Ski premieres 2021

The first ski premiere was already last Saturday. We were not the only ones who read that Olles Spår, a cross country ski track northwest of Umeå was freshly prepared. The parking place was filled with eighty other cars when we arrived. We took the 5 km lap. Oh, so nice to be able to ski again!

Being back at the car there were even more cars. They filled the parking place and parked along the road as well. But at least one of the skiers didn’t came by car but by bike.

Today I had my backcountry premiere. I was so eager after the snowfall yesterday and last night.

It took some preparation. First I had to dig free the garage door to fetch the old skis (the new ones are in Tromsø). Then I had to thaw the door look of our house with a hair dryer to be able to lock the door. But finally I could start. I took the way to our beach Vitskärsudden but as expected it looked quite different from last week.

The car roads were cleared but there was just enough snow to ski. The plain was partly easy to ski, partly the snow was so loose that my skis went submarine. Here I heard and felt the first **whooop**, the sound of a larger area of snow settling under my weight. A clear sign of avalanche danger in the mountains but no problem here.

And then I arrived at the beach. While the sea was open again, the beach was only ice and snow. Probably the ice floes that prevented our previous winter bathing had been washed ashore yesterday morning, when we had a water level of +60 cm.

I decided to follow the shore to the left. I never went there before. There were snowdrifts where I sank to my knees with skis on and I know that there are a lot of rocks, but skiing went better than excepted.

Oh – so many motives. But this tour was only an extended lunch break from work. I didn’t have as much time as desired. Following the coastal line slowed me down because of the uneven and icy underground and finally I had to go back into the forest.

Anyhow I was slowed down even more in the forest because the snow was so loose that I got bogged down to the ground all the time and then my skis got caught in the underwood. I was glad when I reached a road again. Now I just headed back until I arrived home two hours later – later than planned.

And after the ski tour? Back to work!

No winter bath today

Five days ago at Vitskärsudden, Annika’s and my favourite all-season bathing place looked like this:

Looks like bathing season would be over there soon, I thought but last night’s hard wind had crushed a lot of the sea ice along the coast. Annika and I packed our bathing things, wrapped ourselves up in warm winter clothes and headed to the beach for a winter bath.

Well, it didn’t look looked too promising, but I gave it a try. The first obstacle was the ice wall at the beach – at least half a metre high. Slowly I crossed it barefoot until with the last step the wall collapsed and I stood in the shallow water. Well, standing in water was part of the plan. Check.

Then a wave came. Not a huge one but nevertheless it covered me with sea spray from tip to toe. Brr! At the same time the wave pushed ice floes and crushed ice against my shin with more power than expected. The water was too shallow to knock me over but the sharp ice cut my shin on several places.

So I just shouted “Back!” to Annika in case of her making a try as well and instantly returned to the snowy beach to dry myself off and got dressed again. I’m glad, that I didn’t try it any longer. Probably I would have got so many cuts the I would look like a survivor of a piranha fight.

So – home again. No winter bath today.

Later I took the car to the same beach again to make some photographs. The pictures hardly transport the energy of the overlapping waves and the impression of wind and snowfall. Anyhow, here are some of the photos:

Was the action stupid? Well, perhaps. At least it wasn’t dangerous since we never planned to go into deeper water. So it’s more under to motto: “Another good idea that didn’t work!”

Two-digit minus temperatures

And suddenly, after some days with temperatures below -10 °C the Baltic Sea at our house has started to freeze over.

And suddenly even Vitskärsudden, the bay where Annika and I took a winter bath just two days ago is covered with ice, too.

Finally winter

December was an odd month regarding the weather. It was quite warm and extremely cloudy. There was hardly any sun and when it snowed it turned into sleet and rain. But at the turn of the year the weather finally changed. We got 10–15 cm of snow before New Year’s Eve, a short warmer period and then finally permanent frost. Right now, at the morning of 3 January the thermometer shows -12 °C.

Yesterday Annika and I made a short excursion to Strömbäck-Kont by the sea, where we took a promenade by the mostly open sea. It is 4 km linear distance to Strömbäck-Kont, but 30 km by car due to a long bay that separates the island Obbolaön where we live from the mainland in the west.

Some photos from our tour. The first 5 are made at Strömback-Kont, the other three in Degernäs on the way back.

Winter bath

Yesterday I enjoyed my lunch break that included a promenade through fresh snow and a winter bath. Today it has got warm again and the snow has started melting away. What a pity!

Two photos of Grundviken

It seems, that the shallow bay outside of our house is nameless. I cannot find any name in the maps of Lantmäteriet, OpenStreetMap, Eniro or Google. So I decided to give the bay a name today. From now on its name is “Grundviken” (shallow bay), at least in this blog.

After one millimetre of snowfall and waves crushing the thin ice on Grundviken it looked like this today. I shot the first photo at 9:30 and the second at 13:35.

The next wintry photos of Grundviken may take some time, since warmer temperatures and rain are forecasted for the rest of the week.

An almost normal sunrise

It was fresh in Obbola this morning. Blue sky and -6 °C. Time to take a break from my work and make some photos.

I went to a place with a better view on the sunrise at 8:41. I had however to wait a while because there was a layer of grey clouds above the horizon. Some locals in Skelleftehamn use to call this cloud layer vinterväggen – the winter wall – since it is quite dense like a wall and typical for the beginning of winter. But that’s not a common term.

So I had some spare time for crouching and taking this photo of the ice covered plant standing in the water – a reminiscence to the high water level the last days.

