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:

#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.

 

An almost outdoor barbecue on Kvaløya

Some days ago I got a message from Elisabeth. She already had organised several events with friends and acquaintances – always outdoors – and in this message she asked me:

Lyst å bli med på grilling på fredag etter jobb?

(Would you) like to join (us) for a barbecue on Friday after work?”  That sounded like fun and I gladly accepted the invitation.

Friday evening was calm and clear and with -12 °C pretty cold for Tromsø – the coldest day this season. So I put some food and a lot of warm clothes with me. I met Elisabeth and two of her friends at the parking place and we went down to the barbecue hut by the sea. It looked like just a normal wooden house. Only without door, without window panes and without any floor. Instead of this a huge fire place in the middle.

More people dropped by until we were eleven people in total. Some of them had reindeer skins with them but they were hardly used. You know these parties where all people gather in the kitchen? It was a bit alike, all of us stood round the fireplace in the middle of the hut. Some to make stick bread or sausages, some to grill marshmallows or prepare waffles and some just to stay warm.

It’s always great to meet interesting, nice people. It gets however a bit harder when most of them are native speakers, because my Norwegian is still not so well. But it gets better and better. While I couldn’t take photos from the conversations I could take photos from the beautiful surroundings, even from within the hut. Remember, no window panes.

After three hours people started to leave. I was the last one left, just to take some more photos, then I took the car home as well.

Thank you Elisabeth for the organisation and for inviting me. Or more Norwegian: takk for i går – thanks for yesterday!

 

Thursday paddling – from dusk to darkness

It is 29 September and it is Thursday. Time for torsdagspaddlingen – Thursday paddling – with the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club.

As usual we meet between 5 and 6 o’clock pm to prepare the kayaks, put on our drysuits and life vests and listen to the tour leaders about the plans for today. For several weeks there has been another thing to think of: attach lights to the kayaks and the life vests to be seen. September equinox has been one week ago and it starts getting dark quite soon. Today we are lucky: It is high tide and we don’t have to carry the kayaks more than a few metres.

We are 23 people. 7 will follow the shore to the beach of Telegrafbukta, the others including me want to paddle to Lilje Grindøya that lies behind Grindøya. I’ve never been there. Round 18:00 we sit in our kayaks. As soon as all are on the water we start our tour.

Before we reach the island Grindøya one of the tour leaders lifts the paddle vertically in to the air. That’s the sign for gathering.

Plans are changed. Lilje Grindøya is quite far away and the waves on the sound we crossed were a bit higher than expected. So we head for Grindøya instead.

It it warm and calm. 16 kayaks lie by the beach. We sit our stand around. One paddler passes around homemade cake, another one lights a cosy fire on the sandy beach. Hyggelig!

While we are eating, chatting or taking pictures it is getting darker and darker. The kayaks are hardly visible anymore and in the distance there are the lights of Tromsøya and Kvaløya.

After half an hour it is time to set off and paddle back to shore.

While crossing the sea again I didn’t take photos for three reasons. All of them were related to the darkness.

First:  we want to stick together to be seen and to know we are all there. There may be ships crossing and then you do not want to have a stray paddler around. So I cannot just let the others go to take photos.

Then: my waterproof camera is – well – waterproof but it hardly can take photos in the dark. Even with a better camera it is difficult. Did you ever try to make long exposure photos while sitting in a kayak?

Finally: the waves! The kayak I use is stable as a truck and on our way to Grindøya I didn’t care about the waves a lot. Now it is quite different. I can see the waves because of the reflections of the city lights. But I cannot see how broad, how steep or how high they are. So I have to react by instinct which I don’t yet have. It’s a first time experience and a slightly weird one.

While we are approaching main land the other paddlers come into view. Or better said, their lights. Two of the other kayaks are not illuminated and completely invisible. We take a long turn to the left and follow them. Some of us almost collide with one of the jetties. Everything that isn’t illuminated comes into view at the last moment.

I’m a bit sad because this is the last Thursday paddling this year. Probably we won’t start with it again before end of April. Hopefully there will more kayak opportunities in daytime over the winter.

