A lake named after Anders

This article is part of the series “2019-02: Northern Norway”.

Ascending and descending hills and mountains and three selfies at three different places

The forecast was right, today it was sunny. Morning temperatures were round -9 °C – good conditions for another snowshoe tour.

Chris gave me some tour tips and I decided to go south to a nameless hilltop. I crossed the road and followed the snowmobile trail that cross the river Katojoki. To be honest, without having looked on the map before I hadn’t realised that it was a river. Now I put on my snowshoes and left the trail.

It was quite exhausting to walk through the snow because even with snowshoes I sank 20 – 40 cm into the snow with each step. Snow was falling on top of the snowshoes giving them additional weight. The terrain was rising and I had to make several short breaks to catch my breath. When I came near the hill, it got steeper but since the hill is only 151 meters above see level I was soon on the summit, a snowy platform with a 360 degree view. Here I took a break.

To the north I could see the small town Bjørnevatn and snowy mountains at the horizon. To the east I could see the Fjord Uhcavuotna or Langfjorden. On the snow covered frozen fjord I watched the snowmobile groups and the dogsleds. It’s high season for tourists. Looking to the south I saw the fjord disappearing in the fog. In the colours of the still low sun the scenery looked quite unreal.

It was half past ten. Definitely too early to return. In the southwest I spotted a higher mountain range, which I already knew from the map. Between the mountain range and my resting place on the hilltop there was a valley. I wasn’t sure if I would manage to climb the mountain range but I could try. I zigzagged down the hill to avoid the steeper parts, crossed the valley – phew, deep snow again – and went up a small snowy hill.

You see the picture above? There are two possible ways up the mountains. A steeper and higher one to the right and a shorter and less steep one to the left. The right one could be too steep for me and my snowshoes and I was afraid of avalanches. Therefore I chose the left one. It worked! After ascending the snowy slope I stood on a small plateau.

I had to climb another slope, shorter but steeper, then I reached the sunny vidda. Vidde is Norwegian for expanse and for plateau or tableland. You may know the word from Hardangarvidda, a large plateau between Bergen and Oslo.

That’s the landscapes I love – less is more!

After walking around and going up another small top I reached a flat snowy plane. If it’s completely flat it’s probably not a bog but a lake and so it was. It was the lake Andersvatnet (136 m above sea level).

On the other side another hilltop, according to the digital map 183 m above sea level. Strange that all these summits and tops do not have any names, at least not in the official maps. I decided to climb this top, too. The borrowed snowshoes are not very good for steeper passages so I had to look for a good way up and more than once I slid back or had to use my hands to pull me up. But finally I “conquered this hostile mountain”!

The first photo above shows Andersvatnet. If you look at the enlarged picture you can see my snowshoe tracks.

I didn’t make a long break because I wasn’t sure about the continuation of my tour. I would love to stay up for a while and then descend at another place, but according to the map it could be quite steep. I went northwest and went along the edge of the mountain range.

I looked for a possibility to descend the plateau but finally I had to realise that all slopes were much too steep to descend. Therefore I continued by circular route until I could see the same power pole again that I passed on my way up. I ascended another small top, again with a gorgeous view. Time for another break.

I felt cold. Probably it was because I was exhausted and a bit sweaty. While I didn’t close the down parka at all at my first break I closed it completely this time and even put on the woollen mittens. Wrapped up like this I could enjoy the sun and the views in all directions. But then it was time to continue the tour and to leave the bare mountains. I found my old snowshoe tracks, followed them and went down, mostly in my own tracks.

After I left these mountains behind I went back straight ahead. Again deep snow, but less exhausting than climbing all hilltops. I was back to civilisation. I could hear the roaring of the snowmobiles and the barking of the huskies. Later I saw them both. A group of white dressed snowmobilers – probably hunters – and the huskies pulling the dogsleds. Still I was 100 meters above sea level – high enough to have wide views. Do you see the dogsled on the next photo?

