Black and white weather

+1 °C, grey and hazy with some rainy showers. I ignore the weather and go out for a longer walk. Time to put a black and white film in the iPhone.

Another snow warning level 2

Just nine days after the last snow warning that brought up to a metre snow in Västernorrland another snow warning was issued for today. And it has been snowing (and still is) and blowing since early morning. Time for a ski tour through the forest between two meetings …

Why I have time for a ski tour when working? Because as an employee of the Norwegian Polar Institute you have the right to two paid hours of training/sport/outdoor activities each week. One of the advantages of being employed there!

I went Spåret – “the track”, a circular route just 500 metres from here. It’s 3½ km long and leads through forests, over rock and along some swamps. Now with half a metre of snow you only see the the forest. Anything else is covered by white snow. And so is the small boggy pond: You should know where the planks cross it because under the snow there is still liquid mud.

This time the plank bridge was easy to find, because I could see the ski tracks that Annika and I left last weekend, when we skied Spåret the first time. I continued through the forest. I have jogged and promenaded this track many times, otherwise I hardly would have found the way.

Skiing was quite exhausting because my skis sank down at least 20 cm with each step, sometimes even knee deep.  Will I come back in time to participate the next meeting? I guess I have to ski faster and take less photos. The last one I took was when I crossed Södra Obbolavägen, our only road to “civilisation”.

To make it short: I arrived in time.

Some hours later I had a special after work activity: clearing a roof of snow. Most roofs had been blown free but there was one large snowdrift on the roof of our main house that I shovelled away while standing on the old metal ladder.

The ladder stands still there. Probably I’ll have to do some more shovelling tomorrow again. While I write this blog entry a huge snowdrifts starts to cover the bottom part of my home office window. What a pity, that it probably will rain on Saturday. One of the few disadvantages when living directly by the coast where it uses to be warmer than in the inland.

Ice fog and hard rime

When it’s cold – -17 °C yesterday morning – and large parts of the Baltic Sea is still open ice fog forms over the sea. When this fog turns to the land hard rime will cover the bare trees making them look like fragile snow sculptures. A wonderful view.

October snow in Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Yesterday evening it started to snow and this morning it still has been snowing. 10 cm of snow cover the streets, cars, houses, trees – it’s the first noteworthy snowfall in Tromsø, since I’ve been here.

The beauty of the snow won’t last long because already on Saturday it will be warmer again and it will thaw away. But hey, it’s only late October. Winter hasn’t even started yet.

And now I’ll take a short breakfast and walk to work.

Fjell and fjäll

Fjell/fjäll is the word for mountain or mountains. Fjell is Norwegian, fjäll is Swedish. As similar the words are as different the fjell/fjäll can be.

When Annika and I started our way back home from Tromsø yesterday we could experience the inaccessible steep mountains in Norway with the dark grey summits hanging in the evenly dark clouds as well as the colourful autumnal mountain plateaus between Abisko and Kiruna.

A skitour from cabin to cabin – part 2

This article is part of the series “2020-03: Ski tour Jämtland II”.

6 March – GåsenVålåstugan

What a beautiful morning: blue sky, -8 °C, hardly any wind. I take my tripod and make some photos of the mountains around us.

After two cozy days at Gåsen Annika and I are eager to continue our ski tour and already at 8:15 we say farewell. Next stop: Vålåstugan, 16 km away.

The first kilometre the way leads up. The snow is grippy and soon we are on the top of the saddle. Cirrus cloud have risen and there’s a halo with sun dogs around the sun. We look back and spot Gåsen in the distance. Just some dark spots in an apparently endless expanse of snow, but there you get all you need, from shelter to food.

One and a half hour later we see the emergency hut Härjångsdalen. At the same time a helicopter is coming from north. It lowers fast, turns a lap and then lands directly by the hut. Shortly after we arrive, too. Two people climb out of the helicopter. They inspect the emergency phone in the hut. I would love to have a job that includes flying helicopters to see the mountains from above.

We continue our trip through the kalfjäll – the bare mountains above the timberline.

Slowly we descend and the first birch trees come into view. We take a break on a small hill where the wind has blown away the snow. Normally this could be a rather bad place to rest, because it is exposed to the wind from all directions but today it’s calm and sunny. Soon after the break I take off the jacket and ski without. The woollen shirt is warm enough in the sun.

At 13:50 we arrive at Vålådalen. We are the first guests today. A lot of people are expected today, among others a group of fourteen, guided by the Swedish Tourist Association STF. We have the choice, where to stay and choose room 1 in the new cabin, where we’ll share the 4-bed-room with the two STF tour guides.

