Another snow warning level 2

Just nine days after the last snow warning that brought up to a metre snow in Västernorrland another snow warning was issued for today. And it has been snowing (and still is) and blowing since early morning. Time for a ski tour through the forest between two meetings …

Why I have time for a ski tour when working? Because as an employee of the Norwegian Polar Institute you have the right to two paid hours of training/sport/outdoor activities each week. One of the advantages of being employed there!

I went Spåret – “the track”, a circular route just 500 metres from here. It’s 3½ km long and leads through forests, over rock and along some swamps. Now with half a metre of snow you only see the the forest. Anything else is covered by white snow. And so is the small boggy pond: You should know where the planks cross it because under the snow there is still liquid mud.

This time the plank bridge was easy to find, because I could see the ski tracks that Annika and I left last weekend, when we skied Spåret the first time. I continued through the forest. I have jogged and promenaded this track many times, otherwise I hardly would have found the way.

Skiing was quite exhausting because my skis sank down at least 20 cm with each step, sometimes even knee deep.  Will I come back in time to participate the next meeting? I guess I have to ski faster and take less photos. The last one I took was when I crossed Södra Obbolavägen, our only road to “civilisation”.

To make it short: I arrived in time.

Some hours later I had a special after work activity: clearing a roof of snow. Most roofs had been blown free but there was one large snowdrift on the roof of our main house that I shovelled away while standing on the old metal ladder.

The ladder stands still there. Probably I’ll have to do some more shovelling tomorrow again. While I write this blog entry a huge snowdrifts starts to cover the bottom part of my home office window. What a pity, that it probably will rain on Saturday. One of the few disadvantages when living directly by the coast where it uses to be warmer than in the inland.

Skiing through the winter forest

It’s -18 °C and the sun is shining. 60–70 of powder snow cover the ground. We ski through the wintry forest following a narrow trail that other skiers have carved into the snow. We cross a snow mobile track that in turn crosses a snow covered bog. We enter another snowy forest.

It’s only a day trip and soon we arrive at the forest cabin which is open. We are alone and make a small fire in the oven while I try to take pictures of the Siberian jays but they are shy.

I just love Lapland in winter!

But …

This is not Lapland. It’s the Västermark nature reserve and this is just 77 km away from home. Annika and I went there last Sunday to enjoy the great winter weather and so we made our first little backcountry ski tour together this winter. More to come …

 

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
Siberian jayUnglückshäherLavskrika

Fresh snow fell home over night

After yesterday’s snow, that mostly hissed by horizontally due to wind speeds up to 24 m/s the wind was calming down over night. To my surprise 20 additional cm of snow fell on the ground last night without having being blown away.

What a wonderful winter morning. Hardly any wind, still snowing, -7 °C and our house dressed in white velvet.

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.

Technique sea kayaking course

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

I was really in doubt about writing this blog article and showing photos of the last weekend, where I participated the course Teknikkurs Hav (Technique sea kayaking).

Why? Because my photos lie. They show sea kayaks lying on nice beaches and us paddling in calm waters. All these photos are true but they tell only a fraction of the experiences I made when I kayaked in Northern Norway in the beginning of November.

Saturday – day 1

The paddling course was supposed to take place on Sommarøya. A beautiful place, but quite exposed to wind and weather. Due to the wind forecast (average wind 15 m/s) the instructors chose a more sheltered place for the first course day: Eidjordneset, just 12 km away from the boat house of the sea kayak club Trulle.

We gathered round 7 o’clock in the morning: We are the instructors Tim and Pål and four participants. Kind of luxury! We put the kayaks on the trailer and started driving: Past the airport, over the bridge crossing the Sandnessundet strait, to the left and then taking the turn to the island Håkøya where we parked and changed clothes for the tour. In my case: woollen underwear, two pairs of socks, a thick woollen sweater, drysuit, neoprene boots, gloves and hood. In addition to that the sprayskirt, life vest, towline system and helmet. We do not only dress for the chilly air but for being in the water as well. Tim wrote in the email: “We will be doing a lot of swimming”

We started to dress in darkness but when we were ready it had got light.

We put the kayaks into the sea and started paddling east along the Håkøya. After getting our paddle strokes improved we started to practise partner rescue. One kayaker capsizes, opens the sprayskirt and swims. Then there are different techniques of emptying the capsized kayak and support the swimmer to enter the kayak again. While we were training this several time. As Tim said: a lot of swimming. While practising the wind blew us more and more to the east. Time to turn back.

Now we had to paddle against the wind. First it went quite well but we already could see the huge shower cell coming towards us. Round 2–3 °C in the air. Would it be rain, sleet or snow? No – it was a grown up hail storm approaching. Within minutes we had wind speeds of round 20 m/s howling around us, blowing spray from each wave and throwing hail right into our faces (ouch, my lips!). The instructors decided to guide us to land where we waited for the hail to stop.

Soon the weather was calmer but still very windy. It took a while until we reached the bridge, where we started the tour. On the way back I had one of the rare opportunities to take some photos with my iPhone while paddling. Mostly I was too occupied with practising or catching up.

When we arrived at the bridge we crossed under it, because on the other side the sea was a bit more sheltered. Here we practised a lot of different paddle strokes as edging or low and high brace. This was quite intense – only interrupted by a short and frugal lunch break – and I’ll have to train a lot until my body has understood the movements. We ended with a rescue case: One of the participants had to pretend having an injured shoulder and we had to both give support balancing her kayak and tow her on land. Well, there was a lot of discussion but finally we managed it. Ok, it was only 20 metres or such to tow.

