Scotland: wetness

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

You cannot deny, that Scotland can be a pretty wet land. There are however different kinds of wetnesses.

Bathing in the sea

This kind of wetness I love: bathing in the sea. Finally Annika and I managed to find a sandy beach that looked very promising for taking a bath. And it was perfect. No stones, no currents, no sharp-edged shells, no waves as high as a house. The water was warmer than expected and it hardly rained.

Rain and muddy trails

We continued our road trip through the region of Assynt and parked our car by the Stoer Lighthouse. From there we took a circular hike to the Old Man of Stoer, a 60 metre high sea stack. It rained and the trail was soaking wet and partially quite muddy. I managed to keep my rubber boots dry but Annika’s hiking boots were soaking wet after our hike. Her dancing experience helped her to change to dry shoes.

Adventurous roads

As the days before it was Annika that drove the rental cars. You don’t want to fall asleep while driving in Scotland. Beside the single file tracks with its many meeting points sometimes the roads are blocked by sheep. The road sign warning of a 25% steep hill however looked much more dramatic than the road was.

Ardvreck Castle

We have passed Ardvreck Castle several times the last days. Now it was time to stop and have a look.

The lake Loch Assynt was flooded and so was the path to the castle. I like hiking in rubber boots which is a bit overdressed sometimes. In Scotland however I think it’s perfect footwear. Here they helped me to wade to the castle to take some more photos, while Annika waited ashore.

Sea monsters

I almost forgot to tell: At the beach of Clashnessie I observed sea monsters! Carefully I sneaked up to one of them and I managed to take a photo as a proof. There are sea monsters in Scotland!

10 cm high sea monsters.

10 cm high sea monsters buried in the sand.

10 cm high sea monsters buried in the sand looking suspiciously like seaweed.

10 days in Scotland

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

It has been years, since Annika and I were on holiday outside of Fennoscandia. This October we enjoyed a ten day journey to Scotland from which I just arrived in Tromsø yesterday.

For this article I chose 2 photos for each day. Some more articles will follow later.

6 October – Edinburgh

I landed in the late morning and have the rest of the day strolling through Edinburgh. Blue sky – so it can actual stop raining in  Edinburgh ;-). In the evening I wait for Annika who is taking the tram from the airport. Now it is raining. Finally we are together.

7 October – travelling to Ullapool

We have pre-booked train tickets to Inverness where we will spend three hours before taking the coach to Ullapool. Well, in theory. The trains do not go the whole way due to heavy rain flooding. The rest is operated by replacement buses. So much to rain in Scotland. In Inverness we catch the connecting coach to Ullapool and have even time for a pizza.

8 October – hiking in Ullapool

After two travel days we want to be outdoors and look for the hiking trail to the hill Meall Mor after a hand-drawn sketch. We find it. From the top we have a view to the town, the hills and mountains in sun, clouds and rain.

9 October – taking the ferry to Lewis

After breakfast we take our backpacks through rain and heavy winds to the ferry terminal just to learn that the ferry has been cancelled because of the gusts on the Minch – the straight between Ullapool and the Isle of Lewis. Luckily the afternoon ferry runs according schedule and we arrive in Stornoway at nine o’clock. Scotland premiere: We hire a car. Annika is driving. Left-hand traffic in darkness!

10 October – exploring Lewis

We explore Lewis by car. Great that Annika is brave enough to drive in Scotland (I’m not). Read the article The west coast of Isle of Lewis about this day.

11 October – Peat bogs and Northern Gannets

From Gearrannan Village we take a small way back to Stornoway. In the bogs you can see traces of peat mining. We give back the car, take the ferry back and are watching the elegant aerial manoeuvres of the Northern Gannets. In Ullapool we receive another car that we have hired for the next two days.

12 October – exploring Assynt

We start exploring Assynt, the region north of Ullapool. Read the article Stac Pollaidh about this day.

13 October – taking a bath

Finally – our first bath! At Achmelvich beach. I will write more about this day later …

14 October – travelling to Edinburgh

It is time to give back the rental car and travel back to Edinburgh. First by coach, then by train. This travel confirms my theory that Scottish coaches and trains are designed solely for transport, not for comfort.

15 October – flying back

Short ones, long ones – all holidays comes to their end. Annika takes me to the tram, again it’s me travelling first. What a wonderful holiday. Thank you, Annika!

Jämtland tour 22 – hiking up the Gåsen

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

In Gåsen, one of my favourite cabins in the Swedish mountains we took a day off from our hiking tour. My brother-in-law and I took this as an opportunity to hike up to the summit of the mountain Gåsen, name giver of the cabin.

Gåsen is 1427 metres high. That’s however not a huge ascent, because the cabins lie on 1100 metres.

As everywhere in on our hiking trip there were reindeer around. What do they do on the snow fields? Eating snow? Fleeing the mosquitoes, while there were no around? I don’t know.