Gradually other skiers come, from single skiers to larger groups. Some have pulkas, most only backpacks. Some stay in the old cabin, most in the larger new one. Here the kitchen is quite large and all people find place.

7 March – Vålåstugan

Another beautiful morning. -10 °C.

As we did in Gåsen we do not continue to the next cabin but stay here for a day. Today we are lucky, because the weather is so beautiful. We do a small ski tour to the other side of the valley. It’s always fun to ski without a heavy backpack or pulka. And on the slope leading up to the mountain Gruvsmällen we even have mobile internet. I use the opportunity to check the weather for tomorrow. Oops, that doesn’t look promising.

On the way back we pass the water source. It is protected by a wooden hut which lies deeply under the snow. A stair leading down to the hut is cut into the snow. I wonder how the stugvärdarna – the wardens – knew where to start digging, then I spot an orange plastic bar. Maybe that bar marks the entrance to the hut. Inside you can see, that the hut is built directly over a small stream. Here you can refill the water buckets from the kitchens.

And water we need. Already before our ski tour Annika has started to water the dried food: potatoes, onions, vegetables, feta cheese. In the evening we wait until the larger groups have completed cooking. Then Annika starts to make another frittata. Ingredients: the dried food mentioned above, butter, egg powder, milk powder, salt, herbs and spices. And again it tastes great.

Olle, one of the wardens comes with a weather update. That’s important for the guest of Gåsen because here is no mobile reception. He confirms what I already know: Tomorrow it will snow and be very windy with average wind round 19 m/s.

People start discussing: shall they continue to the next destination tomorrow or stay at the cabin? We decide to stay another day and get a thumbs up from Olle. Others plan to ski back to Vålådalen tomorrow. Tomorrow it’s Sunday and many have to work again on Monday.

Continue with part 3 >

A skitour from cabin to cabin – part 1

This article is part of the series “2020-03: Ski tour Jämtland II”.

I already have made ski tours in Scandinavia. The first one was 2005 and others in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. What I never did before was doing two ski tours in a row. This year is a premiere. Four days after the last tour day with Arne and Jonas I had the pleasure to do another tour with Annika.

As the tour before we planned to start in Vålådalen and even parts of the tour were equal, only we skied the other way around. If you ask me, travelling the same area twice doesn’t matter, because the weather you cope, the people you meet, the experiences you have, they are all different.

2 March – Vålådalen – Stensdalen Fjällstuga

Annika and I start our ski tour at 9:30. 5 cm of fresh snow cover all snowmobile tracks. Only some fresh ski tracks show us that we are not the first ones.

We ski through the forest. The weather is grey, it snows a bit, -9 °C. I think the forest looks boring in this dull light. Today I hardly take the cameras out of my backpack. Only a small pine tree gets my attention.

Will I take any photos on this second ski tour? Well – I don’t have to. We’ll see …

We arrive in Stensdalen Fjällstuga, the first cabin at 15:00. We can choose: the old or the new cabin? We are curious about the new cabin and get a six bed room. We are four people in the room which is equipped with three bunk beds. I sleep in the upper bed and can look through the tiny square window. Annika’s window is snowed in.

People who know me know that I prefer the mountains to the forest. Does the mountains like me, too? It seems so. On the plywood wall of one of the earth closets it is written: “Fjället älskar dig.” – “The mountains love you.”

The rest of the day? Sauna — dinner — early bedtime. Tomorrow we want to get up at 6:30. It’s only 14 km to Gåsen but it is 350 metres higher than Stensdalen and we are not sure how long it will take.

3 March – Stensdalen FjällstugaGåsen

6:00. The alarm clock hasn’t rung yet but we are already awake. We leave our sleeping room and enter the huge common room with kitchen, where I light the huge wood stove. Annika is boiling water for tea. We have a full breakfast with bread, cheese, and eggs – all leftovers from our breakfast at the hostel the day before.

We like the style of the new cabin. It may be less cozy than the old ones but the separation of the sleeping room is nice and there’s a lot of space so that even with a lot of people it is hardly crowded.

8:20. We just walked across the wooden bridge by the sauna and strap on our skis. 8 cm fresh snow have fallen. We ski through birch forests. Our skis sink 10-15 cm into the snow.

