Different ways of kayaking

Since Annika doesn’t have a kayak yet I use to paddle alone. Mostly it’s short tours as for example the day before yesterday. I paddled to the beach Bredviks havsbad to join the yoga group at 8:30. To my surprise it’s shorter to paddle than to take the bicycle or car and so I was 20 minutes early.

After yoga I took a small tour – first north and then along the coast of Obbola.

Then I took an early lunch at the boat harbour since I didn’t had any breakfast. The kiosk there has not only hamburgers but tasty dishes as hummus or ćevapčići and Annika and I eat there quite often. After lunch I slowly paddled home. Slowly, because (a) being stuffed with food, (b) being lazy and (c) the increasing wind from the front.

Yesterday afternoon Annika and I got guests. Corry and Mark from Germany have written on Facebook about the difficulty of finding good tenting places at Västerbottens coast. They have been on a long kayak tour that they started in Haparanda four weeks ago. A common friend commented on the post asking us whether we wouldn’t have a nice meadow for tenting in our garden. Well, we have, and we even have our own little guest house, that Mark and Corry gladly accepted after they had arrived here yesterday afternoon. Last weekend Svitlanda and Ebbe (almost) came by sailing yacht, now we got our first guests that landed by sea directly at our house. It’s fun to live by the sea!

We had a nice evening together with outdoor cooking over open fire and inspiring conversations yesterday. This morning Corry and Mark continued their sea kayak tour. I had the honour to join them a bit.

At 8:15 we started by setting in the kayaks and paddling south. Since they have inflatable kayaks they have to be more careful of rocks and shallows. So we paddled further away from the coast than I use to do. I got some technique tipps about paddling more effortlessly and I really enjoyed the company.

Anyhow I decided to say farewell after an hour. Mark and Corry started crossing more open water and I wouldn’t dare to return the same route alone. Thanks a lot, Corry and Mark for nice company!

While the adventurers headed for the horizon I circled the island Tarv and slowly headed back. To my amazement the whole tour took only 2½ hours; I’ve miscalculated.

Now I know, that there are many destinations to be discovered by kayak and that they are not far away. It’s fun to live by the sea!

Splendid Sunday sailing

It was last winter that Annika and I met Svitlana and Ebbe first. They were the wardens of the Gåsen mountain cabin in the mountains of Jämtland where we went on a ski tour. When they heard that Annika lived in Umeå they told us of their sailing trips and that they know the boat harbour in Obbola near Umeå.

Five months later. Annika and I have been living together in our freshly bought house in Obbola for three months. We already knew, that Svitlana and Ebbe have been sailing north for some weeks and last Saturday they arrived in the boat harbour Bredvik, just 3½ km away. We could even see their sailing yacht passing by from our house.

We hadn’t any time on Saturday but on Sunday we invited them for breakfast. At the same time, they invited us on a sailing tour which we eagerly accepted. The weather forecast was so-so but in the beginning the sun was shining. As soon Svitlana had motored the yacht out of the harbour Ebbe set the sails and gently we sailed southwards and soon passed our house. I had seen the house from sea before while paddling but it was the first time Annika could see if from this perspective. (And again we agreed in living in an extraordinary beautiful place.)

Then we turned left and sailed a large triangle on the open sea. As a matter of fact it was Svitlana and Ebbe who sailed. We did nothing beside of enjoying.

Already two and a half hours later we arrived at the harbour again but sailing with Svitlana and Ebbe was so fun that it felt like a complete holiday.

Already the day before we had learned a new Swedish verb: att bryggsegla. Literally translated to “to jetty-sail” it means to enjoy being on the moored yacht in the harbour. And we did enjoy both food and company.

Большое спасибо Svitlana, tack så mycket Ebbe for a wonderful day! We’ll meet again!

Photos in the rain

This morning it drizzled and rained and the summer colours seem to have vanished. So I took it a step further and started to take black and white photos today. I was not the only one outside in this weather. Two professional fishermen cruised in the mouth of the river Umeälven in their open boat followed by a flock of seagulls.

This is the beginning of a “rainy weather” black and white series. Let’s see how often I’ll go out and take photos in rain or storm.

