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 +++

Sun salutation

While the polar night in Tromsø started in the end of November and continues for two more weeks there is no polar light home in Obbola which is 6 degrees south of Tromsø. So if there is clear sky, then there is sun.

After Christmas in Norway Annika and I arrived in Obbola some days ago. First the weather was cloudy and stormy but today  sky was quite clear. Therefore I could witness the sun today for the first time in more than a month. I only had to go 200 metres to the edge of our little bay Grundviken where I waited for the sunrise.

I love sunrises and sometimes I can stand up quite early to witness it. But today it was really special to watch the sun rise higher and higher up the sky while in Tromsø polar night still continues.

After breakfast we took the car to Byviken in Obbola to join the winter bath. Round 40 cars were parked there and a queue of winter bathers waited at the ice hole. Winter bathing has really become a popular sport within the last years. We decided to avoid the queue and continued to our favourite beach at Vitskärsudden where we had to climb over a wall of ice but then we were the only winter bathers. Air: -10 °C, no wind – perfect conditions. Great!

(Photos: Annika Kramer)

We may take another outdoor bath today, but then in the hot water of our friend’s hot tub. I guess this bath could take slightly longer than the previous one.

A cabin named Fredly

Let me take you to my favorite place
Just a five hour drive from the city
Just follow the road until it stops
And then keep walking for another forty minutes
Then – out of nowhere – there it is
My cabin!

(Ylvis, “My cabin”)

I was lucky to get the my employer’s cabin for the Christmas week this year. The cabin of the Norwegian Polar Institute lies on a mountain slope by the fjord Kattfjorden. Two days ago Annika and I packed my car with a a lot of food and winter equipment and drove to the cabin, which is 40 km away from where I live in Tromsø. It lies by the road to Sommarøya (the summer island) which is a funny name when you drive through intense snow fall.

We did not have an address, but a small map and a description and so we found the parking place where the cabin supposed to be. And there it was, up on the hill in seemingly pathless terrain.

But under the snow there was a path up the hill and we found it. It took some efforts to bear everything up.

A Norwegian cabin can be everything from a wooden box to a luxury retreat. Our cabin has running water (cold and hot), electricity, underfloor heating, a kitchen, a bathroom with shower, a wood-burning stove, a sauna, internet and more.

We followed the manual and turned the underfloor heating to the maximum, but even after some hours the cabin was as chilly as before. We failed to fire the wood-burning stove because there were only large logs of wood and no axe.

At one o’clock in the night we woke up. Whether it was because of the gusty and stormy wind or of the cold I cannot say. 8 °C in the cabin, the same as hours before.

I put on clothes and went down the hill to look for an axe in the woodshed by the road. I didn’t find one but I found bags with smaller pieces of wood. I hefted one up (exhausting!) and finally was able to make a fire. We were awake for an hour, sitting by the oven, gladly watching the thermometer showing the rising temperature.

Right now it’s icy cold
But in sixteen hours, it’s gonna be hot!

(Ylvis, “My cabin”)

The next day I slept until 10 o’clock. It was still dark and Annika and I took breakfast. One hour later it was bright enough to see the falling snow. We put on our clothes and went to the fjord Kattfjorden, which is less than 100 metres away from the cabin – and 20 metres in altitude.

We looked at the rocky coast and the seaweed covered stones and decided not to winter bath here today. Soon we trudged uphills through the snow back to the cabin and took it easy for the rest of the day. I can say, that the short days in the time of the polar night can be really relaxing.

At 13:00 the sky started to clear up and the snowy mountain ranges glowed colourfully. Polar night does not mean that it is pitch black 24 hours a day.

How lucky we are, we who may be here and stay for Christmas. In the cabin named Fredly (peaceful shelter).

Tromsøya crossing in winter

An almost true story to be read out loud with a deep and rough voice.

I survived one of mankind’s largest expeditions of our times – the crossing of the arctic island Tromsøya from south to north! Probably I’m the first one, who dared to face this extraordinary challenge.

The arctic ice breaker could not approach the harsh coastal line of Tromsøya’s southern tip. Too mighty the storm, too sharp the rocky cliffs, too high the enormous waves! I was forced to row the last mile in a wooden dinghy. When I approached land I realised that despite of months of planning I was without food! Would I survive? Well, the tour must start, with or without provisions. One has to go one in live.

The land was wild and it was hard to find the entry point of my expedition. Where is Sydspissen, the Southern tipp? With my extraordinary orientation skills I finally managed to find this unexplored promontory which would be the starting point for my crossing.

I followed the coastal line through a field of invincible rocks. The storm howled and the surge of waves covered everything in spray. I decided to leave the exposed coast and seek shelter in the inland. To my surprise I found some ancient dwellings.

