Scotland: Stac Pollaidh

This article is part of the series “2022-10: Autumn in Scotland”.

It’s 12 October, day 6 of Annika’s and my Scotland holiday this autumn. Today we want to hike round the Stac Pollaidh – or “Stac Polly” – a mountain in the Assynt region of the Northwest highlands. Its twin summit is quite prominent. We start our tour after lunch, where weather was supposed to get better. (And it was.)

Slowly we start hiking up following the excellent cobblestone path.

Technically our tour follows a circular path round the summits, but it climbs up almost on level of the east summit. The west summit is round 80 metres higher and needs a certain amount of scrambling and mountaineering experience that we lack.

It is still cloudy, but the sun starts to peek more and more through breaks in the clouds. Quite soon the views are impressive, from hazy tones of dark grey against the light to circular views that seem to cover the whole Assynt region. Harsh mountain tops – nunataks in the ice age – hilly landscapes – countless lakes, and to the west: the sea.

The ascent gets a bit steeper, the cobblestone path zigzags up the mountain. The passing clouds constantly change the landscape’s appearance. Again and again I have to look back for the views.

Finally we arrive at the junction to the east summit. It is not far to climb it and it rewards with a scenic 360° view, only interrupted by the higher west summit. Stunning! Me meet a local that shows and names all mountain massifs and tops around. Wind increases and we are pretty glad about our windproof clothes.

It’s hard to leave this beautiful place but finally we leave the summit and walk back to our circular route. The first part is near perfection, then it gets quite muddy and slippery. But the views are still awesome.

The more we loose elevation the more we approach our starting point. We can see the harsh rocks of the west summit and partially hidden behind the east summit that we just had visited. The sky is bluer than and Stac Pollaidh looks friendly. Other mountains in directing sun however look sombre and almost hostile.

We reach a last sheep gate and shortly after arrive at the parking place.

Two photos in portrait format – they never blend in with my other landscape format photos. The first is from the ascent, the second from the descent.

Shortly after we have arrived at the car it is starting to rain. Wow, that’s perfect timing! And beyond that it rewards us with one of the most durable double rainbows I ever saw. Intensely it is shining for more than 40 minutes while we are driving to our hostel in Inchnadamph. Even when it gets dark the sun still is illuminating a cloud blanketing a mountain.

Along with our day on Isle of Lewis’ west coast this day is definitely one of my personal highlights of our holiday. Thank you Annika for planning the tour and sharing the experience!

 

 

Jämtland tour 22 – signposts and waymarks

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

If you want to hike you need either a good map and a compass, or a GPS, or you have an area with designated hiking trails. Then you in most cases have only two issues: find the right trail and follow it.

Easy, isn’t it? Yes, but wait – what’s that?:

Why are there two trails to Storerikvollen? Check the symbols. One shows a skier, the other a hiker. That’s the first think you have to know: There are summer and winter trails in the Swedish mountains. The latter ones are often a bit less hilly but can lead over bogs and lakes. So choose the right track. Quite often they go together for a while and then split up again. That’s where you have either to check a map (take an up-to-date one) or follow the right waymarks.

The waymarks for summer trails use stones and red paint. In Norway it is a red T, in Sweden it is mostly a red dot. Mostly they are painted on large stones, rocks or on cairns – heaps of stones. The advantage of cairns: they are easier to spot when it is foggy.

In wintertime most summer waymarks are hidden under a deep snow cover. Then it is the time of the winter waymarks: Red diagonal crosses.

The poles can be several metres long because of the snow, the depth of which can vary greatly. When you have snowstorm conditions in winter you sometimes just can spot the next cross. When you’re lucky. I took the following photo on 20 February 2020 on a ski tour. Two hours later we experienced average wind speeds of 25 m/s. Then you start to love the waymarks that guide you through the storm.

Back to our August Jämtland tour this week. We could watch some people replacing the old winter waymarks by new ones. An important job, probably done on a voluntary base. Voluntary work is so important in Norway that it has its own word: dugnad.

I guess the best sign posts we found in Nedalshytta in Norway. One “summer signpost”, one “winter signpost” and even ratings for the trails from green to black.

It’s always nice to meet some signposts on your way, but not all of them show the distances. I like the last one. The letters are holes in the metal sign, so it won’t snow over so easily in winter time.

But not all signs are about following the trail. They can show you the Swedish-Norwegian border. Or the way to the toilet. Or the toilet – often a “privy” – itself. Or where to park your dog in case you have any.

And some of the signs or marks are quite creative. I almost missed this “in-tree” waymark in Norway. Perhaps more funny than helpful.

But the clearest sign we directly spotted on our first hiking day in Storlien:

The words say henan, dittan and hittn which are apparently words in Jamska, a group of Jämtland dialects. They mean something like here, →there and →here. I cannot express it better. Anyhow this is an article about signposts and waymarks, not about linguistics.

Jämtland tour 22 – the trail

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

On the photo above you can see the trail from Blåhammaren to Storulvån. It is in fact two trails together: the winter trail that is marked with red crosses and the summer trail that mostly is marked with stones with a large dot of red paint on it. We didn’t follow this trail I only took the photo because of the beautiful evening colours.

