Today is my first free day and – if I do not change my mind – the start of en even longer period of free time. 116 days I have time for travelling, taking pictures and – finally – writing and publishing an online shop for my photo website.

Hopefully the weather will improve. Instead of the forecasted 6 cm of new snow we had freezing fog today and the last weeks were hardly better.

This weather makes it easier to say goodbye. Today Annika and I will take the night train to Stockholm Arlanda and then fly to Munich where it’s for sure that we won’t have a white Christmas. But after the holidays, when I’m back and want to travel through Northern Norway, Swedish and Finnish Lapland I hope for better weather. And snow more like this:

I’m sitting in the bus to Umeå and the fog has turned into rain. But I don’t care the weather. (Hopefully the bus driver and other car drivers do!) Now it’s visiting family and friends that matters!

Since I probably won’t post anything anymore this year I’ll wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

See you next year – in 2020!

Skelleftehamn at night?

No, Skelleftehamn in the afternoon. The days are short and it’s only four days left until winter solstice. So the bay Kallholmsfjärden is pitch black anyway – or better said, it would if it weren’t for Rönnskär, the industrial peninsula.

#escapism – a weekend on Holmön

Actually my series #escapism tells about journeys shorter than 24 hours, but here I’ll make an exception. Too “escapy” in a positive way was the weekend stay of Annika and me on the island Holmön.

It’s the second time we stay at the hostel at Berguddens Fyr. We’ve been there exactly a year before, too. As last year the weather is a bit between seasons, partly autumnal, partly wintry. And as last year we have the large building completely for ourselves and we seem to be completely alone.

The only person I spotted nearby was a guy in hunting clothes yesterday morning. Hunter or hiker? Later, when we returned to our hostel from a hiking trip we met a car with a trailer with a freshly shot moose on it. Mystery solved.

Friday, 6 December

Annika and I meet in Norrfjärden at the ferry terminal. Here we wait for the 18-o’clock ferry. The ferry to Holmön is part of Sweden’s road network and the usage is free. We only had to reserve a place for my car since there is only place for one vehicle.

The ferry arrives and perfectly I back the car onto the small ferry. But it’s cheating, I use the great rear-view camera of the car. Ten minutes later the ferry starts. There are some loud bumps when it rumbles over an ice floe but soon on the open sea the trip becomes calmer.

Saturday, 7 December

The morning is grey and a bit frosty.

After breakfast we drive a bit by car, then we take a hiking tour through the forest to the eastern shore of Holmön. It’s really fascinating, because the forests are green and autumnal, but everything in the more open landscape is covered with hoar frost. Actually I was too lazy to photograph but I took same photos anyway.

And another photo after sunset, just about 50 meters away from our sleeping room. It’s 15:50 and in reality it’s much darker than on the photo.

Sunday, 8 December

It has cleared up overnight. We take the car to the northeastern part of the island. The forest path is narrow and I’m not completely sure if I’m allowed to take it by car. I’m glad about my Subaru’s all wheel drive, because a smaller part of the way lays 10–15 cm underwater and is covered with thick ice.

Soon we arrive at a small harbour. This area is new to Annika and me and it’s especially beautiful. We take the short but interesting round trip by the sea to Trappudden, Holmön’s northern tip and back through the forest. Later I’ll try to make a fire at a barbecue place but the wood is so soaking wet, that I give up after a while.

Actually we planned to take the 17 o’clock ferry but another vehicle was already booked on that ferry. So we decided for the 19-o’clock ferry that only goes on demand. We are however not alone. Due to weather warnings for the night and Monday morning the 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock ferries have been cancelled. The last opportunity to leave the island before Monday, 17:00.

In Norrfjärden Annika and I drive home. Annika to Umeå, I to Skelleftehamn. My car ride back is a bit exhausting because of some heavy snow showers but safely I arrive home at 21:30.

Holmön is a fantastic place, both because it’s quite near, quite special and beautiful in kind of a harsh way, at least between the seasons. A perfect place for a weekend #escapism.

