Skiing and tenting in Jämtland – part 1

This article is part of the series “2020-02: Ski tour Jämtland I”.

This year I’m lucky. I did two ski tours in a row, that’s spending more than three weeks in the beautiful mountains of Jämtland. Let’s start with the ski tour number one.

We are three people: Jonas, with whom I already did three ski tours before, Arne, who is doing his first ski tour and me.

Saturday, 15 February – shelter from the storm

Jonas and Arne live in Northern Germany. They arrive in Östersund by train at 6:37 in the morning. 23 minutes later we enter the large shop ICA Maxi to buy food for eleven days. It takes an hour to decide what to choose and find these items in the large shop. After we have managed to stuff the shopping bags into the packed car we drive to Vålådalen. There’s a parking place that we use as the starting point for our tour in the fjäll. It takes some time until we have packed our pulka sleds with all our stuff and they are quite heavy loaded.

At 13:15 we leave the parking behind and start our ski tour. It starts with a challenge. Although we have a tent we need to reach Lunndörren, the first mountain cabin tonight. Just now the weather is calm but according to the Swedish weather service a storm will approach tonight with gusts of wind up to 30 m/s. That’s more than 100 km/h or wind force 11 (violent storm)! Definitely not the night to spend in a tent, if you have the choice. Although it’s only 14 km to the cabin, it takes us more than 5 hours. There’s the heavy pulka sleds, some short but steep slopes to climb, pinching boots and much more that slows us down. Exhausting or not – it’s great to be outside in the winter again.

Sun down is round 17:00. For the last part we use our head lamps. In darkness we arrive at Lunndörren at 18:30. As usual, one cabin is opened for out-of-season hikers as us. Here you have all you need. There’s a table and stools, bunk beds and most important: a wood stove. Firewood is found in the vedbod, the woodshed. The water? Probably there’s a place to get water from the lake. We however go outside with a bucket and fetch snow to melt on the wood stove.

The sky is still clear and the night is starry but it already has started to blow more and more.

Sunday, 16 February – camping by the river

It’s 5:30 in the morning. Storm gusts howl around the house. Violently they blow snow from here to there and I have to pee. Not my favourite combination. I manage to open the door but have to crawl over the icy patch to prevent being blown away. Every mountain hut has it’s outhouse but I prefer the nearest tree. That spares me 20 meters to brace myself against the storm. I have to hold tight on the tree to avoid being blown over. Back in the cabin I can hear the storm but a mountain cabin is a great shelter and soon I fall asleep again.

Fortunately the storm has weakened, when we get up.

Today we don’t want to go far and look for a nice place to tent. So we take it really easy in the morning and it’s already 11:45 when we start our second tour day. Slowly we gain height and there are less and less trees.

Hardly three hours later we have found a nice tenting place. It’s in the forest to be protected against storm and wind and by the small river Lunndörrsån. Jonas tests crossing the river to fetch water – it works. Fresh water is a luxury in winter. It takes less energy to warm up than snow and it tastes much better!

You see the orange shovel? We have two snow shovels with us and we use them both to dig a large hole for a camp fire. The dead wood that we find is soaking wet and it takes Arne some time until it burns.

Where there is a fire there is no boredom.

Later Jonas, how is the tour cook is preparing food. Today it’s köttbullar with mashed potatoes and chanterelle sauce. Tasty! Already a quarter to eight we lie in our warm sleeping bags and soon we fall asleep.

Monday, 17 February – warm weather in the forest

Of course I did not sleep well. I always need two or three days until I got used to sleeping in a sleeping bag in winter time. One of the reasons is the reduced freedom of movement, one other the VBL.

A vapour barrier liner (VBL) is used to prevent moisture getting into the down filling of the sleeping bag. There the moisture would freeze and so reduce the isolating effect of the down feathers. So far so good. In practise it has the same comfort as sleeping in a huge plastic trash bag and although there are good reasons to use a VBL I dislike them.

