Cold drizzle and snow on the weekend

After a summer day on Sommarøya on Friday, the weather got colder again on the weekend and it started drizzling and raining. Both on Saturday and Sunday I took walks in the forest near my apartment. Ten days ago I still saw some cross country skiers, but now the season is definitely over, I think while I’m walking along the wet paths.

Yesterday it got colder and colder and drizzle became sleet. In the evening it started snowing and this morning at least five centimetres of fresh snow had fallen at temperatures round 1 °C. I took a small walk through the forest again – it looked quite different.

Today the wintry weather may continue and I won’t drive through the mountain valleys since my car has already summer tyres. Tomorrow warmer weather and sun will melt the snow  away.

Summer weather in Tromsø

10:30. I am sitting in my car on my way to Sommarøya – “The summer island”. The sun is shining and it is warm already. Today it is supposed to be 19 °C, much warmer than the last weeks (or months). The first photo stop, a parking place by the sea. Tussilago is blooming everywhere.

The road leaves the sea and leads through the valley Kattfjordeidet. The lake Kattfjordvatnet lies on 149 metres of altitude. Does not sound much, nevertheless it is high enough that most parts of it are still covered with ice. I like the open areas – small waterfalls and beautiful reflections.

The valley is 12 km long. I leave it behind and meet the sea again. And two locals – reindeer that know the traffic rules and walk on the other side of the street (or better said in the ditch).

Just before the tunnel Oterviktunnelen there is a parking place and shortly after a beautiful sandy beach. It looks so warm, but I didn’t measure the water temperature …

I am lucky, I find a nice shell, a “pelican’s foot”. Then I continue my ride and enter the tunnel. It is not long, just 607 m.

Almost wherever you stop there are nice places to explore, for example this tiny beach, less than ten metres wide. It is not far away from the bridge to Sommarøya.

From the bridge you can see a lot of small islands, many of them with sandy beaches. A kayakers paradise, although the weather can be pretty rough. But if you like challenges, take your boat, head west and after 1600 km you are in Greenland. ;-)

The last weeks I have seen three kinds of wild flowers blooming in and around Tromsø. (1) Tussilago – 17 April (always the first). (2) Dandelion – 26 April. (3) Oxlip (or another primula) – 8 May. Today I discovered two others. According to Pl@ntNet, which I use for identification a Goldilocks buttercup (91.2%) and a Purple mountain saxifrage (94.6%).

Would I find one of my favourites flowers as well – the Marsh marigold, which loves wet places and has an incredibly beautiful hue of yellow. Yes? I found some of them beside a small pond.

On Sommarøya I hardly took any picture, on the outer island Hillesøya I took a photo of one of the boat harbours. In my back an open door, a dark room and in there a man cleaning fish.

After taking lunch in the snack restaurant Havfrua (“The mermaid”) it was time to drive back. I chose the way round the south of the island Kvaløya and made some small stops. One at the ponds and puddles in a boggy area, which now are free of ice. Another by the church Hillesøy kirke, which is by the way not on the island Hillesøya.

And then the time came: 20 °C according to the car thermometer! Last time it was so warm here was last August.

I took another stop to take a photo of one of the mighty mountains on the other side of the strait Straumsfjorden. When I looked down into the deep water I spotted a shoal of fish. It was hundreds, probably thousands of fish resting in the shadow. The photo is heavily edited to make the fish more visible.

After a while I came back to more known areas – less than 30 minutes away from my “work flat” in Tromsø. I stopped at a small grave yard. Most tomb stones were free of snow, but those located in the snow drifts will have to wait a bit longer. Anyhow snow in the lowlands has become the exception. Even the bogs that tend to be cold are hardly frozen any more. And so I had to be quite cautious to avoid wet feet, when I looked for a good place to take a picture of that beautiful pine tree other there – the last photo for today.

Those of you that are not so familiar with Norway as a country may ask yourselves: Why did Olaf make an excursion on a Friday? That’s because today it is Constitution Day. On 17 May 1814 the Constitution of Norway was signed and this is the most important day of the year. Even through our street a marching band walked by and all people have their best clothes on – many of them the traditional bunad which shows, from which part of Norway they come from.

And so I shout out: “Gratulerer med dagen, Norge!” – Happy birthday, Norway!

Here is an article from 10 years ago: Syttende mai (German text).

A day trip to the island Vannøya

It is 10 o’clock on Sunday, 28 April. Marika, whom I know from work and I are in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya waiting for the ferry. It will take us to the island Vannøya where we want to stay for the day.

I want to take photos, so I am opening the boot of my car and realise that I have forgotten my camera backpack at home. Sh*t! Fortunately I have my Sony camera with me, which does a pretty good job on landscape photography But no time to be grumpy, here comes the ferry.