At 20:15 I  come ashore. Again I want to say to all fellow paddlers: takk for turen! Thanks for the tour!

“Kayak daytrip to Skarsfjord with beach clean up”

… this was the Facebook event I was invited to some weeks ago. It was an event organised by people from TSI Trulle, the other kayak association, but it was open for non-members, too. The idea was to start a kayak tour in Skarsfjord on the island Ringvassøya, paddle to a beach, clean it, cross the fjord to another beach, clean it, too, relax and paddle back. We were eight people joining the tour from five different countries.

Our tour does not start on the water. It starts with carrying kayaks to a trailer, use lashing straps to fix them there, packing all equipment into two cars  and some driving.

After 50 km – one hour drive – we arrive at the parking place by the sea, where we unstrap the kayaks and get everything ready including testing the sprayskirts and the footboards. Things you can do on land as well as you see.

It always takes some time to put on the drysuit, check that everything is packed and working but then we all sit in our kayaks and are ready to paddle to our first destination: The islet Teistholmen.

We leave the kayaks there, take a huge rubbish bag each and start combing the shore of the island. Most of the rubbish is on the northwest side of the island that is most exposed to the elements. Mostly it is plastic from fishing. Parts of old green nets, buoys from small to football size and then of course all the civilisation garbage as empty (or half-full) bottles, styrofoam and some nasty stuff. But it’s not extremely much.

After collecting I take a stroll over the green island. Hard to imagine, that I did a ski tour the day before.

After a while and some lunch we continue our triangular tour, now crossing the fjord Skarsfjorden to another beach. You can see the rubbish bags on our kayaks. We were very lucky that there is no mentionable wind, because with side winds the huge bags would act as sails and turn the kayaks into the wind. But without any wind and waves it was easy to cross the fjord.

When we reach the beautiful sandy beach it turns out that this is not the beach to be cleaned. The location that the organiser has in mind is a bit further away. So we continue a bit to arrive at a rocky shore that looked much less inviting than the sandy beach and a bit more difficult to land.

But it looks like that we would collect a lot of more trash here, and so we do. There is a lot of plastic trash, scrap metal (that we left alone) and driftwood for making fires for months. Some of us are collecting large amounts of plastic. It is obviously too much to be transported on our kayaks. But we are lucky and get help by two locals living on an island nearby. They load their whole boat full with our filled rubbish bags to take care of it. You can hear the motor of their boat for a while after they departed. Tusen takk – thousand thanks!

While others have collected more rubbing some of us have started a fire. Time to tell stories, eat a second lunch or just relax.

Anyhow, it is a day trip and so we leave this place, some of us with extra rubbish bags that didn’t make it on the motor boat. We pass the ship wreck, that we already spotted on the way there. It was washed ashore this winter while the captain was asleep because the anchor did not hold. He was not harmed but the ship was totally destroyed.

We are so lucky with the weather! Not much sun, but hardly any wind, no rain and much warmer than the weeks before. We paddle back to the parking place, the cars are visible as a small grey and a small white dot. The water is extremely clear and of a turquoise colour that makes the sea look Caribbean – until you put your hands into the water and realise how cold it is. This is, why drysuits are a must on such tours even under perfect conditions. Safety first!

And then we are back. Some of us train rescue manoeuvres, some of us relax, some collect trash (oh my, here you could collect for days :-( ). Then we put all kayaks back on the trailer, drive back to the boat house where we put all kayaks back in the boat houses. Then we are ready to leave.

Thank you guys for inviting me, letting joining me and having a great day together. Hopefully I meet some of you again. Would be a pleasure!

 

 

Four winter days in and round Obbola

OK guys, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m too lazy to write long texts. I just show some photos of the last days where our German friend Medi joined Annika and me on various excursions with some notes.