I reached a large trail prepared for the dogs. It was solid enough that I could go there without snowshoes. What a blessing! Snowshoes are great for mountain tours like today but I always feel clumsy wearing them. I passed some dog teams – guides sorting the dogs and tourists wrapped in winter coveralls sitting in the sleds or taking pictures.

The inner of my nose started to tickle, normally a sign that it’s -15 °C or below because then the nose hairs start freezing. Even my eyelids started to freeze together. When I arrived home the thermometer showed -16 °C. So it has become colder over the day.

Now it’s 22:15 and outdoor temperature has dropped to -22 °C. Probably the last cold night for a long time, since much warmer weather is on its way.

 

A snowshoe tour over the snaufjell

This article is part of the series “2019-02: Northern Norway”.

After some very lazy days I decided to make a snowshoe tour today. I just had to move! I’m here without my own car and therefore with quite limited baggage, but I was lucky to be able to get snowshoes from the Snowhotel Kirkenes.

First I followed a marked snowshoe route. It was -8 °C and in contradiction to the forecast the sun was shining. After some time I left the trampled path and made my own tracks. That’s what snowshoes are made for.

I went around and up some of the higher hills. First I love the view and then I love the snaufjell, the part of the mountains above the treeline. In Swedish it is called kalfjäll, but both words mean the same: bare fell. And soon I got my views.

One thing is special: There are boulders everywhere. I guess it’s leftovers from the last ice age but I don’t know why you hardly find those round-shaped boulders at other places on the bare fell.

The sun had vanished behind a layer of clouds and it started to snow. Sometimes the snow underneath my feet was of such a perfect white that I could not see whether it was going up or down. At least the sight was good and the terrain is easily accessible.

I navigated only by sight, therefore I cannot give you the name of the mountain top that was marked with a pile of stones and a wooden stick.

After some time I started my way back and descended from the snaufjell until trees got more common again.

I walked down through the fresh white snow – sometimes knee deep even with snowshoes – until I came to the trampled path again. Here the snow was so firm that I unmounted the snowshoes and went the rest of the tour without. Three hours later I was back in my host’s house.

It doesn’t happen often that I have a clear photo favourite of a certain day. Today I have:

Snowshoe tour on the Vyöhtjage

The situation is like three years ago: it’s the days after Christmas and there is not much snow in Skelleftehamn. As in 2015 Annika and I decide to make a tour to Arvidsjaur.

Arvidsjaur lies northwest of Skelleftehamn, two hours drive away in the inland. It is located in Norrbotten, Sweden most northern county, is part of the historical province Lappland and part of Sapmí, the region of the Sámi people. Arvidsjaur is well known by German Sweden fans since there are direct flights in wintertime from several German cities.

Arvidsjaur has a nice mountain called Vyöhtjage (Sámi) or Vittjåkk (Swedish). The Vyöhtjage is too steep for us to use skis so we used snow shoes to go up to the mountain top (650 m).

Here some photos of yesterdays tour:

It’s funny that we did almost the same tour (with another route) to the Vyöhtjage as exactly three years ago with the same weather (sunny and not too cold) and snow conditions (half a meter of snow). This nice place however is worth to be visited several times, especially because it is quite near to Skelleftehamn.

We had an overnight stay in Arvidsjaur. Today we will drive back but take a stopover in the village Kusfors to visit friends.

Ekkerøy and Nesseby

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

Day 34 and 35 of my winter journey 2018

After some days in Ytre Kiberg Annika and I travelled to the next place: Ekkerøy. This village, 50 km southwest from Kiberg lies on the peninsula Ekkerøya that is connected to land by a natural dam with sandy beaches on each side. We already had taken a short walk at one of the beaches last week, where we had met H., one of the locals.

We arrived in Ekkerøy three days ago. The day before yesterday I took a morning promenade with my camera. I made some photos, but the light was a bit dull.

After breakfast Annika and I started a tour round the island, partly with snowshoes, partly on foot. There’s a cliff at the southern shore that looks quite impressive. At the eastern tip there’s an old wooden sea mark. The northern shore is quite flat and was more snowy. Outgoing tide already had started so we walked the last meters on the beach until we came to our wonderful house, that we’ve rented for four days.