 

 

 

A morning at the port of Skellefteå

The last weeks – or even months – were filled with work and I took hardly the opportunity to photograph. I drive to work round 6:45 – 2½ hours before sunrise – and arrive home round 16:00 – 2½ hours after sunset. It’s not a lot of daylight I got the last weeks.

Today however I have a day off and visit the port of Skellefteå in Skelleftehamn to check the ice conditions. Although there have been days with plus degrees and rain the bay Kallholmsfjärden has started to freeze over. I stand on a new gravel path that was built for the deepening of the harbour basin. It leads right into the harbour and is surround by ice floes. They are not frozen together but float freely on the water surface where they are lifted by the tiny waves.

The weekend I will have another view on the Baltic Sea. As last year Annika and I will visit the island Holmön and stay there for the weekend. I guess there will be even less snow than last year but probably less rain, too. Well, we’ll see …

A very wintry November weekend

It’s 9th and 10th of November. That sounds like autumn but it’s full winter in Skelleftehamn, although there is little snow. The temperatures this weekend are between -8 °C and -9 °C but the lively gusty wind makes it feel more like -18 °C.¹

I was out several times to check how long the winter has come.

Saturday

1 – Boat harbour Tjuvkistan

When I paddled by Tjuvkistan last Sunday I’m sure that there was open water. Now the whole harbour is covered with dark ice and snow is drifting over the frozen surface.

2 – Next to Tjuvkistan

Outside the harbour the sea is open, but each time a waves rolls ashore it leaves a bit of ice round the rocks and stones. The waves also have formed ice balls that drift back and forth in the cold water.

3 – Storgrundet

Last Sunday I had first to slide over the ice with my kayak, but then there was open water. Not anymore – the Sea between the island Storgrundet and the beach Storgrundet is completely icebound.

4 – River Skellefteälven

Right before the bridge, where the current is greatest, the water is open. The rest of the river seems to be covered with ice as well. (On Sunday I even see the first people on the ice, pretty far away from shore.)

5 – Näsgrundet

The sea water level is quite low: -50 cm. The slowly dropping water level and the waves leave icicles in different forms around the larger rocks. Days ago they were surrounded by water, now they are on dry land.

Sunday

6 – Näsgrundet

Yesterday there was mostly open water, not there are ice floes, turning and colliding in the waves. They build the so-called pancake ice. When it stays cold, it will freeze together.

7 – Away game: Bureå beach

The shallow bay by the camping ground in Bureå is partly covered with thick ice. It snows and the wind tugs at my fur-trimmed hood. 100 Meter away I see waves splashing against the ice shield building small hills of ice.

8 – Home game: Kallholmsfjärden

It’s round 18:00 and it would be pitch black if the industry of Rönnskär would not illuminate the low hanging snow clouds. I kneel in the water to make photos from the ice covered rocks and jetsam. The last photos of the weekend.

Here’s a map of the locations. Bureå is further south and not on the map.

¹ Skelleftehamn: -9 °C. If you think, that’s cold for early November check out that: Karesuando yesterday: -29.4 °C. That was surpassed today: Nikkaluokta: -34.5 °C!

 

Taking the kayak home

After a Saturday morning with rain it became cold again today. The weather forecast believes Skelleftehamn to be subzero for at least ten other days. Since the sea at Storgrundet had already started freezing over it was time to take the kayak home from the beach. The easy way would have been to put it onto the transport cart and pull it the 1.5 km home.

Since the weather was fine I decided to paddle it to a nearer place, only 650 meter away from my house. For that I had to paddle round the island Storgrundet and the peninsula Näsgrundet. That’s round about 7.5 km. 7.5 km, that took me more than 2¼ hours today.

The temperature is -6 °C and there is a slight wind. As excepted the sea between island and mainland is frozen. Instead of the paddle I use ice claws to pull me forward over the ice towards the open water. That’s easier than it sounds until you break through. Then you are in some kind of amphibian environment, where it’s both hard to use the ice claws (where’s the ice?) and the paddle (where’s the open water?).

