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.

 

Two wintry sunrises

From polar night into the solar light

It is crazy – three days ago Annika and I have been in Tromsø in the middle of the mørketid – the polar night – where the sun hasn’t risen for weeks. Two days ago we went to Gällivare in Swedish Lapland by car. Yesterday we continued our way south and crossed the polar circle. The sky was clear and full of colours and then – at 10:23 – we saw the sun ahead. It did not only rise above the horizon but also the forested hills.

The sun was low but we saw it for several hours. That was a great feeling especially for me who haven’t seen the sun for almost a month.

But days are short and already at two o’clock in the afternoon the moon dominated the sky.

Soon it was too dark to take good photos from the moving car. At half past six we arrived at our house in Obbola, where I’ll stay for three to four weeks.

Today I worked from home and could see how it gradually got brighter. I took a break and went to the coast. I was lucky – now I got a real sunrise. Not above a road in the Swedish inland but above the partially frozen Baltic Sea. So beautiful!

 

An otter at the Telegrafbukta

When I took a promenade along the sea at the bay Telegrafbukta nearby I saw a family watching something. It was an otter. It was swimming along the shore while two crows were complaining loudly. I took a snapshot with my small Sony camera just to get a picture.

The otter continued swimming near to the shore until it came to the small breakwater south from the sandy beach of Telegrafbukta. There it went on land. I followed.

From there it was swimming out for food and coming back with some crustacean as prey. It went on land again where I could watch and hear it crushing and eating the prey. It was below me, hardly more than two metres away. Never before I had spotted an otter so near for so long. I’m sure it saw me and the other two people standing nearby but it appeared pretty fearless.

It swam for a short other round and again came back. This time I had configured my litte camera a bit better to take sharper photos and the otter was so nice to stand still for a while. Click!

The otter however had no interest in extending this photo session. It jumped into the cold sea water again and continued its hunt. Soon it vanished behind a small rocky promontory.

When it was out of view I continued my short promenade. Thanks for showing up, otter. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Mammals by the sea, snow on the peaks

A colleague, a friend of hers and I went on a car trip to the island Ringvissøya today. My colleague knows a place where you can spot otters and we wanted to give it a try. On the way there it was raining. While I drove the car the others watched the coastal line. Our first stop however was not for an otter but a huge flock of common eiders.

Sometimes the whole flock dove down for food and then – Plop! Plop! Plop! – they appeared again. Click! I got some photos, but only with my large telephoto lens, because the ducks where quite far away.

We continued a bit and then the first otter was spotted. It was swimming in the fjord occasionally diving to hunt for fish. All the next photos are 100% crop of shots made with 600 mm so the photo quality is inferior, but that was the best I got today. Did the otter get fish? Yes, at least twice we could see it eating. Then, at a shallow bay it went on land and went up through the grass where we lost it from view.

The otters were not the only mammals around. We spotted some porpoises, though only for seconds and a seal, that occasionally swam quite near the shore.

Meanwhile the weather has become quite nice.

Since the otters were not to be seen any longer we decided to continue the road and go for a hike. At a parking place between Kårvik and Skarsfjord we took our backpacks and started hiking up the hills. There was hardly any snow at the beginning of our tour. That changed when we gained altitude. Although there was more snow the ground was not frozen yet and partially wet. Sometimes it felt like walking on a sponge.

We came to a frozen lake, that looked pretty wintry but probably the ice was quite thin, at least in the middle. In the background of the first of the next photos you can see the mountain peak of the Gråtinden (586 m).

The snow had hardened and sometimes bore our weight but mostly we broke through the thin ice layer. But still it was possible to go up, the snow was less deep than I had expected.

And then – after round about 4 km we reached the summit of the Gråtinden.

Here you have an awesome view of the sea, the lowlands and snowy mountain chains in all directions.

We took a rest by the cairn marking the peak, then we started going back. I was quite glad to move again, because I wasn’t really prepared for the hike and had started freezing. While we made our way back and down the sun started to set and the mountains become more orange.

At 16:30 we were back at the car, same time as sunset. And since it even started drizzling again I think we had an excellent timing today.

Thanks for the tour, colleague and friend!

P.S.: Here’s a panorama that I took with my iPhone on the way up today:

The first winter day

This week it has become gradually colder. You could see it on the mountains, where the snow line dropped lower and lower. More and more the rain became slush and wet snow and yesterday evening it had become so cold, that the snow didn’t melt away immediately. This morning I had to remove some snow from my car before I could make a car trip.

I took the car to the island Kvaløya where it often is a bit colder than directly in Tromsø. The conditions were quite wintry although not all trees seemed ready for that.

Soon I arrived at the lake Finnvikvatnet where I parked the car. No ice on the lake yet so both the huge mountains and the tiny islets were reflected from the calm water surface.

This lakes lies on 230 metres and here the snow was much deeper, perhaps between 10 and 20 cm. Temperature was -2°C. Some flowers peeked out, while others probably were buried completely in the snow.

I was unsure how far I would come but packed my backpack with camera, water, chocolate and a warm jacket and started walking through the snow. I was the first one today and the snow was untouched beside of some animal tracks.

I spotted a pile of stones on a small mountain summit nearby. Maybe I could hike there? Well, let’s try – and make some photos on my way.

It was an interesting hike, because nothing is frozen yet. I was glad to have chosen rubber boots, otherwise I would have got very wet feet. Since I could not find the way under the snow I decided to choose a quite direct way up. That took a while, because it was steeper than expected and sometimes it was more like crawling through knee deep snow than hiking. But I arrived at the summit where I had a view on the higher mountains around and the sea in the west.

Now the terrain was flatter. Time to take some more photos.

A ruin caught my eye. I went there and tried to make photos but could not find a perspective I liked. But I had another option: I had my drone with me. So I could not only take a photo from a higher perspective but also one looking straight down and even one from within without touching the snow drift inside. A practical tool that I still have to become more familiar with.

Time to descend. This time I checked the map in my mobile phone and found the hiking trail. Much easier! In summer this is an easy hike for families.

The lower parts in the west are wooded and many trees still have colourful leaves. But above them the mountains are snowy although you can see, that the snow cover is not very deep yet.

That tour was not very long but I got my very first winter day and the first snow since 27 May. Yay!

Some photos from my short car trip back:

I want to thank my colleague D from work. It was him who offered himself on changing my tyres. Therefore I have studded winter tyres on my car since yesterday afternoon. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do this tour. Thank you, D. !

Autumn tour to the glacier Steindalsbreen

After being abroad in Germany, “home home” in Sweden and on vacation in the Netherlands for almost a month I have returned to Tromsø, my “work home” one week ago. Time to work again for the Norwegian Polar Institute but not only that …

Some days ago my colleague Marika asked me if we should go out for a hike to the glacier Steindalsbreen in the weekend. I knew the place from hearsay but never have been there. I gladly accepted – I like hiking with good company. Yesterday on Sunday we met at 7 o’clock and off we went. First by car.

Car trip

Steindalen is on the Lyngen peninsula and round about 100 km away. According to Google it takes 100 minutes but we stopped several times, either to take pictures of the reflections in the fjord or the curious fox beside the road.

Through the forest

After the car was parked we started our tourat 9:25. The birch and alder trees were clad in autumnal colours. The path led westwards through the forest along a small mountain river.

To the cabin

After the path going up and down it led nearer to the river. We passed some moraines – witnessed from the ice age – and spotted a waterfall falling vertically down from a mountain. Then the cabin Steindalshytte came into view. There is a wooden bridge to cross one of the rivers.

Through the U-shaped valley

We followed an inflow of the stream and soon the valley opened more and more. And there it was – still in the distance – the glacier!

It gets rocky

The path went further up and the ground started go get rockier and we left the delta like wetlands behind. But still there were many crouching plants present, many of them in the brightest autumnal colours.

Approaching the glacier

A hill and the glacier Steindalsbreen came in full view, another hill also the glacial lake in the front. Quite depressing were the signs that marked the retreat of the glacier. Oh – so many hundred metres in so few years ;-(

Nearer and nearer …

The first photos Marika and I took from the edge of the glacial lake. Then we followed a path to the right that brought us nearer to the ice. Here we walked on gravel covered ice. I found a hole, perhaps 80 cm in diameter and 150 cm deep.

On the mud flats

As usual I hiked with rubber boots and so I could walk on the sandy mudflats right in front of the glacier. Oh, so beautiful the turquoise blocks of ice!

Mud, ice, and water

I also took some photos of the ground. Was it sand? Hard mud? Ice? Sometimes probably all the three.

Then I looked back to the lake. Hard to imagine that we hiked through autumnal forests some hours ago. This landscape looks eternal somehow although it is the opposite: very fragile and threatened by the global warming.

Heading back

After a meal break by a large rock it was time to head back. The times of midnight sun and bright nights are over and at 7 o’clock in the evening it would be dark. Just some more photos from our way back.

After round eight hours we were back at my car. What I great tour!

Takk for turen, Marika!

Polar bear in the morning

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

One hour ago my telephone rang. 5:32. I picked up the phone. “Polar bear at the port side” I was told. I put on some overclothes over my pyjamas took the photo backpack and the big lens and walked outside. And there it was: I big polar bear quite near the ship. It had already circled the stern of the ship and was now starboard side.

It sniffed curiously around and was interested in all these smells the ropes emitted. And unfortunately is was quite interesting in the air sampling station as well. I hope that all the cables survived.

When it didn’t find anything of interest it slowly walked away into the fog that had started coming up.