As you might have noticed almost all photos shown in this blog have a landscape format. I have a project however that might involve having portrait format photos as well. Therefore I walked to the beach yesterday morning to find a motif fitting portrait format, not too easy in a landscape that’s extensive and mainly quite flat. It was almost high tide and it was quite cold – -12 °C and very windy. The water at the beach was almost of a slushy consistency and each wave flushed new liquid slush to the beach where it froze to a wavy line of ice. That motif went quite well in portrait format, I just have to practise my view.

(I have to think over the design of my blog, these portrait format images are way too large.)

It cleared up more and more and the sun shone from a blue sky. We took the car to Nesseby, 50 km away, where I planned to make some photos of the Nesseby Church. The more we came to the more sheltered parts of the fjord, the colder it got and the open water of the Barents Sea smoked. This phenomenon is called sea smoke and happens, when cold air lies over the open sea.

From the harbour Nesseby Church could be seen through the foggy sea smoke. It is located quite exposed at the thinnest part of a peninsula and can be spotted from long, when weather is good. After looking from the harbour we continued to the church and had a closer look.

We took a short detour to Varangerbotn. There it was even colder with -19 °C but fair weather and hardly any wind.

It’s fascinating to have a look at the fjord of the same name. At the end it’s completely frozen with many icy humps, but on the way back (and north again) it opened and sea smoke appeared again.

In Vadsø I took a promenade on the island Vadsøya to have a look at the airship mast. Since I’ve been a child I’m a huge fan of balloons and airships and it was interesting to see this mast, built in 1926 and only used twice: by Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen for their expedition over the North Pole with the airship Norge in the same year and on Nobile’s flight with the airship Italia two years later.

Home again we remembered that H. who we’d met the week before had asked us in for coffee some day. At 4 o’clock we knocked at the door of her house and met her husband T. who directly invited us to come in. H. was visiting a friend and would join us later. We talked and talked, about languages, life in Northern Norway in general and Ekkerøy in special and we had a good time (and got coffee, cakes, cheese, grapes and red wine). When we left H. and T. – two of the round twenty permanent residents in Ekkerøy – it was already 9 pm and sky was dark … beside of a beautiful aurora dancing above the northern shore.

It took some minutes to walk home, put on warmer clothes, get camera and tripod and the aurora already had weakened a lot when I took the photo below. So it is with northern lights: intensity can change very fast, often within seconds.

Today we have another day in Ekkerøy. Our plans so far: not any. That’s nice, too!

 

 

 

 

A tour to the easternmost point of mainland Norway

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

Day 29 and 30 of my winter journey 2018

Yesterday we continued our journey to Ytre Kiberg which is 13 south of Vardø, one of the Hurtigruten stops. We started in Vadsø – another Hurtigruten stop – after a breakfast with our host Nils, bought a basis of food for the next days and took the E75 northwards. We made a stopover in Ekkerøy, a village on a peninsula near Vadsø. We like this place and will try to stay there for some nights next week.

At lunchtime we reached Cape East Arctic Adventure, our stay for four nights. We were welcomed by Trond, the owner and operator of Cape East Arctic Adventure and were shown our cozy bedroom, the kitchen and the homely living room. After making ourselves at home we went along the beach to the village and the harbour.

In the evening we were invited to a three course dinner based on freshly caught cod: Fish soup – cod with potatoes and carrots and finally cod roe. Everything was extremely tasty and it was Annika’s and my first time where we tasted cod roe. Yummy!

In Kiberg you are as east as you can be in the Central European Timezone, therefore sun is rising already at 6:24. I was awake very early and took a morning walk round 6 o’clock. Some snow drifts had been created by snow and wind over night but now the weather was less windy and quite sunny. At least for a short time. While I went the way to Indre Kiberg clouds approached, wind increased and it started to snow. It was hardly imaginable that it was sunny just a short time before. Weather changes here quite often as Annika and I should find out later.