Luckily it is just a short passage and soon I reach open water. Now I want to let down my rudder but it does not work. The whole steering device is completely frozen. I try several times but when I realise that I even cannot use the foot pedals I give up. It’s possible to steer a kayak without.

Well, it doesn’t work very well. Although the rudder at the back is small it acts as a sail, when being flipped up and the wind constantly tries to turn me around, especially on top of the waves. Three seconds without paddling and I am 30° off-course. One photo and my kayak is turned up to 150°. Constantly I get ahead, but it’s really exhausting.

The sun has risen from behind the island Bredskär. When I pass the southern tip of Storgrundet I pass some fields of a million of thinnest ice crystals covering the sea. That’s really beautiful!

Near the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan I land the kayak and try to fix the rudder. I still cannot move the pedals but at least I manage to put down the rudder into the water to decrease the sailing area of my kayak. The kayak is covered in ice.

I follow the coast round the peninsula Näsgrundet until I have the industrial area Rönnskär ahead. I turn into the large bay Kallholmsfjärden, home of the port of Skellefteå. Luckily there is no commercial boat traffic now.

I can spot the tiny tunnel that leads into the small bay Killingörviken, my destination for today. It is 2.5 km away and it takes some time to reach it, because I have headwind and I am quite exhausted. But finally I reach the sheltered bay, cross some weak ice and finally slide over thicker ice using my ice claws again. I finish my paddling tour at 9:20 and now I’m quite hungry, since I didn’t have a proper breakfast.

The adventure is over, but not the journey. My kayak are I are at one place, my car is parked 2 km away. I have the cart at hand but the belt to fix the kayak I forgot home. Luckily Annika drives me around, first to my car which I leave home, then to my kayak that I walk home. After a hot shower I get finally a breakfast. Great!

 

Closing the bathing season in Skelleftehamn?

7 o’clock. The sun was still below the horizon but already colourised sky and sea at Storgrundet.

Some minutes later – looking into the opposite direction revealed another colour impression.

There was thin ice on this bay. It was partially broken. You may already guess, why. I’ll tell you.

I love bathing in the sea and this bay is my favourite beach and bathing place. In mid-August the water temperature had been 18 °C, in September it had fallen below 10 °C and this morning it was only around 0.7 °C.

Anyhow, time for another bath.

I undressed and started wading through the ice. First I stalked like a stork, than the water got deeper and thinner and I just walked normally, breaking the ice with my thighs.

Soon I reached both open water and swimming depth. I love bathing in cold water and think it’s invigorating and refreshing. Bathing before sunrise with these beautiful morning colours is an extra bonus.

Ouchie ;-)After a bit of bathing and some swimming strokes I waded back to the beach. I already had expected cutting my legs at the sharp thin ice and so I did.

As long as the skin is cold, you hardly feel such scratches.

Being still wet I started freezing because the air was not warm neither. -9 °C the car thermometer had shown. Then the great moment came where I realised, that I had forgot to take a towel with me!

I dried myself a bit with my hands and slipped – wet as I was – into my clothes. And warm clothes it was!

This worked much better than expected and I decided to drive to the office directly. Arriving there only the tips of the socks felt a bit damp, the rest (outdoor pants and woollen sweater) felt warm and dry again.

Since the ice will get thicker and thicker every day I guess that this was the end of my bathing season 2019. At least at Storgrundet.

Some random comments

  • It has been quite cold for late October the last days. In some parts of Finnish lapland temperatures had dropped below -25 °C.
  • Later this morning I realised that I had got many more cuts and scratches from the ice than excepted.
  • The definition of a winter bath is a bath in water colder than 10 °C. According this definition I took my first winter bath this season on 9 September. But it was today that I took my first ice bath of the season.
  • While I am writing this blog article I realise that I had a roll of kitchen paper in my car. So I could have dried myself this morning.