Skitour to Bergskäret

Today I took advantage of the marvellous weather and joined a ski tour over the frozen bay Kågefjärden to the island Bergskäret. Bergskäret is the island in the Kågefjärden that is nearest to the open sea. We were four: Hans and Stefan, with whom I have already made some trips, Kenneth and myself.

We took the car to Kågehamn where we started the tour. Round 5 kilometres over the snow covered frozen Baltic Sea and we arrived at the island. We were not the only ones. We looked for a good spot on the sunny south bank of the island where Hans made a fire with fire steel and we grilled the sausages that Kenneth had bought. I had a light down jacket with me but instead of putting that on I put off my soft shell because I felt so warm. Although it was hardly more than +2 °C the sun warmed us and the island protected us from the wind. After barbecuing, eating and resting a bit we went round the island and skied back to Kågehamn. Round 11 kilometres in the finest weather. A good way to spend the Sunday!

Tack för turen Hans, Stefan, and Kenneth.

Postscript 1

On the way back we saw the first whooper swan of the season. Another spring sign.

Postscript 2

While the snow and ice on the Baltic Sea are still beautiful the minor streets are in a very poor condition. The ice on the street is so deeply rutted that I’m quite glad about the high ground clearance of my Subaru. Anyway I learned that even a car with permanent all-wheel drive can spin out although driving slow.

#escapism – an icy camp site

Yesterday

Yesterday at 17:40 my tent was set up on a snowy plane near the sea ice where I planned to stay for the night.

The dinner was part luxury (a really cold coke), part pragmatism (some instant curry chicken of dubious consistency) and part necessity (chocolate!). After the dinner I walked along the shore, which was completely covered with ice and snow. First I walked on land, then on the sea ice. You may think, that a landscape that solely consists of snow and ice must be quite colourless, but no, when there’s light there are colours!

When I came back to my tent, it already had become dark and the almost full moon hovered over the tent. And that was my view from the tent, too: The moon, some stars, snow, ice and the icebound sea.

You might wonder, where I am. Good point, I’ll explain. Let’s go back half a day.

Yesterday I worked only half a day and was home early. I had a plan in my mind: as long as the sea ice is as thick as just now, why shouldn’t I ski over the Baltic Sea to the island Gåsören and spend the night there. I’ve done that in summer twice by kayak but never in wintertime. So I picked myself up, packed skis and pulka and took the car to the small harbour Tjuvkistan.

While the Baltic Sea was open one year ago it is still covered with thick ice this year. Instead of open water one can spot only a snow covered plane and some tracks – made by hare, a moose, another skier, but mostly by snowmobiles, the favourite winter vehicle of many locals. I however do not own such a snöskoter but prefer skiing anyway.

The linear distance between Tjuvkistan and  Gåsören is only 2,3 km and so I arrived at the island soon. In summer it’s hard to find a tenting place (I know only one), since almost the whole island is covered with stones and rocks. This winter however Gåsören is covered with at least 50 cm of snow and so it was easy to find a good place to tent. Scroll up to the first photo and you see it.

OK, back to the story …

At nine a clock it was quite dark and a layer of clouds approached. Good arguments for cuddling up in my warm down sleeping bag and go to sleep. Good night, world.

Today

At five a clock I woke up and felt fairly well rested. I got up for taking some photos. Although it’s already the end of March the nights can be quite chilly and I guess that we had temperatures round -10 °C. I put on more or less all clothes that I had with me and made some photos. The moon had wandered on its orbit to the west and hovered above Gåsören’s old lighthouse.

That photo looks like being shot at the dead of night, doesn’t it? So let’s turn around and look to the east:

It’s less than 8 minutes between the previous two images and it’s more the cardinal direction than the time difference that is responsible for the different light and colours. I walked around for two hours and was just happy to be there at that fantastic place that fantastic morning and to experience all these different kinds of ice and light.

I became hungry so I returned to the tent. or tried … . Just a photo of the lighthouses behind the ice. And another one of my camp site.

But now: finally breakfast. Water, crisp bread and cheese. That may not be the most exciting food, but I didn’t care, I enjoyed the  incredible view over the icebound Baltic Sea in winter.

After breakfast I walked around another time and took some more photos.

Another break. This time just pure luxury. Since I wasn’t in a hurry the tent was still set up. So I could cuddle up in my cozy sleeping bag again and took a long daytime nap. The temperature was still below zero but the sun was high up in the sky and warmed the tent. And there was even chocolate left. Just “gemütlich”!

