A sunny ski tour on the Baltic Sea

What a beautiful day! It’s calm and sunny with temperatures round -20 °C. After breakfast Chris and I start another ski tour at the very same place as the day before. Between these photos lies a day:

As the day before we ski to the near island Storgrundet and cross it, but then we turn right. The Baltic Sea is covered with ice half to Finland but you hardly see the ice anymore. It is covered with snow.

The last two days have brought round 30 cm of fresh snow, but the Baltic Sea is not evenly covered. There are snowdrifts and patches with bare ice and the wind has created sharp snow patterns. They are called sastrugi. Sastrugis can make skiing very demanding when they are hard, but these were still soft and easy to ski on.

It is colder than the day before but it feels much more comfortable and warm because the absence of any wind. We ski along the islands, first Storgrundet, then Norrskär. Here we turn left because another island catches my eye. Northeast from Norrskär there’s a smaller island called Norrskärsgrundet. Here a lot of snow has accumulated.

Chris and I ski to the island and take a break. We both have about the same tempo and like to photograph – always a good reason to slow down.

We walk round and take pictures, then we mount our skis again and “climb” the island’s top. Some fresh animal tracks are visible. A fox, a hare, and a place where the snow tells a story. Here a fox apparently caught a bird. We see a deep track of the foxes jump in the snow and feathers everywhere.

We turn right and reach the esker that connects the islands Norrskär and Bredskär. It’s time for skiing back and also time for a break with hot cocoa and chocolate that we take on the ice by a tiny nameless island. We are glad about our puffy down jackets because we instantly feel the cold when we stop moving. After the break we continue our way back to the parked car. The sun is low and our shadows have grown long.

Soon the snowy surface we ski on lies in the shadow of the island Brambärsgrundet. Only the cottages on Storgrundet have still sun. We reach the car round sunset – good timing.

I love snow storms as well as sun and blue ski and I love especially the contrasts. Therefore this ski tour is strongly connected to the one we made the day before, the day that brought the snow we ski on.

 

Snowy night, snowy day

When I returned from Avan two days ago the Swedish weather institute SMHI had issued a snow warning: 20-30 cm snowfall and at the coast fresh winds from northeast. Yesterday the wind increased and in the afternoon it started to snow. Soon the snowfall increased, too and the wind made the snow whirl round the houses and through the streets. More and more snow came falling down and soon the street was snowed over completely.

“Beep! Beeep! Krrrr. BEEEP! KRRRRR!” – these sounds woke me up this morning at 5 o’clock. The sound of snowploughs and shovel loaders clearing the roads. They beep when they go backwards and the shovels make loud scraping noises.

While the shovel loaders take the snow and move it to other places the snowploughs just push the deep snow aside. Both are important but the latter create work for the locals. They create a so-called plogkant – compact walls of snow – along the street and so right in front of your driveway.

This plogkanten was 60 cm high and the loose snow behind was of almost the same height. Before I could use the car I had to shovel snow. A lot of snow, at least 2½ m³. Fortunately the temperatures where round -10 °C and the snow was loose and fluffy. A good workout anyway. Finally I could get camera and tripod and took the car to two places by the sea.

The garage at the pilot station was surrounded by meter-high snowdrifts. The snowdrifts in the lee of the house were even higher. The gaps in the fence created a nice stripe pattern on the snowdrift outside. It was still quite dark and there was not much to see otherwise.

At the “beach” of Storgrundet the stormy gusts of wind blew the snow horizontally from left and right and in the dawn the scenery looked very harsh.

Great weather for a ski tour on the sea ice, isn’t it?

Two and a half hours later: Chris – a friend of mine from Kirkenes who arrived yesterday – and I had just come to the very same place to start a ski tour. We mounted the skies, put our hoods on and slipped into the gloves. It still was snowing and quite windy.

And when it’s windy at the mainland you can bet that it’s much more windy on the sea ice which is completely exposed to the elements. And so it was. The island Storgrundet was in the back and we could see the pale schemes of some other islands in the northwest. The northeast however looked like the Arctic Zone.

Chris was following my ski tracks. She looked like an arctic explorer with the white void in the background.

Here’s one of of the rare photos of me, that is no selfie. If you look closer you see that my ski tracks go zig-zag. That’s because even on the sea ice of the Baltic Sea there were many snowdrifts with sharp edges and I could hardly see whether it went up or down. Skiing was not exhausting but we were slow due to the wind and the bad sight. (… and taking pictures.)

We skied to a headland which had been in sight for a while.

As soon as we reached the lee of the headland it was almost windless. What a huge difference to the exposed parts of the sea where weather was quite rough. In the shelter of the headland we took a break. (We forget the tea in my kitchen but at least we had a bit of chocolate.) On the headland were summer cottages, now snowbound in meter-high snowdrifts.

The way back was easier. The gusty wind had started calm down a bit and the snowfall lessened. The view to the west however was still extremely arctic.

We were however no arctic explorers but had the luxury of a parked car and a heated house just some minutes away. The ski tour was short in distance but rich in experience and that’s what counts!

Takk for turen, Chris!

It continued snowing until dark. The fence in my backyard had been buried in snow almost completely. The fence is 85 cm high.

Later in the afternoon I continued clearing snow. Not with a front loader but with a wide snow shovel. Chris has parked her car on the street and both the snowfall and the snowplough had buried it up to the top of the wheels. I pushed all snow into the front yard where the snow pile got higher and higher.

I’m a quite curious person when it comes to snow depths. I made a step on the top of the snow pile and as I guessed the snow was quite loose:

If the forecast is right we get calm, sunny and colder winter weather tomorrow. We consider to start the very same ski tour again just to see the difference.

 

#escapism – skiing through the landscapes

When I walked home from an early meeting today it snowed at -12 °C. I trudged through the fresh snow like a small child.

Actually, I wanted to work with my online shop for my photo website. Outside it continued snowing. It took less than a minute to change plans. I took my skis, the backpack with the camera equipment, ski pants and my old Norrøna-jacket and went outside. I went down the snowy stairs, put on my skis and started a local ski tour. I skied 300 meter and was in the …

Forest

First I followed a snowy snowmobile track (with a detour to a small wetland) and then paw prints of a hare.

Following the paw prints led me to a …

Swamp

In winter however these swampy areas are frozen – no problem with skis.

The snow was round 30 cm deep and quite fluffy so that I sank down even with the skis. Perhaps my 240 cm long wooden Tegsnäs skis would have been the better choice. I crossed a small pond and a small ridge – probably formed in the last ice age – and then I came to a larger …

Lake

The lake Snesviken had been frozen already in November. Now it was just a snowy plain with a small island in the middle.

I took a selfie …

…crossed the lake and came to a …

Dense forest

I knew that this forest was dense with a lot of underwood and many rocks, but I forgot how hard it is to find a way through it on skis. Now I was quite glad that I didn’t take the Tegsnäs skis.

I fought my way through birch thickets and rocky passages. It took a long time until I left the forest and reached a snowy road, part of a …

Cottage area

I followed the road to its end. Skiing was easy and effortless after the dense forest.

As in the whole of Sweden there are many summer cottages in Skelleftehamn, too. This cottage – as most of them – was by the …

Sea

I crossed the small thicket at the rocky shore …

… then I stood on the frozen Baltic Sea. I started skiing leaving the mainland behind. It was much windier and I was glad about my fur-trimmed hood. The field of view however is limited. Looking down I saw the fur, the skis and a white featureless surface. Almost whiteout conditions. Parts of the landscape were featureless as well.

It may look like I was in the middle of the Arctic, but no, right behind me there was an …

Island

The Island Storgrundet is the nearest island from the mainland. Here I had looked at the sea ice 10 days ago, here I watched the lunar eclipse last week.

I followed the coastal line, crossed a frozen bay and arrived at the old boat shed that probably had been there for ages.

Then I crossed the island through the forest.

The island is not very wide. After 200 meter I could see the mainland’s …

Coast

This part of the coast is one of my favourite places in Skelleftehamn. In summer it has a nice sandy beach, in winter it’s the first part of the sea that freezes. In summer I use to paddle kayak, but most locals prefer small motorboats. Now all boats lie upside down on the shore.

Where there are boats are also houses. Where there are houses there’s also a …

Road

And this road is special, because it leads …

Home

Here I arrived three hours later. I put off the skis, shock of the snow and went in.

Oh, I love winter!

Backsjön

A short tour with “turskidor” (touring skis) on the lake Bäcksjön near Umeå. After some days with slightly warmer temperatures and fluffy snowfall we got another sunny day with no wind and temperatures round -20 °C today.

Now I’m home again in Skelleftehamn. This night could be the coldest yet. Already now at 22:30 it’s -25 °C, that’s quite cold for the coast. From tomorrow on it shall become warmer with temperatures mainly round -10 °C.

 

Two winter activities

The morning

Finally there’s enough snow in Skelleftehamn for cross-country skiing. The great people from Frilufts­främjandet Skelleftehamn had prepared the ski track last night and I was one the first people that skied there this morning. The weather was sunny with temperatures round -16 °C. The sun however was still low and had hardly a chance to illuminate the forests round the ski track. There were some sunny spots where I made the photos below.

After 7 km I was covered with frost but I wasn’t cold at all.

The early afternoon

After lunch I decided to check out the shore at Kågnäsudden. I parked my car and trudged through the snow until I arrived at the coast. The Baltic Sea was mostly open but partly covered with pancake ice. I walked on the banks by the sea and enjoyed the bright sunlight and the crisp air.And I made some photos, too.

When I drove back the car thermometer showed temperatures between -19 °C and -23 °C. The next seven days temperatures between -10 °C and -20 °C are forecasted. I guess it will not take long until the shore areas of the Baltic Sea will finally freeze over.

Cross-country skiing – part II

5 cm of new snow, -5 °C air temperature and Olles Spår – a ski track on the edge of Umeå – freshly prepared. Good conditions for cross-country skiing.

Annika and I skied only 5 kilometres. Not because of the number 5, but because it was still snowing and this snow made the track very, very slow.

Even though the distance was short, it was delightful to slide through the winter forest and the gently falling snow.

Cross-country skiing premiere

Today I had my skiing premiere this winter.

Together with Annika who already skied this winter we took the car to the lake Tavelsjö northwest from Umeå. Tavelsjö has grown very popular for its round course for ice skaters, but it was round 40 years ago, that I stood on skates the last time. I prefer skiing.

Therefore we took our cross-country skies although it was mentioned that the ski track was partly icy. And it was icy indeed sometimes!

Anyhow it was great to finally ski again.

Some hours later it finally started to snow. It’s hardly 5 cm that had fallen in Umeå so far, but that makes a great difference. It’s brighter, quieter and more beautiful outside.

Hopefully there will be enough snow in Skelleftehamn that the locals finally can prepare a ski track in good quality. Then I will change my spiked running shoes by my cross country skies at home, too.

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!