After breakfast Annika and I took the car to the other side of the village, put on our snow shoes and started a hike to Kibergsneset, easternmost point of mainland Norway. This place is more east than e.g. St. Petersburg, Kairo or Istanbul! It was windy but quite sunny, when we started our tour but weather changes fast on the Varanger Peninsula:

Actually this hike is just a promenade but the weather may transform it into a small expedition. We were exposed to wind and snow and grateful, that we didn’t experienced a full storm. The weather was rough anyway and I was glad about my windproof jacket and two pairs of mittens.

We continued on a small hiking trail, first with, then without snowshoes because the thin snow layer was hardened by the wind and easy to walk onto. There’s a coastal fortress build by Germans in WW2 on Kibergsneset but we couldn’t see it in the snow weather. Instead of looking for it we continued to the small lighthouse at Kibergsneset that marks the easternmost point of mainland Norway (and most of Europe). Shortly before we reached it the sun came out and we continued the last metres in full sun. While I made some photos a small snow shower approached with the sun still shining.

From the lighthouse there was an amazing view over the arctic coast of the Barents Sea, but only for some moments. Soon the next snow shower came by and hid most of the view onto both the coast and the sea.

The way back was much shorter because we knew the way and went downwards. Even though the view was limited by the snow showers Ytre Kiberg came into view again soon and surprisingly the weather was nice and sunny again.

After this very windy promenade we were glad to find shelter in my car. We took the car to Vardø to eat something and after that we tried the road to Hamningberg. We knew that the road was closed in winter but we curious how long we would come.

Well, not very long. We managed to get to Smelror, some kilometres north from Vardø.

The main road however was definitely closed as you can see. There are no people living in Hamningberg permanently and the only motorised way to reach it in wintertime is by snowmobile. For car it is open less than half the year.

We took the car back to Kiberg, enjoyed the incredible and unbelievable colours of the sky and were surprised by a strange weather phenomenon: -6 °C and rain (including a faint rainbow!)

The rest of the day? -10 °C and wind outside, no more photos, no more excursions.

Fun fact: We took the E75 northwards. If you would take it southwards you could travel more than 4000 km and finally would arrive on Crete, Greece.

A snowshoe promenade

Day 27 of my winter journey 2018

Today our current host Chris took half a day off and we (Chris, Annika, I and two dogs) made a trip into the valley Pasvikdalen. There’s a small place called Strand where we parked our cars at the former boarding school, nowadays a museum. Here we started a small small snowshoe tour up the Brattberget.

Brattberget means the “steep mountain” but first of all the mountain is more like a hill and then the way up is not steep as all. First we went through denser forest, then then forest and the view opened a bit. Soon we were up on the top of the hill.

There’s a toilet and two benches on the Brattberget. While the benches were covered with snow, the toilet was still visible.

The weather was nice and we had a great view. To the north and west of the lake LangfjordvatnetUhcavuonjávri, to the south, remote in the distance of Russia.

After a short rest in the sun and some photos we descended the same way we went up and soon were at our parked cars again. A short and nice snowshoe tour through the hilly and wintry Pasvikdalen.

Winter on the Vesterålen

This article is part of the series “2017-02: Northern Norway”.

I’m sitting in a small mobile home in Nordnes near Røkland, Saltdalen, Norway. This morning Annika and I left Haukenes on the Vesterålen, where we had visited friends for some days. It had been gorgeous days, not only because it’s always fun to visit friends, but because of the fabulous winter weather we got those days.

Arrival

Last friday we left the Hurtigruten ship in Stokmarknes that we entered in Vardø two days before. My friends told us that there hadn’t been any snow one week before, but since then almost half a meter snow had fallen and snowfall hadn’t stopped yet.

Saturday

It snowed another ten centimetres the night and it continued snowing in the morning.

Sometimes the Norwegian weather forecast is right and so it was this day: As predicted it cleared up and promised to be a nice and sunny day later on. Annika and I took our skis and joined J. and B. together with Frits, the dog, on a ski promenade right behind their house . J. and B. returned after a while, we continued through the forest to the boggy valley Dalmyra over which we returned. Two small streams we had to cross with our skis but they were narrow enough to be crossable without problems.