It seemed that this hostile island had been inhabited earlier. What a discovery! I continued my way and realised that I was not alone. People still seemed to live here. While most of the indigenes hid inside some dared to be outside, guarded by their dogs. The houses were shocking. While the people seemed to have some basic skills in woodcraft, they still lacked the knowledge of constructing right angles.

I continued my way through the forbidding terrain. After a while it opened and gave view to an extent of ice. Could it be a lake? Probably it had been frozen for centuries. Here I spotted more locals. As the others before they ignored me. Didn’t they dare to seek contact? I do not know. First I though they would hunt seal or walrus but they just seemed to wander around without any goal.

Soon I was alone again in the rough mountain scape of this arctic island. Orientation was extremely difficult. Without my compass and sextant I probably would have been lost forever in this pathless country. I was completely on my own.

The terrain descended and gave view to a strange installation. Scaffoldings pointing up to the sky were erected randomly on that slope. Was is temples or other places of worship? Who build them? When? And why? Probably one never will find out.

Since I lost my food I was forced to continue my expedition. Time was precious. The land was bleak and barren. No trees, no bushes, nothing. Maybe some moss seeking shelter between the stone could survive under the eternal snow. For other plants this place is too hostile. 

The mountains became even higher and I got view on a small coastal village, probably abandoned ages ago. One wooden house lay nearby but it lacked a door and most of the walls.

I looked for walkable paths that would lead me further north. The more north I came the more glaciers covered the land.

It started to get dark but without food I did not dare to seek shelter. I was forced to go on and go on without any rest. Amidst the mountains I spotted two indigenes. They sat on some kind of toboggan well clad in furs to keep them warm in the harsh sub-zero climate. I did not dare to disturb them and only managed to get a blurred photo as a proof of my observations.

According to my positional measurements the northern tipp of Tromsøya could not be far. I had survived until now. Would I make it to Nordspissen, the northern tip?

Alas – after more efforts and privations I managed to reach Nordspissen. I was grateful that fate allowed me to be the first human who reached this remote spot on foot. To my big surprise the legend was true: There is a mystic monument at Tromsøya’s northern tip and I can prove it:

But my efforts were in vain. I was too late! The last ship of the season just had passed by. Now I was forced to live here on this remote and solitary polar island for another year. But that’s daily routine for tough explorers like me.

 

Interval training in Vasstrand

Today I tried a tour on the mountain Stappen on the island Kvaløya, where I did most of my hiking tours the last months. In my book “På tur i Tromsø” it is marked as quite easy and that it would take 1½ hours up. Well, perhaps in summer …

Although sun does not rise anymore it’s already quite bright at 9 o’clock. I stop my car ride of 45 minutes to take this photo at 9:20 on the mountain passage.

At 9:50 I start my tour. No snow shoes, but spikes in case of icy patches. And a warm down jacket. And a tripod for making photos in twilight. Backpack is heavy.

First I walk along the road and then uphill through the snow. I use to manage to hike up mountains although it can take some efforts. I love to trudge through snow. The combination however is extremely exhausting since the snow today is often knee deep and especially the first part has some steep bits.

I have to rest many times and my heart is beating like a hummingbird’s. There are ski tracks but I’m wondering how to ski here where the forest is so dense. Well, while most Norwegians are excellent skiers, I’m not.

I arrive at the bog Vasstrandmyra which is described as being wet in the tour book. Now it is frozen and snowed over. It still goes up though more gently and I look for a route with as less snow as possible. Today’s destination has come into view, the mountain Stappen (570 m). It looks like having been painted by a toddler. A line up, a peak, a line down. I want to go up there but have the impression that I’ll probably not make it.

A second steeper passage through another wood lies ahead of me. I’m panting. Snow is mostly knee deep until I make a step that sends both legs completely into the white. The snow is hardly deeper but I found a mud hole well hidden under the snow. Thanks to the rubber boots I wear my feet stay dry.

With some more breaks I manage to hike up to a second plateau and start ascending the mountain.

On the photo it looks quite flat, but in reality it is steeper. That is not a problem. The problem is that there is no visible way and it is impossible to see, where there are holes between all the snowed over rocks. Quite cautious I hike up a bit but after 60 metres I realise that this kind of testing each step takes too much time.

I rest sitting in the snow with hood on, because it has become quite windy which makes the frost temperatures feel much colder. I even witness a larger snow devil – a mini-tornado sucking up snow –  just some ten metres from me and can feel the snow dust in my face.

Although I do not have a 360° panoramic view I cannot complain. The mountainous landscape in the warm colours of polar night’s noon is just beautiful!