Many parts of the trail are just like this. They lead through heather, grass, crowberries, and dwarf birches. Other parts of the trail lead over hills, across rock fields, through forests and sometimes over a reindeer fence.

This is when the trail is dry. But often it isn’t. The trail can just be very wet of last nights rain as we had it on our third day.

The trail can be boardwalks that lead over swampy area or bogs. Some of them may be under the water which makes them rather slippery.

And then there are rivers, streams and brooks. Some of them are crossed by a bridge. Some bridges are big, some are – well – small, simple, and pragmatic.

And then there are rivers that you have to ford. I ’m used to hiking in rubber boots and so I could splash through while my fellow hikers had to switch to sandals and wade through the ice cold water. Already Douglas Adams said: You have to know where your towel is.

And then there is mud. It can be slippery and sometimes quite deep, especially right before or after a plank. When you have a plank.

Especially the first day trail section StorvallenBlåhammaren was in an extremely poor shape. The others went around all these muddy patches while I – hey, I have rubber boots! – just continued straight ahead. But then at one point it happened. I made a step ahead and my right leg sank thigh deep into the mud. On the trail! Luckily Blåhammaren had a dry room.

But don’t be afraid, that’s not typical. Many sections of the trail look more like this:

How long the trail was? I don’t have the exact numbers but I think we hiked round about 135 km on 8 days, so round 17 km a day.

Two mountain peaks at the weekend

My wife Annika has arrived in Tromsø on Friday. The weather forecast looked quite well for Saturday (and only for Saturday), so we took the car to the island Hillesøya – the westernmost part of Kvaløya – and went up the mountain Nordkollen (214 m). To our surprise the ascent was mostly secured with a thick rope because it was rocky and pretty steep. We hiked a round trip via the subsidiary summits Sørkollen and Storbergan and back by the sea. We got less sun than expected but at least hardly any rain.

Yesterday we hiked again, this time with a colleague of mine and his family. And this tour was very rainy and we got quite wet. While the others started going back, my colleague and I reached the top of the Blåkollen (461 m) and had even some minutes without rain.

 

Hiking up the Nordtinden

After I failed reaching the summit of the Nordtinden (640 m) last November I gave it a second try today. It’s so much easier to navigate when there is no snow covering the path and the sparse way marks.

I start to follow the gravel road, which I leave after 2.7 km.

The small trail leads up steadily. It’s not so steep, that I have to climb but steep enough to raise my pulse to hummingbird level. I could blame it on my Covid infection two weeks ago but I guess it’s just a lack of fitness.

A movement to the left wakes me up. It’s a flock of ptarmigan fledglings with an adult. Some flutter away, some stay. I use the confusion to take some photos with my telephoto lens. The photos are heavily cropped, I want to keep distance.

I am above the tree line now and the views are impressive.

Most impressive is a chasm at the side of the trail. The gradient down? Perhaps 400%. Enough to keep safety distance while photographing.

The last part is rocky and pathless but the huge cairns marking the tops of Nordtinden (there seem to be two) are in view so I can navigate just by eye. I take it easy on the boulder fields. I reach summit number one and add myself to the summit register that lies sheltered in an aluminium box.

I continue a bit more west to get a better view to the sea. And there it is – the island Vengsøya with the smaller island Vågøya in the front.

I walk around to take some more pictures. I watch the ferry leaving Vengsøya and climb a bit down the slope to have a closer look to the nameless lake below the mountain Laukviktinden.

Then I walk back in a small circle, pass the other summit cairn and start to descend.

It’s always interesting how not only the view changes but the terrain as well. Round the summits it’s mostly rocks and boulder fields, then more and more grass is present and the path consists also of gravel and then earth, too. On the way back the lake Skulsfjordvatnet lies in the sun.

As most day trips the way back is the same as the way there. So I pass the sign to Nordtinden a second time and am on the gravel road again.

The change from forest to farmland shows that my car is not far away. After four hours and about 12 km I’m back from a lovely mountain hike.

Two more photos showing small things. The first one a beetle from the genus Carabus. The first one a berry from the genus Rubus. I was glad about both discoveries. The difference: The beetle stayed unharmed, the berry was eaten right after taking the picture.

 

Some summer days in Sweden

I was home in Sweden for only three weeks but the time feels long and rich. Annika and I had guests most of the time but some days in between just the two of us.

A short kayak trip in the sun

On 1 July I used my lunch break to paddle to the beach. I took a bath and lunch there and then paddled back to work. Ah, I love this type of lunch breaks!

A day trip to Norrbyskär

On 3 July Annika and I took the car to Norrbyn and from there the ferry to the island Norrbyskär. Always worth visiting, especially when the warm weather invites to a bath.

A wavy kayak trip

On 4 July Annika and I made a kayak trip to and round the island Tarv. Normally this would be a quite relaxing tour of 10–11 km. But due to the windy weather the sea was pretty choppy and we had to focus a lot on the waves and the rocks.