Back again I looked at the snowy mountain range of the Lofoten that you can see from my friends house. The sinking sun changed colours of the snowy peaks every moment, from bright white to pale yellow, to “peach”, to orange, to colour shades I’m not able to name.

Sunday

Another sunny day awaited us. Annika and I planned to ascend the Hovden, a mountain, not high (285 – 323 m) but steep. So we left home our skis and took snowshoes, first to hike on snow covered ways and paths to Marka, were we went up the Hovden. Phew, that was quite exhausting.

Annika went back while I continued a bit, first along the waymarks, then using my GPS.

I just love being above the treeline in Norway, where the view is wide and includes snow covered mountains and solitary trees just as blue coloured open fjords.

I descended the top and came to the small lake, where I took a break with water and „Kvikk Lunsj“ chocolate.

The descend from the lake was far from being optimal, I chose a very steep passage and it took a while and some concentration until I was on sea level again, were I walked back to my friends house, first on a minor road, than across a snow covered bog.

Monday

I might bore you, but even this day the weather was fantastic. Annika and I followed a tip of J., took the car to Sandnes and skied to Årneset, a place by the bay Årnesbukta. Here’s a cosy cabin were you can seek shelter, when weather is bad and a row of beautiful sandy beaches. I never ever skied along sandy beaches and open water and I really enjoyed this ski premiere.

Tuesday

Our last day on the Vesterålen and guess what: Weather was great again! Anyway I was quite lazy, so Annika and I didn’t use skis or snow shoes but the car to drive round the southern part of the island Langøya on which my friends – now our friends – live. Some impressions:

That was our last day on the Vesterålen. Thank you, J. and R. for your hospitality. I hope, you’ll visit us in Sweden someday. You’re more than welcome!

Tomorrow we’ll continue our return journey, first 40 km to the Norwegian—Swedish border, than round 380 km home to Skelleftehamn.

 

Short trip to Bjuröklubb

Yesterday I went to Umeå by car, but I took a detour. In Övre Bäck, where I made the photo from the “Winter tree” I left the E4 to drive to Bjuröklubb, a salient that reaches wide into the Baltic Sea.

In summer, you can walk up from the parking place, eat in the Café Fyren or follow the wooden walkway up to the light house. In winter time this place is abandoned. I took my snow shoes and went first along the shore and then up to the light house.

Temperatures were between -25 °C and -30°C and the sky was totally clear. Another wonderful winter day.

A little expedition to the island Gåsören

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home. Unknown sea ice can be dangerous just as very cold temperatures.

Today I had the plan to cross the ice and go to the island Gåsören which is one of my favourite places nearby. The challenge: Parts of the Baltic Sea were open five days ago due to the low water. How thick would the ice be and would I be able to go to the island?

I started at the little boat harbour Tjuvkistan and planned to go to the island Bredskär where I’ve been with Annika two days ago. This time I chose snow shoes and pulka to transport all clothes and equipment. I changed plans and didn’t head to Bredskär, but followed the ski tracks to the island Klubben instead – a better direction. In the dim light of the daybreak I could see Gåsören ahead.

It was quite cold, round -27 °C and I was glad about my fur rimmed hood, that protects the face against wind and cold air.

I continued to the next island Flottgrundet, which is hardly 300 meters away. A tiny ice rim encircled the island and I took a small break. Normally I take breaks mainly for taking pictures, but this time I had another reason, too:

Beside of the tracks of a lonely hare I couldn’t see any track or trail to Gåsören. Is the ice safe and will it bear me? Since I already expected such, I brought along my survival suit, which is completely waterproof and has attached socks, gloves and hood, so that only the face would be exposed to the ice cold water in case of breaking through the ice. All other equipment such as camera, extra clothes and food was in waterproof bags.

I looked like a Teletubbie, (and probably moved like one too) but I felt safe. Round my head I had my camera bag and so-called isdubbar, that’s ice picks, that would help me to pull myself on land, if I had broken though. I put the snow shoes into the pulka and started crossing the ice.

