Almost like summer.

The weather forecast was right: today it was warm and sunny. Really warm considering that it is mid-October and that it snowed last week. 20 °C we had in Skelleftehamn today! Probably the last opportunity to bicycle in a T-shirt this year.

I followed a way through the forest that I already knew but hardly recognised: The illuminated ski track between Skelleftehamn and Ursviken. (That’s what it looks like in winter.)

After a while I left this path and walked the bike along a trail marked with red crosses. Red crosses mean, that it’s a winter way and following such in summer may send you into swamps, bogs or even lakes. Although the ground was wet I was lucky. Some makeshift bridges, probably made by snowmobile drivers helped me over some boggy passages and soon I was on the other side of the lake with the creative name “Sjön” (The lake).

I continued to the right, already heading home but with some detours.

Detour 1: A short walk up the mountain Örberget. Despite of its incredible height of more than 40 meters – that’s almost 10 meters higher than the gravel road – you have a view of the Baltic Sea. The rocks were quite wet, probably because they were much colder than the air so that the moisture condensed on the surface.

Detour 2: Down to the cabins by the bay Djupviken. The photo may be silly, but it’s a reminiscence of the kayak tour last week where I carried the kayak cross the road at the very same place.

Soon I was home again where the thermometer showed temperatures betwwen 19 °C and 20 °C. Two hours later I was at the local beach, ready for a bath. After the air felt like summer and the beach looked like autumn I expected the water to feel like winter. It was cold but warmer than expected: 9 °C. Refreshing!

No, it’s not winter yet, but …

No, it’s not winter yet. It’s autumn. Look at the coloured trees that I photographed in Skelleftehamn yesterday morning.

No, it’s not winter yet. Well, it snowed in Lövånger – 40 km south – some days before. Yes, in the shadow of the forests there are still patches of snow. Ok, the shallow parts of the lake Gårdefjärden had started to freeze over, but it’s not winter yet.

No, it’s not winter yet. But it’s dark. And when it’s dark, there could be polar lights. Annika rang me at 19:40 and told me that strong polar lights covered the sky. And so it was. I took my camera, hopped into the car and drove to the beach Storgrundet. First mistake: no memory card in the camera – good to have a spare one. Second mistake: en empty battery – good to have a spare one. When I was ready to take pictures, the most impressive polar lights already had gone but I made some pictures anyway.

No, it’s not winter yet. But the winter will come with frost and snow – sooner or later. And hopefully with a lot of sunny days. And more polar lights.

The first frost

The first frost this autumn · temperature minimum last night: -3.9 °C · air temperature this morning: -2.5 °C

 

20 August: Kungsleden day 1 – Vakkotavare—Teusajaure (16 km)

This article is part of the series “2017-08: Kungsleden hike”.

The idea to walk the Kungsleden with my sister Katrin and my brother-in-law Andi had been existing several years. This year we put our plan into action and went this famous Swedish long-distance trail from Vakkotavare to Abisko, which is round about 110 kilometres. Fortunately Annika had time to join us.

We started our tour on 20 August, exactly two weeks ago. As many hikes our tour started with public transport: The bus 93 from Gällivare to Ritsem. The last 130 km of that route are famous for being Sweden’s longest dead-end road.

We however left the bus at Vakkotavare where we immediately started the tour. We had no time to loose since our destination – the Teusajaure hut – is located on the other side of the lake Teusajaure and we hoped for a lift with the motor boat at 19:15 to avoid rowing cross the lake.

The first part of the trail is quite steep and leads along a mountain brook with some waterfalls. 500 metres in altitude can be exhausting, when it’s the first day and the backpacks are still packed with some extra food.

Finally we were on the plateau on the “kalfjäll”, the alpine region above the tree line. I really love that bleak but wide landscape where you can look so far.

Until then we were quite lucky with the weather. It wasn’t sunny but at least it didn’t rain. But the weather worsened. The clouds became darker and it started to rain, first lightly then gradually intensifying. We could see some patches of old snow far away but soon all mountain peaks vanished in the thick layer of clouds.

The last part of the trail descends again. This was probably the most dreadful stage of our whole hike: it rained more and more and the steep stony path downwards was muddy and slippery. Despite of the rain there was not a single wisp of wind. So every second we stopped we were immediately surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes that landed in our eyes and nostrils or tried to get into our ears to suck our blood. Anyway we hardly rested anyhow since we tried to reach the boat.

We managed to reach the landing stage at the lake Teusajaure in time, wound up the signal for the boat (a white plastic jerry can) and waited. At least we were glad that the hut Teusajaure was in sight.

I felt disappointed and frustrated. It was the first hiking tour in Sweden for Katrin and Andi. What would happen if the weather would stay like that? And the muddy trails? And the mosquito clouds? Would we continue or abandon the tour? What would they think about hiking in Lapland? Would they ever come again …?

Soon we could see the boat leaving the other side of the lake. Minutes later it arrived. We put the backpacks onboard, jumped in, put on live wests and soon brought across the lake.