And you? Do you like to take photos in bad weather or do you prefer the sun?

 

A kayak course by the Umeå Kanotklubb

It’s the second week of Annika’s (and my) holiday and we are registered for a three-day paddle course which is carried out by the local association Umeå Kanotklubb. Two days we’ll be on the lake Nydalasjön in Umeå to learn the basic technique, the last day we’ll do a tour on the Baltic Sea starting in Holmsund. I’ve been paddling for almost ten years now but never learned any technique, so I was eager to join the course. Annika has paddled only a few times before and was interested in testing paddling before buying a kayak herself.

The first day. While the others sit in very short and agile whitewater kayaks, Annika and I have chosen sea kayaks, which are longer but much less agile. The others have it easier to make turns and bents, we have it easier to paddle straight ahead and are faster, too. In the beginning we learn the basic paddle strokes forward and backward. Part two is to capsize intentionally just to learn the feeling. Do we get wet? No – we are already completely soaked by the heavy rain, that is chattering down from black clouds above us.

The second day – same location as the first one. It’s not about learning something new but more about repeating and deepening the first day’s learnings. We do a short tour to the bridge Kinabron – hardly more than 700 metres away and then we train capsizing again.

Annika and I try kamraträddning – a rescue technique. We test on our own because the instructors are more into whitewater kayaking where you use completely different rescue techniques. While Annika succeeds in rescuing me I do a mistake and her kayak is flooded almost up to the rim within seconds. We do not have a pump with us but luckily we are only ten metres away from shore and can walk the kayak ashore.

Day three – for us the highlight because we want to make kayak tours on the sea and that’s what we do today. Using sea kayaks is quite different from using whitewater kayaks and so we have an additional instructor that tells us everything we need to join today’s tour. After the instruction we carry the boats into the water and start a tour to the island Lill-Haddingen which is 3–4 km away. There we make of course a fika – a break for eating, drinking, resting. The conditions are good. Hardly any waves, hardly any wind. It would have been a really easy tour for Annika and me if we hadn’t chosen a tandem kayak. It is quite challenging to steer together and to always paddle synchronously to avoid our paddle blades colliding. It is fun to test the tandem kayak but we prefer the single ones. After paddling back almost the whole way we are shown kamraträddning – the rescue technique Annika and I tried the day before but we do not train it by ourselves. It has become later than expected when we finish our tour but especially the third day was a fantastic experience. Thank you, Umeå Kanotklubb for the course! We come again when you offer a rescue course.

 

Two short kayak tours

Two short kayak tours from the new home by the sea.

The first one morning last week. Just round the island Bredskär. The water surface smooth as silk and in beautiful pastel colours. Everything was quiet beside of the complaining sea birds.

The second one the day before yesterday in the afternoon. Just to the beach at Vitskärsudden. Through tiny waves and a lot of rocks. At the sandy beach I met Annika for a bath. She came by bike. The Baltic Sea not as cold as last time. Summer is coming.

Both tours were equally fun and both of them made me very grateful that I may live here at this fantastic place.

Farewell Skelleftehamn

Sweden. Somewhere in the north. A little town called Skelleftehamn. A small street called Tallvägen. Street number 35. My house, that I named flygelvillan. The large living room. The left half with the grand piano and the computer. That has been a central place to me for many years.

At this place I wrote most of the blog articles of way-up-north.com. I worked. I planned my travels. I communicated. I looked out of the window when it snowed. I played on my grand piano. I rehearsed with a jazz trio and an opera singer. I composed and arranged for big band and chamber choir.

A central place.

Two days ago, on 15 May 2020 I left my house for good. It’s still mine but I’ll sell it this year.

Two days ago at 8 o’clock the large moving lorry arrived and five people started to carry all my belongings into the large car. First some furniture, then more than 150 boxes, pulka, kayak, skis and large bags with sleeping bags and down jackets. And finally my Yamaha grand piano.

The whole move took less than eight hours. Then my grand piano stood erected in the living room of Annika’s and my new house by the sea.