But I shouldn’t complain. I had it warm and I got enough sleep. Some storm gusts have shaken the tent but all in all it was a quite night. And so is the morning by the river. Even the sun tries to peek through the clouds.

At 10:40 we move on. First we have to cross a small plateau called Finnångelflätet. It is quite exposed to the wind and hardly covered by snow.

One hour later the view is completely different. The ground is white again. The wind has intensified and gets stormy. At the same time it’s warm – slightly above zero – which makes the snow very sticky. Sometimes it feels like half the hill sticks under my skis.

The good thing with tenting is that you are flexible. We do not have to get to a cabin or hut, we just need a sufficient campsite. Right after crossing the river Tronnan (we ignore the bridge and cross the ice) Arne and Jonas start looking for a good place to camp. And find it. The snow is loose and we trample on the snow to harden it. At some places we sink knee deep in the snow. It has started snowing and when we look out of the tent we see the snow covering the skis used as huge tent pegs and the pulkas.

Tuesday, 18 February – arrival at the Vålåstugan

Phew – my sleeping has been much too warm. It is made for -25 °C, not for 0 °C. My wool underwear is wet but still does it’s job anyway: keeping me warm.

As the day before we move on at 10:40. The tent has become quite heavy due to the wet snow and the warm temperatures. Now it’s both wet and frozen. We have decided to reach the mountain cabin Vålåstugan today. I find it exhausting to ski. I have to take tiny breaks to catch my breath on every slope. Perhaps it’s because it’s the third tour day but I may be wrong.

Luckily Vålåstugan is not far away and we arrive already at 13:30. There are several buildings. The main cabin, surrounded by huge snow drifts won’t be opened before 21 February but the other cabin is open. Again we are alone, we haven’t seen a single person the last days.

This cabin is of a well known type. It’s a Fjällstuga 65, also known as Abrahamssonstugan. A corridor, one room to the left, one to the right with ten beds each. It works quite well with up to eight people, then it starts to get a bit crowed. We use the whole space to dry our sleeping bags, jackets, boots, gloves and other clothes. As I mentioned we are alone.

Wrrrr—wroooom—wrooooom! Not anymore. Snowmobiles are approaching with people dressed in bright colours. They park in front of our house. Who are they? It’s an official party of the mountain rescue (probably training), the police (checking the emergency phones), way markers and later two snowmobiles with people from the Swedish Tourist Association STF. They pull trailers in which people sit. It turns out that they are the wardens of Vålåstugan and Gåsen Fjällstuga, that will open these cabins in three days. The wardens of Vålåstugan directly start to dig out the main house (that will take some time), the others leave a bit later.

I haven’t had internet access for two days. So I’m glad to ask the police for a weather update: wind this night, sunny round -10 °C the next day, then wind in the night again. Looks like this tour is a stormy one.

It’s cloudy but the sun manages to peek though from time to time. The birch branches are bent by the wind.

And later that evening we even get a bit of polar lights. The only ones I’ll see the next weeks.

Continue with part 2 >

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!

 

Welcome, winter 2019!

Today was the first “real” winter day. Some more snow fell last night and today it was subzero the whole day with temperatures round -5 °C and a lot of sun.

Now I’m longing for the start of the ski season.

The second image with the blue sky and the snow covered trees is a bit special: it’s made through the window of my current office. What you cannot see: behind the trees is the European Route E4. But anyway,  there are worse views.

October snowfall in Umeå

The weekend two weeks ago it was fog, that made my morning promenade along the river Umeälven special. Yesterday it was snowfall. As you can see on the three photos, the snowfall weakened more and more and most of the snow thawed away during the day. But it was a another beautiful reminder for the next winter to come.

Four variations of autumn

The first autumn colours on Gåsören

21, 22 September – Annika and I are invited by Solveig and Tommy to their summer cottage on Gåsören. Tommy picks us up by boat and after a short cruise we arrive at the small harbour, where Solveig already waits for us.