And then the sun finally rose above the vinterväggen and everything was illuminated in warm shades.

In the lunch break I took the car to “Obbola town” to have a pizza for lunch. Parts of the mouth of the river Umeälven were already covered with ice.

Sunset today was 14:11 but I was in online meetings from 13 to 15, so no sunset photos for today.

Why I write about this? Because without the Corona restrictions I would have worked in Tromsø today.  And in Tromsø  I wouldn’t have seen a sunrise. And neither for the rest of the year. That’s what the Norwegian weather service yr shows for Tromsø today:

Sun and moon, 27. Nov 2020 | Sun: ut is polar night, the sun does not rise.

So today is the first day of the period of polar night that will last until 14. January. Maybe I’ll be able to work in the office in Tromsø right after New Year. Then I’ll experience the polar night there. For the first time in my life.

I’ll be home for Christmas ♫

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Like last Saturday I had a handover meeting at the Norwegian Polar Institute yesterday. And like last Saturday I walked there, taking a longer detour. In contrary to last time 15–20 cm of fresh, fluffy snow had fallen making the landscape look quite different than one week ago. Some photos:

This meeting was a bit special. We should actually have been working from home the last two weeks due to the new corona regulations. I however have just a tiny room with shaky internet in Tromsø and therefore was allowed to work in the office. The handover meeting was in the office, too. And that by the way was the last time for me being there this year.

No, I didn’t quit my job. I will just work from “home home” and that’s Obbola/Umeå. With the approval of my manager I’ll work from Obbola for the rest of the year.

Today is travel day. Since there are no trains from Narvik in Norway to Umeå (guess, why) I was forced to take the airplane. Right now I’m already at Oslo Airport, the first stopover.

Flight 1: Tromsø airport, Langnes – Oslo Airport, Gardermoen

At half past eight I stood at the bus station Sydspissen (southern tip) waiting for the bus. I felt quite warm, because I wore a huge down parka for my six-week stay home. Today I definitely won’t need it – it’s 0 °C in Tromsø – but you never know how winter is like at home.

I don’t write anything about airports. Most of them are equally boring and it’s a lot about waiting, buying high-priced snacks and such. You know that. The only airport photo I show is of the departure schedule in Tromsø. Two flights to Oslo, one to Bodø (via Andenes) and the next to Longyearbyen, the largest settlement of Svalbard. Oh, I have to fly there one time! And from Tromsø it’s nearer to Longyearbyen (960 km) than to Oslo Gardermoen (1110 km).

We got into the air late, because we had to wait for the de-icing of our plane. I sat in row 30 in the back. It was quite cold and I was freezing. That reminded me on my down parka, that I definitely wouldn’t need today. Well …

But soon we were in the air and there was an incredible view about the blue fjords and snow covers mountains surrounding Tromsø. When we were above the clouds I took a nap. The parka made a good sleeping bag, too. Shortly before Oslo the landscape was still white and most of the minor lakes were frozen. Some of the lower lands however were brown and free of snow.

This part I wrote in Gardermoen, where I’ve had a four hour stopover.

Flight 2: Oslo Airport, Gardermoen – Stockholm Arlanda Airport

When I went to the gate I spotted it: a grand piano. May I play it? I first saw the tape that taped the piano shut, then the paper: “Do not play the piano!”. Of course – corona. But I have to keep it in mind that if I’ll be really bored in Gardermoen in the future I maybe can play piano. Would be nice.

I went to the international departure. Here all restaurants and a lot of stores were closed as well as the waiting room for our gate.

But finally I sat in the airplane that connected Norway and Sweden. The crew talked Swedish, the pilot one of the zillion Norwegian dialects. The airplane was almost empty with round about 20–25 passengers.

Annika messaged me: “… kp 5”, which means a faint chance of polar lights even in Oslo or Stockholm. I saw the lights of the airport, when we started. I saw the colours of the sundown. I saw the illuminated towns, villages and streets below and some stars above. Finally even the half moon. But I didn’t see any polar lights.

But maybe my iPhone camera did. You see this cloud-like thing above the horizon on the last photo? It is slightly greenish. Of course it could be a reflection or a malfunction of the iPhone that is not made for available light photography. But maybe it was really a northern light. Well. I hope for more in the next weeks.

This part in I wrote in Arlanda where I’ve had another three and a half hour stopover. Two more hours to wait, one hour to fly, then I’m finally home.

Flight 3: Stockholm Arlanda Airport – UmeåAirport

Now it’s Monday and I sit home in my computer room. Two laptops are placed on the table and it smells burned dust, because I switched on the radiator. I have a look at the bay – sea level is 50 cm above normal and it’s 30 minutes before sunrise (which is two hours earlier than in Tromsø).

The last flight to Umeå was as eventless as the other flights. Anything went well and according to plan.

The only thing to mention: this time we definitely had polar lights. I could see them from my window. I tried to take pictures with my camera which was a bit tricky because I had to use anything I had to cover the rest of the window to avoid reflections. Here is the result where it worked best:

It’s an awful photo, but part of my journey. Now I’m home. Over and out.

Just a detour to work

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Though Saturday I went to the Norwegian Polar Institute yesterday to get a handover from a former colleague. I went however not the direct way (20 minutes) but a long detour (90 minutes) to catch some air and some light before being in the office until dark.

Just some photos taken with my mobile.

It’s nice to go lightweight and taking pictures with the iPhone. While the photos are impressive considering the size of the lens and sensor, the quality is of course long from that of my Nikon. So next time I’ll carry more weight but probably I’ll be more content with the image quality afterwards.