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 >

On the road IV and V

Back to Sweden · Sneringsvika—Rötviken – 315 km

Have I told you, that the weather in Norway is constantly changing? So it was as well when I continued my road trip the day before yesterday.

It wasn’t cold, but most of the precitipation came as snow and even by the sea everything was white.

In Hofles I waited for the ferry to Lund which takes 25 minutes. I love standing onboard and watch the snow covered hills and mountains pass.

On the other side there was first less snow, …

… but as soon as the road climbed up a bit everything was white again. Here are two photos from a barbecue hut by the road 74 to Sweden. The first one from now, the other made in August 2016.

This time I have booked a cabin in advance. It is in Rötviken, 20 km behind the Norwegian-Swedish border. Although the campsite is by the road it is really quiet. Hardly any car uses this road.

I was tired from all the driving of the last days and fell fast asleep. The next day I would take it easy.

Arrival · Rötviken—Orrviken – 139 km

What a beautiful morning! The sun came out the first time since I left Solberget four days ago. Two dogs were barking. Did they bark at me? Now, it was the two moose that were about to cross the road but then turned too the the lake Hotagen.

This day I didn’t have to go far, just 140 km along broad roads through the Swedish forest. Easy to drive but a bit boring to look at.

I made a short stopover in Östersund, the largest town in the county Jämtland.

Then I continued to Orrviken.

Today I will spend my day here and repack my things for a ski tour that I will start with two friends tomorrow. Then I’ll be offline for about two weeks.

Vi hörs – see ya.

On the road III – Hemavan—Sneringsvika – 296 km

From the wintry fjäll to the rainy coast

It’s only one day of travelling, hardly 300 km, but today was filled with a lot of varying great experiences and feels like a complete holiday.

After breakfast I leave Hemavan behind and again I travel to Norway, this time taking the road 73 via Joesjö. It’s just below zero and it’s snowing. I cross Norway and now the snowfall intenes. It’s snowing handkerchiefs and the visibilty is poor. Within minutes the road is covered with a fresh layer of snow.

The heavy snowfall lasts only short and soon visibility is much better. Twice I pass an open barrier. This route section can be closed when the weather is severe. If this should happen to me I’d choose to wait on the western side. What a cozy shelter the Norwegians have built there.

Now I’m really in Norway. It’s just impossible to describe the zillions of different impressions. It’s the endless combinations of different landscapes, different moods and different weather that makes travelling through Norway so interesting and inspiring.

An example image, from bottom to top: a river rushing through a canyon. Above that a hill with a green coniferous forest. Above that a mountain with a forest covered with fresh snow. Above that a high mountain over the timber line, completely encased with white snow. Above that clouds bringing snow or rain (depending on the altitude) and the sun trying to peek through a cloud gap. And that’s one of a thousand images.

I do not even try to photo all the different scenic moods because it would take ages. And by the way: there are hardly any parking opportunities by the roads.

So I publish just some travelogue photos, mostly taken through the windscreen.

At 14:25 I arrive in Vennesund. Here I have to take a ferry to continue my trip south. An hour later my car is in the belly of the ship and I am on deck. It’s windy, but warm with +4 °C. I’m the only one on deck. The journey takes only 20 minutes.

After leaving the ferry I continue my road trip and the landscape is as gorgeous as before.

Anyway I got quite tired and I’m longing for a cosy place to stay. I plan to take the first opportunity. At the branch, where the 802 leaves to Bogen I see some kind of camping kiosk. I leave the car and meet an elderly man, who gives me his cabin for a night. It costs 800 NOK, but first it’s Norway and then this cabin by the fjord is a welcome luxury after travelling by car for three days.

Now I have to check the weather forecast for tomorrow. I’m in a winter mood and long for snow!

 

Starting my winter journey – Solberget

I have stopped counting how often I’ve been at the wilderness retreat Solberget in Swedish lapland. First of all it’s a nice place with great people, then it’s the week of the winter market in Jokkmokk, which is round 90 km away. Finally I just had to make a stopover here since my stove that I need for a ski tour was stored here.

Wednesday – a small ski tour

On the top of the hill Solberget I get to know Steffen who has spent some days in the mountain hut. It’s his last day and we ski down together. The way back is not long and so we extend our tour. Do we stand on a small bog or a frozen lake, when I make this photo? I don’t know.

Thursday – winter market in Jokkmokk

I’ve been here several times. This time I only stroll over the market and hardly make any photos. The only exception: The artist Yana Mangi, who gave a phantastic concert in the small old church in Jokkmokk.

Older photos from the winter market for example here, here and here.

Friday – ski tour on the Vihtukkajankka

It’s been long since I’ve been on the Vihtukkajankka. Together with Steffen I make a ski tour onto this mountain. First it’s cloudy but soon it clears up. Skiing through the snowy forest is sometime like visiting an art exhibition.

And here I have slept the last days:

Saturday – a foggy day

Acually I just wanted to be lazy but the fog was so beautiful that I skied down to the large bog Päivävuoma/Solmyran to make some “bog fog” photos.

This is my favourite photo from that day:

I close this article with a small riddle. The next photo is no photomontage but a single shot. Where am I?

And suddenly I am in Lapland

Just 300 km from home – bright sky and temperatures round -25 °C – finally a winter as it should be in Northern Sweden.

I shot theses photos in Solberget tonight. Here I will stay some days and visit the winter market in Jokkmokk.