When I woke up an hour later a layer of stratus clouds had approached and the light had become dull. A good time to pack anything back into the pulka, to put on my skis again and to start the “long” way home. Good bye, Gåsören. Next time when I visit you it will probably be with the kayak. I love winter, but paddling in summertime is great, too.

When I had arrived at the car after Jonas’ and my previous ski tour, it was in Kvikkjokk, 400 km from home. This time the car was parked less than 3 km from my house. I’ve been living in Skelleftehamn for many years now but still I’m happy about the beautifulness of it.

This article is the first one of the new series #escapism. It’s about being outdoors and leaving civilisation behind in excursions that take less than 24 hours. Everyone should have time for such!

My packing list (excerpt)

tent with snow pegs · inflatable camping mat · down sleeping back (a warm one!) · clothes for skiing · spare clothes · winter anorak · thermal pants · warm boots · woollen cap · 2 pairs of gloves · down west · skis with poles and boots · pulka with hip belt · water (both cool and hot) · food (a lot!) · knife · camping stove · matches · kitchen stuff · mobile phone · power bank · headlamp · sunglasses · thermometer (it broke) · compass · isdubbar (essential emergency equipment in case of breaking into the ice) · toilet paper · snow shovel · camera equipment · tripod · grand piano (just kidding)

 

Winter is not over

It has been snowing 5 cm since last night, the day temperatures are round -6 °C and the ski track in Skelleftehamn was prepared hours ago. Although I’ve been in quite a lazy mood today I took my cross-country skis (hardly used the last weeks) and skied for an hour.

Ah, that felt good!

Note to myself: be more outdoors, be it skiing, hiking, kayaking, cycling, tenting, that doesn’t matter. Just be more outdoors!

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 7 to 9

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 13 to 15 of my winter journey 2018

(finally the last part about Jonas’ and my ski tour five weeks ago)

Tuesday, 13 February

I woke up in the cabin Tarrekaisestuga at 7:20. Some more centimetres of fluffy snow had fallen over night and it was still snowing slightly.

While Jonas and I had breakfast the snowfall intensified so that the mountains and the opposite shore of the lake Darrávrre were hidden by the falling snowflakes. Even the deep tracks of our pulkas from the day before had been snowed over and we couldn’t spot them anymore. We planned to gradually walk back on the other side of the lake and find a tenting place there. After breakfast we packed our equipment into the pulkas, cleaned up the cabin and started our tour by crossing the lake. It was still snowing quite heavily and on the lake it was quite windy, too.

It was not easy to find a path on the other side of the lake. The snow was soft and deep, some parts were forested quite densely and some passages were quite steep. At least for me, who lacked both power and general fitness for dragging a heavy pulka uphill through this sort of powdery snow where you sink in 20 to 40 cm with every step – with skis on!

Slowly and with many small detours we managed to ascent the southern hills until we reached the treeline where the terrain is more open and less hilly. We found a boulder where we found shelter against the wind. Here we took a snack: Chocolate, trail mix and hot tea.

We continue skiing slowly going uphill heading east. It stopped snowing and the wind dropped but the weather was still grey and dull. At least we could see the mountains again.

Suddenly we came to an abrupt stop. We stood at the edge of a deep, steep ravine impossible to cross. Such can happen if you do not make a detailed tour planning but just have a general idea of where to go.

After a while we started to look for a place to tent. First we followed the ravine that the river Áhkalmgårttje had cut into the landscape then we descended a bit to find a sheltered place between some birch trees. The snow was really deep and without skiers I sank up to my stomach into the fluffy snow.

Fortunately the snow was stable enough to build up the tent after we had trampling down it thoroughly with our skis.

Later in the evening: I wonder, why it is never completely dark. Is it still lights of civilisation reflected by the clouds? Suddenly something was flickering between the clouds. Is it a strong aurora? No, it’s just too vivid. But what is it? It was two snow mobiles that illuminated half the mountain landscape with their strong full beams. Slowly they passed on the lake below us.

Temperatures were round -10 °C, quite warm for a February night in the Kvikkjokk mountains. Soon I fell asleep.

Wednesday, 14 February

As usual I was awake quite early and I had a challenge: going on the loo. I just slipped into my warm mukluk boots, put on the down jacket and took toilet paper plus snow shovel with me. I went back on our track from our day before thinking it would bear my weight. It went well a few steps then I just fell through the snow and stood there, again up to my stomach in powder snow. This plan didn’t went so well. I climbed out of the hole, brushed off the snow of my long johns and looked for a better place. (I found it.)