Round 700 meters later I reached Gåsören. I went ashore and was quite glad that the ice bore me without any problem. I unmounted the pulka but continued wearing the survival suit. I wanted to discover the ice rim on the eastern side of Gåsören and didn’t dare to do that without it. First of all I climbed onto the two meter high ice to get an overview. The risen sun started to light parts of the landscape in warm colours, while the snow in the shadows still looked cold and bluish.

The next two hours I strolled around east from the island to take pictures from the amazing ice formations round the island. Some of them were up to three meters high. It’s interesting to see, how many different colours ice can have, both the ice itself and the sun light as the day progresses. While I walked round I could see the light houses of Gåsören, the new one (the red tower to the left) and the new one (the house to the right).

Meanwhile I protected even my nose that started to get cold. The danger is that you won’t realise, when the nose gets too cold and you really have to be careful to avoid frostbite. The neoprene survival suit is surprisingly warm, but not comfortable at all. Since it’s not breathable I started to sweat and become wet. I longed for warm tea and other clothes. I went back to the pulka, undressed the suit and slipped into the cold boots. Then I took tea, crackers, camera and a huge bin bag that wrapped my down coverall. I went to the other side of the island, this time on land and put on the coverall over the other jacket. Now I really looked like a polar explorer, but was just 5 kilometres away from home. It took a while, until I got warm again and another while to realise, that this suit is almost to warm for temperatures between -26 and -28 °C. But at least I got my hot tea, some cookies and I didn’t freeze at all.

Of course I continued making photos on land. I went round, took images of the big welcome-sign, the red-white light tower and even more ice. But after a while clouds came in and started to cover the sun.

So I undressed my down coverall, went back to the pulka, packed all stuff into it and started my walk back to main land. I chose almost the same way to be sure, that the ice is stable. The sun vanished behind a layer of clouds, only a bright orange light pillar was left.

When I looked left I got reminded, that this fantastic tour was not in the arctic wilderness, but near home. The smelting works on the peninsula Rönnskär was within sight. The chimneys gave off clouds of smoke that racked southwards below the inversion boundary, but northwards above. When I was almost back on the main land I could see the red solar disk setting behind Rönnskär.

When I entered the car, it was still -26 °C below – one of the coldest days that I experienced in Skelleftehamn until now.

Conclusion: a great tour with a touch of expedition due to the coldness and the unsafe ice. Should be repeated when ice is safer and weather is warmer.

Addendum (2016-01-20)

This tour was more dangerous than I suspected. Not because of the weak ice but because the rubber gloves of the survival suit didn’t isolate good enough. Today – two days after – I got small blisters on all fingers but the thumbs, a clear sign for a second degree frostbite. My nose is a bit reddish and itches, probably a first degree frostbite.

I have full tactile sense in all parts of the fingers and the nose, but it probably will take some time until the skin heals completely.

The danger was, that I didn’t feel any pain in the fingers while being out. I just felt the cold when I removed the wool mittens. I never will make such an extended photo tour in the survival suit when it’s so cold.

Take care, photographers. Don’t risk your health for just some nice photos. It’s not worth it.

 

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Dessert

This article is part of the series “2015-12: Short trip to Arvidsjaur”.

Monday afternoon at our cabin near Arvidsjaur: -22 °C. How cold will it get the night. Well, not so cold, since the sky overclouded and it got gradually warmer. The next morning the thermometer showed mere -11 °C. The sky was overcast and the diffuse light seemed hardly able to light up the scenery.

Annika and I took a small snowshoe walk on the lake Arvidsjaursjön. Last night’s fog has covered all trees with a thin white layer of hoarfrost and the nature looked more like an old black-white painting than real.

What a contrast to yesterdays mountain hike in full sunlight!

Two other pictures of the same day:

These images were taken on a minor side road. It felt like being hundred miles away from civilisation, but the main road was just 500 meters ahead.

When it darkened the sky cleared up again, but now we were ready for our way back to Skelleftehamn where it was quite warm compared to Arvidsjaur: -1 °C.