Shall I be sad because I left Skelleftehamn? Perhaps I should, but I’m not. The positive feelings about living together with Annika and having found such an extraordinary place to live dominate. I really have been looking forward to this new life and now it has become reality.

A skitour from cabin to cabin – part 3

This article is part of the series “2020-03: Ski tour Jämtland II”.

8 March – Vålåstugan

The weather forecast was right. After a calm and sunny day yesterday it looks very different outside. It is grey and the wind has become stormy and gusty.

All people consider their plans. Among others a group of four decides to remain. They wanted to continue to Helags, round 22 km in the southwest. They would have got the stormy wind straight from the front.

Other skiers plan to return to Vålådalen. It’s Sunday, their last holiday. They ask each other to team up and they exchange phone numbers with Olle, one of the wardens. I do not envy them being out in rough weather with increasing wind speeds with squalls up to 27 m/s in the afternoon. While they equip themselves with balaclavas and ski goggles Annika and I keep inside, peeking through the window that starts to be covered with wet snow.

After all skiers have left Vålåstugan it’s very quiet inside with 10 people remaining. Most of them are on their rooms, only one man seems to love cooking. Until noon he has baked fresh bread, made popcorn and fried pancakes. We are invited to popcorn and get part of the pancake powder so that we can make our own ones. If I’m inside the whole day my interest in eating dramatically increases.

While we spend most of our time reading and being lazy the benches on the sun terrace start to snow in. That’s however nothing compared to the other side of the cabin. A metre high snowdrift has started covering the marked way to the outdoor toilet until Olle relocates the waymarks to a less snowed area. At the same time it has became quite warm, slightly above zero.

In the afternoon the other skiers start to ring. At the end of the day it is clear: All of them reached Vålådalen without any harm. We are quite relieved because we read and heard stories about serious (and even deadly) incidents in the mountains in winter time.

We are equipped with a metal shovel, with warm down bags and bivy bags, but even good equipment is only of limited help when the weather is too severe or there is no snow to dig in.

Tomorrow we want to ski to the mountain cabin Lunndörren. According to the forecast it will be slightly colder, sunny and less windy. Good to know, then we dare to continue our tour.

9 March – Vålåstugan – Lunndörren

The next day the skis in front of the house are wrapped in wet snow, now frozen again. I’m glad that my skis are inside. Yesterday evening I glued the long climbing skins under them because we may have to climb many snow drifts today. The weather is fine and it promises to be a sunny day.

At 8 o’clock we say hejdå to the stugvärdarna – the wardens – Olle and Amie. We shall greet the stugvärdarna at Lunndörren. We put on our backpacks, mount the skis, I put on the belt that is connected with the pulka and then we depart.

The first part is easy to ski and extremely beautiful. At every branch tip of the birch trees small pieces of ice are hanging and sparkling in the sun.

We spot a reindeer. When you see one, there are probably others around, too. And so it is. Five reindeers that carefully look at us. They gather in a small group until we come nearer and they walk away.

The first 4 km the snow is perfect. There’s grip for the skis and even with the climbing skins we can glide effortlessly other the snow.

Then it gets more difficult. The plains are so exposed to the wind that they are almost snow-free. Sometimes there’s a visible path, sometimes we have to ski around.

Then the snow gets so hard and slippery that everything starts to slide and it’s near impossible to break. Yesterday’s warm weather and today’s frost have created an icy crust on top of the snow. Sometimes the pulka runs more beside than behind me. When it goes downhills I take large detours to flatten the slope avoiding becoming too fast. Beside of my problems skiing this snow can look very beautiful, especially against the sun.

Later the snow at the surface is as icy as before but the underlying snow doesn’t bare the weight any longer so that we break through. Several times I am run over by my pulka while my skis are stuck. My left wrist still hurts a bit from one fall, one of the less nice memories of this fantastic ski tour.

At last it was snowmobiles that have improved the situation for us. The tracks they have left have broken the icy crust and here we can ski quite well even though I have to unmount the skis for some of the steeper parts. We want to arrive anyway. It’s Annika, who spots the flag of the STF, the Swedish Tourist Association. And there it is: The mountain cabin Lunndörren!

