The first Thursday paddling 2024

Yesterday on 18 April  was the first organised Thursday paddling of the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club this year. I was eager to join. I took a photo when I arrived at the boat houses:

What is special about this photo? I can show you. In comparison – these are photos I took on other first Thursday paddlings. One on 4 May 2023, one on 28 April 2022.

So this was my first time opening the kayak season in Tromsø where it didn’t snow! Instead the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the temperature round 1 °C. But it was so windy!

Me prepared our kayaks and made ourselves ready and then had a talk about where to go. The tour leaders make proposals and have the last word.

This timewe would go south – against the wind – and see if we make it to Telegrafbukta. OK, let’s go!

I didn’t take a lot of pictures because the wind punished each photo instantly by blowing me back. We took a rest seeking shelter in the lee of a breakwater where one of my fellow kayakers provided us with goodies.

Shall we continue? Yes, ok for all of us. So we left our shelter and continued further south.

The more south we came the stronger the wind got and the higher the waves. We weren’t alone. On the other side of the sound a commercial boat headed south. Nearer a sailing boat, driven my a part of its fore sail. I however had to fight to keep up with the others and I was glad, that Telegrafbukta is not far away.

There we took a break. A short one though because of the chilly wind.

On the way back it felt like a complete different tour. Now we could take it easy. Both wind and waves just pushed us ahead and we hadn’t to do much to keep momentum. Soon the colourful boat houses of the club were in view and a short time later we arrived. A pity, that I didn’t track this tour. I would have liked to know the difference of the speeds there and back.

Most of us kept ourselves near to the shore but some of us like wind and waves and were a bit further out. Here a b/w snapshot of B. in his self-built Greenland kayak. It’s too far away to reveal its beauty.

 

Ski tour in Sweden – Kebnekaise—Singi

This article is part of the series “2024-02: Ski tour Sweden”.

Tour day 1 + 2: 27 February – 28 February

It has been four years since Annika and I went on a ski tour. In winter 2021 we didn’t travel because of Covid, in winter 2022 I joined an arctic expedition and in winter 2023 I worked on Svalbard and we went on vacation there. But now it is 2024 and finally we have the opportunity to go on a winter tour.

Prologue

On Sunday, 25. February I take the car from Tromsø to Kiruna. In the back of the car: My skis, all stuff for a two-week winter tour and a pulka. It has been a good choice to take the car because an ore train has derailed between Narvik and Abisko the day before and the railway line is closed (and will be until end of May).

On Monday Annika arrives by train. We buy some extra provisions for the tour such as salami, crisp bread and chocolate and then went to the hotel where we stay over night

On Tuesday we pack the car, take an early breakfast and then go off to Nikkaluokta, a Sami Village and our starting point for the tour. We would have skied the 19 km to the Kebnekaise Mountain Station but it is still closed. Luckily there is another way to get there …

Day 1 – 27 Feb – Nikkaluokta—Kebnekaise—Singi

The family business Sarri AB offers snowmobile transport to Kebnekaise. You can pre-book it. Soon we sit in the surprisingly comfortable trailer and are dragged to the start of the trail to Singi, our first tour destination. Our thick down jackets keep the frost outside.

From there it is 14 km to Singi. The weather is more than fair: blue sky, hardly any wind, frosty but not too cold. Annika is carrying a backpack, I am pulling a pulka.

We are skiing westwards. Beside of a moose and some crows we are alone. Clouds have gathered and the dull light made the mountains look sublime, unreachable and a bit hostile.

Head wind has come up and the sight has worsened a bit. Still we can see far, but the snow is harder to read. Is it hard? Or soft? Does it go up? Or down? It just looks white.

I’ve been here before in winter and I am waiting the cabins of Singi to come into view but it takes longer than expected. Anyhow we finally pass some ice fields …

… and then we can see Singi! After a while we arrive there and are greeted by one of the stugvärder – the wardens. We get hot juice and may choose a room, since there are only two other guests. The rest of the day is mostly eating and sleeping.

Day 2 – 28 Feb – Singi

We have tvelwe days in the Swedish mountains but only eight planned tour days. That leaves four break days, one of them being today.

The morning looks quite promising. Parts of the sky is clear again, parts are cloudy. Some of the clouds move through the valleys which can look quite dramatic.

After breakfast Annika and I take a small tour to the Sami village Goržževuolli (or Kårtjevuolle). On the way there we find an interesting paw print:

It is a paw print of a reindeer, but raised. When it went there it compacted the snow under its foot. Then wind came up and blew away the loose powder snow round the print but not the compacted one.