On the other side we unpacked the wet trunks and the stugvärd – the mountain-lodge keeper – gave us four beds to sleep. While Annika and I had hiked in Sweden many times it was brand new to Katrin and Andi and felt like a culture shock:

No electricity, no water tap and no water toilet neither! Instead of that: candles, a wood fired oven, two gas cookers and some buckets with water – partly fresh, partly used. And the earth closet somewhere out in the dusk. Again I felt a bit guilty that I persuaded Katrin and Andi into that Kungsleden hike.

Anyway the first tour day that was long away from being ideal came to a nice end: We had pasta, fresh chanterelle mushrooms and sour cream with us for the first day and therefore could enjoy a dinner far above standard. Now we only hoped for the rain to stop. It didn’t take long until we went to bed and soon we all slept.

What do you do if you don’t want to get a motor boat lift? You row by yourself. That’s round 1 km one way.

There are three rowing boats total. If you have two boats on your side, you’re lucky: Just take the boat and row across the lake.

If you have only one boat on your side, you have to row three times: First you take the boat and cross the lake. Then you row back with the same boat and a second boat in tow. Then you leave that second boat and row again a third time. So it’s ensured that there’s always at least one boat on each side.

Jämtland hike part II: hejdå Sweden, hei Norge!

This article is part of the series “2016-09: Jämtland and Norway”.

Annika and I are in the mountains in Jämtland and have just reached our first destination: Blåhammaren, where we slept in a 14-bed room.

Tuesday, 13. September

Sleeping in a 14-bed room can be quite demanding, especially if you have this kind of snorers in your room, that could awake a frozen mammoth. However Annika and I were really lucky, no snorers at all! After our breakfast we had to decide where to continue our tour. From Blåhammaren you can hike back to civilisation or continue to two other destinations. Most of the hikers continue to Sylarna which is very central and part of the Jämtland Triangle, a very popular three-day-tour, that connects Storulvån, Blåhammaren and just Sylarna. We were keener to cross the border and hike to the Norwegian lodge Storerikvollen and so we did.

With an altitude of 1086 m Blåhammaren is the highest tourist station of the STF – the Swedish Tourist Association – so first the trail ran over the treeless mountain plateau, over rocks and moss, crossing some swamps and brooks. After a while we descended and the first yellow coloured birch trees came into view again.

Swedish summer trails are marked with red coloured dots on rock or tree, while winter trails are marked with poles bearing red crosses. You really shouldn’t follow the winter trails in summer unless you want to stand in front of a lake or find yourself deep in a bog – both are easy to cross only in wintertime. But quite often there’s a year round trail which makes navigation extremely easy even on less walked routes.

One kilometre behind Endalen, an emergency shelter, where we rested for a short while, the Sweden-Norwegian border came into view. It’s hard to mark a border less spectacularly than this one: A sign amidst of a pile of yellow painted stones, that’s it. The large bridge that crosses the river Enan (Sami: Äjnänjohke) directly after the border offers far more spectacularity.

We detected a real nice resting place on the other side of the river, where we planned to enjoy the warm summerly weather, but two other hikers – by the way the first ones we met that day – coming from the other side chose exactly the same slab of rock to rest. Luckily we found another place, at least as nice as the first one. We unmounted our backpacks, took of our boots and dangled our feet into the ice-cold water.

(I like the photo with the drifting yellow birch leave and the dead mosquito. It illustrates, why I prefer the autumn to summer: Beautiful colours and no biting insects left!)

In Norway the summer trail marks change, now the trail was marked with big bright red T-s. The red T is also the logo of the DNT, the Norwegian Trekking Association.

Do you see the dark piece of something on the top of the stone? It’s animal droppings, but I’m not sure of which species. I asked for help on Facebook and the favourite answers are reindeer and (arctic) fox.

We continued our tour until we came to another swing bridge, this time crossing the river Djupholma. On the other side of that river lies a nice sandy beach where I took a refreshing bath (the only one of the whole tour). It was only two other kilometres to walk to our destination, the cabin Storerikvollen, where we arrived round six o’clock.

Oh, so nice these Norwegian lodges are. They seem less “funkis” (the Swedish functional style) and more “hyggelig” (the Norwegian word for cozy, snug, or homelike). Just gemütlich! And we got a two-bed-room for a good price. The only thing you should know, when you visit the Norwegian side: These cabins hardly sell any food and there is no public kitchen as in the Swedish cabins. So you have three options: (1) take a camp stove with you and cook outside. (2) cold dishes! Hopefully you have all with you. (3) eat the dinner and breakfast provided by the lodges (and pay the Norwegian price).

We chose (2) and had a nice dinner with salami, crisp bread and fresh water outside in the evening sun, enjoying both our simple meal, the warm air and the beautiful view. Later the almost full moon rose above the reddish mountain chain – what a beautiful evening!

Wednesday, 14. September

The next day would lead us to the Nedalshytta, which is between 20 and 24 km away, depending on which map or sign post you rely on. So we got up quite early.