After a ferry ride of forty minutes we arrive at the island and take the western way to the fishing village Torsvåg. We pass the Polargirl, a passenger ship that uses to make touristic excursions in Svalbard in the summer season.

After seven kilometres we come to our first stop: A small beach. The view is incredible. Snow covered mountains in the back, a cloudless sky above, some islets with white sandy beaches and shallow waters of a turquoise colour so intense that you can see it on satellite images.

We start cleaning the beach, mostly of plastic. A huge amount is plastic nets and ropes from the fishing industry. The plastic is harmful to the environment and is especially dangerous to sea birds. Beach cleaning has become quite popular and it is a good feeling to remove the garbage from nature even when it is only a drop in the ocean. The next photo showing me is taken by Marika.

We stay there for a while, not only because the scenery is to beautiful and the sun shines warmly, but because there are seals out there. Some of them were sitting on rocks until the tide came in, others are swimming in the turquoise water. They are too far away to take good pictures, but I can observe them through my binoculars.

We continue our road trip, occasionally stopping when there is any wildlife. And there is quite a lot. Here at partially frozen puddles we do not only see crows but also a Eurasian curlew.

Minutes later we arrive at Sandsletta, a larger beach. The small sandy dunes are reminiscent of the German North Sea, the mountains aren’t.

There are some more photo stops, either for scenery or for animals. This time a reindeer (we saw some of them) grazing by the road.

Then we arrive at the fishing village Torsvåg. Parts of it are located on Vannøya, others on the small island Kåja. To get there by car you have to cross a dam with a single file concrete road. In the harbour area there is a huge rack full with fish hanging to dry. The dried fish is called stockfish. And there is the Torsvåg lighthouse. If you look north from there, you can see some stony islets and rocks and then there is the open Norwegian sea. Next stop Svalbard.

Is this the end of the island? Well, at least it is the end of this road. But there is more to explore. We turn, drive back 8 km and turn left onto the road to Burøysund in the east. Marika spots an eagle with prey, probably a mountain hare. I do not stop timely and the disturbed eagle flies away to land on a stone nearby. I make a photo through the windscreen, but it is blurred. Anyhow it shows, how big eagles are. You see the crow for size comparison?

Ten minutes later I have stopped the car again, this time for two ptarmigans that first strolled on a meadow by the road and then decided to ignore us and cross the road. Another object with flying abilities was easier to photograph, but what does a propeller plane do on a parking place by the road? Does it use the road for taking off and landing?

We arrive in Burøysund. The whole of Vannøya is a bit “Norway in a nutshell” with its snowy mountains, the blue sea, the rocky shore, the coastal villages. Here anyhow the rocks are special. They are sharp-edged with their “teeth” up into the air and look wild and rough.

Now it is time to head back. On a place we spotted already on our way there we take a late lunch break with the view to the sea (and some ptarmigans and seals in the distance) and the wetlands in our back.

Even if we take the second last ferry we have plenty of time. And we need it, because while driving further I spot something in the water which does not look like seabirds. It is an otter. No, it’s two, wait – three. They meet in the sea and then swim side by side.

Then they go ashore quite near us. One is swimming away soon while the other two stay on land for ten minutes. What an experience so see them so near! I’m sure they have seen us as well but since we are quiet they ignore us. What a pity, that I forgot my Nikon to use the large telephoto lens. The Sony did not manage to take good pictures, also because of the light situation. Anyhow – for the archives – two pictures of the otters:

This day really delivered! Incredible weather and a lot of wildlife. Reindeer, curlews, ptarmigans, geese, eagles, a lot of other birds I do not know, a white mountain hare, the first butterfly of the season (a small tortoiseshell), several seals and now the three otters. Time to catch the ferry with a hasty detour to the south east of the island from which you can see the Nordfugløya (Northern bird island).

Finally we have to hurry a bit but we reach the 19:15-ferry in time. Another forty minutes ferry ride in beautiful light …

… and we are back in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya which is connected to the island Kvaløya with a tunnel which is connected to the island Tromsøya with a bridge, and that’s where I live. There are worse places!

Takk for turen, Marika!

Spring winter in Obbola

I’m sitting in the train travelling from Obbola, my “home home” to Tromsø, my “work home”. Normally the journey would have taken 18 to 19 hours but this train is four hours late. That will probably extend my journey to 37 hours including an overnight stay in Narvik.

The last days we had full vårvinter (literally “spring winter”) which is the transition period between winter and spring. Not only in my opinion this is an own season. And so it can look like:

Tuesday, 9 April

The weather is fine and calm. The drift ice that I paddled through the day before is mostly gone. I take another kayak tour to the islands Obbolstenarna and now also the sea is calm enough to circumnavigate the islands and the ice cap on the rocky shallow.

After the tour I continue my work in home office.