ICROSS

I walk along a forest path. The snow has become too deep for the car. In the right hand I carry a large waterproof bag, in the left hand my bright red neoprene drysuit. On the back I have an ICROSS.

A what?

Let’s quote the ICROSS websiteWhat is ICROSS? – ICROSS® is a new type of watercraft. It resembles a float tube, but has many characteristics of a kayak.

My friend Hans Brettschneider bought two ICROSS for his camping ground In Bureå and invited my to test them today. We want to paddle over the Baltic Sea to the near island Björkön. According to Hans the Baltic Sea is still open.

When I arrive in Bureå Hans already had started inflating the ICROSS with a motor-driven air pump. We put the rafts into his car and drive to a place near the beach where we manually inflate them until they are filled to the brim.

(You see the rectangular patch free of snow on the ICROSS? That’s where Hans’ iPad was before I took it away for the photo. Hans uses it as a camera and takes it into the snow, the hot sauna, just everywhere)

On the back of the ICROSS there are D-rings where you can attach belts to carry the ICROSS as a backpack. That’s what I do in the first photo. We start carrying the ICROSS until one of the plastic hooks of the belt breaks. We then realise that it is much easier to drag the raft behind like a sledge. It’s winter!

After 800 metres walk through the forest I arrive at the coast. I must laugh. The Baltic Sea is far beyond from being open. It is covered with ice and snow to the horizon! Is it just slush or solid ice? I put on my drysuit and life jacket and enter the sea ice. I splash through sludge but underneath there is ice thick enough to carry my weight.

Time to change plans.

Instead of paddling (or walking) to Björkön we take fika here at the coast. There’s even a table with benches. Hans has coffee and sandwiches while I have tea and a pretzel. It snows.

Hans however has a plan B in mind. Right beside his fantastic camping ground, just behind the sauna there’s the river Bureälven. And this stream is still open. After fika we walk to the car and take it to his camping ground. There we trudge through the snow to the sauna by the river.

Again we put on waterproof clothes and put the ICROSSes into water. We have to rearrange the belts that hold the seat to improve the balance, then it’s fun to paddle to and fro. While my touring kayak is long and keeps direction, the ICROSS is easy to turn and very agile. Anyway I wouldn’t use it for longer paddle trips. Too exhausting.

(Do you see what Hans has in his hands on the last photo? I told you that he takes his iPad everywhere.)

After a while of testing and taking pictures we go ashore. Did I mention the sauna? Hans had fired it before our winter paddling experiment. It is not hot, only 30 °C, but it’s nice to sit there and relax a bit. I go into the river again, this time for winter bathing. Then a bit of sauna again until we call it a day.

Tack for turen, Hans – thank you for the tour. And thanks for your photos, which I cropped and edited for this blog article.

30 cm snow

This week finally it snows. There is 30 cm of snow in my backyard and if the forecasts are right, it’ll be 45–50 cm at the end of the week. At last it looks wintry, even though the open Baltic Sea is still free of ice.

After taking the photo above I took the car to Tjuvkiskan, another place by the sea. The gravel road was covered with snowdrifts that became higher when I approached the sea. I could easily drive through the first ones but finally I was stuck in a half-metre-high and several metre long snowdrift. My Subaru was grounded and even with the “X-Mode” program I could neither continue nor put back the car. Fortunately it took only some minutes to shovel away the snow round the tires and then I was able to back the car out of the snow drift. The last metres to Tjuvkistan I walked …

When I looked at the photo above I realised how big the tyres are. It’s really half a metre of snow around my car.

Enough about cars – I wanted to enjoy winter and be outdoors.

There’s a very nice cross-country ski run in Skelleftehamn. It hadn’t been prepared this year due to the warm and rainy weather. Now snow had come and the snow on the track will be compacted but not yet prepared for cross-country as long it continues snowing.

Yesterday I took my fjällski – my “mountain skis” and made a tour through 10-15 cm deep snow. I was really slow and it was quite exhausting.

Today I took my fjällski again and now the snow was packed. I was faster and although the tour was longer it was less exhausting. And the descents were more fun. The last kilometre the wind increased and it started snowing again.

Temperature -6 °C. Wind. Snow. Fur hood. Woollen mittens. Ski boots. Almost like winter.

 

Finally snow!

Finally some snow fell today, perhaps 5 cm. Everything starts to look nice and wintry again.

The only drawback: on the minor roads there is still bare ice under the snow. With all the snow glueing round the tyres the spikes do not work efficiently and so it is extremely slippery. It took a bit for the Subaru to work it’s way up the flat slope by the lake. At least now I know where it has its Vehicle Dynamics Control warning light.

Finally it snows again

The weather of the last weeks is easy to summarise: Much too warm! It hadn’t snowed for weeks and rain transformed the old snow into a solid layer of bare ice.

So it looked like 8 days ago when my German friend Delle and I walked over the ice to the island Storgrundet.

Some days ago it snowed, but only some millimetres. But the day before yesterday it has started snowing and yesterday it snows all day. 15 cm of fresh snow cover the ground and everything looks wintry again. Finally!

Yesterday it was Annika and me who walked over the ice to the island Storgrundet. Same place, but how different it looked!

Today it promises to be a nice sunny day with temperatures round -5 °C. But tomorrow it will be warm again, according to SMHI’s forecast up to 7 °C!

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