We had to go back yesterdays route 2 or 3 km where the trail divided. Now we turned south and had to ascent. Soon again we were above the treeline. When we looked back, we could see parts of the big lake Essandsjøen and even spotted – beside of some reindeers – the now tiny Storerikvollen, that we left some ours ago.

After a while we came to the river Fiskåa, where we had to ford. My rubber boots were high enough and I just splashed through the water, whereas Annika changed boots with trekking sandals and waded through the river.

Since rivers use to flow through valleys we had to ascend again and walked up along a reindeer fence. The weather was still warm and sunny, but you could see a cloud layer approaching afar. Would it rain in the evening as the forecast told us?

Only the map showed us the progress of our longest tour so far. We went a bit up, a bit down, a bit to the left, a bit to the right, down a small valley and up again. But finally trees came into view once more and soon we stood on an exposed plateau not far away from the yet invisible Nedalshytta.

Come on, just less than a kilometre to go … . Final spurt! A short while later we arrived at the beautiful lodge. Again we got a nice two-bed room, this time right below the grass roof. And we got: pizza! Perhaps not the best I ate in my life, but walk 20 – 24 kilometres with a backpack by yourself and you’ll know, how delicious a warm pizza slice can be!

The tour so far:

Continue with part three …

A trip above the treeline

Today the weather was really nice in Venneshamn in Norway. I took the car to drive to a mountain area not far away. At least, if you can fly … . If you take the car in Norway, there’s always at least one fjord you have to drive round, in this case the Verrasundet. So it took a bit longer than excepted taking the ways 191, 193 and 720 round the fjord. Finally I approached the street to the lake Ormsetvatnet. Street, well … it’s more like a steep gravel path, that you can drive up some kilometres to a parking place. The last kilometre to the lake is closed for cars and I had to walk it.

At Ormsetvatnet I crossed a dam wall, walked up a tree covered slope and soon was above the treeline. To be honest, I’m not too fond of forests, when it comes to taking pictures and I’m always glad, when I leave the trees behind when doing a mountain trip.

Now I was on a hilly plateau, the Vakkerheia. Some of the flat mountain tops were marked with piles of stones.

In the plain valley between the hilly tops the ground is soft and wet. Sometimes I had to go round shallow ponds and bogs, but mostly the ground was easy to go. In and round the swampy ponds the cotton grass was blooming. To my big delight there were many cloudberries plants growing in the lesser wet parts and the berries were ripe and ready to eat!

Picking cloudberries can be tedious, because of the many bloodthirsty horseflies that seem to guard them. I think, I slew most of them, but some bit me anyway.

After some hours of a really relaxed mountain hike I took another way back until I came to the gravel road again, where my parked car waited for me.

Half a day later

A thunderstorm approaches from the west. The center seems to be above the very same area that I wandered some hours earlier. The thunder and lightnings were as impressive as the intense colours, that I could see from the other side of the fjord. I was glad, that I haven’t been on that plateau – there would be hardly any place to seek shelter from the massive rain fall or to protect from the dangerous lightnings.

Addendum

And since we’re living in the age of selfies …

Freezing over – day two

Another chilly morning, with -7 °C it was the coldest in Skelleftehamn this season. Again I woke up quite early and took a tour to Storgrundet. There lay more ice on the sea than yesterday and you could see that it was partly ice floes that froze together the night before. However, the beautiful ice rim that I photographed yesterday was gone.

I made a short stop at the lake Snesviken, that is round about one kilometer long. Since we had only two frosty nights after a longer warm period with day temperatures above 10 °C, I was sure that the lake was completely open with perhaps a bit of ice at the shore.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realised that almost the whole lake was covered with ice – after only two frosty nights. Incredible how fast it goes!

This evening I had a meeting in Ursviken at the Kanotudden – the canoe bay, where the canoe club has its location. This bay is part of the Skellefte River and it starts to freeze over, too. I really like the clubhouse. It’s a pity that it’s hardly used in winter time – it would be the perfect location for a public winter bath site!

Another frosty morning

-5.6 °C showed the thermometer when I woke up at 6:15. I don’t need to look through the window to know that it’ll be a nice morning with mostly blue sky when it’s so cold in early October. And so it was.

The photo above is taken almost at the same place as the 1st photo three days ago. I prefer the older motive but like the intense colour of the sunlit clouds in the background. To other shots:

Have a look at the second photo, the one with the grass in the foreground. Why isn’t the horizon straight? That’s because I stood knee deep in the water myself, breaking the ice. When this happens, water from the hole will start to cover the ice. I just could take my camera, look through the finder and – click! – take a picture. One second later parts of the ice were covered by a thin layer of water.

That was the main problem: There is no save ground round these swamp ponds, where you could take your time for making pictures or even use a tripod. No, you stand knee deep in water on unstable ground, knowing that another step could bring you in much deeper water. I’m always afraid I could fall into the water and drown my expensive camera. It will me much easier when the ice is thick enough to stand on.

After a while the sun started to rise. Time for some more experimental images:

I realised the frozen bug on the second photo first, when I looked through the images at home. It’s hardly 2 mm big but looks quite huge on this macro photo. Learning: look at the motive even more precisely.