No one of us took any photos there, but in the more sheltered waters beside and behind the island it was possible to take some photos again. And another bath.

Finally rain

On 7 July it finally rained in Obbola. The rain came too late for the dried up lawn but probably saved a lot of flowers and bushes in our garden.

Hiking twice

On 8 July Annika and hiked twice. First round Grössjön together with guests from Germany, then just we two at the Kronören naturreservat. Grössjön is mostly forest and bogs (and a lot of mosquitoes) while Kronören is also open landscape by the sea.

Back to Tromsø

Ten days ago an 10 July I travelled back to Tromsø. Train Departure in Umeå 2:15 in the night, bus arrival in Tromsø was 17:30.

I felt cold and made a Covid test the next day. Bang – positive! Therefore I couldn’t take advantage of the beautiful summer weather in Tromsø but stayed home in bed the week.

I made some short hikes on the weekend but the weather was dull, foggy and rainy.

 

After work promenade to the Keiptuva

38.5 km by car, 5.5 km by foot. Some hundred metres in altitude. Warm and windy weather. Forests, slopes, shallow bogs, mountain paths, water to ford, flowers, snow fields, lakes, tundra, rocks, views to the mountains of Kvaløya, the fjord, the open sea and Greenland. OK, cross out the last point. Anyhow, quite much for a short after work promenade.

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.

Farewell winter 2022?

This evening Annika and I will take the night train to Göteborg. We will meet close friends and spend the Easter week in Southern Sweden where we probably will meet spring. So it’s probably time for me to say farewell to winter.

I was honoured. Winter dropped by personally to say farewell today. The gifts: Strong winds and at least twenty centimetres of snow. First I worked a bit but then Annika and I took a winter promenade to our Vitskärsudden, our favourite beach.

Some hours later I dug out the car. We’ll need it later. It had already become warmer and the snow was wet and heavy. So winter didn’t come to stay but I was glad about its farewell.

 

My first “topptur“

Just 14 km by car to the parking place on Kvaløya and I’m at the southern end of the two valleys Finnvikdalen and Krabbelvdalen. I put on the skis, put on the backpack, up with the hood and I’m ready to ski. -14 °C, hardly any wind.

First I follow an old track, perhaps two skiers and two with snowshoes went there. But soon I leave it to follow the Krabbelvdalen. Further plans: none yet.

Slowly the terrain rises. I do not have climbing skins with me but mostly I can ski just straight ahead. I’m alone and leave a track in yesterday’s freshly fallen snow.

I spot a cabin by a mountain slope and realise that the mountains may be not as steep as they looked first. Could it be possible for me to ski over the saddle between the two summits of the Mellaskarfjellet (301 m and 325 m) to make a round trip? Well, at least I can try. To gain height I have to go zigzag a lot and some of the snow is hard and icy. I’m a lousy skier and wonder if I ever will be able to ski downhills and leave this place. Well, I reach the saddle and it’s only 40 more metres in altitude to the southern top. Let’s go and make the round trip a topptur – a summit tour.

To make a long zig-zag story short: I reach it! I put on my down jacket and take a rest with a bit of chocolate and half frozen water.

The descent to the Finnvikdalen takes some time. I do not dare to ski straight downhills because parts of the snow are icy and other parts is crusted powder snow where you break though. So I take it slow and easy.

I see two other skiers with a dog approaching. While I slowly ski downhills they catch up and thank me for the track I made while passing.

Two reindeer nibble at the birch trees, I’ll never will understand how they can survive cold winters with this nutrition. The dog is quite interested. “Will is run? Is it fun?”. But alas it is on a leash and the reindeer calmly trots through the snow to find another birch to nibble at.

Now it is me who is the lucky one. The dog owners leave a fresh ski track on which I at least double my tempo. They head to something that looks like a broader ski track and so it it. It leads to a mountain hut.

Tracking map from my iPhone appA lot of skiers are on this trail. After I have passed the hut I’m on a broad trail prepared by a snow mobile. Now I can ski even faster (still slow ;-) ) but I’m unsure where this trail leads me. I continue following it constantly checking my map app until it signals that I’m on my old track again. What? Where? Here? I do not recognise this place!

Some hours ago I was alone, now a broad track cuts through the landscape. I pass the very same tree that I photographed this morning.  Ok, the app is right. The parking place comes into sight, it is full of cars. Just a bit more to go and I arrive at my car. While I stop my tracking app and change my clothes other people pass me on both sides.

I guess many Norwegians would just laugh about me calling my today’s tour a topptur, since the summit is a hill, not a serious mountain. Many Norwegians are excellent skiers and topptur is used for alpine style tour skiing often in steep terrain, not necessarily for cross-country skiing . Anyhow I liked this tour and give it the name I think it deserves from my perspective.

On the map you can both see my zigzagging near the summit and that I was significantly faster on the trail back ( slow | fast).

To my big surprise it has become colder. -16 °C the car thermometer shows now. At home it is only -7 °C. I wonder why because both places are located quite near the sea.