Thursday, 6 January – skiing in Västermarks naturreservat

+++ Västermarks naturreservat, 50 km north from Umeå +++ a non-commercial forest made us climb over and under fallen trees that lay across the marked loop trail +++ by the trail a wooden cabin +++ time was too short to fire the oven but lighting candles is cozy, too +++

Friday, 7. January – lunch break skiing

+++ right next to our postbox (500 metres from our house) starts Spåret, a 3600 metre long forest trail +++ we use back-country skis to ski Spåret in my prolonged lunch break +++ we, that’s Dirk – guest for two nights – Medi and I +++ -12 °C, but my Anorak is too warm +++ I tie it round my hip +++ on the photo it looks like a skirt +++

Photo: Dirk Thomas

Me sking “Spåret” – Photo: Dirk Thomas

Saturday, 8 January — cross-country skiing on Olle’s Spår

+++ grey weather, -14 °C +++ the trees are covered with snow +++ black-and-white imagery +++ after some days of back-country skiing it’s nice to use cross-country skis on a real trail +++

Sunday, 9 January – Northern lights and sunrise

+++ 1 o’clock in the night +++ I check for Northern lights +++ we are lucky +++ Medi and Annika watch the aurora beside of the garage +++ I take some photos from our garden +++
+++ 8:20 in the morning +++ the Baltic Sea freezes over more and more +++ sunrise colours by the sea  +++ and then in our garden +++ watching sunrise while taking breakfast +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – Strömbäck-Kont

+++ just a short walk at one of Annika’s and my favourite places: Strömbäck-Kont +++ looking at the ice ridge by the sea +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – halo effects

+++ after lunch we are taking Medi to the airport +++ strong and colourful parhelion or sun dogs halos +++ the photo is taken at the airport +++ I am questioned by the security and show the taken photos to prove I’m not a spy +++

New friends Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

New friends Tromsø is a Facebook group where people new to Tromsø meet. Some may be here only for  couple of days while others may have moved here and look for tips and other people.

Finally I had time to join an event that one of the group members organised, a hike to Gutta på skauen in Tromsdalen. Since I didn’t know this place I’ll can add the hike to my project #onceaweek.

As the day before the weather was quite warm but cloudy and rainy. I just took some photos with my iPhone since the focus was on get to know other people not on taking pictures. As usual I was quite early at the meeting point in town and waited in the rain for other people to come.

Eight people we were in total – from five, six different countries. We went to Tromsøbrua and used this large bridge the cross the Tromsøysund strait and reach the mainland.

On the mainland we had four more km to hike – first through the urban neighbourhood Tromsdalen, then on smaller roads through the forestry valley of the same name. And then we reached Gutta på skauen which means “guys in the wood”. These guys – all older than me – provided coffee and cinnamon buns. You do not pay per coffee or bun but donate an amount of money that you consider suitable.

There we sat for an hour or such while rainfall outside increased. Then we hiked back another parallel path (the nicer way), crossed the bridge again, asked a bypassed to take a picture of us and then started to split up. After another stop in the café Koselig I walked home. There are not many busses on Sundays.

There were a lot of water puddles on my way back, some of them quite deep. The last photo however is not rainwater but the sea. When the tide is quite high it covers one of the footpaths on the seashore. I managed with rubber boots this time but it was close.

No, this tour was not demanding but anyhow it was 14–15 km in total. So – motion: check! Meeting nice people: check! Having a good day: check!

Thank you, E. for organising.

A short and rainy Hurtigruten trip

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

After 2700 km by car we had arrived in Bjørnevatn near Kirkenes. From there it would be another 900 km back to Tromsø, my temporary home. So Annika and I had decided to use go by ship and use the Hurtigruten for our journey west. Last Friday we went on board of the MS Vesterålen, the smallest and oldest ship of the current Hurtigruten fleet. I left it to be parked while Annika used the regular gangway. The ship departed round 12:30, round 35 hours we arrived in Tromsø.

The weather was rainy, chilly, windy and although parts of the upper deck are well protected against wind and rain we often sat there alone. While it was quite rainy there were a lot of small holes in the clouds that let the sun peek through. Especially the light on the first day was very wonderful.

I just show some of the photos I made from the upper deck. All of them are made with a telephoto lens and focal lengths between 150 and 600 mm. To avoid blurred images because of the ship vibrations I hardly used a tripod but used ISO 800–1600. But now to the photos:

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:

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Siberian jayUnglückshäherLavskrika