Wednesday, 10 April

It is raining at lunch time and the fog hides the horizon of the Baltic Sea.

Thursday, 11 April

The drift ice has come back over night. The day is sunny.

Friday, 12 April

In the village at lunchtime I spot the first Tussilago which always has been the first flower to bloom in vårvinter. And in front of a house I see some crocuses. It is +7.5 °C.

Some hours later I take a short and icy “farewell kayak tour”. It gets harder to find a good place to set in the kayak. And on the way back I was right when I doubted that the small ice floe would carry my weight. It didn’t. The ice has started to rot and then it’s not stable anymore even when 10 cm thick. So – be prepared.

We still have 50 cm of snow in the garden but round our rowan tree the snow has melted. The birds love to be there picking for food.

Saturday, 13 April

That’s today. I’m sitting in the heavily delayed train heading north. The forest ground and the bogs are covered with snow but the first patches of blueberry twigs are visible, too. It’s nice to see the landscape, but I’ll have a long journey ahead and I’m going to take a nap now.

Ski tour in Sweden – side trip to Nallo

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

Day 10 – 7 March – Vistas—Nallo

After our break day in Vistas we have planned to go for a side trip to Nallo, a small STF cabin embedded in high mountains just nine or ten kilometres away. We will stay there overnight. The weather forecast looks great for today (sunny and calm) and ok for tomorrow (overcast but also calm). In the morning it was -13 °C but temperatures are rising quickly.

After breakfast we pack our things, but leave some items behind. We’ll be back tomorrow. Our friend Dirk who is stugvärd here accompanies us a bit then we start our ski tour. Then we continue alone up the valley Stuor Reaiddávággi.

We arrive at lunch time and make something warm to eat. This time no packet soup as usual, but trekking food (mostly powder). Quite ok, if you ask me. I manage to take a photo of the cabin in the sun, that shines here for less than an hour this season because of the high mountains in the south.

The cabin is an Abrahamssonsstuga (or Fjällstuga 65). This type of cabin has 21 places and was built a lot in the mountains between 1965 and 1973. It can happen that you hike the whole day to arrive at a cabin that looks exactly alike the one you left in the morning. However, I like them if there are not too crowded and this night we will be only six people (plus the stugvärd) sleeping there.

At dinner we eat trekking food again, this time another brand. That pulp was the most disgusting stuff I have eaten for ages and neither of us manages to finish the meal. Good, that we have chocolate left to cover the bad taste. After dinner another polar light is building up. First just a thin stripe like a spotlight, then it broadens. At the same time the first clouds have started gathering but are held back by the mountains.

Day 11 – 8 March – Nallo—Vistas

Oh, the weather forecast was correct. It is cloudy today. However we have an easy job today: Just skiing back the 9 (or is it 10?) km and loose 220 metres of altitude. Breakfast, packing, doing our cabin duties and off we go.

While Nallo was above the tree line Vistas isn’t. First there are single birth trees than birch forests. Back with the trees comes the animal life, mostly the ptarmigans that sometimes sit on a branch of a birch looking like big, fluffy snowballs. Not the best camouflage … . What we however do not see are the four moose. We will see them later from the cabin using a binocular.

And then we are at Vistas and the Sauna is almost ready.

After sauna Annika is preparing the farewell dinner. Dirk already had watered the dried potatoes, feta cheese and vegetable in the morning, now she is making frittata with porcini mushrooms. Delicious! Dirk contributes the dessert and we have a “gemütlich” evening together. It’s Annika’s and my last day in the mountains. Today we will reach civilisation again.

 

 

 

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 – Singi—Sälka

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

Tour day 3 + 4: 29 February – 1 March

Day 3 – 29 February – Singi—Sälka

Today is our second tour day. We will go north from Singi to Sälka. It is seven o’clock and beautiful out there. If the forecast is right that might change round noon where wind gusts of 16 m/s where expected.

This is why we decided to start early despite the short distance of 12 km. At 8:00 we leave Singi behind. The way is a bit hilly but relatively easy. We pass the Sami village Goržževuolli and then the bridge over the river Tjäktjajåkka. Here goes the summer trail to the cabin Hukejaure in the west. Not our destination today.

The weather is still nice, the sight perfect, navigating is simple. So we do not follow the winter road which lies to the right but just ski in the middle of the large U-shaped valley Tjäktjavagge. This leads to some confusion when we cross a winter trail marked with the traditional red crosses, but this is the snowmobile trail to Hukejaure, not the winter trail to Sälka which is not visible from here. The valley is broad and slightly hilly. We both can “climb” hills since we have skins under our skis but sometimes I go a detour when it gets too steep for pulling up the pulka.

When will Sälka come into sight? Behind the next hill? No. But the next one? No. Then the next? No.