This morning was even warmer with only -8 °C and quite foggy. Both wide angle lenses were completely fogged and it would take most of the day until I could make clear photos again. That’s what the morning  looked like:

As usual we took it easy and started only at 11 o’clock. We descended through the hilly open woodland until we met the winter trail. Snowmobiles had used this trail not long ago and now it was quite easy – even if a bit boring – to get ahead. And after some time even the sun tried to twinkle between the clouds. The first time after many cloudy days we casted shadows again. And it was snowing at the same time.

I skied fast on the snowmobile trail where I could use cross country skiing techniques. Too fast for Jonas and too fast for myself, too. I couldn’t hold the tempo and after some time I was really exhausted – not for the first time on this tour. On the other side it was already afternoon and we were already quite near Kvikkjokk, where I had parked the car. Jonas found a nice clearing in the forest were we tented the last time on this tour. And even the sky cleared up a bit.

Thursday, 15 February

We do not know if we missed northern lights while we slept. The morning however the sky was grey and overcast again and half a centimetre of dust-like snow covered the tent. (And my green anorak that I had forgot to put into the pulka.) Today we would have it easy. Just some kilometres skiing on the winter trail that means, following the snowmobile tracks, mostly on the river.

We passed the place where we had left the very same river the very first afternoon to find our tenting place. Here, in the “valley” much less snow had fallen and our deep tracks climbing up the steep riverside were still visible. Now it wasn’t long to the private shortcut that we had used on our tour start. When we came to this place, a snowmobile approached from that very shortcut, a man waved at us and made a turn to talk to us. It was Björn, the very same local that we met when we started our tour! He was quite eager to hear about our experiences even though he was a bit in a hurry. He also told us about two other Germans that he just had met at the very same parking place where I had parked my car.

The last kilometres, crossing a small frozen river …

… following the shortcut (which is quite long for being a shortcut) and finally we arrived at the parking place. We hadn’t much luck with the weather, we didn’t ski long distances, but it was an awesome tour anyway. Thank you, Jonas!

Plans for the next ski tour:

  • be better trained and exercised (!!!)
  • have less equipment (!!)
  • have (partly) better equipment (!)

Photo #6 and #9 in this blog article are made by Jonas Balbasus.

At the parking place we met Dan and Helen, also from Germany, who just were on the point of starting a much longer tour within less than two weeks: Following the Padjelanta, crossing the Sarek, returning on the Kungsleden. A very ambitious tour in my opinion. But they made it as you can read in Helen’s blog:
Winter ski tour through Sarek National Park – Sápmi / Swedish Lapland

 

 

 

 

A skitour near Ekkerøy

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Day 36 of my winter journey 2018

locking the rented house in Ekkerøy – taking by car to the main road – looking for a parking place – mounting the skis – following the snowmobile trail – leaving that trail – slowly ascending the hill – leaving the last willow bushes behind – skiing – breathing – viewing – enjoying Varanger’s “kalfjell” above the treeline.

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 5 and 6

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 11 and 12 of my winter journey 2018

After our second night in the tent (it was 20 °C warmer than the first night) I woke up at 7 o’clock. My thick isolated sleeping bag was much too warm and I was glad to get out of “bed”. Time for some photos of our tent and the surroundings.

Today we wanted to leave the trees behind and ascend to the kalfjäll – the treeless mountains region. Since we already were level with the treeline we soon came to the place where you hardly see anything more than snow, some rocks and the winter waymarks.

Jonas is interested in many things, among others bouldering. When we came to a nice large boulder after some hours of skiing, he took the opportunity for a (very) short bouldering session. Here’s the evidence photo:

After that short break we continued our tour over the kalfjäll. It snowed and it was quite windy. The boulder was quite near to the mountain shelter Kurajaure, where we arrived half an hour later.

The wind had grown stronger and stronger and we were glad to enter the shelter. We took the pulkas in, too. These mountain shelters aren’t made for overnight stays beside of emergency situations. We however decided to stay in this shelter anyway for some reasons I won’t reveal here.

Of course we didn’t use the woodstove and firewood. We took our own paraffin stove, prepared food and slept in our sleeping bags, since unheated the shelter was as cold outside as it was inside. But there was a big difference: We were protected against the strong snowfall and the rough winds. I went outside anyway to take some photos in the dusk.

This time we did something new: we set the alarm clock for the next day. We wanted to reach the mountain hut Tarrekaisestugan which we passed two days before and suspected that we had to ski through a lot of fresh snow against rough headwinds and strong snowfall. Since we didn’t know how much time it would take we had set the alarm clock to 7 o’clock. The plan was to leave 8:30, but it became 9:20 when we started our 6th tour day.