We pass Singi’s water hole. If you do not want to melt snow (tastes awful) you have to fetch water there. Singi is famous for having the water hole quite far away. If I remember correctly it is 800 metres away (and ca. 25 metres down). We are lucky, the other guests have already fetched a lot of water.

We continue to the village which is only inhabited occasionally. There are a lot of wooden cabins and sheds but there are also some traditional goahtis. Goahtis can be built from different materials, this one is probably built of peat moss and timber:

We look around, enjoy the sun and made a large turn to head back to “our” cabin. Later I am out again to take some photos.

In the evening Annika prepares dinner. While a lot of other people we will meet the next days use to eat “outdoor meals”, which is more or less quite expensive powder we have the luxury of having other food with us. It’s potatoes, feta cheese, onions and sweet peppers. Now fresh – too heavy, too bulky – but home-dried by Annika within the last weeks. Then with the help of fresh garlic, butter and vegan egg-powder (all in our provisions) Annika cooks a tasty frittata for dinner. I understand the point of light-weighted food but this stuff is so much better! Delicious! Tack för maten – Annika. Thanks for the food. Anyhow we can eat this kind of food only on our break days because the dried ingredients have to be covered with water for hours to rehydrate before being used.

After lunch Annika is reading, I am writing my travel diary then we head to our beds and fall fast asleep. Next day we will continue to Sälka, our next cabin.

From the shadow into the sun

It has snowed quite a bit in Tromsø the last days and the snow depth measured this morning was 50 cm. The weather was fair and so there was no reason for me not to start the back country skiing season today.

I take the car to the parking at the Finnvikdalen on the island Kvaløya, where I started some other day trip ski tours the last years. I arrive at nine o’clock and am first. I change boots and jackets, put on gloves, mount the skis and off I go. The snow is fresh and fluffy and I guess that I won’t see my skis today a lot when I don’t follow another track.

First my skis sink 10–20 cm into the snow, later it will be more like 20–40. When I approach an old ski track covered in snow I decide to follow it. Where it will bring me? I’ll see.

At the beginning the track winds through the sparse birch forests. Everything looks quite grey and dull in the dim twilight.

When I however look back I see the first colour in the sky: A thin red cloud.

Twenty minutes later the southeastern sky is filled with the colours of sunrise. Which is no surprise, because it is actually sunrise. Somewhere far away behind the mountains of the mainland.

I continue following the old track. Looks like someone dragged a pulka behind. On one of the hills I spot a cabin. It is Stillvannsbua, a hut open for everyone and a popular tour destination.

The track passes the cabin and so do I.  Shortly after I meet a guy with a pulka. Probably he tented somewhere around. Was it him making this track? Probably, because soon it ends and I continue on areas of loose, untouched snow. Exhausting but beautiful.

On a lot of places the snow under my skis reacts with a loud, muffled noise and the snow sinks down a centimetre or two. The noise spreads in all directions for one or two seconds, a clear sign that the snow is quite unstable. But I’m in the midst of a valley– no avalanche risk here. When I reach the end of a valley I do not dare to proceed to steeper terrain but turn back. I am exhausted anyhow.

On my way back I still cannot see the sun. It is too low to be visible from here. The sky however is even more colourful and then it even starts to snow a bit. Snow and sun – one of my favourite weathers.

Some higher mountains are already sunlit …

And then there it is – the sun! It just appeared from behind a mountain.

All of a sudden the snow is not a featureless white but you can see every feature of the surface. The snowy land has got its colours back.

Everything that is lit by the low sun now shines in the most beautiful warm colours and I enjoy every moment of it. It is only nine other days, then the sun won’t rise again in Tromsø before 16 January. Polar night.

Now I’m not alone any more. A lot of skiers come towards me, many of them with a dog that pulls the skier. Three hours after I have started the tour I arrive at the parking again. The tour was short – just 7½ km – but the main thing was achieved: having been out in the wonderful nature that surrounds Tromsø.

The first winter day

This week it has become gradually colder. You could see it on the mountains, where the snow line dropped lower and lower. More and more the rain became slush and wet snow and yesterday evening it had become so cold, that the snow didn’t melt away immediately. This morning I had to remove some snow from my car before I could make a car trip.

I took the car to the island Kvaløya where it often is a bit colder than directly in Tromsø. The conditions were quite wintry although not all trees seemed ready for that.

Soon I arrived at the lake Finnvikvatnet where I parked the car. No ice on the lake yet so both the huge mountains and the tiny islets were reflected from the calm water surface.

This lakes lies on 230 metres and here the snow was much deeper, perhaps between 10 and 20 cm. Temperature was -2°C. Some flowers peeked out, while others probably were buried completely in the snow.

