Almost like a ski tour

When I look at these photos it looks like I’ve been on a multi-day ski tour. Deep snow, packed pulka, white mountains, snowy forests, a snowed in cabin, a cosy fire in the oven. And more snow.

But these photos do not come from a long ski tour but from five different locations nearby. Some are on Tromsøya, some on Kvaløya and the photos were taken within the last two weeks.

1. A short ski tour near Håkøybotn, Kvaløya.

I was tired, I was lazy, I was in a couch potato mood. Anyhow I managed to take the car to the Håkøybotn graveyard to do a little ski promenade up the hills. The snow was fluffy and when I was almost back at the car I realised, that it was quite deep too in some places, when I put off my skis …

2. Sunrise

Last Saturday I could see how the sun slowly started to illuminate the snowy mountains on the island Kvaløya in the morning. What’s special about this is that I took these photos from the balcony of my new flat. Yes, it’s a 600mm telephoto shot and the photos are slightly blurry but that doesn’t reduce the experience standing there and watching the daylight appear.

3. Pulka test tour

The last ski tour I did was with Annika in 2020. In 2021 Covid prevented a tour. In 2022 I was on my first arctic cruise instead. In 2023 I worked on Svalbard for a week and we had vacation there.

But our next ski tour is just a week away. So the question was – does my pulka sledge still work? So I tested it last Sunday and everything seems to be ok. Nice!

4. A cozy fire in the oven

Back home I changed clothes and fired the oven in my cozy new flat. I don’t use it for heating, but for hygge.

5. Today’s ski tour

It has snowed quite a lot and last night the official snow depth exceeded 100 cm for the first time this winter. I put on my skis already on my parking place and skied up to the forest, where I first followed the tracks and then went “off-piste” though the forest. The snow was so fluffy that I couldn’t see my skis anymore. There were somewhere under 30 cm of snow.

Now the days are getting longer and longer and when I’m back from our ski tour I guess I can just do such shorter ski trips right after work.

Bonus

There are three holes in the photo grid shown at the beginning of the article. Time for three more photos. Why I didn’t put them into the grid? Because they do not look like ski tour photos. I made them on different shore locations on the island Kvaløya on my way back from the ski tour two weeks ago. Here they come:

Wind and weather

Friday, 26 January

I took this photo at two o’clock in the afternoon just after I had walked home from work. I enjoyed my new apartment and the view from the balcony.

But I knew, that this beautiful weather wouldn’t last. The forecast predicted rain and storm.

Saturday, 27 January

In the evening the weather already had changed. It good warmer, rain clouds covered the moon and the speed of the hardest gust was wind was 24 m/s¹.

28 January

On Sunday the wind calmed down a bit but the forecast for the next day showed wind gusts of 36 m/s in the afternoon. That’s Beaufort 12 – “hurricane-force”. I wasn’t the only one who decided to work from home the next day.

29 January

And the weather became really nasty, although not as bad as expected. I was glad to be able to stay inside anyhow.

Let’s not forget, that Tromsø lies sheltered on the island Tromsøya surrounded by mountain chains. There are other places that are much more exposed to the elements. For example Torsvåg lies on a small island west of Vannøya. There the strongest wind gusts were round 41 m/s².

1 February

After two calmer yet warmer and very rainy days another storm had arrived, this time with gusts up to 30.8 m/s in Tromsø³.

Laughable the people in Kvaløyfjellet på Sømna probably would say. There the average wind speed between 1 and 2 in the night was 54.4 m/s (196 km/h)! That’s a new wind record for whole Norway⁴. And the gusts exceeded 60 m/s.

The nice thing: After all that rain in Tromsø it snowed again. When I arrived home the wind has already calmed down but the entry of my flat was caked in snow.

2 February

And the next morning it still snowed.

When I walked home today I crossed the cemetery. And there everything was snowed in and many tombstones were completely hidden under the snow. As if rain and storm never happened.