We have a wonderful evening with delicious food (hand-picked porcini mushrooms!) and inspiring conversations. And the weather is just great – first a blue and sunny sky, then after sunset a starry night. After a short nightly walk to the lighthouse – built in 1912 and still active – we go to bed.

The next morning I wake up early and take photographs of the splashing waves at the eastern shore. It’s a bit windy and the temperatures are near freezing. A lot of trees still have green leaves but some of the birches and rowan trees have become colourful, especially when illuminated by the low morning sun.

After breakfast we take a stroll round the small island together before we get a lift back to the mainland. Tack så mycket, Solveig and Tommy. We are looking forward to meet again!

Fog by the river

28, 29 September – I’m with Annika in Umeå. On Saturday we make a trip to Strömbäck-Kont, one of our favourite locations by the sea. Again the weather is sunny but due to the frost of last week’s nights a lot of more trees show coloured leaves. Especially the bright yellow birch leaves look wonderful.

On Sunday I wake up early as usual and take a promenade along the Umeåälven, one of Northern Swedens largest rivers. The morning air is damp and chilly and the landscape is fog-shrouded. The fog muffles all sounds and noises and gives me the impression of being completely alone. Half an hour later the fog goes away and the magic is gone.

Nightly squalls

Yesterday, 2 October – at 3:00 I’m awakened by storm squalls shaking the house. I almost expect that my house is lifted up and lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. But the gale is no tornado and my house resists the squalls.

The weather doesn’t come completely unexpected, both wind and enormous amounts of rain have been forecasted. But as usual the forecast was – ahem – imaginative but at least the wind speeds are quite accurate.

Hail, sleet and snow

Today, 3 October – again I’m awakened at 3 o’clock, this time by a hail squall drumming on the window. It’s round 3 °C and even colder at 7 o’clock on my way to work. Between my home and the town another rain squall buckets down. It is mixed with wet snow. Beside the road I can see white patches. Is it snow or last night’s hail? When I arrived at the office at Solbacken outside of the town of Skellefteå I see, that it’s snow grains – tiny frozen white balls.

At 8:33 I look through the window of my current office room and it’s snowing. The first snow on 3 October – exactly the same date as last year. Now I’m longing for winter even more ❄︎ !

Day 24–26 – a detour to Norway and travelling home

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

July 31 – August 1 – Grövelsjön, Röros, Flatruet, Ljungdalen, Stugun, Åsele

July 31

After a tent night in Grövelsjön (temperature minimum 5.7 °C) I take a morning stroll with several purposes: enjoying the fresh air, taking pictures and buying fresh bread for breakfast. My promenade starts at the “troll workshop” where guests are welcome to build their own wooden troll and place it beside the “troll trail”. From there I can spot some “wintry things”: a prohibition sign for scooters and red crosses marking the winter trail. I follow the red signs over a bog until I come to a road from where it isn’t far to Grövelsjön’s mountain bakery.

Annika and I have breakfast in the mountain lodge. Hm, the Brötchen are extremely delicious!

Actually I have planned to take a bath in the lake Guevteljaevrie nearby. The water was very clear but the car tires and metal scrap at the ground discouraged us.

You may realise that the name of the lake doesn’t look Swedish. You’re right. We are not only in Sweden but also in Laponia – the area of the Sámi people. Therefore towns, rivers, lakes and mountains have two names, a Sámi and a Swedish one. The Swedish name of Guevteljaevrie is Grövelsjön, as the village.

A small part of the lake is on Norwegian territory and Norway is our next destination, hardly 10 km away. Soon we are at the border.

We already met reindeers on the Swedish side, in Norway however they seem to be more numerous and they love to block roads.

In the lake Femund – Norways third largest lake – we catch up with the bathing. 13 °C in the water, much warmer in the sun. A nice place to relax.

Two and a half hours later we are in Røros. In this old mining town one could stay for days and write long articles. We however stay only for two hours. Just some snapshots:

After filling up the car we follow a small gravel road that leads us to a Norwegian mountain hut – a possible accommodation for the night. 2.5 km before the hut the road stops – at least for cars. Our luggage is chosen for travelling by car, not for hiking. So this hut that even may be fully booked is out of bounds. Will we find a shelter for the night?