Here Jonas, Arne and I seeked shelter from the storm 17 days ago.  Now we are first welcomed by the friendly cabins in the sunshine and then the friendly wardens.

Lunndörren has a highlight we have been looking to for days: A sauna! Already at 17:00 Annika and will sit there enjoying the heat. But before taking a sauna we take another opportunity. Former guests asked for permission to cut a hole into the ice of the small lake by the sauna some days before. Therefore Lunndörren has an ice hole this season. Of course we have to take an ice bath before the sauna. (Taking it after sauna is considered cheating by winter bathers.)

If you ever want to take pictures of a person making faces: Throw her or him into icy water. Four examples (Photos: Annika Kramer):

After 95 °C in the sauna we took a shower. No, not a normal shower with shower head and and chrome valve, just a bucket full of hot water. But it’s enough to wash your hair and yourself. We feel so fresh again afterwards!

Later that evening I stroll around in the full moon. This will be the last night of the ski tour. Tomorrow we will ski back to Vålådalen, where I parked my car only seven days ago.

10 March – Lunndörren – Vålådalen

It’s always a bit strange, the last tour day. Car keys get more important than the pocket knife and mobile internet becomes normal again. Fortunately it’s much easier to ski today than the day before and comfortably we follow the red crosses marking the winter path. After a while we see the first cross country ski-runs and more people around. At the end we have to navigate, because there are so many possible ways. I decide to take the bridge over the river Vålån, the very same bridge I used on the other ski tour three and a half weeks ago. And almost suddenly we are standing on the parking place next to my car. We unmount the skis, load the skis and pulka into the roof box and fill the car with leftover food, sleeping bags, snow shovel and other equipment. And since we were quite fast today we even make it to lunch.

Tack för turen, Annika. Thanks for the tour. Where do we ski next winter?

 

A skitour from cabin to cabin – part 2

This article is part of the series “2020-03: Ski tour Jämtland II”.

6 March – GåsenVålåstugan

What a beautiful morning: blue sky, -8 °C, hardly any wind. I take my tripod and make some photos of the mountains around us.

After two cozy days at Gåsen Annika and I are eager to continue our ski tour and already at 8:15 we say farewell. Next stop: Vålåstugan, 16 km away.

The first kilometre the way leads up. The snow is grippy and soon we are on the top of the saddle. Cirrus cloud have risen and there’s a halo with sun dogs around the sun. We look back and spot Gåsen in the distance. Just some dark spots in an apparently endless expanse of snow, but there you get all you need, from shelter to food.

One and a half hour later we see the emergency hut Härjångsdalen. At the same time a helicopter is coming from north. It lowers fast, turns a lap and then lands directly by the hut. Shortly after we arrive, too. Two people climb out of the helicopter. They inspect the emergency phone in the hut. I would love to have a job that includes flying helicopters to see the mountains from above.

We continue our trip through the kalfjäll – the bare mountains above the timberline.

Slowly we descend and the first birch trees come into view. We take a break on a small hill where the wind has blown away the snow. Normally this could be a rather bad place to rest, because it is exposed to the wind from all directions but today it’s calm and sunny. Soon after the break I take off the jacket and ski without. The woollen shirt is warm enough in the sun.

At 13:50 we arrive at Vålådalen. We are the first guests today. A lot of people are expected today, among others a group of fourteen, guided by the Swedish Tourist Association STF. We have the choice, where to stay and choose room 1 in the new cabin, where we’ll share the 4-bed-room with the two STF tour guides.

Gradually other skiers come, from single skiers to larger groups. Some have pulkas, most only backpacks. Some stay in the old cabin, most in the larger new one. Here the kitchen is quite large and all people find place.

7 March – Vålåstugan

Another beautiful morning. -10 °C.

As we did in Gåsen we do not continue to the next cabin but stay here for a day. Today we are lucky, because the weather is so beautiful. We do a small ski tour to the other side of the valley. It’s always fun to ski without a heavy backpack or pulka. And on the slope leading up to the mountain Gruvsmällen we even have mobile internet. I use the opportunity to check the weather for tomorrow. Oops, that doesn’t look promising.