We approached the mountain from the south where it is less steep, although Gåsen is quite flat everywhere. While we went up my brother-in-law discovered a snow hare (a.k.a. mountain hare) that ducked to the ground but then sprang away when it realised that we spotted it.

Looking back: the cabins of Gåsen. Looking ahead: the way to the top. And more reindeer.

And there it is – the summit of Gåsen. While the top of the mountain is just a large gravel plateau the 360° panoramic view is quite impressive. It’s not only the mountainscapes that surround Gåsen but the large valleys that made this landscape so huge and seemingly endless.

After a rest – being thankfully for our jackets because it was quite windy – we ascended again, this time more direct to the cabins we stayed over. This time our hike led us over two snow fields. We were not alone, the reindeer seemed to liked the snow fields, too.

At the end we had to go a bit zigzag because the ground was quite wet but after 2½ hours we were back at our cozy cabin. That was fun!

Bonus photo: A cloud. For me it looks like a singing turtle floating effortless though the sky. And you?

 

A cloudy hike up the Stor-Kjølen

The weather forecast promised sun for most of the day today. Nice conditions for hiking up the Stor-Kjølen. I’ve been there once almost exactly one year ago, today I chose the other route coming from the Northeast.

I was there, my camera was there, however the sun wasn’t. Thick and low clouds hung over the whole mountainscape.

1 – The trail

5-5½ km long, leading up 560 metres in altitude. It is well marked and a visible trail most of the time. One boulder field has to be crossed and the last part is mainly pathless, but not steep.

2 – The reindeer

Much less shy than the Jämtland reindeer. They let me get quite close and one of them came within 3 metres. It seemed to be very curious and I expected it to touch me with its soft nose asking for goodies, but it went away. Another reindeer with huge antlers was much more careful and stayed with its small herd.

3 – The summit

Visible from a lot of places in and round Tromsø because of its prominent, mushroom shaped flight radar station at the top. Beneath the station – a small hut. It’s the varmebua, a heated hut driven by Troms Turlag. Very welcoming today, when it was foggy and round 4 °C.

4 – The weather

According to yr.no 4 °C and sunny. While the temperature might have been correct the rest wasn’t. It was cloudy and foggy and partially also drizzly. But then the sea started to shine and glare. While the sun itself was still hidden by clouds the reflection of the water surface sent sunlight upwards to the Stor-Kjølen. Amazing light, nearly unphotographable.

I waited in the hut for the weather to change, but in vain. On my way back to the car the cloud layer lifted and I could see a bit more of the fantastic surrounding scenery. But if took some more hours until the sun came out today and then I was long home.

A nice tour anyway. Or as the Norwegians say: ut på tur aldri sur – Out on a trip, never sour.

Jämtland tour 22 – the cabins, part 1

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

On our hiking tour in the Swedish Jämtland and a bit of Norway we hiked from cabin to cabin. These cabins are quite different, both in concept and in standard.

Ok, the photo above does not show a mountain cabin, it shows the Ringve Musikkmuseum in Trondheim that we visited the day before. Sorry folks, I couldn’t resist.

½ – the first emergency hut

Since the weather in the Swedish mountains can be quite rough, there are emergency huts on the trail. The first one lies between Storvollen and Blåhammaren, our first destination. You may rest inside the hut, but do not touch the fire wood or the emergency box – they are meant to save life.

1 – Blåhammaren

With an altitude of 1086 metres it is the highest STF mountain cabin. Famous for its fire beacon and its three-course dinner. We however use the self-catering kitchen to cook pasta with tomato sauce. A great first stay on our tour.

1½ – Endalen raststuga

Another emergency hut. The sun comes out and invites us to take a break. From here it’s only a kilometre to the Norwegian border.

2 – Storerikvollen

Two signs, that we are not in Sweden anymore: All roofs are grass-covered and the inside is full of carpets, wall pictures and other things to make the cabin individual and hyggelig – cozy.

A thing that makes Storerikvollen special: free-roaming sheep and Icelandic horses.

3 – Nedalshytta

After the longest distance of ca. 23 km we gladly arrive at Nedalshytta. As in Storerikvollen this cabin does not provide a self-catering kitchen in the season. We have pre-booked half board and now order dinner. What we do not know yet: the cook is very gifted and the dinners are awesome! A good place for a rest day.

This is by the way the only cabin with road access on our tour.

3½ – Ekkordörren

We are back in Sweden again. Time to take a short rest in the hut Ekkordörren before we follow the trail over the pass.

4 – Sylarna

Without loosing too many words: this is the worst cabin I know! A tiny shop with ridiculous prices, a dysfunctional self-catering kitchen with five soup plates in total, insufficient drying space and so on, and so on. The personal is friendly and pretty uninterested.

We will meet other people on our trip – cabin hosts as well as guests. No one likes Sylarna. But it’s only a single night and now it gets better. Much better!

Stay tuned for part 2 of the cabin article. Coming soon …

 

Back from a hiking tour

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

Hello, my dear blog readers. Three weeks of holiday have come to an end today. Mostly I was aborad. The main attraction: an eleven day hiking tour with my wife, my sister, my brother-in-law and my younger nephew.