#cliffhanger

August 1

Next morning we wake up in a bunk bed in our hostel in Funäsdalen. Of course we found an accommodation, not in Norway but in Sweden. After breakfast we pack our things – a daily routine – and start the next daily stage.

In Mittådalen we take a spontaneous stop. We have just crossed the river Mittån and spot a Sámi resort with souvenir shop. Beside the river there’s a kåta, a traditional Sámi hut. The word kåta is Swedish. The Sámi have several related languages and so their names for this type of dwelling vary: goahti, goahte, gábma, gåhte, gåhtie or gåetie.

We buy some souvenirs and continue. Soon we reach Flatruet, a place I’ve been especially looking forward to. Flatruet is a plateau above the tree line with a gorgeous view to all directions.

The last photo above shows the Helags massif with the Helags summit (1797metres above sea level).

I’ve been there in winter 2006 on a ski tour with J. and T. . It had been very stormy for two days and one of the huskies was so scared that she hid under the bed. We decided to abandon our ski tour. We skied to Ljungdalen where T. waited for a lift to Fjällnäs where he parked the car. Hours later he came back and we took the car over Flatruet. I had never experienced anything that looked as arctic as this snowy road leading through an infinite white void. Here’s a photo that I took from the car 12½ years ago:

That’s the reason why you should visit all Scandinavian places at least twice. In winter they are completely different than in summer.

Back to present: I hardly can tear my eyes away from Flatruet but we have to leave. It’s at least 400 km to Åsele, our today’s destination. Some more stops on the way – some of them caused by reindeers again.

In the evening we arrive in Åsele. Here we will visit M. and F. and stay overnight. Before dinner there’s time to cuddle some sheep.

Now we’re almost home. To Annika’s flat in Umeå it’s only 164 km and another 130 km to my house in Skelleftehamn. “Peanuts” compared with the long distance the last days.

Next day Annika will be home again and the day after me, too. What a wonderful journey!

Day 5 – Götaland

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

12 July, Jogersö—Gränna—Bjärnum

It always seems to be the third night in a tent, when I got used to the camping mat and sleep very well. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to a real bed. Annika and I dry the sleeping bags and the tent in the sun and have breakfast. Half past nine we start our journey farther south. We have to drive 413 km, mostly on the E4, the very same European route, that connects UmeåSkellefteå, Piteå and Luleå.

Here it connects Nyköping, Norrköping, Linköping and Jönköping. While å stands for river, köping means market town.

We stop in Gränna, a town by the lake Vättern which is Sweden’s second largest lake. Here’s a large campsite, a lovingly designed minigolf course, a ferry to the island Visingsö and – most important for us now: several restaurants and ice cream shops. Children are wading in the water, grown up are sunbathing on the public benches, the place is touristic but not crowded.

There are nice bathing places along the coast of the Vättern, so we bath twice, first in Röttle, then near Sjöbergen. Since the Vättern is so large you can think that you bath in the North Sea or Baltic Sea – until you taste the water. It’s fresh, not brackish or salty.

Röttle has another attraction besides its bathing place: there were severals water mills. Here we stroll around for a while.

After our long break we continue our car trip southwards. We cross the border to Skåne, the southernmost part of Sweden. In the evening we arrive in Bjärnum.

You see the light behind the front window of the house? That’s our place for the next days.

A word to the title of the article: Sweden is divided into three parts: Norrland in the north, Svealand in the middle and Götaland in the south. The population density in Götaland and Svealand is more than ten times as high as in Norrland.

Day 3 – a day in Turku

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

10 July, Turku

Our second (and last) Finnish stay is Turku, about 300 km south of Majors, our last stay. Here we meet Karen and Family. Karen is an active blog author and it’s the first time that we meet her in real life.