On the way back we pass the water source. It is protected by a wooden hut which lies deeply under the snow. A stair leading down to the hut is cut into the snow. I wonder how the stugvärdarna – the wardens – knew where to start digging, then I spot an orange plastic bar. Maybe that bar marks the entrance to the hut. Inside you can see, that the hut is built directly over a small stream. Here you can refill the water buckets from the kitchens.

And water we need. Already before our ski tour Annika has started to water the dried food: potatoes, onions, vegetables, feta cheese. In the evening we wait until the larger groups have completed cooking. Then Annika starts to make another frittata. Ingredients: the dried food mentioned above, butter, egg powder, milk powder, salt, herbs and spices. And again it tastes great.

Olle, one of the wardens comes with a weather update. That’s important for the guest of Gåsen because here is no mobile reception. He confirms what I already know: Tomorrow it will snow and be very windy with average wind round 19 m/s.

People start discussing: shall they continue to the next destination tomorrow or stay at the cabin? We decide to stay another day and get a thumbs up from Olle. Others plan to ski back to Vålådalen tomorrow. Tomorrow it’s Sunday and many have to work again on Monday.

Continue with part 3 >

A skitour from cabin to cabin – part 1

This article is part of the series “2020-03: Ski tour Jämtland II”.

I already have made ski tours in Scandinavia. The first one was 2005 and others in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. What I never did before was doing two ski tours in a row. This year is a premiere. Four days after the last tour day with Arne and Jonas I had the pleasure to do another tour with Annika.

As the tour before we planned to start in Vålådalen and even parts of the tour were equal, only we skied the other way around. If you ask me, travelling the same area twice doesn’t matter, because the weather you cope, the people you meet, the experiences you have, they are all different.

2 March – Vålådalen – Stensdalen Fjällstuga

Annika and I start our ski tour at 9:30. 5 cm of fresh snow cover all snowmobile tracks. Only some fresh ski tracks show us that we are not the first ones.

We ski through the forest. The weather is grey, it snows a bit, -9 °C. I think the forest looks boring in this dull light. Today I hardly take the cameras out of my backpack. Only a small pine tree gets my attention.

Will I take any photos on this second ski tour? Well – I don’t have to. We’ll see …

We arrive in Stensdalen Fjällstuga, the first cabin at 15:00. We can choose: the old or the new cabin? We are curious about the new cabin and get a six bed room. We are four people in the room which is equipped with three bunk beds. I sleep in the upper bed and can look through the tiny square window. Annika’s window is snowed in.

People who know me know that I prefer the mountains to the forest. Does the mountains like me, too? It seems so. On the plywood wall of one of the earth closets it is written: “Fjället älskar dig.” – “The mountains love you.”

The rest of the day? Sauna — dinner — early bedtime. Tomorrow we want to get up at 6:30. It’s only 14 km to Gåsen but it is 350 metres higher than Stensdalen and we are not sure how long it will take.

3 March – Stensdalen FjällstugaGåsen

6:00. The alarm clock hasn’t rung yet but we are already awake. We leave our sleeping room and enter the huge common room with kitchen, where I light the huge wood stove. Annika is boiling water for tea. We have a full breakfast with bread, cheese, and eggs – all leftovers from our breakfast at the hostel the day before.

We like the style of the new cabin. It may be less cozy than the old ones but the separation of the sleeping room is nice and there’s a lot of space so that even with a lot of people it is hardly crowded.

8:20. We just walked across the wooden bridge by the sauna and strap on our skis. 8 cm fresh snow have fallen. We ski through birch forests. Our skis sink 10-15 cm into the snow.

Suddenly Annika makes a sign to stop and to be quiet. It’s a bird – a woodpecker chopping on an old tree trunk. Carefully I get out my camera with the telephoto lens and slowly I ski towards the bird. It seems to ignore me. When I’m hardly three metres away I start to crouch. Frrrr … the woodpecker flies away. For the bird lovers (and Google): It’s a three toed woodpecker.