I do not rest long, then I start my descend. As soon as I reach the plateau hiking becomes easy. Trudging through snow downhills is much faster and even on the not-so-steep bog my step length is 50% larger than on the way up. A snow grouse flees, it does not want to be photographed. It’s windy and snowy and wintry and an exhausting but an awesome tour.

Round one o’clock I arrive at the car glad about the car’s heating and a warm sweater.

On my way back I stop at the supermarket and delicacy shop Eidehandel where I eat some warm lunch. At 14:30 I’m almost home but I have to stop for another photo because now it has become dark. Not pitch black, but dark enough to see the stars.

It gets dark – it gets bright

This weekend the mørketid started in Tromsø. That’s the time when the sun does not rise above the horizon any longer. Literally translated it means “darkness time” but usually it is called polar night.

What do you do if it gets darker? You illuminate the town!

Have a look at the photo with the two deer. You see the red-white logo with the H to the left? That’s the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordlys. You see the lights above amidst the darkness? That’s the mountain station of the Fjellheisen cable car on the other side of the Tromsø sound.

Why I was in town and not on tour? Because today was the Christmas tree lighting in the center of Tromsø and I was singing there as part of the chamber choir Ultima Thule. The place was crowded with people that wanted to experience this annual tradition. Here’s a snapshot that I took from stage during the soundcheck:

Unfortunately there were many people that did not wear a mask. Please cross your fingers, that this event does not lead to another increase of Corona here in Tromsø.

After autumn comes winter?

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

Two days ago I took a promenade to take some autumn photos. I soon broke of the walk because the asphalt was partly frozen and slippery as hell. It was a mistake to leave my spikes home.

On my mountain tour yesterday I both experienced autumnal and wintry conditions. And I had spikes for my boots with me. While I had been writing the blog article yesterday it had started snowing and that’s how it looked today.

My first snow in Tromsø this season. Yay! 8–10 cm had fallen and while I walked to work it started to snow again. Temperature was below zero and the snow was fluffy. It was fun to walk in the snow.

Looks like winter, doesn’t it? But if the forecast is right it will get warmer again already tomorrow afternoon and rain a lot in the night. A short pleasure.

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.

Back in Tromsø

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

After eight months of home office home I travelled back to Tromsø last Saturday to continue working at the Norwegian Polar Institute. My wife Annika has joined me for a week and I took some days off. Yesterday she travelled back to our home to Obbola. Tomorrow my Tromsø everyday life starts –at least for three weeks, then Annika and I will meet again for a two week vacation.

Sunday, 25 July

A grey day, a foggy day. Good for relaxing after a long journey from Sweden with train car and bus, that took eighteen hours.

Monday, 26 July

My first working day onsite since 20 November 2020. My boss has bought suksessterte (success cake) to celebrate my return. The seagulls have occupied my windowsill.

Tuesday, 27 July

Annika and I planned to hire a car for a trip, but none of the car rentals have free cars. Instead we are looking for a 2nd hand car for me. We find an old Subaru XV and may test drive it for 24 hours! Road trip to Sommarøya. Lunch at the hotel, watching private kayak lessons at one of the many beaches. Realising that the car fits onto my small parking place.

Thursday, 29 July

After work (well, after lunch) Annika and I take the bus to Tromsdalen on the other side of the sound Tromsøysundet. Here we use Sherpatrappa to hike up the mountain Storsteinen. Sherpatrappa is a stone staircase with 1203 steps built by Nepalese mountain road workers and finished in 2019. Then we hike to the summit of the mountain Fløya (671 m a.s.l.). After a break we return to the mountain station and enjoy our dinner in the sun. Then we walk down the stairs again. My knees are sulky, but that’s worth it.

Friday, 30 July

After lunch we fetch my car that I bought on Wednesday. Not the Subaru XV, but a three year old Suzuki S-Cross. After that we take a road trip to Tromvik and Rekvik on the island Kvaløya. And – oh – it’s so beautiful at many places here! Personal highlight: the two relaxed reindeer at the beach.

Saturday, 31 July

Farewell Annika! Now we are separated by at least 930 kilometres but fortunately for only three weeks. After I farewell Annika at the airport I drive to a parking place on the island Kvaløya and take two promenades. One at the beach, one over the bogs. The variety of landscapes is so impressive.

Sunday, 1 August

After a more or less lazy a short trip by bus to the center of Tromsø. The Indian restaurant is fully booked, but the sushi restaurant has place. 12 bits 189 NOK. Regular Norwegian prices. On the way there I find this narrow shortcut. Old dustbins, but a photo exhibition.