We mostly hiked in the Swedish Jämtland but visited two Norwegian cabins as well. Our route: StorlienBlåhammarenStorerikvollen (Norway) – Nedalshytta (Norway) – SylarnaGåsenHelagsFältjägarenRamundberget. That’s a total of about 135 km.

Today I scrolled through the photos I made on the tour – it’s more than 1500. So it will take some time to go though, edit them and write some blog articles.

Anyhow, here is a sneak preview. 9 photos of the tour.

A new camera

Next week Annika, my sister, brother in law a nephew and I will start a hiking tour in Sweden and Norway. We will not use a tent but hike from cabin to cabin. Last time I had 6 kilo of camera equipment with me. This year I decided to scale down weight and so I bought a point-and-shoot camera this week: the Sony RX100 VII. It has some disadvantages, but a huuuge advantage: It’s small and weights hardly more than 300 grams. That’s why I even can take a smaller backpack (also bought this week) and save another 1300 grams of weight.

Today I tested the camera, first on my way to work and then on random places, from the center to Telegrafbukta. I know, that the camera has its limitations (being not weatherproof for example) but I’m quite glad that I finally bought it. And here come some test shots from today. All photos are edited in Lightroom.

 

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.

 

Mountains, sea and midnight sun

Yesterday at 18:00 I took the car to Elvenes on Kvaløya to start a small mountain tour. Well, mountain or hill – the summit of Grønnlibruna is only 401 metres above sea level. I chose this destination in the hope that it was not completely snowed over as the higher mountains still are.

I parked the car, walked the gravel path and stood before the first obstacle, the stream Finnelva. I did the same tour last November, where it was easy to cross. Now in the thawing period the water was at least 50 cm deep and quite fast . Too deep to cross here, even with rubber boots. Luckily I found a better place to ford a bit upstream. Soon I was in the forest. A very wet and muddy forest where I was not always sure whether I followed the way, crossed a swamp or waded in a brook. But this stopped when I gained a bit of altitude where old snow covered the forest floor.

As soon as was above the tree line the landscape changed again. There were some large snow fields but most of the ground was bare of snow and easy to walk on.

After 4 km of hike and some hundred metres in altitude I stood on the summit enjoying the circular view while the weather cleared up more and more.

I did not take a break but hiked down again. I enjoyed the weather and the fact that the birch trees start to turn green, at least in the lowlands. I crossed Finnelva a second time, now with a sturdy stick that I had found on my way. It’s much easier to keep balance with such a “third leg”. From there it was not far to my parked car that I reached round 21:30.

When I left the supermarket in Eidkjosen it was 22:00 and the sky was blue. It won’t get dark because the last sunset in Tromsø was more than a week ago. Since then we have polar days with 24 hours of daylight. I could drive home or …

I turned left. Left to the road 862 that leads to Sommarøya. Maybe I catch the midnight sun. Sometimes I had to drive slow because of the reindeers, sometimes I had to stop to take a photo …

… but round 23:00 I had crossed the bridge to the island Sommarøya and shortly after I parked at the sandy beach Steinsvika. I was not alone. People stood at the beaches, some lit a fire, some paddled kayak, some camped in the hills.

I checked an app when sun would be lowest. What? 0:45!? I forgot, that we had daylight saving time, so clocks were one hour ahead. I took my camera bag, some water and an old jacket, that I use to have in the car and walked to the northern tip of Kvalneset. Now I had a lot of time to just observe the sun hardly going down. After one and a half hour it was time: 0:45 – the sun was at its lowest position: 1.55°. The photo is completely unspectacular because it only shows a low sun, not the fact that the sun would not get lower than that this night.

I was glad about my jacket because it got a bit colder, I was tired and I sat there for almost two hours in total. At least I had chocolate! I waited for the sun to disappear behind the prominent silhouette of the island Håja.

Then I went back to the car and had about an hour drive back home. I wasn’t in bed before 3:30 but it was completely worth it. For a very good reason: I never ever saw the midnight sun in my life before! Although I have lived in Northern Scandinavia for more than 12 years I hardly was above the arctic circle in summer and then it was cloudy.

But it was more than just checking another item of my bucket list. It was just gorgeous to sit there and enjoy nature. I should do that more often and put the old sleeping bag back into my car. Just in case …

White swans in Obbola

After two weeks in Tromsø i travelled home to Obbola last weekend, where I will work from home for two weeks.

When Annika and I looked out of the window yesterday we could see 3 swans swimming in the water between the small islet Lillskär and us. Oh, another 3 nearby, that’s 6 swans. And another one, and two more.

After some snowfall it had cleared up yesterday and it got colder in the night. This morning the temperature was below -12 °C. When I walked to the coast the water before Lillskär was covered with ice. The swans lay on the ice sleeping. They discovered and watched me but since I was slow and did not come too near they soon tucked their beaks under their feathers again and continued dozing.