I was unsure how far I would come but packed my backpack with camera, water, chocolate and a warm jacket and started walking through the snow. I was the first one today and the snow was untouched beside of some animal tracks.

I spotted a pile of stones on a small mountain summit nearby. Maybe I could hike there? Well, let’s try – and make some photos on my way.

It was an interesting hike, because nothing is frozen yet. I was glad to have chosen rubber boots, otherwise I would have got very wet feet. Since I could not find the way under the snow I decided to choose a quite direct way up. That took a while, because it was steeper than expected and sometimes it was more like crawling through knee deep snow than hiking. But I arrived at the summit where I had a view on the higher mountains around and the sea in the west.

Now the terrain was flatter. Time to take some more photos.

A ruin caught my eye. I went there and tried to make photos but could not find a perspective I liked. But I had another option: I had my drone with me. So I could not only take a photo from a higher perspective but also one looking straight down and even one from within without touching the snow drift inside. A practical tool that I still have to become more familiar with.

Time to descend. This time I checked the map in my mobile phone and found the hiking trail. Much easier! In summer this is an easy hike for families.

The lower parts in the west are wooded and many trees still have colourful leaves. But above them the mountains are snowy although you can see, that the snow cover is not very deep yet.

That tour was not very long but I got my very first winter day and the first snow since 27 May. Yay!

Some photos from my short car trip back:

I want to thank my colleague D from work. It was him who offered himself on changing my tyres. Therefore I have studded winter tyres on my car since yesterday afternoon. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do this tour. Thank you, D. !

Autumn tour to the glacier Steindalsbreen

After being abroad in Germany, “home home” in Sweden and on vacation in the Netherlands for almost a month I have returned to Tromsø, my “work home” one week ago. Time to work again for the Norwegian Polar Institute but not only that …

Some days ago my colleague Marika asked me if we should go out for a hike to the glacier Steindalsbreen in the weekend. I knew the place from hearsay but never have been there. I gladly accepted – I like hiking with good company. Yesterday on Sunday we met at 7 o’clock and off we went. First by car.

Car trip

Steindalen is on the Lyngen peninsula and round about 100 km away. According to Google it takes 100 minutes but we stopped several times, either to take pictures of the reflections in the fjord or the curious fox beside the road.

Through the forest

After the car was parked we started our tourat 9:25. The birch and alder trees were clad in autumnal colours. The path led westwards through the forest along a small mountain river.

To the cabin

After the path going up and down it led nearer to the river. We passed some moraines – witnessed from the ice age – and spotted a waterfall falling vertically down from a mountain. Then the cabin Steindalshytte came into view. There is a wooden bridge to cross one of the rivers.

Through the U-shaped valley

We followed an inflow of the stream and soon the valley opened more and more. And there it was – still in the distance – the glacier!

It gets rocky

The path went further up and the ground started go get rockier and we left the delta like wetlands behind. But still there were many crouching plants present, many of them in the brightest autumnal colours.

Approaching the glacier

A hill and the glacier Steindalsbreen came in full view, another hill also the glacial lake in the front. Quite depressing were the signs that marked the retreat of the glacier. Oh – so many hundred metres in so few years ;-(

Nearer and nearer …

The first photos Marika and I took from the edge of the glacial lake. Then we followed a path to the right that brought us nearer to the ice. Here we walked on gravel covered ice. I found a hole, perhaps 80 cm in diameter and 150 cm deep.

On the mud flats

As usual I hiked with rubber boots and so I could walk on the sandy mudflats right in front of the glacier. Oh, so beautiful the turquoise blocks of ice!

Mud, ice, and water

I also took some photos of the ground. Was it sand? Hard mud? Ice? Sometimes probably all the three.

Then I looked back to the lake. Hard to imagine that we hiked through autumnal forests some hours ago. This landscape looks eternal somehow although it is the opposite: very fragile and threatened by the global warming.

Heading back

After a meal break by a large rock it was time to head back. The times of midnight sun and bright nights are over and at 7 o’clock in the evening it would be dark. Just some more photos from our way back.

After round eight hours we were back at my car. What I great tour!

Takk for turen, Marika!

#escapism – midnight sun at Lyngstuva

Sunday, half past five in the afternoon. I just arrived in Breivikeidet by car, waiting for the ferry.

It was a quite spontaneous decision to take the car to the northern tipp of the Lyngen Peninsula to watch the midnight sun before the polar days are over in Northern Norway. Without the ferry I would have to drive 200 km one way, using the ferry it is less than half the distance. And there the ferry arrives.