___
¹ https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/1-305409/Norge/Troms/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8?q=2024-01-27
² https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/5-90800/Norge/Troms/Karls%C3%B8y/Torsv%C3%A5g%20fyr?q=2024-01-29
³ https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/5-90490/Norge/Troms/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8%20LH?q=2024-02-01
https://www.nrk.no/nyheter/ny-vindrekord-i-norge-1.16744736

It gets even colder

After the first days of the new year with temperatures down to -26 °C it got even colder.

4. January

In the morning temperature is between -26 and -27 °C and despite the weather forecast the sky is clear.

At lunch time I take another promenade along the coast. The sea ice Baltic Sea looks extremely cold due to the frost patterns that cover everything.

In the afternoon it gets colder and in the evening the temperature sinks below -30 °C for the first time. I go out and take a photo of our tree in our garden. It’s the very same tree under which Annika and I got married three and a half years ago – barefooted. Now it is covered in frost and Orion and Sirius are in the sky.

Luckily I have a lot of very warm clothes. To go out I only had to slip into my down suit and my Russian rubber boots, put a hat and woollen mittens on and I won’t freeze at all.

5. January

Twice I was awake and outdoors this night to enjoy the cold air and the starry sky. At 3:18 the thermometer shows -33.4 °C, the coldest temperature ever I experienced being at home!

These days a lot of places experience temperatures below -40 °C and less and many people (including us) have trouble with their cars or heating. Near Arjeplog a guy measured -51 °C with a laser thermometer the day before. That’s exceptionally cold even for Northern Sweden.

In the morning it was time for Annika and me to repeat a known experiment in the cold that we never tried out by ourselves: Throwing hot water in the air and seeing it freezing almost instantly into a cloud of ice dust. While my photos are ok-ish, Annika took gorgeous photos with my Nikon showing me doing this experiment. It works best with temperatures below -30 °C, which we had.

While I write this article in the night to the 6. January it is still cold, but “only” -22 °C. You get used to the cold after some days. And yes – I love these cold and crisp winter days a lot! The weekend will still be cold, then it will get warmer. Much warmer! On Tuesday, four days from now, it may be 40 degrees warmer than yesterday morning with day temperatures round +6 °C!

 

 

The year 2024 starts cold

1. January

It’s midnight. Clear sky, -13 °C. Annika and I stand in the snow outside of our house with a drink to toast with and some sparklers to set alight. Farewell 2023, welcome 2024! Happy new year!

The next morning Annika and I stand outdoors again. No sparklers needed, the sun rises over the frozen Baltic Sea and turns the sky orange.

When we start a little cross country ski tour at lunch time the temperatures already have dropped to -18 °C. Before we drive home we take a small detour to our favourite beach Vitskärsudden where we watch the sunset over the sea. Sunrise and sunset on the same day – that was long ago.

2. January (yesterday)

In the night it has become colder. -25 °C shows the thermometer in the morning. I bring Annika to the bus station by car but first I have to scrape ice on the windshield. Yes, I am a bit overdressed in my down suit ;-)

On this day I am outdoors twice. First to catch the colours before sunrise …

… then to take a lunch promenade to Vitskärsudden. Despite the sun it is still round -22, -23 °C. The Baltic Sea is frozen as far as I can see and the low hanging sun is accompanied by colourful parhelions.

I thought the down jacket would be too warm but I gladly put the hood on when it started to get a bit windy.

In the evening it gets colder. -26.9 °C, the coldest temperature I experienced here in our home in Obbola since we moved there in May 2020. While I worked from home Annika took the bicycle back from the bus station. Brrr!

3. January (today)

Another cold day with temperatures between -22 and -26 °C. Although I have to work I go out several times. First shortly after sunrise. The sun is damped by clouds and looks like a very mysterious eye.

Then I take another tour at 11:00, this time with back country skis. What a beautiful day!

I go out a third time to watch the sunset, but clouds cover the horizon. At least I take a photo of the large, wooden barrel of unknown origin that stands in the water – now frozen – of our shallow bay.

… oh I forgot, I was out a fourth time, this time by car to get some things done. Luckily I had camera and tripod on the back seat, because the frosted trees in the cold artificial light looked really special.

I really love this cold weather. Only taking photos can be a bit of a hassle because sometimes you have to take off your gloves and then the fingers can get cold very fast. Beside from that: great!