At 11:30 it gets windy and snow is blowing above the ground. But first we have it in the back and then we are already quite close to Sälka and after another hill (we didn’t count) there there they are: the cabins of Sälka.

Sälka will be crowed tonight. 38 guests have pre-booked, amongst others two larger groups. We are extremely lucky to come early and to get the small two-bed room marked with a sign “private” at the door. Thanks a lot, warden Z.!

Now it has become quite windy. All other guest arrive from the north and are equipped with balaclava and ski goggles to cope the head wind.

The toilets at Sälka are 200 metres away. So take your down parka and a head torch with you if you go at night.

Night – Sälka

And yes, I was out to go the loo several times. But I like winter weather, so I do not complain. And then when I have to go again at three o’clock the sky has become clear and the first northern lights on our tour cover the starry sky. Beautiful, especially with the low hanging moon.

The first photo by the way shows the toilets.

Day 4 – 1 March – Sälka

Another resting day according plan. We have the luxury of having time for the tour that many others have to perform within a week.

A snowmobile has arrived. One of the groups had booked luggage transport. Here only the local Sami are allowed to drive snowmobile. We chat with the driver that shows us some of his reindeers that graze high up in the mountains. Do you see them on the photo below?

He also asks if we have seen wolverine tracks. These vicious animals kill reindeers as pray. But here and now a wolverine is around that attacks the animals without killing. Tome of them have a slow and cruel death. The Sami are not allowed to hunt wolverines due to species protection but they are allowed to scare them away. How the paw prints look like? “Like a fox on snowshoes.”

While he is telling us that either I or Annika are occupied by scratching the dog that cannot get enough of it.

Wolverines are endangered species and the biologists are interested in them. At the same time only the Sami are allowed to drive snowmobile in this part of the mountains. This leads to the curious situation that they collect wolverine droppings for the scientists, of course with proper metadata as time and location. Imagine you have a predator around threatening your flock and at the same time you collect its poo!

The rest of the day: Sawing logs and chopping some wood. Taking some photos. Early dinner to avoid the big group cooking at the same time. Sauna! Retreating to our room when the combined kitchen/living room is too crowded. Early bedtime.

Vacation.

 

The sun returns in Tromsø

While I got a lot of sun in Obbola (320 km south of the polar circle) between the years, Tromsø (340 km north of the polar circle) had to wait to see the sun again.

Last Sunday was the last day of the mørketid – the polar night. Monday at lunchtime the sun was above the horizon but not above the mountains. Anyhow everything has become much brighter compared to mid-December.

Yesterday I took a promenade from my new apartment. While Tromsø lay in the shadow – at least were I walked – I saw the snowy mountains of Kvaløya having pink tops. There the sun was already visible.

Today I was at Telegrafbukta round noon. I was not alone – round 200 other people waited for the sun, were barbecuing, taking selfies or a winter bath. On the sea a flock of eider ducks occasionally wa diving for food. And then it appeared from behind a mountain – the sun!

Welcome sun! The polar night is over, the winter will continue for at least three months. But every day the sun will rise a bit higher.

It gets even colder

After the first days of the new year with temperatures down to -26 °C it got even colder.

4. January

In the morning temperature is between -26 and -27 °C and despite the weather forecast the sky is clear.

At lunch time I take another promenade along the coast. The sea ice Baltic Sea looks extremely cold due to the frost patterns that cover everything.

In the afternoon it gets colder and in the evening the temperature sinks below -30 °C for the first time. I go out and take a photo of our tree in our garden. It’s the very same tree under which Annika and I got married three and a half years ago – barefooted. Now it is covered in frost and Orion and Sirius are in the sky.

Luckily I have a lot of very warm clothes. To go out I only had to slip into my down suit and my Russian rubber boots, put a hat and woollen mittens on and I won’t freeze at all.

5. January

Twice I was awake and outdoors this night to enjoy the cold air and the starry sky. At 3:18 the thermometer shows -33.4 °C, the coldest temperature ever I experienced being at home!

These days a lot of places experience temperatures below -40 °C and less and many people (including us) have trouble with their cars or heating. Near Arjeplog a guy measured -51 °C with a laser thermometer the day before. That’s exceptionally cold even for Northern Sweden.

In the morning it was time for Annika and me to repeat a known experiment in the cold that we never tried out by ourselves: Throwing hot water in the air and seeing it freezing almost instantly into a cloud of ice dust. While my photos are ok-ish, Annika took gorgeous photos with my Nikon showing me doing this experiment. It works best with temperatures below -30 °C, which we had.

While I write this article in the night to the 6. January it is still cold, but “only” -22 °C. You get used to the cold after some days. And yes – I love these cold and crisp winter days a lot! The weekend will still be cold, then it will get warmer. Much warmer! On Tuesday, four days from now, it may be 40 degrees warmer than yesterday morning with day temperatures round +6 °C!