Eight a clock. I have parked by car on a camping ground and the backpack is packed. Camera equipment, something to eat and drink, an extra jacket as well as sleeping bag and camping mat. Hopefully I can sleep in the tiny hut that is near the lighthouse I want to hike to. If not, I’ll sleep outside and get eaten by mosquitoes …

The way there is only 3 km. First I follow the broad gravel road then I turn right and hike along a path that meanders through the mountain landscape. The forecast of the Norwegian weather service yr was right: the weather is nice and mostly sunny. Hopefully it will be clear this night.

And there it is: Lyngstuva Lighthouse. The hut is tiny but it’s open and no one else is there. Nice!

Behind the lighthouse lies the open sea with the prominent shape of the island Nord-Fugløya (Northern bird island) in the north. On the sea there are surprisingly many ships, some of them large. The largest (and ugliest) is the touristic cruise ship Viking Mars with place for 930 passengers. Then there are two Hurtigruten ships. From the left comes Kong Harald on its way to Skjervøy, from the other side Richard With with destination Tromsø. Both have a capacity of 590 passengers.

As usual the ships greet each other with the ship’s horn. Again and again they toot, apparently checking who will have the last word.  Finally some minutes after she ships have passed, Richard With toots a last time for half a second and Kong Harald answers the same way. Then it gets silent.

I enter the tiny hut and take some pictures before I make myself at home. It’s cosy!

I soon realise, that I may have the hut for myself this night but definitely not the place. The french couple has gone but in the next hours many other people will appear “on stage”.

Dramatis personae: A couple from Amsterdam. Two people from Lithuania (he’s here for the 7th time) with friends. A group of Finnish scouts. Some more random people. M. and F. from Bavaria.

With the latter two I spend the evening and night. They are the perfect outdoor hosts. They already have collected wood for a campfire, that is soon is burning. We sit round the fire and chat about all sorts of things. I’m even invited to a glass of red wine if I have a glass. No, I don’t have any glass or cup but I have a pot of yoghurt. I only have to eat the yoghurt and clean the pot and – voilà – I have a high standard quality wine glass. Later this evening F. surprises me once more: He brought a travel guitar and so we have live music while we watch the sun slowly lowering but mostly wandering to the right.

At 0:28 the sun has vanished behind the island Nord-Fugløya in the north.

Will it be visible in the mountain gap at 0:44, the time when I think it’s lowest? Yes, at 0:42 it shows up and at 0:44 it is mostly visible again. It’s not my very first midnight sun I see, but a very beautiful one. I’m glad, that I have come here.

I take some more pictures – from the lighthouse and hut and from the mountains behind whose red rocks now seem to gleam by themselves.

Then I say goodbye to my “outdoor hosts” and enter the hut to sleep.

I decide not to take the tiny room under the roof but to roll out my camping mat in the main room. The camping mat and I have some disagreements on the topic of sleep comfort but anyhow I sleep quite ok. Just much too short. Because the next day is today and today is Monday and Monday is a working day. A quite tired working day but it was worth it. I never regret being in nature.

In Tromsø the first sunset will be in three days, at the Lyngstuva Lighthouse it will take another day, because it’s a bit more north. Now I’m looking forward to spot the first star. The last one I think I saw in the end of April.

 

A sunny car trip to Jøvik

As in many other countries 1. May is a rød dag, a red day which is an official holiday. The weather is beautiful and I decide to do something I haven’t done for a long time: a car trip.

I take the car to Jøvik, a village in Tromsø municipality located on the peninsula Lyngenhalvøya, home of the impressive mountain range “Lyngen Alps”. As soon as I leave the E8 travelling is slow. On the one hand there’s a lot to see, on the other side the roads are in a pretty bad shape.

Just some photos I took on this wonderful day trip:

 

A calm afterwork kayak tour on the Baltic Sea

Low water. I have to walk a bit. First over the remaining ice, then over the soft sand and through shallow water until I can set in the kayak.

The weather is extraordinary calm, the water surface soft as silk. The water melts with the horizon and I cannot measure sizes in the distance. The other two boats that I spotted while paddling to Obbolstenarna were sea birds.

I go on land on two places. One island of the Obbolstenarna, and a leftover ice cap on a shallow bank nearby. It has become quite warm in daytime and snow and ice are melting.

I play around with my drone that I bought two weeks ago and made some aerial photos. I probably will never publish them in the blog. Too bureaucratic the process to get the Spridningstillstånd, the permission to publish such a drone-taken photo in Sweden.

1:45 hours later I am home again. Today it looks like equally fine weather. Probably I’ll go kayaking again.