It was -12 °C and quite stormy. I guess the windchill was round -30 C. I closed my fur trimmed hood as much as possible and later I took even a buff over mouth and nose to protect against the icy snow that the wind threw into my face. I used three pairs of gloves and mittens – one over the others – to protect hands and fingers. Here’s a selfie of me (left) and Jonas (right) made on the kalfjäll.

There was a lot of new snow, probably 10 to 15 cm. All snowmobile tracks (and our own from the day before) had disappeared. We returned the very same way that we went the day before. Although weather was rough, skiing was easier than expected, because we went more down- than uphills. The steep part however was a real disappointment. This stage had costed a lot of efforts to climb the day before, now it took less than ten minutes to ski down. After a passage over the frozen lake Tarrekaisestugan came into view.

It took more time than expected to cross the lake, but the most exhausting part was the slope by the lake that we had to climb up to reach the mountain hut. Here at least 30 cm of fresh snow had been falling and even the deepest snowmobile tracks were hardly visible. After we arrived and removed our skis I removed ice from the outside of the window. I had to plunge through hip deep snow to reach it. The snow depth behind the hut was at least two meters.

After two cold nights we were glad to dry both sleeping bags and clothes and hung up mittens, jackets, boots, caps and much more and to heat the woodstove.

Our dinner: couscous with roasted salami, dried tomatoes and ready-made champignon sauce. Tasty!

The two photos showing me on skis are made of Jonas Balbasus.

 

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 4

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 10 of my winter journey 2018

After two days in the Njunjesstugan Jonas and I continued our tour in the mountains west from Kvikkjokk, The weather continued to be grey and dull with temperatures round -11 °C and last night’s snowfall brought five to six centimetres of downy snow.

The winter trail led through forests and hills – one of them so steep, that we hardly managed to ascent it by foot. I guess, that some of the people marking the way prefer the snowmobile before the skis and adapt the trail to that …

Soon we reached the lake Darrávrre which we followed to the mountain hut Tarrekaisestugan. We made a rest, not to stay there but to simplify the continuation of our ski tour. The next tour would lead uphills and we wanted to reduce weight. Therefore we left food, paraffin oil and some spare clothes in the wood shed and took only food for two days with us. After two days in the higher mountains we would return to the hut.

We carried on. By crossing the lake Darrávrre to the west we left the hiking trail Padjelantaleden. On the other side of the lake the trail climbed up the hill. It was not as steep as feared and even if the ascent was quite exhausting for me we managed to get up to the tree line.

We reached an altitude of approx. 680 meter. Here we left the trail and erected the tent in the twilight between some birch trees. This time the snow was stable after tramping it down with the skis and we hadn’t to dig down as three nights before. It had become even warmer: -7 °C and it snowed. Both of us were longing for clear, crips and sunny winter days but it didn’t look like we would get better weather. At least it wasn’t as stormy as forecasted.

 

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 2 and 3

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 8 and 9 of my winter journey 2018

After the first night in the tent (it was a cold one!) we were eager to continue the tour. The tent was packed and so were the pulkas. We started by skiing through powder snow – a slow movement. I guess I hardly reached 2 km/h in average and I definitely was much slower when I had to go uphills. We looked for a good place to access the river again since it was much easier to follow the stable snow on the snowmobile tracks. After a while we found a good place to enter the river bed. Mostly the winter trail followed the river, only twice it continued on land where the river is narrow and had open water.

After some kilometres the river bent southwards and our trail left the river to continue more westwards. We continued the snowmobile tracks that led through forests and over smaller bogs.

We started to think about reaching the mountain hut Njunjes but weren’t at all sure if we would reach it before darkness. Anyhow, we didn’t had any pressure, since we had anything with us which we need for tenting:

  • a tent (of course)
  • down filled camping mats
  • very warm sleeping bags and vapour barrier lines
  • warm clothes from head to foot
  • a lot of food
  • a paraffin oil driven cooker
  • … and much more …

The way was easy but the pulkas were heavy loaded and after hours of walking I started to get tired and exhausted. That’s one of the reasons why I hardly made any photos. Another reason was that both my cameras refused to work in the morning with temperatures round -30 °C. It became warmer, but it was still round -25 °C, although it had become cloudy and overcast that day quite early.

Beside of a longer and a shorter rest we continued skiing, now with the defined goal to reach the hut. It started to get dark but we knew that we only had to go another hour or a bit more to make it.