The snow is soft and we are slow. How long will it take us to Gåsen? I hope that the snow is less deep in the kalfjäll – the parts above the timberline. After 4, 5 km the forest opens and a large ascending mountain slope comes into view. We meet two skiers that come from Gåsen (they have been really fast). We thank each other for making a trace. A trace that we hardly need for now the snow is much harder. So it’s less exhausting to ski although we have to ski up. Less than two hours later we have approached Stähtja, an emergency hut that we use for a break.

When we continue the sun has started to peek through holes in the clouds. The lighting moods are great and sometimes hardly believable. Snow is purple in the shadow and yellow in the sun, sometime the scenery looks like big studio lights have been set up for filming. I think it’s nearly impossible to catch these sophisticated moods but of course I try anyway.

We ski about a large snowy saddle that looks infinite. A sign says “Gåsen 3km”. First we are completely alone but then another skier approaches. It’s stugvärd Ebbe, one of the cabin wardens whom I already met on the other ski tour. He welcomes us and continues skiing. We continue, too. On the highest point of the saddle Gåsen comes into view.

Just before we arrive Ebbe returns from his ski trip and welcomes us again, this time with hot berry juice – the traditional welcome on the STF mountain cabins. We are the only guests and in the same room as Arne, Jonas and me nine days before. The proof? The garlic that we had forgot is still there.

Later four French people arrive. They hardly speak to us. I guess they only feel comfortable speaking French, a language we cannot speak.

The wind increases. We do not care. We want to stay here at least one more night.

4–5 March – two days at Gåsen

It’s windy in the morning. Outside its -8 °C, inside our cabin temperature has dropped to 7 °C. I fire the “Upland” wood stove. It is very slow and it will take half the day until the cabin is warm again. The French group leaves. I do not envy them because the wind is increasing and it is snowing.

At 10:00 we leave our cabin and go to the stugvärdarnas cabin. Ebbe has invited us to fika – coffee – and Svitlana has baked a delicious chocolate cake. We sit there and talk for almost two hours until we hear the sound of an approaching snowmobile. It transports food and goods, both for Svitlana and Ebbe as well as for the Fältjägaren Fjällstuga, 30 km in the south.

We invite Svitlana and Ebbe for dinner. Annika had dried potatoes, onions and vegetables at home to spare weight. Now she is watering the dried food.

Later that day I have another appointment. Ebbe and I fetch water from the waterhole. Ebbe wanted to do that in the afternoon when the wind has calmed down, since it’s a bit to go to. You see the tiny square right from Ebbe’s head on the first photo? That’s the waterhole. It’s four metres deep, so you take a bucket to pull up the water, fill it into the plastic containers and then use the sledge to pull it back. One container for the warden’s, one for our cabin.

And the used water? There are own buckets for it and an own place where to pour out them. They are marked with the word slusk.

At 18:00 Svitlana and Ebbe arrive. Annika has used milk powder, egg powder and the watered potatoes and vegetables to make frittata. It’s enough to invite Magnus from Göteborg as well. He slept in the tent the nights before and now stays in the same cabin as us. Svitlana brings fresh bread and Annika’s frittatas taste great. We even have some Florentine biscuit as dessert. A luxury multi-course  dinner at Gåsen with great company. What a fantastic evening!

Annika and I decide to stay another day. Magnus is not sure yet.

We take it easy this morning. Magnus has decided to stay, too. So Magnus and I can help Ebbe with the gas cylinders. Full gas cylinders have to be connected to the warden’s cabin. The gas connection is at the back of the cabin and was completely snowed in, since here the snow reaches over the roof. Ebbe has already dug down to the door and Magnus and I use a rope to slowly lower the heavy gas cylinders down to Ebbe. These are jobs, where a stugvärd needs support of the guests and we are glad to help.

Not only the back of the stugvärd cabin is snowed in. The old cabin is also surrounded of snow and with a single step you could climb on the roof. Ebbe told us, that a snow groomer would come in two weeks to dig out the cabin.

This day more people arrive. First to constantly talking women, than a party of six. Magnus already fled the crowd by moving to the other room, Annika and I follow soon. There it is cold, but quite.

The weather has got better and tomorrow both Magnus and us want to start early. He will return to Storulvån, we want to continue to Vålåstugan.

Continue with part 2 >