 

Two wintry sunrises

From polar night into the solar light

It is crazy – three days ago Annika and I have been in Tromsø in the middle of the mørketid – the polar night – where the sun hasn’t risen for weeks. Two days ago we went to Gällivare in Swedish Lapland by car. Yesterday we continued our way south and crossed the polar circle. The sky was clear and full of colours and then – at 10:23 – we saw the sun ahead. It did not only rise above the horizon but also the forested hills.

The sun was low but we saw it for several hours. That was a great feeling especially for me who haven’t seen the sun for almost a month.

But days are short and already at two o’clock in the afternoon the moon dominated the sky.

Soon it was too dark to take good photos from the moving car. At half past six we arrived at our house in Obbola, where I’ll stay for three to four weeks.

Today I worked from home and could see how it gradually got brighter. I took a break and went to the coast. I was lucky – now I got a real sunrise. Not above a road in the Swedish inland but above the partially frozen Baltic Sea. So beautiful!

 

Cottage holiday

Last Saturday Annika came from Sweden. On Sunday we took the car to the cottage that the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Institute for Marine Research share. We got it from Sunday till today afternoon (which is Thursday).

Monday

The sun won’t rise again before January and daylight is limited, especially when it is snowing. We took the car to the peninsula Sommarøya, bought some groceries in the local store and took some snowy photos in the small harbour.

The rest of the day – taking a nap, firing the oven and preparing dinner.

Tuesday

The sky was clear and the temperature had dropped. Perfect conditions for taking a ski tour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet. The light was beautiful and we were lucky to find some kind of track that we could follow. But who made this track? It was too narrow for a snow mobile and too wide for a pulka sledge. Later we realised that this was a track for a dog sledding. Several times we let the dog sleds pass before we continued to follow the track by ourselves. I was glad about my warm, woollen mittens with temperatures between -10 and -15 °C.

Later at home I let my drone fly to make some photos of the cabin. Look! It is in the middle of nowhere!

Well – not really. The cottage is quite near the road although the way up through the snow is pretty steep.

The time of the polar night is a lot about colours. First the incredible orange and pink colours of sky and mountains and then the polar lights if you are lucky. We were!

Wednesday

We took a small tour to Brensholmen and Hillesøy, places that are quite near by car. It was chilly and windy. A small boat approached, heading to the small harbour of Brensholmen. From here goes the ferry to the island Senja and from here you can see the bridge to Sommarøya with the island Tussøya in the background.

We continued the road, saw some reindeers and the sky that became more and more orange. No drone photos, it was too windy.

When we were home again we spend a part of the evening (and some part of the night) in front of the house, because the polar lights were amazing. They covered more or less the whole sky and were constantly moving in ribbons, garlands and swirls. I took some photos, but mostly Annika and I just watched this celestial spectacle.

So you see that in Northern Norway the time of the polar night (the mørketid) is not as dark as many believe and quite colourful. The days are just pretty short, but this time of the year is so beautiful!

 

 

A Saturday “mørketid” promenade

Since Tuesday, 28 November the sun does not rise above the horizon anymore in Tromsø. In English this time is called Polar Night, in German Polarnacht.But is it night 24 hours a day? No, not really. Here are some images I took on a promenade in Tromsø yesterday. The photos have been shot between 10:48 and 12:13 CET.

As you see it was not dark at all.  The Norwegians differentiate better and have two words. What we have in Tromsø now they call Mørketid – “darkness time”. The sun is below the horizon the whole day, but less than 6° (civil twilight). Only when the sun is below 6° all day the Norwegians call it polarnatt – “polar night” as well. This however never happens on mainland Europe. You would have to travel north to the island Bjørnøya or the archipelago Svalbard to experience that.

So yes, we have seven weeks of mørketid in Tromsø, but that does not mean seven weeks of darkness. Fortunately!

 

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.

A short November promenade

This weekend I planned to be lazy and so I was but since the weather was so beautiful today that I decided to take a walk by the coast. There are only two other weekends with a chance to see the sun in Tromsø, then polar night begins.

Some today’s snapshots: