The first winter promenade

Down there, that’s the southern part of Tromsø. That’s where I live when working for the Norwegian Polar Institute.

There are reasons why I see Tromsø from above today instead of working in the office. First of all my wife Annika is here this week. Then it is wonderful weather today. I was able to take a day off today and so Annika and I could fetch the first cable car up to Stor­stei­nen, 421 m above sea level. From there you have a fantastic view on the islands Tromsøya and Kvaløya, the strait Tromsøysundet and many, many mountains.

While Tromsøya itself is free of snow all mountains look wintry on this sunny day. Our hiking tour starts in the shadow and it takes some time until we reach the pre-summit of Fløya where the sun shines on our faces the first time.

From there it is not far to the summit of Fløya (671 m).

It has become windy and grains of snow are drifting over the snow. In the low sun they look like grains of gold.

Although it is chilly we stay on the top for a while, because the wintry landscape is so beautiful. The season’s first snow hike is always something special and I’m glad that I can share it with Annika this year.

Slowly we walk back. On the top it was easy to go, later the path gets steeper and the snow makes the path slippery. The sun stands lower now and the drifting snow is even more colourful.

We find a sunny though windy spot to drink warm juice and eat some cookies, then we head back to the mountain station of the cable car. While sunset is near, the almost full moon that has accompanied us the whole day starts rising again above the wintry mountain chains.

The first frost – hiking tour on the Laukviktinden

Today was the second day, where my car was covered with ice in the morning. I had to scrape ice after breakfast because I wanted to drive to Kvaløyvågen on the island Kvaløya to hike up the Laukviktinden (587 m) today. The weather was calm and the sky was blue and I enjoyed the views on sea and mountains from the car.

When I passed the shallow bay Finnvika I just had to stop and go there. Large areas were covered with a thin layer of ice that sparkled in the sun. Autumn in Tromsø is a fast season. Last weekend the trees were colourful, now many of them are bare.

20 km later: I just parked my car by the sea and read the tour description. I should follow the road for 80 metres, take the gravel road to the left and leave it when it turns left. The rest of the tour would be pathless but according to the book easy to find.

When I left the gravel road the terrain was a bit tricky. It was more or less overgrown boulders with hidden holes. The trees had shed their leaves and almost looked dead. I was glad when I had reached the mountain ridge where it was much easier to walk. The wet moss was covered with frost and so were the water puddles. Laukviktinden came into view, but I knew that there would be an acsent before. It looked pretty steep. Hopefully it’s just the perspective.

And indeed it was less steep than expected. A bit tricky however because some parts were wet and slippery. And that one of the countless moss pads hid a knee deep water puddle was not nice ;-) ! It is always a satisfying experience when you gain altitude, are above the tree line and can see more and more – both fjords and mountains.

Just straight ahead I spotted the lake Laukvikvatna and its neighbours. They lie 50 metres below. So I first had to climb down before hiking up again. Most of the lakes were covered with a thin layer of ice.

From the lake it is only 200 more metres in altitude to the top – according to the tour book. That meant that most of the the ascent lied behind me. It was easy to go up, only the very last part was a steep boulder field. Probably not the best routeI chose, but that was hard to see from below.

The terrain flattened out and then – all of the sudden – I could see the summit marker: A huge pile of stones with a metal box containing the summit book. And behind that: The open sea with the island Vengsøya.

What do you do on mountain summits beside of adding your name to the summit book? Yes – you take a selfie! After that I went a bit further to a place where the terrain drops off steeply. Here the view was really impressive because I could not only see the open sea and its islands but the bay Laukvika and even the boggy marshland that looked like it was directly under my feet. Here I took my iPhone as camera because it has a wide angle lens.

I took a break, ate some cookies and drank water. I even met another hiker that probably hiked up twice as fast as me. Then I started my way back. I found a better way because it is so much easier to find a good path when you look from above. Later my optimism was dampened when I landed in quite steep terrain and had to traverse it a bit until I was on my old trail.

Round 9½ km later I reached the gravel road again. In the shadow the ground was still frozen, but the car that waited in the sun was warm.

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!

