Polarsyssel in Tromsø (and ice cream)

While I was sitting at my computer in my apartment in Tromsø I looked out of the window. A blue ship was sailing on the Sandnessundet, the strait between Tromsøya and Kvaløya. It looked somehow familiar. I checked, first with my spotting scope, then with an app. It was the Polarsyssel, the ship of the Governor of Svalbard. I managed to take a photo between the trees.

Last time when I saw this ship it was on 16 March 2023, the week I was working in Longyearbyen/Svalbard.

What does the ship do here so far south as in Tromsø? Chasing polar bears? I checked the news but couldn’t find anything. While I was watching the ship  my thoughts wandered north. In August I’ll be in the Arctic once more. Will I stand on the sea ice again? Will I see polar bears again?

Then I heard a melody outside:

This is a famous melody in Norway! It is called “Norge rundt” and is the signal of the Isbilen ice-cream vans. Today I was one of the customers. So I got my ice. And the brand of the ice cream? Isbjørn is – Polar bear ice.

 

Ski tour in Sweden – Tjäktja—Alesjaure—Vistas

This article is part of the series “2024-02: Ski tour Sweden”.

Day 7 – 4 March – Tjäktja—Alesjaure

I may repeat myself but again we have sunny weather and blue sky at -6 °C. The only difference, it is windy today. It started last night when we were out to watch the Northern Lights and now the wind is blowing snow over the mountains and through the valley. While we are starting our tour we are having an impressive parhelion and a piece of halo right of the sun. I’m pretty sure that it isn’t created by stratospheric clouds but by the blowing snow.

We descend into the valley Alisvággi and leave the blowing wind behind us. Now sun feels warm but on the ice of the river system Aliseatnu the cold air still wins.

It takes some time until we can spot some of the cabins of Alesjaure. I can see them behind the rocky hill. No, they are on the rocky hill. I remember having tried to climb this turtle shell-like hill with skis and pulka years ago. I have learned my lesson, we walk up. And then we are welcomed by the warden with a hot and very sweet juice. We chat for a while (we have met once years before) and then Annika and I sit on the reindeer skin lying on the bench by the table and take an outdoor picnic. We may choose a room because we are first. We enjoy the weather, inside and outside. Later, after dinner we will head for the sauna.

I thought it would be extremely crowded here but we arrived on the right day. Yesterday: 40 guests. Tomorrow: 50 pre-booked guests. Today: 11 :-)

Day 8 – 5 March – Alesjaure—Vistas

Today is a special day. We do not take a break day, we continue to Vistas where our friend Dirk is currently warden. With 18 kilometres it is the longest distance on our ski tour this year and I was a bit afraid that it could get tough. Is there a track? How is the snow? Therefore I have urged Annika into raising up ridiculously early. We have the large kitchen for us while ptarmigans are hopping and clucking outside of the windows.

The sun starts to illuminate the highest mountain peaks, soon we will have sun as well. 7:05 (sic!) we start our tour.

… and get a little lost. We navigate by eye and sync the stones marked in red with the summer trail on our map. Anyhow it doesn’t fit. The GPS helps and now we know where we are. While finding a good route to get more north were we assume the correct route to be we realise that the summer markers are all over the place. Not helpful! Our assumption was correct, there is the unmarked winter trail. It is obvious, because now we see snow mobile tracks, ski tracks, pulka tracks, boot tracks, snowshoe tracks. I guess we won’t have any navigation challenges anymore today.

We cross the first lake Bajip Čazajávri and the second lake Vuolip Čazajávri, then we stand at the “abyss”. The steepest part of this declining slope falls 50 metres on 200 metres and we both decide to unmount the skis. Beside of a patch of soft snow the snow is good to walk on.

Now we are in the beginning of the valley Visttasvággi which will gently descend for the rest of today’s tour. And since it descend we leave the barren kalfjäll and meet the first birch trees, the first ones since a week.

The next hours we will ski in the sun. The hot sun. First I take off my jacket, then cap and gloves, then I roll up my sleeves. Finally I put on the shirt’s hood again, not for cold but for sun protection. Some photos from the tour:

Moose droppings are not the only animal tracks we see. There are the typical deep moose tracks, the smaller reindeer tracks, countless ptarmigan tracks (both feet and feathers) and a special track – like a fox on snow shoes. This was the description of the Sami on Sälka when he described wolverine tracks. The wolverine track follows the trail for a long time and watching it is pretty exciting.

The wolverine tracks are special, since these animals are rare. Only round about a thousand wolverines live in Scandinavia. But I love the ptarmigan prints as well. They often seem to tell stories.

My titles: 1. Zen garden / 2. Hieroglyphs / 3. Salsa party

After some hours of sun we finally come into the shadow. Almost a relief. Now it is not far anymore to the Vistas cabin, which is not part of the famous Kungsleden trail since it lies in a side valley. Skiing there was much easier then I expected and we had a faster pace then on the preceding shorter distances.

Dirk has seen us already and welcomes us outside with two cups of hot juice. Later we get an incredible five star afternoon snack. It consists of two surprises. First surprise: We found cookies in the leftover food in the kitchen cupboard! Two sorts, one of them with chocolate. That has never ever happened to me before and I hardly can imagine why people should leave cookies behind. I won’t! Anyhow I’m grateful. Second surprise: Dirk does not only invites us to coffee but also to Christmas stollen, a traditional German Christmas cake. It is never too late to eat stollen. Thanks, Dirk, for sharing it with us!

After dinner – Dirk invited us again – I just walk around to take photos. A faint polar light can be seen but it is nothing compared with the last days, especially the night in Tjäktja.

Day 9 – 6 March – Vistas

Today is the fourth and last break day we take on this tour. Are we lazy? Yes and no. Annika is sawing logs, I am chopping the wood (not my best day though). I fetch water from the river by lowering a bucket from the bridge into a patch of open water. The ice on the river is not save. But we also sit outside reading and I am using the short period where the sun shines on the cabins (yes, another fine day) to take some photos.

Tomorrow we will ski to Nallo and stay there over night, then we will come back to Vistas.

Ski tour in Sweden – Kebnekaise—Singi

This article is part of the series “2024-02: Ski tour Sweden”.

Tour day 1 + 2: 27 February – 28 February

It has been four years since Annika and I went on a ski tour. In winter 2021 we didn’t travel because of Covid, in winter 2022 I joined an arctic expedition and in winter 2023 I worked on Svalbard and we went on vacation there. But now it is 2024 and finally we have the opportunity to go on a winter tour.

Prologue

On Sunday, 25. February I take the car from Tromsø to Kiruna. In the back of the car: My skis, all stuff for a two-week winter tour and a pulka. It has been a good choice to take the car because an ore train has derailed between Narvik and Abisko the day before and the railway line is closed (and will be until end of May).

On Monday Annika arrives by train. We buy some extra provisions for the tour such as salami, crisp bread and chocolate and then went to the hotel where we stay over night

On Tuesday we pack the car, take an early breakfast and then go off to Nikkaluokta, a Sami Village and our starting point for the tour. We would have skied the 19 km to the Kebnekaise Mountain Station but it is still closed. Luckily there is another way to get there …

Day 1 – 27 Feb – Nikkaluokta—Kebnekaise—Singi

The family business Sarri AB offers snowmobile transport to Kebnekaise. You can pre-book it. Soon we sit in the surprisingly comfortable trailer and are dragged to the start of the trail to Singi, our first tour destination. Our thick down jackets keep the frost outside.

From there it is 14 km to Singi. The weather is more than fair: blue sky, hardly any wind, frosty but not too cold. Annika is carrying a backpack, I am pulling a pulka.

We are skiing westwards. Beside of a moose and some crows we are alone. Clouds have gathered and the dull light made the mountains look sublime, unreachable and a bit hostile.

Head wind has come up and the sight has worsened a bit. Still we can see far, but the snow is harder to read. Is it hard? Or soft? Does it go up? Or down? It just looks white.

I’ve been here before in winter and I am waiting the cabins of Singi to come into view but it takes longer than expected. Anyhow we finally pass some ice fields …

… and then we can see Singi! After a while we arrive there and are greeted by one of the stugvärder – the wardens. We get hot juice and may choose a room, since there are only two other guests. The rest of the day is mostly eating and sleeping.

Day 2 – 28 Feb – Singi

We have tvelwe days in the Swedish mountains but only eight planned tour days. That leaves four break days, one of them being today.

The morning looks quite promising. Parts of the sky is clear again, parts are cloudy. Some of the clouds move through the valleys which can look quite dramatic.

After breakfast Annika and I take a small tour to the Sami village Goržževuolli (or Kårtjevuolle). On the way there we find an interesting paw print:

It is a paw print of a reindeer, but raised. When it went there it compacted the snow under its foot. Then wind came up and blew away the loose powder snow round the print but not the compacted one.

We pass Singi’s water hole. If you do not want to melt snow (tastes awful) you have to fetch water there. Singi is famous for having the water hole quite far away. If I remember correctly it is 800 metres away (and ca. 25 metres down). We are lucky, the other guests have already fetched a lot of water.

We continue to the village which is only inhabited occasionally. There are a lot of wooden cabins and sheds but there are also some traditional goahtis. Goahtis can be built from different materials, this one is probably built of peat moss and timber:

We look around, enjoy the sun and made a large turn to head back to “our” cabin. Later I am out again to take some photos.

In the evening Annika prepares dinner. While a lot of other people we will meet the next days use to eat “outdoor meals”, which is more or less quite expensive powder we have the luxury of having other food with us. It’s potatoes, feta cheese, onions and sweet peppers. Now fresh – too heavy, too bulky – but home-dried by Annika within the last weeks. Then with the help of fresh garlic, butter and vegan egg-powder (all in our provisions) Annika cooks a tasty frittata for dinner. I understand the point of light-weighted food but this stuff is so much better! Delicious! Tack för maten – Annika. Thanks for the food. Anyhow we can eat this kind of food only on our break days because the dried ingredients have to be covered with water for hours to rehydrate before being used.

After lunch Annika is reading, I am writing my travel diary then we head to our beds and fall fast asleep. Next day we will continue to Sälka, our next cabin.

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!

 

Jämtland tour 22 – the cabins, part 2

This article is part of the series “2022-08: Jämtland and Trøndelag”.

Let’s continue with part 2 of the cabins on our Jämtland hiking tour. You can read the first part here.

4½ – Gamla Sylen

Another emergency hut on our way. We do not rest here, because it is just 2 km behind Sylarna.

5 – Gåsen

In Gåsen we choose the older cabin. It is a “Fjällstuga 65”, also known as Abrahamssonstugan after Tore Abrahamsson, who planned this cabin type in 1965. A room to the left, a room to the right. A large kitchen and two curtain-separated alcoves with five beds each. Propane gas stove, wood stove, no running water, no electricity. It is simple, genuine and it just works! Especially if you have a whole room for yourself as we did.

The other guests prefer the newer cabin, build in the eighties which is great, too – an even larger kitchen and eight four-bed rooms.

Here we take a day off. Time for idling, reading or taking small tours.

And taking an outdoor shower. The water is cold, but not icy. I leave the bath untouched, it is only knee deep.

Gåsen is one of my favourite cabins and places. I’ve been here several times – once in 2013, twice in 2020, but always in winter. It’s always windy but I just love it, even though you have to shovel a lot of snow and going to the toilet can be an effort.

Some photos from winter 2020. The first photo shows the newer cabin. Do you recognise it?

6 – Helags

Two days later we approach Helags fjällstation. Fjällstation means, that there is a restaurant. There are several cabins with self-catering kitchens and sleeping rooms, a house with reception, shop and restaurant, there is a large sauna building and there is Gamla Östan – the oldest cabin, built in 1916.

And that’s where we sleep: The right room in Gamla Östan. It is tiny, has a table, a wood fired stove, a double and a triple bunk bed. To enter the uppermost bed some mountaineering skills are required. The room is really cosy but does not have any kitchen. So we use the one in the cabin called Nordan.

The second evening I made a fire because the cabin was a bit chilly the night before. It takes some time, because the wood stove had its own ideas about getting oxygen or not. But finally it is burning.

It’s a nice combination of living in a museum, having a sauna and hot showers and be able to chose to cook or to go to the restaurant. (We take one breakfast and one dinner. Tasty!) And that all in a gorgeous place amidst the mountains. Me like!

7 – Fältjägaren

The first and only cabin I’ve never been before, neither in summer or in winter. It lies on the top of a hill, has a Fjällstuga 65, a toilet and a tiny cabin for the stugvärd. A really nice place, especially when it’s warm and you can bath in this fantastic mountain lake just some minutes down the hill.

And that was all the cabins we slept over on our hiking tour. Plus some of the resting places.

What I like most is the diversity of the cabins – from Norwegian hygge (cosiness) to Swedish funkis (functional design). From 1916 to 20-something. Variety rules!

Summer paddling to lunch

Since last Friday we have summer home in Obbola, Sweden. Temperatures are round 25 °C (and higher in town) and the sky is mostly blue.

Today it was sunny again. Although working I finally managed to paddle to the beach Bredviks havsbad and eat lunch there. Tour–retour it is about 7 km and since the weather was very calm it was easy to paddle there.  I paddled in shorts and t-shirt but it was still almost too warm. At the beach I took a bath to cool down while waiting for Nouri’s tasty Pinchos.

 

Mai snow in Tromsø

2 May – shall it be spring soon?

With melting snow, slush and strawberries (from the Netherlands)?

Yesterday, 3 May – no.

Today, 4 May – definitely no!

8 cm of fresh snow fell over night. Beside the roads there’s even a layer of crusty, old snow.

If the weather forecast is right, a lot of rain will wash the snow away, but not before the weekend. Let’s see, how long you have to read those “still snow”articles, but when there’s snow, I’ll post about snow.

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 after work tour of the Sørtinden.

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

Here I stand on one of the tops of the Sørtinden, where I was ten days ago the first time. Today the view was much better but it was very windy.

Looks like a normal mountain tour round Tromsø like I’ve made the last weeks, doesn’t it?

But it wasn’t. This time I didn’t hike alone. It was the first post-covid tour organised by the Norwegian Polar Institute. It was seven people and two dogs joining the tour. After many months of home office I fully enjoyed doing something together with other people, most of whom I didn’t know. Yes, it’s possible again in Norway. What a relief!

After we had arrived at the top we took a longer rest. While we shared some goodies I learned a lot about prioritising when being on tour. While I use to take my camera equipment with me, others provide things like …

I just can say that warm fried cinnamon rolls are extremely tasty. Another day I learned something valuable.

Dear colleagues, takk for turen – thanks for the tour.