Annika and I arrive in the afternoon and have a nice and relaxed evening. The only thing we have to do is to put up our tent in the garden. The garden is small but our tent fits.

Karen and the children have summer holidays, but the daughter is away. Her husband has to work, so it’s Karen and her two sons with whom we spend the next day.

After breakfast we take the vesibussi – the water bus, part of the public transport system. We take the normal bus into town and walk along the river Aura until we reach the pier for the small boat.

I love to explore a new town by boat or ship. The weather is warm and sunny and Turku looks beautiful which its combination of new houses and old castle – old sailing ship, restaurant raft and modern racing yachts.

We take the boat to the island Runsala were we take a long walk. We cannot access the whole island because of a music festival a week ago. The area is still fenced, but there are many other ways and paths leading back to the boat stop. I really admire the tall leaf trees with their huge barky trunks, especially the oak trees. We do not have such home in Västerbotten.

We take the boat back to town and the bus to the china restaurant Yangtze. Great, delicious food and some dishes I never tasted before. Recommendation!

Later that day we take the car to Vähä-Joumo, a nice bathing place with a sandy beach, a bathing raft and – most important of all – a Finnish sauna. Countless times we jump into the water, swim to the platform and back or warm up in the sauna.

It is quite late when we finally return to our host’s home, where we eat dinner – fresh bread with a huuuge bowl of salad – and talk until Annika and I crawl into the tent again were we quickly fall asleep.

Thank you Karen, Vidal and children for a nice stay! It was great meeting you and you’re warmly welcome in Västerbotten on the other side of the Baltic Sea.

Karen’s blog: Suomalainen Päiväkirja | Live aus Turku (German)

Colours above the Luleälven

Yesterday evening. We are at Storbacken near Vuollerim in Norrbotten, where we visit friends. They live in a house by the large river Luleälven. It’s a bit chilly outside but we still sit there, enjoy the fresh air and try to ignore the first mosquitoes.

I haven’t planned to take pictures but the warm evening light on the forest on the other side of the river becomes more and more intense. Two whooper swans paddle along the river. And finally, half an hour later there appears a rainbow and hovers above the Luleälven like a huge airy bridge. Beautiful!

This morning. I sit in the living room while the fire in the fireplace warms up the room. Outside it’s 3.5 °C and it has been raining the whole night and the whole morning. That’s two of the many sides of Sápmi, the region of the Sámi people.

From Haparanda to Tromsø through the bus window

Four pairs of looking-through-the-window photos and a bonus proof photo

I’m sitting on my bed of room 223 in the Clarion Hotel “The Edge” in Tromsø. I’m here to join the Barents Press International Media Conference that will take place tomorrow and the day after. We from Skellefteå took a car to Haparanda at the Swedish-Finnish border already yesterday. Today we took the bus to Tromsø.

I took photos through the bus window, all with my Nikon D750 and an old 70-210mm/ƒ4.0 lens.

Pair 1 – along the river Torneälven

The Torneälven is the border river between Sweden and Finland. We drive on the Finnish side of the river. Almost all snow has melted and the river is ice free now. Sometimes large walls of ice floes lie along the riverbank.

Pair 2 – moorlands

We already have crossed the Arctic Circle. The coniferous forests are behind us and large moorland frame the road. It’s windy and temperatures are hardly above zero. From time to time it snows.

Pair 3 – winterland

The more up north we travel the snowier and more wintry the landscape becomes. We pass Kilpisjärvi and are in Norway now.

Pair 4 – fjords and mountains

Fjords and mountains – both are typical for Norway. And both can be seen from the bus. A lot of other participants have never been here before and the Oh-s and Ah-s do not stop. And they are right, the landscape is both beautiful and impressive. (… and quite unphotographable from a driving bus.)

Bonus photo

At 7 o’clock we departed in Haparanda, at 17 o’clock we arrive in Tromsø. Later I make some pictures from the roof terrace of our hotel. A Hurtigruten ship with the ishavskatedralen in the background. Take it as a proof, that I’m really in Tromsø.