After a while it went so dark that we skied with headlights. The buildings of Njunjes had come into view but they were on the other side of the river. When we were on a level with Njunjes we realised that the river became a quite deep ravine, probably with open water and quite impossible to cross …

… but we were really lucky: there was a metal chain bridge that led over that very ravine. It was quite a fight to climb up the slope after crossing the bridge, but with a lot of pulling (and without our skis) we managed it.

Soon Jonas found the open winter room with was made for people like us who like to travel off-season. A stove, wood, a bunk bed for two people, hooks for drying clothes, a table and two stools – anything to stay here for a night or two.

Day three was a day off. It was warmer than the day before and mostly dim and cloudy. I took pictures of the chain bridge, the mountain hut and the landscape (as far as it was visible)

 

After breakfast we attached new climbing skins to my skis and took a ski tour. First cross the river again and right to the sun. Then up some minor hills through sparse birch forests and eastwards to meet the branch to the hut that we had missed the day before. The skins worked well but it was almost a pity to have them attached to my skis since they slowed me down when skiing downhills through the loose powder snow. The sun was hardly visible through the clouds and the landscape almost looked sepia – like an old black and white photo.

First it only snowed a bit but when we finished our tour and arrived at “our” mountain hut snowfall increased. While Jonas was busy sawing and chopping wood I took a small nap.

In the evening we planned to continue to Tarrekaisestugan the next day – the next mountain hut in the west – and probably to continue and tent again in the wintry forests.

Photo #2 in this blog article is made by Jonas Balbasus.

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 1

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 7 of the winter journey 2018

I’m really glad, that my friend Jonas and I managed to realise a ski tour this year. It’s our 3rd ski tour together, but the last one was five years ago. A long time. Actually we had planned for eleven days, but due to severe snow falls between Gävle and Sundsvall two weeks ago the whole train traffic was cancelled and Jonas arrived more than two days later than planned.

On Wednesday, 7 February we left Solberget and took my car to Jokkmokk, where we bought food for nine days. Anything from muesli (with powdered milk), tea and chocolate to pasta with pesto, salami, potato mash and much more. Have a look:

After taking a lunch we continued to Kvikkjokk. The weather was sunny and the temperatures sank below -20 °C. In Kvikkjokk we packed our pulkas, transport sledges you carry behind, locked the car, put on the skies and started our tour. First along a road, then on a snow mobile track. We didn’t come long when we met a local with a snow shovel who asked for our plans. He looked at our heavy loaded pulkas and mentioned that we would have a hard time in pathless terrain. He said, that it was 100 cm of snow in Kvikkjokk and 150 in the mountains.

I reparked my car – another tip of the local – and we started our tour again. With his permission we used his private snowmobile track that led us to the river where it joined a larger snowmobile track. It already had been starting to get dark and our plan was to find a place for our tent quite soon. We weren’t alone on the river – two moose (mother and calf) stood on the river some hundred metres away. We waited until they left and continued. The river slopes were quite steep and after we had decided to leave the river we had to put off our skis and drag the heavy pulkas up through hip deep snow. Exhausting! At least we found a nice little clearing in the forest for our first night in the tent.

As usual we started to tramp down the snow with our skis to make it stable enough to bear the weight of tent and ourselves after some time. This snow however was so loose that it seemed impossible to us to erect the tent on top of it. Therefore we digged down half a meter (making round 6 cubic meters of snow to dig) and erected the tent in the hole. The temperature had continued to fall, now down to -25 °C. Finally the tent was “ready for occupation” and we were eager to eat something warm.

After Chinese noodles with some asian ready-made sauce we left the tent and watched the amazing clear starry night. The milky way gleamed over half the sky and Sirius had just started to rise on the eastern horizon. What a wonderful first night!

… and a cold one. When we started to sleep the temperature had fallen to -30 °C. Jonas and I have huge down sleeping bags and we had it warm and cozy anyway. I just had problems to sleep because I don’t like sleeping on my back and always have trouble to fall into sleep the first two, three nights when tenting.

Next morning: Clear blue sky, some feathery clouds that just started to colour purple. Jonas’ thermometer at the pulka showed -34 °C. It was completely calm and we decided to cook outside. Cooking in the morning mainly means boiling water for tea and for making milk for the muesli. I was glad about my warm mukluk boots, down pants and my puffy down parka. And finally the sun rose over horizon and trees.

Today we would continue westward to the mountain lodge Njunjes and probably sleep there.

Photo #1 and #6 in this blog article are made by Jonas Balbasus.