Kayaking into the dark

It seems, that summer is over. It’s less a matter of temperature but light. Next night will be autumnal equinox and today’s sunset was already at 18:47. Tromsø has almost the same longitude as Budapest.

Anyhow the Thursday paddling of Tromsø Havpadelklubb – the Tromsø sea kayak association – still hold place today. Next week will be the last time for this season. Today we had perfect conditions: No waves, no wind and 10 °C. We had many a summer day worse than that here in Tromsø

May I present, that is D5. It’s one of the many rental kayaks of the association and my standard choice. My own kayak is in Sweden.

Today we were 15 people heading to the island Grindøya on the other side of the sound between Tromsøya and Kvaløya. OK, let’s start …

First we paddled along the coast, then we started crossing the sound. From the boat houses to Grindøya it is round about 4 km.

This time we did not paddle round the island like in June or two weeks ago. Instead we headed for a beach at the northern tip and made a break there. I had a piece of soft chocolate cake with cashew nuts, a welcome leftover of the three day data management workshop that I joined this week. And while we stood or sat there it started getting dark.

Some of my fellow paddlers already had switched on their lights on the way to Grindøya, now we all illuminated our kayaks and ourself. It’s less about seeing but about being seen. There is commercial shipping on the sound. We prepared our kayaks and departed.

While we paddled back it got darker and darker. It’s really a special experience to paddle through the dark in a group. You hear the drone of the city, occasionally interrupted by an airplane or a motorcycle. But that’s far away. Our own sounds are near: soft conversation and the little noises of the paddle entering and leaving the surface of the sea. And since you see less and less, hearing becomes more and more present. And anyhow I tried to paddle as silent as possible not to disturb the quietness.

When we arrived at the boat houses of Tromsø Havpadelklubb it had become dark. The tour lasted only an hour and a half plus a half hour break. But the peaceful sound of kayaking calmly through the darkness lingers still in my ears.

 

 

 

 

Takk for turen – Thursday paddling – 8 september

Oh, what a wonderful kayak tour! And oh, what wonderful weather!

We were 31 kayakers from the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club today and split into two groups. 19 paddled to Telegrafbukta, where I’ve been last week, 12 paddled to Grindøya, where I’ve been in June. I joined the Grindøya group and was very glad that I got some training this year. Not because of the waves that we had on the way there but because the group was experienced and quite fast. But I managed to follow and could take some snapshots on the tour.

Now it starts getting dark quite soon and we must have lighting at our life vests and the stern of the kayak. I had only some make-shift light and have to buy some equipment for next Thursday.

But now it’s getting late, so no more words, just some photos. To all today’s fellow paddlers: takk for turen – thanks for the tour.

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!

Thursday paddling – 1 september

It was five weeks ago that I joined the Thursday paddling of my kayak club in Tromsø last time. That time we were only three paddlers, today we were 19. Could be the weather ;-)

One group of eight returned after a while, we others continued to the beach at Telegrafbukta where we took a longer break. While we had the wind in our backs on the way there, the wind already started to die down on our way back. Good luck! It was beginning to get dark, but many paddlers were prepared and had lights on their kayaks and themselves to be seen.

Some photos from today:

Takk for turen!

Paddling in Obbola

Since the weekend I’ve been back in Obbola in Sweden. This afternoon it stopped drizzling and the sun came out. So Annika and I took an evening tour with our kayaks. I’m so glad, that I’m home with Annika even though it’s only for three weeks.

Thursday paddling round Grindøya

Yesterday I was in the mountains – today at 18:00 I joined the torsdagspadling (Thursday paddling) of the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club. Together with 16 others paddlers and a dachshund we crossed the Grindøyskarven and rounded the island Grindøy.

The conditions were excellent: Hardly any wind, a calm sea, blue sky and temperatures almost 20 °C. Perfect not only for paddling but also for taking a break in the sun – of course at the northern tip where we didn’t disturb the common eiders that nest along the beaches of Grindøya. Then we paddled back – with a small sprint to avoid two ships crossing. No danger however because the guides have a VHF to talk to the ships but they already had spotted us and had slowed down. Three hours later we were back from our round 12 km long paddle tour.

Takk for turen, thanks for the tour! And thanks to all organisers of the torsdagspadling. Great initiative!

“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!