To make it short: changing into warm clothes · putting the kayaks onto the trailer · heading back to the boat house · I got a lift home · hot shower · great!

Sunday – day 2

Two of us met Tim at the boathouse, where we got a lift to a petrol station, our meeting point. As you can see it had been snowing and it was quite slippery.

Now on day two we would drive to Sommarøya and take the second course day there. Great, because the area round Sommarøya is wonderfully beautiful. Sommarøya is more than 50 km from Tromsø and the shorter way is leading through the mountains, so due to the weather conditions it took a longer time to travel there. And that’s how it looked like from the bay Steinsvika on Store Sommarøya.

We paddled to a flat rock covered by breaking waves and tried out some paddle strokes from the day before. That gave us opportunities for more buddy rescues, because of three capsizings. We made a short break on one of shallow beaches.

After that we started to round the island Storholmen where the Sommarøy lighthouse is located. First we tried to stick near the rocks to play with the waves. The further we came to the open sea, the higher the waves became and we increased distance.

Especially at the northwest tip we had waves up to 150 cm coming from several directions so that it took all my concentration just to paddle on while feeling quite stressed and a bit helpless. A bit further the waves coming from the open sea behind us built up to huge rollers and breakers on the shallow bay. I was too scared to join the others that played in these waves (with several capsizings and rescue manoeuvres). Therefore I paddled a bit further to reach a more sheltered part of the bay and wait there not to split the group. One other paddler joined my shortly after. Then all of a sudden a really huge wave came, broke just where we were and knocked us both over. There was nothing I could do. I immediately lost my kayak in the wave and it took a bit of time and help from the others to fetch my kayak and get us in again. I know that I have to learn to paddle under such rough conditions as well, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever enjoy it.

I really was glad about the lunch break. Here Tim and Pål told us about the star rating system for waves. It goes from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), and mostly we had 3-star conditions out there, with one two-metre-wave probably being a 4 star.

Even after lunch I was mentally quite exhausted. But at least we had started heading back and were soon in calm waters again. The others learned some more rescue manoeuvres and such but I kept aside for a while because I couldn’t focus any more.

Finally we made another towing manoeuvre, where two of us towed another kayak while the fourth paddler supported balance. While I was mentally tired I still had physical energy so I tried to drag a bit harder the last part to come up onto the sandy beach as long as possible. And that’s where Tim took this photo of us. I’m in the front – watch the nice violet helmet!

(Photo: Tim Vanhoutteghem – True North Adventures)

Conclusion: This course was too difficult for me. I was too scared and overchallenged. But I had skilled instructors, great fellow paddlers and learned a lot – though the hard way. I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to join this course and already decided to take the same course again as a fresh-up next spring.

October snow in Tromsø

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

Yesterday evening it started to snow and this morning it still has been snowing. 10 cm of snow cover the streets, cars, houses, trees – it’s the first noteworthy snowfall in Tromsø, since I’ve been here.

The beauty of the snow won’t last long because already on Saturday it will be warmer again and it will thaw away. But hey, it’s only late October. Winter hasn’t even started yet.

And now I’ll take a short breakfast and walk to work.

A Weekend in black and white

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

Ok everyone, let’s talk about making photos. I say “making” instead of “taking” on purpose. Photos are not lying around just waiting for you to pick up some of them. It’s you yourself that has to create a photo – or as I use to write to “make” it. It’s about two things: Your camera and your choices.

The better your camera equipment the more choices you have. Each piece gives you additional possibilities whether it is a telephoto lens, a flashlight or a sturdy tripod. Sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. Which photos do I want to make today? Landscape? Architecture? Sea birds? Night shots? People waiting at bus stops? Some of them? All of them? Phew!

I want to become a better photographer. To get better you have to practise. For me practising mostly means focussing on a certain aspect of the whole. This weekend I drastically reduced my possibilities. Instead of using my Nikon DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera) I used my new iPhone. Instead of the normal camera app I used an app called Lenka which only takes black and white photos with a fixed focal length (which means you cannot zoom). The only freedom I took was to post-process the photos by changing the contrast and the aspect ratio (and a bit more).

Here are the results. I’ll show the photos without any detailed comments.

Saturday – Sydspissen, the southern tip of the island Tromsøya – clouds and some rain

Sunday – Kvaløya, 430 metres above sea level – winter impressions

Sunday – Kvaløya, a short stroll at the coast – mostly sunny

I’m not content with the last photo. Maybe it’s because the house lacks three-dimensionality but I’m not sure. Beside from that it was real fun to use my self-set restrictions to get another kind of view on the motives around.

But no practising without a goal! My goal is to use the black-and-white photo app to train finding good motives and even when using my DSLR making full-color photos to be able to imagine how it will look black and white.

And you? What do you think about these photos? Criticism is welcome.

A small after-work promenade

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

Today I had my first work day at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø. Since I am in quarantine I had to work from home. Not easy when you don’t know what to do yet.

Right after work I took a walk to fight my fatigue. First up the streets, then along some tiny paths through the forest-like park Folkeparken. One of the paths led down to the western shore of Tromsøya, the island which Tromsø is on. Here I started to take pictures.

You see the coloured spots at the right side of the last photo? It’s people taking a picnic. There are not extremely many people around, but more than I expected. They jog, they cycle, they sit round a campfire. They take photos, they act as photo motives. They take care of their children, they walk, they talk. They take a winter bath from the wooden pier, they paddle kayak, they sail. All these people present Tromsø as an awesome place to be. The gorgeous autumn weather is just the icing on the cake.

Oh yes, I miss Annika! Anyhow I think, I’ll like it here.