Suddenly Annika makes a sign to stop and to be quiet. It’s a bird – a woodpecker chopping on an old tree trunk. Carefully I get out my camera with the telephoto lens and slowly I ski towards the bird. It seems to ignore me. When I’m hardly three metres away I start to crouch. Frrrr … the woodpecker flies away. For the bird lovers (and Google): It’s a three toed woodpecker.

The snow is soft and we are slow. How long will it take us to Gåsen? I hope that the snow is less deep in the kalfjäll – the parts above the timberline. After 4, 5 km the forest opens and a large ascending mountain slope comes into view. We meet two skiers that come from Gåsen (they have been really fast). We thank each other for making a trace. A trace that we hardly need for now the snow is much harder. So it’s less exhausting to ski although we have to ski up. Less than two hours later we have approached Stähtja, an emergency hut that we use for a break.

When we continue the sun has started to peek through holes in the clouds. The lighting moods are great and sometimes hardly believable. Snow is purple in the shadow and yellow in the sun, sometime the scenery looks like big studio lights have been set up for filming. I think it’s nearly impossible to catch these sophisticated moods but of course I try anyway.

We ski about a large snowy saddle that looks infinite. A sign says “Gåsen 3km”. First we are completely alone but then another skier approaches. It’s stugvärd Ebbe, one of the cabin wardens whom I already met on the other ski tour. He welcomes us and continues skiing. We continue, too. On the highest point of the saddle Gåsen comes into view.

Just before we arrive Ebbe returns from his ski trip and welcomes us again, this time with hot berry juice – the traditional welcome on the STF mountain cabins. We are the only guests and in the same room as Arne, Jonas and me nine days before. The proof? The garlic that we had forgot is still there.

Later four French people arrive. They hardly speak to us. I guess they only feel comfortable speaking French, a language we cannot speak.

The wind increases. We do not care. We want to stay here at least one more night.

4–5 March – two days at Gåsen

It’s windy in the morning. Outside its -8 °C, inside our cabin temperature has dropped to 7 °C. I fire the “Upland” wood stove. It is very slow and it will take half the day until the cabin is warm again. The French group leaves. I do not envy them because the wind is increasing and it is snowing.

At 10:00 we leave our cabin and go to the stugvärdarnas cabin. Ebbe has invited us to fika – coffee – and Svitlana has baked a delicious chocolate cake. We sit there and talk for almost two hours until we hear the sound of an approaching snowmobile. It transports food and goods, both for Svitlana and Ebbe as well as for the Fältjägaren Fjällstuga, 30 km in the south.

We invite Svitlana and Ebbe for dinner. Annika had dried potatoes, onions and vegetables at home to spare weight. Now she is watering the dried food.

Later that day I have another appointment. Ebbe and I fetch water from the waterhole. Ebbe wanted to do that in the afternoon when the wind has calmed down, since it’s a bit to go to. You see the tiny square right from Ebbe’s head on the first photo? That’s the waterhole. It’s four metres deep, so you take a bucket to pull up the water, fill it into the plastic containers and then use the sledge to pull it back. One container for the warden’s, one for our cabin.

And the used water? There are own buckets for it and an own place where to pour out them. They are marked with the word slusk.

At 18:00 Svitlana and Ebbe arrive. Annika has used milk powder, egg powder and the watered potatoes and vegetables to make frittata. It’s enough to invite Magnus from Göteborg as well. He slept in the tent the nights before and now stays in the same cabin as us. Svitlana brings fresh bread and Annika’s frittatas taste great. We even have some Florentine biscuit as dessert. A luxury multi-course  dinner at Gåsen with great company. What a fantastic evening!

Annika and I decide to stay another day. Magnus is not sure yet.

We take it easy this morning. Magnus has decided to stay, too. So Magnus and I can help Ebbe with the gas cylinders. Full gas cylinders have to be connected to the warden’s cabin. The gas connection is at the back of the cabin and was completely snowed in, since here the snow reaches over the roof. Ebbe has already dug down to the door and Magnus and I use a rope to slowly lower the heavy gas cylinders down to Ebbe. These are jobs, where a stugvärd needs support of the guests and we are glad to help.

Not only the back of the stugvärd cabin is snowed in. The old cabin is also surrounded of snow and with a single step you could climb on the roof. Ebbe told us, that a snow groomer would come in two weeks to dig out the cabin.

This day more people arrive. First to constantly talking women, than a party of six. Magnus already fled the crowd by moving to the other room, Annika and I follow soon. There it is cold, but quite.

The weather has got better and tomorrow both Magnus and us want to start early. He will return to Storulvån, we want to continue to Vålåstugan.

Continue with part 2 >